Posts Tagged ‘budgeting’


Do you have a plan when you make a trip to the grocery store?  You can save time and money by planning ahead before you head off on your trip.

  • Plan your meals using a worksheet such as, Create a Grocery Game Plan. This will help you make decisions about what you need to buy.
  • Go through your cabinets, refrigerator, and freezer to see what items you already have that can be incorporated into your meals.
  • Consider your schedule for the week……choose meals that are easy to prepare on busier days and save recipes for days when you have more time
  • Make a list of recipes you would like to try. Need help finding new ideas?  Try What’s Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl for healthy, low-cost recipes using items you already have on hand.

Now that you know what you will be cooking each week, use your list of weekly meals to create a list of foods and drinks you need to buy.  Be sure to include fruits, vegetables, and milk even though they may not be part of any of the recipes you have planned for the week.

Time to make your list:

  • You can use scrap paper or the back of an envelope.
  • Type your list on a computer
  • Type your list in the “notes” section of your smartphonegrocery 2
  • Download a free mobile app for grocery lists
  • Use this template to make your list

Once your meals are planned and your list made, here are a few tips to help you get the most for your dollar.

  • Read the sale flyer(s) for the stores you plan to visit to see what is on sale from your grocery list. You can find sale info at the store’s entrance, in the newspaper, and on the store’s website.
  • Use coupons for as many items on your list as you can. They can be found as inserts in newspapers each week, you can download coupons from the internet, and your grocery store most likely has digital coupons on their website that can help you save even more.
  • Look for store brands that typically cost less than name brands.
  • Ask for a rain check if the store is out of a sale item. This is usually done at the customer service desk located in the front of the store. A rain check lets you pick up the item once they are back in stock.
  • Sign-up for your store’s customer loyalty program. This free program offers discounts and rewards to members.



United States Department of Agriculture, http://www.choosemyplate.gov/sites/default/files/budget/grocery_list_interactive.pdf

United States Department of Agriculture, http://www.choosemyplate.gov/sites/default/files/budget/grocery_gameplan_interactive.pdf

United States Department of Agriculture, http://www.whatscooking.fns.usda.gov/

Writer: Tammy Jones, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Pike County, jones.5640@osu.edu

Reviewer:  Michelle Treber, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Pickaway County, treber.1@osu.edu


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Recipes that offer variety and flexibility are very appropriate for today’s society.  Making MyPlate choices as you make grocery selections helps this week’s meals come together more easily.

Brown rice is a nutrition powerhouse that provides whole grains and B vitamins and great energy.  Versatility is fun when it comes to rice bowls.  Breakfast lunch and dinner all have options that can begin with this inexpensive and nutritious grain.  On average a half cup serving of brown rice costs just 10 cents.

A good suggestion is to cook a large quantity of brown rice at one time and have it on hand for the week.  It freezes well and retains moisture.  It can be stored in the freezer for up to 6 months.

MyPlate on a Budget is a helpful resource that offers many great tips and recipes that keep food expenses low and nutrient intake high.  One of the sections in this online resource is devoted to whole grains.  Take a look at the Brown Rice Bowl assortments below and choose some favorites.  You can also add your own preferred flavors and come up with unique concoctions.

brown rice

As you incorporate brown rice into your healthy eating pattern, please share some of your creations and most loved ideas with all of us.  Your go-to meal or snack may be someone else’s new pick.

USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) and MyPlate encourage making half of our grains whole.  Adding brown rice to your rotation is one step towards meeting that goal.  Once a large batch is cooked, time is saved and by planning ahead you can have a plethora of options at your fingertips.  Enjoy!


Reviewer:  Jennifer Even, Extension Educator, EFNEP/FCS, Ohio State University Extension, Hamilton County, even.2@osu.edu


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genericFood Riddle: When is a generic food not a generic?
Answer: When it tastes as good as the real thing!

Generic food brands, introduced in 1977, have changed dramatically over the last 37 years. Initially sold in plain white packaging with black lettering, they were considered inferior to name brand products. The “generics” were even ostracized to their own aisle; a grocery store version of food segregation, if you will. But much like the ad campaign slogan that touted “you’ve come a long way, baby,” generic food has made leaps and bounds in quality, price, and reputation.

