Becoming a mother has really convicted me of the importance of nourishing, healthy food! The consequences of eating too much refined and over-processed foods are frightening, and these types of "convenience" foods are often high-priced as well. I have personaly found it to be much more cost-effective to prepare much of my own foods from scratch rather than buying pricey frozen meals, mixes or boxed dinners. When I make my own food from scratch, I can be assured that I'm using high-quality ingreedients (whole grains, lean meats, fresh fruits and veggies) and not adding a bunch of junk(salt, too much sugar, and other nutritionally-void ingreedients).
But is it possible to maintain your family's food budget while feeding them nourishing whole foods? Some of the healthier options may appear more expensive, but consider this: it is an investment into the health of your family! With carefull planning, it is possible to maintain a budget while eating healthfully. Here's some tips:
Don't buy "healthy" pre-packaged convenience foods--often, these foods are just as bad as their mainstream counterparts, full of fat, sugar and sodium. A frozen pizza is a frozen pizza, organic or not! These items also tend to be more expensive than if you just bought the ingreedients and made your own. I can make a large pizza, making my own crust and pizza sauce, with 4-5 toppings for about $4.00 per pizza. That's quite a savings compared to a large frozen pizza at about $7.00 per pizza, or a take-out pizza at around $20.00 per large pizza! It tastes a lot better too! Some other pre-packaged foods to make yourself are waffles, pancakes, muffins, biscuits, even syrup using this recipe: www.tammysrecipes.com/brown_sugar_syrup
Try substituting beans for meat once in a while--this isn't always a welcome transition, especially for husbands or sons who love their meat, but preparing one or two meatless meals a week can cut down on food costs significantly. Try to make dishes featuring beans as flavorful as possible. I have found that if I whip up a pot of navy beans and add a generous ammount of garlic, onion and a bit of bacon grease for flavor, my die-hard meat-eating husband will devour them! You could also try baked beans, black beans and rice or falafel, a popular Middle-Eastern fried garbanzo bean patty that is loaded with lots of flavor. These are usually eaten wrapped in pita bread with a yogurt sauce. Try this recipe: www.recipezaar.com/Falafel-233306
Make your own fruit juice--store-bought juices are often pricey and loaded with sugar! Try squeezing your own oranges and lemons at home for refreshing OJ or lemonade, or better yet invest in a juicer to make your own fresh fruit/veggie blends! (I'm searching for my own juicer right now at yard sales, but no luck so far) Some juice can easily be made in a blender, such as watermelon, pinneapple or strawberry, but of course that's not going to work with hard fruits such as apples! Here's my husband's recipes for pinneaple juice:
Fresh Pinneapple Juice
1 fresh pinneapple, peeled, cored and chopped
1 cup water
sugar or honey to your taste(remember, no honey for babies less than 1 year!)
Blend all ingreedients in blender on high; strain into a pitcher and chill.
Prepare soups, stews and casseroles--great way to use less meats and increase veggies!
Choose hot cereals over cold--oatmeal, grits and millet can be bought in bulk for a much lower price than cold cereal. Hot cereal is also more easily digestable, provided you soak it first: learn more about soaking grains here: www.passionatehomemaking.com/2008/04/whole-grains-grinding-soaking.html and try this recipe for a yummy oatmeal breakfast: www.passionatehomemaking.com/2008/09/soaked-oatmeal-breakfast.html
Stay tuned for more tips in Part 2!