Ready-made meals at supermarkets and mouth-wateringly delicious entrees at restaurants might be tempting, but they can be easier on the eyes than on the budget. In fact, they might not be so easy on the tummy either! But when it comes to cooking at home, healthy meals for kids can be expensive too! Luckily, it doesn’t always have to be. Keep reading for our tips on finding healthy kid-friendly meals on a budget.
One trait of many unhealthy foods can be their knack for making us want to eat more! Meals low in nutritional value might just have the opposite of the intended effect, causing us to feel unsatiated. So, look for foods that are filling and healthy to allow you to buy less, control portions, and increase nutrition. Dense and nutrient rich foods like fruits, vegetables, and even lower-priced shelf-stable foods like nuts, rice and legumes can be an excellent way to maximize your budget while leaving the family feeling good too!
Before stepping into the grocery store, be sure to have a list, or better yet, a healthy meal for kids in mind. Knowing what you would like to make ahead of time can allow you to buy just the right amount of ingredients for a meal and even account for leftovers. Classic dishes that your family loves can be made, enjoyed, and stored for another day in the fridge or freezer. As simple as it seems, sticking to a plan can save time, money, and the urge to toss convenience items into the cart.
Practice makes perfect…portions! While some days the kiddos might be hungrier than others, you can provide smaller servings for the kids and offer them extra helpings if they are still hungry to prevent unnecessary food waste. This can also help kids learn to eat what they need to feel just-right, building healthy habits for the future.
One key to budget-friendly family meals is swapping unhealthy ingredients with more nutritious alternatives. Shop produce sales or shelf-stable deals to include foods that create balance. Using inexpensive foods that are still healthy whenever possible can lower the meal’s cost while raising its nutritional value.
Pre-made meals that come in boxes or to-go containers at the store can be filled with additives or other unhealthy extras. Not to mention, they can often cost more than making it yourself. To maintain meals with appropriate levels of sugar, sodium, and fat, cook from scratch. You can feel confident about knowing what is going into your child’s meals and feel in control of the cost you are willing to spend. A simple home cooked meal might take a little longer to prepare but it can be well worth it for the nutritional and monetary value.
When you cook healthy meals for kids, you might notice there can be a lot of waste. But, oftentimes, there can be hacks for using what might be wasted in unexpected ways. For example, when berries are starting to go bad, freeze or blend them. Or if you have some vegetables leftover, pickle, purée, or sauté! You can use the pulp for soup or even make vegetable stock. For leftover lemons, make a low-sugar lemonade! Or, squeeze the juice into ice cube trays to add to water glasses on a sunny day. If in doubt, try an internet search for an item going to waste to find a hack for food scraps.
If your family has a favorite herb or berry, start a garden! Even just a small glass or pot on the kitchen countertop or a windowsill can help you avoid purchasing staple items every once in a while. This can be especially useful if you have favorite fresh herbs. Any surplus can be dried and saved for your next great meal. If you don’t have a green thumb, opt to shop for seasonal foods. These can often be more affordable and healthier options!
You know those amazing meals you keep coming back to? The whole family craves them and the kids can’t seem to get enough? Go ahead and make it! Increase variety by changing up key ingredients and incorporating the healthiest items you have on hand. Ultimately, finding what budget-friendly family meals, snacks, and treats are beloved and sticking with them, can keep your kids and your wallet happy!
At Coastal Kids Pediatrics, we believe that healthy meals for kids can be life-changing. The habits your little one builds now can serve them long into the future. While we know it can be challenging to find healthy kid-friendly meals on a budget, we hope these tips have made it a little bit easier and more exciting to find affordable options and ways to save. For more tailored tips, don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our passionate Coastal Kids pediatricians. To make an appointment, visit us at www.coastalkids.com