After I posted Healthy Eating vs Cost it got me thinking and I decided to post again about it. If you recall the picture that compared two healthier, homemade meals to a meal from McDonald’s, you’d see the nutrition content. The McDonald’s info. was about 900 calories, 37 grams of fat, and 123 grams of carbs per person. 23 grams of protein look good except for the fact that you’re trading it all off for some extremely unhealthy food.
The chicken and potatoes and salad were hardly better in the nutrition department at 934 calories and 39 grams of fat (yikes!) Keep in mind that just because it’s “cheaper” doesn’t mean it’s better – not even homemade.
The rice and beans meal definitely won this round. At 571 calories, 15 grams of fat, and 26 grams of protein, I’d choose this meal first. Click here for my favorite Rice and Beans recipe, which offers lots of great flavor and easy on the budget, with only 276 calories, 4 grams of fat, 41 grams of carbs, 6 grams of fiber, and 18 grams of protein per serving.
But what got me thinking is this: a 900 calorie meal on average per person? This is a lot! And most people (Americans) feels this is normal. But it’s not.
If you’re the average American eating 3 meals a day, plus snacks, plus sodas, then you are automatically way over the recommended 2,500 daily allowance of calorie intake. And that doesn’t even cover fat and carbs.
Once again I offer you some insight and direction to eating healthy without spending a lot of money. Yes, I’ve posted like this before. All my recipes a side, I truly do have a passion for eating healthy and eating well within a budget. The meal I offered in exchange for fast food in the previous post (i.e. deli chicken, bagged salad, and microwaveable rice) is not as healthy as it could be had the chicken been made at home and without seasoning injections, the salad been made fresh with green leaf lettuce instead of useless iceberg, and the brown rice had been prepared at home using chicken broth instead of prepackaged with preservatives. I still think it’s a better alternative to McDonald’s though.
So here’s a look back at some of the meals I’ve made for my family that you might enjoy:
Chicken and Rice Pilaf ~ Each serving was just under 400 calories.
Ratatouille ~ For the veggie lover. Add some Bulgar and you’ve got an incredibly yummy meal that hardly cost a thing.
Black Bean Taquitos ~ A healthier version of the bean taquito that uses mashed beans and seasoning instead of canned refried.
Zucchini Noodles with Marinara and Turkey Meatballs ~ One of my absolute fabulous meals with zucchini!
All of these meals were easy on the budget and very healthy. All it takes it a little planning and organization. If you have to purchase an ingredient for a recipe, say something fresh like cilantro, and you only use half for said recipe, then look for another recipe that calls for cilantro to make within the next few days. If you’re buying ingredients that won’t perish quickly, such as tortillas or canned goods, then you will save yourself part of your budget for the next time you need those items and they are already in your pantry.
Menu planning is extremely helpful. I’ve been doing it for about two years now and have found that budgeting aside, I just love not ever having to agonize over what to make for dinner each night. And it is flexible, too, because there will always be nights when the game plan changes, and that’s okay. If I miss a meal I can add it back in on the next month’s plan. If it was a meal using fresh ingredients that I had to purchase and don’t want to waste, then I just trade it for a standby meal that uses pantry items that I could make any time. See how easy it is? And the best part is I can make my weekly shopping list, go to the grocery store, not be tempted to buy tons of junk (okay, I still get tempted occasionally!) and I stay within my budget.
I have several menu plans and recipe round-ups available for you here. Don’t forget to check out the link on menu planning. I started menu planning by the week then advanced to bi-weekly. These days I plan for a whole month as much as possible. I keep the recipes on a clipboard (or the cookbooks nearby) and a printout of the menu plan with easy cookbook (page) references. When it comes time to make the meal I just locate the recipe and get working. It also makes grocery list making easy as well. As I flip through the recipes I plan to make for that week, I can see what items I have and what I need to purchase. It also makes getting in and out of the grocery store a breeze.
Planning a menu may seem a little overwhelming at first. I admit that sitting down and shuffling through recipes and emails and cookbooks, blogs, etc, and planning for a whole month can be time-consuming. I suggest starting off one week at a time and see how it works for you. Begin by adding favorite meals your whole family loves, incorporating veggies and side dishes, and something new at least once a week. Some families eat out regularly, so perhaps you really only need to plan for 4 or 5 meals. If you use coupons and want to plan around your sale purchases, use cooking websites that allow you to enter your ingredients on hand and will generate recipes for you. As you become more comfortable with menu planning, start to search out new recipes and plan accordingly.
Most importantly is to share with me what you’re doing I want to hear all about your meal planning adventure and how it’s working for you!
Have a great day and plan out your menu today!