Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tips for Preparing Healthy Family Meals on a Budget

As the price of fuel has risen during the past few years, the cost of transporting food has been passed on to the consumer, and groceries now take up a greater part of the family budget. This is one area, however, that is easy to manage with just a few simple tricks of the trade. The following ideas can result in big savings each month without sacrificing the family’s health:

Meat Substitutes that Kids Love
Protein is especially important for growing children, but meat can be costly. Most markets have a day when they mark down meat that is going out of date, and this is the perfect time to buy enough to stock the freezer. However, the best way to stretch grocery dollars is to replace meats with other items that are packed with protein:

  • Use beans or peas to make nutritious soups, but use creative names that children find fascinating. This might be anything from "SpongeBob’s Crabby Patty Stew" to "Slime Time Veggie Soup". Once the kids are attracted to the name, they will love getting to choose the ingredients and throw them into the pot of broth.
  • Use nuts or nut butters to make creative faces. If the children have no allergies to these, they can stretch food dollars a long way, especially when purchased in bulk. Place a few in the salad to add protein or make an open face sandwich, using dried raisins to make funny faces. Fill sticks of celery with a nut butter and sprinkle with raisins to make "Ants on a Log."
  • Yogurt is also a great way to add protein without breaking the grocery budget because coupons are almost always available for this product. Kids are more likely to eat this healthy treat if it is frozen with a wooden stick or the spoon in it. This Popsicle makes a great snack.

Meal Planning that Stretches the Dollar
When planning a grocery trip, the following tips will help reduce the final bill:

  • Always make a list using the weekly ads for the local grocery stores and do not forget the drug stores, which often have better sales.
  • Buy larger sizes of most items and divide these into smaller portions at home.
  • Buy seasonal items at farmer’s markets.
  • Stock up on sale items.
  • Use an online coupon site that matches sale items with coupons available to double up on savings.
Surprisingly, kids will eat most new foods if the dish looks particularly appealing, has a fun name, or if they get to help with the preparation. Always take time to let them help plan and prepare some of the meals for the week. With a little forward planning it’s possible for the whole family to eat healthily without going over budget.

This is a guest post from Nicola Roberts, who enjoys the challenge of feeding her family on a tight budget. Since using a weightloss calculator and setting her personal weight loss goals, she has become more aware of healthy eating and the importance of teaching kids the skills to prepare healthy meals.

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