Feed your family better food for less money

By Arnetta Wilson, EFNEP Nutrition Program Assistant
Franklin County Cooperative Extension

The federal Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program helps adult participants learn skills and strategies to feed their family nutritious meals on a limited budget and improve their overall health. The skills learned also help families change behaviors that place them at risk for being overweight and contracting the diseases associated with being overweight like heart disease and diabetes.

Families can save money with some easy planning for shopping and cooking. Here are 11 secrets to spending less at the grocery store:

Tip 1: Make a game plan. Start by being realistic about how many meals you’ll cook at home in a week. The first step to saving money is to avoid waste. Americans throw out more than 25 percent of the food we prepare, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Tip 2: Try to plan ahead. Some of us don’t love to plan meals in advance. If that’s the case, then just pick some of the main ingredients. For instance you may want to roast a chicken one night and then make soup with the leftovers another night.

Tip 3: Keep a well-stocked pantry. A well-stocked pantry is the best way to resist the urge to go out on those nights when you’re not sure what’s for dinner.

Tip 4: Plan for what’s in season. Avoid choosing something like fresh asparagus in January, because that’s when you’ll pay big bucks for it.

Tip 5: Write a shopping list. Once you’ve got a plan, it’s time to make a list. That’s the best insurance that you won’t spend extra dollars on ingredients you don’t really need. Don’t forget to check what you have in the pantry.

Tip 6: Get out the scissors. If you’re a coupon clipper, great; go for it. But it’s best to do it after you write that shopping list. That way you don’t fall into the trap of buying things you don’t really need just because you have great coupons for them. Check supermarket websites for coupons too.

Tip 7: Shop the club stores. Club stores, such as Costco and Sam’s Club, have some great deals.

Tip 8: Shop the ethnic markets and grocery store aisles. Ethnic stores and grocery store sections are great places to find interesting ingredients.

Tip 9: Eat vegetarian a few nights a week. Try to include a couple of vegetarian meals in your menu for the week. Skipping meat, even once or twice a week, can help save money, since meat is usually the most expensive part of a meal. Meatless Monday is trending.

Tip 10: Try going almost meatless. Plan meals where meat is used as a flavoring as opposed to being the central part of a meal. Just think about how most cultures around the world use meat — from Chinese chow mein to Italian pasta — and you get the picture. For instance, have a little sausage on a pizza or a bit of turkey along with plenty of vegetables in a panini.

Tip 11: Is organic worth it? Yes, organic usually means more expensive. Our take: if you can afford it, great. Farmers’ markets and grocery stores that carry local produce often have beautiful foods for top dollar. But there are some ways to eat locally and save money. Choose local fruits, vegetables and meats when they’re at their peak and likely at the best price.


Oven Baked Mashed Potato cakes

1 3/4 lbs. potatoes, peeled and rinsed

2 tablespoons onion, finely chopped

2 eggs

1 cup pancetta (or ham, bacon …), diced

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons chives, chopped

Salt and fresh cracked pepper

1 tablespoon milk

4 tablespoons breadcrumbs

Grated Parmesan cheese



1. Cook potatoes in salted water until cooked through. Meanwhile, gently fry onion until translucent and set aside.

2. In a large bowl, combine potatoes, eggs, pancetta, onions, butter and chives. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Adjust the texture with a bit of milk if necessary.

3. Preheat your oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

4. On the baking sheet, using a ring mold, sprinkle a layer of breadcrumbs, then scoop potato mixture to shape the cakes—about 1 1/2 inch thick. Press down slightly with the back of a spatula and finish with another thin layer of breadcrumbs. Remove the ring mold and repeat the process.

5. Bake in the oven at 400°F for 10 minutes, or until golden and serve warm. Notes: You can add grated parmesan cheese on top of the potato cakes.

Makes 4


Participation in EFNEP is free and is offered at a variety of sites convenient to you. EFNEP is taught in collaboration with many local WIC clinics, Head Start Centers, Family Resource Centers, Job Clubs, etc. If you wish, EFNEP may also be offered to you individually in your home.

For more information, contact Arnetta Wilson 919-496-3344.