Monday, October 17, 2016

Saving Money on Food Away From Home

Let’s face it… it’s hard to prepare every meal at home, especially when your “to do” list just keeps getting longer. Perhaps your time was crunched this week and you didn’t make it to the grocery store. Maybe you wanted to prepare a nice meal at home, but after a busy day you were just too tired or didn’t have time to cook.

Take-out and ready-made foods are a simple choice when you are in a hurry because they are … fast and easy. At times, ready-to-eat food items can seem like the perfect solution to a busy day. Sadly, this type of food is often priced higher than food prepared at home. The extra cost of eating away from home can strain your budget, and make it harder to put money towards other household expenses.

Think about how often you eat at a restaurant or stop to buy food away from home. To be clear, the term “food away from home” refers to any food purchased or prepared outside the home. This includes meals eaten at a restaurant, fresh prepared food purchased at a grocery store, and beverages and snacks that are ready-to-eat with no preparation needed. Purchasing these food items a few times a week can really add up. For example, if you purchase a fruit smoothie for $3.50 at a local store twice a week, you will spend $28 a month just on fruit smoothies!

Taking the steps to plan and budget for food away from home can help you manage your money. Decide how much you will spend on food away from home each week and include this amount in your budget. Preparing food at home for most of your meals can help you save money.  

If you decide to purchase food away from home here are some tips to help you get the most for your money:
  • Take advantage of coupons or specials you find in the newspaper or online
  • Buy the regular-sized (not super-sized) portions.
  • Order a kid’s meal for yourself (smaller portions, smaller price)
  • Buy carry-out for only the main dish of a meal. Prepare the rest of the meal (ex. salad and vegetables) at home
  • Share an order with a friend or family member
  • Instead of ordering a meal for a child, share yours with them
  • When eating at a restaurant, divide your meal into two parts and take half of it home for a meal the next day. Two meals in one! Restaurant portions are usually very large, so saving half of your meal for later can not only save money, but calories too!

Monday, October 10, 2016

National School Lunch Week

October 10-14 is National School Lunch Week. This year’s theme, “Show Your Spirit,” reminds parents, students, and school officials that a healthy school lunch helps students power through the day!

Why celebrate school lunch?
The National School Lunch Program offers children an opportunity to eat a nutritionally balanced meal during the school day. Children who eat nutritious meals are ready to learn and have energy for physical activity.

School lunch menus are planned to provide children with the nutrients they need, and must not contain too much salt, fat, or sugar. Over the past 10 years, national rules have improved the quality of school food dramatically. School cafeterias are now offering more whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables—some grown on nearby farms. Meals always include a fruit and a vegetable along with the entrĂ©e, and some districts allow students to select multiple, or even unlimited, fruits and veggies.

How can I find out about my child’s school lunch program?
Most school districts post information about school meals on their website, including the monthly menu for all schools in the district. Your child’s school may include the menu in parent newsletters or other materials sent home. The menu may include meal prices. The fruit and vegetable that come with the full lunch can often be purchased separately to accompany a packed lunch.

If your family qualifies, you child may receive a free or reduced price lunch. For information on applying for free or reduced price meals or setting up a meals account, contact the main office at your child’s school.

Celebrating school lunch with your child
Below are some ideas for celebrating National School Lunch Week with your child:

  • Review the week’s menu with your child and identify which days they’ll buy lunch, and what items they are interested in selecting. Encourage them to try foods they haven’t had before—they may discover their new favorite food.

  • If the menu lists fruits and vegetables served with each meal, challenge your child to eat a different fruit or vegetable every day.

  • Check with your child’s teacher or principal to see if parents are welcome to eat lunch in the cafeteria. Bring cash to purchase a lunch (usually less than $3) and talk to your child and their friends about the meal. Be sure to use positive words when discussing healthy foods.

Monday, October 3, 2016

One More Fruit + One More Veggie = Healthy Two-morrow!

It’s no secret that fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins and minerals, and can help to prevent diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Adding just one more fruit or vegetable to your day is a great first step to eating healthier, and is super easy!

