Healthy Eating on a Budget
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted much of our daily lives, including our budgets. Many families may be experiencing economic hardships and looking for ways to stretch every dollar. Americans are also trying to space out trips to the grocery store to minimize exposure to the virus. With a little planning and preparation, you can make the most out of grocery store trips (or delivery orders) without breaking the bank.
Step One - Plan: Take an inventory of ingredients on-hand, and search for recipes that include these ingredients. Next, build a menu for the week’s meals that includes basics like dairy, meat, grains, fruits, and vegetables. Creating a list will keep you on track and reduce unnecessary spending.
Finding ingredients that are healthy, budget-friendly, and family-approved can be a challenge. Milk is naturally nutrient-rich and loaded with vitamins and minerals, making it a ‘must-have’ on the shopping list. It is readily available and contains nine essential nutrients in every glass, in every brand, from every store; making it valuable to have on-hand.
Step Two - Purchase: Consider foods high in nutrients and low in cost; such as milk, beans, lentils, potatoes, eggs, peanut butter, canned salmon or tuna, oats; brown rice; quinoa, or frozen fruit and vegetables. Convenience foods that are pre-cut, pre-washed, or “ready to eat” are typically more expensive than less processed foods.
In the dairy aisle, it’s important to note that dairy doesn’t just do a body good, it also does a wallet good. When it comes to nutrition and budget, the best deal is the real deal – milk! At a cost of just pennies per ounce, milk offers a solid nutritional bang for your buck. Milk’s affordability can ensure that you and your family get the recommended three servings of dairy each day.
Step Three - Prepare: Double or triple recipes, and then divide leftovers into individual portions and freeze. This works well with soups and casseroles, which can be defrosted and reheated in a snap. Having a plan for leftovers, such as using them in subsequent meals, can also help stretch food dollars.
Keep in mind that most dairy products can be frozen for later use. When freezing milk, leave a little space at the top of the container, because milk expands when it freezes. Also consider freezing milk in ice cube trays to toss into iced coffee. Cheese and butter can also be frozen for several months, as long as they are tightly wrapped to keep air and moisture away.
Milk, cheese, and yogurt have a place in a family’s budget and shopping cart. Dairy’s versatility makes it easy to incorporate into breakfast, lunch and dinner. Whether enjoyed as a snack or used in cereals, soups, stews, or casseroles, dairy can help round out a balanced meal and budget.