Stretching Your Monthly Food Budget
Living with HIV and AIDS can mean losing income to cover basic necessities like food, clothing, and shelter while facing increased expenses for medical care and prescriptions. Unfortunately many HIV-infected individuals are forced to make tough decisions between eating and paying the rent. Neglecting proper nutrition can make you more likely to get sick, and it's essential that you eat enough to meet your basic protein, calorie, and nutrient requirements. The following guidelines are intended to help stretch your food dollar. And, remember, your food choices make a real difference. If you use food money to purchase non-nutritious items like chips, donuts, cookies, candy, and soda, you're not only wasting your money--you may be affecting your body's ability to fight off infection.
- If you're receiving food stamps or other public assistance, go food shopping as soon as you get your monthly benefits.Try to shop at large supermarkets instead of small neighborhood bodegas or delis. Supermarkets have a larger food selection and usually have lower prices.
- Prepare a shopping list and stick to it. Avoid spending money on unnecessary items.
- Buy store brands or generic brands whenever possible. They cost less and have the same nutritional value as more popular "brand name" products.
- Make it a habit to use newspaper coupons, and always check local supermarket flyers. But, remember to buy only what you really need--not whatever's on sale.
- Compare prices to product weights. A cheaper product may also weigh less. It's the unit price that really tells you how much you're paying for a given quantity of a product.
- If you have enough storage space, buy large or economy-size items whenever possible.
- Purchase canned and nonperishable foods in bulk supply when they're on sale. You can rely on these items when food money runs especially low.
- You can also buy meat, fish, or chicken when it's on sale and date and freeze what you don't plan to use right away.
- Avoid grocery shopping on an empty stomach. You'll buy more than you need.
- Emphasize nutritional value. Low-cost foods that are high in protein include eggs, milk, chicken, and beans. Other inexpensive foods that are good sources of vital nutrients include rice, bread, cereal, pasta, oatmeal, and fruits and vegetables (fresh, frozen, or canned).
- Don't use food money to buy cigarettes, beer, or alcohol.
- Take advantage of congregate meal and home-delivery programs and food pantries when you don't have enough money for food. Find out if you have some type of a hunger hotline in your area. In New York City we have the City Harvest Hunger Hotline, 1-800-HUNGRY2. They have 360 emergency food programs on their computer.