Nutrition is a hot topic that has everyone running to Pinterest and recipe books for cheap, easy, and kid-friendly recipes. Families with busy schedules often find themselves having to compromise healthy and inexpensive meals for a quick dinner so they have time to pick up a second shift at work or make those nightly basketball and soccer practices. While a quick stop at a fast food restaurant or a box of instant macaroni and cheese might seem like the easiest or cheapest option, the dollars add up and the nutrition goes down. Here are six simple rules any family eating on a budget can follow to get the most inexpensive—and yummiest—meals around.
- Plan your menu for the entire week. That’s right, this means getting organized. Avoid impulse purchases by using lists, limiting the number of times you go food shopping, and shopping on a full stomach. Planning your meals ahead of time allows you to buy in bulk, which can really make a positive impact on your grocery bill. Cooking ahead makes it possible to have food easily accessible for lunches and busy days when you don’t have time to throw together a meal. There are also online meal planning tools available. Many are free or low-cost and offer weekly meal plans, along with customizable grocery lists. $10 for someone else to make a monthly meal plan and grocery list for a busy family is $10 well spent!
- Coupons, coupons, coupons. Can coupon clipping really save that much money? Absolutely! The Internet offers many coupon sites, such as Coupon Mom, where you have access to hundreds of printable coupons, a searchable database of grocery and drugstore sales, and suggestions for combining sales and coupons for the best price. Another great way to reduce the cost of a grocery bill is to sign up for your grocery store’s discount cards. Some grocery store card systems even allow you to earn points that can be redeemed for discounted or free groceries or gas.
- Go vegetarian at least once a week. Serve a vegetarian protein source at least once a week to cut costs. A mixture of legumes, whole grains, eggs, dairy products, seeds, or nuts is a low-cost way to provide delicious protein.
- Drink water and milk. Take a family challenge to drink water every day and cut out sugary (and expensive) sodas. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children aged 1 to 6 should drink no more than one four-ounce glass of juice a day, even 100% juice. It is healthy to have your child get used to drinking water and eating fresh fruit, which has more fiber and fewer calories than juice and, when purchased in season, can cost less. Added benefits to water are that it is free, easy to carry in reusable water bottles, and can even improve the quality of your skin and reduce acne, giving you a healthy glow. Milk not only contains necessary vitamins for young children but is also a great source of protein for all ages.
- Make sure to budget for treats and special occasions! Eating healthy doesn’t mean resisting indulgences all the time. Sweets are perfectly fine in moderation.
- Be creative and have fun. Food and family; what could be better? Try to make eating-for-less an adventure. If you have space, plant a garden in your backyard. If you live in the city, plant herbs in pots or see if you can get a plot in a nearby community garden.
Stay healthy, stay on budget
Through simple practices such as these, you and your family can save major bucks in the long run, while also maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Just because you are on a budget does not mean you have to sacrifice quality in your meals. Don’t work harder; work smarter—the key to living healthy and saving money is to strategize, plan, and organize your grocery shopping and meals. With practice, planning, and a bit of self-discipline, you’ll find eating well is always within your price range.