How to Prepare a Budget Friendly Family Meal
Time. Money. Effort. They are all things that can stand in the way of preparing healthy meals. We are going to take a closer look at the common concern “healthy foods are just so expensive!”
There have been several studies that have taken a look at the cost of healthy foods, but one of the best, most comprehensive ones was conducted by the USDA in 2012, and updated in 2015. This study looked at the Dietary Guidelines, price per calorie, price per edible gram, and price per average portion. The results? Low calorie foods, such as fruit and vegetables tend to be relatively expensive when it comes to price per calorie while foods high in saturated fat and added sugar are high in calories and low in price per calorie. However, when comparing fruit and vegetables to most dairy and protein foods, they are less expensive. (1) A Harvard study has also found that a healthy diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, and nuts) costs about $1.50 more per day per person. This equals roughly an additional $2,200 per year for a family of four. (2)
Do not let this detour you! Let it motivate you to make wise decisions with your food dollar! It’s no secret, that while highly processed, sugary foods are cheap, they have a profound negative impact on your body.
Creating Cheap Healthy Meals
There are several ways you can create healthy meals in a budget-friendly way. The first is to look at your eating habits and determine what area of change will make the greatest impact on your health. For example, if your family rarely eats pasta but enjoys meat at most meals, then buy the less expensive pasta and allocate some of those food dollars to a better meat. When you are purchasing produce, consider what is in season, as those foods tend to be less expensive. Additionally, keep an eye on the weekly store advertisements, pull your attention away from the packaged foods and focus on what’s healthy first! Note: not everything has to be fresh! You can buy frozen fruits and vegetables as long as there is no added sugar or salt to the package. This is a great way to make sure every meal includes a fruit or vegetable, and steaming them is fast!
Quick, Healthy, Family Meals
Preparing healthy meals for your family doesn’t have to cost a fortune or require hours in the kitchen. Here are some easy, tasty, budget-friendly meals to serve up to your family:
- Mediterranean Pita: Slice a whole-wheat pita open, spread hummus on one side. Add any veggies you enjoy (red pepper, cucumbers, olives, and mixed greens are yummy here). Add a little olive oil and enjoy! Estimated Cost per serving: $2.30
- Loaded Sweet Potato: Bake a medium sweet potato and top with 2 Tbsp nonfat Greek yogurt, 1 Tsp honey, and 2 Tbsp black beans (drained and rinsed). Estimated cost per serving: $1.95
- DIY Fish Sticks: Preheat oven 425 degrees. Slice 1, 6-ounce cod filet into strips. Season with salt and paprika. Bread each one by dipping slices into egg bath then whole-wheat breadcrumbs. Place on foil-lined baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes (or until opaque and flaky). Serve with frozen veggie or salad. Estimated cost per serving (3 fish sticks): $3.50
- Turkey Frittata: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In small pan , brown ¼ pound ground turkey, seasoned as you wish. Add 1/8 cup grated onion – cooking about 3-4 minutes. In a separate bowl, combine 2 eggs, 1/8 cup milk. Add to turkey mixture and cook until eggs are set. Estimated cost per serving: $2.75 (depending on grade of meat you buy)