The idea of a family dutifully sitting down together every night at the kitchen table may seem like a thing of the past. Eating healthy meals together is often difficult for busy families to achieve. But if the Obama family can do it, so can you!
Why not turn the challenge of eating healthy on a budget into an opportunity for quality family time? Here are five ways your family can celebrate with better meals for less:
1) Make a healthy meal plan.
Approach your meals like a family budget. Start out each month by sitting down together to make a meal plan for the month. Kids can get involved in picking out recipes that look good, and be in charge of preparing their picks.
Think about ways to make sure you get the most for your money. If a recipe calls for an ingredient that's cheaper to buy in bulk, figure out a couple of other recipes you can make to use the extra.
Here are some good blogs with cheap and healthy meal ideas to get you started:
2) Save dough with homemade dough.
Making your own bread is much cheaper than buying it at the store. The same goes for making homemade pizzas and a number of other foods and ingredients you probably buy on a regular basis.
Think of things you eat all the time and regularly use in recipes. Which of them can your family start making at home? Growing your own herbs is pretty easy in most climates and relatively cheap to get going. Items like pasta, veggie broth, and hummus can all be made from home for less. The main reason most people buy these things pre-prepared is time. If you turn making homemade pasta into a family activity (maybe throw on some Louis Prima and put on cheesy Italian accents) the time will be well spent.
3) Make Mondays meatless.
Meat is expensive, and people tend to eat more of it than they need. That means eating a little less meat can help your budget and your health.
Cutting down on meat doesn't have to feel like a sacrifice. Devote a day or two a week to going meatless as a family, and you'll find a lot of great vegetarian recipes you enjoy. Make sure you're opting for healthy veggie-heavy recipes, instead of just subbing a steak for grilled cheese sandwiches (although adding some tomato soup and veggie elements to those sandwiches can make them a better option)
Make it a challenge for the kids: how can you make some of your favorite dishes vegetarian? What dishes can you sub mushrooms or eggplant in for the meat?
4) Bring your lunch.
It's usually easier to eat healthy when you cook for yourself, and food you make at home is almost always going to cost less than the meal options at the school cafeteria or the restaurants near your work. Every member of the family can benefit from this one. Start packing a lunch to take to school and work each day.
Make packing lunches part of your dinner ritual. The nights you've set aside to cook together, this should be easy. Even for the other nights though, make sure you devote a few minutes in the evening to packing your lunches for the next day. To make the process even easier, think about meals you can include in your healthy meal plan at the beginning of the month that work well as packed-lunch leftovers. Double or triple the recipes so they'll last you for a few days.
5) Trade out processed snacks for veggies.
Snacks work best if they're easy. If there's a choice between a bag of potato chips and veggies that need to be chopped up or assembled into a salad, the potato chips will probably win. So cut those chips from your grocery list, and pick a day to designate your shopping and chopping day to prep veggies together for snacking.
You can give those veggies some extra appeal with some yummy, healthy dips. Salsa's a standard that's packed with antioxidants, easy, and cheap.
Here are a few other ideas that I've made personally and can vouch for (all of them good for Meatless Monday):
Enjoy a more family-friendly National Nutrition Month this year!
We want to know: what's your favorite frugal recipe?