Archive for Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Difficulties increase in finding nutritious, affordable food

February 20, 2008


Strolling through the supermarket last week, I spotted a cherry pie on sale for $2.99. If I pick and pit the cherries, I can make a cherry pie at less cost, but if I have to use canned pie filling, I can't beat that price.

The $2.99 pie was passable, for a mass-produced dessert, though it wouldn't win any ribbons at the county fair. This item may have been a loss leader, an item set at an artificially low price to draw in customers who would pay full price for other merchandise, such as the vanilla ice cream that goes with the pie. The pie's pull date also was far in the future, which meant it was loaded with preservatives.

But at $2.99, I didn't ask questions.

Buying groceries these days, when a gallon of milk is $3 or more and a dozen eggs on sale for $1.50 seems like a steal, taxes the wits of even the savviest consumer. Filling the grocery cart is nothing more than a series of strategic moves in which shoppers try to beat the supermarket at its own pricing game. We all know who wins in the end, but the shopper who must stretch every grocery dollar as far as it will go has no choice but to play.

The consumers who face impossible choices when food prices are high are those who must feed a family. As an empty-nester, I grouse about feeling nibbled to death every time I enter a grocery store, but my discomfort is no match for the shopping experience of, say, a mother feeding a household that includes three teenagers.

While the temptation for people buying groceries on a budget will always be to buy the greatest quantity of meals for the lowest price, that isn't always the most prudent move. What often gets lost in the quest to buy the most and pay the least is the nutrition value of the cheap food, particularly where prepared and processed food is concerned.

The $1 frozen pizza specials that pop up every so often are a case in point. Consider also this gem from a grocery ad in last week's paper: 59-cent Banquet TV dinners, but you had to buy 10. Such volume discounts are tantalizing, but the nutrition content of such food items, which are high in carbs and preservatives, should give shoppers pause.

With a bit of finesse, even the most budget-conscious consumer can find alternatives. If you shop the meat sales, you never have to pay more than $2 a pound for meat. Granted, you won't be eating steak, but so what?

Pork is on sale this time of year. Although shoppers may have to front the money for a loin, boneless pork chops can be had as low as $1.88 a pound. When on sale, chuck roasts also fit into this category of below-$2 meat. A chuck roast can be eaten as a pot roast or used in stews and soups. In any case, a moderately priced piece of meat can be stretched through several meals.

Chicken also is an option, although the real economy is in a whole chicken, on sale lately for 68 cents a pound, and in dark meat pieces, meaning legs and thighs, which also come in under $1.

If the price of fresh produce is frightening, go back to basics. Week in and week out, the best value in fresh vegetables is the noble but underappreciated carrot. A 2-pound bag is often priced under $1. Carrots offer more bang nutrition-wise, and they keep a long time in the crisper drawer.

The point is to shop wisely for the components of a balanced diet, to plan menus that will provide nutrition as well as low cost. If you take home a $2.99 pie every once in while, at least it will be capping off a good meal.

- When she's not writing about foods and gardening, Gwyn Mellinger is teaching journalism at Baker University. Her phone number is (785) 594-4554.


aginglady 10 years, 4 months ago

This article is very interesting, something all shoppers can sink their teeth into. First, where do you see Banquet dinners for $.59????

Next, so many people are overweight AND need to save money. Talk to your doctor before you do the things I write. My information goes along with those people doing extreme dieting..meaning those with lap-band surgery, etc. YOU DON'T have to have the surgery, to be able to eat as little as they do. They focus on protein, VERY small amounts.You can start by doing something Atkin's like, then after a few days, start switching to chicken breasts, even the deli sliced chicken if you need to save time.A few eggs, not many, tuna, not much. Your body will see you are eating less (all protein) and start naturally using your fat stores.You will not feel hungry, as your body naturally fixes that for you. Their surgery just MAKES them stop eating before they eat too much, the surgery doesn't eliminate hunger, the protein does! People who have had gastric surgery aren't any different than you are without the surgery. They are able to live "healthy" eating a miniscule amount of food.Their bodies are fine with that, and just use fat stores. You are NO different. Your body will start using fat just like them, it doesn't need surgery. If you actually research it, they eat almost nothing, (shockingly if you aren't used to it). This amounts to a VERY small amount of food that's needed every day. Saves a fortune, and makes you healthy. Talk to a doctor about it. Dr. Vernon is an expert in weight loss. They had a woman in the paper who lost x lbs in x months. I laughed, I go to the same doctor's group. I went for a yearly check up, then didn't go in for a year..the year my life let me lose weight.I lost MANY more pounds than their star patient in the paper, in 2/3 the amount of time.When I went in at the one year date, no one knew me. Squeals across the complex as word spread. People kept coming into the room I was in and congratulating me. So, if you need to lose, and want to save, switch to protein and save big.

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