Healthy Family Meals for Moms on a Budget

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OK, I admit it. I hate being cheap. But let’s face it, these days, we’re all watching our pennies. One of my personal goals for 2013 is to become a more budget-minded shopper: this means groceries as well. It’s no secret that the grocery bill for a family of five can get out of control very quickly.

I have a few favorite stores where I like to shop – they’re convenient, I like the layout and they have the products I want. However, the prices aren’t always suited to my budget and every time I go, I find myself over-spending.

Here are three secrets, taken from my book, The Pizza Trap, on how to keep your grocery bill down and shop where you want to shop without skimping on food quality.

1. Plan your meals

The worst thing you can do for your budget is to walk into a store with no plan. This is guaranteed to add unwanted items to your bill. Sit down on Sunday and plan at least several of your dinners for the week, and lunches, too, if you and your kids take lunch to school and work (check out my show on how to make great Meals To- Go on a budget). Pick items that can stretch over several meals, liked a whole chicken that you can create several meals with easily: baked chicken with veggies and rice one night, chicken enchiladas or chicken stir fry one night and chicken salad for lunch. That way, you get the biggest bang for your buck!

2. Shop seasonally

Buying fruit and veggies that are out of season, especially organic produce, can really add up. Since you don’t want to cut those necessary nutrients from your diet, it’s important to know what’s in season and what’s not. You can usually tell by the price tag, but here’s an example: Apples in the fall, oranges and grapefruits in the winter and berries and watermelon in the summer (here’s a fun take-home chart). Eating what’s in season can also help your body better handle different health concerns associated with each season, like flu, colds and allergies.

3. Avoid packaged foods

Everyone is drawn to brightly colored packaging and pretty boxes, especially kids, but this is a killer for your grocery bill. The more packaged items you buy, the closer you get to blowing your budget! This is a good reason not to take kids along when you shop, since it seems many packaged items are marketed directly toward kids. However, many of us don’t have the leisure of leaving our kids behind, especially when the are very young, so you need to have a game plan. Avoid the center aisles as much as possible. Most of what you should be eating is in the perimeter of the store anyway: fruit, veggies, meat and dairy and grains. Make a monthly trip to a larger discount store like Wal-Mart, Costco or Sam’s to save money on packaged goods and buy them in bulk. All of these stores now offer organic versions of just about everything from olive oil, to canned tomatoes and pasta, coffee and even ketchup!

Follow these three tips religiously, and I can guarantee you’ll notice a difference in your grocery bill in 2013.

Happy shopping!

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