Getting more nutrients for your money

Full-frame picture of colorful fruits and vegetablesDid you know that scientists have developed a score to tell which foods give you the most nutrients for your money?  It’s called the Affordable Nutrition Index . So what foods came out on top?  Highest scores went to carrots, sweet potatoes, broccoli, oranges, and bananas.   Other foods with high scores were peas, string beans, squash, lettuce, grapes, nectarines, apples, and berries like strawberries.  Vegetable soups, especially the low – sodium ones, are also good values. So next time you think you’re paying a lot for fresh produce, just think about what you’re getting! And if these foods keep you healthy, you’re saving even more!

Saving with legumes

Close-up of piles of assorted dried beans beside each other.Beans, peas, and lentils are all part of the legume family, and they are available dried, canned, or frozen. Dried legumes are inexpensive, nutritious, and easy to cook – just follow the directions on the package. Canned legumes are convenient, but are more expensive than dried beans and often have salt added. When using canned legumes, drain and rinse to reduce the salt. Frozen are often the most expensive.  They all provide fiber, protein, iron, potassium, as well as other vitamins and minerals. Use cooked or canned legumes in soups and stews or serve them on rice or other grains. Legumes are also a nice addition to tacos, burritos, and quesadillas. Many packages of dried legumes even have recipes on the back. Make legumes a filling, nutritious, low-cost part of your diet today!

Buying foods with less packaging

A blue reusable water bottle resting on the grass.Whenever you buy a packaged food, remember that you are paying for the packaging you throw away. In general, the less packaging a food has, the better the bargain. But keep in mind: it’s only a bargain if you’re going to use all of that food before it expires. If not, then the money you save is thrown away with the spoiled food. For foods that last a long time, like pretzels or crackers, it makes sense to buy larger packages and portion them out yourself instead of buying individually wrapped portions. When it comes to beverages, filling and re-using your own washable water bottle will save you money. Buying foods with less packaging is better for your wallet and for the environment!

Buying frozen vegetables

Close-up of frozen green peas.Are frozen vegetables just as nutritious as fresh vegetables? If you guessed yes, then you’re right!  Most frozen vegetables are flash-frozen soon after they are picked to keep their great nutrition. They are quick and easy to use, and they’re often on sale.  Store brands can be an especially good buy. This week, try adding some frozen corn, peas, green beans, spinach, or sugar snap peas to some of your favorite dishes, or enjoy them as a colorful side dish!

Buying dried fruit

Close-up of various dried fruitDried fruit is a great way to enjoy the nutrition and taste of fruit. Dried fruit is fresh fruit with the water removed. This makes them a concentrated source of nutrients, fiber, and flavor. It also makes the price per pound of the dried fruit higher because with the water removed, you are getting more fruit for the same weight. Some dried fruits are sweetened, like cranberries, while others are deep-fried, like banana chips. Sweetening and deep-frying both add calories without adding other nutrients, so look for dried fruit that hasn’t been sweetened or fried. Dried fruit makes a naturally sweet and tasty on-the-go snack, especially with nuts and seeds added. It’s also good in oatmeal, baked goods like muffins, and cold cereal. Enjoy the taste of fruit all year with dried fruit!

Using “Pick your Own” produce and farmers’ markets

Close-up of a person picking blueberriesSave money and enjoy the outdoors by going to a “Pick your own” farm.  There are farms all across Massachusetts that let you pick your own strawberries, blueberries, peaches, apples, and pumpkins!  Some have vegetables like salad greens or tomatoes, too.  To find a” pick your own” farm, use a computer or smart phone to search for ‘massgrown’.  That’s M A S S G R O W N.  If you don’t have a computer or smart phone, your local library has computers you can use.  Besides saving you money, they are a great way to teach children about foods and how they grow. And if you don’t have a “pick-your-own” farm nearby, then try shopping at a local farmers’ market.

Saving on fruit

Full-frame picture of fruit including cantaloupe, grapes, apples, oranges, kiwi, and strawberriesFresh fruit is wonderfully juicy and delicious.  But enjoying fruit when it has ripened just right can be a little tricky.  Some fruits will ripen on your counter after you buy them — bananas, cantaloupe, kiwi, mangoes, nectarines, peaches, pears, plantains, and plums. To ripen them even faster, put them in a loosely-closed paper bag (not plastic).  If your fruit has fully ripened and you are still not ready to eat it, store it in the refrigerator, but don’t forget about it.  Food thrown away is money thrown away — enjoy fruit fresh!