On-line Grocery Shopping Part 3 – Cons

Welcome to the third part of our blog series about on-line grocery shopping. If you did not see the first two parts of this series, here are the links to the overview and the pros of on-line grocery shopping. Today we are going to look at, what I think, are the cons to on-line grocery shopping.

The first challenge that I have with on-line grocery shopping is the PRODUCE.

  • I like to look around the produce section to see what looks best and is the best value. I cannot do this when looking at the pictures of the produce on-line.
  • Someone else chooses your produce for you, so you may not get what you would usually choose for yourself. However, I have received good quality produce in my experiences so far.

The second challenge that I have with on-line grocery shopping is LEAVING AN ITEM OFF.

  • It usually happens that I forget to buy something or that an item is unavailable. This leaves me in a bind when I am trying to make a meal later in the week. I either have to make a special trip to the store or use what I have on hand to make a substitution.
  • When this happens, I cannot do on-line shopping for the single item because they have a minimum order cost ($30 at one store and $100 at the other). However, at one of the stores you can pay a fee if your order is under the minimum cost.

The third challenge that I have with on-line grocery shopping is PERSONAL.

  • I am a food person, so I like to look around at all the different foods in the store. I do not get this chance with on-line shopping.
  • I like to take my children to the store so they can learn about shopping and choosing foods.
  • I cannot use re-usable bags with on-line grocery shopping.

I feel like I have balanced these challenges well with alternating on-line and in-store grocery shopping. I think the pros of on-line grocery shopping outweigh the cons and I plan to continue with on-line grocery shopping.

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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On-line Grocery Shopping Part 2 – Pros

Welcome to the second part of our blog series about on-line grocery shopping. I hope you enjoyed our overview last week. This week I would like to tell you about all of the things I think are great about on-line grocery shopping.

 

The first thing that I like about on-line grocery shopping is the TIME SAVINGS.

  • It only takes me about 30 minutes to select the foods I want and set up my pickup/delivery time.
  • I do not need to fight the crowd in the store or in the parking lot.
  • I do not have to take my children into the store.
  • The grocery store staff load up my car or help me carry my groceries into my house.

 

The second thing I like about on-line grocery shopping is the MONEY SAVINGS.

  • It is easy to stick to my budget because I can see the total price increasing as I add foods to my cart.
  • I can easily add or take away food items as needed to fit my budget and my needs.
  • There is no temptation to buy the extra things displayed around the store, so I avoid impulse buys.
  • I have all of the information on the website to determine unit prices and compare products easily.

 

The third thing I like about on-line grocery shopping is the KINDNESS of the staff.

  • I have had great experiences with the grocery store staff being very kind and helpful.
  • The staff do a great job of explaining any substitutions that were made.
  • The staff make a point of keeping fragile foods (bread, eggs) safe.

 

Overall, I think that on-line grocery shopping is a great experience and it is very helpful, especially when I do not have a lot of time. I would recommend on-line grocery shopping to anyone who wants to try it.

 

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

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

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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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What’s In Season Now?

pomegranate fruit whole and cutIt’s that time of year when my son asks me to buy pomegranates when he sees them in the grocery store because he so enjoys eating pomegranate seeds. I think it might have something to do with whacking the fruit to get the seeds to fall out. My 2-year old daughter is now a fan of them also. They are quite tasty and fun to eat… if only the seeds were easier to get to! Here is a video that shows how to get them out without making a mess!

These days I’m also filling my grocery cart with clementines, oranges, and kiwi fruit. They are in season now, so their price is low and they taste great. While these fruits are in season during the winter, some fruits and vegetables are in season year round. These include bananas, apples, carrots, celery, onions, and potatoes. These fruits and vegetables can be found at reasonable prices and with good flavor all year long. When you want or need a fruit or vegetable that is not in season, consider canned or frozen versions for a better buy. Choose fruits canned in their own juice or water and vegetables canned without salt.

For more ideas on purchasing fruits and vegetables, check out our “How-To” videos.

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.

