Are you prone to impulse buys at the grocery store? Want to stretch your grocery budget?
Cooking Matters is here to help. They offer advice for low-income families in Montezuma and La Plata counties on how to shop, prepare and eat healthy, affordable foods.
“We teach how to get the best out your dollar, and show people a lot of tricks on smart shopping and meal preparation,” explained organizer Katie Dittelberger.
The educational program offers grocery tours and classes for low-income families led by expert culinary and nutrition volunteers. Since 1993, Cooking Matters has grown to serve 10,000 families each year across the country, helping learn to eat better on a budget.
“A lot of people don’t realize how much money they can save by cooking whole foods at home, and it’s healthier,” Dittelberger said.
At the Cortez Wal-Mart store employee. Cas Osantowski gave shopper Meggie Curtis an informative tour through the maze of grocery opportunities.
“It seemed interesting, and I got a $10 gift card,” Curtis said. “I’ve learned a lot about grocery shopping.”
For example, many products are the same, but one costs more because it’s a more well known brand.
“Learning to look at labels; you realize you’er just paying more for packaging,” Curtis said.
Another tip: Try and shop along the perimeter of the store. That is usually where the whole foods, meats and fresh produce are displayed.
“Once you dive into the middle aisles, there is a lot more processed foods, chips, and sugary-type snack stuff,” Osantowski said.
Shopping in season is another good tip. With food now shipped from all over the world to local stores, it is easy to forget that different foods grow in different seasons.
While shoppers may see strawberries in January or winter squash in July, they will pay a higher price because of the transportation costs. Food grown locally and bought in season is fresher and tastes better, too.
“Understanding the unit price is also a key to getting the best deal,” Dittelberger explains. “It takes some practice.”
Unit prices are found on the small tag on the shelf under the grocery item. The tag shows the cost of an ounce, a pint, a pound, or other amount. Check to see whether the bulk size costs less per unit than smaller sizes.
Beware of fancy-sounding names as well, she said. Breads labeled multi-grain, seven grain, stone-ground, or bran are often not whole grains. If a whole grain os listed after the first ingredient, it could mean it is a small part of the food.
Participants in Cooking Matter programs learn how to read food labels and stretch ingredients, receive tips on stocking the pantry and learn healthy recipes.
“We teach shoppers how to be food detectives!” Dittelberger said.
For more information on programs, tours and classes, call Erin Jolley (702) 526-2133, or stop by the Durango office at 862 Main Ave., #223.