Today, I’m going to show you exactly how you can set a good grocery budget and stick with it… without sacrificing the quality, taste or nutrition of your family’s meals.
With these healthy family meals and budget tips, I’ll show you how to save money AND eat right every night of the week.
When it comes to the topic of eating healthy one of the most common responses I get is “it’s so expensive!” followed by “it’s so hard to do!”
Listen, I get it. I’m a busy mom with three picky kids. Our family has faced every barrier possible to eating better while sticking to a food budget (it gets even more challenging if you travel…) but we always find a way to make it work. Making meals my family loves with fresh, real ingredients is a priority for me so I’m always finding new ways to make healthy swaps without abandoning our food budget.
We’ve all heard it said that eating whole, unprocessed fruits, vegetables, and meat will cost way more than pre-packaged, prepared foods, sauces, and meal starters. However, if you plan ahead and know how to stock your pantry, that doesn’t have to be true for you.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to leave you wondering how we do it. Today’s post is all about how to prepare healthy meals for your family while staying on your budget.
With these tips and a meal plan you can successfully save money while stocking your fridge and pantry with fresh food.
Eating Better Starts With Healthy Family Meals
Homemade meals give you the advantage of knowing what goes into a recipe and the ability to swap ingredients for healthier options. This way kids (and adults) don’t have to go without their favorite meals like pancakes or chicken nuggets. Believe me, my kids wouldn’t survive without them and the homemade versions are way cheaper than storebought or drive-thru.
Healthy Food For Kids
One way to encourage healthy eating habits in kids is to serve them the same thing everyone else at the table is getting. No more custom-ordered meals for kids while the adults have something else.
Making one meal for the whole family encourages kids to try new foods, develop a balanced way of eating, and reduce unnecessary costs.
While their bodies are growing and developing, kids need a balance of nutrients from quality proteins, carbohydrates, and healthy fats, a.k.a the macronutrients. A few examples of each category below:
- Grilled or baked chicken
- Ground turkey
- Turkey/chicken sausage
- Fish & Seafood
- Deli Cuts
- Beef jerky
- Whole grain bread and wraps
- Sweet potatoes
- White potatoes
- Fresh Vegetables
- Nuts & nut butter
- Coconut/ Olive oil
- Full dairy
Two things all of these items have in common? They’re inexpensive and building blocks for well-balanced meals.
Healthy Weekly Meal Plan with Grocery List
With our busy schedules, saving money and making healthy meals requires planning and preparing meals ahead of time. That’s why I set aside time each week to select our meals, shop, and prep the ingredients, it makes weeknight dinners quick and smooth.
Even on nights when I go straight from the office to Karate with the family, we’re still able to have a homecooked meal around the table, because I’ve planned for it. When you are laying out your meal plan, make sure that you plan around your busiest nights and have something easy like homemade nachos or tacos for those crazy evenings.
I like to select 3 to 4 different breakfast, lunch, and dinners for the week. This gives us room to use up leftovers and reduces waste on unused grocery items.
I’ll admit, putting together your own meal plan from scratch can be quite the feat and if you don’t have it in you, I get it. Good news is you’re not the only one, many families in our community get the weekly Classic Meal Plan with a completed shopping list so they can save time and still eat right.
I’ve used the meal plans for years and it’s helped my family get on track with mealtimes and establish healthy eating habits.
Healthy Family Meals for a Week
Even when on a budget, you can enjoy a variety of delicious and amazing meals, here are a few of my families favorites:
Breakfast Menu Ideas
Blueberry Baked Oatmeal– use frozen blueberries vs. fresh, it’s less expensive and they’ll last longer
Strawberry Banana Overnight Oats – Think of this as a healthy banana split for breakfast with loads of nutrition.
Breakfast Burritos– You can make as many as you want at once and freeze the leftovers – they make the perfect grab-and-go meals for super busy days.
