My oldest son recently turned 8 years old. Along with that birthday has come a growth spurt. Clothes that fit him a month ago are now too short and too tight. He is hungry all the time! Our pantry and refrigerator are emptying out more quickly than before.
This has made me realize that I need to re-think my typical grocery shopping trip. I shop for groceries weekly and, depending on the store, the foods I purchase are pretty much the same from week to week. This helps me stay on track with my budget. Unfortunately, an increase in appetite does not mean an increase in food budget. I need to look more closely at the foods I plan to make in the coming weeks to make sure my son (and the rest of my family) get the nutrition they need while staying within our food budget.
As I plan my next grocery shopping trip, here are three things I am going to look at more closely:
- Protein. I need to spend more time looking at the grocery ads before I go shopping to make sure I am choosing protein foods that fit my meal plan and my budget. For many recipes, I can substitute a less expensive protein choice.
- Stir-Fry is a great recipe for this – I can use beef, pork, chicken, fish, or tofu.
- Vegetables. I need to add more vegetables to my recipes. My whole family likes canned beans and frozen vegetables. These are choices that can add nutrition to a recipe without putting me outside of my budget.
- Snacks. I have gotten into a habit of buying pre-packaged snacks. Yes, they are easier, but they are more expensive. I think I can save myself money by reducing the number of pre-packaged snacks I buy and packaging snacks into reusable containers myself.
- Trail Mix is an easy snack to make and to package into small containers that will travel easily with us to the park or the pool this summer.
Stick with me on this one! When it is my turn to blog this summer, I will give you updates about how I am doing with my grocery shopping changes.
Our June recipe of the month, Black Bean Burgers, is sure to surprise you. My children love these burgers and eat them just the same as they would a burger made with ground meat.
I make these burgers for my family again and again, and here is why:
- They are inexpensive – using beans as a substitute for ground meat saves us money.
- They are quick in a pinch – on nights when we are busy or time gets away from me, I can make these burgers in about 15 minutes. I try to keep a can of black beans in my pantry for times like this.
- They are easy – mash the ingredients together with a fork, form them into patties, and cook them in a skillet.
This past month we’ve been talking all about fiber! Christine and Justine shared about the health benefits of fiber and how we can include high fiber foods in our meals and snacks. Today I’m going to share with you how to find high fiber foods using the food label.
The Nutrition Facts Label is found on food and beverage packages and is a helpful tool for increasing the amount of dietary fiber you eat. It shows the amount in grams (g) and the Percent Daily Value (%DV) of dietary fiber in one serving of the food. You can see on this label for brown rice that there are 2g of dietary fiber in ½ cup (or 2/3 cup after it is cooked). That is 8% DV. A good tip to remember is that:
- 5% DV or less of dietary fiber per serving is low
- 20% DV or more of dietary fiber per serving is high
When comparing foods, choose foods with a higher %DV of dietary fiber.
Another place to look is the ingredient list. Look for whole grains like whole wheat, brown rice, oatmeal, rolled oats, whole grain corn, quinoa, barley, or bulgur. The ingredients on a Nutrition Facts Label are listed by weight, so the ingredients that make up more of the product are listed first. Look for products that have whole grain ingredients at the top of the list.
To get more fiber:
Has all of our talk about fiber this month got you thinking about adding more fiber to your meals? I sure hope so! Today I have two meal plans to share with you. Both include three meals, one snack, and 25-30 grams of fiber.
Meal Plan 1: (Fiber in grams)
- 1 1/2 cups Zesty Whole Grain Salad (5)
- 1 sandwich with
- 2 slices whole wheat bread (4)
- 1 slice cheese
- 3 ounces deli meat
Total grams of Fiber: 29 grams
Meal Plan 2: (Fiber in grams)
Total grams of Fiber: 25.5 grams
Note: If you need more or less fiber depending on your age and gender, adjust amounts of food up or down to meet your personal needs.
Our May recipe of the month is Cowboy Caviar. This recipe is easy to make, tastes amazing, and packs a nutritional punch. All you have to do is combine some beans, chopped vegetables, and a chopped avocado with a quick homemade salad dressing. With that, you are ready to serve, or, in my case, eat!
