Full-day meals and snacks

No buyer’s club and only 2 digital coupons!

The prices you see on this table are no longer available. I have found even better deals since taking this picture. Other sales or coupons are long gone.

At worst, I would have to pay about $4 for this table full of food, based on what sales, BOGOs, manager’s specials, discounts and coupons are available.

The point is, it’s easy to eat like this for roughly $4 if you smart-shop.

The SNAP Challenge is not realistic

With the SNAP Challenge, you are supposed to buy food for one week on your food stamp budget. That doesn’t make sense. People on food stamps don’t receive their benefits for only one week.

Therefore, they should be buying in bulk – even if that means just buying six boxes of pasta to get them for 49¢ per box instead of $1.25 per box. If you guy a jar of instant tea, that’s going to last you for a month. What single person eats an entire loaf of bread per week?

Read the information on this website to learn how to eat very well for less than $5 per day.

Ham & eggs combos

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 oz. ham steak
  • 1/4 orange
  • slice of toast
  • 8 oz. glass of milk or grapefruit juice

Smart-shopping cost = 69¢ or 80¢

14¢ – 2 Kroger or Aldi eggs @$.79 dozen*

45¢ – 2 oz. ham steak (Smithfield BOGO at Publix)

5¢ – 1/4 orange

3¢ – slice of bread

13¢ – 8 oz. glass of milk

7¢ – 8 oz. glass of milk or grapefruit juice

*I recently got eggs as Kroger at .59/doz. They also send me coupons for a free dozen eggs every other month or so.

Check out this egg, ham and cheese souflee breakfast.

Egg, cheese and ham souflee
It’s really easy to eat cheap.

Chicken & pasta lunch

  • Chicken quarter (not pictured – actually larger!)
  • pasta with sauce
  • salad
  • iced tea

Smart-shopping cost: 58¢

Please check the other chicken dinners for a better photo of the larger chicken quarter. I just had this piece of fried chicken handy.

Kroger recently had their Heritage Farms chicken quarters on sale for $2.90 per bag (@29¢ per piece of chicken)!

These are usually $7.90 per bag, occasionally on sale for $5.90. You get 10 lbs., which often comes to 10 quarters (sometimes 9 to 11 pieces).

I wait until they are on sale for $3.90 or $4.90 per bag, then buy four bags and put the quarters into individual lunch bags (3 cents each) and freeze them. For this page, I used a price of .29 per quarter (doesn’t includes sandwich bag in case you make a whole bag of quarters for your family).

If you’re a Publix shopper, they put their $1.50 chicken quarters on BOGO. You pay half price, but still about .75 per pound per Kroger’s on-sale price of .29. From what I’ve seen on the Internet, the big buyer’s clubs don’t come close to Kroger’s price for some reason.

To learn how I got such inexpensive pasta, check out the Spaghetti Dinner post.

22¢ – chicken quarter

13¢ – pasta with sauce

20¢ – salad

3¢ – 12 oz. soda (or iced tea for 5¢)

Southern BBQ dinner

  • 1/4 chicken w/ BBQ sauce
  •  potato salad or Cole slaw
  • baked beans
  • salad
  • 1/2 can soup
  • corn bread
  • iced tea

Full-price cost*: 3-course Dinner @$4.04; plate @3.32¢

Bargain cost*: 3-course Dinner @$1.98; plate @1.51¢

Smart-shopping cost*: 3-course Dinner @$1.50; plate @1.11¢

*cost for meal with iced tea; add 14¢ w/milk

Kroger’s Heritage Farms chicken quarters are usually $6.90 per bag, occasionally on sale for $5.99. You get 10 lbs., which often comes to 10 quarters (sometimes 9 to 11 pieces).

I wait until they are on sale for $3.90 per bag, then buy four bags and put the quarters into individual lunch bags (3 cents each) and freeze them. For this page, I used a price of .39 per quarter (includes sandwich bag).

If you’re a Publix shopper, they put their $1.50 chicken quarters on BOGO. You pay half price, but still about .75 per pound per Kroger’s on-sale price of .59. From what I’ve seen on the Internet, the big buyer’s clubs don’t come close to Kroger’s price for some reason.

19¢ – 1/2 can of soup (Aldi 10.5 oz. or Publix Progresso 18.5 oz. on BOGO + digital coupon

20¢ – salad

49¢ – chicken quarter, BBQ sauce

15¢ – potato salad (Kroger manager’s special)

30¢ – 1/2 can of baked beans

.19¢ – 12 oz. milk

12¢ – corn bread

5¢ – ice tea

Tex-Mex breakfast

  • 2-egg omelet with Mexi-blend cheese
  • 1/3 can (5.3 oz) refried beans
  • Salsa
  • Slice of bread
  • 2 tomato slices
  • 16 oz. glass of orange juice or V8 spicy tomato juice

Smart-shopping cost = 86¢

14¢ – Eggs on sale at Aldi and Kroger at 79¢ per dozen (two eggs = .14¢)*

14¢ – Shredded cheese is a guesstimate. I bought Kroger cheese @1.77 and used a Kroger digital coupon for 65¢ when buying 2. = 14¢ per serving?

2¢ – Salsa was a BOGO at Publix. 24 oz. Jar of Pace for 99¢ – 40¢ Kroger coupon they honored.

17¢ – Refried beans were dented cans at 50¢/3 servings

3¢ – Bread was 50¢ per loaf at Kroger (manager’s special)

20¢ – Tomatoes full-price – 2 slices = 20¢

16¢ – Orange juice was Kroger’s frozen at 96¢ can. 2¢ per oz. X 8 oz. = 16¢. V8 was on sale at Publix, BOGO. Regular price was $1.79. BOGO was $1.40. I used a $1 paper coupon when buying 2 and got the 48 oz. bottle for .90¢

*I recently bought eggs for .59¢ at Kroger. I also get coupons for free eggs every other month or so.

4 bacon & eggs combos

  • scrambled eggs
  • bacon or turkey bacon
  • yogurt cup
  • 1/2 grapefruit
  • milk, grapefruit, orange or tomato juice

Eggs are cheap if you don’t buy fresh organics. I got mine for 79¢ dozen at Kroger and Aldi. Some Aldi stores had them as loss leaders for 25¢ a dozen in 2016 dues to a market glut. I got a manager’s special on bacon, and found Butterball turkey bacon on sale for 2/$5 with a .55 manufacturer’s coupon (9¢ a slice). I later saw it on sale for $2.99, but buy 2, get one free (final cost $1.99 or 9¢ slice).

Update: I recently bought eggs for .59¢ at Kroger. I also get coupons for free eggs every other month or so.

14¢ – 2 eggs*

18¢ – two slices bacon

40¢ – yogurt cup

13¢ – 1/2 grapefruit (on sale for 25¢ each at Kroger)

3¢ – bread

7¢ – grapefruit juice ($2.49 64 oz. Ocean Spray bottle – $2 off Kroger coupon)

13¢ – 8 oz. milk

*I recently bought eggs for .59¢ at Kroger (5¢ each). I also get coupons for free eggs every other month or so.

Ham, egg, cheese souflee

This is a quickie made in the microwave.

Egg, cheese and ham souflee
It’s really easy to eat cheap.

Two eggs will cost anywhere from 5¢ to 10¢ depending on where you live.

Ham is expensive. This package of ham (pictured) normally costs $13 at Kroger. I saw three large packs on sale for $3 each and bought them, put one-third of each pack into a sandwich bag and put them in the freezer.

Cheap ham
Wait for sales to save big on groceries.

I got $30 worth of free ham!

At this price, it came down to 5¢ a slice for the ham instead of 20¢ each.

I get one to two coupons for cheese from Kroger every month.

If you buy bread from the day-old (more like several-day-old) rack, it’s 3¢ a slice.

Milk at $1.99 a gallon in 13¢ for an 8 oz. glass.

