We know feeding your family healthy meals on a budget can be a challenge. Convenience foods loaded with empty calories and extra fats are so tempting in the chaos of a hectic family schedule. However, with a little meal planning and strategic shopping, you can plan healthy meals for your family without breaking your budget.
8 Tips To Planning a Healthy Dinner Every Day
- Plan Around Your Calendar
Before you plan your family’s meals for the week, check the calendar. Be realistic about how much time you have to prepare each day’s meal. On the days you’ll be getting home late, plan a quickly prepared meal (like our Taco Lettuce Wraps) or plan to use your crock pot that day. If you don’t plan ahead you’re more likely to pick up fast food on your way home, which is never healthier than a home cooked meal and often more expensive, too.
- Check Your Pantry
As you plan your meals for the week, check your pantry to see what items you already have on hand. Using ingredients you already have will save time, money and cut down on food waste.
- Make A Complete List
Take the time to make a thorough list and write down every item you’ll need for each meal. Check the actual recipe (don’t rely on your memory) for each ingredient. An unplanned trip to the grocery store later to get that one ingredient you forgot is sure to cost you extra money along the way.
There are even online services that will plan your meals and make a weekly shopping list for you! Read about why we recommend eMeals.
- Buy In-Season Fruits and Vegetables
In-season produce is always at its lowest price. Check our monthly What To Buy Guides for the current in-season produce and incorporate those into your meal plans. As your budget allows, buy extra produce when it’s in-season and freeze it for later use. We’ve also written an article with Five Ways to Save Money on Produce!
- Buy Meat in Bulk
Meat is usually the most expensive part of a meal. Purchasing larger packages of meat that are sold at a lower price per pound can save you money. Search your area for a local meat store (in Tampa we recommend Good Earth), check prices at warehouse stores like BJs, or try a bulk food supplier like Zaycon. If buying in bulk is too much for your budget, find a friend to split an order with (you’ll be helping their budget, too). We have several other ways to specifically Save Money On Meat.
- Stock up on Frozen Fruits and Vegetables When They’re On Sale
Healthy meals always include produce, so making sure you always have them on hand is key to healthy meal planning. An easy way to keep produce on hand is to buy frozen. Check your favorite store’s sales ad before you shop each week, and be sure to clip any coupons to reduce a sale price even more. Frozen produce coupons are almost always available. Check our coupon matchups for your favorite store or check our Coupon Database before you shop.
- Make It Homemade
Prepared meals and sauces contain preservatives and extra salt. You can make many of the same foods cheaper and healthier than the prepared version. Keep things on hand like flour, oatmeal, eggs, butter, and corn starch to thicken sauces and make your own gravies.
- Cook Extra and Plan To Eat Leftovers
Plan a night off from cooking by intentionally making extra food to eat as leftovers. Turn left over chicken into a Chicken Caesar Salad, a soup or even Chicken Salad Sandwiches. Leftovers don’t have to be boring with a little forward thinking!
Adopting these 8 easy strategies will save you money and keep healthy meals on your dinner table.
If you could still use a little help pulling everything together, we recommend giving eMeals a try. eMeals is an online meal planning service that costs as little as $5 per month. You select the meal plan that best fits your family from choices like Budget Friendly, Clean Eating, Low Calorie, Kid Friendly and more. They put a lot of thought into the meals each week and take into consideration what is in-season and on sale. Sign up, select your plan, then each week you’ll receive a menu and a detailed shopping list in your email. It’s really a fool-proof time and money saver for planning meals.
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