My oldest son recently turned 8 years old. Along with that birthday has come a growth spurt. Clothes that fit him a month ago are now too short and too tight. He is hungry all the time! Our pantry and refrigerator are emptying out more quickly than before.
This has made me realize that I need to re-think my typical grocery shopping trip. I shop for groceries weekly and, depending on the store, the foods I purchase are pretty much the same from week to week. This helps me stay on track with my budget. Unfortunately, an increase in appetite does not mean an increase in food budget. I need to look more closely at the foods I plan to make in the coming weeks to make sure my son (and the rest of my family) get the nutrition they need while staying within our food budget.
As I plan my next grocery shopping trip, here are three things I am going to look at more closely:
- Protein. I need to spend more time looking at the grocery ads before I go shopping to make sure I am choosing protein foods that fit my meal plan and my budget. For many recipes, I can substitute a less expensive protein choice.
- Stir-Fry is a great recipe for this – I can use beef, pork, chicken, fish, or tofu.
- Vegetables. I need to add more vegetables to my recipes. My whole family likes canned beans and frozen vegetables. These are choices that can add nutrition to a recipe without putting me outside of my budget.
- Snacks. I have gotten into a habit of buying pre-packaged snacks. Yes, they are easier, but they are more expensive. I think I can save myself money by reducing the number of pre-packaged snacks I buy and packaging snacks into reusable containers myself.
- Trail Mix is an easy snack to make and to package into small containers that will travel easily with us to the park or the pool this summer.
Stick with me on this one! When it is my turn to blog this summer, I will give you updates about how I am doing with my grocery shopping changes.
Our June recipe of the month, Black Bean Burgers, is sure to surprise you. My children love these burgers and eat them just the same as they would a burger made with ground meat.
I make these burgers for my family again and again, and here is why:
- They are inexpensive – using beans as a substitute for ground meat saves us money.
- They are quick in a pinch – on nights when we are busy or time gets away from me, I can make these burgers in about 15 minutes. I try to keep a can of black beans in my pantry for times like this.
- They are easy – mash the ingredients together with a fork, form them into patties, and cook them in a skillet.
Has all of our talk about fiber this month got you thinking about adding more fiber to your meals? I sure hope so! Today I have two meal plans to share with you. Both include three meals, one snack, and 25-30 grams of fiber.
Meal Plan 1: (Fiber in grams)
- 1 1/2 cups Zesty Whole Grain Salad (5)
- 1 sandwich with
- 2 slices whole wheat bread (4)
- 1 slice cheese
- 3 ounces deli meat
Total grams of Fiber: 29 grams
Meal Plan 2: (Fiber in grams)
Total grams of Fiber: 25.5 grams
Note: If you need more or less fiber depending on your age and gender, adjust amounts of food up or down to meet your personal needs.
Our May recipe of the month is Cowboy Caviar. This recipe is easy to make, tastes amazing, and packs a nutritional punch. All you have to do is combine some beans, chopped vegetables, and a chopped avocado with a quick homemade salad dressing. With that, you are ready to serve, or, in my case, eat!
I am not sure that I have mentioned this on the blog before, but, in addition to being a lover of great food, I am a dietitian. The food lover part of me drools over this recipe because it tastes so good and it is versatile. I can serve it as a dip for a party, I can scoop it into a tortilla and eat it as a wrap for lunch or supper, or I can simply grab a spoon and eat up (I have been known to do all three). The dietitian part of me loves this recipe because it is packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber. In the coming weeks you are going to hear a lot from us about the wonderful nutrient fiber. Next week, Christine is going to tell us about what fiber can do for our bodies and foods that have fiber in them.
In the meantime, make a batch of Cowboy Caviar and let me know what you think. Enjoy!
As a parent, it is easy for me to look at the 2-1 of the 5-2-1-0 Campaign and think, “That is not possible”. The 2 stands for 2 hours or less of screen time per day and the 1 stands for 1 hour or more of physical activity per day. However, the more I think about it, I know that this goal is possible for us.
We have just come out of a long winter and I am pretty sure that there were days when my children were watching TV or playing on the tablet for more than 2 hours and they were not physically active for an hour. However, as the weather has warmed up and as I have watched my children enjoy spring, I am realizing that we can meet this goal now, and that we have likely been meeting this goal in the past. It turns out that my children want to be active. Lately when they get home from school they ask to play outside instead of play a game on the tablet. This does mean that I need to set my things aside and go outside also because my youngest is not old enough to go out on his own yet, but this is ok because I need the fresh air and physical activity too. It is so fun to watch them run around, climb, and explore our neighborhood.
As the weather warms up, I hope that, little by little, our screen time will go down and our active time will go up. We probably will not be perfect on this goal, but I am looking forward to summer walks, bike rides, and trips to the park. Will you work on this goal with me to encourage all of our children (and ourselves) to be more active?
For some great ideas on reducing screen time and increasing active time, check out this section of the 5-2-1-0 Campaign website.
Sometimes I enjoy cooking with my children and sometimes I do not. Depending on the recipe and the cooking skill we are working on it can be a lot of fun or it can be frustrating. It is almost always messy. Regardless of how it comes out, I know that it is important because they are learning valuable skills.
