Urban Institute’s bogus SNAP numbers

According to the Urban Institute, “The SNAP benefit does not cover the cost of a low-income meal in 99 percent of U.S. continental counties and DC.”

Horse sh*t.

Urban Institute scam

Do you know how they calculated the average cost of a meal?

“We … ask people to estimate the amount they spend on food each week.”

Are you kidding me? This group is criminally reckless.

Don’t cry wolf to lawmakers

They are pressuring lawmakers to increase food stamp funding based on the fact that Americans – who this website has shown don’t know basic grocery shopping methods – are spending an average of $2.36 per meal, or more than $7 per day on food.

THIS is why working-class Americans should pay higher taxes? Because the Urban Institute doesn’t want to teach SNAP recipients how to get more groceries for their food stamps – they just want to give them more money?

The Urban Institute is telling people that food stamps cover $1.86 per meal, but that Americans need $2.36 per meal. Therefore, the big, bad government is cheating the poor and needs to raise taxes on single working mothers to make sure Americans who by brand-name and convenience foods don’t have to learn how to grocery shop.

As FoodStampChallenge.com shows, you can make endless meals for less than $1. Some for as little as 50¢.

bacon eggs yogurt

“Healthy” eating is a key excuse for raising taxes

Of course, the Urban Institute and others will point out that this site’s meals aren’t “healthy” – but did they ask their survey participants if they were eating healthy?

Did they ask Americans if, once they receive SNAP benefits, they will stop eating pizza, hot dogs, peanut butter and jelly, soda and spaghetti?

Did you know that the #1 purchase made by Americans using food stamps is … soft drinks? Does the Urban Institute count that towards its $2.36 meal figure? If so, then they can’t turn around and disqualify this website’s meal prices.

Is the Urban Institute using the code words “fresh fruits and vegetables” when they should know that frozen and canned vegetables are just as nutritious (probably more, since freezing retains more nutrients) as fresh?

Then why use the code words, “fresh fruits and vegetables?” Because it means more SNAP funding.

In fairness, many food advocates are ignorant, woke do-gooders who haven’t done their homework and actually believe that spending more money on fresh fruits and vegetables (which means you get half the amount of fruits and vegetables) is necessary.

It’s time to bring back home ec

We need to re-introduce home ec to high school curricula. We do NOT need organizations like the Urban Institute misleading the public, media and lawmakers into arguing about whether or not we need to raise food stamp allotments.

And by the way, SNAP stands for SUPPLEMENTAL Nutrition Assistance Program. Food stamp recipients are supposed to be using some of their own money for their food.

Doesn’t is make more sense to teach people how to get more food for less money, rather than simply giving them more money to buy $1.25 cans of Green Giant corn vs. 49¢ generic cans of corn?

And how many people who don’t qualify for food stamps are struggling to eat? Everyone benefits if we teach Americans how to smart-shop and cook their own meals.

But this won’t happen if food advocates continue to tell us that the solution is for the big, bad U.S. government to increase SNAP spending.

Republicans and Democrats will agree on this

Because Republicans oppose increasing food stamp spending, helping people get by on what they currently have by teaching them home ec would be a program Republicans would join Democrats in enacting.

The SNAP allotment in Georgia is $6.70 cents per day. You can eat three filling meals per day for half that if you smart-shop. Spending your entire $6.70, you can have beef and fish several times weekly.

It’s time to stop throwing money at this problem.

We need to teach Americans how to grocery shop and cook basic meals.

*Full-day meals and snacks

2024 Update

I re-did this for 2024 using mostly full-priced items and a few manager’s specials – no coupons. The 2024 price came to $3.58! That sounds odd, based on how much the other meal prices at this site have increased, but I have updated the prices on the different meal pages on this site.

At worst, you should not have to pay $4 for this table of food – that’s HALF the daily SNAP allotment for a single person in Georgia

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

By the way – 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 $4 per day.

Farmer’s Breakfast – $1.11

Farmer's breakfast
  • corned beef hash
  • 2 fried eggs
  • sausage
  • tomatoes
  • juice or milk
  • toast w/butter

Eggs vary from 5¢ each to 10¢ each, depending on when and where you get them.

