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Stretching your food dollar

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What to eat when money is tight

Grocery shopping can be a real challenge, especially if you are on a limited budget. Because food is a controllable expense, it can be a target for reduced spending when money is tight. You can still serve meals that are appetizing, easy to prepare and nutritious by planning ahead and managing your money.

If you and your family need to prepare for two weeks or more of food, pay attention to nutrition needs. Plan food supplies so you all can eat at least one well-balanced meal each day. 

Add to the number of basic foods you normally keep on your shelves. You may find that you have a two-week supply of most staples if you go through your cupboards. So, before you shop, take an inventory of what you already have. For a sample two-week menu planning, shopping list, and recipe videos visit the Preparing a 2-week emergency food supply webpage. Also visit  Real Life, Good Food for great recipe and meal ideas. 

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Helpful Extension educational opportunities

Healthy Cents

Healthy Cents is an educational program designed to help adults save money while purchasing healthy food. Lessons focus on five themes:

  • Making healthy and affordable food choices.
  • Reducing food expenses.
  • Developing a food spending plan.
  • Planning a meal.
  • Saving money on healthy food shopping.

To find out more about this program or explore the possibilities of this program being offered at your agency, contact the Extension SNAP-Ed team closest to you.

Start Strong: Cooking, Feeding, and More

Start Strong is a hands-on culinary nutrition education curriculum designed to help family child care providers increase their knowledge and skills in providing healthy foods for children. Start Strong is made up of four 2-hour lessons. The lessons can be taught individually or in a series.

  • Lesson One - Ready, Set, Cook
  • Lesson Two - Savor the Flavor
  • Lesson Three - Exploring New Choices
  • Lesson Four - New Meal Ideas

If you are a home daycare provider or childcare provider, visit the Start Strong curriculum page.

Related resources

Healthy Eating on a BudgetU.S. Department of Agriculture — Eating healthy doesn’t have to be expensive. Use these tips and materials to make healthy choices while staying within your budget.

Eat Right When Money’s TightSNAP-Ed Connection — Handouts, tip sheet, and website dedicated to making the most of your food dollar.

Abby Gold, Extension specialist health and nutrition; Megan Hruby, Kelly Kunkel, Mary Schroeder, Extension educators in health and nutrition; Sarah VanOffelen, SNAP-Ed regional coordinator

Reviewed in 2022

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