Planning Healthy Meals Within Your Budget
It is an unfortunate fact of life that many high nutrient, low fat, low calorie foods are expensive, while many nutrient free, calorie dense foods are cheap. This can make buying and cooking healthy foods for yourself and your family quite a challenge, particularly when the food budget is limited.
With some advance planning, however, it is still possible to create a week full of wonderful, nutritious meals, not matter how small your food budget. The key is to plan ahead, shop smart, and make the most out of the foods you buy.
Planning those meals
In today's busy world, meal planning often means calling out for a pizza or hitting the drive through on the way home. This type of lifestyle has helped to fuel the epidemic of obesity the country has been experiencing. There is a better way, however. Simply taking a few minutes a week to plan your family's meals can make a lot of difference, both in money saved and nutrition gained.
Advance meal planning is a must for any shopper on a budget. Writing down your meal plans, including the ingredients needed and expected preparation time, will help you plan what to buy and how to cook. For those with especially busy schedules, planning meals that can be cooked ahead of time and reheated is a huge time and money saver.
Fortunately, many healthy meals, such as vegetable casseroles, pasta dishes, meat dishes, seafood entrees, fruit salads, etc. are great as leftovers. It is easy to see how advance meal planning can save you time. Many working mothers, for instance, will make an entire week's worth of meals on the weekend, then heat each day's meals up as the week unfolds. This is a great strategy for creating a healthy and varied menu the whole family will love.
Hitting the grocery store
Now that you know what meals the coming week will bring, its time to hit the grocery store in search of the perfect and most healthy ingredients. Before you hit the grocery store, however, be sure to check the pantry. Keeping well stocked pantry, and restocking when staples such as canned vegetables and fruits go on sale, is the cornerstone of any healthy eating budget.
After you have gone through the pantry and noted the items you need to buy, it is time to check the sales flyers for your local grocery stores. Most major grocery store chains include sales flyers in the local newspaper, so be sure to check there for sales on the items you need for your meals.
Going to the grocery store armed with a shopping list is the best way to save both time and money. The grocery store contains many temptations, and most of them are both unhealthy and expensive. Sticking to the list is the best way to stay within your budget while providing yourself and your family with wholesome, nutritious food.
Don't forget to include fresh fruits and vegetables on your shopping list. Keeping fresh fruits and veggies around for snacks is a great way to eat healthier.
Preparing the meal
After everything has been purchased, the pantry has been restocked, and fresh bowls of fruits and vegetables are arranged for snacking, it is time to start creating that meal on a budget. As we said before, making meals in bulk for later use during the week is a great strategy for working women, and for those who are pressed for time. Taking a few hours to mix the ingredients and prepare the food can save a lot of time in the long run.
Of course for those on a budget saving money is just as important as saving time. One of the most important ways to save money while still eating a healthy diet is to stock up on those essentials you always seem to run out of. Try keeping a notepad on the refrigerator or near the sink. Every time you run out of a certain food, write it on the notepad. You will probably notice a pattern emerging after a week or two. So the next time your local grocery store runs a special on one of those things you always need, but it in bulk and keep a good supply on hand.
Buying in bulk is a great way to save money on many different kinds of healthy foods. Many people automatically think that the local warehouse club store is the cheapest place to buy bulk items, but this is not often the case. The weekly specials at the local grocery store often beat those warehouse club prices, often by a large margin. So be sure to shop around and comparison shop often as you put together those healthy meals.
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