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Save Money on Healthy Foods

Want to offer your children healthy, wholesome food options? You’re not alone. Parents are growing in their awareness of the health benefits of whole grains, organic produce, and lean meats and dairy.

However, it can be hard to save money on healthy foods. Finding cheap, healthy food is possible, and you can eat healthy food on any budget, especially if you follow some of these helpful tips:


Buy in season – Tomatoes in the middle of winter or butternut squash in mid-summer aren’t going to carry the best value, either in quality or in price. Instead, buy fresh produce when it’s in season. Experiment with new vegetable recipes to see what your family prefers. You may make some tasty discoveries. There are seasons for meat and poultry as well. Fish usually goes on sale during late winter/early spring, whole chickens and roasts in winter, and BBQ cuts during summer. Build your menus based on what’s fresh and on sale.

Cook from scratch – Whole grain baking mixes can cost a pretty penny, but you can easily make your own pancakes, quick breads, scones, and muffins from whole wheat flour and leavening. Avoid purchasing convenience items, which are usually more expensive and full of additives and preservatives. Simple, fresh cooked meats, veggies, and rice are great ways to improve nutrition without buying pre-made meals.

Check your cart – Make sure you’re getting the biggest bang for your buck by surveying the contents of your cart. Does everything have nutritional value? If not, rethink that purchase. Cheese puffs, even the organic ones, are generally more expensive than a block of cheese. (And they’re still junk food.) Replace unhealthy snacks with their simpler, tastier counterparts. Cheese sticks, fresh fruit, whole grain crackers and breads make great after-school snacks. Looking back in your cart, try for a rainbow of colors where produce (not packaging) is concerned. This is a general rule of thumb for providing a variety of nutritional choices to your children – and teaching them their colors at the same time!

Grow your own
– If you’ve got room for a few pots or even a small garden plot in your backyard, you can easily grow your own organic fruits, vegetables, and herbs for a fraction of the cost of buying them. Try a couple plants and add to your garden as you become more experienced. Zucchini, radishes, peas and tomatoes are easy for first-time gardeners. Kids are also more apt to try a new food if they’ve had a hand in growing it.

Plan ahead — Meal planning and shopping from a grocery list will help avoid impulse buys and that last-minute trip through the golden arches, neither of which are budget-friendly. Shop from sales, making the most of the specials featured in the weekly ads. Loss leaders are seasonal items that the grocer offers “at a loss” in order to attract customers. Watch for these and grab them when you can.

Don’t dis the coupon – You’d be surprised how many all-natural or organic brands run money-saving campaigns. Clip coupons for items you feel good about feeding your family and then wait patiently for a sale.

Build your pantry – Stock up on food items at a great price in order to build a healthy pantry to cook from. If it’s an item that you know fits your family’s diet, buy a lot of it when it goes on sale. Over time, you’ll have a surplus in your cupboards so that you won’t need to pay full price when you next want to serve that item.

Go meatless (or meat-less) – Meat can be expensive. By opting for meatless meals two to three times per week, you can greatly reduce your spending and maintain healthy eating. Beans and rice provide a complex carbohydrate as well as plenty of fiber. Pasta with red sauce and plenty of steamed vegetables and a whole grain roll can fill hungry tummies for just pennies.

Choose wisely. In a perfect world, no additive, preservative, or non-organic morsel would pass your child’s lips. But, sometimes our budgets aren’t perfect. So, make the most of what you have. The following “dirty dozen” produce items are generally considered “must have” as organics: Apples, Cherries, Grapes – imported, Nectarines, Peaches, Pears, Raspberries, Strawberries, Bell Peppers, Celery, Potatoes, Spinach. If only some organic produce will fit the bill, these would be the ones to choose.
You may not be able to provide the perfect healthful meal every time, but it’s worth a try. With a little know-how and some savvy shopping, good – and cheap – eats will be easy to come by.

Beans and Rice are the perfect good and cheap eat. They provide fiber and a complex carbohydrate and can be served up for as low as $5.00 to feed a crowd.

Beans and Rice

Homemade Pinto Beans

  • 1 pound dried pinto beans
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • salt
  • pepper
  • garlic powder

Sort through the dried beans, removing any stones or defective beans. Rinse thoroughly. Place in a pot and cover with at least an inch of water. Allow to soak overnight.

The next day, rinse and place beans in a crockpot*. Add the chopped onion and enough water to cover by about an inch. Cook 8-10 hours on low. Stir in salt and pepper to taste.

We prefer to mash the beans slightly and season to taste with garlic powder.

*If you don’t want to use the crockpot, or if you don’t have 8 hours until serving time, you can cook them on the stovetop. Place beans, onion and water in a large stockpot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover slightly. Stir frequently, adding water if necessary.

Mexican Rice

  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 2 cups uncooked white rice
  • 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 4 cups chicken broth

In large sauté pan with lid, heat oil over medium heat. Add rice and cook, stirring, until rice turns white and very lightly brown. Remove from heat and stir in tomato sauce. Be careful of splatters. Stir well. Stir in chicken broth and return to heat. Bring to bubbling. Cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for 15 minutes or until almost all liquid is absorbed. Remove lid and fluff with a fork. Continue to cook on low for about five minutes to remove any extra liquid.

By Jessica Fisher

Jessica Fisher is a wife, mother, and freelance writer, regularly writing about fun, frugality, and the pursuit of a clean house at www.lifeasmom.com and posts delicious ways to act your wage at www.goodcheapeats.com

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