Last year, 45 million Americans — more than one in seven of us — participated in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps), the nation’s largest food assistance program. On average, SNAP participants receive $134 per month to buy food and other essentials. But they aren’t the only ones who are trying to work within a budget to feed themselves and their families, and to do so as healthfully as possible.
With food prices on the rise and the economy yet to really pick up, Environmental Working Group (EWG) has released a guide called Good Food on a Tight Budget. “EWG researchers assessed nearly 1,200 foods, comparing national average food prices and 19 different nutrients in order to identify the most nutritious foods that are easy on the wallet and the planet,” according to the press release. The top 100 foods are listed in the guide, which also includes quick-and-easy, adaptable recipes and tips for saving time and money while shopping, planning and preparing meals.
Bananas, watermelons and pears are among the fruits that deliver “the biggest nutritional bang for the buck.” Broccoli, carrots and onions are “best buy” vegetables, and cabbage, at less than ten cents per serving, is also a versatile one that can be used in salads, sandwiches, stir-fries, stews and soups. Oatmeal, barley and rice make great grains for your budget, your health and the environment, while a variety of beans, nuts and turkey are best bets among protein sources. The guide also covers dairy foods, cooking oils and spices.
Some of the best ways to save money, EWG advises, is to buy in bulk when possible and to cook and freeze your food in batches. You’ll also want to avoid most processed foods, which are often more expensive and less healthy than fresh, whole foods. There’s also always the option of growing your own fruits and vegetables.
Foods were rated by EWG based on a balance of five factors:
1. Beneficial nutrients
2. Nutrients to minimize (saturated fat, sodium and total sugar)
4. Extent of processing
5. Harmful contaminants from environmental pollution and food packaging.
Nutrients and price took precedence over the rest. Read more about EWG’s methodology here.
“Putting good food on your family’s table on a $5-or-$6-a-day budget is tough, but it’s possible,” said guide co-author Dawn Undurraga, EWG nutritionist and registered dietitian, in the press release. “When shoppers fill their grocery carts with the foods on EWG’s lists, they’ll be doing something good for their health and environment, meanwhile lowering their grocery bills and exposures to the worst chemicals.”
Today, as kids across the country get ready to go back to school, EWG will release its recommendations for healthy and affordable school lunches.
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