Many people think that “healthy” is synonymous with “expensive,” but I love proving them wrong. With a little forethought, you can save money each month while still providing your family with nutritious and delicious meals every night (or as often as you want to cook).
Here’s how to create cheap and healthy meals you can proudly feed to your family.
Set a Budget
Listen up. Eating healthy isn’t going to cost you an arm and a leg unless you don’t set a budget for your groceries. The very first step you should take when creating a healthy meal schedule is to figure out how much you can spend on groceries.
Once you have a number, you can look for recipes that fit within your budget. This will take you a little bit of time, but it’s absolutely worth it.
“Healthify” Your Favorite Meals
You don’t have to completely change your palate to enjoy healthy foods. Instead, take recipes you already know you like and make a few tweaks here and there to “healthify” them.
Here are some of the top ways to make the most delectable unhealthy recipes a lot healthier.
- Make one or more healthy substitutions. Use fat-free milk instead of whole milk, trade enriched pasta with whole-wheat pasta, or cut the meat content in half and add more vegetables.
- Reduce the amount of salt, fat and sugar. Too much salt, fat and sugar aren’t good for your health (not to mention your waistline!) Here are some easy ways to limit the amounts of these ingredients in your meals.
- Salt - To cut back on salt, try using other seasonings to flavor your food. Thyme, cayenne, allspice and oregano can all add great flavor to your food and can reduce your need to use salt.
- Fat - To make sure your baked goods are still deliciously soft while cutting back on fat from butter, just use half the butter. You can replace the other half of the butter with mashed banana, unsweetened applesauce or prune puree.
- Sugar - To limit your sugar intake, add up to ½ less sugar than what’s called for in your favorite recipes. You can make up the difference by adding other sweet ingredients, such as nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice or cloves. Flavorings such as almond or vanilla extract can also add the most delightful hint of sweetness.
- Make your portion sizes smaller. One of the easiest ways to cut back on calories is to simply make portion sizes smaller. This will not only help you save money, but it may save your waistline, as well!
Figure Out What Ingredients Your Kids Will Eat
A little experimentation with healthy foods can help you figure out what your kids love, hate and tolerate. Remember to be creative. Your kids may think they hate carrots, but might change their minds if you puree some cooked carrots with a bit of olive oil, cinnamon and nutmeg.
Once you figure out what healthy components your kids like, you can rotate them into your meals regularly.
Take It a Week at a Time
Making nutritious meals can get overwhelming if you think too far ahead. While some people thrive on creating month-long dinner schedules, most people do best when they take it a week at a time.
Every weekend, take a few minutes to figure out your meal and grocery needs for the next week. Pick up all your groceries in a single trip, if possible. This will save you precious time and stress.