Boost your Muscles Bones and Brain

Being physically active is one of the most important things Americans can do to improve their health. Being active is so good for you. It gets the blood pumping, from your heart to all your muscles, bones and brain. As a result, it prevents a whole host of chronic diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some forms of cancer. It is good for our mental health and helps with healthy aging as well.

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans released in 2018 refined how much physical activity we need. Adults need 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity physical activity for general health benefits. Moderate intensity physical activity is anything that gets your heart beating faster. The good news is small bursts of activity add up all week long, and they have an activity planner to help you think through when you can find time for activity!

The activity planner helps you choose activity you want to do and see how it can all add up to 150 minutes. It can also help you set weekly goals, get personalized tips and stay motivated.

Let us know how you’re incorporating activity into your day by chatting with us on Facebook (@Spend Smart. Eat Smart.) or Twitter (@SpendEatSmart).

Sarah Taylor Watts, MPA, PAPHS Physical Activity Coordinator Iowa Department of Public Health

I Have a Confession to Make

Last month I wrote a blog about how I plan my meals ahead and how easy it is. Well, I have a confession to make. The past couple of weeks I have not done a good job of planning meals. Between my son’s soccer practices and games and just wanting to be outside in the nice weather as much as I can, I haven’t been as committed to getting my meals planned. I feel like I’ve been in a rut making many of the same recipes for the last few months. Therefore, I am excited to have discovered a new resource from Utah State University that is all about making your own meals based on what you have on hand.

The Create Series has taught me how to prepare a variety of dishes, like casseroles, sandwiches, soups, and skillet meals without a recipe or having to run to the store.  By understanding how some ingredients go together, you can mix and match a variety of ingredients to make your desired dish.

For example, to create a casserole, choose an item from each category below and follow the directions on the handout:

  1. Choose a starch, such as brown rice, whole grain pasta, potatoes, or whole grain tortilla.
  2. Choose a protein such as 1 can beans such as pinto, black, or white.
  3. Choose one to three vegetables like broccoli, carrots, corn, or green beans.
  4. Choose one sauce like a can of cream soup or a can of diced tomatoes with juice.
  5. Choose one or more flavors like chopped onion, green pepper, garlic, or salt and pepper.
  6. Choose one or more toppings such as breadcrumbs, grated parmesan cheese, or grated cheddar cheese.

The Good Foods to Have on Hand handout is also really helpful. By keeping your pantry and fridge stocked with these items, you can make a variety of things to eat in a short time, even if you haven’t planned ahead.

It is very helpful to plan your meals ahead of time but when that isn’t done, use the Create Series to help you get tasty, nutritious meals on the table.

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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How to Organize the Kitchen Pantry

I think of myself as an organized person.  However, I know that I have a problem with clutter.  If you have not gotten to the back of your kitchen pantry in a long time, here is a step by step guide that I used last weekend.

  1. Clear off and clean your countertops.
  2. Take everything out of the pantry including food storage containers and other junk that may have accumulated.
  3. Working from the top shelf down, wash and dry the panty shelves including the corners or cracks, to remove crumbs and food particles.
  4. Evaluate the places you store food.  Food stores best in cool dark spaces. Try to rearrange so that your food is kept in the cool dark spaces in your kitchen. Keep your pots, pans, utensils, and tableware in the cabinets near the oven, stove, hot pipes, or refrigerator exhaust.
  5. Sort your food on the countertop by categories. The ones I used were canned soups and broths, canned fruits, canned vegetables, canned legumes, condiments (catsup, pickles, salad dressing, canned sauces, etc.), canned meat/fish, dried beans, and rice and pasta.
  6. Find a place in the pantry for each category. Check the “used best by dates” on the food before putting them back on the shelves. Next week we will have tips on how to decide which foods should be discarded.
  7. Use the same principles as we talked about in The Basics of Kitchen Organization last week. Create centers, get rid of what you are not using, and use your prime space for the most used items.
  8. Use bins and baskets for items like dry pudding mixes, sauce mixes, and bags of dry beans.
  9. Before you quit for the day decide what you what to do with the items you removed from your shelves.

