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Shopping at the Meat Counter (Part 2)

Shopping at the supermarketLast week, I shared what I do at home to prepare for a visit to the meat counter at the grocery store.  This week, I have a few other ideas to share that will (hopefully) make your future trips to the meat counter a little easier.

  1. First, and most important, is to talk with the staff at the meat counter. They are very knowledgeable and can help you make the best decisions to fit your needs.  Some grocery stores sell only pre-packaged meat, while others have a combination of a meat counter and pre-packaged meat.  In some cases, the pre-packaged meat may be more affordable.  If you are looking for help, but do not have a full service meat counter, click here for an interactive butcher counter that can help you make selections.
  1. Second is to choose your cooking method. Cooking methods fall into two categories, dry heat and moist heat.
    • Dry heat cooking is to grill, broil, or pan-fry meat. This method uses high heat, little or no liquid, and is quicker.  Dry heat cooking is best for tender cuts of meat.
    • Moist heat cooking is to pot roast, braise, or stew meat. This method uses low heat, liquid is added, and it takes a longer amount of time.  Moist heat cooking is best for less tender cuts of meat.
    • Here and here are some great tips for cooking meat many different ways.
  1. Third is to choose your cut of meat. The cut of meat you choose is dependent on the cooking method.  Here is a great resource on cooking different cuts of beef.  In general, cuts with more marbling (fat threaded through the meat) are more tender and cost more.  These cuts are best with dry heat cooking methods.  Leaner cuts are typically less tender and cost less.  These cuts are best with moist heat cooking methods.

I wish you luck with your next trip to the meat counter!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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Shopping at the Meat Counter (Part 1)

Butcher behind counter in supermarket smiling, portrait, close-upWhen I step up to the meat counter at the grocery store, I get a little nervous.  There are dozens of choices, a wide range of prices, and a smiling person waiting patiently on the other side of the counter.  I do my best to come into this situation prepared, but it can still be nerve wracking.  This week and next week, I am going to write a little bit about how I make decisions about what to buy at the meat counter when I go grocery shopping.

Here are some of the things I do before visiting the meat counter:

  • Check out what I have on hand. I like to see what I have on hand and then decide what meat I can buy to go along with it.  Right now, I have a lot of potatoes from my family’s garden, so I would like to get some meat that I can put on the grill along with the potatoes.
  • Check the grocery ads. I like to see what is available at a reasonable price before I go to the store.  It does not mean I am locked into buying what is in the ads, but it does give me an idea of what meat might fit into my budget.
  • Check my freezer space. I like to freeze meat when I can get it at a good price.  The grocery store where I shop occasionally sells ground beef and chicken hindquarters in large quantities.  These are meats my family eats a lot of, so, if I have the freezer space, I will buy the larger quantities at the discounted price and then freeze them in smaller portions for another week.  Some grocery stores also sell meat bundles – these may be a good deal if you have the freezer space (and the money) available.
  • Check my schedule. I like to take time to cook a great meal for my family, but time is not always on my side.  The meat I purchase has to fit into my family’s schedule for the week.  If it is going to be a busy week, I usually look for a whole chicken or a roast that I can cook on the weekend and then use the leftovers to make quick meals the rest of the week.  If we have more time, I will plan to grill or try a new recipe.

Shopping at the meat counter can be intimidating, but planning ahead can help a lot.  If you have suggestions for planning ahead that I missed here, please let me know in the comments.

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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Lentil Tacos

Lentil TacosTacos are a go to meal for my family. They make the menu almost every week. Our May recipe is a delicious way to change up the typical taco routine. In our lentil taco recipe, lentils are used in place of meat or fish because they are quick and easy to cook and they are inexpensive.

If you have not yet cooked with lentils, this is the perfect recipe to start with. Start by rinsing and sorting your lentils to remove any dirt or other debris. Then simmer the lentils with onion, seasonings, and water for about 30 minutes. Spoon the lentils onto corn tortillas and serve with your favorite taco toppings.