44¢ – 1/4 can hash ($1.75/can)

16¢ – 1/8 smoked sausage ($1.99)

20¢ – tomatoes

12¢ – 20¢ – eggs

13¢ – 24¢ – 12 oz. glass of juice (I cut mine with water to reduce calories and sugar)

3¢ – toast

*Chicken & pasta lunch – 1.59¢

2024 Update

  • Chicken quarter (not pictured above)
  • pasta with sauce
  • garlic bread
  • salad
  • iced tea

Kroger’s chicken quarters are usually $7.99 (for @10), Lidl has sale of these bags on sale or $5.99.

We’ll use a price of 99¢ for a box of pasta and a jar/can of sauce (5 servings). Several times per year, you can probably bulk-buy pasta for 50¢ per box.

59¢ – chicken quarter

40¢ – pasta with sauce

35¢ – salad

10¢ – garlic bread

6¢ – iced tea (soda for 17¢)

*Ham & eggs combos – 1.15¢

2024 Update

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

Smart-shopping cost = 1.15¢ 0r $1.20

22¢ – eggs @$1.29 dozen*

50¢ – 2 oz. ham steak (Smithfield BOGO at Publix)

19¢ – 1/4 orange

5¢ – slice of bread

19 ¢ – 24¢- 8 oz. glass of milk or grapefruit juice** 

*Egg prices fluctuate, and I get coupons, making them even cheaper.

**I cut my juice in half with water to reduce calories and sugar. Generic or Ocean Spray with the normal 60¢ coupon, then half a glass of juice and half a glass of water.

I buy Smithfield ham steak when it’s BOGO at Publix, or regular at Kroger.

Check out this egg, ham and cheese souflee breakfast.

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

*Southern BBQ dinner – $1.57

2024 Update

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

Kroger’s chicken quarters are usually $7.99 (for @10), Lidl has sale of these bags on sale or $5.99.

69¢ – chicken quarter, BBQ sauce

25¢ – potato salad (sale + coupon)

40¢ – salad

33¢ – 1/3 can of baked beans

15¢ – corn bread

15¢ – iced tea

10¢ – BBQ sauce

20¢ – 36¢ – Soup

Kroger’s chicken quarters are usually $7.99 (for @10), Lidl has sale of these bags on sale or $5.99.

Cheap soup is .72¢ a can, regular price. I found some cheap onion soup packets on manager’s special that came to 25¢ a cup.

Kroger had a one-time sale of name-brand potato salad for $1.99 + a $1 coupon. That’s rare, but I thought I’d use this price because many of your meals might include one item purchase with a deal like this.

Tex-Mex breakfast – 88¢

  • 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
  • 8 oz. glass of orange juice

Smart-shopping cost = 88¢

14¢ – Eggs on sale at Aldi and Kroger at 79¢ per dozen – often cheaper

10¢ – Shredded cheese is a guesstimate. I bought Kroger cheese @99¢ and used a Kroger digital coupon for 65¢ when buying 2.

9¢ – Salsa – Publix has it BOGO once in a while

20¢ – 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

12¢ – Orange juice (I dilute by 1/2 to cut calories and sugar)

23¢ – tomato juice

*8 bacon & eggs combos – 72¢

2024 Update

click on images to enlarge

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

Eggs are cheap if you don’t buy organics. I am pricing these at $1.29 per dozen.

Butterball turkey bacon at full price in May 2024 was 15¢ per slice – regular buyers get 55¢ coupons.

22¢ – 32¢  for 2 or 3 eggs

26¢ – 39¢ for 2 or 3 slices turkey bacon (with coupon)

49¢ – yogurt cup (full price at Walmart)

20¢ – 2 tomato slices

35¢ – 1/2 grapefruit (on sale)

5¢ – bread

19 ¢ – 28¢- 8 oz. glass of milk (19¢) or grapefruit juice (24¢)* Orange juice varies – especially when there’s a weather problem. In May of 2024, Kroger’s cheapest orange juice (frozen concentrate) was 55¢ for an 8 oz. glass. Cut that in half with water and it’s 28¢.

*I cut my juice in half with water to reduce calories and sugar. Generic or Ocean Spray with the normal 60¢ coupon, then half a glass of juice and half a glass of water.

*Ham, egg, cheese souflee – 95¢

2024 Update

This is a quickie made in the microwave.

