You can ask most any frugal mom and she’ll tell you that eating healthy, especially on a budget, is a challenge. But finding healthy, frugal foods that our families will eat is possible. It may be that we have to change the way we think about cooking and menu planning, but there are ways to eat healthy and not spend a fortune.
• Avoid frying. Not only does frying add extra fat and calories, but fried foods are the least healthy choices we can make. In the “old days,” when our parents and grandparents worked the farm, or did all their chores and housework manually, eating fried foods wasn’t the issue it is today. Our ancestors got in enough aerobic exercise by daily living to burn off the added fat. But for 21st century families whose homes are filled with modern labor-saving devices, we have to be especially careful to eliminate fat from our diets. One way to do this is to considerably reduce the amount of fried foods we eat.
• Choose grilled, broiled or baked. For busy moms, baking or grilling is a quicker, easier cooking method than frying. And it’s much healthier for our families. Learn to crank up the grill or turn on the oven rather than dragging out the frying pan. You’ll save money by buying less cooking oil and coatings, as well as effort and calories. Once you get used to lighter tasting foods, you’ll have a hard time eating fried foods because of the added grease.
• Eat more vegetables. Yeah, yeah, everyone says eat more vegetables. But they say that because it’s true! Vegetables are natural foods that were created to be eaten. Unlike processed foods that are loaded with preservatives, artificial flavorings, and added chemicals, vegetables are food. Period. Even vegetables that are considered high in fat or less healthy than other vegetables (such as avocados) are still natural foods and better than many other food choices we might make.
• Choose raw vegetables when possible. Raw vegetables are the best choice for getting all the vitamins and nutrients our bodies need. Salads, celery sticks, chunks of broccoli and cauliflower, cucumber strips and carrots are excellent choices for eating healthy. And if you grow your own, these good-for-you-foods are totally free!
• Shop produce stands rather than supermarkets. While many frugal moms have acquired a “Wal*Mart mindset” and think that everything we need is cheaper at Wal*Mart, that’s not always the case–especially where fresh fruits and vegetables are concerned. Buying directly from the gardener or farmer at roadside stands or farmers’ markets is often your best bet. You’ll get fresher foods at a lower cost and more times than not, the foods you buy direct from the grower will be organic, compared to over-fertilized foods that have to allow a profit for all the middle men such as distributors, delivery drivers and others that you face when you buy from a store.
• While organic may indeed be healthier, buying products labeled organic is usually not worth the money. Many of the items–especially fresh fruits and vegetables–are no different than what you normally buy. They are just sold by savvy marketers who know the value of the word. Find truly organic items at affordable prices by shopping locally as noted above.
• Don’t shop on an empty stomach. This isn’t as much a healthy eating tip, as a frugal one. But you can better afford to buy healthy foods when you don’t spend your money on ready-to-eat snacks because you’re hungry.
• Buy in bulk. Even if you have to split the cost with a family member or neighbor, you can often save by buying larger quantities of vegetables, in particular.
• Check the “ready to expire” bin for fruits and vegetables to be used immediately or frozen. You never know what you’ll find, but it’s a guarantee you can get things at a fraction of the normal price. The store would usually prefer to recoup at least a portion of their cost than throw the items away.
• Cook as much as you can from scratch. Many convenience foods are no quicker to prepare than foods we make from our own ingredients. For instance, popcorn, muffins, spaghetti sauce, macaroni and cheese and many other foods can be made just as quickly as their pre-packaged counterparts at a fraction of the cost and with less added sugar and preservatives.
• Eat simple foods. Grocers might have us believe that our families need fancy meals and fancy foods to eat well and stay healthy, but that simply isn’t true. Simple foods are not only cheapest, but they are typically healthiest. Avoid high calorie sauces, fancy gravies, and expensive condiments for the healthiest choices at the lowest price.
Kids are often the choosiest eaters in the family. They are drawn towards unhealthy foods such as salty or sugary snacks and fast food. If getting your kids to eat healthy meals is a battle in your home, here are some tips that will make your kids happy and give you the satisfaction of knowing you are feeding them foods that are good for them.
Most kids will ask for sweets such as candy and snack cakes. Instead of giving in to the pressure, give your kids applesauce and homemade oatmeal cookies prepared with a sugar substitute or honey rather than white sugar. Fruit snacks and dried fruit roll-ups made from 100 percent fruit are great ideas for kids.
Make Healthy Meals Fun
The secret is in the presentation. Arrange an assortment of healthy foods in a fun way on your child’s plate. You can include smiley faces made from raisins or nuts and choose foods that are colorful. Kids will eat most things if they are presented in a unique design that makes eating fun.
Healthy Start to the Day
You can give your kids a delicious, healthy breakfast by getting rid of the ready to eat cereals and pastries and replacing them with bran pancakes and low-sugar syrup and/or fruit. Whole-wheat tortillas filled with fruit, scrambled eggs, or cheese and turkey bacon are delicious and your kids will have fun eating them, paying no attention to the fact that it is actually good for them.
Replace fruit drinks and sodas with flavored tonic water and fresh fruit juice. Drink boxes containing pure fruit juice are relatively inexpensive and kids love the individual boxes, complete with straws.
Kids love finger foods. Vegetables with low or fat-free ranch dressing are sure to be a hit as will sliced fruit or canned fruit in individual cups. Small sandwiches with the crusts removed served with a few carrot sticks and cheese are great ideas for kids.
Making Healthy Dinner
Dinnertime can include homemade pizza topped with cheese and vegetables or soft tacos made with shredded chicken and cheese. Chicken strips prepared in the oven are always a hit and you could include an assortment of fresh vegetables and whole-grain breads. Fish sticks are relatively healthy if you prepare them in the oven rather than fried. Cheese and legumes are healthy choices.
It’s not difficult to get kids to eat healthy meals. It just takes a little extra thought and planning. Start by using our tips and you may be surprised to see what your child will eat.
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