Cheap eats

Class teaches shoppers to bargain hunt, eat for $5 a day

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People don't always eat what they should, but Elisa Shackelton wants to change that.

"As I look at foods and what people select as they go to the grocery store, I see a lot of random purchasing," she said. "I don't think people are really thinking about the food groups and good nutrition."

Shackelton is the family and consumer sciences agent and acting director of the Colorado State University Moffat County Extension. Shackelton and Beth DuBois, former nutrition agent for the extension, founded Eating Well on $5 a Day, a six-week course meant to teach community members to make healthy food choices on a budget.

"Elisa and I went to the grocery store to see if we could actually (eat on $5 a day)," DuBois said. "We could, but it was a challenge."

DuBois taught the class twice last year, and Shackelton said she plans to get the program going again in March, thanks to a Equality in Health Initiative grant.

Shackelton said she is glad to get the program going again because many people are on a limited income or aren't buying the proper foods.

"People waste a lot of money on food and they're not even eating healthily," Shackelton said.

DuBois said she enjoyed seeing participants compete about who got the best deals. They would all bring in receipts from the grocery store and compare.

"The real challenge became who could get the most nutrition for their money," DuBois said.

Shackelton said she has an easy way to divvy up the $5 each day.

"What I would like to challenge a person to do is to spend one-fifth on each of the (food) groups," she said.

Spending $1 each on grains, fruits, vegetables, protein and dairy is not as hard as it sounds, Shackelton said.

"There are a lot of options now to get these foods covered," she said.

Grains are important for proper central nervous system function, especially brain operations, Shackelton said. She suggests bread, crackers, rice or pasta as economic grain choices.

Frugal fruit and vegetable options depend on what's in season and what's on sale, she said. Watching grocery advertisements and clipping coupons are good ways to get deals, Shackelton said.

She recommends spending $1 on fruits and $1 on vegetables.

Fresh, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables generally have the same nutrients, so shoppers should check out those choices at the store, Shackelton said.

Protein foods are critical for muscle development, maintenance and growth, and everyone should have about 6 ounces -- or the size of a deck of playing cards -- a day, Shackelton said.

"A lot of the time, we eat too much and spend too much on this group," she said.

And not all protein must come from meat, she said. Beans, nuts, nut butters, deli meats and tuna fish are alternatives.

"Eggs are a really affordable source of protein," Shackelton said. "You could hard boil those and take them to work as a snack."

The final food group is dairy, which benefits bones, teeth, nerve impulses and weight management, she said.

She said yogurt, milk and cheese are three main sources of dairy. There are now products available to help lactose intolerant people get the dairy nutrients they need, as well.

"People do need to think about all these five food groups every day," Shackelton said. "When you neglect one of these food groups for three months, six months, 10 years, it's going to show up. You're going to have health problems."

She said she hopes the class can help people avoid those issues and save a little money in the process.

For information about the course, call 824-9180.

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