Tag Archives: On a Budget

Plan. Shop. Save. Prep.

The average American family spends $4,363 on groceries each year and $3,365 on eating out, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. Menu planning can cut your grocery bill drastically as well has help you eat healthier. It does take time on the front end but will save you time and money on the back end. Here is a step-by-step guide as well as the meal planning worksheet.

1. Ease in. What will you eat for breakfast and lunch? Is breakfast cold cereal or do you make breakfast? Is lunch a sandwich every day? Do you plan to meal prep to have lunches on hand? Will you use leftovers from dinner?

2. Capture your week. What do you have going on? Are there evenings you just won’t have time to cook? Do you have dinner plans? Jot in your evening plans. This will remind you of nights you want to avoid a detailed recipe or avoid cooking all together.

3. Recipe review. Use websites like Pinterest or do a quick internet search for recipes that you have been wanting to try. Flip through a cookbook to spark your taste buds. Or use this list of staple favorites for ideas.

4. Plan it. Put the recipes into your week as you see fit. You can create weeks or even a month at a time if you like. You could create a monthly cycle of 20 recipes if you want to simplify it for yourself. Then write your grocery list each week or however often you plan to shop.

5. Plug it in. Look through your recipes and separate your shopping list into sections of the grocery store to prevent you from bouncing all around the store. Or use this list to complete your online order for pick up. Grocery pick up can save you time. It can also save money as it reduces impulse buys, in turn, helping you eat healthier as those impulse buys are generally less healthy options.

 6. Prep it. Can you spare an hour to prep? Cut your veggies, make any sauces, brown any meat, make your lunches, wash fruit or bake and freeze any recipes. Have your partner help you. Involve the kids. Or simply turn on some music and start chopping.

Check out some tips on how you can set and stick to a grocery budget

National Nutrition Month: Go Further with Food

March is National Nutrition Month®! 2018’s theme is Go Further with Food. It encourages us to achieve the numerous benefits healthy eating habits offer, while also urging us to find ways to cut back on food waste.

Food waste is when edible food goes uneaten. Wasted food = wasted money and nutrients! The following tips can help make your food last and cut back on food waste.

  • Consider the foods you have on hand when planning meals before buying more at the store.
  • Buy only the amount that can be eaten or frozen within a few days and plan ways to use leftovers later in the week.
  • Get creative with leftovers. Transform meals into soups, salads, or sandwiches. Cut up leftover meats and veggies and use them as a topping for salads or cooked grains like rice, pasta, or quinoa! Wrap in a tortilla or stuff into a pita for a satisfying sandwich.
  • Place foods that spoil quickly within sight.
  • Store produce properly. Check out this article on EatRight.org.
  • Be mindful of portion sizes using MyPlate. Eat and drink the amount that’s right for you.
  • Continue to use good food safety practices. Regardless of the date stamped on the food or drink packaging, don’t risk eating or drinking anything that you suspect has spoiled. In some cases a food will not look or smell any different. That’s why it’s important to eat leftovers within 3 to 4 days (or freeze for up to 3 to 4 months).
  • Donate extra foods that are still safe to eat to a local food pantry.
  • Consult a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) to get sound, easy-to-follow personalized nutrition advice to meet your lifestyle, preferences, and health-related needs. Visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ database to find a RDN in your area. RDN’s are the most valuable and credible source of timely, scientifically-based food and nutrition information.

For more about National Nutrition Month® food, fitness, and health visit EatRight.org

Childcare Providers: Check out this Months Mealtime Memo!

Mealtime Memos offer information for child care providers. Each month new information, tips, and recipes are shared focused on good nutrition for young children. The topics listed below for each monthly newsletters can be found here.

2018 Mealtime Memos

August 2018: Family Meals – Oh Yea!!!
July 2018: Red, White, and Blue: A Celebration
June 2018: Safety In Child Care
May 2018: Nutrition and Learning
April 2018: Keeping Children’s Eyes Healthy
March 2018: Sowing Seed – The Growing Time
February 2018: Screen Media – Its Influence and Recommendations
January 2018: Magnificent Milk – Have Some Please!

