Healthy Low-Cost Eating and Shopping, Part 1 of 2

University of Nevada, Reno
Southern Area Cooperative Extension
Seniors CAN

Lesson Plan

Lesson: Healthy Low-Cost Eating and Shopping, Part 1 of 2

Lesson Number: N-4


The “Healthy Low-Cost Eating and Shopping” lesson is designed to teach Learners to adjust eating and shopping habits to save money, while incorporating information previously presented in the Food Choices for Healthy Aging and Food as Preventative Medicine lesson plans.

In Part 1, the Learner will receive information on ways to create healthy, low-cost meals and snacks and will learn how to read food labels.

In Part 2, the Learner will participate in a grocery store tour to learn more about making healthy, low-cost food selections and to practice reading food labels.

Learning Overview: The Learner will participate in a lesson designed to teach him/her how to incorporate healthy eating into his/her shopping and food preparation habits while cutting costs.

Lesson Objectives:

  1. During the lesson, the Learner will be exposed to the following ideas regarding healthy low-cost eating and shopping:
    • Healthier food choices.
    • Ways to save money at the grocery store.
    • Introduction to reading food labels.
    • Incorporating beans as a low-cost protein source.
  2. During the lesson, the Learner will engage in group discussion regarding healthy lowcost eating and shopping, describing with clarity at least one example from his/her life experience.
  3. During group discussion, either spontaneously or in response to Facilitator request, the Learner will state with clarity that s/he has selected at least one idea presented during the lesson, what that idea is, and that s/he will try this idea during the following week to see if it works for him/her. Alternatively, the Learner will state with clarity that s/he does not want to try out any of the ideas presented, and the reason for the decision.


Set up at previous meeting:

Optional activity:

I will bring in prepared Black Bean Brownies or Bean Pita Pizza ingredients.


Set up immediately prior to this meeting:

Facilitator assures that lighting is appropriate for Learners to read food labels.

Optional activity:

Facilitator prepares and stores properly during the meeting the Black Bean Brownies or ingredients for the Bean Pita Pizza.



Provided by the Facilitator:

One of each of the following for each Learner:

Optional Activity:


Note: Facilitator should review lesson plan for this week, last week and next week because information provided at the beginning of each lesson plan is needed for smooth transition between lessons.






Eating Well As We Age. [Accessed 12/11/06].

Growing Older, Eating Better. Revised March 2004. FDA Consumer Magazine, 1996 Issue, Pub. No. FDA 04-1301C. [Accessed 12/11/06].

EN’s Advice on How to Spice Up Your Food and Health, Diane Welland, MS, RD. Environmental Nutrition, July 2004, pg. 2.

4 weeks of Fresh Snack Ideas, Catherine D. Johnson, PhD, RD. Ensure Health Connection, August 2003, pg. 8.

Organic Foods: Why They’re Worth the Extra Cost. Dr. Andrew Weil’s Self Healing Newsletter, November 2005.

How to Understand and Use the Nutrition Facts Label. [Accessed 12/11/06].

Cooking Tips, Michigan Bean Commission. [Accessed 11/28/07].

Money-Saving Grocery Tips. MSN Lifestyle-Food & Entertaining-Article. [Accessed 9/28/05].


Begin Lesson:

Transition from last week

Last week we talked about (name of last week’s unit). Each of us selected one idea to try out. Let’s talk about how those worked (or didn’t work) for us, and also what we learned from last week’s meeting.

Anticipatory Set:

Today we will explore healthy, low-cost eating and shopping and practice reading and understanding food labels.

Our previous work on the lessons Food Choice for Healthy Aging and Food as Preventative Medicine taught us a lot about healthy food choices. It’s easy to talk about these ideas, but how can we put them into practice? Especially on a fixed income or budget? This lesson ties together what you have learned in previous lessons.

Share the Objective:

  1. We will be talking about several ideas to help you make your eating and shopping healthier and lower cost. We will be covering:
    1. Healthier food choices.
    2. Ways to save money at the grocery store.
    3. Introduction to reading food labels.
    4. Incorporating beans as a low-cost protein source.
  2. During this lesson, I will be providing information, but it is also important that we share information and ask questions in group discussion. I would appreciate it if each of you could bring up at least one example from your life experience.
  3. Also during the lesson today, I’m going to ask each of you to select one idea from the lesson to try out on your own over the next week. I’ll pick one, too. Then each of us can share with the group next week how it worked out.

