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This week I wanted to comment on a subject that frequent comes up–the cost of fruits and vegetables or just eating healthy in general.  I’ve seen a variety of comments that it’s more expensive to eat healthy and that the Fruits & Veggies–More Matters message to consume low-fat, nutrient dense foods like fruits and vegetables is geared toward the middle or upper class.  I’m all about saving money–each week I do my grocery shopping after checking the weekly circular for deals, I use coupons and buy things on sale.  I’ll give you my own strategy on healthy eating while maintaining a food budget.

The biggest mistake people make is thinking that only fresh produce counts toward their servings of fruits and vegetables.  Canned, frozen, dried and 100% juice all matter when looking at your daily requirements.  And this is important, especially during the winter months when fresh produce isn’t as plentiful and therefore more expensive.  Add some canned veggies to soup, throw some frozen fruit in the blender for a smoothie or add dried fruit to yogurt for a tasty topping.  Buying in season is another tip–not only will you save money, but you’ll be getting produce that’s at the peak of flavor.

Buying healthier food may end up saving you money!

I also try to make at least two meals a week that are meatless.  I find that items in the meat section of the grocery store are more expensive than anywhere else so substituting two meatless entrees saves me money, while adding more nutrition to my family’s diet.

Then there are snacks.  I will look for fruits that are on sale and buy a big bag that may have 10 or more pieces (apples, pears, etc.).  Compare that with prepacked cupcakes.  The cheapest I’ve seen them in my store are two boxes for $5 (usually they’re $3.99 a box) and six servings come in a box.  Now look at what you’re getting for your money–fat and empty calories compared to vitamins and fiber.

Finally, what’s the cost long term?  If a high calorie, high fat diet leads to an overweight, unhealthy body, how much will you ultimately end up paying in healthcare costs?  It’s something to think about.  Medications to manage Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and the complications that come along with them aren’t cheap.  The bottom line is to examine all the variables when considering your food budget.  I think if you use some of these handy tips you’ll find incorporating more fruits and veggies to your grocery list will end up saving you money!

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“The Feast of the Seven Fishes” is a popular Italian tradition celebrated on Christmas Eve, which involves a large meal revolving around numerous seafood dishes.  My mother’s family used to celebrate it years ago with dishes like crabs in spaghetti and fried smelts among other things.  My husband’s family, who are first generation Italians, celebrate it each year with the feast beginning around 5:00 p.m. and ending somewhere around 11:00 p.m. (I’m not really sure because I’ve never managed to make it to the end!).

A few years ago after moving from New York, I wanted to continue the tradition, but didn’t want to spend all night in the kitchen and wanted to make the dishes a bit healthier.  Most of them were either fried or consisted of either no or very little produce.  I finally managed to come up with a menu that satisfied everyone’s tastes while keeping it nutritious.  I make two dishes–the traditional fried calamari (my husband wouldn’t let me get away without making that) and Cioppino.

Cioppino is a seafood soup that originated in San Francisco and while there are different versions, they are all basically tomato broth-based with a variety of herbs and spices.  The Fruits & Veggies–More Matters web site has a great, healthy version of this soup in their recipe database that I’m including.  I should note that I do also add fresh mussels and fresh shrimp to mine and I use cod as my fish of choice.  Serve this with some crusty bread and a side salad and it’s a delicous and filling meal.  Buon appetito and I hope you have a wonderful holiday!

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