Feeding your family healthy meals on a budget can be a challenge.
Convenience foods loaded with empty calories and extra fats are so tempting to feed our families in the chaos of a hectic schedule.
However, with a little meal planning and strategic shopping, you can plan healthy meals for your family without breaking your budget.
Here are eight tips to help you plan a healthy dinner every day.
1. Plan Around Your Calendar
Before you plan your family’s meals for the week, check the calendar.
Be realistic about how much time you have to prepare each day’s meal. On the days you’ll be getting home late, plan a quickly prepared meal (like our Taco Lettuce Wraps) or plan to use your crock pot that day.
If you don’t plan ahead you’re more likely to pick up fast food on your way home, which is never healthier than a home cooked meal and often more expensive, too.
2. Check Your Pantry
As you plan your meals for the week, check your pantry to see what items you already have on hand.
Using ingredients you already have will save time, money and cut down on food waste.
Have you ever heard of this FREE recipe tool from SuperCook? Just enter a couple ingredients you have on hand and it’ll produce several fun 30-min or less recipes! It was a game-changer for my family when I was looking at our ingredients and couldn’t seem to put them together into a quick and easy recipe. Oh, and the tool is FREE also. Boom!
3. Make A Complete List
Taking the time to make a thorough list and write down every item you’ll need for each meal will help you save money.
Check the actual recipe (don’t rely on your memory) for each ingredient.
An unplanned trip to the grocery store later to get that one ingredient you forgot is sure to cost you extra money along the way. Not just in time and gas, but it has been scientifically proven that each trip to the grocery store costs you more. The shelf displays and end caps are all organized to entice you to make an impulse buy.
Limiting your shopping trips (and sticking to your list) will reduce your unnecessary spending.
4. Buy Meat in Bulk
Meat is usually the most expensive part of a meal. Purchasing larger packages of meat that are sold at a lower price per pound can save you money.
To determine what is a good deal you’ll want to keep track of prices of the meat your family often buys and determine what is the lowest price for that cut. We call this the “Stock Up Price” and when it is at this lowest price, you “Stock Up” and fill your freezer with as much as your budget will allow. Then only buy it when you see it at that lowest price again.
Search your area for a local meat store (in Tampa we recommend Good Earth), check prices at warehouse stores like BJs, or try a bulk food supplier like Zaycon. If buying in bulk is too much for your budget, find a friend to split a large order with (you’ll be helping their budget, too).
We have several other ways to specifically Save Money On Meat.
5. Buy In-Season Fruits and Vegetables
In-season produce is always at its lowest price. Check our monthly What To Buy Guides for the current in-season produce and incorporate those into your meals.
As your budget allows, buy extra produce when it’s in-season and freeze it for later use.
6. Stock up on Frozen Fruits and Vegetables When They’re On Sale
Healthy meals always include produce, so making sure you always have them on hand is key to healthy meal planning.
An easy way to keep produce on hand is to buy frozen.
Check your favorite store’s sales ad before you shop each week, and be sure to clip any coupons to reduce a sale price even more.
7. Make It Homemade
Prepared meals and sauces contain preservatives and extra salt.
You can make many of the same foods cheaper and healthier than the prepared version.
Keep things on hand like flour, oatmeal, eggs, butter, and cornstarch to thicken sauces and make your own gravies.
Do you realize how quick and easy it is to make Whipped Cream instead of buying it in a pressurized can with all those preservatives? Yes, I cheat and use a $30 hand blender, but in 2 minutes flat you can have the most delicious whipped cream ever, at a fraction of the cost too!
8. Cook Extra and Plan To Eat Leftovers
Plan a night off from cooking by intentionally making extra food to eat as leftovers.
Turn leftover baked chicken into a Chicken Caesar Salad, a soup or even Chicken Salad Sandwiches.
Leftovers don’t have to be boring with a tiny bit of forward thinking!
I hope you can see how a little meal planning and strategic shopping can help you have healthy meals for your family without busting your budget (or choosing those unhealthy convenience alternatives). Adopting these 8 easy strategies will save you money and keep healthy meals on your dinner table.
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