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Eating Right When the Money's Tight

How to save money with the rising cost of food.

Nashville, Ark. – If you have visited the grocery store lately, you are aware of the rising cost of food. Many of us have found the need to adjust our food budget to account for these rising costs. If you are struggling with this increased cost, here are some ideas to consider helping make your money go further.

  • Know how much you may spend on food before you get to the store. Otherwise, you may be surprised when you get to the checkout counter.
  • Make a shopping list based on how much you have available to spend. You may need to look at alternative brands or sources of protein, which tend to be the biggest cost item. Dry beans and peas are good sources of protein and fiber, and they will last a long time.
  • Buy only the amounts of fresh foods you can use before it spoils. We know, buying in bulk is more cost effective; however, if you end up throwing half of it away then you have not saved money.
  • Consider frozen or shelf stable items that will last longer. Fresh fruits and vegetables can be expensive, especially if they are not in season. Compare the cost of fresh, to canned, to frozen. Many times, frozen fruits and vegetables will cost less than fresh.

Before you leave the house, check the foods you have on hand. Ask yourself…

  • What recipes and meals can I make using the foods I already have?
  • Can I mix foods together to make tasty and nutritious meals during the week? Maybe, it is time to get creative!
  • What foods do my family need for good health? All families are different, and it depends upon the ages and stages of your family. To know exactly what foods you should be eating, check out website. You can put your age, gender, and activity level into the site, and it will tell you how many fruits, vegetables, protein, whole grains and dairy you need daily.

Once you have asked all these questions, it is time to plan. Plan what meals and recipes you will make for the week based on the foods you already have. Planning helps put leftovers to good use. Use other foods, such as vegetables, fruits and whole grains, to complete your meals.

Make a shopping list for the foods you need to buy. A shopping list helps you stick to your budget. Look for coupons, sales, and store specials. In fact, you might plan your meals around what is on sale that week.

When grocery shopping, compare products and brands for the best buys. Try store brands, which typically cost less. Check sell-by dates to make sure the item will not spoil before you plan to use it. Buy the freshest food possible because it will last longer. This is especially true if your family is small.

Try to plan your shopping trips when the store will not be so busy. Early in the morning or late at night is usually the best time to avoid crowds. This will allow you time to compare prices and concentrate on making wise choices. Also, plan to shop after you have eaten. Avoid going to the grocery store when you are hungry. If possible, shop by yourself. Having your family along may end up with more than what is on your list in your grocery basket.

Other tips include:

  • Look for specials at the meat counter. Buy meat on sale for bigger savings. If you have the freezer space, buy meat in bulk. You can divide it into portion sizes once you get home and put them in the freezer.
  • Buy regular rice, oatmeal, etc. instead of instant to save money and calories. Yes, they do require more time, but the nutrition level is usually better than processed foods.
  • Buy large bags of frozen vegetables and fruits. Seal tightly in the freezer between uses to avoid freezer burn.
  • Avoid purchasing pre-bagged salad mixes. They are usually more expensive and start breaking down faster.
  • Processed foods, those that have some of the preparation already done, are more expensive and tend to be high in sodium. Learn to prepare foods from scratch. You will save money and increase nutrient value. If you need help on learning how to prepare foods from scratch, contact the Extension Office at 870-845-7517. I will be glad to put you on a list and let you know when the next class will be offered.

Finally, after shopping when you get home, put the groceries away as soon as possible to preserve its freshness. If needed, divide foods into small portions and freeze them for later. Be sure to store nonperishable foods in the pantry by putting those with the earliest date in front. Those with a longer shelf life should be stored at the back.

For more information on saving money, nutrition, or gaining the skills needed to prepare meals, contact the Howard County Extension Office at 870-845-7517 and ask to be added to the EH newsletter list. Most programs are advertised through this list. You can also visit our office located on the second floor of the courthouse. The Cooperative Extension Service is part of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

Recipe of the Week

This recipe is great for Spring and Summer lunches or light evening meal. Buy the chicken in bulk and use only what you need for this recipe. Save the rest by putting it in the freezer for future meals. This recipe comes from the USDA Mixing Bowl website. There are thousands of low-cost, healthy recipes on this site.

  • 2 red apples

  • 2 celery stalks

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and cooled (about 1 pound)

  • ½ cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt

  • ½ cup raisins

  • ¼ cup low-fat mayonnaise

  • ¼ teaspoon salt

  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper

  • ¼ cup chopped nuts (optional)

  1.   Cut apples into quarters, remove core and chop.

  2. Chop celery and cube chicken into bite-sized pieces.

  3. In a medium bowl, mix all ingredients until well combined.

  4. Serve over salad greens of your choice.

  5. Yield: 4 servings.

  1. Nutrition information per serving: Calories 333, Fat 7g, Protein 36g, Fiber 3g, Sodium 256mg, Carbohydrate 33g



By Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
421 N. Main St, Nashville AR 71852
(870) 845-7517


The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.