Use in-store ads, newspaper ads, coupons, and unit pricing to get the most for your money at the grocery store. Use them to make a list of everything that you will need to cook a week’s worth of delicious healthy meals at home. At the store, stick to your list to avoid frivolous spending. Then gather the family together to enjoy one another and to savor the taste of smart shopping.
Be sure that your parties are healthy and safe by practicing just a few simple rules. Clean: your hands, cooking and food prep surfaces and all utensils with soap and warm water. Separate: raw meats from other food items in the grocery cart, in the refrigerator and on cutting boards. Cook: meats, poultry, eggs, fish and shellfish thoroughly. Use a thermometer (average cost $10) to be sure they are safe. See the New Hanover County Cooperative Extension office for safe cooking temperatures. When reheating, bring sauces, soups and gravies to a boil and heat all leftovers to 165 degrees. Chill: food quickly after it has been served. Meats should be thawed in a refrigerator, on a bottom shelf and preferably in a drip tray. Never thaw meats on the counter and only thaw in cold water when you can replace the water every 30 minutes. Finally, when the parties are all over, chill again – with the family. Watch a movie, play a game or sing songs to bring everyone together for fun and laughter.
Do you know that each year there are 76 million cases of food borne illnesses? For those who like flame-kissed dinners from the grill please be certain to use separate utensils and plates for raw and cooked foods. Cooked foods can become contaminated with bacteria from juices and surfaces of raw foods. This happens most frequently when grilling. Be certain that the utensils and plates that are used to serve food are clean. If using a marinade, do not add the same liquid that flavored raw meat to the cooked product. Reserve a little of the marinade in the beginning to use when the meat is ready to eat. Use a thermometer (average cost $10) to determine when meats are cooked thoroughly. See the New Hanover County Cooperative Extension office for safe cooking temperatures. For a fun dessert with the family, skewer a few marshmallows and toast them around the grill. Add a chocolate bar and graham crackers to make s’mores. But, please keep a close eye on young children and long sleeves close to the heat. Happy grilling!
This time of year brings joy, cheer and cold/flu germs. To protect your family from illness try starting at home. Practice hand washing with children by lathering soap on hands with warm water for as long as it takes to sing the alphabet song. Wash dishcloths in detergent and warm water regularly and keep countertops clean and sanitized with 1/4 teaspoon unscented bleach added to 2 cups of water. Don’t cook with the same spoon that has been used for tasting and if you are already sick, take the night off. EFNEP teaches simple healthy and safe meals that even the kids can make for you. Now, think about all of the places that your hands touch that other’s hands have touched as well. For times when hand washing isn’t an option, keep sanitizing hand gel or wipes nearby. But, be aware that germs are only removed from your skin when warm water washes them away. By teaching and performing safe practices at home, maybe the only cold your family will feel this year is in the winter air.
Oh the goodies of the holidays! Yummy! Accurate measurements are crucial to successful baking. And there are a few common mistakes that have been known to ruin many baked goods. A couple of the most frequently misused measuring tools are measuring cups and measuring spoons. There are two types of measuring cups – liquid and dry. Remember that a liquid measuring cup will be clear with marked lines. For accurate measurements, get to eye-level with the line of measure. As for measuring spoons, who was it that thought to make teaspoons and tablespoons sound so much alike? Remember that the abbreviation for a tablespoon will either be indicated with a capital T or it will include the letter b (Tbsp., T., Tb.) Baking holiday goodies can be a fun family activity and measuring and stirring are great ways to include kids in holiday baking. Start them measuring at an early age to begin developing math skills. The memories they’ll have of helping out in the kitchen will stick with them for a lifetime.
Do you resolve to be healthier this year? Try moving more. It’s so easy! And we are designed for it. Don’t think of it as exercise, but rather as physical activity. The US Department of Agriculture encourages adults to get 2 ½ hours of physical activity in a week (in addition to normal daily activity). That is only 30 minutes per day. It’s recommended that children get an hour per day. For added fun, be physically active together. Start off slowly if you haven’t been active in a while. And check with a physician if you have mobility concerns. Find out which activities are best for you. To celebrate a new year full of new opportunities, gather the family together and make up a dance. Turn on a fun song and have each person teach his/her favorite dance move. One by one, put it all together and keep on dancing, smiling and laughing together until the song is over. Every time that you hear your family’s dance song in the future, you will all remember the fun that you have together.
Do you know what the problem is with resolutions to be more physically active? We make them in the winter. It’s not so alluring to get outside and play with the kids when it’s cold. But, there are plenty of indoor activities that can get the whole family moving. March in place and sing a song. Act out a favorite book. Play charades or play Twister. Do the hokey-pokey or jumping jacks and pretend to hula hoop. Have push-up and sit-up competitions. Use canned foods or water bottles for light strength training and stretch to keep everybody flexible. The more that you do, the better it is for you. As always, remember that you are your child’s best role model. If it is important to you to be active, he/she will find value in activity as well. The benefits to being physically active include reduced stress, better concentration, weight management and so many others. Don’t let the cold outside freeze you to the couch.
How many ways can you cook rice? What about potatoes? And ground beef? These are just a few questions that help us stretch our food dollars. But, it takes a little planning. These items can be purchased in bulk – often at lower unit prices (the full item price divided by the package quantity) than their smaller counterparts. But, getting the greatest value from food extends past making the best purchase. Buy air-tight bags to store unused rice. Keep potatoes in a dark and dry place. And freeze any ground beef that won’t be used right away. Planning meals in advance around these basic food items that are already on hand will allow you to get the greatest use out of your hard earned money. Keep in mind that great deals on foods that your family won’t eat aren’t really deals to you at all. Get the whole family involved in planning meals that can be made from bulk foods. Doing so will help teach kids to use what they have and they will anxiously await the night when they get to eat what they suggested. Happy planning!
The 2010 USDA Dietary Guidelines reports from the American Heart Association that 81.1 million Americans have cardiovascular disease. One of the best known contributors to cardiovascular disease is excessive sodium (salt) intake. Many of us have no idea how much sodium we get every day – even though we have access to the information. Hint – check your food labels. Many of us even add salt to food without tasting it. But, taste doesn’t have to come from salt. For a delicious salt free Italian seasoning for pasta sauces, chicken and fish try combining 2 tablespoons of basil, 2 tablespoons of oregano, 2 tablespoons of thyme and 1 tablespoon of sage. Cut sodium even more by choosing foods labeled as low sodium and rinse canned vegetables before cooking. The recommended sodium intake is not the same for everyone. Factors like health, age and ethnicity can affect recommendations. As a standard, the USDA Dietary Guidelines suggests less than 2300 mg/daily or less than 1500 mg/daily for individuals who are African American, of the age 51 and older, or having certain health concerns. Eating smart doesn’t have to be bland. Happy seasoning!