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Simply Nutritious, Quick and Delicious

Lowering your costs at the grocery store

Produce wall at a grocery store containing sections of lettuce, bell peppers, cucumbers, and cauliflower. Contains orange I block logo and Illinois Extension wordmark.

By this time, I’m sure you already know that food prices have gone up, yet it can still be a shock to the system as the grocery store clerk tells you what you owe. How can we lower our food bill without sacrificing good nutrition?

While it may be tempting to simply go out to eat or order take-in for every meal, you’ll likely be paying more than before. Restaurants too, feel the economic burden and many places have had to raise their prices. While it’s good to support local when you can, cooking more meals at home will save you the most money and give you more options for healthier meals. According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Price Outlook for 2022, shoppers are expected to see increases on poultry (+7.5-8.5%), beef and veal (+6-7%), and fish and seafood (+5-6%). At the same time, vegetable prices are expected to increase the least amount of all other foods (+4-5%). What better time than now to enjoy more meatless meals? Plan your meals around the vegetable, such as veggie stuffed pitas or a veggie stir-fry. Beans and lentils are also a cheaper, nutritional alternative to meat. When buying meat, look for sales and stock up, buying only what you have room in the freezer. You may also consider buying a quarter, half, or whole animal directly from a rancher.

Saving money can be as simple as having a meal plan. With a plan for the week’s meals and a grocery list to stick to, you can reduce those impulse buys and trips to the drive-thru. 

Spiced Tomato Lentil Mix   

(Printable PDF)  

¾ cup cooked or canned lentils

1 (10 oz.) can unsalted diced tomatoes with green chiles, drained

1 Tablespoon chopped green onion

¼ teaspoon ground cumin

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Optional Toppings: reduced-fat sour cream and sliced almonds

Place lentils, tomatoes, green onions, and seasonings in a microwave-safe dish; stir. Cover the dish and cook on high for 2 minutes, pausing halfway through to stir the lentil mixture. Let the mixture rest for 1 minute. Remove from microwave. May top with sour cream and sliced almonds and serve with naan or pita bread. Serve warm.

Yield: 2 servings


Nutrition Facts (per serving): 170 calories, 4 grams fat, 55 milligrams sodium, 23 grams carbohydrate, 9 grams fiber, 11 grams protein


Source: USDA Food Price Outlook, 2022.


PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by nrd on Unsplash

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jenna Smith is a Nutrition and Wellness Educator with University of Illinois Extension, serving Livingston, McLean, and Woodford Counties. Smith uses her experience as a registered dietitian nutritionist to deliver impactful information and cutting-edge programs to Livingston, McLean, and Woodford Counties and beyond.