Thursday, March 12, 2009

Healthy Eating on a Budget

With the economy the way it is now, it's harder and harder for us to eat well. The cost of fresh fruits and veggies going up causes us to avoid buying them in favor of canned (which lose 60% of vital nutrients and fiber during the canning process) or in favor of prepared foods (which are usually high in sodium and low in fiber - not to mention the refined, processed sugars they include). Bread has gone up, milk has gone up, cheese has gone up. And if you are into buying low-fat/high-fiber and/or "diet" foods, the cost is up even more.

So what's a supermom to do?

Well, here are a few tips that will (hopefully) keep your family well-fed and save a dime or two!

On Sale? Buy in bulk! Items such as ground turkey are usually cheaper than ground beef to begin with. Chicken breasts and light meat pork items, on the other hand, are anywhere from $5-7 a package, depending on your store and area. Wait until these items go on sale, and buy 3 or 4 packages at once! Avoid buying those "bulk" packages of flash-frozen breasts or tenders. Chances are, you'll be paying close to twice the price for MAYBE one or two breasts more than the fresh packages. Also, a lot of times these items will have been brined, adding extra sodium and water (which raises the weight, and therefore the price). And if your favorite veggie goes on sale, buy it in bulk. Pre-chop it and store it in the freezer for up to 6 months until you're ready to use it!

Try making your own! Bread, pasta, pancakes, biscuits . . . you know what's going in to the batch, AND chances are you can make several batches for a fraction of the cost of one package of the prepared item. Don't know how to do it? Saving Dinner has some great recorces for just this kind of thing. Can't find anything there? Type "home made __(fill in the blank)__" into your search engine and watch the hits flow! There are thousands upon thousands of recipes for homade bread, pizza dough, pasta, rice mixes, baking mixes . . . you name it, ,it's out there! Serch You Tube or for how-to videos too!

Try Frozen! Sometimes, frozen IS better than fresh. Berries, peaches, corn, broccoli, green beans, asparagus, and peas are great examples. They're available all year round, and cheaper than fresh in most cases! And don't discount items such as stir-fry mixes, and "Normandy" mixed vegetables. For around $2-5 (depending on size of package and area) you can get a mix of veggies and fruit that would cost you close to $10 to buy fresh!

Make a budget and a list and STICK TO IT!! Research has shown that when we have a set budget along with a list to stick to, we tend to buy more wholesome foods for our dollar. For example, if a Mom goes to the store with $10, she can chose to buy prepared items or fresh items. Chances are, she'll go for the fresh items which, in most cases, cost up to 20% less than the prepared.

It's been said before but DON'T SHOP ON AN EMPTY STOMACH! When you go grocery shopping hungry, we have a tendency to buy things that we don't need, don't REALLY want, and certainly can't afford. If it's not meal time, eat a small snack like a piece of fruit or a cheese stick before hitting the aisles. It can make all the difference in your food budget!

Well, there you have it. Just a few tips that I hope will help some of you keep eating healthy without breaking the bank.

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