Guest Post from Jennifer Thomas
Save Money On Food
When you have kids you often get caught up in all the little things and forget the big things like eating. Then when lunch or dinner time rolls around you are caught off guard and turn to the quick and easy things. Fast food, restaurants, and frozen meals are all easy to eat, but they are not very affordable or healthy. Instead of eating like this and teaching your children poor eating habits, why not save money and eat healthier with these tips:
1. Plan ahead – One of the biggest obstacles for parents to feed their children healthy meals is that they do not know what to cook or they do not have time to go to the store and get ingredients for meals. To combat this and save money, plan ahead. One day a week, sit down and plan the menu for the week. Find the recipes and list any ingredients you need to get at the store. Figure out things like snack foods, desserts, lunches, drinks and so on. Once you have a plan in place it is much easier to stick to it than trying to come up with a new meal every day when you are already tired and frazzled.
2. Shop once – You should not be shopping more than once a week. The more you shop the more money you spend. Always have a list in hand and stick to it. Impulse buys are the way stores get your money. Instead, stay with your list and buy only what you came in for. Since you have planned your meals for the week you should be good to go.
3. Buy on sale – Before you head to the store, take a look at the flyers they send you in the mail. Do they have anything on sale? If you can plan your meals around sale items you can save a lot of money and also add variety to your meals.
4. Buy local, eat seasonal – Another way to save money at the store and add variety to your meals is to buy locally grown seasonal fruits and veggies. Things are so much cheaper when they do not have to be flown across the country to get to your store. They are also better for you because they are fresher. Support your local economy buy buying things that are grown in your area and shopping at stores that carry farmer’s produce.
5. Make it easy – When you get home from the store do not just shove everything in the fridge and walk off. Instead take the time to make it easier on yourself during the busy weekdays. Assemble your meals if you can or at least group the ingredients together. If you are going to make a salad, wash the lettuce. Some meals you can even mix up and store in the fridge or freezer so that they are ready to stick in the oven when it is time to eat. Snack time is also a great time for easy ideas. You can slice the apples and sprinkle them with a little lemon juice to keep them from turning brown, wash the carrots and celery, or mix up your own trail mix. Healthy snacks are much easier to eat when they are already prepared and ready to grab and go!
6. Use leftovers –I know that leftovers sound gross right after dinner, but using them as lunch the next day is really a good idea. By the time noon rolls around you will be happy to see that meal again. If you have exhausted your lunch time efforts and still have leftovers, try mixing them up to use in new ways. Leftover chicken and rice can be made into fried rice, leftover hamburger can be used in tacos and so on. Even stale bread or hamburger buns can be made into a tasty treat like bread pudding or something crunchier like homemade croutons.
7. Freeze –If eating leftovers right away is not your bag, then try freezing them. Many meals, like chili and soups, can be frozen for months without changing the flavor. If you have room you can also but your meat and frozen veggies in bulk. This will save you money because family sizes are usually cheaper. By freezing your meat you can use it whenever you need it. You can also make up two meals at once that use similar ingredients, like hamburger casserole and tacos, and then freeze the casserole for a quick meal later.
8. Slow cooker – I love my Crock Pot. I can throw the ingredients in the pot early in the morning and by dinner time my meal is ready. How easy is that? That also keeps me from stopping at the drive through on my way home. If you know you have a hot and tasty meal waiting for you then why spend the money?
9. Do not eat out –Speaking of the drive through, if you can avoid eating out as much as possible you will be better off. Restaurant meals and fast food might be easy but they are not healthy and not really cheap. For the amount of food you get for the money you could make three times as much or more at home and it would be better for you. Think about what you usually buy when you go out. Most of the time you can make it just as easily at home and way healthier. Plus you do not have to worry about gas to get there, fighting with your kids to sit still, or tipping your waiter.
10. Avoid processed foods –Many of the frozen and processed meals we eat are full of fillers and salt. Why put that into your body? If you really do not have time to cook every day make your own ready to go meals. Even setting aside a couple of hours on Sunday could mean that you get all your cooking done for the week. If you plan ahead you do not have to stress out when dinner time rolls around.
11. Know your portions – The bad thing about eating out a lot is that you do not know what size a portion should be. Most of us get plates heaping with food and then wonder why we are gaining weight. Your portion size should be determined by the amount of calories you need to consume in one day. The majority of what you eat should be fruits and veggies followed by whole grains and then protein last. If your plate is less than half full of veggies you are doing something wrong.
12. Cut down on meat –Speaking of portions, we could really stand to cut down on our meat consumption. Meat is often the most expensive part of any meal. If you can go meat free just one meal a week that can save you tons of money in the long run. It is also better for you. There are lots of meat free dishes that your family will eat, so do not think this is going to be a huge shock to them. Just plan ahead and you will be fine.
By following these few tips you can save money on your food and eat healthier. Planning ahead is really the key. Taking just one day out of your week to plan your meals can save you money and give you peace of mind. Eat healthier, live with less stress and enjoy meal times with these tips.
Rachel is an ex-babysitting pro as well as a professional writer and blogger. She is a graduate from Iowa State University and currently writes for www.babysitting.net. She welcomes questions/comments which can be sent to rachelthomas.author @ gmail.com.