Here are a few quick tips to get you started:
  • Start simple by adding a snack! Fruits are conveniently packaged to travel well, so grab a piece of your favorite fruit and go. Vegetables such as carrots, broccoli and celery also travel well and can be eaten with healthy dips such as low fat dressing, peanut butter, or hummus. Cut up veggies ahead of time for a no hassle portable snack!

  • Not a snack person? No problem! Add fruit or veggies as toppings to meals. For example, sandwiches, wraps, pizza, and pasta make a great foundation for the addition of your favorite vegetables such as tomato, onions, peppers, and spinach. Fruits can be added atop oatmeal, yogurt, cereal or low-fat frozen yogurt for an extra flavor bonus.
  • Have picky family members? Try including fruits and veggies in family favorites. For example, add mushrooms and green peppers to meatloaf, squash and eggplant to lasagna, sweet potato and black beans to chili, broccoli to mac and cheese, or tomatoes and spinach to scrambled eggs. Chopped up veggies can add extra crunch to lunch favorites like tuna and chicken salad. You can add sliced banana or apples to the classic PB & J.

  • Not camouflaged enough for those really picky eaters in your family? Smoothies and shakes are a great way to mix fruits and vegetables together for a delicious snack or on the go breakfast. Blending berries, bananas, peaches, or oranges with yogurt or low-fat milk is a great way to add fruit to your child’s day. Try mixing greens or carrots with apples, pineapples, or bananas then add yogurt or low-fat milk for a healthy drink. The combinations are endless, and you can mix and match ingredients.

The most important thing to remember about fruits and veggies is that all forms count. That means it doesn’t matter if you choose fresh, frozen, or canned produce, they all add to your daily intake of fruits and vegetables. Just remember, if you chose to purchase canned varieties, be sure to look for no/low sodium vegetables or fruit packed in 100% fruit juice to cut back on added salt and sugar.

Now that you know how easy it can be to add just one more fruit or veggie to your day, you can sit back, relax, and enjoy healthy days to come.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Fun, Fall, Family Activities in Maryland!

Fall is the time of the year for you and your family to enjoy the crisp, cool air and colorful trees. Take your family on a walk anywhere to enjoy the nice fall weather! The University of Maryland Extension and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene host WalkMD each year on October 5. If you miss it this year, make plans for it next fall! This event is a fun way to get your family active.

Take your family to your local farmers’ market to pick out some fresh produce, like apples, greens, and winter squash. There are so many delicious fruits and vegetables to choose from, but some of them only come during the fall season, so get them while they last!

Pumpkins are now in season. You can go to a pumpkin patch or your local farmers’ market and let the kids pick out their very own pumpkin. Make a pumpkin pie using fresh pumpkin, then bake the pumpkin seeds in the oven by adding a pinch of salt for a healthy snack!

There are also many places in Maryland where you can bring the family to pick your own apples at an orchard. The apples you pick can become a game: bobbing for apples. Remember that apple scraps are good composting material!

During the month of October, many events are related to Halloween. If you are a family that likes being scared, you could always walk around a haunted house. However, if you have younger kids that might be too afraid, you can always go to a farm that offers corn mazes!

Lastly, raking up the leaves in the yard is a fall chore, but it also counts as exercise. Before you dispose of the leaves, make a pile and jump in them! No matter what your family decides to do this fall season, remember to have fun and be active!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Celebrate Locally Grown Food Through Farm to School!

Farm to School is a term that is used to describe efforts to incorporate locally-grown foods into school or preschool menus, and activities used to generate interest and learning about local food. In Maryland, a whole week in September known as “Homegrown School Lunch Week” is sponsored by the Maryland Department of Agriculture and Maryland State Department of Education to encourage schools to feature locally-grown foods on the school lunch menus, encourage school-wide celebrations of locally-produced food, and teach about where food comes from. Nationally, Farm to School is recognized in the month of October.