Generic food is produced and manufactured primarily through two venues; at name brand factories on the same production line as their more expensive counterparts, or by less well-known companies. Instead of the plain package designation of the past, most generics are now sold by supermarkets as their “store” brand. What’s even more amazing is that some of the national chains such as Kroger and Walmart actually sell high and low version of their own generics. For example, Kroger has a top quality line (Private Selection), as well as a budget line (Kroger Value).

Because of their inauspicious start, some people still perceive generic food products as lacking in taste and/or quality. But a trading standards investigation found little nutritional or taste difference between generic and name brand products. And in an October 2010 Consumer Reports food comparison, researchers recommended consumers at least try store brand products. Their rationale? There is little risk because most grocery stores offer a money-back guarantee if you are not satisfied with the generic product. The 2010 Consumer Reports challenge compared 21 name brand vs. store brand products, and results may surprise you. Name brands won seven taste tests, store brands won three, and the other 11 products tied!

Name brand companies spend billions of dollars in advertising to entice you to purchase their products. That cost is ultimately passed on to you, the consumer. Generics don’t have the same mandate to market their products; they can essentially “piggy-back” off the marketing of the name brands. That is why the store brand or generic brand will usually cost less (an exception sometimes exists when the name brand product is on sale).

Generic food products offered to consumers have certain characteristics in common. The price differential runs 10%-35% below national brands, and 10%-20% below private brand. Most retailers have introduced generics in order to attract price conscious shoppers. However, other food retailers have added them to their stock as a defense mechanism to keep from losing patrons to low overhead “box stores” (e.g. Sam’s Club) or to merchants who specialize in generic products (e.g. Aldi’s).

The Bottom Line??

Food is traditionally considered the third largest line item in the family budget, after housing and transportation. However, I have found for many families it is their #1 expense, even more than their house or car payment. We tend not to be aware of how much we spend on food, because it is not a once-a-month bill. If you would like to free up more dollars in your family budget, consider choosing generic food products. You may find that you like them as well, if not more so, than name brand products.

Written by: Donna Green, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Erie County, green.308@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Betsy DeMatteo, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, dematteo.15@osu.edu


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MP900439398[1]We’ve all see the back-to-school commercials with joyous parents clicking their heels and dancing around with the mere thought of the start of the new school year. The reality is that August can be a very stressful time for both children and those responsible for getting their children back to school. Parents already have a lot on their plate and as families get ready for a new school year, they can be overwhelmed with the additional financial stressors — paying for back-to-school supplies, clothes and possibly tuition. In a recent consumer survey, 65% of parents cited back to school shopping as their number one stressor related to the new school year.

While there is financial stress associated with heading back to school, it doesn’t mean that you have to spend a fortune every year. Here a few great ideas for saving money while getting them everything they need.

  • Prepare a budget with your child. He’ll learn a lesson in responsibility and be less likely to get upset if you can’t afford something he wants.
  • Make a list. Use the recommended or required supplies from your child’s school and stick to it. Extra supplies, while they may be cute, will probably never get used and just leave your pockets empty.
  • Take inventory. Sort through last year’s supplies to see what is left over or can be reused.
  • Hold off buying trendier gear. Kids love the latest superhero or princess lunch box or pencil cases in July, but once they start school and see that their friends are all using another kind, they’ll want an upgrade. The result is wasted cash.
  • Shop end-of-summer sales.  Many children wear short sleeved shirts throughout the year as layers. You will get good use of the deep discounts on short sleeved shirts and shorts well into the fall.
  • Check your closets. Let the kids pick out something new to wear on the first day of school, so I just buy one outfit (or shirt). Their summer clothes will last them well into September most of the time, so I wait to buy clothes for cooler weather.
  • Shop the supermarket and discount stores for basic supplies. Check weekly circulars for great deals on pens and loose-leaf paper, and get your weekly grocery shopping done at the same time. Buying everything in one place saves time and money.


Finally, to reduce stress and save on back-to-school shopping, it’s important to set a budget and stick to it. Let your child help you,  With proper planning, you can prepare your children for another school year without breaking the bank and your family’s budget.



