The Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department will teach you how to grocery shop.
These free, public tours take locals around their grocery store with the goal of teaching people how to buy healthy foods, read nutrition labels and stick to a budget. At the end of the tour, the guides let you put your new skills to the test by handing out $10 gift cards and challenging you to buy a healthy meal without going over budget.
To tell the story, I, along with two other Journal-World reporters, took the tour and the challenge. Take a look at how the challenge turned out, plus my written account of what I learned. To read the whole story and see more pictures, click here.
I’m an “I’ll-be-inspired-when-I-see-it” type of grocery shopper. That means I go to the store, unprompted and unprepared. Sometimes, I buy everything in sight. I let my sweet tooth dictate what I purchase. Sometimes, I just give up and get takeout.
I thought grocery lists were a matter of remembering items, but I learned they’re more a matter of planning. I know what constitutes a healthy food, but buying random fruits and vegetables doesn’t do me much good when it comes to dinner. The challenge is knowing why I need it and what I’m buying it for.
During the $10 challenge, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate food groups served as a grocery list of sorts that inspired a dinnertime meal: a simple stir-fry. Once I had a plan to follow, grabbing the food was easy.
Long-grain brown rice, a package of frozen stir-fry vegetables and a carton of a half-dozen eggs filled the grain, vegetable and protein categories, coming in at about a dollar each. To round out the meal, I grabbed a single-serving bottle of 2 percent milk and a pineapple to fill the dairy and fruit categories.
I hit a road block with the protein category, originally opting for chicken breast. But the packages were for at least 2 pounds of meat. For a single meal, that would have been too much chicken.
Tour guide Jolene Croxell, who supervises the health department’s Women, Infants and Children nutrition program, suggested canned chicken, which would have been a smaller serving size and kept the total cost of the meal at less than $10.
It’s like my mom always said: The key to a successful grocery shopping trip is the list.