The daily grind of meal preparation can be discouraging. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut of eating the same meals over and over. Are you tired and bored of cooking? Does it all seem too difficult? If so, here are 5 time saving tips for making healthy meals on a budget.
With a little planning and a basic knowledge of nutrition, it’s easy to prepare a week’s worth of healthy meals your family will love. Create delicious and healthy meals you can be proud of by implementing a few simple strategies to your daily routine while keeping time constraints and cost to a minimum.
Creating Nutritious And Healthy Meals On A Budget
1. Make Friends With Your Crockpot
Using convenient appliances such as slow cookers and pressure cookers can be time-savers when planning and preparing meals in advance. Many nutrient-packed recipes can be prepared in the morning, and left to cook all day in a crock pot. This works especially well for working parents who are gone all day. The last thing you want to do when you walk through the door from a long day of work is cook. That’s assuming you have the brain power to even come up with an idea.
Set aside some time on weekends to plan and prepare meals for the coming week. These meals can be frozen and then heated when ready to eat. Design a meal plan that includes five healthy dinners that your family loves. Rotate these meals for a month or until you are sick of them. Then devise a new chart with five new dinners. Make a list of all the ingredients you’ll need for your week’s worth of meals. Buy all the ingredients at the same time.
Your meals don’t need to be complicated. Keep them simple and use high-quality ingredients. Make sure to include protein, healthy fat, and fiber-rich carbohydrates. Streamline your efforts and see your evening routine unfold more smoothly. Placing a magnetic dry erase menu board on your fridge is a great tool for meal planning. It’s easily accessible and in a place you can’t help but see it.
2. Make It A Team Effort
Involve all members of your family in planning, shopping, and cooking meals. Incorporate everyone’s favorite foods into your meal planning – just make sure they’re nutritious. Children learn so much by doing, and this strategy of involvement will promote healthy habits throughout their lives.
Working together as a family also promotes unity and teamwork. The family meal is, unarguably, one of the most lasting and memorable traditions. Eating together promotes connection and communication. Even young children can do their part by setting and clearing the table, and washing dishes. Honor their input on what meals they most enjoy. Be sure to include everyone.
Studies show that children whose families eat together several times a week have a decreased risk of substance abuse, lower body weight, and a tendency to engage in healthier lifestyles overall. As these kids age, they tend to pass on the traditions they learned within their family. Healthy eating habits are best taught by example.
In our fast paced, multi-tasking, and want-it-right-now society, traditional family meals are losing ground. I would love to see a revival in this valuable tradition. The dinner table can be a classroom of sorts where family values are reinforced, the art of conversion emphasized, manners taught, and listening encouraged. The sense of belonging family meals foster also lead to higher self-esteem in children.
3. Cook Large Quantities Of Food
Cooking large quantities of food – and freezing the leftovers – is an easy way to save time. You could make a month’s worth of food if you’re ambitious. Cooking large amounts of stews, soups, and casseroles can be a huge time saver. Making double and even triple batches of your favorite meals can save both time and money.
Devise a rotation system so your freezer doesn’t become disorganized. Carefully label all containers using freezer labels, and a permanent marker. Keep the oldest meals near the top to avoid having to throw away expired items. Buying meat in bulk is both time and cost effective.
Make good use of your freezer, filling it with meat and vegetables. It’s easy to design a meal if you have healthy protein and vegetables on hand. Toss some frozen ground beef, sweet potatoes and carrots in the oven (225°) before you leave in the morning. You’ll come home to a great smelling house and a nourishing meal.
4. Stock Your Pantry With Staple Foods
Keeping a well-stocked pantry is as important as keeping a well-stocked freezer. Stocking the pantry with staple items like canned goods, flour, soup stocks and rice make healthy meal preparation much simpler.
Quick meals can be made in a pinch using canned goods. I like to make a hearty salsa using canned black beans, canned corn, mild chilis, and fresh onions. Add a jar of chunky salsa to the mix, and you have a delicious dinner packed with fiber and micronutrients. Serve with blue corn chips (non GMO) and some protein, and you’ve got yourself a balanced meal. Think of assembling your meals rather than following complicated recipes.
Stock your pantry with organic grains, such as oats, quinoa, and rice. Grains, can not only be used for baking, but they’re great for sprouting. I use sprouted grains in place of processed cereals. Sprouting increases the nutritional value 100 fold, are easy to digest, and full of health-promoting enzymes.
5. Have Healthy Snacks On Hand
Having healthy snacks on hand is also a time saver. Nuts, seeds, and coconut flakes are handy for a quick snack or for making a healthy granola. Canned coconut milk is another staple in my pantry. I use it as a base in smoothies, for sauces, and as a milk substitute.
Buying in bulk is both a time saver and is cost-efficient. What would we do without Costco? Replenishing your food storage is another benefit of buying in bulk. You never know when something unexpected might happen.
Another tip is to order your groceries online so all you have to do is pick them up. This is a great time work around. Better yet, have them delivered right to your front door. Take advantage of the modern conveniences we have at our disposal.
Planning nutritious meals in advance saves time, money and a lot of headache. Teach your children, by example, the importance of making family dinner a priority. They’ll learn valuable skills that will serve them for a lifetime.
What are your favorite healthy meals to make on a budget? Let me know in the comments:)