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MAIN Arrow to Cooking GuideCooking Arrow to Budget Recipes & TipsBudget Meals & Recipes

grocery shopping on a budgetParents today are more concerned than ever with getting their kids to eat healthy, nutritious foods. It's always been a struggle to make veggies appealing and keep junk food off the family menu. Now, as money gets tighter and food prices continue to rise, many parents are left wondering how to provide healthy food options while shopping on a budget.

The confusion about what is healthy doesn't help.

  • Should dutiful parents buy organic to avoid possible pesticides or hormones?

  • Will the family suffer nutritional deficits if canned or frozen produce replaces more expensive fresh fruits and vegetables?

  • What about the latest research on "good-for-you" foods that can break a family food budget?

  • Should responsible parents skip sugary drinks in favor of healthy, vitamin packed energy drinks?

Although nutrient-dense foods, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, often cost more than less healthy food choices, there are ways families can pull the purse strings tighter without compromising on nutrition.

“Even though many families will be shopping on a budget..., nutrition doesn’t necessarily have to come in second place to price,” said Robert Murray, MD, director of the Center for Healthy Weight and Nutrition at Nationwide Children's Hospital and faculty member at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.

“Parents need to look at what they’re paying for and determine if there are less costly ways to achieve the same nutritional benefits.”

Dr. Murray has some helpful advice to help concerned family find their way through the shopping maze and save money on the way...

The fresh versus frozen debate
When it comes to fruits and vegetables, don’t assume fresh is best. Buying food in bulk, either frozen or canned, can save a lot of money.

In recent years, preservation and freezing methods have dramatically improved, thus preserving the nutritional quality of the frozen fruits and vegetables. Regardless of how they are consumed – frozen or otherwise – fruits and vegetables provide many nutritional benefits.

Dr. Murray suggests taking advantage of grocery store sales and stocking up on frozen goods. Parents can also consider freezing their own fruits and vegetables when they are in-season and plentiful. Canned or frozen are both healthy alternatives, although most canned veggies should be rinsed to lower the salt content before they are cooked and served.

What’s “organic” worth?
When a food item is certified organic, it refers to the methods used to grow or produce the food. Contrary to the beliefs of many, organic foods offer no additional nutritional benefit compared to their non-organic counterparts, but do cost more.

“Concerns about hormones, antibiotics or pesticides have driven many to choose organic foods,” explained Dr. Murray. “But don’t be fooled into thinking that because something is labeled organic that it is any healthier.”

Designer fruits and vegetables

at the grocery checkout
Grocery shopping tip: Have a healthy treat ready
when shopping with kids to avoid those expensive
impulse buys at the checkout counter..

In recent years, exotic and often heavily-marketed fruits, like pomegranate and açai berries, have become increasingly popular. While these fruits are rich in antioxidants and vitamins, they also come with a hefty price tag.

“These fruits do have many health benefits, but many of the same benefits can be found in other more common fruits for a much cheaper price,” said Dr. Murray. Instead of paying high prices for these fad foods, Dr. Murray recommends other dark, ruby-skinned fruits like blueberries, plums or blackberries that are easier on the wallet.

Fortified beverages
Be careful of drinks that are fortified with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Not only do they cost more, they often have more calories than you think. Some pack as many calories as a regular soda, and from a nutrition standpoint, it makes more sense to eat foods that are naturally rich in vitamins and minerals.

Sports drinks, rich in electrolytes, may be a good choice for serious athletes who participate in intense physical activity for extended periods of time, but for most children and adults, these drinks are also unnecessary.

Paying for prepackaged
Prepackaged, grab-and-go options offer convenience and portion control but can cost more. For some busy families, the time saved by purchasing these items, especially prepackaged fruits and vegetables, may be worth the additional expense. This is particularly true if the convenience of these items encourages families to make more nutritious choices.

For families looking for a budget friendly option, Dr. Murray suggests purchasing bulk items and individually packaging them at home for an easy, on-the-go grab.

Plan snacks ahead of time and be sure to combine food groups to maximize nutritional value. For example, combine whole grain crackers and low-fat cheese in plastic storage bags; or peel and cut carrots into snack-sized pieces and place in containers with a couple tablespoons of peanut butter. Be sure to pay attention to portion size in order to avoid serving up too much of a good thing.

The bottom line is that serving up healthy meals on a tight budget is possible. Use common sense and do the best with the money available. Keep in mind that stress is not healthy and makes for unhappy meal times. Fretting over serving frozen peas rather than fresh doesn't make sense. Your family will never remember what was served every night, but they will always cherish the memories of happy meal times...

Source — Newswise


also see --> Budget Recipes & Meal Planning Tips For Real Families

Big Healthy Meals On A Small Budget


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