Tuesday, April 10, 2012

GUEST POST | How to Stretch Your Dollars and Save Money

How to Stretch Your Dollars and Save Money

The rising costs of food makes going to the grocery store a challenge for many families. Parents have to consider the cost of food, how many servings a product may have and whether a product is cost –effective. The following guide will help you as you weigh your options and save you bucks in the end.

1. Cut Processed Foods
While processed foods may seem to cost less than more nutritional or natural foods, the food value is low. Often, you pay for flour and air. Eating processed food will not satisfy your hunger either, which means the children will eat, then want something more within the next hour or so. Processed food is often high in sugar, fat and salt, all of which lead to an unbalanced diet. Pop, processed desserts and candy add nothing to the diet. Used your money for more nutritional foods, and children’s medical bills will likely be much more tolerable down the road too.

2. Plan Your Meals
When there is no rhyme or reason behind meal planning, money is wasted. If you come home exhausted from work and with no idea of what's for supper, there is a greater likelihood that you will either take the family out to eat, order in or go out and buy a frozen pizza. These are all expensive and take large chunks out of your food budget. These meals also tend to be less nutritional than meals prepared with care at home. Before each pay period, sit down as a family and discuss the family schedule, likes and dislikes of the family members and put together a meal plan that works for the family. From the menu, create the grocery list and go grocery shopping (make sure to stick with the list too). Each day, check the menu and make the meals already decided upon.

3. Plan for Snacks
You may think that eliminating processed foods means children will scream for something to snack on. But with planning, you can provide healthy, fun snacks. Apple slices make a sweet, nutritional pick-me-up. Instead of buying small boxes of raisins as snacks, buy the larger boxes and make individual portions from aluminum foil. Popcorn is always a good snack too. Hold the butter, but make toppings available to shake on, such as ranch, cheddar, nacho or other toppings that turn popcorn into different experiences!

4. Smart Meat
Hamburger is a meat than can be stretched for many family meals. Simply using the meat as is will not go far, but you can turn ordinary hamburger into something tasty with some easy additions. Before using hamburger, thaw it out completely. For one pound of hamburger, add in 2/3-1 cup of oats, corn meal or a combination. Chop an onion to taste and add it to the mixture. If no one has sensitivities to gluten, add 1/4 cup of flour. Mix. This can be stored in the refrigerator for several days. Before using, mix in one egg. This is a basic mix you can use for hamburger patties or meatloaf. This can also be the base for lasagna or casseroles.

5. Yogurt
This one’s quick and easy - learn to make your own. This makes a nutritious snack or supplement to a meal, especially with the addition of fruit. Furthermore, it’s great for your body in more ways than one!

Kathy Hubbard likes to write about saving money, economics &