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Holiday meals are a wonderful way to re-connect with family and friends. We tend to spend more money and time preparing special holiday foods. USDA offers some tips on preparing a healthy, low-cost holiday meal:

Plan ahead. Deciding early on your menu can save both time and money. You can look for sales and coupons to help lower food costs. Check your cupboards and use what you have along with items you need to purchase. For more help in planning your meal, check out USDA’s Countdown to Thanksgiving.

Use canned and frozen produce. Because these foods can be stored longer, you can purchase them when they are on sale.

thanksgiving.jpgConsider frozen meat. Meat tends to be the most expensive part of the meal. In general, frozen meats tend to cost less. Make sure you have space in your freezer to store and your refrigerator later for thawing before cooking and also for storing leftovers.

Have a potluck. Invite family members to bring a dish with them. You can coordinate these dishes with your menu so there is a nice variety. This can save you both time and money.

Healthy and homemade. While store-bought dishes or desserts can save you time, they can be expensive. Making them yourself can help save money and you can adjust the amount of salt, sugar and fat as your prepare the food.

Try a new recipe. USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service offers a variety of healthy, low-cost recipes. You can also read more on the MyPlate Holiday Makeover.

Use your leftovers. You want to make sure all leftovers are stored safely so they can become part of a tasty dish. Freeze what you cannot use within 7 days.

Our Live Healthy Live Well team wishes you and yours a happy and healthy Thanksgiving.

Sources:

Rowe, A. (2013). Stretching a Holiday Food Budget during the Busy Holiday Season. United States Department of Agriculture. https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2013/12/3/stretching-holiday-food-budget-during-busy-holiday-season

Countdown to the Thanksgiving Holiday. (2013) United States Department of Agriculture, Food Safety Inspection Service. https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/seasonal-food-safety/countdown-to-the-thanksgiving-holiday/CT_Index

Written by: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County.

Reviewed by:  Tammy Jones, Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Pike County.

 

 

 

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Welcome to 2017! Did you make any New Year’s resolutions? If so, chances are you set at least one goal related to staying fit and healthy. About 45% of Americans usually make New Year’s resolutions, and losing weight is at the top of the list.

myplate_yellowWe all know that healthy eating is important, but sometimes it’s easier said than done when hectic schedules and tight budgets get in the way. To achieve your goal, a little bit of thought and planning can go a long way! One strategy is to use MyPlate as a guide to brainstorm meals that fit your family’s lifestyle and preferences. I find that it can be helpful to consider three main meal components – grains, vegetables and protein – and think about how to combine those components to make fast, nutritious meals throughout the week.

  1. Grains – Grains are often the base of a meal, especially if you’re fixing a skillet dish or casserole. Foods in the grain group include rice, quinoa, barley, pasta, couscous, bread and tortillas. MyPlate recommends we make at least half our grains whole grains, so look for whole grain varieties as available. When you cook a grain such as rice, quinoa, barley or pasta, you may want to fix a full pot so that you have enough to keep in the refrigerator or freezer and use to create “heat and eat” meals throughout the week.
  1. Vegetables – MyPlate recommends we make half our plate fruits and vegetables, and this can include fresh, frozen and canned items. I like to roast fresh vegetables in large batches and combine them with pre-cooked grains to create quick meals throughout the week. Frozen vegetables are also a fast and convenient way to add nutrition to meals.
  1. Protein – Protein includes meat, poultry, fish and eggs as well as nuts, seeds and beans. As with grains, when cooking meat or poultry, consider cooking enough to last the entire week. You can bake or grill meats, then use them in soups, casseroles or skillet meals in addition to being entrees. Canned beans are great to have on hand to conveniently add protein to your meals.

couscousWhen you take the time to prepare grains, vegetables and protein in advance, it’s easy to throw together a quick weeknight meal. Dairy and fruit can then be added as toppings or side dishes.

Here are a few examples:

  • Whole grain couscous with broccoli, carrots, chickpeas (or chicken), feta cheese and raisins
  • Whole grain pasta with salmon, asparagus, lemon zest and Parmesan cheese, served with a side salad
  • Risotto with Brussels sprouts, bacon, Parmesan cheese and apple slices
  • Hamburger skillet with whole wheat macaroni, bell pepper, onion, tomato and cheese
  • Tuna noodle casserole with peas and mushrooms
  • Quinoa with roasted beets, orange slices, goat cheese and almond slivers served over arugula or spring mix
  • Quinoa with sliced apples or pears, feta cheese and almond slivers served over spring mix
  • Veggie wraps with sliced turkey, avocado and cheese

Do you have any favorite 30-minute MyPlate meals? Look for additional inspiration and share your ideas at MyPlate, MyWins.

 

Author: Jenny Lobb, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Franklin County, lobb.3@osu.edu

Reviewer: Dan Remley, Field Specialist, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, O.S.U. South Centers, remley.4@osu.edu

 

Sources:

Statistic Brain (2016). New Year’s Resolution Statistics. http://www.statisticbrain.com/new-years-resolution-statistics/

USDA ChooseMyPlate.gov (2016). MyPlate, MyWins. https://www.choosemyplate.gov/myplate-mywins

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If you’ve ever had that 5:00 panic as you get home from work and wonder what in the world you’re going to feed your family for supper… you’re not alone. Most folks either enjoy meal planning or dread it, but for busy families it is a must. Planning your meals can save you time and money and help you serve healthier food. The neat thing is that there is more than one way to do it.

