Healthy Food on a Budget
There are many options out there for single mothers trying to get meals on the table without breaking the bank, but many budget options lack sufficient nutrients. Eating empty calories day in and day out can have long term effect on your children’s (and your) health. Getting the right food combinations provides the energy that you need to take care of your family, and can help boost immune systems to keep your kids healthy. Buying healthy food cheaply is more ground work, but the benefits are hard to ignore.
When More is Less
There is a reason why stores like Costco succeed. By selling food in bulk they can provide very competitive prices due to the fact that packaging and production costs are much lower. If you do not have a Costco card I suggest getting one. If you cannot afford one, try seeing if you can get on a friends account (greatly helped me out in college). WinCo, an Idaho based company, has entertained ideas of opening locations in Dallas. If so, this would be a great option for single mothers looking to one-stop-shop as they provide some of the most competitive prices due to their money saving techniques.
Buying a big bag of frozen, individually packaged chicken breasts can be appealing, but compare them to buying whole, halved, or quartered chickens. You can learn how to section the birds up yourself and stop paying for someone else to do it for you. Save and freeze any bones and use them later to make chicken stock for soup. This same approach can be applied to many meat products. You don’t need to buy expensive cuts of steak. If you aren’t sure, just ask the butcher about different cuts and what the best deals are. This tactic works over a wide variety of products. I’ve found that a bag of whole carrots is half the cost of buying baby carrots. Cut them into carrot sticks for the same effect.
Watch for sales on everyday items, and then stock up! A freezer is your best friend when budget shopping. If you have the room and the resources, get a chest freezer. Nothing is worse than having to throw out food that has gone bad and you can stock up on products for months ahead. If you have limited freezer space you’ll have to get creative. Instead of using plastic freezer tubs switch to large freezer bags. These will conform to shape, saving you space, and they are still reusable to a point.
Don’t Be Fooled
When comparing prices, make sure you compare the Price Per Ounce or Price Per Pound (if you’re really buying bulk). You’ll often pay more initially, but it will work out to save you money in the long run when the costs per servings are lowered.
The All Important Fruit & Veggies
These can rack up the grocery bill quickly and most people stay away from fresh produce when they’re on a budget, but knowing what to buy and when can make fresh produce practical. Make sure you’re buying fruit and vegetables in season. If you’re not sure, there are free charts you can print off and stick on the fridge. In season produce will not only be cheaper, but will taste better as well. If you’ve ever had a cantaloupe that tasted like… nothing… you’ll know what I’m talking about. Frozen packs of assorted vegetables can be fairly cheap, but if you rely on them for every dinner you’ll grow to hate them.
Planning out meals for a week, or even a month, in advance can greatly reduce the day to day stress and will also make shopping much easier. Put aside a day or weekend to prep, and possibly cook the meals so they’re ready to go when you need them. Chili’s, sauces, soups, pasta’s and other dishes can be made, frozen, then warmed up and ready to go. A crock-pot can be your best friend (but don’t tell the chest freezer) here as well. Prep all of the ingredients on your prep day, then pop them in the slow cooker the day of and you’re ready to go. I won’t go into recipes here, but there are thousands of resources online for freezer and slow cooker meals that will run cheap.
The Spice of Life
Spices might sound like an extravagant extra, but budget meals made from bulk products can often end up being the same recycled meals. Getting the basic spices like basil, garlic powder, paprika, cinnamon, nutmeg, and thyme can give an old meal new life, and may prevent a mutiny from children.
Making a schedule for when to shop (watch out for sales!), when to cook, and what to have will undoubtedly save you money. Look out for sales and stock up when they happen. Find out what works for you and stick with it. Operating on a budget isn’t impossible, but it will require more leg work on your part. Your kids will thank you and you’ll thank yourself for coming up with hearty meals that don’t come out of a box.
Shane Hobbs is the owner of Dalworth Restoration, a Dallas based fire and water damage restoration company. The business was founded in 1976 and has evolved through the years to provide comprehensive restoration services such as basement waterproofing, mold remediation, smoke and fire damage repair, water damage removal and crawl space encapsulation for both residential and commercial customers.
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