Bacon & eggs breakfasts

  • 3 scrambled eggs
  • 3 strips bacon or turkey bacon
  • 2 tomato slices
  • slice of toast
  • 8 oz. glass of orange juice or tomato juice

Smart-shopping cost = 87¢

21¢ – 3 Kroger or Aldi eggs @79¢ dozen*

27¢ – 3 slices bacon – closeout at Kroger: $1.75 for 14 slices

20¢ – 2 slices of tomato

40¢ – cup of yogurt

3¢ – slice of bread

16¢ – 8 oz. glass of orange juice or V8 tomato juice

*I recently got eggs for 59¢ per dozen at Kroger (5¢ each), and they send me a coupon for free eggs several times each year.

4 waffles breakfast combos

  • Blueberry waffles (frozen, toaster) w/syrup
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 banana
  • 8 oz. glass of tomato juice

Or

  • Blueberry waffles (frozen, toaster) w/syrup
  • 1/2 red grapefruit
  • yogurt cup
  • 8 oz. glass of milk

Or

  • Blueberry waffles (frozen, toaster) w/syrup
  • 2 oz. ham steak
  • 1/4 orange
  • 8 oz. glass of milk or grapefruit juice

Smart-shopping cost: 69¢ to 93¢

25¢ – 2 blueberry waffles

14¢ – 2 eggs*

45¢ – 2 oz. ham steak

13¢ – 1/2 red grapefruit

9¢ – 1/2 banana

5¢ – 1/4 orange

40¢ – yogurt cup

13¢ – 8 oz. glass of milk

16¢ – 8 oz. glass of tomato juice

7¢ – grapefruit juice

5¢ – syrup

*I recently bought eggs for .59¢ at Kroger. I also get coupons for free eggs every other month or so.

2 oatmeal breakfasts

  • Oatmeal with 1/2 banana or raisins
  • yogurt or grapefruit
  • toast
  • 8 oz. glass of milk or 100% grapefruit juice

Smart-shopping cost: 56¢-61¢

Oatmeal is one of the top Super Foods and something you should eat multiple times during the weak.And it’s cheap! Quaker Oats is usually $3.15 a carton. I got it BOGO at Publix. I also had a coupon for $1 off when you buy two, bringing the cost down to 8¢ per 1/2 cup serving. Avoid the instant packets with fruit, brown sugar or cinnamon — the #2 listed ingredient is sugar.

For some reason, Kroger gave me a $2 coupon on Ocean Spray juice (I had just bought a few bottles), bringing the cost of an on-sale bottle down from $2.49 to .49¢, or 6¢ for an 8 oz. glass.

8¢ – 1/2 cup oatmeal

9¢ – 1/2 banana or raisins

40¢ – yogurt cup

13¢ – 8 oz. glass of milk

13¢ – 1/2 grapefruit

3¢ – toast

Cereal, yogurt, juice breakfast

  • 1 cup cereal
  • 1 cup milk (8 oz.)
  • Yogurt cup
  • 1/2 banana
  • 8 oz. glass of orange juice or tomato juice

Smart-shopping cost = .87¢

8¢ – Kroger house brand cereal

13¢ – 1 cup Kroger milk at $1.99 gallon

11¢ – 1/2 banana

40¢ – Aldi yogurt cup

16¢ – 8 oz. glass of orange juice or V8 tomato juice (see pricing here)

Baked chicken dinner

  • 1/4 chicken
  • mashed potatoes
  • green beans
  • salad
  • 1/2 can soup
  • bread
  • 12 oz. milk

Kroger’s Heritage Farms chicken quarters are usually $7.90 per bag (79¢ per quarter), occasionally on sale for $5.99. You get 10 lbs., which often comes to 10 quarters (sometimes 9 to 11 pieces).

I wait until they are on sale for $3.90 per bag, then buy four bags and put the quarters into individual lunch bags (3 cents each) and freeze them. Recently, Kroger sold them for $2.90 per bag (I got that price one other time when they were nearing the sell-by date).

If you’re a Publix shopper, they put their $1.50 chicken quarters on BOGO. You pay half price, but still about 75¢ per pound per Kroger’s on-sale price of 59¢.

Prices…

29¢ – chicken quarter

19¢ – 1/2 can of Progresso soup (Aldi 10.5 oz. or Publix Progresso 18.5 oz. on BOGO + digital coupon

20¢ – salad

12¢ – mashed potatoes (Aldi)

15¢ – green beans (Aldi)

19¢ – 12 oz. milk

5¢ – iced tea

3¢ – 12 oz. soda

3¢ – bread

3 Hot dogs lunches

Lunch #1

  • 2 small dogs (1.5 oz. )
  • potato chips
  • pickle
  • iced tea

Lunch #2

  • 2 small dogs (1.5 oz. )
  • potato chips
  • baby carrots
  • pickle
  • 8 oz. glass of milk

Lunch #3

  • 2 small dogs (1.5 oz. )
  • potato salad
  • baby carrots (or substitute pickle)
  • 1/2 Anjou red pear
  • 8 oz. glass of milk

Smart-shopping cost: 43¢ – 95¢

I found Gwaltney chicken dogs on sale for $1 per pack (8 dogs, 12 oz.). I then found Kroger’s Heritage Farms chicken dogs on manager’s special for $1.59 for a 24 pack. I then found HF chicken dogs on sale for 29¢ per pack (4¢ per hot dog)! The biggest cost here is the pear.

8¢ – 2 small hot dogs

13¢ – 2 hot dog buns (manager’s special at 50¢)

6¢ – 2 slices bread

15¢ – potato salad

13¢ – 8 oz. glass of milk

5¢ – iced tea

30¢ – 1/2 Anjou red pear

13¢ – baby carrots

10¢ – pickle slice

4¢ – potato chips – Kroger chips at $1.50/2 bags less $1.00 coupon/2

10¢ – ketchup and mustard

Salmon & asparagus dinner

  • Salmon filet (farm raised)
  • 4 aspargus spears
  • Rice pilaf (1.25 oz)
  • Multi-grain roll
  • Salad with lettuce, tomatoes and dressing
  • Iced tea

Smart-shopping cost = 2.19¢

$1.50 – Salmon (large filet on sale 1/2 price manager’s special, cut into 8 individual portions)

14¢ – 4 asparagus spears (99¢/lb. at Sprouts)

12¢ – rice pilaf (Kroger BOGO on Uncle Ben’s Country Inn rice at 89¢ box)

6¢ – mulit-grain roll (manager’s special)

32¢ – salad (1/8 99¢ head of lettuce w/two 1 tomato slice and dressing)

5¢ – iced tea

Spaghetti dinner

OK, it’s mostaccioli, but the price is the same for spaghetti, fettucini, shells, penne, etc.

  • pasta
  • tomato sauce
  •  chunk-light tuna in the sauce
  • salad w/dressing
  • bread
  • milk

Smart-shopping cost: 65¢

I never pay more than 50¢ for a box of pasta – even brand name pasta like Ronzoni or Mueller’s. I usually find jars of pasta sauce for 99¢.

I recently found Mueller’s pasta on BOGO at Publix ($1.47 box / 2 = 74¢). At the same time, Publix had a digital coupon for $1 off for a box of Mueller’s pasta, so I actually could have made a net 24¢ “profit” from the promotion. However, I took advantage of the sale and bought two boxes for 47¢ total. Kroger runs “Buy 5 boxes for .50 each” promos 2-3 times per year.

Publix had Ragu sauce on BOGO and a digital coupon for $1 off two jars, so my final cost was 60¢ a jar. I get five servings from a box of pasta and jar of spaghetti sauce, so each serving was only 17¢ before tax. Kroger has “Buy 5 jars for .99¢ each” on Classico and Prego 2-3 times per year, in addition to having their store brands and generics for .99¢ most weeks.

