Three Dietitian-Approved Tips for Feeding your Family on a Budget
Feeding a family is not an easy task. It takes hours of time every week to plan, purchase and prepare family meals and snacks. If you are the head chef in your house, you know this already! Disruptions from the pandemic, and shortages as a result of the war in Ukraine have a lot of pressure on the food supply chain, causing grocery prices to sky rocket. While we have no control over rising food costs, there are strategies that can help combat your rising grocery bill. Here are three dietitian-approved simple tips to help reduce your weekly grocery bill! I recommend adopting one or maybe two of the strategies…small adjustments over time make a huge difference in the long run!
- Meal plan
I don’t think I have ever met someone who LOVES meal planning. It tends to be more of a “I really should do this” versus a “I love to do this” thing, and for that reason can be easily put off or forgotten. Not to worry—it doesn’t have to be complicated!
In fact, meal planning is key to staying organized with your groceries, and to save you money. If you only adopt one strategy, I recommend giving this one a try, and here’s why:
- You can plan out meals for the week by using up what you already have in the fridge and pantry. Focus on putting the food items on the menu that are perishable (or about to expire) first, so you can avoid throwing out that box of spinach hiding at the back of your fridge, or the sweet potatoes that have been sitting on your counter for a week. This way you literally avoid throwing away money (and cutting down on food waste!)
- You can plan your meals for the week by using coupons and deals to help give you meal inspiration. Most grocery stores have a flyers/deals section on their website that you can search food items and filter by each section in the grocery store.
- Planning your meals and writing a list helps to cut down on random purchases and impulse buys. It is a unsettling how quickly flashy, new products can end up in your cart if you don’t go into the store with a plan and list in hand.
- Use simple recipes in your meal plan. Try and keep it to only one new recipe per week! Simple recipes with reusable ingredients that will be relevant in other family favorite meals is the way to go. Avoid the random specialty sauces and spices if you think they will probably just sit on your shelf unused and take up space. Clutter leads to disorganization, which leads to wasted product and wasted money.
- Incorporate some batch cooking into your meal plan. Making large batches of soups, stews, chili, and casseroles are a great way to use bulk ingredients (which is saves you money) and freeze for later (which saves you time).
You can also batch cook one type of protein (buy in bulk or purchase the protein that’s on sale) and meal plan to repurpose it throughout the week. For example, make a large batch of shredded chicken in your slow cooker/pressure cooker for multiple dishes throughout the week. Add different seasonings and sauces to switch it up. One night can be BBQ chicken over rice, the next chicken tacos, followed by chicken veggie stir-fry. Shredded chicken can be thrown into homemade or canned soups, salads or pasta dishes!
- Incorporate 2-3 plant-based meals per week!
Beans, chickpeas and lentils are wonderful plant-based sources of protein, fibre and other essential vitamins and minerals. They also happen to be much cheaper than animal-based sources of protein simply because they require less water and resources to produce, process and distribute. Luckily there are many varieties of pulses available to purchase in dried or canned form, and their culinary versatility is remarkable. Take a look at this Easy-Peas-y Cook Book For Kids from Alberta Pulse Growers for some ideas on how to introduce pulses to your family meal plan. Also check out some of my most popular recipes using lentils 5 Healthy Lentil Recipes Kids Love – Sarah Remmer, RD
- Establish a rough meal and snack timetable:
Lack of meal time structure in your child’s day often leads to picky eating, mealtime power struggles, and food waste. Talk about throwing away valuable time (and money) and creating unneeded stress for everyone! Adding structure to your child’s meal and snack times is an essential piece of the puzzle when it comes to effectively (and cost efficiently) feeding your family.
Your job as the parent is to decide where, when and what is offered for meals and snacks, and your child’s job is to decide if and how much they eat. This means that if your child has access to the pantry all day, it is likely their tummies won’t be hungry at planned meal times. Kids, like adults, need time to work up an appetite as well. I recommend spacing eating opportunities out every 2-3h throughout the day to allow your kids plenty of opportunity to fuel their body, with enough time in-between for appetite regulation.
Remember to try just one or two of the strategies above to start! Choose the tip that you feel will fit best with your family’s routine. Evaluate if and how it saves you money on your grocery bill, so that you can decide if it is worth solidifying into your family feeding routine!