Dealing With Back to School Blues., APA Help Center, American Psychological Association, http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/school-rush.aspx

Peterson, N.&  Shoup Olsen, C. Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS, Tips for Parents: Trim Back-To-School Stress, http://www.ksre.ksu.edu/Families/doc13642.ashx



Written by: Kathy Green, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Butler County, Miami Valley EERA

Reviewed by: Shannon Carter, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County, Heart of Ohio EERA



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More than half of Americans don’t have an emergency fund. Only 37 percent have tried to figure out their retirement savings needs. More than 40 percent believe they have too much debt. While these findings from the 2012 National Financial Capability Study aren’t surprising, they are trends we would all like to see reversed. That’s why Ohio State University Extension is coordinating the Ohio Saves effort, a statewide campaign to encourage people to save money, pay down debt and build wealth. Jar of Money

Research shows that if you make your savings goal specific, if you give yourself a deadline, and if you write it down, then you’re much more likely to achieve it. So, just the fact that you’re signing up to be an Ohio Saver will help you achieve your goal. Every Ohioan can start saving, no matter how low their income nor how high their debt. Start wherever you are financially. Even putting your change in a jar is a start. It can add up fast. If you save just a handful of change each day, you’ll have a good start toward an emergency fund by the end of the year. Or try putting money that you would have used for a habit like a soda or coffee each day in a jar and deposit it once a month. Your body and your bank account will thank you.

It helps to make a savings deposit first, before paying bills. Put aside what you think you can save first. If you wait until the end of your pay period, it will definitely be spent. Even if you have to tap into your savings in between paychecks, if you deposit it first, you’re more likely to save more money no matter how much it is. Participants in the Ohio Saves program have access to free resources that will encourage them to save money and reduce debt. Savers receive a monthly email newsletter with savings strategies from national experts. They also have access to online tracker tools and all sorts of encouragement and motivation. An individual saver needs to make a savings goal of their own, and be encouraged and motivated to reach that goal.
Start now, and see how much money you can save by March 1, which is the end of the 2014 Ohio Saves and America Saves Week

The Ohio Saves program is free. Anyone can sign up by going to http://ohiosaves.org and clicking on “enroll in Ohio Saves today.” Ohio Saves is also on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/ohiosaves and on Twitter at @MoneyMattersOH.

Filipic, Martha (August 2013). Ohioans Urged to Join Saves Program, OSU Extension, College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences press release.

Submitted by: Polly Loy, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Belmont County, Buckeye Hills EERA.

Reviewed by: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ross County, Ohio Valley EERA.

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If you have been paying attention to the news recently you have probably heard or read that food prices for the rest of 2012 and 2013 are expected to rise 2.5 to 3.5%. This proposed increase is due to the impact of the severe drought on grain product foods and the grain fed to the animals. While that increase may not sound like much, if you look a little closer, the average costs of food over the last 10 years have increased about 38%, during the same time that many families have faced a recession. I know each of you could probably write a list of ways to save money on food, but here are a few of the best.

