A recent tweet from Prevention magazine inspired me to tackle the concept of budgeting your food dollars. The article “20 Ways to Feed Your Family for $100 a Week“ grabbed my attention as I have to confess I have never thought of budgeting when it comes to feeding my family, not because I don’t need to (I think we all can learn a lot from setting budgets which hold you accountable for your hard earned dollars) but because I always had the mentality that I would sacrifice other areas so my family could always eat well (and by that I mean highest quality whole foods I can afford).
So I decided that I would see if The Whole Meal’s menu planning service could really help families eat whole foods on a budget and set out to devise my Weekly Suggested Recipes within a $50 budget for 6 meals for a family of 4 (an average of about $8/meal). I also did not want it to be all vegetarian (too easy and unrealistic) nor did I want it to be high in processed carbs (think pastas and breads). It wasn’t a problem at all! Check out which recipes I chose and notice that they really do not differ from what I usually suggest.
Prevention’s article had some great suggestions and not surprisingly the Number 1 tip is Plan In Advance; i.e., meal plan. While The Whole Meal helps you effortlessly achieve this during the dinner hour, it’s also good to plan and budget other meals and snacks. I have always had my shopping list for dinner and all my food items but I have made an effort to stick to that list instead of also purchasing something I think would be nice to have but not on my list.
Last week’s blog post “This Should Be Your #1 Resolution for 2015” was about eating real food so if you need a refresher on where to find these foods give it a read. And many whole foods can be had for $1 or less a serving such as organic milk, 2 eggs, an avocado, nuts and seeds, in season berries, broccoli. When you view the price of many whole foods on a per serving basis it almost seems silly to reach for that nutritionally void box of cereal.
Other than meal planning, frequenting farmer’s markets, prioritizing someone to make healthy meals at home (which were suggested in last week’s blog post) here are some other budget friendly tips:
- If adding more organic foods into your budget, chose animal over vegetable which tend to concentrate pesticides in higher amounts. But if you want to incorporate more organic produce, read my blog post linking you to Environmental Working Group’s Shopping Guide to Pesticides in Produce . You’ll know which fruits and veggies you can buy conventional and which to buy organic. They update this list annually.
- Swap out an animal-based meal or two for a whole foods based vegetarian one. A bag of dried beans and a pound of uncooked rice are inexpensive, are a complete protein and can be made into a few different meals. Eggs are cheap especially compared to their amazing nurtritional value.
- Get back to basics: make your own stocks (and buy a whole chicken to do so which means you have a meal or two to boot along with a stock!), use inexpensive cuts of meat in stews and soups (and you can use less of it as it is usually paired with vegetables and whole grains).
- Buy in bulk if your stores have this option for your rices, pastas, other whole grains, dried fruit and beans and stock up on in-season fruits which can be frozen, canned or made into jams for future use.
- Consider having a vegetable garden. It’s a fun way to budget your food and get kids involved; they’ll have an understanding where their food comes from. In the fall try lettuces, collards, carrots and herbs and in the summer try beans, tomatoes, peppers and zucchini.
- Make your own salads, breads (if you like to bake), hummus, dips, granola, even healthy desserts. The Whole Meal has many of these recipes in its library if you need any inspiration.