Eating Well On a Budget: Part 6 – Dairy
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Eating Well On a Budget: Part 6 – Dairy

Posted on Friday, December 14th, 2012 at 8:00 am
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Eating Well On a Budget: Part 5 – Protein

Dairy comes in many forms and is essential for good health. From dairy, our bodies get calcium, protein, vitamin D and potassium in what is usually a delicious package. All of these nutrients are necessary to build and maintain strong bones. The Environmental Working Group has compiled a list of 10 dairy items that provide you with the most nutrition at the lowest cost. All of these items provided necessary nutrients without a lot of unnecessary sugar or unhealthy fats. The Environmental Working Groups suggests that for every $25 spent on groceries about $4 should go towards dairy products.

The Environmental Working Group’s list of dairy products with the best value include non-fat plain yogurt, cottage cheese, queso blanco, queso fresco, ricotta, low-fat dry milk and non-fat dry milk. Other items featured on the list include low-fat (1%) milk, non-fat or skim milk, and soy milk.

Drinking milk is one easy way to add some calcium to your diet. Health experts recommend drinking fat-free or low-fat milk instead of whole milk. The only exception is for children under 2. Children between the ages of 1 and 2 should drink whole cow’s milk. After the age of 2, kids should switch to low-fat or fat-free milk just like their parents. Keep in mind that dry milk is a cheaper alternative to buying traditional milk. Simply add water, and it can be used in baking or for drinking if you’re looking to save some money.

While cheese is one way to get some calcium, health experts agree that it shouldn’t be your main source. The less cheese you eat the better. Use it for some extra flavor in your favorite dishes. Low-fat cheddar, Colby, Monterey Jack, and mozzarella can have less saturated fat per serving but may include more salt and other additives. Pay attention to labels, so you can be sure you’re picking the healthiest option. To save money on cheese, don’t buy the shredded stuff. It’s often more expensive. Also, if your cheese is starting to go bad, freeze it. Defrosted cheese is best when melted. Make a delicious dip for guests or enjoy some nice fondue one night.

Yogurt is another way to get some extra calcium. Add a little fresh fruit, and you’ve got yourself a delicious breakfast! Skip the “light” or “lite” yogurts. They often have a ton of sugar, artificial sweeteners, or additives. You can also substitute yogurt for cream and sour cream in recipes. Before you start cooking, drain the yogurt in a coffee filter to thicken it up. To save money, buy a large container of yogurt and measure out smaller servings throughout the week.

Keep in mind that not all dairy products are created equal. Fatty foods like cream cheese, sour cream, cream and butter have little calcium and lots of fat. Try and consume them sparingly.

Next Up: Eating Well On a Budget: Part 7 – Cooking Fats & Oils

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Good Tip: Saving money is important – especially if you have a lot of expenses like bills to pay, loans to pay off, and all the other things that drain your bank account. Figuring out a way to save money can feel tedious to some, and like a punishment to others. U.S. News suggests that you try one of these money saving challenges. The “No Eating Out for a Month” Challenge This one is self-explanatory. The goal is to avoid eating out for an entire month. This might be super easy for people who enjoy making meals at home. People who really enjoy dining out, or ordering food to be sent to their home, may struggle with this one. It’s worth a try because spending money on take-out is more expensive than buying groceries. The Pantry Challenge This one is a variation of the “No Eating Out for a Month” challenge. The goal is to use up all of your groceries before you buy more. It forces you to try and remember why you bought a food or beverage that you don’t know what to do with, and gives you the opportunity to find a way to use it. The one exemption to this challenge is the foods that have expired. Don’t eat them! Throw them in the trash. The “No Spend” Challenge Make a goal to avoid spending money during an entire weekend. The only exemption in this challenge is that you are allowed to pay bills. This challenge is interesting because it requires creativity. You must be creative and find workarounds for problems that you would typically solve by spending money. You may have a different outlook on spending after finishing this challenge.