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Savvy Savers - Money Smart Week

April hosts "Money Smart Week" (MSW) from April 22-29, an event started by Chicago-area agencies to bring awareness to money and finances. University of Illinois Extension holds events around the state to assist in this campaign, so look in your area.

In DeWitt, Macon, and Piatt counties, take on the Savvy Savers Food Challenge!

  1. Download the game card online
  2. Track at least 10 saving actions on the game card during MSW
  3. When the challenge week is over, return your challenge card to your local Extension office and in appreciation, you will receive a copy of the "Quick and Easy Family Recipes" booklet

Add try these tips to help save money on food.

1. Go Shopping in Your Cabinet. Before you buy more food, look in your cabinets. From what you already have, what meals can you make?

  • Have a can of diced tomatoes, frozen chicken breast meat, and a box of pasta? Add seasonings to the tomatoes and make chicken spaghetti.
  • What could you make with stew meat, a can of reduced-sodium beef broth, frozen mixed vegetables, a can of tomatoes, and Italian seasoning? (Hint: beef-vegetable soup).

2. Fresh, Frozen, Canned, Dried: Buy it All. Time to bust a myth. All forms of fruits and veggies fit into your meal plan.

  • Frozen and canned fruits and vegetables are packed soon after harvest and maintain their important nutrients, like vitamins and minerals. Yes, they lose those nutrients over time, as do fresh foods. (How many days or weeks did your fresh berries travel to get to Illinois?)

3. Try Shortcut Cooking. Time is money, or so the phrase goes. Search Extension allows you to find recipes from Cooperative Extensions around the country.

  • Search for slow cooker recipes, homemade freezer meals, recipes that work well for batch cooking, and recipes with a short list of ingredients, like 5-ingredient meals.

4. Rethink Your Drink. It is easy to pick up a bottled drink in a store, restaurant, gas station, or vending machine. While just a few dollars apiece, you may be spending a lot of money each month.

  • Buy a reusable mug or bottle to carry water, coffee, tea, or flavored water with you.
  • If you prefer the convenience, buy bottled drinks to keep at home and bring them with you, instead of buying from a restaurant or vending machine.

White Chicken Chili (8 servings)

Chicken thighs are cheaper than breast meat and add a richness to this chili. Look for store brands of ingredients to help save money.

3 lbs bone-in, skin-on skinless chicken thighs (or 2 lbs boneless, skinless thighs)
2 cups frozen corn, thawed
2 (15-oz) cans navy beans, rinsed and drained
1 medium onion, chopped
2 (4.5 oz) cans chopped green chilies
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
2 1/2 cups reduced-sodium, fat-free chicken broth

1. Put on disposable food gloves. Pull skin off chicken thighs with hands. With a knife, cut bone out of thighs. Cut each thigh into bite-sized pieces.
2. To a 6-quart slow cooker, add chicken, corn, beans, onion, green chilies, garlic, cumin, and oregano.
3. Add broth and stir to combine.
4. Cook for 8-10 hours on low or 4-5 hours on high.

Nutrition analysis per serving: 300 calories, 5g fat, 840mg sodium, 33g carbohydrate, 32g protein

Adapted from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, Dinner Tonight, White Chicken Chili

Today's post was written by Caitlin Huth. Caitlin Huth, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian and Nutrition & Wellness Educator serving DeWitt, Macon, and Piatt Counties. She teaches nutrition- and food-based lessons around heart health, food safety, diabetes, and others. In all classes, she encourages trying new foods, gaining confidence in healthy eating, and getting back into our kitchens.