Bear with me while I take a few sentences to bemoan the fate of my recent grocery bills that seem to be increasing at the rate of speed like a suddenly startled group of deer. Like everyone I find myself visibly gasping at rising prices.
My half gallon of 1 percent milk is almost the same price as a gallon of milk just a year ago. Buying beef evokes verbal utterances I only can say with a whisper. I walk through the grocery store thinking to myself this is all nuts. And please don’t ask me about the price of nuts.
According to the USDA Economic Research Services (U.S. Department of Agriculture), purchasing food from the grocery store was 7.5 percent higher in January 2022 than in January 2021. Restaurant purchases were 6.4 percent higher for the same period. Prices are expected to rise more. A bright spot perhaps- the USDA expects meat prices to ease a bit toward the end of 2022. We can only hope.
We don’t need to know the data; we are experiencing it. In fact, experience makes the data feel rather conservative. And it isn’t just about food cost. It’s about everything becoming more expensive.
Food prices have an impact on people with fixed incomes who struggle to balance food cost against the cost of all necessities. Food banks and food pantries are now challenged to fill the food gap and desperately need donations to relieve the increasing amount of food insecurity. Anticipating greater food costs, the USDA increased the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits by 27% starting last October 2021. Depending on the state you live in depends on the value of the increase.
Will good nutrition take a hit as prices increase? Not necessarily. But it will take focused, savvy meal planning and changes in purchasing habits to keep a healthy diet a priority for you and your household.
10 TIPS FOR A HEALTHY FOOD BUDGET
Check off the tips that make the most sense to you and put those tips to work.
- Focus on eating everything you buy. Don’t throw anything away. Typically, we waste 40 percent of the food we purchase. Think of that as $.40 of every food dollar.
- Focus on healthy food so nutrition is a priority. Minimize or eliminate expensive snack foods with “empty calories”.
- Buy fresh produce in season when it is less expensive. Buying frozen produce allows you extended storage time and may offer more variety.
- Plant a garden. It’s an opportunity to enjoy and share healthy food.
- Buying in bulk saves money. If you can’t eat that much, sharing food with friends shares cost.
- Get back in the kitchen and prepare meals from scratch. In most cases buying processed food increases food cost.
- Make more meatless meals with beans and lentils for a good source of protein. Beans are relatively inexpensive and can be made into delicious main dish options that replace meat. Make meat an “accent” food. Use it in soup or a salad.
- Reinvent leftovers. Plan meals to have a second purpose. A leftover can become an ingredient for something else.
- Eat out less. Fifty dollars for one or two meals eaten out, goes a long way toward multiple meals made at home.
- Others may be hungrier than you realize. If you can, donate money or food to your local food pantry or foodbank. The number of people needing supplemental food is increasing. Consider Donating to your local Meals on Wheels program.
Canned beans are food budget friendly and are especially happy to become a part of healthy meal planning and a pantry staple. Serve chili with cornbread muffins. This recipe is a good opportunity to teach children how to use a knife and is simple enough for kids to make on their own.
Courtesy of Frank Sorger, photographer, Nampa, Idaho, and Mimi Cunningham, Eagle, Idaho.
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cup finely chopped (each) onion and red pepper
3/4 cup diced carrots
1/2 jalapeno pepper, diced (optional)
2 cloves minced garlic
1 4-ounce can diced green chilis
1 15-ounce can (each) black beans and pinto beans
1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 8-ounce can corn
1/2 teaspoon (each) chili powder and cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste.
In a 1-1/2 quart saucepan, warm olive oil. Sauté onion, pepper, carrots, jalapeno, and garlic 10 minutes until tender, not browned. Add remaining ingredients. Stir thoroughly, cover, and lightly simmer for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally, to blend flavors. Garnish with sliced avocado and chopped cilantro.
Calories: 220 per cup
Written by: Mimi Cunningham, Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist, Diabetes Educator
Mimi Cunningham is a dietitian-nutritionist living in Eagle, Idaho. Her nutrition specialty is diabetes education and management. She loves writing about embracing healthy eating as fun plus a route to good health. She serves as a member of the Idaho Foodbank board of directors addressing food insecurity as a challenge to good health for Idaho children and adults.
On behalf of Smart Strategies for Successful Living, our sincerest appreciation goes to Mimi Cunningham for her contribution to our community website and commitment to healthy living and aging.