Meal planning, budgeting and exercising creativity are essential steps that consumers should take in order to ‘eat right when money tight’.
This is the advice from the Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC), as it continues its thrust to safeguard the rights and responsibilities of consumers.
“The CAC deals with the monitoring of prices, complaints resolution, consumer education and outreach…so we deal with the entire family, in every aspect of your life – at home, on the road, in the supermarket and how you live and manage your lifestyle,” CAC’s Communications Specialist, Dorothy Campbell, tells JIS News.
“While we deal with managing your budget, we try to help you make the right choices and get value for your money. It is also our prerogative to say to our consumers that the health of your family comes first….so while you are budgeting, make sure you balance it with the nutritional value and the safety of your households,” she advises.
Elaborating on the essential steps to ‘eating right, when money tight’, Miss Campbell points out that consumers should plan their meals for the week and purchase items that are needed.
“Plan what you are going to prepare each morning, what you are going to put in the lunch kit and also what you are going to use when they get home for dinner,” the Communications Specialist advises, adding that with the budgetary constraints that are causing consumers to “cut back on their spending habits,” it makes sense to “plan meals first and then shop for those items."
Miss Campbell tells consumers to try as best as possible to purchase items that are inexpensive, but with some form of nutritional value and to include them in their daily meal plan.
“One of the cheapest and most nutritious protein items is the egg and it can be prepared in so many ways -boiled, scrambled or fried – and eaten with a piece of toast and a fruit,” she shares.
In terms of fruits, she notes that it is wise to buy what are in season as they are usually cheaper. She is also encouraging parents to include fruits in the children’s lunch kits.
“Give them (children) something nutritious to drink…blend some fruits, freeze it and it will be really nice for them by lunch time when it is thawed and that might not cost you as much as a box drink, but it would be nutritious,” Miss Campbell says.
She advises parents to be creative in preparing meals for the children. “Try and make meals attractive…everybody eats with their eyes, so make the meal colourful. Kids might eat their carrots if it is embedded in the maccaroni and cheese. If they do not want to eat their callaloo, you could put a little cheese with it then roll it in the dough and have it fried,” she says.
To economise, Miss Campbell says parents should use up their left-overs by making sandwiches or putting it with other meals instead of throwing it away.
She urges consumers to buy local food as “we are finding more and more that the imported items are less nutritious, because they have to be processed and packaged and by the time they get to us, they are not as fresh as they should be."
“If you buy local food, the longest you will get the items after it leaves the farm is probably a week, so it is more nutritious, fresher and better for us than buying the processed and packaged foods,” Miss Campbell says.
In terms of shopping around, she is urging consumers to look at the Consumer Alert that is published with grocery prices. “Look at some of the specials that are being offered by supermarkets and determine what you are going to buy each week and ensure that those items are the ones with the best prices,” Miss Campbell advises.
She reiterates the importance of consumers budgeting, planning their meals and utilising the best means in order to save.
“It takes a change of lifestyle, because things are not how they used to be, not for the income, not for the hours that we have to work and not for the family. So, everything has to change and it may require us getting up earlier, spending more time preparing meals, but in the long run, it will cost us less,” the Communications Specialist notes.
She encourages consumers to “shop wisely, plan and really think about the nutrition of your family, especially the little ones who need nutritious meals everyday in order for them to learn and develop properly.”