For many modern parents, their children’s growth charts are climbing in an unhealthy direction and for the adults in the home, blood pressure readings are following suit. Now, for the first time, nutritious dinners are going to be a priority in the home.
But then the typical chaos takes over: traffic, work and family commitments, and dinner is a drive-through hamburger franchise or a race through the supermarket for convenience foods to toss together for an instant meal.
Unfortunately, parents could be sabotaging good intentions when they trade speedy burgers and fries or heat-and-eat pizza for their own home cooking.
“The average American family consumes many processed foods and includes many meals eaten away from home, such as fast-food drive throughs,” says Sandra Harrison, MSA, a registered dietician and the Clinical Nutrition Manager at Lakeland Regional Medical Center. “These foods can typically add increased amounts of sodium, fat and calories to your diet, contributing to the current epidemic of overweight/obesity in the United States. Eating out also costs a lot of money, regardless of the fast-food advertisement.”
However, eating out isn’t the only way to have a quick meal on a budget.
“In order to save money and cook on a budget, it takes planning your meals and making a grocery list,” Harrison says. “This usually takes less time spent going back to the store for a forgotten item.”
She suggests keeping paper and pencil in the kitchen to list foods and other items you need. It also is important to check kitchen cabinets and the refrigerator when making your grocery list. Anyone can sketch out a week’s worth of dinners in less time than it takes to watch a reality TV show, and the pay-off is worth the investment.
“Before going to the store, plan a weekly menu, including some meals without meat,” Harrison adds.
To save additional money, she says meal planners should read the weekly food section of the newspaper to see what is on sale.
While planning a week’s worth of meals can save money, it also can help remind people of what’s missing in their diets.
Below are some tips Harrison offers for time, money and waist-line saving meal planning.
Plan meals to use seasonal foods, such as oranges in the winter and peaches in the summer.
Shop only once a week — the more trips you make to the store, the more money you spend.
Buy produce from a local farmers’ market — they will be fresher and cheaper.
Make large amounts of a recipe that freeze well, such as spaghetti sauce, chili and other soups. Label it and freeze it for later.
Cook a whole chicken, and use it for more than one meal.
Stretch ground meat with bread crumbs, oatmeal or tomato sauce.
For cooking, use dry milk in place of the more expensive regular milk.
Make extra pancakes, wrap separately, freeze and reheat in the toaster or microwave.
Boil extra pasta or rice for a main meal — serve it cold for lunch with chopped vegetables and/or a grilled chicken breast.
Keep pita bread in the freezer. Pop it in the toaster and it makes a great snack or pizza base.
story by BEV BENNETT