The benefits of eating healthy have been well-documented. Yet, it can be challenging when you are trying to maintain a family budget while offering healthy meal options to your family. Some organic foods, for example, tend to be more expensive than their not-as-healthy counterparts. Certain fruits and vegetables can be more expensive if you purchase them out of season. Fortunately, there are some ways to still eat healthy without breaking the bank.
You do not have to stop cooking some of the meals your family loves just to eat healthy. Sometimes, the substitutes are more expensive. Consider adjusting the ingredients you use while cooking instead. Fat free milk, for example, can be substitute for regular milk in most recipes. Egg whites can be substituted for eggs. Brown rice is a healthy alternative to white rice. Most cookbooks or food websites have the ingredient conversions.
Eliminate Certain Foods
Cutting out rich desserts and high-calorie snack options is a quick way to shave a few bucks off the monthly food budget and boost your family’s health at the same time. One way to accomplish this to have everybody in your family participates in making the grocery list. Before you go shopping, take time to look over the list and cross off items that have excessive amounts of fats and sugars. You can do a little research online to find the exact nutritional content of each item.
Change Portion Sizes
Reducing portion sizes can shave off some extra calories and keep your food budget in check. This doesn’t mean you have to starve your family. It’s just a matter of exercising a little more control over how much you dish out in each plate. How many times have we felt an obligation to finish what is on our plates? A fun way to adjust portion sizes is to put food on the table in bowls and on serving plates and allow everyone to only take what they plan to eat. This eliminates waste and can actually cut down on the amount of food everybody eats at one sitting.
Have Group Meals
Pick a certain day of the week or month where your friends come over and have dinner with your family. The only rule is that they bring something healthy to contribute to the meal. This cuts down on the cost of preparing a healthy meal and turns dinner time into something special for all involved. When the weather gets warmer, have a neighborhood meal with the same stipulation that everyone brings at least one healthy dish.
Try Different In-Season Fruits and Vegetables
When corn and tomatoes aren’t in season, try some fruits and vegetables you may otherwise overlook. You may be surprised at just how many recipes you can find to incorporate a wide selection of fruits and veggies into your family meal. Choose large bags rather than individual pieces of fruit. Larger bags are often cheaper by the pound. Consider buying some canned vegetables to substitute for what is out of season.
Instead of having milk, chocolate milk or some other beverage with your family meals, switch to water. It’s a completely free way to reign in your food budget while making your overall meal a little bit healthier. Other healthy alternatives include 100 percent fruit juice and low-fat milk. Just eliminating carbonated beverages can shave a little off your monthly food bill while making meals healthier.
Make Your Own Snacks
Snacks you buy at the store often have salt and other preservatives that make them anything but healthy. Even seemingly healthy store bought snacks may have added ingredients that boost the calorie content. There are many healthy snack options that you can make right at home that actually taste better than what you can buy. Fresh fruit and veggie sticks can be served with a simple homemade dip. Kids can help make sugar-free pudding, smoothies, baked apples or popsicles.
Eating healthy doesn’t have to take a big bite out of your food budget. Simple things like making your own snacks, substituting ingredients, drinking more water, eating in-season fruits and veggies and even adjusting portion sizes can help you maintain healthy family meals and stay within budget. Making lists and not shopping when hungry can also do wonders for the family budget while avoiding certain high calorie temptations. Keep your meals diverse by seeking out new recipes. There are thousands of meal options that are incredibly delicious and good for you at the same time. Your family will appreciate the extra effort.
About the Author
Sheila Barnett writes on personal finance and budgeting for financialcalculator.org, a site with just about every possible financial calculator — from a simple interest calculator to a complex retirement calculator; there’s even one to find out how much you’re saving from quitting smoking.