I am not sure that I have mentioned this on the blog before, but, in addition to being a lover of great food, I am a dietitian. The food lover part of me drools over this recipe because it tastes so good and it is versatile. I can serve it as a dip for a party, I can scoop it into a tortilla and eat it as a wrap for lunch or supper, or I can simply grab a spoon and eat up (I have been known to do all three). The dietitian part of me loves this recipe because it is packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber. In the coming weeks you are going to hear a lot from us about the wonderful nutrient fiber. Next week, Christine is going to tell us about what fiber can do for our bodies and foods that have fiber in them.
In the meantime, make a batch of Cowboy Caviar and let me know what you think. Enjoy!
Sometimes I enjoy cooking with my children and sometimes I do not. Depending on the recipe and the cooking skill we are working on it can be a lot of fun or it can be frustrating. It is almost always messy. Regardless of how it comes out, I know that it is important because they are learning valuable skills.
My children are currently 2, 5, and 7 years old. That means they have vastly different abilities in the kitchen as well as different interest levels and attention spans. So, I need to match up each child to recipes that work well for them. Below I have broken down some age groups and matched them up with recipes that would work well with children in those age groups.
- Two years old: children this age are good at washing fruits and vegetables. They also like to help with set up and clean up. My little guy loves to set the table and, at the end of the meal, he
uses his little broom to help sweep up.
- Three years old: children this age are good at pouring and dumping ingredients. They can also help with clean up by putting dirty dishes in the dishwasher or the sink.
- Try making Banana Oatmeal Bread with your three year old. They will enjoy pouring all the ingredients into the bowl.
- Four years old: children this age are good at peeling oranges, bananas, and hard cooked eggs; kneading dough; and mixing with a spoon.
- Try making Creamy Egg Salad Sandwich with your four year old. They can peel the eggs, dump the ingredients into a bowl, and mix everything together.
- Five years old: children this age are good at cutting with a blunt knife, cracking eggs, and measuring ingredients. My five-year-old daughter’s favorite way to help in the kitchen is measuring.
- Try making Our Favorite Chicken Noodle Soup with your five year old. They can peel the carrots, cut the celery, and measure out the water, seasonings, and noodles.
- Six years old: children this age are developing their reading and writing skills, so they are good at writing grocery lists and starting to follow recipe directions.
- Older children: as children develop their reading and cooking skills they can become more independent in the kitchen. My oldest son is seven years old and is usually the first child awake
in the morning, so he has started preparing simple breakfasts on some mornings while I am helping the younger ones get ready for the day.
Remember that kitchen skills are cumulative, so what was learned as a two or three year old carries on into their older years. I especially like this when it comes to having extra helpers at clean up time!
Our April recipe of the month is here – Fish and Noodle Skillet. This is a variation of one of our favorite Spend Smart. Eat Smart recipes – Ramen Noodle Skillet. This recipe is made nearly the same way with the exception of cooking fish in the skillet with the vegetables instead of adding pre-cooked meat toward the end of the cooking time.
My children really like this recipe for several reasons:
- They love the ramen noodles. Ramen noodles are fun to look at and they are fun to eat. For this recipe, the ramen noodles need to be broken apart before they are added to the pan. This is a great job for children to help out with.
- They love fish. Even if you are not a fish lover, this recipe is a great way to get your fish in. The fish is mixed in with the noodles and vegetables, so it does not have that “fishy” flavor some do not like. Mixing the fish with noodles and vegetables also makes it more filling, so it saves you money.
- They love the leftovers. This recipe tastes really good when it is re-heated and served for a quick and easy meal the next day. Re-heating meals in the microwave is another way children can help out in the kitchen. They can push the buttons on the microwave and learn to identify their numbers at the same time.
Try our Fish and Noodle Skillet today and find your own reasons to love it.
This week in our series on getting kids involved in the cooking and shopping, I’m going to share some tips for getting kids involved in grocery shopping. When I was grocery shopping with my 4-year-old daughter recently, I was thinking what I might share in the blog. As she was pushing the little cart she was using, I was thinking, children might look cute pushing those little carts but as a parent, sometimes they are my worst nightmare. Funny thing is, when I was back in the office and reading through some past blogs, I shared those same thoughts in a blog about grocery shopping with my son 5 years ago when he was 3! I’d encourage you to read that blog for ideas to get younger kids involved when grocery shopping.
