Healthy Snacks for Kids Don’t Have to Cost More

I am not against my children having cupcakes for a friend’s birthday or candy here and there…it’s all about teaching balance. However, I do feel that I have to be stricter about the snacks that I provide for them at home, just due to the fact of all the kinds of snacks they are exposed to when they are away from home. In addition, I have discovered the snacks that I have at home really have an impact on what they eat at mealtime. If they know that there are chips in the cupboard waiting for them after dinner, why would they want to eat their dinner? When it’s your family’s turn to bring snacks to school or activities opt for healthier options. You, along with the other adults, might be surprised at the children’s reaction.

But does healthier mean more money? Not necessarily! It’s all about being a smart and creative shopper. Here are some examples for classroom snacks:

Classroom Snacks – 24 children

Option A
(recently brought by a parent at my daughter’s preschool):

  • Fruit snacks (24 count): $3.98
  • Mini powdered donuts (10.5 oz): $2.19 x 2 = $4.38
  • Juice boxes $4.77

Total: $13.13

Option B: Mix Your Own Trail Mix

  • Raisins or Craisins: $2.50
  • Pretzel sticks: $1.99
  • Whole grain fish crackers (11 oz): $3.49
  • Chocolate whole grain cereal: $2.50
  • Resealable Sandwich Bags: $1.00
  • Cups for Water: $1.50

Total: $12.98

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your Child’s Birthday Classroom Party – 24 children

Option A

  • Store made cupcakes: $18.99
  • Hi-C juice boxes: $5.00

Total: $23.99

 

Option B
(I have tried this with my daughter’s class, it was a hit!):

  • Low-fat vanilla yogurt (32 ounce container): $3.26 x 3: $ 9.78
  • Fruity Cheerios for bottom of cup and topping (1 box): $2.50
  • Bananas (1/2 per child): $2.65 ($0.59/lb)
  • Party cups (your child’s choice!): $4.99
  • Spoons: $1.00

Total: $20.92

Other ideas to get the most nutritional “bang for your buck:”

Yogurt tubes: $7.03

16 pack: $4.54 + 8 pack: $2.54

vs. Pudding cups: $8.72

6 pack: $2.18

Baby carrots: $5.00

2 lb bag: $2.50 x 2

vs. Small bags of chips: $7.99
String cheese: $7.18

12 pack: $3.59 x 2

vs. Crackers and cheese spread packs: $8.78

15 pack: $5.49

Clementines: $5.97

(5 lb bag)

vs. Capri Sun Coolers: $6.00

10 pack: $2.50

Boxes of raisins $5.28
6 pack: $1.32 x 4
vs. Fruit Roll-Ups: $6.45

10 pack: $2.68

What do you bring when it’s your turn? Please pass along your ideas…

Additional Resources

Guest Blogger, Carrie Scheidel

What’s for Lunch? It’s in the Bag.

A few weeks ago I invited myself to lunch at three different middle schools in Central Iowa.  My “hosts” were  two of my nieces and a friend’s son.  I learned a lot about the changes to school lunches during those visits. I also had a chance to observe some of what I call ‘sack lunches’, although hardly anybody uses paper bags anymore.

The majority of the sack lunches were not very healthy.  Most of them included some sort of bread (rarely whole grain), some protein food, crackers, chips, cookies, and fruit drink or fruit.  Vegetables were rarely included.  I wish I would have taken more pictures, but I was so busy taking pictures of the school lunch trays that I didn’t get any of the sack lunches.  I did find a couple of images on the internet that are very close to what I observed.

Photo courtesy of  www.wastefreelunches.org

I think some suggestions on lunches to take to school plus packing lunches the night before might improve the quality.

My colleagues, Ruth Litchfield and Cathy Strohbehn, collaborated on two new publications about lunches to go.  Whether you are packing lunches for yourself to take to work or for your children, these are free and worth a look.  Both can be ordered or downloaded from the ISU Extension and Outreach Online store.

The one page abbreviated version is called MyPlate Lunch Bag Ideas. In this publication, you will find great menu ideas to pack your child’s lunch bag with MyPlate healthy foods. You’ll find kid-friendly foods for fruits, veggies, protein, grains, and dairy.  You will also find preparation and packing tips to keep foods at a safe temperature.

The longer, more detailed version is What’s for Lunch? It’s in the Bag.  It will give you ideas and know how for packing healthy lunches your child will want to eat. It contains tips for preparing and packing food safely as well as menu tips for lunch bag meals. It also includes research data on best methods to keep foods at safe temperatures.

 

October is National Pork Month

The past couple of weeks when looking thru grocery ads, I’ve noticed some good deals on pork. This is likely related to this summer’s drought. With high feed costs, many farmers are selling their pigs so they don’t have to purchase so much feed. This means there is a lot of supply. However, in an ad this week, I noticed it said ‘Celebrate National Pork Month’. Therefore, many grocery stores are also likely putting pork on sale to highlight National Pork Month.

