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You can eat well even with higher prices

Sticker shock is occurring more at the grocery store these days, but you don’t have to shop like a miser to eat like a healthy king, especially in California.

Start by using fresh ingredients, shopping for specials and looking for less-expensive substitutes for favorite items, area grocers said this week.

“Take more time in your kitchen and work from scratch,” said David Painter, part-owner of SPD Markets in Grass Valley and Nevada City. “Your ready-to-eat foods are going to cost more.



“Shop the advertised specials,” Painter added. “All stores have in-store specials with temporary price reductions… You can drink cheaper wine too.

“You can also but lesser cuts of meat,” Painter said. “Poultry is a cheaper protein source.”




Some substitutions, such as using more legumes and less meat, can improve the healthiness of your diet.

“We suggest people eat less meat, but higher quality, and get more proteins from beans, grains or nuts,” said Stephanie Mandel-Austin, marketing manager at the BriarPatch Co-op. “Diversify your protein, because meats are the most expensive.”

The financial blog MoneyNing suggests stretching your meat purchases. Why should a package of ground beef make burgers for a single family meal when half can be used for tacos one night and half for spaghetti sauce the next?

The blog also suggests starting your own vegetable garden and eating more staples such as oatmeal, beans and rice that are filling, inexpensive and easily flavored for taste.

Plan your meals

At the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Nutrition Services Web site, the new food pyramid is touted as a guide to eating well without blowing the family budget. The new pyramid’s philosophical shift puts grains, fruits and vegetables at the base of the pyramid and meats “treated as side dishes and eaten less frequently.”

Planning is paramount to eating well on a shoestring, according to Jennifer Murray, who wrote an article for the collective Web site Suite101 entitled, “How to eat healthy on a budget.”

Before you leave for the store, plan your meals out for a full week and make a list, Murray suggested. That stops impulse buying that can shred a food budget.

You should also never go shopping on an empty stomach for the same reason, Murray said. Thrown down a snack before you enter the store.

Coupons are also a good alternative, but only when they are for something you really use or need, Murray said. You won’t save money buying five boxes of something if no one in the family will eat it.

Eat local produce

Don’t take your kids to the grocery store either if you can help it, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Stores put things out for children to see or grab as you roll by.

The institute’s Web site also suggests assembling bags of fresh nuts, seeds, vegetables or fruit snacks for work. Drink water as a substitute for sugary drinks and do batch cooking for dishes you can freeze and eat later.

Perhaps the top idea for eating well on less is buying in bulk. But you have to be careful here, as well, to not buy so much in bulk that the food spoils on you, the experts said.

When you buy in bulk, you eliminate the packaging costs that are passed on to the consumer, according to BriarPatch literature. Costs for herbs and spices especially can be slashed in this way.

Consume vegetables and fruits grown in California and in their season, Painter said. The taste is better, and it eliminates the transportation costs of eating those items when they’re not in season.

Rigo Cruz sells vegetables and fruit from a trailer in Grass Valley at the end of East Main Street. He suggests looking for what is in season because it’s usually cheaper. That’s whey he had apricots, nectarines and peaches for sale this week.

“Watermelon is pretty good for you too, especially in season,” Cruz said.

Overall, “Buying bulk foods, produce and cooking yourself is where you’ll save money,” Mandel-Austin said.

To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, e-mail dmoller@theunion.com or call 477-4237.

Tasty dishes, cheap cost

Here are some great-tasting and healthy dishes you can make without breaking the bank while serving major food groups at the same time. They can all be served with rice or bread, as well.

– Chili with beans, vegetables and meat.

– Stir-fry with vegetables and a small amount of meat or chicken.

– Tacos with beans, meat, lettuce, tomato, onions and corn tortillas.

– Soups and stews.

– From the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center


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