  • Planning meals ahead and using a list at the store are still the most important! You save money by purchasing foods on sale when you shop the ads.  Check your cupboards first; don’t buy food you don’t need.   By using these tips, you save gas and time by making one trip instead of three. That one trip also saves the cost of the impulse buys, usually snack foods you don’t need or for me a paperback book or recipe magazine. I like to keep a grocery list on the refrigerator to aid in planning my shopping needs.   One rule of thumb in our house is . . . when you use the last of an item, write it on the list.   Or you can use Let’s Move grocery list template available at http://www.letsmove.gov/sites/letsmove.gov/files/Grocery_List.pdf. Watch your trips to the big box stores – the larger package isn’t always the cheaper one – a calculator can make the math easier when figuring price per pound or ounce. Use coupons if they are for foods you regularly purchase and that will get eaten. Signing up for an email coupon club may be a good idea if your store accepts this style of coupon, not all do. When shopping and planning, keep in mind that you may be able to switch out a similar food in a recipe for less money. A recent example for me was a recipe that called for canned tomatoes and a package of dry spaghetti sauce mix – those 2 items cost over $1.30 – but I could buy a larger can of spaghetti sauce for less than a dollar.
  • Remember that healthy foods don’t necessarily cost more! When you decide to make healthier food choices you can cut out the cost of some empty calorie foods like soda, cookies or baked goods, chips, and many crackers.   Spending less on empty calories foods eases your budget, allowing you to purchase more fresh foods.
  • Use that refillable water bottle and make your own iced tea at home! A couple dollars a week for bottled water or $1 every day for iced tea (or even more for coffee or a latte) really does add up.
  • Be creative with left-overs or cooking foods that can be used in more than one way. Can left-over soup or pasta be heated and taken in an insulated container for lunch the next day? My daughter loves it when I heat up left-over chicken Alfredo for her the next day. I boil water to place in the insulated container to get it hot before putting in the heated food. It is also good to think about foods that can be used a couple different ways; can you put left-over chicken on pizza or add it to soup, use chili as a potato topper, or make individual pizzas with the last couple tortillas in the package? Almost anything can be put in a wrap or on a pizza – let your children help you experiment. Think about making extra of things like pancakes or waffles, instead of buying the pre-frozen package. Make a big batch on the weekend and freeze packages of 1 or 2 that can be heated in the toaster or toaster oven for a quick breakfast.
  • Think about your proteins, can you do a vegetarian dish or cut the amount of meat in a recipe? Adding black beans to ground beef or turkey in a recipe will allow you to use less meat, while increasing the amount of fiber. The same applies to other recipes such as soups or many of the Mexican inspired dishes – adding black beans, navy beans, or other beans, costs less than purchases at the meat counter.  Rinse beans to cut down on sodium.   Eggs can also be a good value. When was the last time you put a hard-cooked egg on your salad or had egg salad sandwiches?  Hard cook a couple of eggs at a time, you can eat them for breakfast or they pack easily for lunch.

Don’t forget to share your money-saving tips with friends and family members.

Writer: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ross & Vinton Counties, Ohio Valley EERA, http://ross.osu.edu/.

Reviewed by: Cynthia Shuster and Kathryn Green, OSU Extension Educators, Family & Consumer Sciences.


USDA Economic Research Service: http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/food-price-outlook/summary-findings.aspx.

USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion: http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/FoodPlans/2012/CostofFoodJun2012.pdf.

Alabama Cooperative Extension System, 101+ Ways to Save Food Dollars, Barbara Struempler, http://www.aces.edu/pubs/docs/H/HE-0757/HE-0757.pdf.

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As we begin a new year, it is a great time to think about your food budget and ways to eat better on a budget. There are many ways you can save money on the foods you eat. Here are a few tips to help you get the most for your food budget!

  1. Plan!

Before heading out the door to the grocery store, plan your meals for the week. Check to see what foods you already have and make a list for what you need to buy.

2.Get the best price.

Be sure to check the local papers, online and at the store for sales and coupons. Ask about a loyalty card for extra savings when you shop.

3. Compare and Contrast.

Locate the Unit Price on the shelf directly below the product. Use the Unit Price to compare different brands and different sizes of the same brand to determine which is more economical.

4. Go easy on the wallet! 

Certain foods are typically low-cost options all year round. Try beans for a less expensive protein food. For vegetables, buy carrots, greens or potatoes. As for fruits apples and bananas are good economical choices.

5. Cook Once. But eat all week!

I love to cook just once by preparing a large batch of recipes on the weekend and maybe even double or triple the recipe. Then I freeze in individual containers. These are great to use throughout the week and then you do not have to spend money on take –out meals.

6. Spice up your leftovers!

Use your leftovers in new ways.  Try leftover chicken in stir fry, in a tortilla wrap, in a garden salad or make a garden chili. Remember, throwing away food is throwing away money$$$$.

7. Eating out- Use Caution

Eating out can be very costly. You can save money by getting the early bird specials, going out for lunch instead of dinner or looking at the “2 for 1” deals or using a restaurant coupon. Stick to water instead of ordering other beverages, this can reduce to cost of the bill.

Susan Zies, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension.

Source: USDA, Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, DG TipSheet No. 16, December 2011

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