Today, I’d like to share a couple of ways older kids can be involved with grocery shopping.
- Use our grocery budget calculator. The online calculator provides the weekly and monthly amount your family needs to spend for nutritious meals on USDA’s Low-cost Plan. To use the calculator you will need the age, gender, and number of meals eaten away from home for each member of your household. You and your child can then compare this to how much you spend on groceries. The online calculator provides tips on how to reduce your grocery bill if you are spending over that amount. It also provides ideas if you are spending under that amount. This activity can help children better understand the cost of food and why it’s important to not waste food. If you’re not sure how much you spend on food, we have resources for tracking your food expenses.
- Download and use our Spend Smart. Eat Smart. app. Older kids who have cellphones can download our Spend Smart. Eat Smart. app to use in the store. Or you can let them use the app on your phone when they are shopping with you. Kids can enter information into the unit price calculator to help you determine which item is the better buy. Or they can look up information about different produce in the store using our Produce Basics to help you determine how to select produce and how you might prepare it at home.
Next week in our series we’ll share a recipe kids can help make.
One thing I feel I do a pretty good job at is letting my kids help in the kitchen. Even though it takes a little more time and there are a few more messes, it is fun and I know my kids are learning important skills. On the other hand, one area I don’t take the time to get them involved in is meal planning. Once in a while I will ask them to pick between a couple of choices but that’s about it. Meal planning is definitely a skill I want my children to have as adults, so now is the time!
Just like with cooking, getting kids involved in meal planning may mean it takes more time but it’s time you can spend together and your kids will learn valuable skills, including how to plan a balanced meal. And since they are helping to plan the meal, they may be more likely to eat what is served.
Want to give this a try with me? Here are some tips you and I can both use to get our kids involved with meal planning.
1. Download our 5-Day Meal Planning Worksheet. I like our worksheet because it has the food groups listed at the bottom so you can make sure you include a variety of food groups in your meals. As you plan your meals, have your kids tell you which foods are part of which food group.
2. Make a list of options. If you have younger kids, make a list of options based on what you have on hand and what items are on sale at the store. Then they can choose between options such as spaghetti or lasagna, broccoli or carrots. If your kids are older, they may want to help think of the dishes to make. Another option would be to plan the main dishes and have your kids choose which fruits and vegetables to have.
3. Have a kid’s night. If planning a week’s worth of meals with your kids sounds too overwhelming, choose one night that they can plan the meal. You can provide guidelines such as they need to include foods from three different food groups.
If your kids help you plan a whole week’s worth of meals or just one night, they will learn skills that they can use for a lifetime. Next week I’ll share some tips for how to get kids involved with grocery shopping.
Ovens and stoves are very useful tools in the kitchen. My oven and stove are two of my best friends; we roast veggies and meats together, we make soups together, and we sometimes even make sweets together! Even in all the fun of cooking and baking, it is important to stay safe and follow these tips on cooking safety.
1. Stick around when the stove and oven are on. Be sure to keep an eye on whatever it is you’re cooking to prevent it from boiling over, burning, or catching fire. The leading cause of kitchen fires is unattended cooking.
2. When handling hot pans, always use potholders to avoid burns. Handles hanging over the edge of the stove can be grabbed by children or knocked off accidentally. Turn all handles on pots away from you to avoid accidental spills and burns.
3. Keep all utensils away from the oven and stovetop when it is on. This includes mixing spoons, dishtowels, potholders, and paper products, that way you can avoid accidental burns or fires.
4. Turn off the stovetop and oven when you are finished using them. Once you’re done cooking and ready to enjoy your food, double check that all the stove burners have been turned off, and that the oven is no longer on. Make sure all utensils or other flammable objects are safely away from any hot surface. It never hurts to double, even triple check this step!
We hope you have learned a tip or two during our kitchen safety blog series to help keep you safe while you spend time cooking.
Written by Annie Contrady, ISU Dietetic Intern