Eating MyPlate, Your Way, on the Family Budget
Since the colorful USDA MyPlate icon emerged last year, this visual reminder has
encouraged Americans to increase their intake of fruits, vegetables, whole
grains, and low-fat dairy products. While many people can appreciate both the
preventive health benefits and the potential for health care savings of a more
nutritious diet, this new plate doesn’t have to amount to an increased grocery
bill. With a little planning, you can eat your plate on a budget.
Eating healthy on a budget requires
weekly food planning, purchasing and preparing so that nutritious and
economical meals land on the table at home, in lunches for work and school, and
at snack time. Planning is the first step. Knowing
what will be cooked in advance can save time and help you avoid eating extra
calories, fat and sodium, which can be concerns when eating out.
Start by designating a weekly
shopping day, and sit down the day before to plan your meals and snacks for the
upcoming week in order to make a grocery list. Focus on foods like dried beans
and lentils, whole grains and vegetables as the main ingredients, along with reasonable
servings of lean proteins, in recipes such as stews, casseroles and stir-fry
dishes. Search the Internet if you need some new recipe ideas or modify some
family favorites to better fit MyPlate.
Before hitting the
supermarket aisle follow these helpful habits:
- Check sales and coupons, and sign up for any loyalty or membership
grocery store card programs.
- Make sure that you go shopping when you are not hungry to avoid
- Give yourself time to shop so you can compare costs and make
- Stick to your list.
- Look high and low for better deals, since many expensive items are
placed at eye level.
- Stock up on staples in bulk, such as brown rice, whole-wheat pasta,
dried beans and lentils, frozen vegetables, and proteins, like meat,
poultry and fish, when items are on sale.
- Buy fruits and vegetables in season, or consider canned and frozen
varieties that do not contain added sodium and sugar, when they are more
economical, as they also have a high nutritional value.
- Avoid pre-washed, pre-cut, individual servings of produce as it is
usually more expensive.
- Buy fresh foods, because instant versions of foods often cost much
more. Purchase these in small amounts so food is not thrown away when
- Consider less expensive store brands.
After planning and shopping, busy
family cooks can prepare meals and ingredients in advance for quick reheating
in the evening.
- Double recipes to freeze the extra amounts in meal-size containers
for later use.
- Have one meatless meal with beans and lentils each week and plan
to use leftovers for lunches or dinners later in the week.
- Leftover vegetables can be incorporated into soups and stews,
while overripe fruits make great additions to smoothies and pancakes or be
frozen for refreshing snacks.
Reviewed October 2013