The biggest way to save on the cost of food is to eat at home and to cook your own food from scratch. If you eat at a restaurant all the time you are probably paying too much for food. After all, you are paying someone to fix the food, serve it to you, and clean up the mess. And you have to leave a tip. If you are just getting fast food, the up front cost may be low, but you will pay in the long run with higher medical bills as a result of obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Fried chicken from the drive-thru may taste good, but it is bad for you – loaded with fat. Healthy is better even if it costs a little more up front.
Don’t buy pre-cooked, pre-packaged, micro-wavable foods. They are convenient, but come at a monetary and health cost. It’s easy now but hard a little later.
Here is what I would suggest: Buy unprocessed foods. What are these? Raw vegetables, raw fruit, raw meat, and packaged cereal. Your grocery store probably has hundreds of such real foods. You will have to cook or prepare the food, but it is fun and the food tastes better. Here are some examples:
Salad – buy a head of lettuce, a cucumber and some radishes. Just clean them with plain water, cut them up into a big bowl and put it on the table with some salad dressing. It tastes good, and is good for you. You can use a little oil, vinegar and a little Italian spices to make the dressing. Or just use a little vegetable oil by itself. Make a big bowl of salad and serve it at every meal. It is low-fat (healthy) and good for you. Once you make it, you are set for several days.
Frozen vegetables – buy a bag (the bigger the cheaper) for frozen peas, peas and carrots or mixed vegetables. They are easy to fix, just boil a little water, pour in the frozen vegetables, and let them cook according to the package – usually 5 – 8 minutes. You don’t need to put butter on them, just a little salt. If you made too much, just eat them tomorrow.
Raw vegetables – Always put some raw vegetables on the table. Always. If the kids are starving and need food now, just put some raw vegetables on the table and let the help themselves. They will eat them and love them. Buy a big bag of carrots (the bigger the cheaper), peal them and cut them up into little strips. Same with celery and radishes. Let’s face it, kids love these and what could be healthier or better? If you keep these in the refrigerator, they will disappear.
Take some potatoes, wash them, peal them and boil them about 30 – 40 minutes. Add a little salt and a little (very little) butter and they are delicious. Do you want to bond with your kids? Just try pealing potatoes together. Kids love to do anything with you, and it’s fun. If you have time, just scrub a big potato and put it in the over at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. Serve with salt and a little butter or plain yogurt.
Bread – Serve a few slices of whole wheat bread.
Raw meat – Think about using meat as a flavoring ingredient. Don’t use meat as a big slab or food; no, it’s too fattening and too much animal fat. Think about meat as something you add to other food to make it more flavorful. Take a little hamburger or pork (about as much as a golf ball for each person), fry it up, and add vegetables and/or some cooked pasta. The meat makes everything taste good, but you don’t need a lot.
For breakfast – Just serve cereal and low fat milk. NO SWEET CEREAL. The fewer ingredients the better. What could be better than generic cheerios or corn flakes? The kids may like sweet cereal, but it is not good for them. Buy only .5 percent milk. Buy only whole-grain cereals.
Raw fruits – If you have fruit around the house, the kids will eat it and so will you. Get a big bag of cheap apples and leave them in the refrigerator. People will eat them. Occasionally, just peal them, cut into quarters, cut out the cores, and put them on the table. They will disappear. If they don’t, just put them in the fridge and they will disappear shortly.
If you want to get fancy, clean and cut up a pineapple, strawberries, grapes or other fruit. They are more expensive, but cheaper than a funeral. A big bowl of cut up fruit will disappear from the refrigerator.
Snacks – First of all, no fried snacks such as chips. Try making several bowls of chocolate flavored pudding (made with milk) or jello and keeping them in the fridge. If you have kids coming home from school, give them pudding and a little bread or one cookie. Give them a kiss and ask how their day was. They will love the snack and they will love you.
At night, no chips. For a weekly treat fix some popcorn and sit down together. Avoid the habit of sitting in front of the TV with soda and chips. This will cause you to get fat.
Drinks – Only diet soda. No full calorie soda or pop. It tastes good, but it makes you gain weight. Give kids low fat milk whenever they want it. It helps them grow. Water is best, but kind of boring. Put a little ice in it to improve things a little.
Processed foods – Make it a rare occasion to have things like microwave dinners, TV dinners, frozen pizzas, etc. They are convenient, taste good (because of the high fat and salt), but they are expensive and not healthy. Someone wants you to eat such foods because they are profitable, but what is best for you?
Pizza – Want to have a blast? Make your own pizza. Start with a ready-made crust such as Bob-a -lo. Then add a can of tomato sauce (or canned pizza sauce), put in some spices such as Italian seasonings and garlic, some pepperoni, mushrooms and such fruits and vegetables (pineapple, peppers, onions) as you like; sprinkle with mozzarella cheese and bake until the cheese melts and turns a little brown. It’s not rocket science. Everyone likes to help and it is a lot cheaper than other pizza. Be creative. It’s fun. Save the leftovers for breakfast.
Your kids won’t eat such foods? Let them help. Kids love to do things with their parents. If they have fun fixing the food, they will probably like to eat it. If worst comes to worst, they can eat what is on the table and that’s all. (If it’s really awful, let them fix a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.) Don’t feel you have to serve a bunch of fried, high fat food just because the kids like it. Maybe they will learn to love regular food. You are doing what is best for them by serving home-prepared, low-fat meals. All this will save you money and a lot of grief.
This type of meal may cost a little more up front, but they are cheaper than doctor bills, and really cheaper than a funeral.