Something to Chew On

A Guide to Eating Right and Living Well


Couponing- Is it Always Worth It?

We’ve all watched the show in complete awe and wonder. The shopper pushes their four loaded-down carts of groceries to the cashier and the ringing up begins; $20.00, $130.00, $650.00. Luckily, the shopper has come equipped with a binder full of coupons and the grand total is…$4.74. I’m usually left speechless for several reasons:

  • Where are they going to put all that stuff?
  • How much time did it take to prepare for that one shopping trip?
  • Did they seriously need 100 Hershey bars?

According to the show, Extreme Couponing, the shopper featured spends an average of 35-40 hours per week preparing for one shopping trip. That’s a full-time job’s worth of buying newspapers, printing online coupons, cutting, organizing and mapping out a plan of attack at the local grocery store. Some may view this as complete obsession while others see it as a way to make ends meet. But, is this type of couponing always worth it?extreme couponing

Time. This may be viewed as the biggest downfall to extreme couponing. Scouting newspapers, magazines, and online ads, then organizing it all is critical to making an extreme shopping trip work. For many of us who work full-time, these are discretionary hours that we just don’t have.

Space. In order to support these large grocery trips, you need to have the available storage space to keep and organize all your purchases. Preferably, this needs to be a pest-free, dry, climate-controlled room so your bounty is not spoiled by humidity or insects.

Expiration Dates. From a food safety perspective, this one worries me. When you see what appears to be a warehouse full of cereal, crackers, cookies, granola bars and condiments, you can’t help but think “how can they possibly eat all that food before it expires?” Expiration dates do not apply exclusively to foods.  Medications like Tylenol can become toxic if consumed after its expiration date. A good method to practice is the FIFO inventory principle-First In First Out. Remember to pull older items forward when restocking a similar item.

Nutritional Value. This is my biggest concern with most of the featured individuals’ purchases on the show. Saving hundreds of dollars on a shopping trip is definitely a commendable feat; but what will the shopper pay nutritionally? Loading up on sugary-sweetened cereal, candy bars, chips and soda comes with a hefty calorie bill. Consuming these foods on a daily basis (which you would have to do so they don’t spoil, right?) indicates a diet that is low in fiber, B-vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

I know what you’re thinking, “But Amanda, fruits and vegetables are so expensive!” I’m here to tell you, that is not always the case. First and foremost, sign up for your local grocery store’s rewards program. Often, you are only eligible for the sale prices or “deals of the week” if you have a rewards card membership. You also are entitled to store-specific coupons with many of these rewards programs. A friend of mine told me about the mPerks programs at Mejier and how she saves all the time on grocery items, meat and produce. Did you hear that? PRODUCE! Each week I log on and virtually “clip” coupons that get automatically added to my account. When checking out, I simply punch in my code and just like magic, my grocery bill goes down.

Buying fruits and vegetables in season is another excellent way to save. For a complete list of what’s in season this summer, please visit:  Shopping at your local Farmers’ Market is another great approach to purchasing fresh produce in season. In fact, Illinois Products Farmers’ Market sponsored by Springfield Clinic is providing opportunities to earn free “market bucks” for the Illinois Products Farmers’ Market. Each week a new recipe is handed out at the Springfield Clinic booth. Individuals are encouraged to make the recipe and then take a picture of the finished product. Market bucks can be earned by posting the recipe photo to the Springfield Clinic Facebook page. Come join us each Thursday from 4:00-7:00pm at the Illinois State Fair Grounds-Commodities Pavilion.

My intent of this post was not to bash extreme couponing but rather to highlight some of the pitfalls of the experience. I think it’s wise to stock up on items like Ziploc bags, diapers, or cleaning supplies, but there’s no real “savings” to experience with mass quantities of chips or soft drinks.


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Going Green

It’s safe to say that we most often associate the color green with the month of March. The grass begins to grow, trees start sprouting leaves, shamrock decorations appear everywhere and even the Chicago River is dyed green in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. Green is also the color of some of the most nutritious vegetables—all of which should be staples in our households.

Broccoli: Fiber, Vitamin C, Potassium, calcium, folate, beta carotene, antioxidants… this list of nutrients supplied by broccoli appears to be endless! Broccoli may not always be at the top of kids’ most favorite vegetable list. A study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (2011) found that kids were more likely to rate broccoli as “yummy” if they had something to dip it in. Try serving broccoli florets with homemade hummus or make your own low-fat ranch dressing by combining plain Greek yogurt with Ranch seasoning mix. Creating fun animations with your vegetables (and fruits) is another great way to get kids excited about eating these nutritious treats!