Above full price: $3.66

Above full price: $7.32

The prices below are based on a 50¢ box of pasta and a 40¢ can of Kroger tomato sauce. That sauce if pretty thin (almost like soup), but for a working mom who wants to feed her kids inexpensively, it’s not bad. The tuna adds a lean source of protein and is much less expensive than ground beef.

10¢ – tuna

5¢ – pasta

8¢ – tomato sauce

19¢ – 12 oz. milk

20¢ – salad

3¢ – bread

BBQ rib tips dinner

  • 1 country style boneless rib
  • mashed potatoes
  • buttered corn
  • soup
  • salad
  • corn bread
  • iced tea

Smart-shopping cost: Dinner = $1.84; Plate = $1.45

$1 – 1 boneless country style rib

12¢ – mashed potatoes

15¢ – corn

19¢ – cup of soup

20¢ – salad

13¢ – corn bread

5¢ – iced tea

Sausage Jambalaya

  • Zatarain’s jambalaya (or red beans and rice)
  • sausage
  • baby carrots
  • canned tomatoes
  • corn bread
  • salad
  • iced tea

Smart-shopping cost: $1.09

I wait until Zatarain’s is on sale for $1 per box, and sometimes find a manufactuer’s coupon at the same time. I wait for deals on sausage and then buy a bunch of them and freeze them. I keep some diced in a tupperware container and then anytime I want Zatarain’s, I can toss in a handful of sausage and a chicken breast or two. I also add canned tomatoes and baby carrots (sometimes this is enough and you don’t need meat).

19¢ – Zatarain’s jambalaya (or red beans and rice)

36¢ – sausage

17¢ – baby carrots

15¢ – canned tomatoes

22¢ – salad

12¢ – corn bread

5¢ – iced tea

Red beans & rice lunch

  • Zatarain’s red beans and rice
  • baby carrots
  • potato salad
  • corn bread
  • iced tea
  • plum

Smart-shopping cost: 80¢

I wait until Zatarain’s is no sale for $1 per box, then use a coupon for 50¢ off when you buy two boxes.

25¢ – beans and rice

23¢ – baby carrots

15¢ – potato salad

13¢ – corn bread

5¢ – iced tea

Soup & sandwich lunch

  • Tomato sandwich (2 tomato slices, lettuce, bread)
  • 1/2 can of soup
  • 8 oz. milk

Smart-shopping cost = $60¢

The most expensive part of this meal is the tomatoes. If you have a garden, your cost for this meal is only 40¢.

.19¢ – 1/2 can of soup

20¢ – 2 tomato slices

6¢ – 2 slices bread

2¢ – lettuce

.13¢ – 8 oz. milk

Soup & salad lunch

  • 10.5 – 18.5 oz. bowl of soup
  • Wedge salad with cheese and dressing
  • Slice of bread
  • cookie
  • Glass of iced tea

Smart-shopping cost = 1.25¢

49¢ for Aldi 10.5 oz can of soup

25¢ for 1/4 head of lettuce

10¢ cheese

10¢ salad dressing

3¢ slice of bread (Kroger manager’s special at 50¢ loaf)

10¢ cookie

Iced tea = 5¢ for 12 oz. glass

Franks & beans lunch

  • 1/2 can baked beans (8.oz)
  • 2, 1.5 oz. hot dogs
  • Slice of bread
  • 4 oz. potato salad
  • 12 oz. glass of milk

Smart-shopping cost = 75¢

I thought I had scored a good deal when I got Gwaltney chicken dogs for $1 per 8-pack…until I found 8-packs of Kroger’s Heritage Farms chicken dogs on manger’s special for 29¢ per pack, or .0375 per hot dog!

30¢ – 1/2 can Kroger house brand baked beans

8¢ – 2 Gwaltney chicken dogs on sale for $1.00 for 8-pack (12 oz.)

15¢ – Kroger potato salad, manager’s special 59¢ for 16 oz. carton

3¢ – Bread was 50¢ per loaf at Kroger (manager’s special)

19¢ – 12 oz. glass of milk at $1.99 per gallon, Kroger

Stuffed tomato lunch

Surprisingly, this is the second-most expensive of all the meals I’ve posted because it contains the two most (regular) foods I eat: milk and tomatoes. The tomato alone cost $1.18! If you grow your own tomato and substitute a soda for the milk, the price drops from $1.99 to 67¢. Start a garden!

  • 1 tomato
  •  1/2 can chunk-light tuna (2.5 oz.)
  • salad
  • 1/2 can soup
  • bread
  • milk

Smart-shopping cost: $1.99

$1.18 – tomato at Kroger

19¢ – 12 oz. milk

19¢ – cup of soup

25¢ – 1/2 can of tuna (2.5 oz.)

10¢ – lettuce

5¢ – squirt of mayo

3¢ – bread

Pizza lunch

Pizza and soda

  • 1/2, 12″ veggie pizza (600 calories)
  • glass of soda

Pizza, salad, milk

  • 1/2, 12″ veggie pizza (600 calories)
  • Salad with dressing
  • 12 oz. milk

Smart-shopping cost = 59¢/$1.11

This is one of those crazy deals you will probably never get, and that I probably won’t get again, but these things happen on a regular basis, so you’ll probably get another deal like this on something else in your area. That’s how Smart Shopping works. Keep your eyes open and you’ll keep finding these rare deals without having to jump through hoops.

Tombstone pizzas are as much as $6 each at Publix, but Publix has regular BOGO sales, so you can get them for $3.Ocassionally, Tombstone runs coupons in the newspaper, reducing the price even more.

Kroger sells Tombstone for about $4. Kroger had a special, 2/$4. They also had a digital coupon, buy 2 Tombstone pizzas, get $2 off, so I got 2 pizzas for $2. If I had found a manufacturer’s coupon, I might have got the pizzas for free, but that’s taking advantage of a loophole in the system and is obnoxious.

Another nice, but repeating deal, is Publix soda. They regularly put their 99¢, 2-liter bottles of Publix soda on BOGO, so it’s 50¢ a bottle, giving me a drink for 9¢. Sometimes, they offer a $1 off soda if you buy three bottles, lowering the cost of a 2-liter bottle of soda to 17¢!

.50¢ – pizza

09¢ – Soda

23¢ – salad

38¢ – 12 oz. glass of milk

Carnitas stew

  • pork chunks with black beans and tomatoes
  • yellow saffron rice
  • 2 tortillas
  • 12 oz. glass of soda

Smart-shopping cost: $1.52

Kroger sells frozen carnitas for $6.99. I can usually get them on manager’s special for $4.19. I recently found them on MS for $3.59. That’s 90¢ a serving, although if you use country style pork ribs, you’ll pay about $1.00 per serving.

Publix had Bush’s Best vegetarian black beans (frijoles negros) on sale for 99¢ a can. I happened to see Bush’s coupons for 75¢ per can, so I got the cans for 24¢ each. I usually add half an onion to this dish; add another 30¢ if you want to do that. You can also add carrots, celery or your other favorite veggies. I got 2 liters of soda for 37.5¢ (Publix 75¢ store brand on BOGO).

90¢ – carnitas (marinated pork)

20¢ – yellow saffron rice

10¢ – canned tomatoes with chilis

6¢ – black beans

20¢ – 2 tortillas

6¢ – soda*

Occasionally, Publix will sell 2-liter bottles of house brand soda for half price (50¢ per bottle) and run a coupon for $1 off when you buy 3 bottles (about 3¢ per serving). That means, you get 2-liter bottles of soda for 17¢! This doesn’t happen very often any more.

