Nutrition and expense are two often competing things in today’s family kitchen. More often than not, highly nutritious foods aren’t particularly affordable, and affordable foods are seldom very nutritious. Cheap meats are often chock-full of hormones and antibiotics, while high-grade, hormone-free antibiotic-free meats command a premium of as much as $3 to $5 per pound because they have to be certified as being so, and they require special handling, as well. This doesn’t mean that you’ll have to break the bank continuously in order to feed your family healthy meal choices. You just have to shop wisely and understand what foods give you the best bang for your buck.
The healthy family meal can be salvaged, indeed must be salvaged! Doing so is largely a matter of persistence and thoughtful grocery shopping, and above all, knowing what foods are gimmicks and which provide real monetary and nutritional value. Basically, the cheaper foods with their lower nutritional value, won’t be able to fill you up as easily. Whole foods such as whole grains, on the other hand, tend to sit on your stomach longer and take longer to digest. Therefore, the expense is about the same if you cut portion sizes slightly. Easier said than done, you say? You’d be surprised just how possible it can be.
Our culture has grown accustomed to seeking the “restaurant plate,” even when we aren’t eating out. In order to get the best bang for our buck, we look for large portions of meat and relatively modest portions of starch and vegetables, along with sauces. This isn’t a particularly economical way to build a plate, though, and doing so at home can break your budget, even if diet specialists recommend removing some of the starch from our diet to help avoid eating too many carbs.
To make both your personal trainer and your tummy happy, start by heaping your plates with the amount of vegetables that you normally would meat. For your meat portion, cut back to between a 6-ounce or 8-ounce serving, and with an equal amount of starch, such as potato or rice. Additionally, choose long-grain brown rice rather than plain white rice or skin-on potatoes to eke out every bit of nutrition you can from those spuds. Afraid you’ll still be hungry after dinner? add a whole-grain, rough-textured bread to your meal, as well. Avoid plain old white bread, though, because it won’t do much to fill you up, and will just load you down with essentially useless carbs.
Vegetables, in particular, can be the cheap and nutritious centerpiece of your meal. Choose fresh whenever you can, as the fresher they are, the better they taste and the better they are for you. Don’t just limit yourself to the typical corn, peas and carrots, though. Squash, green beans, turnips and spinach all can make tasty dishes. You just have to change the way you see your plate. Try thinking of the meat as a side dish, focusing on the vegetable instead. It really sounds tougher than it is. You’ll want to invest in a vegetarian cookbook since many at-home chefs simply boil or steam their vegetables, then add salt and butter, calling them done. Not only does this reduce their potential tastiness, but it’s a waste of a good opportunity to pare a few dollars off your budget every week.
Sure, whole foods such as organics and pesticide-free foods are more expensive overall, but given the health benefits and the greater “bang for your buck” in nutritional value that you see, you really can save money. You just have to have a little faith in smaller portions!