Meal planning for Busy Parents: 5 tips for budget-friendly meals
As busy parents, it may be difficult to get a nutritious meal on the dinner table each night. And with food costs rising, it may be difficult to do so with a limited budget. I am sure that you have often thought, “What am I going to make for dinner tonight?”. Rest assured, you are not alone. It is possible to feed your family nutritious meals almost every day. Here’s five tips to help you offer nutritious meals for your family on a budget!
I’m sure you have heard that planning is the key to healthy eating. When we fail to plan, we often choose less nutritious food choices. This doesn’t mean you need to map out each meal and snack for the entire week and stick to it. This approach is probably doomed to fail for most of us. It’s difficult to stick to a rigid meal plan. Instead, try to plan out the week by sketching out a rough meal plan centered around your proteins and think about how you will prepare the meals each week. You can start by choosing to plan the dinners only. Remember to make allowances for your schedule and obligations. For example, if you know that you will be working late one night, you will choose any easy dinner that might include leftovers from a previous meal or something that is simple to make.
Shopping for food also involves some planning. It’s best to plan out what you will buy before going to the grocery store. To extend your food dollar further, try planning your meals around the weekly sale and promotional items. Use coupons and price matching to purchase items that you need. Purchase off the reduced racks if you can use the items quickly. It will save you money if you check your fridge/freezer/pantry at home prior to shopping. Many times, we buy items that we already have at home because we failed to check what we have. Most importantly, stick to the shopping list and avoid shopping when hungry or emotional. Stay clear of those eye-catching food displays too! This will help you to avoid impulse buying which often adds up at the cash register. Another budget friendly tip is to know how grocery stores place their products. The most expensive items are usually at eye level on the shelf. Try to look above and below eye level for better deals.
Choose One Plant-based Protein Meal each week
You will save money by choosing one plant-based protein meal each week such as lentils, beans, or other legumes. These foods are also jam packed with fiber which we all need! Here’s a few great websites with lots of recipe ideas:
Make a Balanced Meal
According to the Canada Food Guide, your food plate should have a balance of protein, fruit, veggies, and grains. Fruits and veggies should make up half your plate. The other half is split equally between protein and whole grains. Choose foods that are in season to get the best value for your money and the best nutrition and taste. You can find out when foods are in season in Ontario by visiting https://www.ontario.ca/foodland/page/availability-guide. When you can’t buy items in season, you can choose frozen food options that were picked at the peak of the season.
Having good cooking appliances, utensils and tools will make cooking easier. Invest in good quality appliances that can reduce cooking time or can be used hands-off, such as a slow cooker, instant pot, or air fryer. This will free up your time to do other things. Invest in good utensils and tools that make chopping and slicing easy too! When the cooking process is easy, you will be more motivated to make healthy meals.
You can involve your whole family (even the kids) in the entire process – from planning to shopping to cooking! Teaching about nutrition is one of our Four Pillars of Learning at Alpha’s Discovery Kids. You can find out more about our program and curriculum here.