Extension News: Eating well on a budget

Mar. 20, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

Many families find it difficult to eat healthfully on a budget; however, there is good news. By putting in place money-saving strategies, it is possible to eat well on a limited food budget.

Plan family meals for a week. Include your family’s favorite meals. Look for recipes that include five or fewer ingredients. Consider your family’s extracurricular activities and plan quick dinners like soup and sandwiches on evenings when mealtime is tight.

Make a shopping list. Shopping weekly helps to save time, gas and money. Use a list to help you remember the needed items. Start by listing the things your family needs each week. Keep the list taped inside the kitchen cupboard and add to it as you finish a container of a basic item like flour or milk. Take an inventory of needed items by checking the pantry, refrigerator and freezer before going shopping. Organize coupons that can be used toward items on your list. Plan to purchase in-season fruits and vegetables, which tend to be less expensive and taste better. When you are shopping, stick to your list and do not purchase items that are not on it. Shop in the aisles of the grocery store where the healthier and less expensive items are located.

Prepare your meals. Refer to your weekly menu each day. Sticking to your plan can save money. Healthy, quick and inexpensive items can be added to any meal, such as your family’s favorite canned or frozen fruit or vegetable. Round out your meal with a bowl of cut-up fruit. Check your meal plan each evening. Take out frozen items the night before you will be using them in your meal preparation. Place them in a dish in the refrigerator to thaw safely for dinner the next day.

Eat together as a family. Families who eat meals together are more likely to eat healthfully.

Despite busy schedules, it is important to make family meals a priority. Mealtime is a great opportunity for parents and children to be together. Adults are important role models for children and can set the stage for them to learn to enjoy a wide variety of foods.

For more information about healthy eating, contact Megan Ray, Family and Consumer Science agent with North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Harnett County at (910) 893-7535 or at mray@harnett.org.