Save Money on Holiday Groceries

The holidays bring lots of festive fun and time with family and friends, but they can also mean extra expenses. I love it when I get the chance to prepare special meals and plan parties, but it can get very expensive. Grocery stores often offer sales and specials around the holidays that can help if you know how to use them.

Here are some tips to help you spend smart while you shop for holiday cooking.

  1. Check your cupboards and refrigerator before you shop. Holiday cooking sometimes involves ingredients we do not use very often. Knowing what you have will help you avoid buying a duplicate while you shop.
  2. A sale price only saves you money if you know you will use the item you purchase. Avoid buying food products just because they are on sale if they are not part of your meal plan. That could lead to wasted food and money.
  3. Remember that sales are used as advertising for a product. The sign may be large and inviting, but the price may not be as good as it seems. Check the unit price to make sure it is really saving you money. You can learn more about unit pricing on our website and our Spend Smart. Eat Smart. app has a unit price calculator built into it. You can download the app free from your app store.
  4. Occasionally stores will have deep discounts on holiday items like turkeys or hams immediately before and after a holiday. I review the grocery store ads to make my meal plan for a couple of weeks after the holiday. This allows me to work these discounted items into my plan and know they will not go to waste.

I hope these tips help you save a bit of money and stress this holiday season.

Happy Thanksgiving from the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. Team!

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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Company is Coming!

“Company is coming, what are we going to eat?”  There are many online recipe sources, but I always come back to Spend Smart. Eat Smart.  Here is a menu with a few of my favorite recipes for entertaining.

Breakfast or Brunch

I substitute sweet potato for all or part of the white potato and make them with whole wheat flour tortillas. I make a double or triple batch, wrap them individually in foil or parchment paper, and stack in the slow cooker to keep warm.

The strawberries, kiwi and banana look festive for the holidays. They are best when partially thawed which takes at least 30 minutes.  

I add ½-cup mini chocolate chips as an optional ingredient.  

 

Appetizers

For holiday entertaining I make the Fruit Salsa with frozen strawberries, Granny Smith apple, and substitute 1 cup drained, crushed canned pineapple for the peach. It is beautiful in a clear glass bowl surrounded by the cinnamon chips.

Heat the bean dip in the microwave or put it in a small snack size slow cooker. Serve with raw vegetables or homemade Baked Tortilla Chips.

 

Dinner and Sides

A family favorite! I roast the vegetables on a separate baking sheet and increase the quantity and variety.

This is a simple and delicious side dish that goes with just about anything.

I use apples, fresh or frozen strawberries, bananas, drained canned pineapple chunks, and whatever other fresh, frozen or drained canned fruit I have on hand.  I suggest using a red gelatin in the sauce and serving it in a clear glass bowl. It will look beautiful on the holiday table.  

 

Dessert

This pie is easier to make and has less fat, sugar and calories than regular pumpkin pie but tastes great.

 

I hope you will try some of the recipes that I use when ‘company is coming’ and explore the Spend Smart. Eat Smart site for your own favorites.  

Written by Renee Sweers, Human Sciences Specialist-Nutrition and Wellness

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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Turkey Vegetable Quiche

At our Thanksgiving meal there is always too much food and an abundance of leftovers.  There is just something about the holiday that compels us to cook and cook and cook.  Which brings us to our November recipe of the month – Turkey Vegetable Quiche.  This recipe is the perfect way to use up some of your leftover Thanksgiving turkey.

Start with a pie crust – you can buy one during the pre-Thanksgiving sales or you can make an extra when you make your holiday pies.  Prepare the crust then fill it with sautéed vegetables, leftover turkey, and eggs that are beaten with milk and seasonings.  Top everything with a sprinkle of cheese and bake for about 35 minutes.  Make sure to let this quiche rest outside of the oven for about 5 minutes to make it easier to slice and serve.

This quiche tastes great for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Homemade Baby Food

Photo of applesauce

I cannot believe that it has been exactly four years since I last blogged on the topic of homemade baby food. At the time, my daughter had recently outgrown the mashed and soft foods phase and was moving on to eating most table foods. She was a great eater and happily ate just about anything I offered.

Fast forward four years and I have gone through the baby food phase again with another child. This one was a little different. He decided to show a strong personality and go about trying foods his own way. I was excited to start making him some homemade baby food, but he would not eat it! He wanted what big brother, big sister, dad, and mom were eating, and he wanted to feed himself. So, we gave him foods from the table that he could easily chew and swallow and that he could pick up with his fingers and get into his mouth.

I wanted him to try foods with a variety of textures and flavors, but he still refused to let anyone feed him – he had to feed himself. With a little bit of patience and a lot of practice with the spoon, he started feeding himself some of the mashed foods I had prepared for him. Two of his favorites were apples and sweet potatoes. If you are interested in making homemade baby food, check out our video. You can also try our homemade applesauce, which is a great fall treat no matter how young or old you are!

Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Sweet Potato Fries Comparison

Sweet potato fries are a current favorite of mine. Really, they’ve been a favorite of mine for a couple of years! I order them when eating out and I make them at home. Sometimes I make them homemade and other times I bake a bag of frozen fries from the store. I was curious what the difference in nutrition and cost would be between these, so I did a little research and here is what I found.

  Serving Size* Cost/serving Calories Fat (g) Sodium (mg)
Homemade 2/3 cup $0.32 120 2.5 110>
Frozen
(National Brand)
1 cup $0.50 150 7> 190
Restaurant
(Nationwide Chain)**
1 cup $1.49 400 20 1020

*Serving sizes vary up to a 1/3 cup.
**Nutrition information from restaurant website.

