By Ruthie Boyd, Public Health Marketing Coordinator
While COVID continues to shape the ways we interact with others every day, one thing remains: we still need to shop for groceries, plan our meals, and eat nutritious food. And for many, it is more important than ever to have the tools necessary to eat well on a budget.
When I heard about Tri-County Health Network’s online adaptation of Cooking Matters, a class designed to give you the tools to cook healthfully on a budget, I was excited to join. As a recent college graduate, navigating the world of cooking for myself has been an exciting transition. But with limited time and resources, I felt that I was lacking some of the essential tools to help ease my transition and keep track of my priorities.
I wanted to learn how to make my meals healthy, easily, and affordable- and Cooking Matters helped me do just that.
Setting the stage: what do you want to learn?
During our first class, our instructor, Ruth, asked us all why we had joined the course and what we wanted to learn. One participant wanted to meet people in the community during this isolating time, while also learning to cook on a budget- another was interested in learning more about basic food storage techniques, and a third was curious learning to scan the grocery store shelves for the most affordable and most nutritious canned good items.
Since Cooking Matters takes an evidence-based approach that breaks down the skills you need to know into easy-to-understand segments, class was engaging and informative. Ruth made sure to involve everyone, asking each member frequent questions about their own experience. She was sure to incorporate other topics that we inquired about, too- like how to best thaw frozen bread or whether knives can go in the dishwasher.
Covering the bases: food safety and storage
Each week that our class met, we went over a different component of the curriculum: food storage and safety, a virtual grocery store tour, substituting ingredients, and cooking on a budget are a few of the topics we covered. I learned things I hadn’t thought about before! For example- do you know how to properly cut an onion without making your eyes water? Have you ever thought about freezing half the loaf of bread if you won’t go through it quickly enough? I hadn’t!
Eating healthfully and affordably
In our grocery store tour, I learned that even when products look like they are the same price, they might not be- and that you should always compare ounces to see which one is a better deal overall. I also learned how to shop more healthfully- for example, canned goods often have added ingredients like salt and sugar that you should check for when you purchase them, and flavored yogurt has a lot of added sugar that can be avoided if you purchase the plan version and add your own sweetener, like honey or maple syrup.
Putting skills into practice
Now that it has been a few months since I was a student in the class, I’m happy to say that it’s been easy to put the skills I learned in Cooking Matters into practice. I feel better equipped to navigate the grocery store, I know how to pick out items that are nutritious and affordable and I have the skills to make the whole production come together- in the form of a tasty four serving meal for only $10!
How to join
While the past year has been challenging in many ways, Cooking Matters helped me simplify the most consistent aspect of my life- maintaining a healthy diet on a tight budget. The virtual format is easy to understand and convenient to join, and my class with Ruth was a very positive experience.
If you are interested in participating in Cooking Matters this January, sign up here! Participants receive a $10 grocery voucher after each course.
To learn more and register, click here.