Cooking Matters: Learn to Shop, Cook & Eat Healthy This Fall

By Shannon Gurnee
In Family
November 1, 2013
1 Comment


Mother and daughter shopping for fresh produce

I love participating in webinars!  Not only do I get to come together with other bloggers and chat about topics that concern our family and community, but I almost always walk away filled with new knowledge and inspiration.  Most recently, the webinar was with the Walmart Foundation and Share Our Strength, through The Motherhood.  It was an awesome briefing and I feel like I learned a lot from it!  The presenter for the October 24th briefing was Jill Panichelli, Senior Manager of Program Development (Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters), and she covered a bunch of ways families can eat healthy this Fall.

Walmart Foundation Eating Healthy 1

Why is Skills-Based Nutritional Education Important?

Share Our Strength’s “It’s Dinnertime” report found that 85% of low-income families believe that eating healthy is important, yet only half make nutritious meals on a regular basis.  The primary barrier among families is the perceived high cost of healthy foods.  We can overcome this barrier and reduce cost concerns by educating families about the nutritional value of frozen and canned fruits and vegetable, while also encouraging people to shop at discount retailers.  The report also showed that 55% of families don’t regularly plan their meals before shopping and 34% don’t use grocery lists.

Walmart Foundation Eating Healthy 2

Did you know that eating regular, nutritious meals can benefit a child’s health and development?  Most kids eat the recommended servings of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and exceed the maximum daily intake of sodium (U.S. Department of Agriculture and United States Department of Health and Human Services).  It has been found that poor nutrition can lead to behavioral, emotional and academic problems (Harvard School of Public Health and Journal of Applied Research on Children).

Walmart Logo

Walmart Foundation Helps More Families Develop Healthy Eating Habits

A $2.5 million grant was provided to Share Our Strength to help families in cities across the country gain valuable hands-on shopping, cooking and nutrition education.  The grant will provide 107,500 Americans with access to Cooking Matters programs.  The grant is part of Walmart and the Walmart Foundation’s $2 billion commitment through 2015 to help fight hunger in America.  Walmart‘s 2011 initiative is to provide customers with healthier and more affordable food choices every day. 

No Kid Hungry Logo

About the Cooking Matters Program

The Cooking Matters Program helps families shop and cook healthy on a budget, as part of Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign.  The program has a 20-year history of helping families develop and maintain healthier eating habits.  You can learn more here.

Woman buying fresh food

Cooking Matters at the Store Tours Are Available

Available at participating Walmart stores is a 1.5 hour session designed to teach 4 main skills:

1 – Buying fruits and vegetables on a budget
2 – Comparing unit prices
3 – Reading food labels
4 – Identifying whole grain foods

Cooking Matters Six-Week Courses

Community partners serving low-income families offer six-week Cooking Matters courses to adults, kids and families.  The 2-hour sessions meet once a week and are taught by volunteer chef and nutrition educators.  Lessons include meal preparation, grocery shopping, food budgeting and nutrition.

Cooking Matters Class Teachings

Top Shopping Techniques

– Tips for food budgeting and meal planning
– Comparing unit prices
– Savings on fruits and vegetables
– Challenge: Feed a family of four with just $10

Key Nutrition Concepts

– Reading the nutrition facts panel
– Finding whole grain foods
– Fresh, frozen or canned?

10 Tips to Better Family Meals

1 – Set realistic goals
2 – Plan when you’ll eat together
3 – Be flexible with the time and place
4 – Cook it fast on busy nights
5 – Get everyone involved
6 – Focus on each other
7 – Talk about things everyone enjoys
8 – Set ground rules
9 – Make mealtime a learning time
10 – Share the adventure

many apples

Fall Apples Three Ways

Apple Wraps


– 1 large apple
– 2 medium, ripe bananas
– 2 tablespoons peanut butter
– (8-inch) whole wheat tortillas

Northwest Apple Salad


– 2 medium Granny Smith apples

– 2 tablespoons dried fruit, such as raisins, dried cranberries, or dried currants
– 3 tablespoons plain low-fat yogurt
– 1 tablespoon whole, shelled walnuts
– Optional: 1 tablespoon honey

Baked Apples

Serves 6, 1 apple per serving


– 6 apples
– 1 large lemon
– ¾ cup chopped walnuts
– ½ cup raisins
– ¼ cup brown sugar
– ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon


1 – Learn more about Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters program here

2 – Learn if there is a partner offering our cooking courses in your area by visiting   

3 – Find more recipes here.