Chicken Enchiladas

  • 2 chicken enchiladas
  • vegetarian black beans
  • saffron yellow or brown rice
  • 12 oz. glass of soda

Smart-shopping cost: $1.81

This is a good example of Smart Shopping vs. Bargain prices. Publix sells Old El Paso dinner kits for $3.15 each. I waited until they were on BOGO, getting them for $1.58 each. PUBLIX ran an Old El Paso digital coupon for $1 off the purchase of three OEP products. I then used a Kroger 75¢ coupon for a final cost of 99¢ per dinner kit. I also bought Bush’s vegetarian black beans for 24¢ a can (99¢ sale + a 75¢ Bush coupon). I got a 2-liter bottle of soda for 37.5¢ (Publix 75¢ store brand on BOGO). A bag of Kroger brand chicken breasts is $7.99. I waited until they went on sale for $5.99 (about once every 4-5 weeks), then used a $1.40 digital coupon and a $1.50 paper coupon they sent me for a total cost of approximately $3 for the $8 bag of chicken.

33¢ – tortillas, seasoning mix and picante sauce

60¢ – chicken

40¢ – veggies

20¢ – yellow saffron rice

15¢ – cheese

6¢ – black beans

7¢ – 12 oz. glass of soda

Quesadillas with rice & beans

  • fajita quesadilla (onions, bell peppers, cheese)
  • Spanish or Mexican rice
  • refried beans
  • mashed avacado
  • salsa
  • iced tea

Smart-shopping cost: $1.18

Kroger had refried beans (normally 89¢ can) on sale for 79¢. If you bought three cans, you got $1.00 off, bringing the price per can down to 46¢ a can. I got three bell peppers (normally 78¢ each) for 99¢ in Kroger’s manager’s special sacks (they have different veggies each day, depending on what’s getting close to the sell-by date). Avocados can cost $1.78 each. Sprouts had them on sale for 3/$1.00. Publix had Pace salsa on sale for 99¢ a jar and accepted a 40¢ Kroger coupon (they don’t accept them any more), bringing the jar down to 60¢. If you have a garden, you have no cost for peppers, onions or whatever other veggies you want to add).

10¢ – flour tortilla (pictured is half a quesadilla)

17¢ – green pepper

9¢ – onions

15¢ – Mexican fiesta cheese

10¢ – refried beans

18¢ – avocado

5¢ – salsa

5¢ – iced tea

Tacos

Veggie tacos

Ground beef tacos

  • veggie tacos
  • ground beef tacos
  • saffron yellow or brown rice
  • refried or black beans
  • plum
  • 12 oz. glass of soda
  • glass of water

Smart-shopping cost: 90¢/$1.67

Publix sells Old El Paso dinner kits for $3.15 each. I waited until they were on BOGO, getting them for $1.58 each. PUBLIX ran an Old El Paso digital coupon for $1 off the purchase of three OEP products. I then used a Kroger 75¢ coupon (buy three) for a final cost of 99¢ per dinner kit.

I also bought Bush’s vegetarian black beans for 24¢ a can (99¢ sale + a 75¢ Bush coupon). I got a 2-liter bottle of soda for 37.5¢ (Publix 75¢ store brand on BOGO). I got a 5 lb. roll of ground beef at $1.99 lb, and got 12 servings per pound.

8.25¢ – taco shells, seasoning mix and picante sauce

42¢ – ground beef per taco

20¢ – veggies per taco

20¢ – yellow saffron rice or brown rice

10¢ – cheese

6¢ – black beans

12¢ – refried beans

7¢ – 12 oz. glass of soda

2 roast pork dinners

  • roast pork
  • carrots and sauerkraut
  • mashed potatoes and asparagus
  • bread
  • iced tea

Smart-shopping cost: $1.09

I got a pork roast (four servings) for $5.02 (manager’s special from $9.84).

$1.30 – roast pork

14¢ – asparagus

12¢ – mashed potatoes

15¢ – carrots

10¢ – sauerkraut

3¢ – bread

5¢ – iced tea

Honey fried chicken dinner

  • Fried chicken (quarter) w/honey
  • mashed potatoes
  • green beans
  • soup
  • salad
  • corn bread
  • iced tea

Smart-shopping cost: Dinner = $1.39; Plate = 1.00¢

Kroger’s Heritage Farms chicken quarters are usually $6.90 per bag, occasionally on sale for $5.99. You get 10 lbs., which often comes to 10 quarters (sometimes 9 to 11 pieces).

I wait until they are on sale for $3.90 per bag, then buy four bags and put the quarters into individual lunch bags (3 cents each) and freeze them. For this page, I used a price of .39 per quarter (includes sandwich bag).

If you’re a Publix shopper, they put their $1.50 chicken quarters on BOGO. You pay half price, but still about .75 per pound per Kroger’s on-sale price of .59.

Twice, I have been able to buy Kroger’s quarters for .29¢ per bag!

$.55 – chicken quarter w/breading and honey

12¢ – mashed potatoes

15¢ – green beans

19¢ – cup of soup

20¢ – salad

13¢ – corn bread

5¢ – iced tea

Teriyaki stir fry

  • Beef stir fry with onion, carrots and green beans
  •  egg roll (or dinner roll)
  • iced tea or milk

Smart-shopping cost: $1.90 to $2.15

I got 8 oz. of top round on manager’s special for $4.29. I used canned green beans and carrots (dented cans at 29¢ each). I got Tai Pei egg rolls BOGO at Publix.

$1.09 – 2 oz. top round steak

8¢ – canned sliced carrots

8¢ – canned green beans

25¢ – onions

25¢ – egg roll (or bread for 3¢ to 6¢)

5¢ – ice tea (or milk for 13¢ for 8 oz.)

Chili Mac

  • Bowl of chili mac
  •  side salad
  • iced tea or milk

Smart-shopping cost: 64¢ to 72¢

I got boxes of Ronzoni pasta and Kroger manager’s special for 50¢ each. I got a brick of Velveeta for $2.99. I added a can of chili. This created six servings of chili mac.

39¢ – chili mac

20¢ – salad with dressing

13¢ – 8 oz. milk

5¢ – ice tea

Better Protein Choices

If you’re cutting back on the amount of protein you eat, especially animal products, make sure you pick the healthiest proteins to meet healthy eating and weight-management goals. Here are some suggestions for getting good nutritionnal value when you eat proteins.

Healthier Beef Choices

The cheaper the cut of beef, the lower the fact content, except for hamburger. Cheaper beef isn’t as tender as more-expensive cuts, so learn how to cook flank steak, sirloin and skirt steak and you’ll be able to enjoy beef with less saturated fat. If you marinate and slow-cook cheaper cuts of beef, they’ll turn out tender and delicious.

Healthy Seafood Options

As we shared with you in a previous blog post, all seafood is not created equal. Coldwater fish are your healthiest choices, providing you with more lean protein and omega-3 fatty acids. Choose wild-caught salmon over farm raised if you have the option. Don’t worry about the cholesterol in shellfish – dietary cholesterol isn’t the kind that gets into your arteries. Enjoy delicious garlic shrimp with your pasta instead of ground beef or sausage.

Choose the Right Fowl

Choose white mean, especially breast meat, when eating bird. Don’t assume the pre-made turkey burgers are as low in fat as they can be. Better to buy ground turkey breast and make your own patties than to buy pre-made patties made from dark meat. Free-range and organic chicken is becoming more available and affordable, and even big-name chicken producers reducing the amount of additives they are putting into their chickens and turkey.

Healthier Pork Choices

Pork can be a leaner alternative to high-fat beef, but choose low-fat, low-sodium cuts and organic varieties. Here’s an interesting comparison between pork loin and chicken by The Food Network.

Eggs are (Now) Very Healthy

With the good news about dietary cholesterol no longer being a nutrient of concern, it’s OK to increase your intake of eggs. They’re a great source of lean protein and healthy fats. Add them to salads. Make egg salad with low-fat mayo.

