ROCK VALLEY—Mackenzie DeJong wants to encourage people to spend smart and eat smart.

That is why the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach human sciences program coordinator is working with the Rock Valley Public Library to put on a menu planning and budgeting workshop 7-8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 22.

The free event will focus on ways for adults to reduce food expenses, food shopping tips and tricks, and menu planning techniques and helpful resources.

The workshop will start with an overview of Extension’s website called “Spend Smart. Eat Smart.” Extension staff based at Iowa State University in Ames operate the site.

“Part of my job is to do nutrition programming,” DeJong said. “This is honestly the most basic and the easiest thing to kind of go to because there’s so much available.

“What they have available for us is easy to translate to everybody else and to go out into the community and share,” she said.

The website — which may be found at spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu — is home to online resources that have been helping Iowa families eat healthy and stick to a tight grocery budget for about 10 years.

“There are blogs, there are videos, all sorts of things,” DeJong said. “The resources are all through Extension. There’s an app, too, so it’s really easy to pull up on your phone.

“Every recipe has a nutrition guide that comes with it,” she said. “They all have the serving size and the cost per serving. It’s really handy.”

Extension’s event in Rock Valley will feature the following topics:

  • Using a grocery budget calculator.
  • Menu planning.
  • Unit pricing.
  • Preparing a simple recipe from the website.
  • Goal setting.

DeJong — who covers Lyon, O’Bri­en, Osceola and Sioux counties in her Extension position — said the workshop can help people make healthier choices.

“This is an easy way to just make small changes because the recipes are all already created based on the federal dietary guidelines,” she said. “It’s nothing extreme, but it’s something that is readily available.

“There are lots of different resources,” she said. “I don’t even know how many recipes are online. It’s just an easy one-stop shop for not only healthy eating, but also financial health, so being able to save money.”

DeJong said the knowledge that event participants learn could be good for their mental health as well.

“Being able to meal-plan and have things ready to go and being a little more organized — it’s kind of a one-stop shop for a lot of those different things,” she said, noting New Year’s resolutions. “How can I be more organized? How can I be healthier?

“What I kind of tend to preach is starting small — making small, attainable changes — rather than ‘I’m going to start this diet that’s almost impossible for me,’” she said. “It’s a really great way to start that.”