Cooking Matters program stretches dollars, not waistlines - New York News

Cooking Matters program stretches dollars, not waistlines

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MARIETTA, Ga. -

Navigating through the isle of a grocery store can be tricky. Displays and sales can pull shoppers in hundreds of different directions at once. Not to mention the temptation of cases of full of candy bars and hundreds of snack foods.

By the time a shopper emerges from the store, their cart can be full of items which they never wanted and really did not need. A program called Cooking Matters is trying to change that.

It starts with the challenge of trying to make a meal from scratch that includes five of the food groups, feeds four people, and has to be within $10.

When Sarah Thompson goes shopping for food, she's got a lot of people to think about.

"Oh, well I have four children and of course, I am a single mother. Budget is always important to stay on a budget," said Thompson.

Sarah joined Cooking Matters to try to stretch her dollar. It is a free six week nutritional education program where you learn not just how to cook healthy, but how to be a smart shopper.

During this trip field trip to a Marietta Kroger store, their volunteer teacher Marcia Rafiq has gave them the challenge.

"You got to know what makes up a healthy meal; you need a protein a starch a vegetable. A dairy product and a fruit, those are things you need every day," said Rafiq. "Because food is fuel. If you put crappy gas in your car, that is not good, your car is going to spit and sputter and stop runny. But if you put good gas in your car, your car is going to run forever."

The class teaches how to read and compare prices. Not just the overall price, but the per-unit price which Rafiq says helps you break down exactly what your getting for your dollar.

"Like, I'm not going to pay over 88-cents a pound for chicken, okay?" said Rafig.

She says stores charge more for prepared foods. So, be willing to do it yourself, once you learn a few cooking basics such as how to peel a potato, how to use a knife, and how to make rice.

"Just learning that a little more elbow grease, a little more elbow work in the cooking and package and preparing things can save me a lot of money,"  said Thompson.
   
Another cost cutter is shopping for fruits and vegetables that are in-season. They will taste better and are a lot cheaper.

"In Georgia in July and August, you can get blueberries and you can get watermelons for pennies on the pound because they're in season, and they want to get rid of them," said Rafiq.
 
Shoppers can also go for frozen fruits and vegetables. They're less expensive, have almost the same nutritional value as fresh food, and won't go bad.

At the end of her challenge Sarah comes in under-budget. By week five, Sarah says her and her family are eating healthy at least 70% of the time and it feels different, better.

"It's better for my energy. I've seen that. Even in the just learning that eating breakfast. To where I like to have coffee, eating breakfast has begun to boost my energy, and I've got children I need to real energy, not the coffee energy, so it's been great," said Thompson.

Cooking matters offers hands-on classes like this for adults, but they also have classes for teenagers, children, and families. These programs are set up through organizations like a church or community center.

For more information on the program and where you can find a local class near you go to cookingmatters.org.

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