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There’s ways to eat right when the money is tight

Eating healthy is fundamental to your overall wellness, including both your mental and physical health. Eating healthy affects your mood, how you think, your risk of chronic diseases, control over your diabetes and heart disease, as well as your energy level. Most of us have had hard times in our lives where money is tight. Unexpected bills, living on a tight budget, medical debts, and living in this pandemic where we see rising food costs often leads to an uncertain financial future. For many families, the first place to cut back is the food budget where finding affordable and wholesome food can be a challenge. Read on for tips on what I call the “Three P’s”; Planning, Purchasing, and Preparation, to help stretch your food dollars.

Planning. Before you go to the grocery store, have a plan and following it to help you save money.

Know your monthly budget, and break this down to know how much you have to spend each week.

Plan your weekly meals and snacks. When creating this plan, keep in mind your schedule and the season. Know what foods you have on hand and plan to use and eat these foods first. Then make a list of items you need to complete your plan.

Keep basic ingredients on hand to stock your pantry such as flour, herbs and spices, and No Salt Added canned products.

Use store circulars to help develop your meal plan for the week. Only use coupons on foods you need for your plan, you will use, and that are healthy. Be aware that just because a food item is on sale and you have a coupon, avoid buying unhealthy and processed foods to help your budget and your body.

Plan to eat out less. Because of $1 deals advertised at many chains, it may seem that fast food is less expensive than cooking at home. But a meal for two at a fast-food restaurant that includes drinks and a side is still likely to cost $10-$15. Preparing a simple, healthy meal can cost a fraction of that and leave you with leftovers as well.

Purchasing. During your trip to the store, follow these tips to help you save money.

Compare unit pricing on products for best deals. Buying bulk is often cheaper.

Stick to your list.

Try store brands.

Buy only the amount of food you will eat before it spoils. Frozen, canned, and shelf-stable food last longer. You often can freeze fresh foods (dairy, fruits, vegetables, and meats) if you are unable to use it all before it spoils.

Vary your protein routine. Using eggs, beans, nuts, lentils, and seafood are often cheaper ways to get the protein you need.

Preparation. After you get home from the store, a little kitchen prep can go a long way to saving you money.

Focus on making low-cost recipes.

If you bought a large amount of fresh food, divide it out into meal-size packages, label and freeze for later use.

We know the healthy choice is not always the easiest choice, but small changes can make a big difference.

Chautauqua County Office for Aging Services Dietitian, Carey Skelton RDN is available for nutrition counseling and SNAP-ed programs. The SNAP-ed programs are FREE for those who receive or qualify for SNAP benefits. We want to help you save time, save money, and eat healthy! Chautauqua County Office for Aging Services Senior Nutrition Program also provides nutritious meals through Home Delivered Meals, Congregate Dining In Sites, as well as a Restaurant Dining Out Program throughout the county. We also sponsor several exercise programs. Please remember to contribute toward your OFAS nutrition services if you can. These programs are not sustainable without the support of participants and community contributions. Be aware that SNAP benefits can be used toward your contribution. Call NY Connects at 716-453-4582 for more details and information.

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