Along with being the foundation of good health, good nutrition can also help save money on household bills. The Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County has developed a program called Small Steps to Health and Wealth™ that helps Union County residents combine both.

"The trick is to change your habits in small, easygoing steps that give you a sense of accomplishment," said Dr. Karen Ensle, RD, a nutrition expert and head of Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County.

One key strategy is simply to keep a weekly grocery shopping list. Research shows that excess money is spent when more trips to the supermarket are taken, and a pre-planned list helps cut down on those extra trips.

Households that keep grocery lists save money by: Using less gas.

Taking better advantage of money-saving sales, coupons, and bulk purchases.

Buying fewer expensive snacks and convenience foods, which are high in sugar, fat and salt.

Buying more inexpensive staples and cooking more nutritious meals.

Switching from name brands to cheaper store brands with the same nutritional value.

Reserving soda and other sugary drinks for special treats rather than daily use.

Avoiding impulse buys, especially at the checkout line (paying with cash or a debit card instead of a credit card also helps cut impulse buys).

These and many other tips are included in an easy-to-follow workbook and online challenge developed by Dr. Ensle with Dr. Barbara ONeill, an Extension financial specialist. For more information or a free copy of the workbook call 908-654-9854 or visit http://njaes.rutgers.edu/sshw/

Rutgers Cooperative Extension is supported in part by the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders, offering a variety of free programs including the popular "Enjoying a Balanced Diet on a Balanced Budget" seminar. Educators who are interested in disseminating this seminar can get a free Power Point version in English or Spanish by emailing Dr. Ensle, ensle@njaes.rutgers.edu

An upcoming class in the series is "13 Fun Ways to Eat More Fruits and Veggies," on Thursday, February 25 from 7:00 to 9:00 pm. Pre-registration is required by contacting Digna Torres at the Rutgers Cooperative Extension, 908-654-9854 or dtorres@ucnj.org. Rutgers Cooperative Extension belongs to a nationwide Extension network that helps connect the public with science-based research and information, along with providing Agricultural and Resource Management, Family and Community Health Sciences and 4-H Youth Development programs.