Lunch Menu Ideas
Santa Fe Chicken Salad– Filled with so many delicious Mexican-style ingredients like black beans, corn, avocado, and yummy taco seasoning.
Pizza Pasta Salad– You can make this ahead of time and store the pasta salad for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.
Tex Mex Bistro Box– Built with guacamole, chips, cheese, black olives, and fresh veggies, it’s practically party food for lunch. This box is super quick to assemble making it a great option for a fast meal prep.
More ideas on how to make the best bistro boxes here.
Easy Kid-Friendly Dinner Recipes
It helps to have a collection of family favorite dinners on hand so you can keep the pantry and fridge stocked with those ingredients. This saves you from that “what the heck am I going to make?!” dinner frenzy come 6 p.m. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Chicken and Broccoli Stir fry– While your chicken is cooking, you can make the awesome Asian sauce in a bowl and cook your rice to serve with this chicken and broccoli stir-fry!
Sweet Potato Bar– These sweet potato toppings turn a plain sweet potato into a loaded meal.
Slow Cooker Lasagna Soup– Love lasagna, but dread the layering of noodles, meat, cheese, repeat…and repeat? What if I told you that by making this Slow Cooker Lasagna Soup recipe you won’t have to layer anything and you don’t dirty as many dishes?
Chili Mac– Delicious and hearty, this recipe is a perfect quick and easy mid-week meal for nights you don’t have much time to cook!
How to Model Healthy Habits for Kids
If you want your kids to pick up healthy eating habits, you’ll need to set the standard. While some of my standards are unique to my only family’s needs here are a few baseline tips:
1. Meal times together.
Eating together makes a comfortable atmosphere for kids to try new foods and if they see you making healthy choices they’re more likely to follow. It also gives you a chance to catch up with the family after a long day.
Grab my favorite dinner ideas using ground beef here. The family is sure to love them!
2. Limit Snacking.
While we love snacks, too many too frequently can be counterproductive if you’re trying to build healthy eating habits. Eating too close to dinner, kids will lack an appetite and are more likely to refuse what’s being served. In my house, snacks are off-limits two hours before a meal, by the time dinner rolls around everyone’s ready to eat. Depending on sports, and how much your kids eat, you can definitely adjust this rule as needed.
3. Clean and restock the fridge and pantry.
This is one of the first steps in our Family Kickstart program. By keeping all processed snacks, sodas, and candy bars out of the house you’ll avoid unnecessary snacking or unhealthy meal choices.
How to Save More Money on Healthy Food
Organic isn’t always necessary.
As beneficial as organic foods are, they aren’t necessary for you to eat healthily. However, if purchasing organic is important to you, the Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen list is helpful when it comes to fresh produce.
You can also find less expensive, organic pantry, dairy, and meat options at Walmart, Trader Joe’s or Aldi’s. However, if you plan to purchase all organic you’ll need to adjust your overall grocery budget to allow for the extra expense.
Stick to Your List (and the store’s perimeter).
Now that you have a solid meal plan in place, make your grocery list and stick to it!
To help you do this, shop the outer edges of the store first. This should help you fill your cart with fresh produce, meat, and other essentials before you even step foot into the middle aisles where most of the processed food is kept.
Check out the freezer aisle.
This is where you can really save money on out of season produce. When specific fresh fruits and veggies are out of your price range, find a natural alternative in the frozen food section. This is an affordable way to still eat good fruits and veggies, even when they are out of season in your area.
Healthy Meals on a Budget
- 1 cup cooked whole-wheat pasta
- 1 ounce mozzarella cheese, sliced
- 1 to 2 cups broccoli florets, chopped
- nitrate-free pepperoni slices, quartered
- 3 to 4 black olives, sliced
- 3 to 4 cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 to 2 tablespoons Italian dressing, or plain olive oil
- Salt & pepper, to taste
- In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients. Refrigerate for up to 3 days or pack inside a lunch box.