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Healthy Family Budget

Sometimes it seems like creating healthy, budget-conscious meals that will please an entire family is a task too daunting for even the most super of supermoms and dads. However, with a little forethought and creativity, you can tweak your grocery list to include tasty, healthy options that will keep your family’s health and your wallet in top shape!

Pay attention to weekly circulars or online circulars to cut down on processed snack foods for lunch boxes and to add variety and nutrition to your nightly dinners. On ShopRite’s website (as of 5/31/09), we found part-skim cheese sticks at 2.99 for 12 (a quarter each), an apple or banana at around 40 cents each; pair these with a one-pound bag of baby carrots at the sale price of 84 cents a bag, and you have a lunch box of healthy snacks for less than a dollar a day. Also, use the deals you find in circulars to stock up on healthy staples that won’t go bad; frozen veggies, whole-grain pastas, and low-sodium canned tomatoes can form the base of a variety of nutritious meals.

Next, cut down on red meat; with high fat and cholesterol content, recent reports of red meat consumption being tied to cancer risk, and a higher price, this should be one of the first places you think about trimming your grocery list. Ground chicken or turkey is cheaper, but if you can’t bear the thought of eschewing real burgers for good, either make them smaller and provide a veggie side dish, or replace some of the meat in your recipe with hearty red kidney beans. Beans can also be used to replace some of the meat in chili and soup recipes while retaining the protein content and adding heart-healthy fiber.

Finally, get rid of any and all unnecessary sugars. Cut down on sodas and sugary juice drinks; buy all-natural juices instead. Ounce-for-ounce they’re about twice the price of sugary juice drinks and sodas, but if you buy on sale and dilute with water or flavored store-brand seltzer, the cost difference is negligible and you’re removing added sugars and artificial colors and flavors from your kids’ diets.

The key to keeping your kids’ diets healthy and affordable is definitely forethought. Have the ingredients on hand for some go-to dishes that you can always fall back on when the kids are in a picky mood so you don’t resort to ordering take-out, which is never cost-effective and rarely the healthiest option. Also, think about making meal planning and preparation a family activity to help build healthy nutritional and financial habits in your family.