Here’s a vegetarian version made for a little more (remember, you’re cutting the 50¢ ham cost out). Dilute your OJ with half water to cut down on sugar, calories and costs. 

Eggs will cost about 10¢ to 15¢ each 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. You can get Smithfield ham steaks BOGO at Publix for 50¢ for a 2-oz. serving.

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.

A few weeks later, I saw 20 lb. hams – regularly $60 each – on sale at Kroger for $8 each! I cut one up, put into freezer bags, and how have affordable ham for months.

I priced the ham at 50¢ for this dish.

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 $2.99 a gallon in 19¢ for an 8 oz. glass. 

Lots more cheap breakfast ideas at this page.

*4 waffles b’fast combos – 1.27¢

   2024 Update

click on images to enlarge

40¢ – 2 blueberry waffles

22¢ – 2 eggs

50¢ – 2 oz. ham steak

35¢ – 1/2 red grapefruit

12¢ – 1/2 banana

24¢ – 1/4 orange

49¢ – yogurt cup

19¢ – 8/12 oz. glass of milk

43¢ – 8 oz. glass of tomato juice

24¢ – 8 oz. grapefruit juice (4 oz. juice diluted with 4 oz. water to cut calorie and sugar

9 ¢ – 28¢- 8 oz. glass of milk (19¢)

Orange juice varies – especially when there’s a weather problem. In May of 2024, Kroger’s cheapest orange juice (frozen concentrate) was 55¢ for an 8 oz. glass. Cut that in half with water and it’s 28¢.

I cut my juice in half with water to reduce calories and sugar. I priced this using generic grapefruit juice or Ocean Spray with the regular 60¢ coupon, then half a glass of juice and half a glass of water.

10¢ – syrup

2 oatmeal breakfasts – 78¢

  • 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 – 87¢

  • 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¢

10¢-15¢ – House brand cereal*

13¢ – 1 cup Kroger milk at $1.99 gallon

9¢ – 1/2 banana

40¢ – Yogurt cup (10 for $4 at Kroger)

7 to 23 cents – glass of orange, grapefruit or tomato juice**

*Never buy brand name cereal without a paper or digital coupon. Post, Kellogs and General Mills run coupons every single week. Also, look for the generic versions of Grape Nuts, Life, Corn Flakes, etc. They taste just the same and are up to half the cost.

I buy frozen concentrate orange juice and generic grapefruit and tomato juice (or V8 on BOGO at Publix). You can also dilute a glass of orange or grapefruit juice with water to cut the calories and sugar content. It still tastes good and you cut your juice cost in half.

Baked chicken dinner – 59¢

baked chicken dinner

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

Check out this post to see how I get chicken quarters anywhere from 29¢ to 59¢ each at Kroger.

Publix has 10-lb. bags for $8.85 (as of 1/21)


29¢ – chicken quarter

25¢ – Soup (sales lower this – as low as 5¢)

20¢ – salad

8¢ – mashed potatoes

17¢ – green beans

19¢ – 12 oz. milk

5¢ – iced tea

18¢ – 12 oz. soda

3¢ – bread

*Hot dogs lunch – 68¢

2024 Update

Hot dogs are always on sale, so buy in bulk and freeze them. In May of 2024, Lidl had Bar S 12 oz. packs of 8 hot dogs on sale for 69¢ (9¢ per hot dog).

Look for deals on hot dogs, buns, baked beans and condiments before the Fourth of July, Memorial Day and Labor Day and stock up.

You can substitute a soda or glass of milk, and/or add some baby carrots to this and keep it around $1.00 for the meal. Even if you go with the larger hot dogs, it’s still around $1.20.

Milk fluctuates week to week.

18¢ – 2 small hot dogs

32¢ – 2 larger hot dogs

13¢ – 2 hot dog buns (manager’s special at 50¢- I’ve seen them @25¢ for 8 buns and 22 slices of bread! – see pics below)

3¢ – 10¢ – 2 slices bread (full and sale prices)

25¢ – 50¢ – Kroger potato salad (half price mgr’s special/sale/coupon).