Going green can be fun for kids of all ages.

Going green can be fun for kids of all ages.

Here is a delicious recipe that I made the other night (husband approved!): Parmesan Roasted Broccoli. I used less salt and oil than the recipe called for, and it turned out to be a delicious and nutritious addition to our dinner . For a less expensive option, I substituted sliced almonds for pine nuts.

Spinach: No salad should go without this nutrient-packed leafy green. Spinach is loaded with vitamin K, which is essential for bone development and blood clotting. It also houses vitamin C, vitamin A, calcium, magnesium, iron, folic acid and manganese. Spinach contains flavonoids which are antioxidants and anti-cancer agents. Spinach is a versatile vegetable that can be added to dishes in several ways:

  • Added to an egg omelet or scrambled eggs (an excellent way to get vegetables at breakfast)
  • Mixed in with your salad greens
  • Blended into pasta and rice dishes
  • Great healthy additions to soups and casseroles
  • Used as a stuffing mix to put inside lean proteins (think spinach-stuffed chicken breasts!)
  • Blended into smoothies

Kale: I’ll admit—this vegetable used to scare me. But once I actually tried kale, I couldn’t believe I had gone so long without it! This is one of the superstars of the vegetable world, despite most people not even knowing what it is. Kale tops the charts with its antioxidant capabilities. In fact, it has been given the highest ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) score out of all the vegetables = 1770 (spinach comes in a distant second with a score of 1260). Kale and collard greens contain some of the highest concentrations of lutein and zeaxanthin carotenoids, and are associated with reducing the risk of age-related macular degeneration. The most common way to prepare kale includes steaming and sautéing in olive oil and garlic. For the kids, you can dehydrate kale in the oven making “kale chips”. Most people enjoy kale after it has been cooked, but you can also add it to fresh salads.

Here’s a recipe packed with antioxidants and nutrients for the entire family to enjoy: Sauteed Chicken Breasts with Kale and Wild Mushrooms.

March, the month where spring fills the air and the color green wraps around us. Let’s celebrate the month of March, National Nutrition Month, by exploring and expanding our consumption of green vegetables.

**Individuals who are taking blood thinners should not consume dark green vegetables in large amounts due to the high content of vitamin K in the vegetables.

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Let’s Get the Flax Facts!

When hearing the word omega-3 fatty acids, most people think of salmon, or maybe walnuts. Today, I wanted to introduce you to another heart-healthy food that contains omega-3 fatty acids—flaxseed. I know what you’re thinking: what is flaxseed, and how do I eat it?

Flaxseed is one of many nutritional powerhouse foods, meaning it is full of healthy nutrients, including fiber, antioxidants, protein and omega-3 fatty acids (specifically alpha-linolenic acid or ALA). ALA is a polyunsaturated fat that is needed in our diets. Replacing bad fats (saturated and trans-fats) with the good fats (mono- and poly-unsaturated fats) can help lower the risk for chronic diseases like heart disease, stroke and cancer, as well as lower the LDL (bad) cholesterol. Flax is a source of lignans which are antioxidants that may reduce the activity of cell-damaging free radicals. One tablespoon of milled flax contains about 3 grams of fiber (both soluble and insoluble). Fiber from flax can help one feel fuller longer, help reduce cholesterol and improve colon and digestive health. Flax is also a great source of nutrients for vegetarians and a great way to obtain omega-3 fatty acids for people with fish allergies.

You can find flaxseed at your local grocery store. I have found it in the cereal aisle, next to the oatmeal or in the gluten-free section. Remember to refrigerate the flaxseed once opened.  Aim for an intake of 1-2 tablespoons of flaxseed per day. The best way to buy it is “milled”. We cannot absorb all the healthy nutrients flax has to offer unless it’s in the ground/milled form. You can grind whole flax seeds on your own using a coffee grinder, food processor or blender.

Here are some ideas for adding flax into your diet. Consuming it with other foods adds a light nutty flavor to your dishes:

  • Mix flax in with your yogurt
  • Add it to breakfast cereal or oatmeal
  • Mix in with fruit smoothies
  • Sprinkle into soups/stews/sauces

Try these other flax-friendly recipes!

For kids:

  • Add to applesauce
  • Sprinkle a thin layer between peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
  • Add to beans/chili after cooking
  • Mix in with mashed potatoes (or mashed cauliflower) after cooking

How do you add flax into your diet?

For more ideas, recipes and information about flax please visit:

Eat right, move more and live life to the flax!


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