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Healthy on a Budget

Find out how to save a bundle and stay healthy with affordable meal recipes, food shopping tips, and much more.
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Shopping Smart in 2014

Posted by Whitney Ajie -


The USDA has reported that food prices in grocery stores will increase in 2014, but not by too much. High prices will continue, especially in the beef section. In addition, food companies might decide to increase prices in order to increase their profits this year. Even before 2014, food prices have slowly been rising and that trajectory is predicted to continue every year.

In order to afford the things you need at the grocery store, University of Illinois Extension wants to help make sure you know how to shop smart.

In order to save your food dollars in the New Year, here are some tried-and-true tips:

  • Plan your meals. This saves time and money when you are able to focus on what you need to purchase for each meal. Watch this video if you want help planning a menu for your family.
  • Check your kitchen cabinets, pantry, fridge and freezer before going to the grocery store. You may already have some items you need, which means you don't need to buy them at the store.
  • Make meals inspired by items you already have in your house. Have a can of beans that's been sitting in the pantry for who knows how long? Use it! Try the easy bean recipe below.
  • Shop with a grocery list. A grocery list lets you identify the items you know need, and avoid the things you don't need. Try not to buy too many extra items to keep your grocery bill low.
  • Try meatless meals. Since beef and meat prices are high, try making at least 1 meal each week without using meat. Eggs and beans are great options to eat instead of meat – and cheaper too!
  • Buy dry materials instead of boxed or canned. Dry beans, pasta, rice, and oats will give you more food for your buck. You can also store them for a long time.
  • Dollar stores and other discount food markets, like Save-a-Lot and ALDI, offer low-cost food items, often of the same quality that you would find in a larger grocery store.
  • Buy store brands and items on sale. Store brands usually cost less than other items. Be flexible - if you see that your store is offering a special or sale on certain items, compare it to what you need to see if it could be a better deal.

Sources: USDA Food and Nutrition Service "Eat Right When Money's Tight" January 2012; Alabama Cooperative Extension "101+ Ways to Save Food Dollars"; Oregon State University "10 Quick Grocery Tips."

Wishing you the best of health,

Whitney Ajie
Extension Educator for Illinois Nutrition Education Programs

Recipe of the week: Bean and rice burritos

Serves: 8

Estimated cost: $3.22 ($0.40 per serving)


Cooked rice, 2 cups

Chopped onion, 1 onion

Kidney beans or black beans, drained, 1 15-ounce can or 2 cups

Whole grain or flour tortillas

Shredded cheese, ½ cup

Salsa, ½ cup (optional)


1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

2. Mix the cooked rice, chopped onion, and beans in a bowl.

3. Put each tortilla on a flat surface.

4. Put 1/2 cup of the rice and bean mixture in the middle of each tortilla.

5. Fold the sides of the tortilla to hold the rice and bean mixture.

6. Put each filled tortilla (burrito) into a baking pan. Bake for 15 minutes.

7. Sprinkle cheese and salsa over the baked burritos, and enjoy!

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I agree with you, vincent Mark, checking (and double-checking) your list before going to the store is definitely going to save you money these days. I'm glad you noticed that meat/beef is more expensive, not everyone is going to notice this and, if they did, they could save money by trying alternative ways to get some protein. Thanks for your comment!
by Whitney Ajie, INEP Extension Educator on Friday 4/18/2014