In light of the current financial environment, I'm curious to know how you manage to keep your food costs down while maintaing a healthy diet for your children. I'm a big proponent of planning a menu for the week and shopping all at once.
Well, I sent you a couple questions which will impact how I plan/ cook/ feed my kids and hubby and I. Theoretically, I think that we provide the starch, meat, veggies, and fruit at each meal, and let them eat what they want. If they don't like anything, then I guess they will be hungry. (Although, I can't actually say that I follow this policy.)
The budget is most impacted for us in the snacks and easy-to-prep department. So we will buy yogurt in the big containers and separate into small ones for lunches, instead of buying the cute little cups. the same with applesauce, and juice. This is also a greener solution too.
For those days when I don't want to prepare a lunch, we still do the old Chef Boy R Dee cans of (yucky) stuff in a thermos. And we also do home-made lunchables.
The food you put in your body is the most important cost you have. It keeps you alive, and places value on your health. Paying for nutritous healthy choices is more important than any other cost you have. As my grocery bill started to rise for both my child and myself, I cut out of other areas.
Fewer new clothes, lower a credit card payment that I was paying extra to, shop around for cheaper car insurance. Slowly, I cut about $100 off my monthly costs in order to still be able to buy the same food at the grocery store - quality items around the perimeter of the store instead of the lower cost processed items.
I did make one switch. I used to pack my daughter's lunch everyday so I knew she was eating healthy and to save money. Now she buys her lunch, but we discuss what are some of the good and bad choices on the lunch menu and the merit of the the offered fruits and vegetables.
I also stopped buying the individual serving bags and spend the time every Sunday to separate the food into baggies, using my food scale and my permanent marker. They saves about $15 per week.
It is definately important to feed your children healthy food even in a tough economic environment. Growing some of your own food and supporting local growers of produce helps cut down costs by eliminating the large scale grocer markup most times. We have lots of fresh vegetables in the garden & little planters, herbs and we share with neighbors who also share their fresh berries and apples. We buy from local growers and farmers for eggs, meats and other produce either by going to the farm or at farm markets. We support local food coops. Don't buy packaged processed junk that is usually not that much more cost effective and definately not healthier.
I totally relate to the tight budget.... just tonight I found myself saying to one of my kids...please stop eating the strawberries...have some more macaroni (it was the cheap Kraft stuff). Pretty sad to be pushing the cheap food when they are eager to eat the healthy stuff. Here are a few of my strategies that are working ok for us:
Planning meals in advance
Eating less meat so there is more money for vegetables and fruit and healthy grains
Cutting out almost ALL prepackaged stuff. (we had the macaroni tonight because we were out all day and had to scrap our original plan). And I do give them crackers for snack time when I get them on sale.
Buying in Bulk--this is new for me, but is looking promising! You can order in bulk online or if you have a health food or natural food store near you many have bulk ordering programs.
Coupons and shopping the sales, but it is hard to find coupons on many healthy things.
It is definitely stretching my creativity at this point....by the end of the week, I often feel like we don't have much left in the house, but we are making it---AND making better choices than we did a year ago.
We are also growing a garden, but the start up cost has been more than I expected...next year should be a lot cheaper so I look forward to reaping that reward!
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