Feeding Your Family on a Tight Budget in 7 Steps

Feeding your family well is very important. When you look at news about the health of America today, one of the constant themes is that we are all getting fatter, lazier and more sedentary.

The dangers of Type 2 diabetes, the growing number of obese kids, and the scary statistics about heart problems striking people at younger and younger ages all mean that our country needs to overhaul the way we eat.

But when you go to the grocery store, it looks like all of those healthy foods cost more. Produce costs more than those processed meal helpers, and fresh meat costs more than it does in cans. With the economy as turbulent as it is, how can anyone increase the health of their diet without blowing their budget?

1. Buy the produce that is in season

There are some “staple” fruits that you can buy year-round. However, if you look at the prices, you’ll see that those navel oranges or red delicious apples that are always available aren’t that great of a deal. Instead, look at the produce that is in season. Bing cherries are one example — when they’re in season, the price plummets after the first couple of weeks because grocers know that they have to get rid of them quickly.

Make sure that the cherries are still bright in color and firm to the touch. If you just love those red delicious apples, make fall your apple season. The same goes for pears, which are also juicy and delicious in the fall.

Peaches? Look for them at the end of the spring and early summer. You’ll get a lot more produce for the dollar, and you’re giving your family fresh fruit. You’ll soon discover that feeding your family well is really not that difficult, no matter how little the money is. 

2. Rethink school lunches

A lot of people try to save money by packing lunches for their kids. However, school lunches are very reasonably priced, and government guidelines mean that they have to be nutritionally balanced.

Unless you are going to send peanut butter or bologna sandwiches, with some chips and a banana, with a thermos full of fruit punch, you can’t expect to beat the price of the school cafeteria.

If you do send your kids with that food every day, you aren’t doing them any nutritional favors. Save yourself some time, and give the school lunches a try.

3. Hit the frozen food aisle

If you want to increase the amount of vegetables your family eats, but you don’t want to pay the high cost of fresh vegetables, go check out the frozen vegetables. You don’t run the risk of the veggies spoiling, as you do with fresh produce, and the price is considerably less per pound.

When you open the package for the first time, if you don’t cook all of the contents, just put the rest in a sealed storage container, and put it back in the freezer. Feeding your family well also means keeping all temptations as far as possible!

4. Use tap water

First of all, if you are still buying sodas by the twelve-pack each week, you are spending a lot of money on a drink that is nutritionally useless. Even if you are buying the diet varieties, those artificial sweeteners have enough of their own implications for your health. Instead, switch over to water. If you need some flavor, buy a handful of fresh limes and lemons, so you can add those in to give the taste a boost.

To maximize your savings while feeding your family, drink water from the tap instead of buying bottled water. You won’t be using plastic bottles, and you won’t be spending nearly as much money.

If you’re worried about water quality, get a filter like the Brita pitcher, which will pay for itself in a matter of weeks, if not sooner.

5. Plan your itinerary before you get to the grocery store

Instead of walking up and down each aisle, plucking items that you think you might need, make a list of your “eating itinerary” for the week first. Think about each meal, and give some options for days when you just don’t feel like cooking at all.

Then write down each ingredient you need to prepare each meal. Add in some healthy snacks, such as Greek yogurt tubes, baby carrots, and some pretzels. When you’ve bought every item on the list, don’t wander around looking to see if you need anything else. Instead, go pay, and go home.

6. Resist the pressure to buy the leanest meats

If you go to the meat section, you’ll see ground beef and turkey in a variety of percentages of fat. The most usual varieties are 85/15 (15% fat) and 93/7. You might even see 98/2 at some higher-end grocery stores.

The less fat, the more expensive the meat is. However, dietary fat does not come from the fat that you consume. Instead, it comes from taking in more calories than you burn on a regular basis.

While you don’t want to sit down and eat the fat that you trimmed off the edge of that roast, a regular exercise program and a balanced diet will make eating that much cheaper 85/15 meat just fine.

7. Embrace the can

Tuna fish is a healthy source of protein, and when you buy it in cans, it’s much more cost-effective than buying fresh tuna at the seafood counter. Mix it in with celery, mustard or light mayonnaise and pickles to make a healthy entree for a lunch. You’ll enjoy the way it affects your health as well as your wallet.

These tips are just the beginning when it comes to finding ways to feeding your family healthier without spending more money at the checkout counter. So many of the food choices that we make add preservatives and sodium to our diets, while the truth is that it is possible to find nutritional choices that leave us satisfied while boosting our health at the same time.

Once you’ve made these changes a part of your dietary routine, you won’t even miss the sodas and the extra snacks you used to dump into your cart every week at the store.

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