I've been busy this month teaching an Extension lesson called "Be Waist and Wallet Wise." I wrote the program more than a year ago because I'd heard countless people say that it cost too much to eat healthy food. I didn't believe it was true and I set out to collect as many tips for low-cost, healthy eating as I could find.
Now, more than a year later, I continue to believe that you can save money and eat better at the same time. And, thanks to budget-minded, health-conscious audiences across the state, I've added to my original list of healthier, less-expensive examples.
If you'd like to host this presentation for your group, just give me a call at the Extension office, 272-3670, and I'll be glad to make arrangements to come and share. In the meantime, here are a couple of ideas that I've recently explored as I updated my teaching materials.
Online grocery cost calculator
How much is a reasonable amount to spend on food for a family like yours? Now you can find out!
Figure your food costs with the online calculator at the great new Web site "Spend Smart. Eat Smart." from Iowa State Extension: www.extension.iastate.edu/foodsavings/fooddollar/.
To do the calculation, you'll be asked for the ages of family members and the number of meals each person eats away from home each week.
With a touch of a button, you'll see the cost of groceries for your family based on the USDA Low-Cost Food Plan. When reading the report, keep in mind that this information is based on nationwide averages, and it excludes non-food items purchased at grocery stores. I was happy to find that my grocery bills are below the national average for my size family — how about yours?
Is fruit really too expensive?
As I was updating the cost of my food lesson examples, I started thinking about the cost of fruit — bananas to be specific. It seems their cost has really skyrocketed over the past few years.
It doesn't seem that long ago when I could buy bananas for 20 cents a pound. When I checked prices early this month, the cost of bananas was 59 cents a pound! Wow, nearly a 200 percent price increase! It's no wonder families are tempted to buy snack food to satisfy their hungry members instead of fruit.
So, being a home economist, I decided to do a comparison. I bought five small bananas that together weighed one-and-a-half pounds for a total cost of 88.5 cents. That meant each banana cost 17.7 cents.
Next, I strolled over to the snack aisle and looked at a package of name-brand nacho cheese tortilla chips. The regular size bag cost $3.99. The bag said it contained 12 servings, meaning each serving cost 33 cents. Yikes, almost twice as much!
Next, I wondered how many bananas could I buy for the cost of a bag of chips? Twenty-two bananas! For a family of four, each member could have a banana a day for more than five days for the cost of one bag of chips.
The lesson for me was that the price of bananas may seem expensive, but when you calculate it per serving (a small banana is one serving), the cost is reasonable.
Bananas taste so good and cost so little, it may be hard to eat just one. Hmm, that sounds like the start of a campaign — "I bet you can't eat just one." Oh, right, that's already been used by a national snack company to encourage us to spend nearly $4 for a bag of chips!
Host a Super Bowl party for 12 for $20?
Entertaining can be great fun, but it can also be expensive. Is it possible to host a Super Bowl party (alcohol not included) for 12 people for about $20? You bet, and it won't take all day — and it will fit your healthy eating plan, too.
For the menu, recipes, how-to's and costs, see my Living Well blog on Monday, Feb. 1, at swktalk.com/livingwell. Or, stop by the Finney County Extension Office and ask for the Super Bowl party instruction sheet. I'll be interested in your comments and suggestions on this cost-saving party menu. Let's learn from each other!
For more tips on nutrition and consumer skills, see my Living Well blog at swktalk.com/livingwell.