Easy on the Cow’s Milk

Milk has many health benefits, but like most other foods, if you consume it every day, it can have some downsides. If you Google the subject, you’ll find many opponents who dispel all of the health benefits of drinking milk (e.g., it doesn’t improve bone health, and high consumption can increase the risk of some cancers) and recommend we stop drinking it altogether. Other experts stand by the health benefits and suggest we drink it every day.

One surprising study recently suggested that whole milk is actually better for weight loss than skim milk because the fat in whole milk satisfies our hunger better and reduces ensuing sugar cravings. However, the USDA suggests Americans drink low-fat and fat-free milk – but even low-fat milk still has lots of calories. If you drink the USDA’s recommended daily servings of milk, you’ll add more than 360 calories to your daily intake.

This helpful Weight Watchers article provides information that may calm your fears about growth hormones in milk and beef. This CBS article might also calm your fears about antibiotics in your milk.

Finally, depending on your racial heritage – primarily if you’re of Northern European descent – you will become less able to digest lactose (a sugar found in milk) as you age.

If you’re worried about milk, try almond or soy milk, and make sure you’re eating other foods that give you plenty of calcium, potassium and vitamin D. You can also add calcium-fortified orange juice and vitamin D fortified foods to your diet.

Other Dairy Options

When choosing dairy products, think quality, not quantity, in your servings. For example, when you make a pizza, don’t layer on the cheese until you can’t see the tomato sauce. Experiment with your next several pizzas to see how little cheese you can get away with – you might be surprised at how gooey and delicious a pizza can be with half the cheese you normally use.

If you use butter as a bread spread or cooking additive for recipes, consider a butter substitutes. Now that trans fats are being phased out, you don’t have to worry about the problems associated with margarine. Choose one that’s lower in saturated fats and calories. Some contain plant sterols that can improve your blood cholesterol.

If you regularly eat yogurt as a meal replacement or snack, remember the best-tasting ones are the sweetest, and that means more sugar. Check labels and look for Greek yogurt. Look for other healthy protein sources, such as unsalted mixed nuts, nut butters or seeds, as substitute snacks.

If you’ve got a sweet tooth, take some time to research frozen desserts. Check out the nutrition labels on ice creams, frozen yogurts, sorbets and sherbets. Cut your servings in half, but add some crushed almonds or walnuts (be careful about portion sizes, nuts are calorie-dense foods), or a small amount of fresh fruit or berries to help you satisfy your craving for a creamy frozen dessert while reducing the amount you eat.

Nuts, seeds and nut butters

Nuts and seeds are a healthy source of lean protein and good fats that can help you feel satisfied longer after a meal or snack. They are calorie dense, so a little goes a long way toward satisfying hunger. They can also help improve blood cholesterol and reduce the effects of inflammation. Adding almonds, cashews, walnuts and Brazil nuts to stews, casseroles, salads and stir-fries is a great way to add healthier proteins to your diet.

Peanut butter is the hands-down favorite nut butter among consumers, but almond butter provides more healthy fats, vitamin E, and calcium and magnesium. Almond butter is more expensive than peanut butter, especially cheaper peanut butter choices that have added salt, sugars and fats. You can also get your almonds in the form of almond milk.

While not as nutrient-packed as almond and peanut butter, cashew butter is a close third in most categories and provides more iron and zinc than the other two. If your family doesn’t like the taste of almond butter but enjoys cashew butter, add it to your diet.

Keep a jar or shaker of seeds handy to sprinkle on salads, in stir-fries and on desserts. In addition to being a good protein source, seeds contain healthy fats and are a good source of dietary fiber. Refrigerate or freeze seeds to help them last longer.

Soy and other beans and legumes

Like corn, soy is creeping into to many processed foods. That’s because it’s fats help create good food textures. At one time, expert thought soy was going to be the food that helped feed the planet, but many people are allergic to soy, with reactions including an itchy throat, watery eyes and sniffles.

There are also concerns about how it’s genetically modified. However, if you’re not allergic to soy, foods like edamame, tofu, tempeh, miso and soy milk can help you add protein to your diet as an alternative to animal sources.

Unfortunately, there’s conflicting information about the health benefits or problems associated with eating soy and soy products. Talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian if you need to add a protein source to your diet and are considering soy, especially if you are pregnant.

Other beans and legumes are packed with healthy protein and provide different vitamins and minerals, as well as dietary fiber. Add beans to soups, salads, pasta dishes and stews if you want to cut down on animal product ingredients. Beans are not complete proteins, providing all of the enzymes you need for good health, but when you combine them with rice, you get a complete protein dish.

Hamburger, chuck, sirloin, ground round – what’s the difference?

You’ve probably noticed that packages of ground beef in your supermarket case have different names and prices, but do you really know what they mean? Here’s a quick guide to helping you buy the healthiest and tastiest choices of ground beef, rather than just shopping by price.

hamburger meat

The Fat Content Varies

The main difference between ground beef types is the fat content. When buying whole beef cuts, the cheaper the cut, the less fat it has. The opposite is true when buying ground beef. The cheapest packages have the most fat.

Here’s a quick guideline showing the approximate lean-to-fat ratios of different types of ground beef:

•Lean Ground Beef – 95/5

•Ground Sirloin – 90/10

•Ground Round – 85/15

•Ground Chuck – 80/20

•Hamburger/Ground Beef – 73/27

Meat labeled as “hamburger” or “ground beef” can come from almost any part of the cow. Ask your butcher what the grind contains and if it has the chemical filler “pink slime.”

What’s Best for Burgers?

When you buy ground beef for making hamburgers, you might be tempted to buy the leanest choice. You’ll see on the label a percentage, such as “90% lean.” The problem with very lean ground beef is that the low-fat content makes it more dry. This is fine if you’ll be covering the beef with spaghetti sauce or using it in tacos that will be covered with lots of toppings.

If you want a juicy hamburger, however, your best bet will be ground chuck, an 80/20 grind. This is the mix many top restaurant chefs use for their high-end burgers.

Grass-fed, Organic Beef

In our blog post, Whole Foods & Organics: Worth the Cost?, we noted that not all natural fruits and vegetables are worth the high price. Organic beef, on the other hand, is a much healthier choice than commercially raised beef. This is because mass-produced beef often contains antibiotics, growth hormones and other chemicals.

These cows are also not grass-fed, and some of the commercial food they eat are grown or treated with commercial fertilizers and pesticides. In some cases, the food these cows eat includes the unusable parts of other cows that remain after their processing (cannibalism)! Organic, grass-fed beef also contains more heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids. Look for lean, natural, organic, grass-fed beef if you want the healthiest option for yourself or your family.

Choose Healthier Portion Sizes

When serving beef, you can reduce calories by using the meat to flavor dishes that feature plenty of other heart-healthy ingredients. For example, instead of a half-pound hamburger, make a smaller patty and dress it with thick slices of ripe tomatoes, caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms, crunchy greens and just one slice of low-fat cheese.

Don’t Reduce the size of the bun without skimping on the quality of the bread – make the bread an important part of the flavor combination. Choose Flatout flatbreads or Foldits to make delicious burger wraps or sliders you pair with healthy side dishes or a bowl of low-fat vegetable soup.

Serve kids Sloppy Joe sliders (instead of large sandwiches) with baked sweet potato fries and a light Cole slaw. Turn a bowl of baked beans into a main course by adding some ground beef and flavoring the dish with a bit of brown sugar, dry mustard and catsup.

When making spaghetti sauce, make large pieces of carrots, onions, mushrooms, green peppers and other veggies the stars of your marinara, adding just enough lean ground beef to add that familiar flavor you want. Check out these 11 healthy ground beef recipe ideas that come in at 300 calories per serving or less.

Beware of E. Coli

If a butcher, deli or meat department at a grocery store advertises that they grind their hamburger fresh every hour, be careful. Many, if not most, of these meat purveyors do not break down and clean their meat grinders after each grind. That takes too long.

