Thriftilicious Thursday—Frugal Tips for Healthy Foods

In this economy, we’re all trying to cut back where we can. One big part of our budget (as you might imagine with three growing boys) is food. As the saying goes, “If I buy it, they just eat it!” Honestly, though, in my house, they literally JUST eat it. I mean, I barely get the grocery bags in the house and they’re being ripped open in a frantic search for cereal or grapes or chips. (And string cheese? We’re not even going to GO there. I swear, those little sticks are gold in my house.)

It’s frustrating, though, to drop $100 at the supermarket and find that the food barely made it three days . . . That’s why I’m really trying to analyze what I buy, both for cost and nutrition.

The good news is that with the gaining popularity of organic and other healthier varieties of foods, the price for many items is dropping a lot. It used to be that anything labeled “organic” was automatically about twice as expensive as its non-organic counterpart. But now the prices appear to be evening out, which is good for my family’s health as well as my weight. (Because dang—Double Stuffed Oreos aren’t getting any cheaper!)

I’m excited to introduce you later today to Dr. Heather Manley, N.D., a physician who is writing and producing a series of CDs and workbooks (and soon-to-be DVDs) featuring the Human Body Detectives, sisters who solve mysteries or embark on adventures involving one of the systems of the body. Dr. Manley’s philosophy is that if children understand how their bodies work, they are more likely to make healthy choices about what they eat. I think this is so true! Dr. Manley got me thinking more about serving more whole foods, as well as colorful foods, to my kids and discussing how specifically the foods they’re putting into their bodies will help them function. A little science lesson at the dinner table never hurt anyone, right?

So back to buying healthy foods the thriftilicious way . . . Here are some tips/resources I’ve found or used. Please leave a comment and share your tips as well!

  1. Pay attention at your local grocery store to sales or specials in the produce aisle. This may sound like a no-brainer, but sometimes I get into such a rush and routine that I just grab a bunch of broccoli from the “non-organic” section without really glancing at the organic section. Sometimes (especially at Hy-Vee and Target I’ve noticed) the organic food specials make them cheaper than the non-organic varieties. And if you’re choosy about which organic produce to spend the extra money on, here’s a list of the Top 12 produce you should buy organic due to pesticide contamination, according to familyeducation.com. They’ve even created a handy wallet-sized list you can print out and take with you to the store!
    Top 12 Must-Buy Organic Foods

    1. Apples
    2. Cherries
    3. Imported Grapes
    4. Nectarines
    5. Peaches
    6. Pears
    7. Raspberries
    8. Strawberries
    9. Bell Peppers
    10. Celery
    11. Potatoes
    12. Spinach
  2. Plant a garden (or mooch off someone who has one). Husband gets a good laugh telling the story of how I planted a garden. Once. Basically it was a patch of weeds with a few renegade radishes that were hotter than Hades. We don’t have a yard big enough to garden right now, and even if we did, I’ve accepted the fact that I’m not a gardener. However, my parents have a huge garden, and we are more than happy to help them unload their plethora of potatoes, onions, lettuce, zucchini, and anything else they send our way. I never imagined growing up that I would someday be so giddy about free produce!
  3. Sign up for coupons or newsletters at Organic brand websites, such as Stonyfield Farm, Organic Valley, and Kashi. I recently was sent an envelope of coupons from Organic Valley, which I will gladly put to use. And this week at Target, if you buy 5 Kashi products, you can get a $5 Target gift card! On Sunday at my Target they were giving away Kashi reusable bags with a coupon inside, which made the deal even sweeter! I’ve been trying to buy more Kashi products as snacks or lunch items for the kids, and they’re obviously okay with this considering they polished off two boxes of crackers and a box of cookies in 24 hours this week. Horizon Organic makes great single-serve-sized milk for kids. Other brands include Cascadian Farm, Earth’s Best, and Dreamfields Pasta. Try Mambo Sprouts for coupons from several different organic brands.
  4. Try whole-grain tortillas as snacks or for lunches for the kids. My boys eat these plain, which is fine with me since they’re packed with fiber. Start out with the whole-grain ones and they’ll never prefer the white flour version. (Ditto for bread. However, this does not necessarily work with husbands, I’ve learned.)
  5. Quit trying to make everything too hard. Growing up in the Midwest, as I did, I sometimes think everything has to be in a casserole. Green beans have to include bacon, cream of mushroom soup, and those little fake onion thingees. But I’ve learned that it’s not only healthier to serve my kids the whole plain foods, they also like it better. They prefer plain broccoli to broccoli and cheese, baby carrots to golden carrot casserole, and Boy #3 eats raw cauliflower like it’s candy. No joke. I’ve stopped feeling guilty about putting a plain bowl of raspberries on the table at dinner and instead feel good about myself for not putting extra calories and processed chemicals into their bodies.

So how do you feed your family better for less?

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