2017 Mealtime Memos

December 2017: Picky, Choosy, or Just Normal Eating
November 2017: Food Safety is Important All Year
October 2017: Harvest Season
September 2017: Updated Meal Pattern
August 2017: Physical Activity for Young Children
July 2017: Appropriate Eating for Young Children
June 2017: Nutritious Foods for Infants
May 2017: Preventing Mealtime Mayhem
April 2017: Tips for Serving Meals Family-Style
March 2017: What About Those Fabulous Fruits
February 2017: Veggies, Yum! Providing Opportunities for Children to Like and Try Vegetables
January 2017: CACFP Meal Patterns in the New Year

2016 Mealtime Memos

December 2016: Training, Training, We all Need Training!
November 2016: Outdoor Playtime is the Best Time – Winter Play
October 2016: Got Leafy Greens?
September 2016: Please Help! Help-Desk Team at Your Call
August 2016: Is it Safe to Eat? Food Temperatures for Child Care
July 2016: Got Time? Online Courses for Professional Development
June 2016: For Good Nutrition, Eat Foods in Season!
May 2016: Herbs and Spices
April 2016: Preparing Foods with Limited Time
March 2016: Beverages That Count
February 2016: Cooking With Oils
January 2016: Mealtime Conversations with Preschoolers

2015 Mealtime Memos

December 2015: Gluten: What is It?
November 2015: Servings versus Portions
October 2015: Ways to Cut Food Cost
September 2015: Evaluating Your Wellness Policy
August 2015: Power Outages and Food Safety
July 2015: Organic Fruits and Vegetables – Are They Better?
June 2015: It’s Spice Time: Adding Herbs and Spices During Meal Preparation
May 2015: Sodium: What Is It?
April 2015: It’s About That Time: Enhancing Nutrition Education Programs to Promote Healthy Eating Habits
March 2015: Snack Times are the Best Times: Planning Nutritious and Appealing Snacks for Young Children
February 2015: Menu Planning for Healthy Eating
January 2015: Setting Goals for the New Year

2014 Mealtime Memos

December 2014: Time Saving Tips for the Child Care Kitchen
November 2014: It’s Cleaning Time: Tips for Cleaning in the Child Care Kitchen
October 2014: Conquering Picky Eating with Nutrition Education Activities
September 2014: It’s Time to Grocery Shop: Shopping the Safe Way
August 2014: Understanding the Meat Alternate Component
July 2014: Creating and Maintaining a Safe Mealtime Environment
June 2014: Nutrition Education: Why, When, Where and How
May 2014: Feeding Infants
April 2014: MyPlate Vegetable Subgroups
March 2014: Healthy Meals on a Budget
February 2014: Play Time is the Best Time
January 2014: New Year, New Healthy Food Choices

Source: Mealtime Memo for Child Care is published by the USDA Institute of Child Nutrition.

Eating Healthy on a Budget

Yes, you CAN avoid the junk food habit. When you plan ahead, healthy eating can be affordable!

Tips for Sticking to Your Budget:

  • Plan your meals every week.
  • Make a grocery list and stick to it.
  • Try not to shop when you are hungry.
  • Clip coupons, organize them and keep them with you.
  • Watch for sales, especially on meat close to its expiration date – you can always freeze it for later.
  • Compare store brand prices with national brands.
  • Remember, most canned, fresh and frozen items can be exchanged in recipes.
  • Buy your favorite food items in bulk, if possible, such as noodles, beans, canned fruits and vegetables and more.

Check out some meal planning tips! And for more healthy snacking tips, take a look at Munch Code.

Heart Healthy Meals for Busy Parents

Time and time again, parents say time is their enemy when it comes to preparing healthy meals.

“When healthy eating is a low priority, the results are the escalating obesity and chronic disease rates we see today,” said Aaron Feest, a registered dietitian at the VA Medical Center in Milwaukee, Wis. “Healthy eating habits break down when we don’t plan ahead.”

Feest and his wife, Shannon, think helping kids develop healthy habits, especially for their son, 12-year-old Owen, goes a long way toward better health.

The main key is time management. Difficult? Sometimes. But not impossible.

“It’s become commonly accepted that we are all too busy all of the time, but somehow we find time for all of the things that fill our schedule,” Feest said. “Healthy eating is worth the effort. Most people find plenty of time and money for cable TV. What’s more important?”

Keep the frozen pizza and other processed foods to a minimum with tips that are good for your heart and your wallet.

Start With a Plan

Not surprisingly, the best time to make a meal plan isn’t when you’re hungry and need to eat right away. Make a list—and check it twice.

