On the Menu: Eat Well on a Budget
I’ve noticed that money is a popular blog topic. Given the recession, I guess it’s no surprise. I’m finding it very interesting to read about other people’s philosophies about money. Last week at Grown Up For Real, D. Rene explored how people learn about money; Daria over at Mom-in-Management looked at the dark side of extreme couponing. And my friend Blessing over at Working Mom Journal, a girl after my own heart, cut to the chase and mused about how to get paid like a man.
When I think about money, I think about food. Ask any mom and she’ll tell you that a big chunk of her family’s monthly expenses go towards food. As a mother and wife, my primary concern is that my family is eating a well-rounded and healthy diet. Dr. D. and I are trying to pass good eating habits on to D2 and so far at 17 months, he’s a good little eater willing to try just about anything we put in front of him. We place great emphasis on the quality and flavor of our food as well as its nutritional makeup. My family spends about $150.00 – $175.00 a week on groceries, which is a decent budget in the South East where I live. I admit that I could probably bring this bill down a bit but because we eat out very little, we splurge on some organic produce, dairy and premium meats. Additionally, I love to cook so we make most things from scratch. Here’s my own philosophy on eating well on a budget:
- Plan your menu for the week. This is one of the single biggest money-saving practices you can do. Typically, I’ll plan at least two dishes that we can eat off of for the week. I’ll cook these dishes on Saturday or Sunday, freezing any extra for later in the month. Blogs I’m loving right now for meal ideas are Dinner a Love Story and Make Ahead Mamas. Both offer delicious, healthy meals for time-starved families.
- Eat meatless at least twice a week. I’m a firm believer in buying the best cuts of meat you can afford, which can get expensive. In our house to keep our food bill within reason and our waistlines in check, we have at least two vegetarian or fish dishes a week. A current favorite of D2′s (and hence ours) is butternut squash lasagna. This dish is brilliant and you’ll never miss the meat.
- Make at least one hearty soup a week. In my house we LOVE soup and always have at least one in the fridge. D2 is loving my chicken noodle soup these days so it’s become a staple along with turkey chili. You can use all of those wilting veggies in your fridge, throw them in the crock pot with meat (or not) and spices and voila! The secret to a great soup base is good quality beef, chicken or vegetable stock so always make sure you have at least a few boxes in your cupboard (bonus points to you if you make your own stock!).
- Eat local and in season. You’ve probably heard all about the movement to eat seasonal local food. Not only do you support your local farmers when you eat local but you’ll see your food bill shrink by not eating food imported from a zillion miles away (hello, grapes?). We have a fabulous farmer’s market in my community and it’s just starting to gear up, which means lots of wonderful local meat and produce at great prices.
- Avoid packaged foods. This can be a tough one if you are busy like most families because these foods are so convenient. But here’s a reality, pre-packaged food not only tends to be more expensive, it’s less healthy with hidden fat and sodium. With the exception of bread, we do most of our own baking and we don’t eat frozen meals or other packaged food.
- Start your own garden. My maternal grandfather was a master gardener and I’ve been obsessed for years about starting my own. We’ve (finally) broken ground on our 10 x20 vegetable garden and I couldn’t be more excited to eat food that I’ve grown myself. We are keeping it simple this year with squash, melons, tomatoes, zucchini and herbs.
That’s my short list. How do you eat well on a budget?