Get healthy, stretch your grocery dollars during Food Check-Out Week

A cart full of groceries at the entrance to the County Market store in Carthage reads, "how much is this cart worth?"

When it comes to healthy foods versus your family's budget, many people tend to go for the bargains.

But this week, Farm Bureaus across the country are taking on the aisles at local grocery stores to help shoppers stretch their dollars for a healthier buy. It's all part of the Food Check-Out Week.

"We try to find bargains. It's kind of the way everybody buys things these days," Dick White, a shopper at County Market said.

Pre-cut, pre-packaged and processed. It's not always the healthiest way to go, but many shoppers will agree, it's more convenient. This week, farmers from across the country are on mission to change their thinking.

"To eat healthy and nutritious doesn't always have to cost more. It seems to be a misconception, so during Food Check-out Week we're trying to highlight that to the consumer," Shawn Valter, with the Adams County Farm Bureau said.

"We eat a lot of fruit, lettuce and meat," Judy White, a shopper said.

Valter says since fresh produce and meat are more perishable than pre-packaged and processed foods, you need to have a plan and a budget before you grab your cart. That prevents you from buying too much and wasting your money.

"I think knowledge is the real key to being able to stretch your food dollar," Valter said.

Valter says it's not just the price you need to look at. It's the nutritional labels.

"When you look at these [fruits on the shelf], it's not processed. So, that's actually the food you'd be eating," Valter said.

A few aisles over in the canned fruit section will show some added ingredients that add no nutritional value.

"We've got canned peaches, but then you have water, added sugar and corn syrup added to it to preserve them," Valter said.

The same goes for just about any packaged food.

Another tip to keep your health and budget in check: it costs less to buy fresh produce that's in season than buying frozen when it's not in season.

Tuesday, you can stop by the Pittsfield County Market and receive insulated grocery bags for your healthy foods.

At the County Market in Carthage, the Hancock County Farm Bureau Women's Committee and the Illinois Corn Growers Association have set up a week-long contest for shoppers. A cart full of groceries at the entrance to the store reads, "how much is this cart worth?" The person to guess the total price of the groceries will get a $50 gift card to the store. Other grocery stores participating in this contest are Ducks Foods in Nauvoo, R&D Food in LaHarpe, and Rhodes Market in Augusta.

Food Check-out Week began more than a decade ago with a partnership with the Ronald McDonald Houses across the country. According to the

Voice of Agriculture

, "Farm Bureau members have donated more than $3 million in food and monetary contributions to Ronald McDonald Houses and other worthwhile charities during Food Check-Out Week."