This means that beef that sticks in the grinder at 8:00 am might still be there hours later, sitting in the open air at room temperature. The Centers for Disease control estimates that 265,000 Americans get E. coli infections each year. While not all of these infections are caused by ground beef, ground beef recalls due to E. coli are common in the news.

Grind Your Own Beef

You know how good fresh ground coffee tastes – why not do the same with your beef (or turkey or chicken)? You not only get fresh ground beef, you also control the meat it comes from. To get the freshest ground beef, buy your own grinder and prepare your own.

You can purchase a hand meat grinder inexpensively, or use our awesome technique for getting one free! Before grinding your beef, put it in the freezer for 15 minutes to make it firmer and keep the natural juices from running out during the grinding process. Here are some helpful tips on home grinding from the Weber grill company.

All fish aren’t created equal

Most people know that eating fish adds a healthy, lean protein to your diet. Doctors, dietitians and other health and wellness experts recommend adding fish to your diet two to three times per week. But not all fish is equally healthy, and the kinds of fish restaurants serve as healthy options are actually the less-healthy choices.

Salmon dinner

Go Cold Turkey – er, Cold Fish

Fish live in either warm or cold waters. Those that live in cold water have higher amounts of the healthy Omega-3 fatty acids you want. These include salmon, tuna mackerel, sardines, lake trout and herring.

Unfortunately, many restaurants are pushing tilapia as their healthy seafood alternative to a burger or pizza. Like catfish and some other warmwater fish, these contain higher amounts of Omega-6 fats, which might increase your risk for heart disease.

So, is eating tilapia worse than having a bacon cheeseburger? Probably not, but if you’re going to eat fish on a regular basis, stick with coldwater choices.

Farm Raised vs. Wild Caught

Another thing to look for when buying fish is whether it’s farm raised or wild caught. Producers of farm-raised fish claim their product is raised in clean water and fed healthy fish food. Others say farm-raised fish contains antibiotics and other harmful ingredients. If you like salmon, try farm-raised and Pacific wild caught. If you like the wild caught, it’s probably a good idea to stick with that choice.

Beware of Fish Oils

Can you believe how many different brands and bottles of fish oil you see on your grocery store shelves these days? And what’s the difference between each one? Unfortunately, shady marketers are putting “1,000 mgs of fish oil” on virtually every bottle, which sounds like the pills provide your commonly recommended daily dose of Omega-3.

The deception comes from the words “fish oil.” A pill with 1,000 mgs of fish oil might contain as little as 30 percent Omega-3. That means you have to take four pills to get 1,000 mgs of Omega-3. And what’s in the rest of the pill? Potentially harmful toxins, extra fat and other impurities.

Look for fish oil pills that have 1,000 mgs of Omega-3 (EPA and DHA) or up to 3 grams per day (talk to your doctor about your needs). Pills with an enteric coating are easier to digest and prevent fish burps.

How to Cut Back on Animal Proteins

Protein is overrated.

With the (slow) death of low-carb fad diets and recent scientific discoveries about the role fats play in our good health, people are re-thinking how much protein they need and want to eat.

Yes, protein is a very important nutrient and provides a variety of health benefits, but more and more credible health agencies, organizations and experts are recommending that protein, as a percentage of your daily calories, should be your third-most important macronutrient behind carbohydrates and healthy fats.

Cutting back on animal products not only helps you spend more of your food budget on fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds, but also helps reduce unhealthy ingredients in your diet and avoid adding extra pounds.

Serve smaller portions

Instead of serving meat-free meals, reduce portion sizes and put more effort into creating tastier and nutritious side dishes. Just because someone loves the taste of beef or chicken doesn’t mean they need a large serving. When people can fill up on a delicious multi-food meal, they won’t miss a few extra ounces of steak or turkey.

Aim for portion sizes no larger than the palm of your hand. People will finish a large glass of a drink rather than pour part of it down the sink and waste it, so you might be serving more each meal than you need. When serving milk, shoot for an 8 oz. glass instead of 12 oz. or 16 oz. serving.

Eat in Courses

One way to help your family enjoy smaller servings of beef, chicken, pork and other animal proteins is to serve your meal in courses. Having a salad or bowl of soup, along with something to drink before the main course arrives, starts the process of feeling full earlier.

After someone has eaten soup, salad bread and had a drink, they won’t be “starved” for a big piece of meat and lots of starchy potatoes and vegetables. Penn State researchers found that people who had soup before their main course ate 20 percent fewer calories at the meal.

Forget the “Main Dish” concept

If you serve a traditional meat-and-two sides meal (protein plus two vegetables), the animal protein you serve usually needs to be the star of the meal. To reduce the amount of meat people want, create stir-fries, stews, chilis, pastas and other dishes that add meat to main dish, rather than make protein the main dish. You’ll taste beef or pork or chicken most forkfuls, but won’t consume as much.

Choose healthier products

When you buy animal products, choose healthier versions, such as free-range eggs, organic meats and low-fat dairy products. Some research suggests that full-fat milk is actually a better weigh-loss choice than skim because it’s more satisfying and reduces cravings later.

Whichever animal products you choose, read labels to avoid artificial ingredients. Choose less-expensive cuts of beef, which contain less saturated fat, and learn how to cook these cuts low and slow for maximum tenderness and flavor.

Select healthier carbs

To make sure you make up for the iron and calcium you lose when cutting back on animal products, make sure to choose healthy, complex carbohydrates. Buy whole-grain pastas and breads rather than refined wheat versions. Choose sweet potatoes over white and brown rice over white. When it comes to vegetables, eat the colors of the rainbow for maximum health.

Watch your micronutrients

Make sure to get enough iron, vitamin D and calcium in your diet when you cut back on animal products. Iron-rich foods include soybeans, lentils, sesame seeds, garbanzo beans, lima beans, olives, navy beans, navy beans and Swiss chard.

To get more calcium, eat tofu, sardines sesame seeds, yogurt, collard greens, spinach and turnip, mustard and beet greens. Look for iron-fortified cereals and calcium-fortified orange juice. Vitamin D is not present in many foods – our body processes vitamin D from sunlight, using our skin (the body’s largest organ).

That’s why so many foods, especially cereals and dairy products, are fortified with vitamin D. To get more vitamin D in your diet, eat salmon, sardines, tuna and eggs. Talk to your doctor about taking a vitamin D supplement, based on your eating habits.

Store brands, private labels, national brands and generics – what’s the difference?

If you’re not quite sure what’s going on with the all of the name brand, generic, store brand and private label items you’re seeing in grocery stores these days, you’re not alone.

As this trend continues to grow, it’s a good idea to know what’s what when it comes to your food, snacks, household items and pet foods, and whether or not you can really save money without sacrificing quality by purchasing non-brand items.

generic foods

What are Generic Foods?

Generic items are those that are sold with virtually no advertising or promotion, and even limited label design. These products might be made by food manufacturers who sell them to multiple chains, varying the label slightly. They might feature fewer conveniences, such as pop-top can lids or resealable packages.

How Much Can You Save?

Generics and house brands can cost up to 75 percent less than branded items, but that doesn’t mean you can cut your monthly grocery bill by that much across the board. This is because you will naturally want to buy some of your favorite brand items no matter how much less expensive generics are. And, some items might not be available in generic or store brand versions.

If your family spends $500 a month on groceries, you might not be able to cut your bill by 50 percent, based on what products you buy. However, if you only decrease your spending by one-third, you’ll save close to $2,000 annually – which doesn’t include your credit card interest. If you carry your grocery purchases on a credit card with a 20 percent APR for one year, you’ll save another $200 by purchasing non-branded items. Using a few coupons, waiting for sales, using a loyalty card, buying in bulk and joining a buyer’s club will save you even more.