Celebrate Farm-Fresh Produce at School and at Home! 
  • Visit a local farmers’ market or farm stand with your child to learn more about the foods grown in your area and take something home to try.
  •  Visit to learn more about local agriculture and visit a pick your own farm or local creamery to try locally-made ice cream or dairy products.
  •  Experiment with gardening with your child by placing a seed on a moist cotton ball in a clear plastic bag or cup and watch it as it grows.
  • Try growing your own produce in a small container garden. See for tips on starting your own garden.

Visit your local library to find a great book to share with your child. Below is a selection of books to choose from:
  • “Before We Eat: From Farm to Table” by Pat Brisson
  • “Seed, Soil, Sun” by Cris Peterson
  • “Max Goes to the Farmer’s Market” by Adria F.
  • “Tops and Bottoms” by Janet Steven
  • “Growing Vegetable Soup” by Lois Ehler
  • “In the Garden with Dr. Carver” by Susan Grigsby
  • “How Did That Get in My Lunchbox?” by Christine Butterworth

Try our recipe made with fresh Maryland Produce

Crunchy Apple Coleslaw

Serves 4
Ingredients: 1 cabbage (small) washed and shredded.
1 carrot (medium) washed and grated. ½ green pepper, washed and chopped
1 apple, washed and chopped.
1/3 cup low-fat yogurt, plain
1 Tablespoon low-fat mayonnaise
1 teaspoon lemon juice
¼ teaspoon dried dill Salt and pepper

1. In a large mixing bowl, add the cabbage, carrot, green pepper, and apple Stir together.
2. Put the yogurt, mayonnaise, lemon juice, and dill in a small bowl. Stir together to make a dressing.
3. Pour the dressing over the salad.
4. Add salt and pepper to taste.

5. Toss to mix.

Monday, September 12, 2016

New Food Label: What You Need to Know

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently announced updates to the Nutrition Facts Label for packaged foods. This is the first major change to the food label since 1994. Here’s what’s new on the label:

  • Larger and bold print for Calories: These changes make this information easier to see.  It is important for consumers to look at how many calories are in the foods they buy.
  • Updated Serving Sizes: Package size affects what people eat. Certain items will be required to be labeled as one serving because people typically consume it in one sitting. A 20 ounce soda is a good example of this change.
  • Added sugars: Added sugars are defined as any sugar, honey, or syrup added in the making of the food.

  • Updated daily values: Daily values for nutrients like sodium, dietary fiber and vitamin D have been updated based on newer scientific evidence.
  • New nutrients will now be on the label:
         ·        Vitamin D: Builds strong bones.
         ·        Potassium: Helps lower blood pressure and is healthy for your heart.

Manufacturers will need to use the new label by July 26, 2018. However, smaller companies will have an additional year to change their labels to the new format.

The Nutrition Facts Label is the best tool to check for Calories, sodium, fat, sugars, etc. and compare products. The Nutrition Facts Label can help you and your family pick healthier foods at the grocery store.

Monday, September 5, 2016

September is National Food Safety Month

Food Poisoning (also known as Foodborne illness) is any illness that results from eating contaminated food. The good news – it is preventable.
Let’s look at some current facts and discuss some common food safety myths.
  • It is estimated that 1 in 6 people each year will experience food poisoning.
  • About 15% of foodborne outbreaks occur at home.  
  • Following four simple steps CleanSeparateCook, and Chill – can help protect your family from food poisoning.
Food Safety Myths – True or False
Myth 1: Washing raw poultry, meat, and seafood is safe to do at home.
False: Washing raw poultry, meat, and seafood could cause bacteria to spray and may contaminate other foods and kitchen items.  
Solution: Cook your meat, poultry, and/or seafood to the proper temperature – do not wash it.
Myth 2: Putting hot foods in the refrigerator will make the whole refrigerator get too warm.
False: Your refrigerator can take the heat! You want to cool hot foods to a temperature of 40°F or below quickly.
Solution: Divide hot foods into shallow containers that are less than 4 inches tall for quick cooling in the refrigerator.

Myth 3:  Fruits and vegetables with a skin don’t need to be washed before peeling.
False:  Bacteria on the peel or rind can easily transfer to the inside of your fruits and veggies when you cut them.
Solution:  Wash all fruits and vegetables even if you will peel them.
See more Myths

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