“We try to plan at least a few days ahead which meals we are going to make based on the days we have time to cook,” he said. “We always shop with a grocery list based on that menu, we don’t shop hungry and we make enough to have leftovers.”

Invest a couple of hours on the weekend to save anxiety as well as time on extra trips to the grocery store. Make large batches and freeze leftovers in individual portions for healthy, homemade microwaveable convenience meals.

Get Your Kids in the Kitchen

Holly DuBois, who lives in San Antonio, gets her kids in the kitchen every chance she gets.

With a family history of obesity, they make sure their kids eat a healthy, balanced diet. “Cooking for me personally has been a fun, stress-relieving activity that I’ve grown to love,” DuBois said. “I want them to share in it and enjoy it so it’s not a burden.”

Her two little ones hang out on a step stool in the kitchen while she cooks and gives them small jobs. “I’ll give them plastic knives and they’ll cut stuff or get things from the pantry,” she said.

Summertime means organic produce from a community-supported agriculture co-op once a week — everything from cauliflower to eggplant to rhubarb. “The rule is that if it’s in the bag they have to try it.”

Bresha Richardson, a busy Dallas-area mom to a kindergartner, juggles single parenting, work, volunteering for the PTA and her son’s extracurricular activities. But she still tries to make healthy eating a priority.

“I want my son to learn how bad choices can impact his body, not just now but in the future,” she said. “I try extremely hard to communicate with him about every meal he has and why a particular food may not be a good choice.”

Together, the pair makes egg tacos one night a week. “He cracks and whisks the eggs and I slice and sauté the red pepper and warm whole-wheat or white corn tortillas,” she said. “I make it a point not to add seasonings like salt so he can taste the food for what it is.”

She also gets a head start over the weekend by getting healthy stuff ready for the hectic work week. “If I wash and cut our fruits and veggies and pre-package them, they most definitely get eaten.”

I’m on a budget. What can I do?

Eating healthy doesn’t have to be expensive. Rice, beans, potatoes, bananas, and eggs can be budget-friendly staples. You can also stretch your grocery budget by planning for a couple meatless meals each week.

“Make cooking a hobby and learn to cook from scratch when it’s reasonable,” Feest said. “For example, oatmeal is fairly cheap and really healthy. You pay a premium to have it portioned into little packets with flavor added when it’s not very difficult to prepare from scratch.” And many times those prepackaged, flavored varieties contain added sugar, but making it from scratch you have more control over the amount of sweetener that gets added.

Buy fresh produce when it’s in season. Eat lots of citrus and apples in the winter and strawberries in the summer. If it’s not in season, buy it frozen. And if you’re interested in going organic, consider using the “dirty dozen” and “clean fifteen” lists by the Environmental Working Group to prioritize your purchases and save money.

My child is Home Alone. How can I Help Her Eat Healthy?

If you plan ahead, it’s pretty easy to help your child make good choices without any difficulty or dangerous prep work. Feest suggests:

  • Peanut butter and jelly with no-sugar added jelly on whole-wheat bread
  • Grilled fish sandwich. Keep spinach and tomatoes (sliced ahead of time) handy to add flavor and nutrients
  • Turkey sandwich. Don’t forget your favorite veggies
  • Whole-grain crackers and hummus
  • Fresh fruit
  • Healthy leftovers — microwave them for a quick, easy meal

And the best way to avoid junk food? Don’t stock it in the house, because it’s too easy to reach for it first. Try more tips for planning ahead and see Feest’s idea for four easy weeknight meals below:

  • Salad night: Make a healthy bowl of greens your entrée. Toss in chicken, unsalted nuts or seeds for a little protein. Use a wide variety of fresh veggies and dark green lettuce. Skip the iceberg, because it’s low on nutrients.
  • Taco night: Pile on the veggies, try low-fat, low sodium cheese and use whole-wheat or corn tortillas. You can even mix together a little Greek yogurt and lemon juice to make a healthy “sour cream.”
  • Homemade grilled pizza: Make a pizza without  cheese, add some cooked diced chicken and load the veggies onto a thin, whole-wheat crust.
  • Easy vegetarian chili over baked potatoes.

“It’s important for parents to be in charge and be consistent. With new foods, Owen has to try a few bites before he decides he doesn’t like it,” Feest said. “With repeated exposure he warms up to foods he may have rejected initially. It definitely helps to start young.”

Source: American Heart Association