As we adjust to life at home – working from home, learning from home and eating at home – there is a need to be more intentional when it comes to what and how we eat. While we love to support local businesses, especially the restaurants offering takeout and curbside pickup, homemade meals that bring us together around the table each night are something we will remember for years to come.
While we settle into new routines, it’s important that I also create new habits that support the needs of myself and my family at this time. And one of the biggest priorities for me is what we eat each day. Healthy meals and snacks set us up for success, not to mention, they prevent hangry fits… and man do my girls get hangry.
As we adjust to life at home – working from home, learning from home and eating at home – there is a need to be more intentional when it comes to what and how we eat. Simplicity is a good rule when it comes to food. Feeding a family is hard enough. It’s best to not complicate it more than necessary. Here are six tips for feeding the family with a focus on healthy eating at home on a budget.
1. Stock your pantry and freezer with staples.
Planning is key, but for me, planning is overwhelming and time-consuming. Days rarely go as planned and oftentimes, dinner requires the need to adjust and adapt. Instead of a meal plan for the week, I find it helpful to stock up on staples. This ensures that I’m able to pull a meal together quickly and easily. The ability to be flexible is key when it comes to managing daily life and picky eaters.
Staples in our house include an assortment of protein options, tortillas, pasta, frozen fruit and vegetables, frozen waffles, marinara sauce, chicken and vegetable stock, chickpeas, black beans, lentils, quinoa, seasonings and spices, and of course, snacks (my kids’ favorite food group). A friend even separates snacks into at-home and on-the-go options. At-home options include those items that require washing and cutting, are messy or require refrigeration. Healthy snacks to go are those things that can easily be grabbed on the way out the door and hold up when thrown in a purse or backpack.
2. Buy frozen, not fresh.
Whether looking to save money or just stock the freezer, frozen fruit and vegetables are great to have on-hand for quick and easy meals without sacrificing nutrition. Frozen fruits and vegetables offer numerous benefits – the same nutrients as fresh options, but cheaper and last longer. #winning
The same is true for canned fruits and vegetables. A quick pro-tip: read the label for options with reduced sodium and no added sugar.
3. Whole grains keep you full.
Whole grains are a core part of our diets and there are many options. Consider brown rice and whole-grain pasta instead of more expensive options like quinoa. They provide the same benefit at a lower cost.
I, almost exclusively, buy whole grain pasta (except when shopping during a pandemic… I buy what is available on the shelf). Once I add sauce, vegetables, and protein to the meal, I don’t really notice a difference.
4. Freeze leftovers.
Is your house like mine? You pack up those leftovers with good intentions and then a week or more later, you are disposing of them while feeling guilty about wasting a meal that you remember being really good? Food waste is all too common and also, VERY expensive. Leftovers are great to have on-hand but some members of my family eat leftovers better than others.
Depending on the meal and the amount of leftovers, I try to make two containers:
1) one to go in the refrigerator and be used immediately,
2) the other for the freezer. As a working mama, it’s helpful to be able to pull dinner from the freezer when mealtime is the farthest thing from my mind.
5. Prep protein.
While meal planning and prep have never been my forte, I find it helpful to throw chicken in the crockpot on a Sunday afternoon with chicken stock and some seasonings. Not only do I feel productive, but I love knowing we will have chicken ready to use throughout the week. It’s perfect for adding to salads, making a wrap or as an easy snack for the girls. Better yet it ensures we have a healthy option and base to get us through the week.
6. Seasonings and spices.
When in doubt, spice it up. Seasonings and spices are an inexpensive, yet versatile way to add variety to mealtime. They make budget-friendly ingredients seem new and different. There are so many options and combinations. The possibilities are truly endless.
Consider one of the simplest and most mom-friendly meals… the sheet pan dinner. A mix of vegetables, perhaps a starch and your protein of choice. Seasonings and spices allow you to continuously reinvent this meal. Not only is this meal balanced, but it creates minimal dishes in the process. Every mama’s dream.
Healthy eating at home has never been easier… even if on a budget.