Sunday, May 11, 2008

Quick Family Meals on a Budget

Cutting the Food Budget

On the economic front, the news is dire. Gas prices are soaring and food prices are increasing almost as fast. After you've trimmed down the clothes and entertainment budget, the food budget is the next to get cut. Is it possible to have tasty, nutritious meals on a budget? Yes, but you probably need to make some changes in the way you buy, cook and eat:

Getting Ready:

  • Shop the sales, make a list.

  • Plan to use leftovers--creatively.

  • Never go to the store hungry.

  • If you need to shop with kids in tow, make sure they are well rested and not hungry.

At the Store:

  • Buy chicken, fish, and shrimp in bulk at club stores. If you want to buy natural beef on a budget, go directly to the farmer, such as Alder Springs Ranch or US Wellness Meats, which also carries lamb, bison, pork and chicken.

  • Before buying fruit in 5 pound economy bags, confirm that they're cheaper--sometimes they're not.

  • Think outside the bun for convenience. No time to cook? Scramble a few eggs. Make a veggie fritatta with last night's stir fried veggies. Eggs are still the cheapest, contain nature's perfect protein and 13 essential nutrients including choline. (Choline is essential for normal brain development for infants and the unborn. Most women don't get enough!) For health and nutrition facts and great egg recipes see:

  • Weigh your time against the cost of convenience. If buying washed lettuce drastically increases the chance that your family will eat salad, go for it! Salad dressing? With a recipe you can make it yourself, better for less.

  • Stock up on products that can be used in many ways--such as pasta sauce. Besides pouring it over pasta, it can be used as a dip for string cheese or grilled zuchinni, or a topping for fish, chicken, pork or even eggs! For more tips and recipes, see

  • Keep a few true convenience meals on hand that keeps you from eating out. Frozen veggie lasagna is a favorite of mine. But I like it with a little extra Ragu...

At Home:

Make double portions of protein and of casseroles, soups and stews. Freeze the soups and stews and use the protein for creative leftovers. Here are a few to get you started:

  • Grilled chicken breast: chicken burritos, pasta with chicken and artichoke hearts, chicken and brown rice casserole, chicken caesar salad.

  • Beef Roast: roast beef sandwiches, shredded beef tacos, eggs with shredded beef and green chile, sloppy joes, beef stuffed baked potatoes.

  • Roasted or grilled salmon: salmon salad, salmon with pasta and Ragu mixed with fat free sour cream, salmon chowder

  • Make a menu and try to stick with it. This will make life less stressful for the whole family and help you cut food costs. With a plan in hand, you're less likely to eat out.

When Eating Out:

  • Eat an apple on the way--you'll be less tempted by expensive (and high fat) appetizers.

  • Take advantage of early bird and small portion specials.

  • Rethink take out. It doesn't have to be high fat or fried. A grilled chicken dinner at Taco Cabana is $12.99--and it includes rice, beans, tortillas and fresh salsa. Add your own salad and some strawberries for a balanced, tasty meal. How do I know? We had that for dinner on Thursday nite! Another take out idea is Chinese--a few entrees and a few side dishes, with brown rice can feed a whole family.

  • Start with a brothy soup or salad.

  • Drink water. Sodas and alcohol can add significantly to your bill (and your waistline.)

  • Share an entree with your spouse or friend and order extra side dishes.

  • Order one dessert and 4 spoons; your wallet and your weight will thank you!

No comments: