My Turn: Stocking the shelves | SierraSun.com

My Turn: Stocking the shelves

George LeBard
Executive Director Project MANA

There’s been a lot of talk and concern about the economy recently. It’s something that individuals and families have to deal with every day. According to the most recent government numbers, the price of food has gone up 7.5 percent in the last year and the U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts that prices will continue to rise, affecting meat and dairy the strongest. All Americans are feeling the strain on their pocketbooks, but it’s those who were already struggling who are hit the hardest.

Here at Project MANA people keep asking how the economy is affecting us. “Are we seeing more need, more clients?”

The short answer is yes we are, especially in our “shoulder season” the gap in-between seasonal jobs, March and April – October and November. Last March, April we saw our average count of serving 150 families per week go up as high as 300 plus families per week. The longer answer is that food isn’t just more expensive for our clients it’s also more expensive for us. Traditionally we have four major food drives during the year that keep our shelves full and supplement our emergency bags that we distribute. This year because of the increased need for emergency food our shelves are bare more often than not. That means we have to do more shopping than usual at the food bank in Reno, which means spending more money on food and gas.

Now, more than ever, our food drives are an important source of food for us. Our annual Brown Bag Food Drive starts Aug. 20 and goes until Sept. 10. Drop-off locations include:

– Truckee: Fire Station, Save-mart, U.S. Post Office, Project MANA office

– Tahoe City: Plumas Bank, Fire Station

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– Tahoe Vista: U.S. Post Office

– Kings Beach: Fire Station, U.S. Post Office, Plumas Bank

– Incline Village: S.W. Gas, Fire Station, Rec Center, U.S. Post Office, and the Project MANA office at the DW Reynolds Community Non-profit Center.

After Sept. 10 we will gladly accept food at any time through one of our office locations ” In Truckee at 10418 Donner Pass Rd or 10100 Estates Dr. In Incline Village at 948 Incline Way.

Our wish list includes all non-perishable items within their expiration date and in particular ” rice, beans, cereals, peanut butter, tuna, canned meats, canned fruits and vegetables, soups, and healthy snacks for kids.

Planning, eating, and shopping smarter: We can still eat healthy on a budget we just need to plan a little “smarter.”

Before shopping

– Make a shopping list. This helps you stick to your budget.

– Plan your meals. Planning helps put leftovers to good use.

– Look for coupon, sales and store specials.

– For added saving sign up for the store discount card.

During Shopping

– Don’t shop when you’re hungry. It’s easier to stick to your shopping list.

– Try store brands. They usually cost less.

– Compare products for the best deal. Watch out for tricky marketing.

– Check sell-by dates. Buy the freshest food possible. It last longer.

– Consider frozen vegetables and fruits that last longer and can be portioned out.

After shopping

– Store food right away to preserve freshness.

– Portion and freeze some foods to prevent spoiling.

– Divide foods into small portions for children and elderly to prevent waste.

– Use foods with earliest expiration dates first. Best Buys for Cost and Nutrition

Breads and grains

– Look for bargains on day old bread. It cost less but is still nutritious.

– Buy regular rice, oatmeal and grits instead of instant to save on money, sugar and calories.

Vegetables and salad

– Buy large bags of frozen vegetables. Avoid pre-bagged salad mixes. They are usually more expensive and spoil faster.

Fruits

– Buy fresh fruits in season

– Frozen and canned fruits are a smart choice all year-round.

Low-fat milk products

– Buy fresh milk in the largest size that can be used before spoiling. Ultra-pasteurized milk has a longer expiration date.

Meat and Beans

– Chuck or bottom-round roast has less fat and is cheaper than sirloin.

– Dried beans and peas are a good source of protein and fiber.

– Look for specials at the meat counter. Buy meat in large bulk packages to save money.

– Freeze portions you might not use right away to prevent spoiling. Check out – http://www.mypyramid.gov http://recipefinder.nal.usda.gov/