Let’s say you can save $2,000 per year on groceries without reducing the amount of food you buy, or reducing the quality of food you buy. If you had started doing this four years ago, you’d have more than $9,000 in your bank account today, based on how you invested your $2,000. If you put that $2,000 into a 401(k) with a match, you can more than double that figure!

What Generics are Available?

You can find generic items in the bakery, deli, canned goods and boxed item aisle, freezer section, produce section, pharmacy and meat and seafood department. You can also buy household goods, pet foods and just about everything else you regularly buy.

Brand Names Foods

Brand name items include products such as Green Giant and Del Monte vegetables, Coke and Pepsi, Kellogg’s and Post cereals and Eveready and Duracell batteries. These companies spend considerable money on advertising, coupons, promotions, celebrity endorsements and other promotions and must add every promotional dollar they spend to the price of the product.

Store Brands/Private Label

Store brand items are those that are sold under a chain’s name, and they are not available in other stores. Private label items are made for a store, but don’t carry the store’s name. These products are made for the grocery chain by a dedicated food manufacturer, meaning the grocery store does not have a manufacturing plant to make its own goods.

Store brands usually come with some promotional spending, such as in-store signage, special mentions in circulators or special packaging.

Who Makes Non-Brand Items?

Grocery stores that sell generics and store brands do not buy their own farms and open their own canneries. They buy from food companies that don’t have their own brands and make products for many companies – sometimes even competitors. Non-branded food items are made by companies that specialize in food production, packaging and distribution, using most, if not all, of the same quality control and manufacturing procedures as large brands. These companies often make specific knock-offs of branded items, which are put on the shelf right next to the original. You’ll notice this most in the cereal aisle.

Why Sell Cheaper Items?

Why would a grocery store want to sell a generic box of cake mix for $1 when it can sell a brand name mix for $1.80? Because grocers know that some people will always choose the lowest-cost items available, and some shoppers will never buy generics. Offering brands and generics means a store can attract both of these customers.

What About the Quality?

Can you really tell the difference between name brand spaghetti and generics? How about green beans? If you do some blind taste testing of items such as pasta sauces, cereals and milk, you’ll be surprised that you might prefer many generic versions of your favorite foods, and you most likely won’t be able to tell the difference between items such as General Mills Cheerio’s and the generic version called Oaty Oats.

Do You Need to Buy Bulk, Use Coupons or Join a Club?

While couponing, bulk buying and joining a buyer’s club can help you save an extra $1,000 per year or more, you don’t need to do more than buy generics and wait for your favorite items to go on sale to significantly reduce your grocery spending each year.

How to Get Started

The best way to decide whether buying generics, store brands and private label items is the best way to go for you and your family is to start small. Buy a few food and non-food items such as milk, toilet paper, bread, lunchmeat or salad dressing.

If you like these items, start looking for more options as you walk the aisles of your grocery store, comparing prices. Be prepared, you will occasionally find a generic item (e.g. refried beans or tomato sauce or cookies) you don’t like, but for the most part, staple items will often taste as good or better.

If items you’re looking at buying aren’t the same size, look for the shelf tags that show you the cost-per-ounce to find out which item is really cheapest.

A big key to remember about buying off-brand items is that saving money isn’t about the 50 cents or $1.00 you save on items, it’s about the percent savings. Remember, saving 30 percent off a $500 monthly grocery bill is $150 X 12 months X credit card APR.

Why you need a family dietitian

Did you know you can prevent, treat and manage most common diseases and conditions with proper nutrition? Many people wait until they’re sick to visit a doctor, who will often prescribe medication, tests, surgeries or other costly treatments.  

Working with a registered dietitian (not a certified nutritionist), you can manage your family’s health much better than you can by waiting for medical help after you’re sick.

registered dietitian

Health Problems you Can Avoid or Fix

While some diseases and conditions are largely genetic, many stem from poor diet, lack of exercise and poor lifestyle habits like smoking, drinking, substance abuse and lack of sleep. Common ailments you can avoid, manage, reduce or even cure with a combination of diet therapy and improved lifestyle habits include:

  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Osteoporosis (bone health)
  • Obesity
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Diabetes
  • Pre-diabetes
  • Lower back problems
  • High blood pressure
  • Hypertension
  • Celiac disease
  • Allergies
  • Eating disorders

Registered Dietitian vs. Certified Nutritionist

If your personal trainer tells you her or she is a certified nutritionist, that’s not the same as being a registered dietitian. An RD completes a college degree, then becomes board certified. He or she also specializes in different areas, such as becoming a sports nutrition expert or a Certified Diabetes Educator.

Nutritionists often take only a weekend seminar, online course or other non-accredited course of study. They are generally not allowed, by state law, to prescribe any nutrition-based therapies.

A new designation, Certified Nutrition Specialist, is far more credible than a certified nutritionist, so make sure you know the difference.

What Does a Family/Personal Dietitian Do?

A teen girl needs to eat differently than a senior woman. A 25-year-old male athlete has different nutritional needs than a 45-year-old male business executive.

Some health advocates believe most non-traumatic deaths (e.g. plane crash, auto accident, gunshot wound) are either caused by, or their severity is worsened by, poor nutrition.

If you have an annual checkup with a registered dietitian, he or she will learn your family health history, tell you your personal risk for specific diseases and conditions, recommend tests to determine where your health currently stands, and then recommend a specific diet plan for you to follow during the year.

A registered dietitian will also recommend you to a medical professional when necessary, provide recommendations for supplements, specific exercise programs and give you daily calorie targets and a list of foods to add to or eliminate from your diet.

Do you have questions about the Atkins or Paleo diet? Fish oil? A daily vitamin supplement? Eating gluten free? A registered dietitian can tell you which of these are fads and which are helpful.

If you already have a disease or condition, a registered dietitian can help you manage your problem, and in some cases, even eliminate it. You can find a registered dietitian in your area by contacting your family doctor, or using this handy online search tool.

7 Common Grilling Mistakes to Avoid

You might think grilling is simply cooking outdoors, but the combination of heat source, tools and proteins we use when grilling can create some easy-to-correct cooking errors. Follow these tips to grill the perfect steak, chicken or burgers this summer.

grilling tips

Choosing the Wrong Cut

It doesn’t matter how you prep and cook your steaks and burgers if you don’t choose the right beef. The cheaper the cut, the tougher it will be, the lower the temperature you’ll need to use and the longer you’ll need to cook the steak. Good grilling steaks include porterhouse, T-bone, New York strip, filet and rib eye. You can choose other cuts, but make sure you bone up on how to prepare them before cooking, and how to correctly grill them.

Cooking Cold Proteins

You obviously don’t want your proteins sitting in the sun for long periods, but taking them right from the fridge or cooler and putting them on the grill can create a less-than-perfect steak, burger or piece of chicken.

Think about what would happen if you put a frozen steak on the grill – the outside would burn while the inside would remain rock hard. Take your proteins out of the refrigerator or cooler about 15 minutes before you’re ready to cook them to let them get closer to room temperature.

The Grill is Too Hot

When coals are stacked all the way up to the grill surface, or they are still flaming, you can easily burn your proteins. The Weber Kettle company has an easy test for knowing when your grill is at high heat or medium-high heat. Place the palm of your hand 5 inches from the grilling surface.

If you have to pull it away (because your hand starts to hurt) in less than four seconds, you have high heat. If you have to move your hand between five and seven seconds, you’re at medium heat. If you can keep your hand there for eight to 10 seconds, your grill is at low heat.

Using Forks vs. Tongs

When you poke meat or fowl with tongs or forks, juice from the protein runs out of the protein, creating a dryer steak, burger or piece of chicken. Use tongs to place proteins on the grill, turn them and take them off.

Too Much Touching

Many people press down on meats to help them cook faster or to prevent the inside from being rare. This is probably the biggest reason grilled foods turn our chewy and rubbery. Once you put your steak, chicken or burger on the grill, leave it alone. Prodding, poking, pressing and pushing squeezes juices out of the meat, leaving it drier and tougher.