– Check out the Cooking Matters Recipe App on iTunes and Google Play

– Look for a Cooking Matters class in your area so that you can come out and participate

– Learn more about Walmart’s commitment to hunger relief and nutrition education at

students in a classroom - rising hand

Q&A Session

When I cook, I often sacrifice nutrition for time. What is your go-to family meal when you’re pressed for time?

One of my personal go-to dinners is black bean and vegetable quesadillas. I think it’s great because you can add any leftover veggies, add a can of black beans or a can of tomatoes and put them in a whole grain flour tortilla with cheese, heat it through on the pan and you’re done! On our website you can actually filter through recipes by 30 minute meals.

Another tip I find helpful to precook something in advance. For instance, on the weekend roast a big batch of vegetables or precook whole grain rice that you can just add those ingredients to your dinner recipes throughout the week.

How can I gradually incorporate healthy foods without making a drastic change into my family’s diet?

Say you want to introduce whole grain foods to your family, start by mixing half and half. So you use half white and half white and brown rice and slowly change the proportions to be more whole grain rice. The same can apply for milk. Mix skim with 2% and gradually let kids adjust to the different taste.

Let kids pick new vegetables out at the grocery store and get them involved in the kitchen! Kids get excited to be in charge. If kids have been a part of the preparation, chances are they will be willing to try it.

I think people underestimate how many times it takes for kids to become used to a new food. Keep trying new foods even more times than you think you should. You never know when their taste buds will change!

Are any classes focused on special dietary needs? For instance, people with diabetes?

We focus more on general healthy eating patterns. However, a lot of the suggestions about healthy eating are generally the same for those who are diabetic. Maybe portioning and a few other things are different. I would suggest you refer to a certified diabetes educator or a registered dietician about the specific things you need to keep in mind for your health.

My kids refuse to eat leftovers. Can I do anything to leftovers to make them taste or look different?

We talk about leftovers in our classes and we call them “Planned-Overs”! We talk about planning for them in advance so it’s not so obvious to your kids that it’s the same food. For instance, if you have a dinner with chicken, vegetables and brown rice you can use those components in other meals through the week. I can use that chicken for shredded chicken tacos for another meal, or chop up the veggies and add them as pizza toppings another night.

What is your favorite kitchen appliance that you can’t live without?

All of our recipes at Cooking Matters are designed to be made with really basic kitchen equipment. We’re really careful to be sure that our recipes aren’t calling for fancy equipment that is unaffordable or that isn’t really necessary. I would say something as basic as a really good sharp knife would be a great tool to have.

What are the go-to items you always keep in your kitchen to help make dinner quickly?

Keeping a well-stocked pantry is important! It really does save on time and money. Personally, I tend to always have on hand canned beans, whole grain pasta, brown rice, and frozen or canned vegetables. Those things are always ready to go last minute to add to a nutritious dinner! Plus your basic baking ingredients like whole-wheat flour and baking soda. Our classes talk about knowing the items in your pantry and keeping it stocked! 

In your classes do you go over how to wash fresh fruits and vegetables?

Food safety is a big part of our program! When it comes to washing fruits and vegetables, we don’t advise people to buy special cleaners but instead to just rinse them thoroughly with water.



About Has 2130 Posts

Shannon Gurnee is the author of Redhead Mom formerly "The Mommy-Files", a national blog with a loyal following. She has a Bachelor's Degree in Marriage, Family, and Human Development with a Minor in Business Management. Shannon and her husband, Frank, have a large family with 6 awesome kids and love living on the Central Coast near San Luis Obispo, California, as well as traveling around the world. A full-time Social Media and Professional Blogger, Shannon also serves as a National Brand Ambassador for many well-known companies. Her blog focuses on motherhood, family fun activities, traveling, fashion, beauty, technology, wedding ideas and recipes while providing professional opinions on products, performances, restaurants, and a variety of businesses.

One Response to “Cooking Matters: Learn to Shop, Cook & Eat Healthy This Fall”

  1. Amy Orvin says:

    This really opened my eyes about health. I like the 10 Tips to Better Family Meals. I will use this and try to incorporate it daily!

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