Share the Handouts:

These summarize the main ideas we will be discussing today. [Pass out handouts.] Please feel free to take notes and ask questions as they arise.


I. As we age, nutrition remains an important part of our lives. Studies have shown that a healthful diet in our later years helps to both reduce the risk of disease such as heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis, as well as manage the signs and symptoms of diseases. Improper nutrition can lead to problems recovering from an illness, increase in health care costs, higher incidence of nursing home admission and a poorer quality of life.

II. However some “healthy” food choices like fresh fruit or chicken are often more costly, leading seniors to buy less expensive, less nutritious foods. So how can we make healthy food choices while on a budget?

  1. One idea we would like you to consider is making a large amount of food, then freezing the extra servings.
  2. Think of this as making your own TV dinners—except it is less expensive and is likely to be more nutritious than storebought TV dinners.
  3. When you are cooking rice, potatoes or pasta, you can make extra then freeze the extra for later use. What you are making ahead of time and freezing doesn’t have to be the whole meal or dish.
  4. Use scotch or masking tape and a marker to label and date the food you freeze so that you can keep track of what it is and how long you have had it.

III. Cooking methods

  1. You probably already realize that frying foods in fat or oil will add more fat than needed.
  2. Alternatives to frying meat are baking, broiling and grilling.
  3. You can also cook meat by adding liquid then boiling it, making a stew or cooking it in a crock-pot. This is especially good for less tender cuts of meat.
  4. Of course, you can always marinate less tender cuts of meat, then broil or grill it. What kinds of cooking methods do you currently use? Allow group discussion and reiterate/ reinforce the lower fat methods of cooking during group discussion.

IV. Healthy Low-Cost Eating:

  1. Keep frozen and canned produce on hand; look for “no salt” or “no sugar” added.
  2. Use healthful spices like cinnamon on plain oatmeal or rosemary on fish.
  3. Try different combinations: crunchy cereal sprinkled on yogurt, salsa added to a scrambled egg, roasted chicken with sliced peaches, grapes or nuts in a leafy salad.
  4. Make a large amount of food and freeze small, individual portions creating a “frozen dinner” for another meal - don’t forget to label and date the container.
  5. Baking, grilling and broiling are healthier cooking methods than frying.
  6. Use a crock-pot for easy preparation and freeze the leftovers to avoid throwing away food - try stew meat, frozen vegetables and seasoning.
  7. Consider substitutions: a low-fat, frozen fudge bar for ice cream, popcorn for potato chips, non-fat yogurt on a baked potato instead of sour cream.
  8. Changing recipes: applesauce for oil in brownie recipes, firm tofu instead of chicken in a stir-fry, replace one egg with 2 egg whites when baking.
  9. Snack ideas: dip pretzels into hummus, enjoy cottage cheese and fruit, spread peanut butter on celery, add an almond to the center of a dried plum or try soy nuts.