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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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New Videos that Help you Shop for Fruits and Vegetables

pile of veggiesWhen you’re planning your meals and writing your grocery list, do you ever wonder how many fruits and vegetables to buy or how to get the best deals on them? If so, check out our new series of 2-3 minute ‘how to’ videos. Some of the topics for the videos include:

A few of the tips shared in the videos that I find helpful include:

-Check your cupboards, refrigerator, and freezers to see what you already have.

-Check the grocery ads for what is on sale.

-Buy a variety of fruits and vegetables including fresh, canned, frozen, and dried.

-Use unit pricing to help you decide what is the best deal for you.

Before heading to the grocery store or Farmer’s Market, take a few minutes to watch these videos to learn some new tips to help you when buying fruits and vegetables.

Jodi Signature

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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Grocery Shopping with Kids

Shopping with my 3 year-old son, Parker, is always an adventure. One of the stores I shop at has carts that have steering wheels where he sits and another has a ‘car’ attached to the front of the cart that he can sit in. Both of these keep him entertained because he pretends like he is driving. This is nice because it cuts down on the whining and wanting to buy everything. The downside to these carts is that they are big and take up more space going thru the aisles. Sometimes it is worth it though!

In addition to the ‘car’ carts, one of the stores also has little carts that the kids can push. I’m not so sure about this idea as a parent. Let’s just say I’ve held my breath a few times hoping that all of the cans he ran into would not fall. Only a few cans have fallen so far! I’ve also had a few bruises on the back of my legs where he ran into me. I’m usually frantically trying to make sure he doesn’t hit anyone else. Thankfully he hasn’t run into anyone else yet! And lastly, when he is pushing his own cart, and not confined to the child seat in the larger cart, he can grab lots of stuff off the shelves! Funny thing was the other day Parker informed me, “Dad doesn’t let me drive the little cart when I go shopping with him.” Imagine that!

Sometimes I do make it to the store without taking Parker, but that isn’t always possible. And he needs to learn how to act while in a store. In addition, grocery stores can be great places to teach kids. They are a place to learn about good nutrition but kids can also learn about numbers, colors, and shapes.  The University of Maine Cooperative Extension has a great publication on shopping with children. Here are some of the tips they share.

  1. Plan to go to the store with your child when you have plenty of time and the store is not crowded.
  2. Plan shopping trips when your child is not tired or hungry. Or bring a nutritious snack for him to eat during the shopping trip.
  3. Discuss your rules before you enter a store. Remind your child to stay close to you. Also, set ground rules about what is acceptable to put in the cart. Discussing acceptable behavior before going into the store can save a lot of headache later on.
  4. Give your child a job. For example, ask her to help pick out five oranges or three tomatoes. Or let her choose if you get apples or pears. Kids who help pick out fruits and vegetables are more likely to eat them. Older children may like to hold onto the grocery list and cross off the items as you put them in the cart.
  5. Set positive limits. When your child does something you do not want him to do, instead of reacting with a negative limit, such as “don’t throw the oranges on the floor,” tell your child what is expected in a positive way, such as “Keep the oranges in the bin.”
  6. Make the shopping trip a learning experience. Keep kids entertained by asking them questions and having them searching for items. Teach toddlers about touch by asking how different items feel, like the skin of an apple or if the milk is warm or cold.  Teach preschoolers about colors by asking them to point out items of different colors like the green peas or the cereal in the yellow box. Have school-age children look at the labels and compare items based on nutrition.

 

What tips do you have for making grocery shopping trips enjoyable for both kids and parents?


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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Try Mint to Track your Grocery Spending

The SpendSmart.EatSmart web page and Facebook have been running a poll asking What do you think saves you the most money on your grocery bill? Here is the breakdown from the 315 people who responded:

Strategy Votes % of Total Votes
Making a list and shopping less often 139 44%
Making menus 65 21%
Comparing prices between brands 43 14%
Shopping at a store with lower prices 37 12%
Coupons 28 9%
Other:  sticking to your menu, shop at the same store because I get too distracted looking at a new store, buy in bulk 3

The results of this poll indicate to me that our readers are very savvy shoppers!  These are similar results to what research and the experts promote as the best ways to save money.

