5 Tricks to Better Food For Your Family (For Less)

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Do you look back on your budget and eyeball the food category with regret? Whether you’ve spent too much on eating out or on groceries (or both!), making a change in this part of your budget is very important to you. Deciding to spend less on food overall while maintaining a healthy diet for your family can be tricky. Here are 5 easy tricks you may not have heard of before!

1. Organic Produce Buying Clubs

Fresh, organic fruits and vegetables can be expensive. But you can save by combining your family’s resources with those of other like-minded families in your area – and start a buying club! Check out Annie’s Produce Buying Club, started in South Florida just this way. Find other organic families in your area by chatting with other parents at the market or at local eco-events. Talk to friends, family and neighbors to see if they know anyone who might be interested. A buying club can be for organic fruits, vegetables, dairy, eggs, meat or even wild-caught fish.

2. “Stone Soup” Soirees

“Bring what you’ve got – put it in the pot!” Inspired by the classic tale, it’s a great way to have those with whom you are most comfortable over for a casual dinner. Start a tradition in which you take turns hosting this casual bash. It’s even better with kids – each will want a turn stirring the pot and they’ll love hearing a reading of the classic story! Prep is easy! Simply purchase broth or make it yourself. As guests begin to arrive, have broth simmering on the stove-top and let them add their contributions! It could be a cup of leftover beans, a half a bag of frozen spinach, the chopped-up rind from a parmesan cheese wedge, a few tomatoes from the garden, even a leftover baked potato, diced. As long as everyone’s okay with it going into the pot, anything goes!

3. Tapas Nights

Using smaller plates helps prevent overeating and can help a dinner table look fuller with less food. Consider having a “tapas”-themed dinner and leave the big dinner plates in the cabinet for the night. It’s a great way to use up leftovers, too. Offer a few complementary dishes and have everyone grab a small plate – like a cake plate or salad plate. Explain that they should take a few bites of each dish and add it to their plate to see what they like. Then they can come back for seconds and add whatever they want. It is a great way to give kids lots of different veggies and see which ones they choose for themselves. You may find yourself eating less because getting thirds may not appeal as you already feel satisfied. Eating smaller meals is healthier if you are overweight. You’ll save money, too. Eliminate waste and learn to love leftovers – check out The Leftover Queen to creatively make the most of every morsel.

4. Dress Up Water

How many of us really drink enough water everyday? We know we don’t need sugary beverages like soda or even fruit juice (even if it’s 100% juice; it’s better to eat the actual piece of fruit as nature intended – for the fiber that sugar’s naturally packaged in!). But to kids (and adults) who are used to seeing something sweet and colorful filling up their drinking glass, plain water may be unappealing. Or you may simply wish for something different once in a while. Try brewing herbal teas – fruity iced tea is a great substitute for fruit juice. You control the amount of sugar or honey (or other natural sweetener) and might even leave it out completely. Or serve water in a beautiful glass pitcher with plenty of citrus slices – lemon, lime and orange bring a festive touch to otherwise plain water. Teas and citrus fruits are much healthier and less expensive than bottles of soda or juice.

5. Simply Have a Plan.

It sounds too simple, but having a meal plan can save you a bundle over the long run. Less last-minute delivery nights means more money in your pocket – and healthier food on the table, too. Even the busiest of us can put some whole foods into the slow cooker, set it and forget it. Or try Once A Week or Once A Month Cooking – make sure you’ve got plenty of freezer space! Try it for just one week and see how it goes. You and your family will be pleasantly surprised at how much easier it is to feed yourselves better food for less money just by having it planned ahead of time. You’ll eat out less, order take-out less, and spend less! Having a plan doesn’t mean you have to set up complicated meals. For example, designating Friday nights as DIY Pizza Night can mean saving money on delivery and being able to use up any leftover veggies from the week. When your family knows what dinner is going to be and when it will be ready, they’ll be less tempted to indulge in unhealthy snacks.

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