Do you have an app for that?

Yes, we do! Spend Smart. Eat Smart. is now available as an app. The brand new, free mobile app puts healthy eating and cost saving tools in the palm of your hand at the grocery store. These new tools on the app make it easier to eat healthy and stick to your budget.

  • Unit Price Calculator: You will never have to wonder which product is a better buy again. The calculator will do unit price calculations with ease.
  • Produce Basics: Review nutrition, selection, storage, cleaning and preparation information for a wide variety of fresh produce.
  • Recipe Finder: Keep track of your favorite recipes from the website.

Download for free today from your app store!

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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Manage Food Spending with Online Calculator

grocery storeYes, grocery prices have gone up.  Do you wonder if you could eat nutritiously and spend less on food for your family?

If so, our 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 can also get information about the other three USDA food plans: Thrifty, Moderate-Cost, and Liberal.

How does this amount compare with what you spend?  Sometimes it is hard to monitor how much you spend on food each month because we purchase food at numerous places and times throughout the month. Our page about tracking your food expenses can help. This includes some helpful suggestions and questions to ask yourself about your spending habits.

If you decide to you want to spend less on food our website SpendSmart EatSmart is devoted to eating nutritiously on a budget.

Peggy Signature

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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How much do YOU spend on food a week?

Last week I showed a group of nutrition professionals features of the SpendSmart.EatSmart web page including the Cost of Food at Home calculator. You put in the number, age, and gender of your family members and the number of meals eaten away from home.  The calculator then tells you how much your family would spend at the grocery store according to the low-cost food plan.

I commented that while people know what they spend for their rent or house payment, car payment, etc. most people don’t know how much they spend on food.  This is because we buy food at many different places and times during the month.  Plus the more people in a family, the more places and more times we buy.    In the discussion that followed, many in the group agreed with me that they did not know what they spent on food….they just bought what they needed.  However, there were 2 or 3 who said that they did know what they spent.   These 2 or 3 had young families and indicated that they were trying to stretch their money for many different priorities.  This confirms my belief that when money is tight we pay attention to what and where we are spending so we can make a plan to reduce expenses.

The discussion prompted me to explore my own food costs.  Since I track my expenses on a computer and I use a debit card for almost all my food buying and eating out I have a pretty good tracking system.  From February 1-May 31 (4 months) I ate meals out 59 times at different restaurants for a total of $334*. I spent $759 on groceries so my food total was $1104.

Figuring I eat out between 3 and 4 times a week, the computer tells me the cost of food at the grocery store should be between$744 and $788.  My cost of $759 means that what I am spending at the grocery store is right in line with the low-cost plan.

We all know that know that eating out costs more than eating at home.  After all, we are paying for someone else to select, prepare, serve and clean up.    My records show this is true for me.  If I would have eaten all my food at home the Cost of Food at Home calculator tells me that I could have purchased all the food I need for good health for $230 per month or $924 for the 4 months.  I spent $180 more than that ($1104-$924 = $180).   That $180 is money I could spend somewhere else if I wanted to give up eating out.

The first step in cutting food costs is to know how much and where you are spending your money now.  Learn how to track your spending on the SpendSmart.EatSmart web site in the Planning section under What you Spend Now.

*this does not count the times I paid for guest’s meals or work meals that were reimbursed

Online calculator estimates food cost for your family

Every January I spend some time reviewing my finances and getting things organized. I figure my net worth and see how much I have spent for food, clothes, recreation, etc. and develop a budget. One of the items I watch is how much I am spending on food both at home and eating out.

Are you setting up a spending plan for your family or wondering if what you spend on food is reasonable for a family your size? If so, you can find out what the USDA’s Low-cost Food Plan would estimate for your family on the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. web page. Our online calculator will do the math for you. You will need the age, gender, and number of meals eaten away from home for each person. When you get your results, remember that this is just the cost of food. It doesn’t include pet food, personal care, paper goods, etc. that you buy at the grocery store.

If you would like to lower what you spend on food, there are hundreds of tips on how to provide nutritious meals for your family and spend less on the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. site. If you have specific questions, just leave a comment and we will get back to you.

-pointers by Peggy

30 Ways in 30 Days to Stretch Your Fruit and Vegetable Budget

Last week I was doing a presentation on the features of our Spend Smart web site. I discovered that we had gotten lots of hits from the more matters® web site which is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Further investigation showed the people were being referred to our Spend Smart site from a flyer and other postings called 30 Ways in 30 Days to Stretch Your Fruit and Vegetable Budget.

The number ONE recommendation was:

Calculate an appropriate Healthy Food Budget for your family, based on USDA’s Low-Cost Food Plan. This easy-to-use calculator, offered by Iowa State University Extension, helps to create a budget for what is a reasonable amount to spend to feed your family healthy meals. 

If you don’t know what a healthy food budget is for your family, you might want to put each family member’s age, gender and number of meals eaten away from home into the calculator.  Then, to compare your spending, you will need to collect receipts for all your grocery spending for a month. Don’t count non-food items such as pet food, paper, cleaning and personal care items that you buy at the store.

-pointers by Peggy

Am I spending too much at the grocery store?

Last fall my sister asked me how much I thought she should be spending on groceries (it turns out her husband thought she was spending too much).

That’s a really hard one to answer; and, I sure didn’t want to get in the middle of an argument. Spending on food varies because of many factors including values and resources (time, money and skills).

I recommended my sister get on the Internet and Google “Cost of Food at Home.” I told her to check out the USDA Food Plans and see how what she was spending compared. I also agreed to look at her grocery receipts to see if I could suggest ways to save (more on that in a later posting).

If you would like to get an estimate of USDA’s Low-cost Plan, we have an online calculator that will do the math for you. Check out figure your food dollar on our Spend Smart. Eat Smart. web page. You will need the age, gender and number of meals eaten away from home for each person.

– pointers by Peggy

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