Where can I buy healthy food?
Do you want to buy healthy food for your family? Read about healthy foods and how to buy them if you are on a budget. Learn about American food and where to get food from your home country.
Eating healthy food is one of the most important things you can do to maintain your health. Most newcomers come from countries where people eat a lot of fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods.
Where to buy healthy food on a budget
Cooking nutritious, affordable and healthy food for you and your family can be hard in the USA. There are lots of cheap processed and fast foods available that are not healthy. Fruits and vegetables can be expensive.
One of the most important things you can do is to find the supermarkets nearby to your home. Most of the time, large stores will be cheaper than small stores. Supermarkets are big and carry a variety of foods from around the world at reasonable prices. Other newcomers in your community may have suggestions of supermarkets and other stores where you can find low-cost healthy food and foods from your country.
How to save money at the grocery store
Many supermarkets have coupons, which are vouchers that lower the cost of certain grocery items. Coupons are made available online, in newspapers, and through the mail. Supermarkets also post discounted items on their websites and in booklets available in-store. Consider buying different brands of the same foods as coupons change from week to week.
Get club cards
Your supermarket may have a “club card,” or membership card, that gives you access to discounts. They show the discounts in the aisles and shelves. Visit the customer service counter to learn about the opportunities your supermarket has for savings.
Store brands are often cheaper than famous brand names. Figure out where store brands are shelved at your supermarket. They are usually on lower shelves, while name brands are shelved at eye level.
Look at unit prices
Be mindful of unit prices when shopping. A unit price is the cost of a specific quantity (per ounce, pound, liter, etc.) of a product. For example, you may think a jumbo-sized box of cereal is the best deal, but the unit price on a smaller box may be less. In that case, it would be to your advantage to buy two smaller boxes instead of one big box! Unit prices are usually shown just below the selling price.
Buy fresh foods in season
Out-of-season produce is generally more expensive, so try to buy fruits and vegetables that are in season. In the warmer months, planting a small garden at your home or in a community plot can be an inexpensive source of vegetables for your family.
Buy some foods in bulk
Beans, spices and other dried foods are cheaper in bulk. Buying in bulk quantities can save you expense over the long term, but do so cautiously because some foods spoil quickly. Spoiled food means wasted money.
Use convenience stores rarely
Avoid convenience stores for large amounts of shopping. As their name suggests, convenience stores are convenient. They are common in urban neighborhoods and are open late or even all night. But their goods are often overpriced, and they don’t stock many healthy foods. Convenience stores are best visited for small grocery runs and urgent food needs only.
Where can I find food from my country?
Some foods you are used to eating may be hard to find or expensive in the USA. Meats and fruits that are not common, such as papaya, are expensive because they are imported. You can look for fruits that are similar and cheaper, or just buy your favorites for special occasion.
Speciality food shops
Specialty sections of grocery stores may carry some items that are familiar to you. These sections are usually limited, but in large towns you will find smaller stores with a larger variety of foods from one or more cultures. You can search for these stores using FindHello or at Specialtygrocery.net.
Internet food shopping
It is also possible to buy nonperishable foods (foods that do not spoil quickly) on the internet. You will have to use your credit card or bank account to do this. It is convenient because the foods are delivered to your home. One example of an ethnic foods retailer online is eFoodDepot.com.
What if I don’t have enough food?
In the USA, there are community food pantries and food banks that provide food to low-income people. You can look in FindHello for food assistance in your community. You can also visiting Feeding America to see if you qualify for any of government food assistance programs or to find your local food bank.
Adjusting to American food
You may be surprised to see how many choices there are for food in the USA. There are many brands of food in all kinds of packages. Fruits and vegetables can be bought even when they are not in season. You will notice that restaurants serve food from many different cultures. Fast food is popular in the United States. It is easy to get a cheap meal quickly, and even to buy it without getting out of your car.
Many American foods, especially fast foods, in the United States contain sugar or preservatives (ingredients put in food to make it last longer). Many fruits and vegetables are sprayed with pesticides, which are chemicals used on farms that keep insects away. Your body may not be used to these types of foods so you may feel sick at first or may start to gain weight. Consuming unhealthful foods is a problem for many Americans, who get overweight and experience health issues. Although you might be excited to try new foods, you may choose to do so gradually, in order to let your body adjust.
If you are trying to eat healthfully and cheaply, you will want to avoid eating at restaurants often. The food served in restaurants tends to be less healthy and contains many more calories, which are units that measure how much energy a food has. Ice cream, for example, has many calories. Fruits and vegetables have fewer calories.
American views of immigrant food
Some Americans may not have tried the food you eat in your native country. In big cities, there are many ethnic restaurants and so people have more experience of foreign foods. In smaller towns, with less cultural variety, people may not be as experienced.