My children are currently 2, 5, and 7 years old. That means they have vastly different abilities in the kitchen as well as different interest levels and attention spans. So, I need to match up each child to recipes that work well for them. Below I have broken down some age groups and matched them up with recipes that would work well with children in those age groups.
- Two years old: children this age are good at washing fruits and vegetables. They also like to help with set up and clean up. My little guy loves to set the table and, at the end of the meal, he
uses his little broom to help sweep up.
- Three years old: children this age are good at pouring and dumping ingredients. They can also help with clean up by putting dirty dishes in the dishwasher or the sink.
- Try making Banana Oatmeal Bread with your three year old. They will enjoy pouring all the ingredients into the bowl.
- Four years old: children this age are good at peeling oranges, bananas, and hard cooked eggs; kneading dough; and mixing with a spoon.
- Try making Creamy Egg Salad Sandwich with your four year old. They can peel the eggs, dump the ingredients into a bowl, and mix everything together.
- Five years old: children this age are good at cutting with a blunt knife, cracking eggs, and measuring ingredients. My five-year-old daughter’s favorite way to help in the kitchen is measuring.
- Try making Our Favorite Chicken Noodle Soup with your five year old. They can peel the carrots, cut the celery, and measure out the water, seasonings, and noodles.
- Six years old: children this age are developing their reading and writing skills, so they are good at writing grocery lists and starting to follow recipe directions.
- Older children: as children develop their reading and cooking skills they can become more independent in the kitchen. My oldest son is seven years old and is usually the first child awake
in the morning, so he has started preparing simple breakfasts on some mornings while I am helping the younger ones get ready for the day.
Remember that kitchen skills are cumulative, so what was learned as a two or three year old carries on into their older years. I especially like this when it comes to having extra helpers at clean up time!
Our April recipe of the month is here – Fish and Noodle Skillet. This is a variation of one of our favorite Spend Smart. Eat Smart recipes – Ramen Noodle Skillet. This recipe is made nearly the same way with the exception of cooking fish in the skillet with the vegetables instead of adding pre-cooked meat toward the end of the cooking time.
My children really like this recipe for several reasons:
- They love the ramen noodles. Ramen noodles are fun to look at and they are fun to eat. For this recipe, the ramen noodles need to be broken apart before they are added to the pan. This is a great job for children to help out with.
- They love fish. Even if you are not a fish lover, this recipe is a great way to get your fish in. The fish is mixed in with the noodles and vegetables, so it does not have that “fishy” flavor some do not like. Mixing the fish with noodles and vegetables also makes it more filling, so it saves you money.
- They love the leftovers. This recipe tastes really good when it is re-heated and served for a quick and easy meal the next day. Re-heating meals in the microwave is another way children can help out in the kitchen. They can push the buttons on the microwave and learn to identify their numbers at the same time.
Try our Fish and Noodle Skillet today and find your own reasons to love it.
Our March recipe of the month is Homemade Mac and Cheese. This recipe is an easier (and healthier) way to make a classic favorite, so it is a good way to get children involved with a meal. In the coming weeks, our blogs will focus on different ways that children can grow a love of cooking by helping out in the kitchen.
This recipe starts with cooking whole wheat pasta in boiling water. While the pasta is cooking, children can measure out the spinach into the bottom of a colander. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water and then pour the rest of the water and the cooked pasta over the top of the spinach in the colander. Children can see how the spinach changes from raw to cooked simply by adding the hot water.
To make the sauce, you only need to put the cooked pasta and spinach back in the pot and stir in the remaining ingredients – cooking water, shredded cheese, plain yogurt, onion powder, and garlic powder. Children can practice measuring, pouring, and mixing.
The only thing left to do is eat. Enjoy!
Our February recipe of the month is Honey Mustard Dressing. This is a super easy homemade dressing that can be used for more than just salads.
To make this dressing, combine ¼ cup each of only four ingredients – Dijon mustard, honey, cider vinegar, and oil – in a container with a tight fitting lid. Shake well and serve. This dressing has many uses:
Try our Honey Mustard Dressing this month; I think you will like it!
Here at Spend Smart. Eat Smart. we talk about planning meals a lot. This is because it is easier to save money and make healthy food choices when you have a plan. I know that on the weeks that I do not have a plan, or on the weeks when my plan goes wrong, I end up making more trips to the store, spending more money, and making less healthy choices.
My colleagues have written many great blogs about meal planning here, here, here, and here. If you want more information about meal planning, take some time to read this helpful information. Today, I am going to tell you about how meal planning works for my family of five.
I do a lot of cooking on the weekend, so I usually plan out my meals and write my grocery list on Friday. First, I look at what I have on hand and think of what meals I can make to use up these foods before they go bad. Then, I write down all of the meals I am going to make that week. Our 5-Day Meal Planning Worksheet can be helpful for this step. Finally, I write my grocery list and go shopping.
Now it is time for a confession, I rarely stick to my meal plan as written. We are an active family and things come up, so I give myself a break here. If it is 5:30 on Monday night and everyone is hungry but I have not even started supper, I will pull out Sunday’s leftovers and re-heat them. This pushes Monday’s meal to another night, but that is ok. Just remember, if you have raw meat in your refrigerator, it is only good for 3-4 days, so stick it in the freezer if you will not be using it soon.
Meal planning is a great way to get your healthy new year’s resolutions off to the right start. So, give meal planning a try!