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Nutrition on a Budget
Photo: Edyta Pawlowska
With current downtrends in the economy, many people are looking for ways to stretch their food dollars without sacrificing nutrition. You can stay on a budget and still eat healthy foods by several different means. One way is through using the following grocery shopping tips.

To get more nutritional bang for your buck, remember the words “seasonal” and “perimeter.” Seasonal produce will be less expensive than out-of-season choices. Plus, the flavor will be at its peak. In most North American grocery stores, citrus fruits are a great buy in the wintertime. Apples and bananas usually are, too. And just to illustrate that healthy eating doesn’t necessarily cost more, compare the cost of an orange to a candy bar. Not only is the orange less expensive, it fills you up with vitamin C and other important nutrients. A loaf of whole grain bread, while more expensive than white bread, will last longer because it is much more filling.

Foods found around the perimeters of stores are generally less processed, which means less money charged for processing and packaging. Fresh produce and bulk grains and legumes are great buys for their nutrition. Registered dietitian Nikki Ford lists the following items as her current top ten picks for budget-friendly, healthy foods:

1. Bananas
2. Oatmeal-not instant
3. Eggs
4. Potatoes
5. Carrots
6. Beans
7. Whole grain pasta
8. Low-fat milk
9. Oranges
10. Frozen vegetables

Shop In-Season Produce

Here’s a good rule of thumb: If it comes in a crinkly bag half filled with air, don’t buy it. Focus your shopping on fresh, in-season produce and whole, unprocessed foods, and you will consistently get the most nutrition for your money.

Here’s another money-saving idea: If you have even a small, sunny place in your yard, consider growing a garden. It is definitely worth the cost of seeds and watering to be able to harvest your own fresh produce. And it really isn’t that much work once you get the soil prepared. It can be a fun family activity (with the added bonus that kids are more likely to eat vegetables they have tended themselves). If your garden produces more than you can eat, consider freezing, canning or dehydrating the surplus for “free” winter-time dining.

If you live in an apartment or simply have no suitable spot in your yard for a garden, find out if there are community garden plots available in your neighborhood. This type of gardening is a great way to enjoy your own fresh produce while meeting interesting and helpful neighbors. As people “tighten their belts” during these economically challenging times, we shouldn’t be surprised to see lots of new gardens springing up, much like the Victory Gardens grown during World War II.

Being smart about your shopping, willing to try new things and maintaining a positive attitude will keep you on a healthy lifestyle path during these financially trying times.

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By Brenda Forbes Dickerson. Copyright © 2009 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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