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February 11, 2014

Full Cart Fantasy

by Tracy Jensen

I have a fantasy. It goes something like this:

I walk into the grocery store, I have no less than 10 green bags in my cart, and I aim to fill them all. As I usually do, I head to the produce department first, but instead of picking kale OR spinach OR hearts of romaine, I buy them all. I pick up avocados, pomegranates, pears, and berries. Oh, so many berries. And I don’t stop there.

I get a whole bag of shelled walnuts because I love walnuts on a salad. Not just one dressing goes in the cart; I get two or three because I like variety. It means I will eat a lot more salad. So then I get cranberries, goat cheese, olives, and big, luscious tomatoes to top those delicious salads.

The next department is dairy, and I love cheese. I could go on about the many kinds of cheese I would buy, and then meats, seafood, etc. I would shop the whole perimeter of the market and not worry about the running total. Because this is a fantasy, right?

But in reality, my trips to the store are about getting the most out of my tiny budget. So often, I find myself buying a bag of potatoes, the best whole-grain pasta we can get on sale, and whole chickens because they are cheapest by the pound.

Many studies have tied low incomes and obesity together. If you don’t have a lot money, chances are you buy foods that are heavily processed, high in calories, and high in added sugars and sodium. And when I am light in the pockets, I tend to buy those foods, too. But we CAN buy healthy foods even when things are tight. For example, my personal dollar menu item is a low-sodium can of black beans. Packed with protein & fiber, I like to pair them with rice and some fresh green onions, which are also super cheap.

Lets share and collect suggestions on the best ways to eat well when things are tight. I found this article on 20 nutritious foods that you can buy for less than a dollar. Here’s another article with great tips to plan for budget-friendly healthy eating.

What do YOU do to stretch your food budget and provide a healthy meal to your family?

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