You can make a steak in one of two ways, in terms of turning it. Place the steak on the grill for one minute to create a sear and seal in the juices. Using tongs, turn the steak over and then leave it alone while it cooks on that side. Let it cook for approximately four to 10 minutes, depending on how thick the meat is, how hot your grill is, and if you want it more rare or well done.

After you’ve let it cook on this side, turn it one more time and finish on the other side to your desired temperature. To get those nice cross-grill marks on a steak, turn the steak sideways from its original position when you flip it the second time.

The other option for turning a steak is to place it on the grill, let it cook for half the time you plan on cooking it, and then turn it over and let it finish on the other side. Remember, when you remove a steak from the grill, it will continue to cook on the inside, especially if you place it under foil while you’re waiting to serve it.

Don’t keep turning hamburgers and don’t use the side of closed tongs to pat, flatten or press chicken. Leave. It. Alone.

Give it a Rest

When you watch cooking infomercials, you usually see the chef or pitchman take a steak or turkey or pork roast out of the cooking gadget and immediately slice it open. Out runs lots of juice, making your mouth water. But do you really want the juice from your steaks and chicken to run out, leaving you with a great-tasting . . . plate?

When you heat proteins, the juices bubble to the surface. If you let the beef, fowl or pork sit for a few minutes (called resting), these juices will absorb back into the meat. Remember your grandma driving you crazy by letting a large roast or turkey rest for an hour after they took it out of the oven?

When you grill this summer, give your steaks and chicken a few minutes to rest before you cut them open. For a big steak, give it more than five minutes, covering it in foil to keep it warm. If you’ve got plump chicken breasts, give them at least five minutes, covered, as well.

Burgers are fine to eat right off the grill because the bun will soak up most of the escaping juices, and it takes a few minutes to prepare the sandwich and dish up your sides. If you’ve made full-pound hamburgers, it can’t hurt to let them sit for a few minutes.

Saucing Too Early

A sauce is different than a marinade. A marinade is intended to get into the protein well before it’s cooked to help break down tough tissue. A sauce is added to proteins to add flavor. If you’re using a barbecue, jerk, hoisin or other sauce for flavoring your proteins, don’t put the sauce on before you start grilling. Only add a sauce during the last five minutes of the cooking process to help it get warm and stay on after you serve it.

Nighttime Snacks that Won’t Keep you Awake

There’s nothing wrong with having a post-dinner, pre-bedtime snack, especially if you’re grazing (eating five or more times per day). Choosing the right snack choices can help you avoid tummy troubles, and some can even help you sleep better.

nighttime snacks

Avoid the “Troublesome Trinity”

If you’ll be eating or drinking less than four hours before you go to bed, avoid foods and drinks that contain caffeine, hot spices or too much sugar. These can elevate your metabolism, making it harder to fall asleep. In addition to these three troublemakers, stay away from greasy, heavy proteins that take longer to digest than many carbs and healthy fats.

“BRAT” is an easy acronym to help you remember the types of mild foods you want to eat when you’re ill, or when you don’t want to be kept up all night. Think Bananas, Rice, Applesauce and Toast.

Try Some Oatmeal

Oatmeal is mild, filling and easily digestible. In addition to being a good late-night snack, it also provides benefits such as dietary fiber. Keep some natural oatmeal around, rather than the processed, flavored packets that contains lots of sugar. You can sweeten it with a bit of honey or raisins.

Bananas are Easy

By itself or in a smoothie, a banana is a quick-digesting, nutritious, mild snack that fills you up without filling you out. Have a few slices on a piece of toast with some nut butter for a heartier nighttime snack.

Popcorn is a Good Choice

Another favorite snack, popcorn is light, low in calories and satisfies your craving for something crunchy (and maybe a little salty). Avoid flavored popcorns that might be too spicy or include too many artificial colors, unhealthy fats and preservatives. It’s tough to control yourself around a big bowl of popcorn.

Even though it’s only 100 calories or so, downing a whole bag of microwave popcorn close to bedtime can leave you feeling too full. Put half of your serving aside for later by sealing it in a plastic sandwich bag. Eat your half-serving slowly with a low-cal, low-sugar, healthy drink.

Make a Sandwich Wrap

For an easy-to-digest evening snack, fill a wrap with your favorite veggies and add a piece of lean meat (like turkey or chicken breast or ham), and/or a sprinkle of cheese. Flatout flatbreads, for example, are low in calories compared to a single slice of whole grain bread (up to 150 calories per slice or more!), and come in regular or Protein UP! choices.

Nut Butter Toast

Isn’t it great when two mild-mannered foods pair up to create a favorite snack? Spread just a bit of creamy nut butter on a whole grain bread (you don’t have to toast it), and eat it in small bites, rather than gulping it down. The longer you take to eat your foods, the less likely you’ll be to start looking for a second helping.

Cookies and Milk

Looks like mom was right. A healthy, low-fat, low-sugar cookie choice with some milk (it doesn’t have to be low-fat) can help you top off your tummy before going to bed without keeping you up later. Drinking full-fat milk can decrease sugar cravings later.

Yogurt Cups Work

Creamy, protein rich yogurt is more filling than sugary snacks, and also provides helpful probiotics that improve gut health and aid in digestion. Add just a few nuts for crunch.

Try Cheese Combos

Cheese is a good source of protein that isn’t as heavy as meats, fish and fowl. Combine some cheese slices or cubes with your favorite fruit or veggies, top some crackers with cheese, or have some cottage cheese with berries. String cheese is a good choice, and you don’t need to pair it with anything.

Hard Boiled Egg

The humble egg is one of nature’s best-kept secrets. It’s packed with protein, contains healthy fats, tastes great and the cholesterol it contains doesn’t contribute to heart disease and previously thought.

The pros and cons of juicing

If you’re thinking of buying a juicer or starting a weight loss program based on drinking your daily calories, it’s a good idea to weigh the pros and cons of this growing nutrition trend.

What could be wrong with drinking a glass of fresh juice squeezed from healthy fruits and vegetables? Not much, if you do it correctly and in moderation, but you’ll still want to make sure you follow some common-sense preparation and caloric guidelines when you juice.

juicing

Lots of Vitamins and Minerals

A single glass of juice can pack the vitamins and minerals from several pieces of fruit and vegetable into one drink. People who tend to get most of their calories from meat, potatoes, bread, pasta and carbs often don’t get enough fruits and veggies and their micronutrients, and juicing can help address that problem.

Loss of Dietary Fiber

When you use a good juicer, you remove much of the dietary fiber that comes from plants. Dietary fiber is very important to good health. Eating fruit without fiber might also negatively affect the way your body absorbs the sugars in the juice.

There’s More Sugar

The more fruit and high-sugar vegetables (e.g., carrots and beets) you eat, the more sugar you ingest. Sugar stimulates the production of LDL particles, which transport bad (LDL) cholesterol into your arteries, increasing your risk for heart disease. Too much sugar can also increase your risk for Type 2 diabetes.

Lots of Calories

A glass of juiced apples contains many more calories than what you get from eating one apple. Do some research before you start juicing so you know how many calories you get from each glass you drink.

Food-Borne Illness

Homemade juice isn’t pasteurized, which is a low heating process that kills bacteria. Drinking unpasteurized juice can lead to a higher risk of food illnesses, especially if you store your juice for later drinking.

The Cost of Juicers

To get the most juice out of every piece of fruit of vegetable, you won’t be able to use your current blender or food processor. The best juicers can cost hundreds of dollars. However, the investment can pay for itself many times over in improved health and decreased health care costs, if you follow a sensible juicing plan.

Additional Information

Mayo Clinic: Is juicing healthier than eating whole fruits or vegetables?