Eating Healthy on a Budget: 3 Tips You Must Know

By at October 20, 2010 | 10:27 pm | Print

Eating Healthy on a Budget: 3 Tips You Must Know

Eating Healthy on a Budget: 3 Tips You Must Know
Written by Nurse Kimberly Hickman, R.N.

If you are a concerned parent who is confused about how to feed your child nutritious foods on a budget then get ready to take notes.  There are  3 ways you can instantly begin feeding each member of your family healthy meals on a budget. 

Many parents are troubled because they associate eating healthy with a hefty grocery bill. It is true that some healthy foods are more expensive than unhealthy foods but it is also possible to leave the store with a grocery cart packed with affordable smart choices for the entire family.  

There are many contributors that lead parents to purchase food with no nutritional value simply because they are missing the basics about where to shop, how to shop, and what foods to shop for.  Overly persuasive and misleading food marketing plays a part and also the belief that buying and cooking healthy foods will take hours in the kitchen. Not to mention the pressure a four year old can put a parent under by pulling on mom or dad’s shirt in the cereal isle for the new chocolate and sugar loaded breakfast treat they saw on the Disney channel last night. Whatever the reason may be for believing eating healthy is more costly get ready for a change! After you learn the next 3 tips you will be able to load up your shopping cart with nutritious foods guilt free!

Tip #1: Change where you shop and learn how cheap fresh can be.

When I made this change I decreased my weekly shopping bill by a third! Do you know how much that adds up to in a month? What I did was travel around to other grocery stores and browsed the isles. To my surprise I could get fresh fruits and vegetables for less than half of what I had been spending. Before, I had the misconception that the only place I would find high quality fresh foods was at the higher end grocery markets. Not anymore. All of my shopping is done at the 24 hour Super Wal-Mart down the street and the local Farmer’s Market. Everyone knows that making fresh foods part of your daily diet is more nutritious than eating pre-packaged meals and canned vegetables. Go do some research. You will probably have a list of at least 3-4 new places to shop. Get on your computer and Google local farmers markets in your city. In my experience farmers markets give you the most for your dollar. You can leave with a weeks worth of quality fresh fruits and veggies for less than 15 bucks! When you are doing the majority of your shopping at your new grocer don’t be afraid to try some of the off brand foods. To name a few Wal-Mart, Aldi, Food For Less, Shop-n-Save, and many other grocery outlets have their own brand on foods. Store branded foods like milk, cheese, yogurt, lean deli meat, and a variety of other items are available at a lower price than the leading brand but taste just as good. If you make this small change in where you shop you will start saving dollars right away.

Tip #2 Get organized: Plan before you shop

We have all been subject to throwing anything that looks or sounds good into the cart when we are grocery shopping. This is especially true when you go shopping without a plan or when you are hungry. So the first part of tip #2 is a no brainer: never go to the grocery store before mealtime!

That part is pretty simple but the real work comes with the planning or your trip to the grocery store. This does not need to be as difficult as it sounds. Most families have a fairly routine schedule during the week. Sometimes the schedule can be hectic and over booked with soccer practice, gymnastics, girl scouts, a second or even third job, and many other things that prevent families from preparing healthy meals.

How do you make sure you are eating healthy foods for the whole week during this busy schedule? The answer is simpler than you may think. All you need to do is make a list. What I do is have my schedule for the week in front of me while I plan my grocery list. Generally, I eat the same thing for breakfast Monday thru Friday. This does two things. It allows me to be disciplined with my nutrition and prevents me from buying three different types of breakfast foods. If you are in a rush in the mornings a great breakfast is 2 hard-boiled eggs, 1 slice of whole grain toast, and an apple. You get protein, fresh fruit, and fiber from you whole grain bread. On your list you would put 1 carton of eggs, apples, and 1 loaf of whole grain bread. Repeat this same routine for adding your lunch items for the week to the list. If you are packing your child’s lunch for school (which is healthier and recommended than school lunches) do the same routine again. By the way a healthy balanced lunch/meal for your child should always include a protein, vegetable, whole grain, and fruit. A good example would be Lean smoked turkey on whole grain toast, carrot sticks with low fat ranch dip, and half a cup of grapes.  If you do all of your weekly meal planning when making your grocery list you will do two things. First, you will save yourself from making unnecessary trips to the grocery store which saves money and  you will also know your families food for the week is nutritious.

Planning dinners for the week and adding the items to the list is no different. If you know that on Tuesday you won’t be home until 7 and need a quick meal to prepare then plan for it. A smart choice that trumps a fast food meal any day is an already cooked rotisserie chicken, tossed salad, whole grain pitas, and sliced strawberries. This is a completely balanced nutrient packed meal that can be thrown together in less than 15 minutes. Fifteen minutes might be longer than five in the drive thru but it beats heart disease. Once you have created your list based on your upcoming weeks schedule make sure you treat it like gold. No matter what stick to the list. Nothing should go in the cart if it is not on the list!

Tip #3 Time management

The final tip is something I know many families struggle with- time management. This can be a tricky thing to do with the busy schedules we just mentioned. It’s not realistic for most families to spend 30-40 minutes in the kitchen cooking after a full day. So how do you get around this? Well if you have followed tip number one and number two you are right on track and already prepared to manage your time in order to provide your family with nutritious foods for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. After you have gone to the grocery store pick a day to prep for the week. I usually do this right when I come home with my groceries. For example, if I know that I plan to have a grilled chicken salad with mango slices on the side for lunch Monday thru Friday I will slice and peel my fruit and place it in a container in the fridge. This way all I need to do is place some in a baggie and in my lunch bag the night before. As for the chicken for my salads I either grill or bake an entire bag of boneless skinless chicken breasts and place them in a container in the fridge. Do this with many of your repeat foods that need to be cleaned or prepped. If you plan on having turkey meatballs over whole grain noodles with salad on your late night, boil your noodles on your prep day and make your meatballs. This way all you have to do when you get home on the late night is warm your noodles and meatballs on the stove. Try to prepare as many things for the week as you can that will save you time later. Not only will you make sure healthy foods are available for your family but you will also not feel the stress and pressure of deciding what’s for dinner.

Eating healthy comes down to making an effort to be organized and planning out your week. If you wait until the last minute with no plan for dinner and hungry kids in the back seat of your car you will probably make a food choice that isn’t so healthy for you or your family. So just follow these three tips and you will save money, eat healthy, and know how to manage your time a little better. Following these simple tips has helped me tremendously stay on track and avoid unhealthy food choices.

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