I make the homemade fries using our recipe for Sweet Potato Fries. The serving size is a bit smaller but since they are baked and you can control the amount of salt added, they provide the best nutrition. My homemade fries are lower in fat and sodium than the restaurant and frozen options. The frozen fries do pretty well for nutrition though, if they are baked. They are higher in fat and sodium but still pretty reasonable. The fries from the restaurant are the most expensive and highest in calories, fat, and sodium. They are likely deep fat fried which would increase the fat and calories. And heavy on the salt. The restaurant’s nutrition information did not provide the amount of Vitamin A in the sweet potato fries but all three kinds would provide a good dose of Vitamin A. Therefore, if you want to eat fries when eating out, you might go for the sweet potato fries to boost the nutrition of the fries. Like with so many food choices, making sweet potato fries at home is going to be the least expensive and the most nutritious.

 

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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Sweet Potatoes vs. White Potatoes

Which is better, sweet potatoes or white potatoes?potatoes

The honest answer is they are both delicious and nutritious. There is certainly room for all types of potatoes in a healthy diet. Potatoes of all kinds can be prepared simply and in a wide variety of ways. They both provide nutrients that are important for good health and they taste great when mixed together in recipes. Here is a snapshot of what white and sweet potatoes have to offer.

White Potatoes* Sweet Potatoes*
Calories 130 180
Fiber (if skin is eaten) 3 grams 7 grams
Protein 3 grams 4 grams
Carbohydrate 30 grams 41.4 grams
Fat Less than 1 gram Less than 1 gram
Sugar 2 grams 12 grams
Vitamins 29% of your daily vitamin C needs 65% of your daily vitamin C needs
More than 100% of your daily vitamin A needs
Minerals 21% of your daily Potassium needs
13% of your daily Manganese needs
27% of your daily Potassium needs
50% of your daily Manganese needs

*Information based on a one-cup serving including potato skin

Potatoes are delicious, nutritious and low cost. The healthiest potato recipes don’t add a lot of fat and calories. Here are a few from our website that I particularly enjoy.

Add some potatoes to your grocery list today!

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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Sweet Talk

Produce Basics - Sweet PotatoPardon the goofy title, but this week we’re talking sweet…potatoes that is! Have you given sweet potatoes a try? If you are unsure about them,it might help to think beyond the casserole with marshmallows on the top. They can be used in many of the same ways as white potatoes. They are delicious roasted, mashed, baked or even as French fries.

Choosing sweet potatoes is simple. Their skins should be relatively smooth with few dents and the flesh of the potato should be firm. Avoid potatoes with cracks, soft spots or sprouts. Sweet potatoes usually last for a month or so when stored in a cool dark area.

It is perfectly safe to eat sweet potatoes skin. Just give them a good scrub and enjoy. Our Sweet Potato Produce Basics publication has all of the info you need to choose, clean and prepare sweet potatoes.

Stay tuned throughout this month while we share more reasons why we are sweet on sweet potatoes!

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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Mashed Sweet Potatoes

mashed sweet potatoesI grew up thinking that the only way you could eat sweet potatoes is with marshmallows on top. I am not a big marshmallow fan, so, as an extension, I did not really like sweet potatoes. Now that I have learned some new ways to make them, I love sweet potatoes and eat them nearly every week.

Our October recipe of the month is a delicious sweet potato recipe – Mashed Sweet Potatoes. You peel and dice the sweet potatoes, boil them until they are tender, add some cream cheese and then mash them. If you would like, you can top them with some bread crumbs and broil them for just a few minutes until the bread crumbs are golden brown.

I like this recipe because the flavor is not too sweet. I really like this recipe because it uses sweet potatoes, which are a rich source of nutrients that our bodies need including fiber, vitamin A, and potassium.

Enjoy!

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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Flavors of Fall Zipped up in a Bag

pumpkin puddingWhen my girls were young we often made Pumpkin Pudding for a fall dinner dessert. Pudding is inexpensive and also light and not overly filling. The Pumpkin Pudding recipe includes a full can of pumpkin, so you are also getting the added fiber and Vitamin A pumpkin is known for. With the pumpkin pie spice seasoning added, it tastes like pumpkin pie!

For a fun activity with young children, try making Pumpkin Pudding in a zip top bag!

  1. Add the pudding mix and seasoning into a one-gallon zip top bag.
  2. Then add the pumpkin and milk and close the top.
  3. Be sure to get bags with a good seal. Freezer bags work well for this activity.
  4. Pass the bag to the children so they can knead and mix the ingredients together by squeezing the bag with their hands. They will enjoy the fun of watching the ingredients blend together and become thicker as the pudding sets up.
  5. When it’s mixed and thickened, cut a small hole in one corner of the bag and squeeze the pudding into bowls.

Written by Jill Weber, Human Sciences Specialist-Nutrition and Wellness

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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Chocolate Surprise Cupcakes

I bet you’re wondering what the big surprise is in our Chocolate Surprise Chocolate surprise cupcakeCupcakes, right? Drum roll, please. It’s a can of pumpkin and apple juice. Instead of adding oil to the cake mix, we use pumpkin and apple juice. The pumpkin increases the nutritional content by adding a good dose of vitamin A but it does not make the cupcakes taste like pumpkin. Sneaky, huh?

Last week my co-worker Holly shared our recipe for Pumpkin Apple Cake. Our Chocolate Surprise Cupcakes are a variation of that using a chocolate cake mix. One cake mix makes 24 cupcakes so if they won’t be eaten within four days, they freeze well in a freezer bag or other airtight container. These would be good for a birthday, bake sale, or when you just need a little chocolate!

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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