As prices soar due to record inflation, families are feeling the pinch, especially at the grocery store. Often, the first items that don’t make the budget are the pricier items, which also tend to be healthier choices. But that doesn’t have to be the case! With these seven tips and recipes from Shape Your Future Oklahoma, you can still eat healthy and stick to your budget.
- Make a list and stick to it – This is Budgeting 101, but limiting impulse buys is essential to staying on budget. Shape Your Future’s grocery planner helps you prioritize healthy foods and a balanced diet. Erin Robinson, a local mom of three young kids, says meal planning is the most important step to keeping her family on budget. “Making a plan for meals and snacks each week really saves us money and makes sure that nothing goes to waste,” shared Robinson. “When prices are high, the last thing I want to do is throw something away.”
- Swap your sugary drinks for water – You’ll be cutting calories, saving cash and skipping the sugar crash! Robinson invested in reusable water bottles for everyone in her family and those go with them everywhere. “We are a busy family. Having water with us means I am not spending money on juice boxes or things like that,” said Robinson.
- Create your meal plan with veggies first. When meal planning, most people first consider the protein, but Robinson has started thinking about what vegetables she wants to serve. Health experts recommend filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables, so Robinson has changed her mentality to let those foods be the star of the meal. “We have so much more variety in our meals now,” said Robinson. “Sometimes we find we don’t even need meat to have a filling, balanced meal.” Shape Your Future has dozens of quick and easy healthy recipes to fit any budget, including kid-friendly snacks that incorporate lots of fruits and vegetables.
- Don’t skip the freezer section – The freezer section is a great place to find budget-friendly fruits perfect for smoothies, plus vegetables for soup, stir fries and more. Frozen fruits and vegetables tend to be about half the price of the fresh varieties and have a much longer shelf life. Robinson transfers fresh fruits to her freezer at home to save money, too. “When fruits like pineapple, bananas or berries are close to going bad, I put them in the freezer to use for smoothies later,” she said.
- Get creative with staple ingredients – Buying in bulk is a tried-and-true way to stretch a budget, and simple ingredients like sweet potatoes, onions, peppers and brown rice can be used in a variety of recipes. Robinson uses this strategy for snacks, too. “My kids always seem to be hungry as soon as we get in the car,” she admits. She buys healthy snacks like cereal and graham crackers and makes easy, grab-and-go portions for the week.
- Always have an easy backup on hand – Because life happens (like forgetting to thaw an important ingredient or someone announcing they have a big school project due the next day), stock up on simple, easy-to-make meals you can throw together in a pinch. “I always keep two or three quick meals on hand so we are less likely to eat out,” Robinson said. Shape Your Future has 30-plus recipes that take 20-minutes or less to make including crispy oven fries and easy egg drop noodle soup.
- Don’t skimp on flavor – Food is meant to be enjoyed! Incorporate variety and boost your flavors with affordable seasonings that every kitchen needs:
- Italian season – pairs well with potatoes, tomatoes, zucchini and roasted turkey or chicken
- Chili powder – pairs well with onions, bell peppers, sweet potatoes and low-fat ground meats
- Garlic powder – pairs well with avocado, cauliflower, asparagus, chicken and salmon.
What other tips or tricks do you use to help your family eat healthy on a budget? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
Shape Your Future Oklahoma, a program of the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET), is an initiative dedicated to improving the health of Oklahoma families. Shape Your Future strives to educate Oklahomans on ways to eat better, move more, drink water and be tobacco free. Their resources for parents and kids help make the healthy choice the easy choice.