After a busy day, your family wants dinner on the table ASAP, and too often it’s just easier to hit the drive-thru. Depending on how many family members you have, eating fast food can get pretty expensive, not to mention unhealthy.
The last time I checked burgers, fries, and milkshakes were not on the Surgeon General’s list of healthy foods.
To save on the food budget, it is easier to make a meal plan and stick to it. Family members can chime in with their favorite dishes, and this can be a special time to eat where everyone participates in the conversation. Here are five tips to make budget cooking a breeze:
Prepare Your Own Meals
I know it is such a treat to go out to eat, and when you’re finished you can leave the dirty dishes for someone else to clean up. Most supermarkets have made-for-you meals such as meatloaf, salads, sandwiches, and rotisserie chicken. These dishes tend to be higher in fat and calories.
Plan out your meals for the day and stick to it. Cook high fiber foods such as beans and whole grains. You’ll not only save money, but you can keep an eye on portion size.
Have Breakfast for Dinner
Eggs are cheap, and you can do so many things with them. Scrambled eggs with ham, your favorite omelet. Who doesn’t love an Egg McMuffin with sausage and a sprinkling of cheese? A strata made with bread, eggs, and cheese is so delicious, and it is a good size so you might have leftovers.
Organize Your Cupboard and Drawers
You need to know what you have on hand, so you’re not buying duplicates at the store. This is especially true with spices, and it’s easy to miss a spice you don’t use that often. While you’re organizing, check expiration dates.
Make Your Own 100-Calorie Packs
Have you ever seen the 100-calorie packs of cookies or crackers at the store? I find if I buy these packs, I have a hard time stopping at one pack. Plus, these prepared snacks cost more and are not as nutritious as snacks you make at home.
If you like nuts, pack trail mix. This gives you a perfect combination of sweet and salty, and for the sweet part, you can mix in chocolate raisins, yogurt pretzels, or your favorite candy pieces.
Fresh fruit is always a hit, and you can cube it for easier eating if you’re on the go. Pudding cups make a delicious snack, and so does low-fat yogurt.
Cook Food for the Freezer
This is where you can get creative, and try new recipes, or stick to the old favorites. Buy chicken in bulk and use it for two or three made-ahead meals. Chicken enchiladas, chicken and rice, roast chicken, or chicken pot pie are just some of the many entrees you can make.
You can do the same with ground beef. Freeze these meals ahead of time. You’ve saved money and now dinner is a lot easier to get on the table. Use Zip-Loc™ bags or covered dishes such as Tupperware™ for storage.
Of course, I am not suggesting that you never go out to eat, because it is a treat, and if you’re like me you’ll use any excuse to get out of the kitchen. Cook some meals at home, and you may find that you prefer your own cooking, and that you’re making healthier choices.