Add lentils to your grocery list this week and try out lentil tacos for your Cinco de Mayo celebration!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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Fruity Fun!

frutWith the weather warming up here in the Midwest, gardens are being planted and farmers markets will open soon. I’m looking forward to getting my hands on fresh fruits and vegetables that will be in season. Strawberries and watermelon just say ‘summer’ to me! Adults and children need 1 ½ to 2 cups of fruit per day for good health. In my family we usually eat fruit for breakfast or for snacks. There are some recipes on Spend Smart. Eat Smart. that make eating fruit really fun for kids including Fruit Slush, Frozen Fruit Cups, or Fruit Kabobs & Yogurt. These recipes are flexible and can be made with different combinations of fruit depending on what you like and what you have on hand.

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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Breakfast: It Does a Body Good

Make Ahead BBLast week I wrote about making breakfast foods for supper. I ended up making the French Toast  one night and it was a hit with my family, especially my 2-year-old daughter. We have a number of breakfast recipes on our website that could be enjoyed at breakfast, lunch or supper. I’m not much of a cereal eater but I really like the Crispy Granola. You can make it to your liking by adding different kinds of nuts and dried fruit. Breakfast Splits are a fun one for kids or to have when guests are over. You can set out bananas, different flavors of yogurt, different cereals, chopped fruit and nuts and each person can make their own splits. And my favorite breakfast recipe is our Make Ahead Breakfast Burritos. I make a batch to put in the freezer. Then I can grab one out and quickly heat it in the microwave to enjoy on busy mornings. You can also find me enjoying one at supper some nights when I’m not up to cooking!

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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Breakfast for Supper

ThinkstockPhotos-497280057 french toastRecently my husband got groceries and came home with a carton of 18 eggs. I usually only buy a dozen eggs so I asked him if he had something planned for all the eggs. He didn’t so I started thinking of how I was going to use them. I know it’s only 6 more eggs but it seemed like a lot of eggs to use! After eggs are purchased, they can be stored in their original carton in the refrigerator for 3-5 weeks. Usually the “sell-by” date on the carton will expire during that storage period, but the eggs will remain safe to use. I could make hard-cooked eggs or egg salad, but I’ve had my fill of those for a while after all the hard-cooked eggs at Easter! What came to mind next was to make breakfast for supper. Scrambled Egg Muffins, Easy Quiche, or French Toast are all tasty ways to use up the eggs and change up what we have for supper. And my kids like smoothies so I could serve Fruit Smoothie to get in a serving or two of fruit. No sleeping in past this breakfast!

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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Meal Planning: Less Stress, More Money

Last year I wrote a blog on menu planning and mentioned that my son’s famous first words after we got home at night were, “I’m hungry.” Now that my daughter is two, I have two kiddos telling me this! Therefore, I find meal planning even more important so I can get a healthy meal on the table fast.  Since I find it so helpful, I’d like to share tips for successful meal planning again.

  • Determine what meals you will plan. Since the meal my family eats together is supper that is the meal I spend time to plan. However, you can plan for breakfast, lunch, supper or snacks. I go to the grocery store once a week so I plan my meals a week at a time. You might choose to plan them for more or fewer days.
  • Write the plan on a calendar. I write my meal plan on a calendar that hangs in my kitchen. This calendar includes other family activities so I know if we will be gone for a meal at night or have a really rushed evening. My husband knows to look at the calendar to see what we are having. If you use an online calendar for planning activities, you could also write your meals there.
  • Check what you have on hand. Check your refrigerator, freezer, and cupboards for foods that need to be used up in the next few days. Think of ways to include these items in your meals. I always plan a night to have leftovers so they don’t go to waste.
  • Review the grocery ads for specials you can use. Save money by purchasing items on sale that you can pair with the foods you have on hand to help complete your meals.
  • Keep a list of the recipes your family likes best. Having a list helps make meal planning go really quickly because you can easily spot the recipes that use things you have on hand or are on sale. Some recipes my family likes are Lentil Tacos and Chicken Alfredo Pasta.

To help you get started, check out our Meal Planning Calendar. This week-long menu features recipes from Spend Smart. Eat Smart.

How to Plan Meals CALENDAR

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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A Healthier Me in 2016: Water

ThinkstockPhotos-122401240This month on Spend Smart. Eat Smart. we have been talking about setting goals in the new year.  To be completely honest, setting goals is really hard for me right now with a new baby at home.  But, in the spirit of the new year, I am going to set a public goal and you can all hold me accountable for sticking with it.

