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Frugal Family: Healthy Eating for Less

The frugalista is coming to your kitchen this week with tips on saving while eating (somewhat) healthy.

Eating and cooking healthy may seem difficult, and when you throw in the objective of doing it on a budget, it may seem even more difficult. But it doesn’t have to be.

In researching for this week’s column, I found a lot of information about obesity in America. A third of adults and 16 percent of children are obese, according to a survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Adam Drewnowski, professor of epidemiology at the University of Washington, says, “Simply put, fats and sweets cost less, whereas many healthier foods cost more.”

Considering the ease of going though a drive-through as opposed to cooking a meal, it does make sense. Still, there are ways to eat healthy for less.

Healthy eating has started carrying over into schools. For some, the days of making cupcakes to mark your little one’s birthday are over, and parents are asked to consider healthy options. It’s time for fruit salsa with cinnamon sugar chips or peanut butter and apple sushi rolls. (Though then you'd have the peanut allergy concern. Maybe it's time to try hummus?) Thank you to a few friends for those awesome ideas.

Saving begins at home. So how does one save money when cooking for the family?

Use that crock pot. The easiest way to cook, as far as I’m concerned, is to load up the slow cooker and forget about it. From what I’ve read online, this is a great way to cook a healthy and inexpensive meal because you can choose inexpensive cuts of meat that will melt in your mouth after slow cooking all day. Pork shoulder, beef chunk, brisket and chicken thighs make for a yummy meal for less.

A personal favorite recipe for a really tender beef calls for soda of all things! Slow-cooker.com has a nice assortment of recipes for beef, chicken, pork and vegetarian meals in the slow-cooker. I wish their dessert link worked but this is just one of many sites out there so google-awa. We are trying to be healthy, so load in the veggies and let dinner cook itself.

What about lunch? When you’re in the 9-to-5 world, it may be easier to order lunch but that adds up. Plan ahead and use leftovers from dinner (like leftover chicken to make chicken salad or chicken wraps with lettuce and ranch dressing).

When you make soup (in your slow-cooker) you will have plenty for that evening's dinner and upcoming lunches. Freeze it so you don’t have to eat the same thing all week, but still have it as an option later in the month. Save those leftover veggies each night in the freezer so when you make soup you can just dump them in.

Take a little time to save a little. Those individual cups of yogurt and pudding are convenient, but you can save a little by getting a larger container and using your own single serve plastic containers. It will take a little effort on your part, and the savings may not always be huge, but every little bit counts.

Some carrot sticks, yogurt raisins, a nice salad and a sandwich or wrap, and you have a healthy lunch that costs less than going out. Just remember to use freezer packs and such to keep foods at their proper temperatures.

Eating bagged salads is healthy, but if you buy the lettuce and wash and prepare it yourself, it is less costly. Get your garden going, and it's even cheaper, or rather, more frugal.

Make healthy simple. Another healthy and less costly option in the beverage area is an alternative to soda. Drink sparking water (you can buy the generic brand) with a splash of 100 percent fruit juice. Those empty calories are costing more than the money in your wallet. My little guy loves his ‘fizzy juice,’ as we call it. They also sell those mix-ins for water. I’ve yet to try them and think 100 percent juice is probably the better way to go, but when you’re on-the-go it may be easier and at least you're drinking water.

Turn healthy eating into a family affair. More ways to eat healthy for less include buying produce while it’s in season. Take advantage of local farms in the area as well. DoubleTakeDeals.com has a certificate at the moment that entitles you to $20 worth of sweet cherries, peaches, pears, apples or pumpkins for $10 at Strawberry Acres. When you pick your own, it costs less, and it’s a family outing.

Newhard Farms Corn Shed has a coupon in the latest Coupon Clipper Magazine for $1 off any purchase and $3 off any purchase of $25 or more. It always has a great assortment of fruits and vegetables for less, and you’re supporting local agriculture.

Buying items on sale is an obvious saver. Use that freezer but keep a list of your inventory so you know what’s in there. This works great with leftovers, buying in bulk at the local grocery stores or at shopping clubs like Sam’s, or even with Girl Scout Cookies. The cookies are only sold once a year so you have to stock up; everyone’s entitled to at least one guilty pleasure. 

Carey McArthur June 22, 2011 at 06:15 PM
Some great tips in this article! One thought to not only save money but also to eat healthy, is managing your portion sizes. The USDA has finally has the right idea by introducing the Myplate to replace the Mypyramid and The Portion Plate is a great way to incorporate healthy, well balanced meals http://www.theportionplate.com
Patricia Ziegler-Boccadoro June 22, 2011 at 07:19 PM
Thanks Carey! And just when I finally teach my son about the pyramid they go and change it so now I not only incorrectly taught him that there are 9 planets but also that darn food pyramid. lol
Summer June 24, 2011 at 04:14 PM
I invested in bento boxes by Laptop Lunches last summer and it's been a great investment. They make packing school and work lunches very simple and force me to think of a variety of nutritious foods to include. We take them with us for day trips as well which saves a ton of money and keeps us away from fast food and concessions. You should check them out at: www.laptoplunches.com.

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