Introduce new dishes
Most Americans are open to trying new types of cooking and will be curious to try new dishes. Many Americans participate in “potlucks,” which are social gatherings where everyone brings a dish to share. Potlucks happen at big gatherings or at casual dinners. This may be a good opportunity to introduce others to your food, both in school and social situations. You can also invite people over for dinner and serve dishes from your culture. Some people may not be open to trying new food, however, and it is important to respect that.
Food at your children’s school
Students in American schools do not receive breakfast except in some preschools for young children. Children eat before they go to school, although in some schools children can buy a small breakfast at the school cafeteria.
Lunch and snacks
At lunchtime, children can either buy their food or bring food from home. Packing lunches for your children is the best way to make sure that your children have healthy food, since many schools serve unhealthy foods and sugary drinks. Children in the USA also bring “snacks” to school. These are small amounts of food that they eat during breaks between classes. Examples include fruits, nuts, granola bars, or crackers.
Help with food costs
If your family does not have a lot of money, sometimes the school will provide free (or cheaper) meals, including breakfast, for your child. Every school is different, so it is best to talk to your child’s teacher or the school secretary you have any questions.
There is a possibility that children may make fun of your child for eating unfamiliar food. Younger children are sometimes afraid of new things and think that teasing others is the right way to deal with their feelings. You should talk to your child about this, so they are not surprised or very upset if this happens. Your child may choose to explain what the food is made out of, as some ethnic dishes contain similar ingredients to those eaten in the USA. If the children are not interested, your child may choose to walk away from the situation. They may want to choose a different group of companions.
If children continue to make fun of your child’s choices of food, you or your child should talk to the teacher about the situation. Another strategy would be to talk to the teacher about organizing an activity in which food can become a teaching opportunity about culture. You could make a larger amount of the food for the class, and it would be discussed and shared.
Helping children develop healthy food habits
Children usually get used to their new culture quickly. They may be eager to eat American food in order to fit in with other students.
Teach healthy food habits
Teaching children healthful habits from an early age is important. Many American children have problems with their weight and health as a result of poor nutrition. You can help your children be proud of the food from your first culture by cooking nutritious food at home.
Children are usually more excited to eat food at home if they help make it. Take your children grocery shopping with you and ask them to help you make meals.
Eating meals together can help your family stay close and means you can make sure your children are eating nutritious food. At mealtimes, you may choose to cook food from your culture or to try foods that are new to you. Cooking familiar dishes allows you to retain food traditions and encourage your children to stay bonded to their roots. When trying new American foods, you have the opportunity to share a new experience with your children and to share their enthusiasm for your new environment.
Read food labels
Foods in the USA have labels on them that describe, in detail, what ingredients are in the food and how much of it you should be eating. It’s good to learn how to read these labels because it allows you to find out if a food has many calories and if it has vitamins and minerals that will benefit your health. You can learn more about these labels from the Food and Drug Administration.
Make sure your children are active
It is also important to encourage your children to be physically active. Many children in the United States watch television, play video games, or use their phones too much. Playing outside with our children after dinner, signing them up for after-school sports, and monitoring how much technology they use are all ways to do this.
Polite ways to decline food
If you are invited to someone’s home for a meal and cannot eat a certain food because of your religion or culture, you should feel comfortable explaining that to your host and hostess. It is appropriate to do this before you go to the event. Most Americans are very respectful of others diets and may even ask you questions to learn more about your lifestyle. If you have eaten enough and do not want any more food, it is not impolite to say, “No thank you, I am full,” even if the host offers it many times.
Taboo or hard-to-find foods
Some foods that you are used to eating in your home country are either not available or are taboo. Taboo means inappropriate or forbidden within a culture. Some types of meat, such as horse meat and some organs of animals, are not sold or eaten. Many Americans think eating baby or fetal animals is wrong. Insects also are not part of the traditional diet, but you can occasionally find them at some ethnic markets.
In America, dairy products are pasteurized (heated) to kill bacteria, and fresh milk and cheese that do not go through this process cannot be sold. Some fruits, such as mangosteen and askee, are not sold in the United States because they are considered unsafe.
Growing your own healthy food
Most Americans, especially those living in cities, do not grow their own food or have their own livestock (cows, goats, etc). However, that does not mean that it is impossible to grow some of your food. It is a great way to make sure your family has healthy things to eat. You can buy seeds and materials for planting in home and garden stores.
If you live in a city and have little space, you can grow herbs in your home or a few fruits and vegetables on your balcony or in the yard. You can join a community garden.
If you wish to have a large garden or animals, it is best to find a home in a rural area, where it is cheaper to have a backyard or own land. Growing food may help you keep some of the routines you had in your home country.