So now is the time to buy pork and put it in your freezers. I recently bought a boneless pork loin and had the grocery store cut it into smaller portions that would be enough for my family for a meal. The pork loin was $1.79/pound. The loin I purchased was 8.4 pounds, so the total cost was $15.04. I had it cut  into fourths so it cost me $3.76 per package.  I made roasted pork loin with apples one evening and put the rest of the packages in the freezer for later use.

When purchasing pork, look for the words ‘loin’ and ‘round’ in the name for the leanest cuts. However, tenderloin is more expensive so for lower cost look for pork loin. If a cut has visible fat, be sure to trim it off. When cooking pork, whole cuts like chops and roasts can be safely cooked to in internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit . Ground pork, like other ground meats, should be cooked to 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

From Spend Smart. Eat Smart. try Garden Pork Sauté. http://recipes.extension.iastate.edu/2010/07/26/garden-pork-saute/

What recipes do you like to use pork in?

Can I Go Too?

As I was reading the blog Peggy wrote about tracking expenses last week, one line stood out to me more than any other, “I really need to follow my own advice.”  After my most recent trip to the grocery store, I was thinking the same thing.

Usually, my son and I go to the grocery store every Friday morning.  I like to shop at that time because it is quiet and I can get in and out quickly.  I do not have to worry about taking my son to the grocery store; he just sits back and enjoys the ride in the cart.

The problem came this past Friday when my husband had the day off of work.  Even though I knew better, I invited him to join us for our weekly shopping trip.  Many people have trouble with their children asking for treats or sneaking extra food into the cart.  Not me.  My husband is the one who does that.  I spent $15 more than usual!

If I spent an extra $15 each week at the grocery store, that would be $780 per year.  What could your family do with an extra $780 per year?  I can think of a few things that we could do.  So, I have learned my lesson this time, I need to follow my own advice and let my husband sleep in on his day off while my son and I go to the grocery store.

 

 

 

For other tips while at the grocery store, check out:
10 Tips for Saving at the Grocery Store

Justine Hoover, MS, RD, LD

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 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

Memorial Day is almost here…

Memorial Day makes me think of backyard barbeques, picnics, and having friends over. When I have guests, I don’t want to spend the whole day cooking and I don’t want to overshoot my food budget. Amanda, our dietetics student, and I figure we can to do the meal below for about $2 per person, or $16 for a group of 8. We figure it will take about an hour and a half of advance prep, not counting making the burgers since that will be part of the party. If I can limit myself to one deviled egg and one cookie or brownie, my diet should be in good shape, too!

Here’s the menu:

  • Hamburgers and Buns – There’s nothing better than a juicy burger right off the grill. Just make sure you cook them long enough and don’t put the cooked burgers back on the plate you used when they were raw.
  • Rhonda’s Deviled Eggs – My sister Rhonda makes the best deviled eggs—and because of requests, she brings them to many of our family get-togethers. This is about the least expensive appetizer I know because the ingredients are inexpensive.
  • Vegetable Tray – You can buy these already made, but they cost 3-4 times more than washing the vegetables yourself. Kids can help with this task.
  • Watermelon – I usually check out the seedless variety. Last summer, they were often on special for around $4.
  • Sugar Free Lemonade Drink Mix (from a tub) – I buy the store brand. I like the taste and it saves a ton of money. (Or, if you prefer, you could serve sun tea for your beverage.)
  • Cookies or brownies – I will buy a mix of cookies or brownies and stir them together unless I have some homemade in the freezer.

Preparations
Before the party

  • Bake the brownies or cookies.
  • Make the hard cooked eggs.
  • Rinse and prepare the celery, radishes, carrots and onion slices (dice enough onions to make 1/3 cup and save for the deviled eggs). Put all the relishes on a serving tray or ready-to-serve container.
  • Make the hamburger patties and return to refrigerator.
  • Stir up the powdered drink mix (or make sun tea) and refrigerate.
  • If you don’t have to travel, make the deviled eggs and put them on the serving tray, cover and HIDE in the refrigerator. If you have to transport the eggs, carry whites and yolk mixture separately in cooler. Fill eggs on the spot, pressing filling out of snipped corner of bag.

Substitutions that will cost more:

  • Buy carrots and celery sticks already prepared at the grocery store
  • Buy cookies or brownies from the bakery
  • Add dip for the veggies
  • Buy soda and beer instead of drink mix.

Costs

Hamburgers (8 – 4-ounce servings)
2 pounds ground beef – $4.48
Wheat buns – $1.59

Deviled Eggs (12 servings)
12 eggs – $0.49
1 1/3 teaspoons mustard – $0.02
1/3 cup light salad dressing – $0.12
1/3 cup pickle relish – $0.35
Onion (counted below)

Vegetable Tray
1 pound baby carrots – $0.99
1 celery stalk – $0.99
1 bulk bunch radishes – $0.79
1 yellow onion – $0.50

Seedless Watermelon – $3.99

Sugar Free Lemonade Drink Mix (from a tub)
Mix for 1 gallon of drink – $0.95

Cookies or Brownies (from a mix, makes 8-9 servings)
Brownie mix – $0.69
1/3 cup vegetable oil – $0.12
1 egg – $0.06

Total – $16.13

-pointers by Peggy

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