Here are some tips from Iowa State University Extension:

Check items you have in your refrigerator, freezer and cupboards that need to be used, and plan your menus using these items first.

Serve what they like. When you serve food your family likes, you avoid waste. Gather low-cost, nutritious recipes that your family likes and serve them regularly.

Consider your schedule. When creating your menus and shopping list, think about how much time you will have to prepare the meal on a particular day. If it’s a slow week, make meals ahead and freeze them. If it’s a busy week, use some of the meals you froze earlier or just keep it simple with foods that require little preparation.

Check newspaper ads. Look at local store ads to find sales. As you become familiar with the costs of regularly purchased items, you will be able to quickly identify good deals.

Balance your menus. Use MyPlate as a guide to include foods from all the groups: Vegetable, Fruit, Grain, Dairy and Protein. For more help in planning, tracking and analyzing your diet, check out USDA’s SuperTracker.

meal planning

Get inspired. Sometimes you might need some inspiration or new recipes. You can find healthy low-cost recipes here. You might also trade dinner ideas with friends and co-workers or use ‘theme night’ meals like Taco Tuesday or Sandwich Saturday. Ethnic foods can open a whole new set of recipes… try Italian, Asian, Mexican, even Thai.

Involve your household. Kids can help choose menus, pick a new vegetable or fruit to try, set the table or even help with simple food prep.

Print a copy of the 5-day meal planning worksheet to get you started.

Hopefully you learned a helpful tip, or maybe you have one to share… feel free to comment.

Sources:

Iowa State University Extension http://www.extension.iastate.edu/foodsavings/page/meal-planning-basics

Recipes http://www.extension.iastate.edu/foodsavings/recipes/all

USDA MyPlate http://www.choosemyplate.gov

Written by: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County

Reviewed by: Tammy Jones, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Pike County

 

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What's for DinnerIs this the cry in your home as you walk in the door after a long day at work?  Here are a few ideas to assist with having a healthy meal without spending hours in the kitchen.  And, without a lot of expense of buying prepared or take-out food.  Caution:  It does take a little pre-planning time.

  • Make a list before going to the grocery store.  This list should include all you will need to make meals for at least a week.  Some items can be used for more than one meal.  For example, you may cook chicken breasts for one meal but have enough left over to make chicken tacos or chicken casserole for a meal later in the week.  Leftovers can be kept in the refrigerator for 3-4 days or frozen for 3-4 months.  I sometimes freeze my leftover meat or vegetables if I only have a small amount and then make soup at a later date.
  • Have nutritious snacks available before the meal.  Whole or cut-up fruits and vegetables are great before the meal and will not spoil the appetite. Keep washed, cut-up fruits or vegetables in the refrigerator for quick use.
  • Start with a salad before the main meal is ready to serve.  Doing so will add a healthy dose of vegetables to the meal, and salads can be easy to prepare.
  • Prepare the main dish the night before or use a slow cooker.  This way you can plan ahead and not be stressed at the last minute.  You can find ideas here:  http://www.choosemyplate.gov/index.html

By planning meals ahead of time you won’t be as tempted to pick up something on the way home.  You will know what is planned for dinner!  What ideas work for you?  Please share with us.

Author:  Linnette Goard, Field Specialist, Food Safety, Selection and Management, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, goard.1@osu.edu

Reviewer:  Joanna Rini, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Medina County, rini.41@osu.edu

Resource:

Ohioline, Refrigerator Storage, http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/5000/pdf/5403.pdf

 

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Did you know that the average American family throws away approximately $1600 worth of food each year?  If you’re like most people, you probably buy things you don’t need at the grocery store, or you may end up with leftovers that don’t appeal to family members.  However, just by following a few simple tips, your family can eat healthy AND save money at the same time!

  • Plan and buy only what you need:  Saving money begins at the supermarket.  Always plan and make a list before you go grocery shopping.  Be sure to check your foods on hand in the pantry, refrigerator and freezer.  Buy just what you need.
  • Stock up:  By having a well-stocked pantry, you can create delicious meals from foods that might otherwise go to waste.  Toss cooked vegetables with whole grain pasta and salad dressing for a refreshing meal on a hot day.  Mix canned beans with rice, toss with a salad, or mash and spread on a tortilla for a tasty burrito.
  • Buy fresh produce every week:  Fresh fruits and vegetables are great any time of day, including snacks.  Don’t purchase produce in bulk, however, if it will go bad before you have time to eat it.
  • Before you toss bruised or discolored fruit, cut off the bad spots and cook it in cobblers, pies, muffins, pancakes or breads.
  • Add vegetables to soups or stews, or casseroles.  You’ll add nutrients, color and texture to your meal while stretching your food dollar!
  • Freeze foods, such as bread or baked goods if you won’t use them right away.  Use it later in casseroles or for breading on poultry or fish.  Leftover vegetables can be added to stir fries, sauces, pasta or omelettes.
  • Cook with canned or frozen fruits and vegetables:  Frozen fruits and vegetables can be a healthy alternative to fresh since they’re flash frozen when harvested.  They are often more affordable and may be more nutritious, depending on several factors.
  • Adjust your recipes to meet your family needs.  Make changes according to your preferences and what foods you have on hand.  Mix it up with different meats, vegetables or beans, seasonings or spices.  Add nuts,  rice or a whole-grain to stretch your food dollar.  Substitute low-fat cheese in place of regular full-fat cheese.

Source:  Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters, Top 10 Tips to Waste Less Food.

Author:  Jennifer Even, Extension Educator, Hamilton County

 

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