V. Healthy Low-Cost Shopping:

  1. Clip coupons, look for the store’s weekly specials or join the store’s “reward” program to save money.
  2. Compare prices and cost per serving (unit); take a calculator!
  3. Shop around: Wal-Mart* will accept all store sale ads and coupons, while pharmacy stores like Walgreens* and dollar stores often offer deals on non-perishables.
  4. Always shop with a food list to avoid impulse buying of items you might not really need. Try to shop when you are not hungry.
  5. Consider buying generic or store brands; usually they have the same nutritional value.
  6. Buy certain items in bulk, only if you will use them, like apples, potatoes and paper goods.
  7. Try to avoid buying convenience or pre-made foods which can be more costly.
  8. Organic foods will be pricier so if you want to spend the extra money, focus on peaches, strawberries, apples, spinach, celery, pears, bell peppers, raspberries, nectarines and potatoes as they are often the most contaminated with pesticides.
  9. Get fresh produce in season, strawberries in May and cucumbers in August.
  10. Canned and frozen produce is economical, convenient and nutritious.
  11. Higher fat ground meat is less expensive, drain off the excess fat to make it more healthful.
  12. Watch for special pricing on meat, chicken and fish; frozen fish fillets and whole chicken fryers are good choices.
  13. Save with day-old bakery items and use immediately or freeze.
  14. Common variety, block cheese like cheddar or Monterey jack will offer the best value.
  15. Plain oatmeal in a large container costs less than the single serve, flavored varieties.
  16. Buy plain soups that cost less and add frozen vegetables to them.
  17. If you have some difficulties, consider these options:
    1. Can’t chew? Try other foods like applesauce, cooked cereals, eggs or beans.
    2. Can’t shop? Ask a friend for help, try store delivery or use the store scooter.
    3. Can’t cook? Use the microwave or try a senior center meals program.
    4. No appetite? Eat with friends, try spices or herbs, talk to your doctor.
    5. Short on money? See about eligibility at Meals on Wheels or Food Stamps.

VI. Introduction to reading food labels:

  1. In your fact sheet is a sample Nutrition Facts food label. It’s enlarged so that we can see it clearly. Using the food label and ingredient list helps you to determine if the food has an ingredient you are trying to avoid, like Trans fat, or one you want to include, like fiber from a whole grain source.
  2. Let’s go over the elements in one of these labels. Go over this section of the fact sheet cover each element: Serving Sizes (point out that these can be surprising and can help you decide if the manufacturers’ claims that a food is low in fat or low in sodium is deceptive), then Calories (Per Serving), Calories from Fat (Per Serving), Nutrition Facts Panel (listing amount of fat, protein, carbohydrate, cholesterol and sodium), Daily Reference Values, and % DV with 5% or less is low and 20% or more is high.
  3. Next week, we will be meeting at the grocery store and we will practice reading food labels while we are there. I’ll be giving you portable magnifying lenses that you can use to read some of the fine print, because the Nutrition Facts labels on food packages themselves are quite a bit smaller than what we are looking at here.

VII. Label reading

  1. Today we are going to interpret the information contained on a food label. Pass out food items or their labels. Go over the information contained on the labels and ask for input from participants on their reaction to learning what is actually in the foods that they eat.

VIII. Using beans. Optional Activity. (If you do not do the demonstration, share the information.)

  1. A Healthy Low-Cost Favorite...Beans!
  2. Beans are high in protein and fiber, low-fat, inexpensive and easy to prepare. They can be purchased dry, canned or frozen. Cooked beans can be stored safely in air tight containers in the refrigerator (at least 4 days) or freezer (up to 1 year).
  3. Beans contain sugars that sometimes cause stomach gas. Always soak, then rinse dry beans prior to cooking to reduce these sugars. Rinsing canned beans will do the same, as well as reduce the sodium. Also, gradually introduce beans into your diet. For more serious symptoms try an anti-gas aid like Beano®*.
  4. Beans come in many varieties and can be used in soups, salads, casseroles, stews, meatballs and meatloaf as a side dish and in many Mexican food recipes like tacos, burritos, enchiladas or tostadas.

Now let’s go into the kitchen and prepare the Bean Pita Pizza recipe or try the Black Bean Brownies.

Optional Modeling and Guided Practice:

Facilitator and Learners prepare the Bean Pita Pizzas then eat it or try the Black Bean Brownies.

Monitoring / Discussion:

Q: Have you tried any of the ideas we’ve talked about today, or ideas similar to the ones we discussed, before? How did they work out for you?

Q: Were there any ideas we talked about today that you haven’t tried? Which of those would be the easiest to start doing? Which might be difficult for you to start doing?

Independent Practice:

This can be done at any time during the lesson. It seems to work better when it is not done in the rush at the end of a meeting. "I’d like for each of us to select at least one idea, from what we're learning, to try out this week. Let’s choose something easy to experiment with. Next week we can all compare our experiences and see what worked and what didn't."


Look at next week’s lesson plan for: “Set up at previous meeting.”

It begins: “Next week, we will be exploring . . ..”