Getting Answers: cutting grocery costs without sacrificing nutrition

As food prices continue to rise, it’s becoming more difficult to put healthy meals on the table.
Published: Jul. 18, 2022 at 9:58 AM EDT|Updated: Jul. 18, 2022 at 6:44 PM EDT
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SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - As food prices continue to rise, it’s becoming more difficult to put healthy meals on the table.

Americans are facing what feels like endless financial challenges since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Costs continue to skyrocket for everyday food items from eggs and milk to chicken and flour.

According to the most recent data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, food prices have risen 10.4 percent since June 2021, making it the largest annual increase in over 40 years, but cutting costs on your average grocery trip isn’t easy.

“I do look at stuff like that - what sales, what deals, 10 for 10, things like that, I look for…I go to Aldi now, Big Y when they have sales, Price Right. Anything that has a sale that is beneficial,” said Takeysha Guadeloupe of Chicopee.

Guadeloupe is a single mother of three working as a medical assistant to provide for her household of seven. She has been receiving food stamp assistance since 2019, which she told Western Mass News was difficult even before food costs began climbing.

[Reporter: Has it ever gotten to the point where you thought maybe you could not put food on the table?]

“That has happened in the past before the pandemic. Yes, that happened in the past,” Guadeloupe added.

Each month, she receives $130 worth of food stamps as part of Massachusetts’ Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, but she said the money isn’t enough.

“Once a month, in the middle of the month. It is not the beginning. It is dead smack in the middle, so I have to say ‘Okay, $30 a week for this, this, and that, and what can i buy and what can I save and what can I can conserve and what can I not overindulge in?’” Guadeloupe explained.

What can Guadeloupe and others do looking to stay on budget while keeping their families fed? Western Mass News is getting answers from Mercy Medical Center’s Registered Dietitian Michelle Mattia.

“First, it’s most important to get organized and have a game plan…Doing some meal planning, looking at the circulars to see what’s on sale,” Mattia said.

Mattia noted is sharing tips she has for keeping your grocery lists both cost effective and healthy.

“You don’t always have to go fresh with your groceries. Looking at frozen items, you can get basically all items frozen today…Looking at dried goods, canned goods, things that are vacuum sealed and in pouches that can last much longer, but still without sacrificing nutrition,” Mattia explained.

She also said it is important to keep in mind how many people you are cooking for and make sure no food or dollar is going to waste. For example, if you were going to make a Caesar salad for dinner and you were going to buy the ingredients from scratch, the croutons are going to cost $1.99, $1.99 for lettuce, and $4.50 for a small Caesar dressing. However, if you want to buy your salad premade, it is only going to cost $3.79 for the family size bag of the Caesar salad, so you can get three servings and they’re pretty much the same price and Mattia said the health benefits are pretty much the same.

“I think the biggest complaint is spending too much time in the kitchen, so really batch cooking and cooking more than you need, so you can really use those leftovers and use them in different and creative ways,” Mattia noted.

However, Mattia said it’s important when storing your excess food to do it in a way that will give items the longest shelf life.

“Some produce does really well in the refrigerator, but it needs more moisture, so scallions, asparagus, even carrots need moisture, so you need to make sure that you lock that in and store it maybe with a wet paper towel and then other produce does really well dry, so you want to make sure that your berries for instance, they spoil and they mold, so you want to try to remove all of the moisture before storing those items,” Mattia noted.

While keeping savings top of mind, you don’t want to forget about your nutrition too.

“It’s just getting more color in your plate and in your cart, more fruits and vegetables. Get that lean protein in there and get some quality yogurt if you’re doing that and some whole grain varieties of quinoa rice and pasta and that will well round the plate,” Mattia said.