We are working longer and harder, yet the old dollar doesn’t seem to stretch as far as it once did. Everywhere we turn someone is holding out a hand, expecting a piece of our hard earned money. There was a time we could slice our economical pie into six or eight pieces and maybe even have a piece left over after giving our debtors their share. Now we are slicing our pies into dozens of pieces and everyone wants a larger slice. What do we do? We prioritize and somehow we find a way to pay everything on our priority list.
Prioritize Healthy Eating
The cost of food has sky-rocketed recently. In an attempt to save money, many families are eating cheaper, less healthy meals; which may actually be more costly. If we put cheap gasoline in an expensive sports car, we would expect something to break, followed by pricey repair bills. Likewise, when we put cheap fuel in our finely tuned bodies, something is going to break, followed by costly medical bills. It is more economical to prioritize our health, eat right, and live active lifestyles.
Now that we’ve made healthy eating a priority, we still need to stretch those dollars. One way is to buy fruits and vegetables in season and preserve it. Some vegetables must be blanched before freezing, so be sure to follow guidelines. Local farmers’ markets offer fantastic deals on produce and will be happy to answer any questions you have about caring for them.
Frozen fruits and vegetables are often less expensive and last longer than fresh. They are a great substitute for fresh vegetables. Just be careful not to cook them longer than necessary, depleting them of the vitamins our bodies need.
Protein is one of the most expensive items on our grocery list. Purchasing less expensive protein will help stretch the budget. Cooking meat in the crock pot will tenderize it as well as enhance the flavor.
Using smaller portions of protein per person is also helpful. Setting half a chicken breast in front of a grown man with an explanation about saving money is not going to decrease your stress level. However, chopping two cooked chicken breasts and adding them to a rice or pasta dish will feed a family of four, who will never know they ate less meat. Likewise, browning half a pound of sausage and adding it to eggs before scrambling will make expensive sausage go further.
Prepare Home-cooked Meals
Have you ever been ordering meals at a fast food restaurant, only to realize that you could have cooked those burgers and fries for much less? The average fast food combo meal costs about $6.00. Feeding a family of four, the price comes to $24.00 before taxes. If the items were purchased at the store, the price would actually be about the same. So why cook at home? At the restaurant, $24.00 pays for one meal. At home, there would be some food like lettuce, pickles, and buns left for another meal. While standing at the checkout line, you may not think you are saving money, but the food bought there will serve your family more economically and nutritiously.
We live in a disposable society. We use disposable diapers, plates, cups, and bottles. That practice has carried over to our food. If there is not enough left to feed the entire family, we throw it out.
Learn to use those ‘little dabs’ of food to add to another meal. Add that half cup of vegetables to homemade soup. Consider adding it to quiche which is made with eggs—an inexpensive protein. Quiche is also a quick and low-cost meal for a busy family. It can be made in small portions, making customizing for individuals easy.
Eat With Your Eyes
Your family won’t eat raw fruits and vegetables? Try arranging them on a tray by color and size. Somehow we will eat something we don’t usually like if it’s appealing to the eye. Rather than putting stalks of celery on the kids’ plates, fill the crevice with peanut butter and place raisins on the peanut butter in a straight line. Suddenly boring stalks of celery become ‘ants on a log’ and will be gobbled up before anything else. The kids won’t eat salad? Try placing a palm size piece of lettuce on a plate and top it a pineapple slice. Stand a half banana, cut crosswise, in the middle of the pineapple. Place a dab of mayo on top of the banana and crown it with a cherry. That boring salad is now a candle and will be devoured.
It is possible to eat healthy on a budget by planning ahead, using substitutions, and a few creative tricks.