DOUGHERTY CO., GA (WALB) - Staying on a budget for groceries can be tough for anyone, especially for those of us on a budget, or on the government's supplemental nutrition program, also known as SNAP.
A trip to the grocery store can turn into endless aisles of different types of food, including many unhealthy choices.
Those junk foods and desserts are often placed strategically so they are screaming your name.
Many Americans make those unhealthy choices because they are on a budget.
Stretching your dollar in the store
In 2015, 4.9 million people received assistance from SNAP.
A report by the USDA the same year found that 40 percent of customers were obese compared to 31 percent of the general population.
"It can be a challenge," said Georgia SNAP educator Latresh Davenport. "It's not impossible."
Households receiving SNAP received an average of $127 per person per month.
"It's kind of like training for anything else. You need to train your habits so that your patterns are working with the budget that you have and working with your specific constraints," said Davenport.
Davenport often pairs people up with grocery store tours that give customers tips about how to eat healthy.
She said before leaving the house, she recommends planning meals out for the week and coming up with a list of items.
She also encourages looking in the pantry to see what you already have.
Although healthy eating can sometimes be bland, Davenport suggests having many different spices in your cabinet to add to your meals.
Those can be purchased cheap at dollar stores and do not need to be bought at the expensive grocery store prices.
Upon walking into the store, it can be overwhelming. Davenport suggests thinking about the "My Food Plate Guide."
Half of the plate is fruits and vegetables, which means half of your receipt at checkout should be too.
"A lot of the fruits and vegetables which is the challenge are not just low income population but with the general public is that we don't get enough and we don't buy our fruits and vegetables enough. So that's our goal to encourage that even half of your plate is fruits and vegetables," said Davenport.
Davenport said there is a key to buying fruits and vegetables at low prices.
"Purchase all of your items whole and then you cut them so you are not paying those additional dollars just for convenience," said Davenport.
She also recommends buying fruits and vegetables that are in season. Often times those that are not in season are much pricier. Davenport encourages buying canned or frozen fruits and veggies as well for better prices.
As you get deeper into the store, she said to keep thinking about the plate guide.
Grains are another one third of the plate.
Like fruits and vegetables there is a trick. This time, the trick is to buy in bulk.
If you are not a fan of potatoes, brown rice is another healthy option.
"You can cook these once a week and they are good for the rest of the week. You can make brown rice with chicken stock, very delicious you can put it in a stew, you can put it and I stir-fry. And all of those things you typically just throw in there cook for 15 minutes and you have a meal," Davenport said.
As far as proteins, Davenport said to stick with low fat meats. If you are buying chicken, choose the whole chicken then finish and get out of the store resisting the rest of the temptations.
SNAP educators and grocery stores are recognizing obesity is a problem.
Ken Wicker is the Regional Vice President of Operations at Harvey's Supermarkets.
"We have a lot of customers who rely on food assistance," said Wicker.
The stores recently announced a price cut to more than 3,000 items, including a pick five for $19.99 that includes more expensive items like meats and a one dollar section.
"With our new lower prices across the entire store there are many options including healthy options for customers to save on their food dollars," said Wicker.
If you are still struggling at the store, SNAP offers online programs to help.
There are videos and recipes, like this apple snack one.
"It will give you the basic principles and kind of walk you through what these tips look like and how you can kind of modify what you currently do," said Davenport.
There is an online class you can take to get tips. It will give you quizzes and at the end they will give you some free items, like cutting boards and measuring cups.
It even shows you how to buy one healthy meal for less than $10.
There are programs in North Georgia through SNAP that offer guided groceries tours and cooking classes.
Those programs have not yet made it this far south, but SNAP educators said they are working on expanding them.
"There are opportunities whereby we understand that just telling people how to do this is important but we also want to make sure we are creating an environment where making the healthy choice is an easy choice," said Davenport.