Eating well on a budget is the hardest part of all of this to me. I have the hardest time keep my budget in tacked when I would rather eat fish and lean meats instead of red meat and frozen meals. How do I manage to feed my family for $100 a week and still keep the calories down? Here are a few tips I try to follow before going to the store, and then afterwards.
Before you go:
• Meal Plan: I can’t emphasize this more. This one step alone will give you the ground work for all the work you want to get done in weight loss and healthy lifestyles. Start off with just planning your dinners for 2 weeks. Try to group your meals around the same basic foods (chicken meals, beef meals, or salads). Then, once you feel confident you have that down (it can take a few months) begin to plan snacks and lunches. Breakfasts are usually pretty easy, so no need to really plan those for each day. Just have the basics on hand.
• Write a grocery list: Once you have the meals written out, check out the ingredients and write out what you are going to need. Since you made meals around similar ingredients then this should be easier then if each meal had a new ingredient. Don’t forget breakfast essentials (eggs, milk, cereal, bread, butter, and maybe some toaster waffles).
• Eat before you go & have no distractions: When you are well fed before going to the grocery store you are less likely to be tempted to buy extra snack foods that are NOT on your list. Also, if the kids are with you they are also going to trigger the need to buy what is NOT on the list. If at all possible, leave the kids at home. Ask them if there is anything they want to add to the list – make them part of the process still.
• White Boards: If you have kids, or even a hungry husband, then the white board is for you. Posting what’s for dinner for the week helps your family stay involved in the budget and healthy living. Not only do you stay organized and focused, but you are able to have those able help you get dinner started if they know what’s cooking – so, if you’re running later call them up and say defrost the meat and chop the vegys please!
• Stock the Pantry: This step is part of your meal planning and grocery list, but it is an essential to making your budget stay low in the long haul. Having foods that are basics in your menus stocked up means you will buy less and spend less at the grocery store on weeks you want to splurge on pizza or have a night out.
• Make Leftovers/Eat them: One of the cheapest ways to have a packed lunch for yourself the next day is to have leftovers from dinner the night before. You $10 meal just fed your twice! If you have leftovers for more then just 1 meal left over then schedule in a leftover dinner night. This is when you have a ton of meatloaf, casserole, and spaghetti leftover in the fridge and it needs to get eaten. Everyone takes a small serving of each and fills their plate. Then it’s just warmed up in the microwave!
• Bake: So, we want to have a healthy lifestyle, but we don’t want to give up on dessert. So, the best way to ensure you can have dessert is if you know what’s in your sweets. Baking with fresh ingredients is always the better way to have your indulgence, and you can even use low fat recipes or substitute splenda for sugar in some cases.
Some of these tasks need a little more elaboration, and in time I will give you the tips to all of them. For now, use these to help you start your lifestyle right and keep your bank account safe!