So, here it is: This year, I will drink 12 cups of fluids each day.

Drinking enough fluids is hard for me because I do not remember to do it. Then, by the end of the day, I am thirsty and I have a headache. Since I am nursing my baby, I need to make sure to get enough fluids for the both of us. I need to have enough fluids to make enough milk for my baby while at the same time preventing myself from getting dehydrated. My plan is to drink one cup of milk with each meal and then keep my water bottle within reach for the rest of the day. Thankfully, my water bottle has measurements on the side, so I know how much water I am getting throughout the day.

I have chosen this goal because I know that getting enough fluids, especially water, is essential to overall health. Most people need 10-15 cups of fluid each day. We get about 20% of that fluid from the foods we eat, especially fruits and vegetables. We have to drink the remaining 80%, which is about 8-12 cups.  I need to drink about 12 cups (the upper limit) because I am nursing; this amount is not necessary for most people.

I think it is going to take some time, but, with a little practice, I am confident that I can meet my goal. I wish you the best of luck on the goal you have set for yourself in the new year!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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A Healthier Me in 2016: A Dietitian’s Goal

Are you curious what New Year’s goal a dietitian might set? Well, it may surprise you but my goal is to increase my vegetable intake by eating more vegetables for snacks. I eat vegetables daily, but mostly at lunch and supper. However, I don’t always get in the 2 ½ cups I need each day. The snacks I bring to work most often are fruit or whole grain crackers. These are perfectly healthy snacks that I will continue to eat but I will also swap out one a few times each week for vegetables. My SMART goal for 2016 is, ‘I will eat 1 cup of vegetables as a snack 3 times per week’. If you would like a reminder of what a SMART goal is, visit last week’s blog.

Here is a list of some of the vegetables I plan to eat as snacks:

  • Baby carrots with hummus dip (try our After School Hummus)
  • Celery with peanut butter
  • Broccoli and cauliflower with a bit of Ranch dressing
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Leftover roasted vegetables (Easy Roasted Veggies)

Some people might be surprised that I plan to eat Ranch dressing with my vegetables. However, I’m much more likely to eat them if I have a dip to go with them. And a couple of tablespoons of dip is not going to add so much fat or sodium that it outweighs the benefit of eating the vegetables.

To help me reach my goal, I plan to use our Veggie Tasting Party recipe and prep my vegetables at the start of each week so they are ready to go when I need them.

Now to eat my baby carrots and hummus dip……

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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A Healthier Me in 2016

It’s that time of year again when we tend to look at how we can live just a little bit healthier in the new year. For me, this means making more time for exercise throughout my day. I do alright with getting my workouts in, but I spend most of my day at a desk and I would like to work in some breaks to get my body moving throughout the day. Our bodies are not meant to be in a sitting position all day, it can damage our posture and even affect breathing. Being active for just ten minutes can help boost mental focus and increase energy.

I plan to use a strategy called SMART goals to make this happen. A goal is SMART if it is:

Specific – It identifies a specific action that will take place.

Measurable – it’s easily measured, I can tell when I’ve done it.

Achievable – it can be accomplished with my current resources.

Realistic – though the goal will stretch me, it is possible for me to do it.

Timely – the goal includes a specific timeline for accomplishing it.

So here’s my goal!

I will walk briskly for at least ten minutes three times per week while I’m at work. I will walk in the halls of our building when it is cold and snowy and outside once the weather gets nicer.

I’ve taken some steps to increase my likelihood of success:

  • I have comfy shoes at the office.
  • I have told my colleagues about my goal so they can keep me honest.
  • I have a chart to track my progress and help me remember to work in my walks.

This month’s blog posts are all about setting goals for the new year. Share your goals with us on Facebook! Sometimes letting just one other person know your goal can help you stay accountable.

Here’s to a happy and healthy 2016!

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek is a State Nutrition Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She coordinates ISU’s programs which help families with low income make healthy choices with limited food budgets. Christine loves helping families learn to prepare healthy foods, have fun in the kitchen and save money. In her spare time, Christine enjoys cooking, entertaining and cheering on her favorite college football teams with her family and friends.

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