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Healthy Eating on a Budget

Is eating healthy too expensive? It doesn’t have to be if you are willing to follow three simple reminders — Plan, Compare and Prepare.   If you follow these, you and your family can save money and eat healthier.

USDA’s ChooseMyPlate.gov includes information to help consumers like you get started toward a healthier lifestyle that can fit just about anyone’s budget.  The tips and resources available can make it easier to control what you eat and how much you spend.

Consider these tips to get you started:

  • Plan
    Before you go shopping, take 15-20 minutes each week to plan your meals and make a grocery list of what and how much to buy.  Consider breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for the week.  Easy to fix recipes are available online.  Include foods and beverages from the five food groups so you can get the nutrients you need.  Read the Nutrition Facts label on the packaging, and go easy on foods with added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium.  Consider meals like soups, salads, stews, or even stir-fries to “stretch” expensive items into more portions.
  • Compare
    Check the local paper or search online for coupons, sales and specials.  Use store loyalty cards and always bring your grocery list. For double savings, use manufacturer coupons during a store sale.  Take time to compare unit prices listed on shelves to ensure you are getting the best price. Try to do your grocery shopping when you are not hungry and not too rushed. This will help you avoid impulse buying and convenience foods which will increase your food bill.
  • Prepare
    Cut up fresh fruits and vegetables for quick snacks.  Prepare meals that can be done in advance.  Double up your recipes and freeze the leftovers for meals later in the week. For example, last night’s roasted chicken can easily become chicken salad or a chicken quesadilla later in the week.

Eating healthier and spending less is a breeze if you follow these tips to Plan before you shop, Compare options to find the best price, and Prepare meals that stay within your budget. Check out this press release for more information about how the Department of Agriculture (USDA) is working to help Americans eat healthier on a budget. For more helpful tips, check out our new 10 tips sheet: Eating better on a budget: 10 tips to help you stretch your food dollars.

Organic 101: Almost 25,000 Certified Operations at Your Fingertips

In 2012, there was significant growth in the number of operations in California, Iowa, and New England, and only slight growth in the number of operations in the southeastern United States.  This map shows the concentration of organic operations within the U.S.

In 2012, there was significant growth in the number of operations in California, Iowa, and New England, and only slight growth in the number of operations in the southeastern United States. This map shows the concentration of organic operations within the U.S.

This is the eleventh installment of the Organic 101 series that explores different aspects of the USDA organic regulations.

Last week the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) published the 2012 list of certified organic operations. Our online database now provides information on 17,750 certified USDA organic farms and processing facilities in the United States. That’s almost a 240 percent increase since the NOP began tracking this data in 2002. Worldwide, there are now close to 25,000 certified organic operators representing more than 100 countries. Read more »

NRCS Program Prevents Fuel Spill Disaster in Alaska

The relocated tank farm on a higher and drier site, away from the river’s edge. Photo courtesy Crowley Petroleum Distribution.

The relocated tank farm on a higher and drier site, away from the river’s edge. Photo courtesy Crowley Petroleum Distribution.

When a flood damaged the banks of the Yukon River in Fort Yukon, Alaska, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service stepped in to help prevent a major environmental catastrophe.

The citizens of Fort Yukon are predominantly Alaskan Natives who live a subsistence lifestyle, relying on fish from the Yukon River as one of their main food sources. The community is not accessible by road and all supplies are either barged in during the short summer or flown in at extreme expense. An entire year’s fuel supply for the village’s vehicles, heating and power is held in a 750,000 gallon tank farm. Read more »

USDA and Community-Based Organizations Partner for Ag Census

For a decade, USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service and community-based organizations (CBOs) have placed a high priority on improving the cover­age and response of minority and hard-to-reach farm and ranch operators in the Census of Agriculture. CBOs partner with NASS to help reach these underserved agricultural producers and encourage them to participate in the Census. As the CBOs educate and motivate the producers they serve to complete their Census forms, these producers become part of the data that represent the accurate picture of agriculture across the nation. The partnerships are serving both the CBOs’ mission of providing service to every producer and NASS’s goal of counting every farmer and rancher in the Census of Agriculture. In the following blog, one of NASS’s longstanding CBO partners, Ralph Paige, shares his thoughts on the importance of the ongoing 2012 Census of Agriculture. Read more »

USDA’s SuperTracker Diet Tool Reaches Two Million Users

A consumer uses the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) ChooseMyPlate.gov website on Dec. 14, 2011. This is an interactive website used for creating customized healthy dietary plans that include required daily vitamins and minerals, and age and gender appropriate daily portions and calorie levels. Users can also tap tools called “Daily Food Plan,” “SuperTracker,” and “Food-a-Pedia” on this site. USDA photo by Stephen Ausmus.

SuperTracker is an interactive website used for creating customized healthy dietary plans that include required daily vitamins and minerals, and age and gender appropriate daily portions and calorie levels. Users can also tap tools called “Daily Food Plan,” “SuperTracker,” and “Food-a-Pedia” on this site. USDA photo by Stephen Ausmus.

I am pleased to report that over two million Americans are now using USDA’s SuperTracker, our online dietary planning and tracking tool!

Today, as never before, our awareness is heightened about the importance of healthy eating.  Cookbooks and diet books reign supreme in the bookstores.  There are entire TV channels devoted exclusively to food and, of course, stories of too many Twinkies, doughnuts and sodas provide constant fodder for the late night comedians.  A day doesn’t go by that new food-related research isn’t released.  Diet and health information abound on social media.  Grocery stores are constantly adding new, healthier products.  And communities across America are trying new and novel approaches to promote healthy eating. Read more »

USDA Staff in New Mexico, Wisconsin, Promote Business Development and Job Creation Efforts

“The Rural Business Enterprise Grant program (RBEG) is one of the most flexible economic development opportunities offered by USDA Rural Development.”  Those words from New Mexico State Director Terry Brunner kicked off a webinar workshop recently to discuss the RBEG program and how to apply for funds.

In the past, here in New Mexico, the RBEG has been used to fund business incubators, feasibility studies, business plans, and it has financed technical assistance programs for business development.

Earlier this month, the staff from Rural Development’s State Office in New Mexico hosted a workshop that gave a complete overview of the RBEG program explaining the funding is made available to public bodies, nonprofit organizations, public and private nonprofit institutions of higher education, and Indian tribes to facilitate and finance the development of small and emerging private business enterprises in rural communities and cities up to 50,000 in population. Read more »