Do you know how much you spend for food each month, how many times you shop and where most of your money goes? That is good information to know before you set goals.   I wrote about tracking my food expenses on SpendSmart last June, but now I have a much easier method.

I downloaded a free app on my phone called Mint a couple of months ago and now it does most of the work tracking my expenses.  Mint, which is also available free on-line at Mint.com, links to all your  checking, savings, credit cards, etc..  Whenever money goes in or out of your accounts it is recorded.  The best part is that Mint is pretty smart about categorizing your expenses from the names of the businesses.  For instance, it knows to categorize Aldi and HyVee as grocery stores and Younkers as clothing.

There are many more cool features about Mint.  You can see a recent review of Mint in Doughroller.  The author said Mint is a “good concept and very well executed.”

So what did I find out about my spending? First, I need to spend a little more time categorizing transactions.  Second, there is a lot of variation month to month in both the amount and spending occasions. I can tell when I am not taking the time to plan and just running to the store and buying…these are the months when I have 10 or 11 charges from grocery stores.

I really need to follow my own advice.

Feed 50 People for $50!

Need recipes that will feed a crowd (e.g. a club, relatives, or a post-event gathering) for $50 or under?

Stacia Sanny and our nutrition staff in Polk County used the menu below to serve 50 people at a get acquainted activity.  We wanted to recruit families and show volunteers at the First Assembly of God Church in Des Moines about EFNEP (Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program).

The recipes are on the SpendSmart EatSmart recipe page except for the Garden Salad.  You could substitute carrot/celery sticks for that.  The recipes are easy to multiply to match your group size.

  • 3 Can Chili.  Cans of beans, corn and tomatoes with chili powder.  Reduce the sodium by using frozen corn if you like. To go really inexpensive, cook dry beans instead of using canned.
  • Splendid Fruit Salad.  For 50 people you would probably use 25-30 fruits.
  • Garden Salad (lettuce mix out of a bag, chopped tomatoes and carrots, dressing)
  • Pumpkin Apple Cake.   Two cakes will do it.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar if you want. 

Here’s what Stacia reported after the event.
We received wonderful comments. They loved the cake . . . and couldn’t believe that it was considered a healthy snack. We multiplied the recipes about 13 times (chili and fruit salad). We actually had leftovers. The chili was so easy — and the fact that you could see vegetables in it already made it different than normal chili. The recipe uses corn besides the usual tomatoes and meat.

We had a number of people ask for the recipes so they could make them at home!

pointers from Peggy

Top 3 Tips to Spend Less Time in the Grocery Store

My objective when going to the grocery store is to spend the least amount of time possible in the store, yet get everything I need, eliminating the need for a special trip later. (Research shows that the more time you spend in the grocery store, the more money you spend.) I usually end up going every week to 10 days, depending on how many meals I am cooking at home. My tips are below:      

  1. Go when it is not crowded. It takes less time and the shelves are usually well stocked. Five o’clock at the end of the week is the worst time. Saturdays are also bad. Early morning and late at night are usually good times. My sister goes after line dancing which gets over at 7:30 p.m. The other sister sends her husband with a list at 7:00 a.m. on Sunday morning.
  2. Shop at the same stores. This way you don’t spend time searching. I regularly shop at two different chain stores. One store is less expensive, but doesn’t have everything I buy. I shop there when my other store doesn’t have many items I want on sale.
  3. Make your list according to the layout of the store. That way you just go down the list in order and don’t have to crisscross the store (taking more time, more chance to forget something, and more temptation  to buy things you don’t need). I make my list on an envelope and stick any coupons I want to use inside. I write both the item and the price on the list.  If it is on sale, I write S. If I have a coupon, I write C. Sometimes I don’t buy the brand on sale or use the coupon because I check the other brands and compare prices on the spot, looking at my list with the price.
    coupons

If you have tips that work for you, I would love to hear about them. Just hit the comment section and send a note.

-pointers by Peggy

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