Food Check-Out Week Helps Squeeze More Out Of Food Dollar
By Darryal Ray
As the economic squeeze continues into 2010, the Alabama Farmers Federation is observing Food Check-Out Week Feb. 21-27 by helping Alabamians learn how to stretch their grocery dollars with healthy, nutritious food.
A national effort of the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) and its members, Food Check-Out Week seeks to teach American consumers how to shop effectively by putting nutritious meals on the table with fewer dollars.
"Learning to use your grocery dollars wisely ensures that nutrition isn't neglected," says Kim Earwood, director of the Federation's Women's Division.
Many Americans remain concerned that the cost of a healthy diet is out of reach, particularly during tough economic times. However, a study by the United States Department of Agriculture shows the cost of eating healthy hasn't changed as much as some less-healthy alternatives. Of course, eating healthy food while on a budget does require some smart shopping.
"Fruits and vegetables -- along with whole grains, low-fat dairy products, lean meats, fish, beans, eggs and nuts -- are an important part of a healthy diet," said Earwood. "Buying fresh produce when it's in season and costs less, while buying frozen fruits and vegetables when they're not in season, is a smart way to stretch that dollar."
The AFBF echoes the advice many dieticians have long offered for stretching the food dollar -- planning:
• Know your food budget
• Plan nutritious meals and snacks you'll prepare at home that include fruits, vegetables and whole grains
• Prepare a shopping list -- know what you have on hand, especially perishable foods, and plan for leftovers
• Choose a competitively priced supermarket (check prices online or in newspaper ads) that's close to home or work, with high-quality produce
• Don't shop when you're hungry
• Clip coupons and check ads for foods you know you need
• Stick to your list
• Select fresh fruits and vegetables in season; buy frozen or canned when they're not in season
• Stay flexible -- take advantage
of foods on sale you know you'll eat
• Compare prices
• Use cost per unit shelf stickers to compare brands and sizes
• Look at cost per serving with meat; boneless lean meat (though more expensive) may be a better buy than lower priced bone-in, fattier cuts
• Balance the cost of foods with the preparation time required
• If you won't wash, peel and chop produce, buy it already prepared
• Don't buy it unless you're sure it will be eaten
• Compare the savings of shopping at one store with some sales to the fuel and time cost involved in shopping at several stores to get better prices on every item
• Check out nearby farmers' markets for fresh, local produce, meats and other foods
Now in its 12th year, Food Check-Out Week emphasizes, too, that America's safe, abundant and affordable food supply is made possible largely by America's productive farmers and ranchers.
According to the most recent (2008) information from the USDA's Economic Research Service, American families and individuals spend, on average, less than 10 percent of their disposable personal income for food.
Want to know more? The AFBF Web site -- www.fb.org -- offers educational materials dedicated to helping consumers make healthier food purchases, including "Tips for Better Nutrition on a Tight Budget," "How Much Should I Eat?," "Understanding Food Labels" and "Understanding What My Pyramid Means." Click on the Food Check-Out Week link underneath the "Events" section.