28¢ – 12 oz. glass of milk at $1.99 per gallon

6¢ – iced tea

17¢ – pickle slice

20¢ – potato chips

15¢ – ketchup and mustard

Salmon & asparagus dinner – $2.19

salmon dinner

  • Salmon filet (farm raised)
  • 4 asparagus 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 Kroger – sometimes 77¢)

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

3 Spaghetti dinners – 89¢

Cheap spaghetti dinner

Lidl spaghetti dinner

Lidl pasta dinner

The top picture (with canned tuna) features all items from Kroger. The bottom two four-course meals (with meatballs and Italian sausage) come from Lidl. Swapping out a couple of items from Kroger, the two Lidl dinners would have been even cheaper.

  • pasta
  • tomato sauce
  •  canned tuna
  • salad w/dressing
  • bread
  • milk

I never pay more than 50¢ for a box of pasta – even brand name pasta. I usually find jars of pasta sauce for 99¢.

Ronzoni has been running a special several times per year for 49¢ per box if you buy 6 or 10 boxes. I buy that and I’m good for the year.

I used to be able to get Ragu, Prego and Classico for 99¢ a jar several times each year, but haven’t seen that for a while, so I buy Hunt’s canned sauce or Kroger’s house brand for 99¢.

The tuna adds a lean source of protein and is much less expensive than ground beef.

10¢ – tuna (49¢ can divided by 5)

10¢ – pasta (49¢ box divided by 5)

20¢ – tomato sauce (99¢ jar divided by 5)

19¢ – 12 oz. milk ($1.99 gallon)

20¢ – salad (99¢ head of lettuce divided by 8; 99¢ bottle of dressing)

10¢ – garlic bread

BBQ rib tips dinner – $1.38

cheap bbqBBQ rib tips

  • 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 (on sale for 5¢)

20¢ – salad

13¢ – corn bread

5¢ – iced tea

Sausage Jambalaya – 88¢

Sausage jambalaya


So, prices are higher during the pandemic. However, I am finding milk at Aldi and Kroger at $1.39 and $2.49 per gallon. I am finding house-brand jambalaya and red beans and rice for 28 cents to 33 cents per serving (I found half-price Tony Chachere’s for 17 per serving). Kroger is now selling $1.00, 9-oz. sausage.

Zatarain’s is $1.79 at Kroger right now (1/21), so I buy it at Publix when it’s BOGO. However, I can get the house brand at Aldi’s for $1.45 and $1.39 at Lidl.

I wait for deals on sausage and then buy a bunch of them and freeze them ($1.00 for 9 oz at Kroger right now).

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

Sausage is frequently $1.88 to $1.99 at Kroger, with or without a coupon. (which comes frequently from Kroger). I recently stocked up and froze Heritage Farms smoked sausage for $1 (9 oz.).

I dice and freeze the sausage in a Tupperware container and then anytime I want jambalaya or red rice and beans,, I can toss in a handful of sausage and/or a chicken breast. I also add canned tomatoes and baby carrots (sometimes this is enough and you don’t need meat).

Zatarain’s says a small box contains five servings. If I add meat and carrots and serve with cornbread, a salad and a drink, that’s a good lunch.

You can add chicken for another 15¢ – 25¢ per serving.

88¢ Per Serving (@ 5 servings per box)

28¢-33¢ – Jambalaya (or red beans and rice) mix

15¢-20¢ – sausage

11¢ – baby carrots (coupon or not)

8¢ – canned tomatoes (59¢ can with 20¢ coupon)

27¢ – salad

9¢-20¢ – corn bread

7¢ – iced tea

17¢-31¢ – milk (16 oz. glass)

Red beans & rice lunch – 80¢

red beans and rice

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

Smart-shopping cost: 80¢

If you wait, you can get Zatarain’s for $1.00 a box or less.

20¢ – beans and rice

10¢ – baby carrots

32¢ – potato salad

13¢ – corn bread

5¢ – iced tea

Soup & sandwich lunch – 60¢

soup and sandwich

  • Tomato or ham sandwich (w/lettuce and 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¢.

25¢ – 1/2 can of soup*

20¢ – 2 tomato slices or 4 thin slices of ham (on manager’s special)

6¢ – 2 slices bread

2¢ – lettuce

13¢ – 8 oz. milk

*I recently bought Kroger instant onion soup for 39¢ a box (10¢ per bowl of soup, or 5¢ per cup of soup).