What did I gain from this exercise?

  • Oil, vinegars, and syrups were moved from above the stove where it is warm to another cupboard.
  • 4 bottles of balsamic vinegar were found?!? I think part of the problem was I could not see to the back of that cupboard.
  • Expired can of cream soup that said “best used by” 4 years ago was found. The soup is probably safe but I decided not to chance it and threw it away.
  • Canned goods were organized by putting multiples on the shelves and one of a kind on the shelves on the back of the door.
  • Through this process I found some pizza crusts and rice noodles I forgot I had. Menus were made to use them next week.
  • I do not need to buy canned tomatoes, black beans, or canned green beans for a while.

The picture to the right shows some of the things that I am removing from my kitchen:

  • I am throwing away the old food.
  • My niece who has a new apartment is going to check out if she needs any of my utensils or dishes.
  • I am taking the rest to the Free Store which takes household items. They give them to families who are moving out of Children & Families of Iowa’s Domestic Violence Services. Most communities have a center to give away items you don’t need.

Doesn’t it feel good to help someone else AND have a kitchen which is easier to work in?

How Being Organized Saves Money

Does an organized kitchen save money?  I say yes because:

  • If you are organized, you won’t buy duplicates of things you already have. Can you see in your cupboards? How many jars of cumin and cans of cream of celery soup do you really need?
  • If you are organized, you will throw away less food like leftovers hidden at the back of the refrigerator or frozen meat left so long it has freezer burn.
  • If you are organized, your kitchen will be more enjoyable to work in and it will take less time to make a meal and clean up.
  • If you are organized and know what you will make for dinner, you will be less inclined to buy fast food or rush through the deli section of the grocery store.
  • If you are organized, you will know where the coupons are that you cut out and you will use them before they expire.

During January, our SpendSmart.EatSmart blog will feature tips for getting organized in the kitchen.

Please start us out by sharing some of your tips or thoughts about organization. (Just go to our blog site and in the upper right corner by tittle and date click on the comment section and add your ideas)

I’ll start.  When I was a kid my mom used to tell us “There is a place for everything and everything in its place.”  When we lost something she would say “If you pick up everything and put it away you will find it.”   (she was usually right)

Plan a lunch that won’t get traded away

Have you ever visited your kids’ school lunchroom. Imagine the New York Stock exchange–only with yogurt being exchanged for a sack of chips instead of stocks being bought and sold.

One of the most important tips for packing lunches that your child won’t trade away is to involve them in the planning, shopping and preparation of their meals. Children who help select items are likely to remain interested in their selections…and will probably look forward to trying them. This is also true for meals at home, but even more important for meals eaten away from you.

-pointers by Peggy

Shopping with Kids

We all know it is much easier to shop without kids along, but sometimes it can’t be avoided.

Recently, Ruby, an Extension staff member, shared how she dealt with this issue as a single parent. Together, she and her pre-school daughter planned their meals and snacks, wrote their grocery list and then went to the store. When the four-year old saw something she wanted, they’d check the list. If it wasn’t on the list, they didn’t buy it.

The list was specific. If they needed cereal, the brand was included. No more ‘middle of the cereal aisle’ arguments as to whether to buy plain Cheerios® or a pre-sweetened cereal with a favorite character on the package front. Yes, the four-year-old sometimes said “we need to put that cereal on the list next time,” but generally forgot about it when time came for the next planning session.

Snacks were part of the planned list, too. It is much easier to guide a child’s snack choices at home where healthy snacks can be planned for, than in front of the tempting candy or chip section at the store.

What about toys, books, and other trinkets? Since they didn’t eat them, they weren’t on the list!

Looking back, Ruby realizes this strategy has lots of benefits. They stayed within their limited food budget, ate healthier food choices, her daughter learned discipline at an early age and they shared a pleasant time together.

What do you do to make shopping with kids a little easier?

For additional shopping tips check out when to shop on the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. site.

-contributed by Joyce Greving

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