Friday, May 30, 2014

On A Budget? Meal Planning Helps!

The USDA's MyPlate campaign suggests that half of our plate at every meal should be fruits and vegetables (more veg than fruit), with the other half made up of whole grains and protein (more whole grain than protein). At the Youth and Family Fair, the Community Food Council for Del Norte and Adjacent Tribal Lands asked a simple question:

If the USDA's MyPlate is the standard of a "healthy meal", what barriers make it difficult for families in our community to serve meals that fit that standard?

We know from surveys in the schools that many children in Del Norte schools report eating NO fruit or vegetables in the 24 hours leading up to the survey. While children not eating vegetables does not mean they weren't served vegetables, this is still an indicator that the MyPlate meal is not the norm in our community (or in most others).

We asked fair attendees to indicate what they felt were the two biggest challenges for families. Not too surprisingly, the biggest answers were time and money, with a lack of skills or knowledge not far behind. We will focus some attention on these challenges over the next year through our DIY Food Workshops, on our blog, and in other aspects of our work. Today is a start.
Menu planning can help diminish the challenges of both time and money by limiting the number of shopping trips, allowing for some bulk preparation and purchases, and matching easy meals on your busiest days. There is some upfront time to start getting used to menu planning, but it will pay off in the long run.

The USDA MyPlate campaign is not just public service messages about how the USDA thinks we should be eating. The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) arm of USDA provides a lot of tools to help families eat healthier meals.

At the Grocery Game Plan website, the USDA offers a variety of tools to help people create a weekly menu plan, build a shopping list, and tips on saving money at the grocery store. There are links to their healthy recipe finder and sample menus to help get you started. You can even build your own cookbook within the recipe finder!

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