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Lean times = spending, eating smart

By Staff | Mar 23, 2009

In checking the refrigerator at the Lyon County Extension and FSA office, Denise Wyland found some healthy food. Pudding, 100 percent fruit juice and fresh grapes. During tough times good nutrition doesn't need to be sacrificed when cutting back on grocery money.

ROCK RAPIDS – With the title of Extension families nutrition specialist, Denise Wyland has some great ideas for ways families can save money on their food bills, without scrimping on nutrition, which, she says, is essential.

“Everyone is under extra stress these days,” said Wyland. “If we don’t eat healthy, then over time we wear down our immune system. Combining good nutrition with regular physical activity will help maintain our bodies as well-tuned machinery.”

She emphasized that good nutrition means eating from all the food groups every day. At a minimum there are 40 different nutrients the body needs on a daily basis, they represent choices from all the food groups.

Wyland suggests families consider what they are putting in their shopping carts, asking them selves, “are we getting the nutrition we need, or are we spending that limited grocery money on food items that have little food value?”

For instance, a 5-pound bag of potatoes will last longer, providing more nutrition than potato chips. Soda pop should be replaced with 100 percent fruit juices.

Garden porksaute.

Often times people think fresh fruits and vegetables are the only way to go and that these are more expensive. Wyland agrees with that to an extent.

She said the food priority should be fresh first if one can afford it, frozen vegetables and dried fruits as close seconds, then canned.

In-season vegetables are usually a good buy. She also gave the example of comparing the price of an apple to a candy bar. The apple is usually cheaper and with their larger sizes these days, often providing two servings.

She is concerned about dairy products not being served. Soft bones, which leads to osteoporosis, caused by lack of calcium in a diet, is showing up in young children.

Dairy products supply calcium in a very concentrated form.

Make-ahead Mexican roll-ups.

Proteins are the essential building blocks for growth and cell replacement. In that category are red meat, poultry, beans and nuts. Whole grains round out the balance of good eating.

To insure one is buying a whole grain bread or cereal, shoppers should read the labels. Whole grain should be listed as the first, second or third ingredient.

Eating for less does require some planning ahead, Wyland said. Planning menus that use leftovers will save dollars. Wyland said that in her home leftovers are known as planned-overs. She suggests keeping an inventory on the refrigerator door of leftovers and also an inventory of what is in the freezer. Leftovers can get lost in the refrigerator and throwing them out defeats the purpose.

Convenience foods have their place, she said. If one’s schedule is just too tight, use them once in a while, but not on an every-day basis. An example would be to buy the carrots whole and cut them up yourself.

Try not to purchase individual sizes of food, Wyland noted. Buy the larger jar of applesauce, spoon it into containers for sack lunches. If it isn’t used up quite quick enough, make applesauce bread and eat it that way.

Cranberry oatmeal snack bars.

Brown bagging is another way to save. Wyland is a veteran on sack lunches. Her husband works construction, she sends a meal with him every day. His lunches vary, depending on leftovers, along with fruit, often yogurt, choosing foods from all food groups.

“With today’s lifestyles, women have off-farm jobs,” said Wyland. “With farms located some distance from town that trip to town for a noon meal, costs in many ways. It does pay off to put a meal in the refrigerator, or send it out to the field with lots of ice.”

“When money wasn’t so tight, we got lax,” said Wyland. “We began relying on convenience.”

Not to minimize the financial troubles everyone is facing today, she said there are some good things that can come out of this slowed economy.

Families may not be able to maintain their busy lifestyles, resulting in more meals eaten at home. She said we have been missing those family times of families eating together, where manners and social skills of conversation are learned.

Recipes from ISU’s 2009 nutrition calendar

Cranberry oatmeal

snack bars

1 cup dried cranberries or raisins

1/4 cup of either orange, pineapple, apple or cranberry juice

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups quick cooking oats

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup packed brown sugar

2/3 cups margarine, softened (about 10 1/2 tablespoons)

2 eggs

1/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat a 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking pan with cooking spray; set aside.

Combine the cranberries and juice in a microwavable bowl. Microwave on high 30 seconds. Let stand 10 minutes.

Combine the flour, oats, baking powder and salt; set aside.

Beat the brown sugar and margarine together with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until well blended. Beating the eggs adds lightness and volume to the bars.

Gradually stir in flour mixture, mixing well.

Stir in cranberry mixture and nuts. If desired. Spread the dough evenly in prepared pan.

Bake for 10 to 22 minutes or until the center is set. Cool completely on wire rack before cutting.

Make-ahead

Mexican roll-ups

3 cups cooked brown rice

1 15-ounce can beans (black, pinto, chili, or other.)

2 cups frozen corn or 1 15-ounce can whole kernel corn

2 cups shredded cheddar, Monterey jack or hot pepper cheese (8 ounces)

1 cup salsa

8 10-inch or burrito-size tortillas

Prepare rice according to package directions, allowing about 15 minutes for instant rice or about 45 minutes for regular brown rice. Cool completely.

Place beans in a colander or strainer, and rinse to reduce sodium. Transfer to a large bowl.

Thaw frozen corn in microwave; drain and add to bowl.

Stir in rice, cheese and salsa.

Spoon about 1/2 cup of filling on each tortilla. Roll or fold up.

To freeze for future use: Wrap each in plastic wrap and place in pan in freezer overnight. When completely frozen, place in freezer weight plastic bag. Seal, label with date, and return to freezer.

To use: Best if thawed in the refrigerator before reheating. Microwave thawed tortillas in the plastic wrap for about 1 minute.

(Makes 8 servings)

Garden pork saute

1/2 teaspoon olive or vegetable oil

1 pound uncooked pork, trim fat and cut into 3/4-inch cubes (consider using a shoulder or blade roast)

2 cloves garlic, minced (or substitute 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder)

2 cups cut-up carrots.

1 cup of water

1 3-ounce package Raman noodles with soup mix

2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning or dried oregano

2 cups sliced zucchini

Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add pork and minced garlic if using. Cook and stir 3 to 4 minutes.

Add carrots, water, seasoning packet from soup mix, Italian seasoning or oregano, and garlic powder, if using. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and cook 6 to 7 minutes or until carrot are crisp tender.

Gently break the block of noodles in half; add noodles and zucchini to skillet. Bring to a boil. Boil, uncovered, 4 to 5 minutes or until zucchini is tender and noodles are cooked, separating noodles gently as they soften.

(Makes 4 servings, about 1 1/4cups each.)

Dried onion soup mix

(from Healthy Meals in a Hurry, an ISU publication)

To make the equivalent of 3 (1.25-ounce) packages of soup mix, you need:

3/4 cup dried minced onion

1/3 cup sodium free beef bouillon granules

4 teaspoons onion powder

1/4 teaspoon sugar

Combine all ingredients. Mix well.

Place in a storage container with a tight-fitting lid. Seal tightly.

Store in a cool, dry place for up to six months.

Stir and shake well before each use.

Measure about 1/3 cup dry mix to use as a substitute for one 1.25-ounce package of purchased dry onion soup mix.

Contact Renae Vander Schaaf by e-mail at renaefarmnews@gmail.com.

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