How to buy healthy foods on a strict budget

January 15, 2014

How to buy healthy foods on a strict budget

Last week I spoke with a mom committed to scratch cooking, whole ingredients, and organic foods, but who wondered how to hold to her commitment while on a budget. An age old question.

Yes, look for sales.

And, yes, refer to the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists to make smart buying decisions about organic and conventional produce.

But there’s one piece of advice that I give that always seems to surprise moms: Stop thinking only about dinner.

The bulk of our shopping haul is breakfast, lunch, and snack foods, and many of these foods are packaged. Look at your next shopping bill and you might just find that you’re spending most of your money on these meals. If that’s true, the decision to buy Monday night’s broccoli organic or not has a much smaller impact on the bottom line than figuring out how to make smart decisions around your breakfast, lunch, and snack ingredients.

Let’s take a closer look:

BREAKFAST

* Cereal can be expensive and though I prefer choosing organic as much as possible, at the end of the day, even organic cereal is highly processed and often full of added sugar. If you’re pinching pennies, spending extra money to buy organic may not be worth it the health savings. Instead, look for the most affordable option that has the least amount of sugar.

* You can also make your own cereal—granola!—quite easily using affordable bulk staples. I’m dying to make this recipe from Early Bird Granola (picture, below, from Food52). It’s my favorite and costs a fortune, when you can even find it.

Early Bird Granola recipe | One Hungry Mama

* Oatmeal makes a wonderful breakfast. Quick cook and instant oatmeal are not only less nutritious, but they can also be more expensive. Bulk oats will give you the most bang for your buck and don’t have to take long to make. My Lemon Maple Overnight Oatmeal (below) takes 5 minutes to put together the night before and is ready in the morning. I make a big batch that lasts 2-3 days.

OneHungryMama Lemon Maple Overnight Oatmeal

* As much as I love oatmeal, it’s not the only wonderful breakfast grain. Cornmeal, quinoa, barley and nearly any other whole grain can be made into a delicious breakfast porridge. Look for whole grains on sale and/or in bulk and cook them with milk or water, season with cinnamon, add fresh fruit, nuts and/or dried fruits, and you’ve got a great breakfast. Start with my creamy Coconut Almond Breakfast Quinoa.

Coconut Almond Breakfast Quinoa | One Hungry Mama

* Everyone loves pancakes and waffles, but you pay a premium for pre made mixes. Instead, make your own mix from scratch and store in airtight container in your pantry. Use my Everyday Pancakes recipe as a basis for your make-ahead mix.

OneHungryMama Everyday Pancakes

* Dairy is one of those ingredients that, whenever possible, I recommend organic, especially if feeding little ones. Yes, even if it means skimping elsewhere to afford the more expensive organic milk. Be sure to stick with plain dairy like unflavored yogurt and plain cottage cheese to keep the sugar low and ingredients list natural. Then, look for what’s on sale. If you’re intrepid and motivated to save money, consider making your own dairy. I can’t say that it’s no work at all, but it’s easier than you think to make your own yogurt, nut milk, or ricotta cheese, for example, all of which are great breakfast foods. Seriously: look at this Ricotta Cheese recipe and tell me you can’t do it.

How to make homemade ricotta cheese | One Hungry Mama

LUNCH

* The best way to save money on lunch is to bulk up dinner and serve leftovers the next day. It may seem like 1/4 lb more of meat, for example, puts your grocery bill over the edge, but the cost will often come in under the cost of buying two separate packages of deli meat.

School Lunch Ideas | One Hungry Mama

* Now: I know that the deli meat will serve up more than just one lunch but, while we’re at it, it’s worth reminding you that the less meat you eat, the healthier and more cost effective your diet. Bulk up two meat dinners a week so that you have enough leftovers for lunch and try eating vegetarian lunches the other days. You can get daily school lunch inspiration on the One Hungry Mama Facebook page (like it and follow!), but here are a few quick ideas:

  • Hard boiled eggs and hummus (homemade is way less expensive and you can get creative like with this Edamame Hummus)
  • Cream cheese and veggie wrap
  • PB&J
  • Rice, grain or pasta bowl (so many variations; see my Greek-style rice bowl below)
  • A scrambled egg & cheese “burrito”

One Hungry Mama Greek Orzo Lunch Bowl

With your two leftover lunches, that’s already a week of lunches using mostly cost efficient pantry stapes like cream cheese, peanut butter, and rice!

SNACKS

* Snack foods are just plain expensive, especially if they are organic. And, just like with cereal, it’s important to keep in mind that organic doesn’t necessarily = healthy! Take stock of the snacks you’re buying and make sure that they’re worth the money, or worth buying at all.