Soup & salad lunch – $1.05

soup and salad

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

Smart-shopping cost = 1.05¢

50¢ for Walmart 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)

3¢ cookie

Iced tea = 5¢ for 12 oz. glass

*The inexpensive soup is usually cream soup (not the chunky soup pictured here). I also got Kroger onion soup mix for .39 for two packets that make four cups each (2 bowls per packet or for cups), bringing the price of soup down to 10¢ for this deal and 75¢ for the whole meal. This was a one-time closeout, but you can see that every week, there are new deals.

*Franks & beans lunch – 1.57¢

2024 Update

Franks and beans lunch

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

Hot dogs are always on sale, so buy in bulk and freeze them. In May of 2024, Lidl had Bar S 12 oz. packs of 8 hot dogs on sale for 69¢ (9¢ per hot dog).

Look for deals on hot dogs, buns, baked beans and condiments before the Fourth of July, Memorial Day and Labor Day and stock up.

Milk fluctuates week to week. I get Kroger paper and digital 45¢ off coupons every month for cole slaw, potato salad and baked beans. You can almost always find some half-price during the week (manager’s special).

55¢ – 1/2 can baked beans

18¢ – 2 hot dogs

50¢ – Kroger potato salad (half price/mgr’s special).

6¢ – Buns are cheap around the summer holiday. You can almost always find weekly manager’s specials for 99¢ a loaf or less)

28¢ – 12 oz. glass of milk at $1.99 per gallon

Stuffed tomato lunch $1.99

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!

stuffed tomato

  • 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 – 85¢ – $2.09

2024 Update

homemade pizza

The best I’m finding frozen pizza for in 2024 is about $3 each. That’s Kroger’s $2.99 Red Baron pizza (repeating sale) or Publix Tombstone BOGOs. If you make your own pizza using a pizza crust mix and 99¢ per jar sauce, you can make it even cheaper.

Around holidays and sporting events, you can find generic soda cheap (Kroger had 6 packs leading up to Memorial Day weekend at 99¢.

Pizza and soda

  • 1/2, frozen pizza or full personal pizza
  • glass of soda

Pizza, salad, milk

  • 1/2, frozen pizza or full personal pizza
  • Salad with dressing
  • 12 oz. milk

1.23¢ to $1.50 – 1/2 a pizza (Walmart personal pizza vs. 1/2 Red Baron or Tombstone)

40¢ – salad

17¢ – Soda

19¢ – 8 oz. glass of milk

6¢ – iced tea

*I can make a cheese pizza for $1.60 (80¢ for half serving). I get flour for 99¢ for a 5-lb. bag a Kroger twice a year. I found yeast packets on sale, 3/99¢. I get cheese for 2.33¢ for 8 oz., less a coupon. Add some olive oil and sauce.

Recently, I got two of Kroger’s fresh deli-made pizzas for $2.50 each (on manager’s special).

Because they know I like Tombstone, Kroger occasionally sends me a coupon for a free pizza to get me into the store.

Carnitas stew – $1.52

cheap carnitas

  • 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 special 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 – $1.81

cheap 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, rice & beans – $1.18

veggie quesadilla

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

Smart-shopping cost: $1.18 (full quesadilla – 4 slices = $1.54)

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

Low-Cost Tacos – 90¢

Veggie tacos

veggie tacos

Ground beef tacos

cheap 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.

Update: I just got 12 taco shells for $1.09 on manager’s special at Kroger (9¢ each). 1/25/21 So, deals keep coming around.

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. I also got Old El Paso taco seasoning mix packs for .39 cents (manager’s special). You can make your own seasoning mix.

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 – $1.63

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

I got a pork roast (4 to 5 servings) for $5.02 (manager’s special from $9.84). I’ll price this at 5 servings per roast.

$1.04 or $1.26 – roast pork

14¢ – asparagus

8¢ – mashed potatoes

15¢ – carrots

10¢ – sauerkraut

3¢ – bread

5¢ – iced tea

Honey fried chicken – 47¢

cheap fried chicken

cheap fried chicken meal

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

55¢ – chicken quarter w/breading and honey

8¢ – mashed potatoes

15¢ – green beans

10¢ to 19¢ – cup of soup

20¢ – salad

13¢ – corn bread

5¢ – iced tea

Teriyaki stir fry – $1.90

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 lunch – 64¢

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.” You might even find that today, based on what the store needed to get rid of, the hamburger is made from filet or ribeye!

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.