Tips to stretch your food budget

The surrounding holiday months put a lot of financial pressure on budgets. You don’t have to cut food dollars and sacrifice healthy meals.

The surrounding holiday months put a lot of financial pressure on our wallets and make it difficult to stretch our food budget. Families continue to look for ways to serve nutritious meals and provide variety to the weekly routine. Keeping this juggling act going, especially during the holidays can be difficult. Fruits & Veggies More Matters has created a list of 30 Ways in 30 Days to stretch Your Food Budget. By sharing a few of these tips, the creative ideas may start to flow and a little spice might be added to your life.

  • Cook large amounts and freeze leftovers. Place enough food for one to two meals in each container, label and date for future meals.
  • Create a weekly meal plan that uses the same ingredients in different ways. For example, extra grilled or broiled chicken could be used in a casserole for one meals or a salad at another meal.
  • Substitute fruits and vegetables for meats. Meats are more expensive but beans are an excellent protein substitute, and vegetables and fruits add flavor, texture and nutrients.
  • Make homemade soup that’s full of fruits and vegetables. Homemade soup is a healthy and tasty way to use fruits and vegetables. Make a big batch and freeze leftovers in small, lunch-size containers.
  • Try new fruits and vegetables. You might find a new family favorite. To minimize waste, buy new foods in smaller amounts that are easy on your budget and introduce the new food in a simple recipe to your family.
  • Try a leftover makeover. Spice up leftovers by adding new fruits and vegetables to create something new for the next day. Last night’s dinner makes a great inexpensive lunch for today. Turn a chicken dinner into a veggie-rich soup, or extra veggie sides into a veggie casserole or lasagna.
  • Waste less with smaller servings. To avoid second serving temptation, store extra leftover servings in the refrigerator before sitting down for the meal.
  • Plan ahead. Make a detailed food plan for the week or month and buy only what you can store or use within that time period.
  • Store your fruits and vegetables promptly. To make fresh fruits and vegetable last longer, store them in the refrigerator or freezer immediately after getting them home from shopping.
  • Clearly label your foods before you store them. When storing fruits and vegetables in the freezer or refrigerator, clearly label them with the contents and date to stay within a safe timeframe.
  • Get creative with your leftover fruits and vegetables. A lot of food goes to waste. Make salsa from your tomatoes (and some fruits) and freezer jam from your frozen fruits.
  • Calculate your food budget. Use this family-friendly calculator to see if you have a healthy food budget.

Stretching a family meal budget doesn’t have to take away flavor, color or variety. Michigan State University Extension recommends careful planning and avoiding waste, to help you stretch your food budget and provide healthful, nutritious meals for you and your family.

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