- Find services such as group meal programs and/or pantry programs that specialize in serving people with HIV.
- Make sure you have a refrigerator so that you can store your perishable food items for a reasonable length of time. If you don't have a refrigerator, ask the management to get you one. Ask your nutritionist for a food storage time chart.
- Boil tap water for one minute to be sure that it's safe to drink and then chill it in your refrigerator in small bottles with screw tops. Take a bottle or two with you so that you aren't tempted to either buy water or drink tap water when you are out and about.
- Shop only in large food stores or supermarkets that give out discount cards free of charge, and always use them along with coupons from newspapers and store flyers. Always make a list of the things you need before you leave home and never shop when you are hungry.
- Buy items that you can store like nuts, raisins or oatmeal, and divide them into smaller containers for future use at home or to take on the road for a snack. Pack the bulk items well and date them so that you can eat them while still fresh.
- Cook more than one meal at a time. It takes only a little more time to make a large pot of soup or stew rather than a small one. Divide the dish into meal-size containers and seal, date and freeze them.
- Buy less expensive, generic brands of tuna fish, cereal, broccoli or other foods rather than the "stars" whose names we all know. Generic brands are of the same quality but save money.
- Buy "juices" rather than "drinks". A container marked orange "juice" has to be 100% orange juice, but a "drink" may contain as little as 5% to 10% orange juice. You can easily make a "drink" by diluting a juice with water or seltzer.
- Spruce things up on your own. Buy cereals and add your own raisins, nuts or flavorings. Purchase vegetables and add your own sauces or dressings. Select meat, chicken or fish and prepare it the way you like rather than paying extra for specially prepared foods that are likely to be high in salt and sugar.
- Always read the label before you buy something for the first time. Ask your friendly nutritionist to teach you the labeling "code words" for salt, sugar, fat, fillers and just plain junk so that you get the most for your money.
Edwin Krales, M.S., C.D./N. is an HIV/AIDS nutritionist and health educator with the Momentum AIDS Project.