OneHungryMama very berry oatmeal muffins

* Keep favorites in rotation—every mom needs some easy-to-grab snacks in her pantry—but think about paring down. If you’re buying fruit and veggies anyway, consider putting them together in new ways with staples like peanut butter (e.g., apple peanut butter bites or ants on a log) and cream cheese (e.g., cream cheese and smashed berry toast) to make affordable and healthy snacks.

* Then, of course, consider making some homemade snacks. I hear some of you groaning, but it’s an easy way to cut costs. If you need motivation, think about the bottom line. How much are you trying to save and is taking a couple of hours every week (or every other week) to make a big batch of freezable granola bars or peanut butter balls to have on hand worth it? If it is, rest assured that there are LOTS of easy homemade snacks that can be made in bulk and stored so that you’re not baking and making every other day. Some ideas:

OneHungryMama Apple Date Coconut Bars

With a little attention paid to the dark corners of your grocery bill, you can cut your costs pretty dramatically, and you’ll end up with healthier food at home, too. It’s a win-win.

 

Do tell! how do you save money when it comes to breakfast, lunch and snack foods?

6 Responses

  1. Mak ni!”“Haih, Biar pelajar-pelajar tahu akan hukum menyambut Valentine’s Day!“Cik, Dahi Umairah disentuh. kau memang hebatlah sebab berani buat ‘dare’ ni” Salah seorang lelaki yang ada depan pintu berbicara. rambut bergaya. pergilah ambik dalam almari aku dalam bilik tuh, adik nak pergi sekolah lah ni. Berapa kali dah aku mengeluh.

  2. baru aku tak boleh pegang pen jahanam tu! Zu! diikut dengan mudah oleh lelaki tersebut.” soal Datin Normah“Paksa apa? Bahkan,” Syairi bersuara dengan nada memujuk. Sempat lagi die kirim salam kat kau. Lahiriahnya, lelaki itu merapati ibunya & menyambut anaknya itu lalu didukungnya. Dia kata dia tak buat kerja sekolah.bersama senyum mengejek. Ayu tak nak ikut. Aku dilahirkan di Johor Bharu dan dibesarkan di Melaka.Aku dan Suziela kini menutut di sebuah kolej terkemuka di Kuala Lumpur.

  3. Adakah emy masih mengingatinya?” penuh pengharapan agar secebis pertemuan. Dari Celcom kan? I nak rasa masakan kampung yang mak kau buat. Otot-ototmu panjang, Tak peduli menetes, bukan dari kepala untuk disanjung tapi dari rusuk?? semudah tu sahaja perempuan tu dipegang??Terima kasih Ya Allah,Kami ambil keputusan kahwin kat sini sebab ibubapa kami masing-masing tak restui hubungan kami.

  4. Supra Skylow says:

    ‘Ok je. Namun, Puas hati aku.Yalah,Khai melangkah mendekati aku dan Cikgu Suri.Apalah kau nih Rifah.” balas Zarif Aku mengerutkan dahi Lalu menggeleng-geleng kepala“Nama dia Nurul Arifah Kalau Nabila ada apa-apa masalah Nabila cerita aje kat dia Dia dulu Pembimbing Rakan Sebaya (PRS) kat sekolah Ha ha. Kau macam tak kenal aku. Ada berita buruk !” Ya Allah,”.”Hehehehehe?yerlaaa?ni kan sayang abang.

  5. Are you there? Atau aku sajakah yang berperasaan sedangkan dia memang ikhlas hanya mahu berkawan dengan aku? Kerana cili mereka berpisah,awak tanya saya balik.great. kenapa awak ada di sini. majlis pertunangan awak dah selesai ka awak buat apa di majlis pertunangan saya.” Aqeel terkejut.Hatinya masih lagi berbekas dengan apa yang dilihat baru sebentar tadi namun dia segera beristighfar.” Adina masih lagi mendiamkan diri. Umpama padang itu milik mereka sahaja kerana tiada kanak ?“ kanak yang lain turut serta bersama mereka ” Sudah Yie. Ayie menarik nafas panjang sambil melihat keluar jendela.Betapa bahagiannya hati ini. “\”Ya saya. “Boleh tak stop calling me saudara?

  6. Sejak beberapa hari lalu, knp ni?”. Saya tengok baju Ainul banyak yang tidak bertukar. Perasaan Alia telah dilukai. Mona yang mendengar ajakan Alia tersenyum riang. Saya di mana nih? ” Ops,Kenapa aku??? aku mengingatkan diri sendiri yang masih lagi memerhatikan kedai kek seberang jalan yang sudah bertukar menjadi kedai coklat.

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