Meal planning made simple
MUNCY – Over the summer months Lori M. Masser from Montgomery and a Nutrition Education Adviser with the Penn State Cooperative Extension through the College of Agricultural Sciences in Lycoming County has been facilitating programs throughout Lycoming County on what it takes to eat smart and eat well with today’s high food prices. For the past five years she has taught nutrition education classes at local churches, the Salvation Army, the Life Center and gave food demos during the Lycoming County Fair.
She advises to plan ahead, check grocery flyers, follow prices and compare them every week. “Watch the sales flyers,” she said. For example, you can stretch a whole chicken or a loin pork roast into several meals. Leftover chicken can be used for soup or a casserole dish. Serve breakfast for dinner such as bacon and eggs or pancakes and sausage. “It is all in planning ahead,” she advises. “Cook ahead a little bit and make extra for another meal. Freeze for later.”
Save money by eating at home or keep from grabbing something on the way home or eating out. “You can save money by planning ahead,” said Masser.
She explains how to do this during her program ‘Nutrition Link’ which is offered through the Penn State Cooperative Extension office on County Farm Road in Montoursville. Earlier in the season a program was offered at the Life Center in the Lycoming Mall. Participants enjoyed making tuna burgers, pasta alfredo, fruit smoothies with seasonal fruit and cream potato soup. Some helpful cooking tips were given such as adding salsa to a meat mixture to make it moist when making mini meat loaves.
In one of her sessions, Masser discussed unit pricing at grocery stores. “Every item has a shelf tag,” she said and recommends to scan the flyers. The unit price gives the price and size of all foods, and it is wise to use this to determine the best values. “Compare the unit prices such as yogurt or mayonnaise. Generics are usually cheaper,” she added.
Watching the end of the aisles for displays are not always the best buy. Check the shelf stickers. The cheapest and least expensive items will always be on the bottom shelves at the grocery stores according to Masser. “The most expensive items are eye-level.” There are smart ways to shop. She advises to always stop before approaching the register. In order to eliminate impulse buys, she said, “At the last minute check your cart and double check to see if all purchases are absolutely needed.”
The grocery stores always have healthy menu magazines with tips and ideas. Masser suggests to have fun with them and to take advantage of the many handouts offered. “Use a shopping list, plan ahead and you will save money at the grocery store each time. Before going to the grocery store know what you want to buy. Keep running lists, look for prices and select what is on sale each week, especially if it is something you need.” How many of us make those special trips during the week? No doubt, we will always spend more.
This time of year is good to use home gardening to save money. Growing fresh vegetables and preserving for later helps the budget. Masser offers another class on home canning and will check your pressure cookers for safety. Most of Masser’s classes are free to consumers, especially for families and young mothers with limited resources. Beverly Best from Williamsport said she is part of the food share program for elders from the Food Pantry. “I like this program,” she said. “I am raising a granddaughter with ulcerated colitis. She is learning to cook now at 16 so she can prepare things she can eat. Any help I can give her will help her situation.” Michelle Lyons, a single mom with a two year old son said that the food sessions have been very informative. “The handouts are very helpful,” she said. “I learned how to make a drink without a lot of sugar, fructose or corn syrup.”
Grocery lists and meal planning sheets are provided with the programs plus a nutrition and fitness calendar with homemade, healthy snacks and recipes.
For more information contact the Penn State Co-op Extension office at 570-433-4331.
Tuna Burgers (6 servings)
1 (12-ounce) can of tuna
1 and 1/4 cup bread crumbs, divided
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup non-fat ranch dressing
1/4 cup finely chopped onion or chives
Drain tuna and separate into flakes using a fork. In medium bowl, combine tuna, 3/4 cup bread crumbs, cheese, egg, salad dressing, and onion. Spray skillet with non-stick cooking oil and heat to medium. Cook patties 3 to 5 minutes on each side until golden brown. (Excellent source of calcium and iron.)