Feeding your family on a budget

Everyone is feeling the crunch these days. We hear the recession may be ending soon but our wallets don’t see the light yet. Gas prices are on the rise again and it seems for every step forward we experience a few steps back. While it is tempting to bargain shop for everything, one shouldn’t be quite so stingy when it comes to their family’s nutrition. Yes, sugary drink mixes are cheaper than fruit juice, but it is still possible to feed your family a healthy diet on a recession-proof budget.

More than likely you have already trimmed some fat from your grocery bill. Perhaps you are using coupons or switching to store brands. These are both great ideas that can save you some serious money in the long run. While you may have brand loyalty on some items you just can’t do without, switching to store-brand items can sometimes save you about $20 on your $100 grocery tab and typically the differences between brands isn’t all that noticeable.

In this age of convenience many of us aren’t doing things our mothers and fathers did. They canned and froze like the next World War was coming every year. They were onto something. You don’t have to set up a major canning operation (unless you want to), but by cooking in quantity and freezing leftovers you can save a bundle when purchasing ingredients. Not only will this save money but also time when you are frantically deciding what to make for dinner or what to take for lunch.

Shop local. Farmer’s markets can often go either way. Depending on the size of your local market you could actually spend more for fresh produce. However, when produce is in season and you live in an agricultural region, you can get great deals on fruits and vegetables that even taste better than the ones you would find at the local supermarket.

If you like to cook, like I do, you may get a little carried away with your meals. What starts out as spaghetti night turns into an Italian feast complete with fresh bread, olive oil, a multi-vegetable salad, spaghetti with meatballs and a veggie-packed garden tomato sauce. As much as I struggle with this piece of advice myself, I have learned to simplify. Your taste buds (and your stomach) don’t have to be overloaded at every meal. Keep your ingredients simple and check out some new budget-friendly recipes. Try saving your big feast for one meal a week. Taking a few ingredients out of your weeknight meals can really pay off.

Lastly, if you must eat out, look for specials and limit your restaurant meals. Used to eating out three times a week? Try cutting back to once a week. If you hit the local drive through for lunch everyday, pack your lunch and save the carryout for Friday. Many local restaurants have a kids’ night where children can eat free. Call around as some of them might not advertise this. There is one local steakhouse where we live that wouldn’t get my business if it wasn’t for their Tuesday kids’ nights. This allows me a once a month treat that doesn’t break the bank.

These points may not be revolutionary but we all need to be reminded of these tips. It is easy to save money at the expense of your health but it is not necessary. Home-cooked meals and fresh produce can save you some green while keeping everyone in the household healthy.


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