Healthy Family Meals on a Budget

family preparing meal

I think we can safely say that the message of healthy diet and lifestyle has caught on around the world. Interestingly, many are of the opinion that to eat healthy is extremely costly. Maybe you are one such person, but you are determined to find ways to provide healthy family meals on a budget. After all, your family depends on you.

There are a few persons however, who do not yet understand the value of a healthy diet.

Some years ago I was listening to a speaker at a function. I have no recollection of what the function was about or where it was held. I don’t even remember what topic he was addressing. What I do remember him saying though, is that we need to be rid of debt and his suggestion to accomplish that is to cut down on the money spent on food. He figured that we could miss meals to save money. What do you think about that?

I know one person who would disagree strongly with that suggestion and that is my husband. He believes the one thing you shouldn’t skimp on is food. His thing is that he will spend his money on good food now, so that he doesn’t have to spend it on treating poor health later. When he comes home from the market with a lovely hand of banana or some crisp, fresh, healthy looking greens, or the healthy, “one ingredient” peanut butter, don’t ask him how much they cost. He doesn’t have a clue. His standard answer is that he is not looking at price but he is looking at what is healthy and good for him. I keep telling him that if he doesn’t know the cost, he will not know when he sees a bargain. Anyway, enough of that.

My husband and that speaker are on opposite ends of the spectrum. We will leave them be and get to the real issue.

The fact is that the rest of us who are in the middle of that spectrum want to eat healthily and want to be able to afford it. Well here are 13 ways you can enjoy healthy family meals while on a tight budget.

1. Cook at home

This one is pretty obvious. There are many benefits to cooking at home. There are health benefits and cost benefits. When you cook your own meals, you have total control over what goes into it. You don’t have to worry about the hidden salt, sugar and fat that can be found in many of the foods that you purchase when you go out. You choose what grains, vegetables, spices and other healthy stuff go into preparing your meal.

Also, the amount of money you spend eating out could purchase food for several meals if you cooked at home. Remember, the same ingredients you purchase to prepare your meal is the same ingredients the restaurant would purchase to prepare the same meal. But the restaurant also needs to pay the cook, the waiter, the cashier, the rent, the utility bills, the license….. see where I am going….and those costs have to be added to the meal you purchase. Can you then see how much more it will cost to eat out than to cook at home?

2. Buy in bulk

It’s always cheaper to buy in bulk. Vendors will give you a big discount if you purchase a large volume. When you decide to buy in bulk however, take into consideration the shelf life of the product. It doesn’t make sense to buy a whole lot of produce it is going to spoil before you get to use it. Also ensure that you have space to store the quantities that you buy.

3. Buy fruits and vegetables when they are in season.

fruits and vegetables

The price of fruits and vegetables can vary greatly from season to season. Enjoy and make use of those that are in season. Those that are not in season will cost a whole lot more than usual and they are not even the best quality. Just be patient and wait until that fruit’s season comes around and the price is reduced.

4. Buy frozen fruits and vegetables

Buying frozen fruits and vegetables will help those of you who really crave the out of season food. These fruits and vegetables are harvested fresh (while they are in season) and flash frozen to preserve the freshness. They are usually quite affordable and can be stored in your freezer to be used any time you so desire.

5. Stop buying junk food

Be honest. Were you really starving or did you just succumb to the temptation because you had a whiff of the fast food or maybe saw your friend eating her high salt/high sugar, high fat, unhealthy snack. Save your money and your health and stop buying junk food.

6. Plan meals in advance

Have you ever found yourself standing in front of the open fridge wondering what to cook for dinner? First of all, you are wasting electricity with the open fridge. Then you realize you don’t have all the ingredients you need for the meal so you now have to waste gas rushing down to the nearest shop. The nearest shop is not necessarily the one with the best prices. Can you therefore see how planning your meals in advance will help you save money?

7. Stick to your grocery list

I don’t know if the men have this problem, but us women have been known to rush into the supermarket to pick up a loaf of bread and come out with 3 bags of groceries. That habit will blow your budget. Just ensure that you make your grocery list before you enter the supermarket and stick to that list.

8. Cut down on waste

Don’t buy lots of food that you will never get around to using before the expiration date passes. Also, if nobody in your home likes a particular food, don’t bother to buy it. It is just going to sit there until you eventually have to toss it

9. Don’t overfill your plate at one time

Share your food into your plate a little at a time. If you finish what is on the plate and want some more, then you take a little more. When you do it that way you can easily store the leftovers. Some people pile a whole lot of food on the plate and then they are unable to eat it all off, so in the garbage it all goes.

10. Portion food and store in freezer

You can cook several days worth of meals and store in the freezer. If you portion the food before you store it however, it will be easy to take out just the amount you need when you need it. You won’t have to thaw out all the food just to be able to get a small portion for your immediate need.

11. Buy lots of dried peas and beans.

When it comes to cooking healthy meals, peas and beans play a vital role. They provide lots of protein and fiber as well as important vitamins and minerals. This food category is so wide. There are so many different peas and beans to choose from. There is the ever favourite lentils. You can’t go wrong with these. There is garbanzo beans, split peas, pinto beans, red kidney beans and this list could really go on and on. And guess what? These are not at all expensive, especially if you purchase them from the bulk bins.

12. Don’t go grocery shopping when hungry.

This is a recipe for disaster. Don’t tempt fate. If you are hungry in the supermarket, you are going to end up buying what is not on your shopping list and chances are it won’t be healthy food either.

13. Ensure proper storage of food

Make sure your cooked foods as well as your raw foods are stored properly. You don’t want to have to discard food that you spent your hard-earned money purchasing. Learn what is the best way to store your food so that it will last the longest. For example, do you know that you shouldn’t store your onions and potatoes together. These are good, healthy foods to have in your kitchen so you certainly don’t want to find a soggy mess when you are ready for them.

Find out here, the best way to store your onions and your potatoes

Well there you have it. It is definitely not out of your reach. You can provide healthy meals for your family even if you are on a tight budget. Just use the 13 tips above to help you reach your goal.

Do you know of other ways you can eat healthily without it being too expensive? Please share with us in the comments section below.

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