How to buy healthy child-friendly meals on a budget

Eating healthy can be expensive as fruit and veggie prices continue to soar. Here’s how to buy healthy food, even on a tight budget.

 Here’s how to give your kids healthy food on a budget.

Sadly, 13% of SA kids under the age of five are overweight. Encouraging kids to eat more veggies and fruits, ensuring their meals are as nutritious as possible, and incorporating diversified protein sources – including plant-based options – is very important, but can sometimes prove challenging for parents and caregivers, especially if you’re on a tight budget.

Sometimes, shopping for healthy foods can be expensive, but try following these budget-friendly tips and you’ll be surprised by how much you can save while still choosing nutrition-rich items.

Plan meals ahead

Go through recipe books and browse your favourite food blogs to create a meal plan that fits your household budget. Aim for a week’s worth of recipes that use up all the ingredients you buy so nothing goes to waste.

Make a list before you hit the shops

Check your fridge and pantry cupboard to see what ingredients you already have for your weekly meal plan. If there are items that are going to expire soon, work those into your meal plan to further minimise wastage. If you’re not good at making lists and sticking to them, take a look at these helpful apps.

Choose cheaper (but healthy) options

Take a look at your last grocery trip till slip and look for the most expensive items and research cheaper (but still healthy) alternatives. For example, quinoa is all the buzz, but it’s really expensive so opt for something like brown rice instead or use grapes instead of blueberries. This will help you keep within your budget. If you need help with your budget try these free budgeting templates.

Have an in-store plan of action

Once you’re in the store, stick to the aisles in which you’ll find your listed items. This will help you avoid adding unnecessary things to your trolley, which you’ll probably look at later and wonder: ‘why on earth did I buy this?’

Always compare 

Don’t just grab the can or packet you see first. Stores lay out their shelves with the priciest items at eye level, so check above and below for the same product at a more competitive price. Also, avoid being seduced by brand names. The store’s own nameless brands are sometimes a lot cheaper and, often, excellent quality.

Don’t forget to read the label

Some things that appear healthy, aren’t. For example, tinned soup may seem like a quick and healthy meal but in fact, many of these are packed with sugar and preservatives. Also skip ready-made meals where you have no control over the amount of salt, sugar, and preservatives added and which are normally very expensive.

Don’t buy huge quantities

A mistake people often make when deciding to ‘become healthy’ is buying huge quantities of healthy food, most of which end up going to waste. Rather buy and prepare small quantities to see what your kids enjoy most. Training your kids’ palate from a young age, to appreciate healthy food will help them establish a lifelong appetite for eating well.

Encourage structured eating patterns

The increase in childhood obesity can be partly attributed to the decrease in structured eating patterns. Eating breakfast is key to establishing these patterns, which will help them maintain a healthy weight throughout their lives. What they eat is, of course, just as important as when they eat, so avoid sugar-packed cereals and white bread.

Stock up on healthy snacks

Buying or making snacks in bulk and keeping them on you will ensure that you’re always ready for that inevitable ‘I’m hungry’ when you’re on the go. This way you won’t have to buy convenience food at very inconvenient prices and you’ll keep them full until its home time and they can have a proper, filling meal.