As a parent, you have the hard job of negotiating the cost of groceries and the quality of meals you make. You have friends who either give their kids microwaved nuggets for every meal or stick to a strict all-organic, unprocessed chef-inspired menu. So where is the happy medium? With the cost of food as high as it is, what can you do to put appealing and healthy meals in front of your family?
Rest assured, it can be done. Here are some strategies and recipe ideas you can use to ensure every family member gets the nutrients they need and the flavors they enjoy.
Instead of shopping on a whim and then running back to the store every few days for miscellaneous ingredients, start organizing your grocery needs ahead of time. A planning session every few weeks will give you a complete list and extra incentive to cook a healthy homemade meal instead of ordering pizza in a pinch. Plan meals that will help your family meet their daily food group targets. The US Department of Agriculture offers up some great sample meal plans to help you do just that. And keep in mind, you’ll almost always spend less money on food when you plan ahead.
Breakfast is the perfect meal to promote health while easing the strain on your wallet. Oatmeal and eggs are both inexpensive and can be the base for an array of tasty flavors. A great option is a breakfast smoothie: Combine two frozen bananas, 2 cups of whole milk and ½ cup of frozen spinach. Using frozen bananas aids in the cold creaminess of the smoothie. You can add ground oatmeal, flax, or chia seeds to give your smoothie some extra staying power.
Actively look for financially feasible items and utilize coupons, sales, and discount stores as often as you can. Get online and search for grocery stores and markets in your area. The USDA provides a local food directory of farmers markets, which often run year round and are a great way to get fresh produce at a lower price (and support your local farmers too).
Do It Yourself
Rather than buying certain items at the store, start making them at home. Sauces are easy to make with spices and condiments you likely already have in your kitchen. You can also try your hand at other staples like bread or soups. A great place to start is with chicken stock. Start saving your vegetable scraps and store them in the freezer. Roast or slow cook a whole chicken to use for dinner one night. Feed the family, and then pick the rest of the meat off the bones to use for another meal. Instead of throwing away the carcass, put it in a large pot or slow cooker. Fill it up with water, add a splash of apple cider vinegar, and all the vegetable scraps from your freezer, then set it to cook on low (overnight or while you’re at work if using a slow cooker). Your house will smell delicious and you’ll have nutrient-rich broth to add to soups and other recipes.
Not only can you use cookbooks and family recipes for inspiration, but you also have the internet at your disposal. The USDA’s MyPlate program has a Pinterest profile with boards full of healthy recipes, so you know for sure the meals are well-balanced. Sites like What’s Cooking will help you find healthy, delicious meals that use affordable ingredients.
Feeding your family healthy meals on a budget takes some careful planning. But with a little effort, you can serve delicious, well-balanced meals that won’t break the bank.
What’s your family’s favorite meal and how do you save money serving it? Share your tips (and pictures) with other readers.