You want your family to eat well, but you have a tight budget. What are the best foods to give your family the nutrition it needs and keep your grocery costs down? We’ve provided a list of items, with suggestions for combining food for added flavor and health benefits. Here’s a list of easy-to-find items, and how they can provide a benefit to you and your family. Remember, if you are concerned about allergies, it’s best to check with your doctor to make sure these foods are right for you and your family. Depending on your budget, you may want to check out organic versions of these items too. When you eliminate unhealthy foods, there may be enough in the budget to buy organic and non-GMO foods. These are naturally healthier for you and your family. They don’t have pesticides which are a big villain in the US. The key is finding the right combination of ingredients that work together. When you buy in bulk, they will all be used together for different dishes.
Oatmeal is one of the many bulk food items you can find at grocery stores. In the bulk bins section. Some grocers also have gluten-free if that is needed. It can be purchased as a whole grain for slow cooking, pressed flat or pressed, and cut into small pieces for faster cooking.
Grains are complex carbohydrates that give you longer-lasting energy. They offer the benefit of 4g of fiber needed for digestion and a healthy gut, and 6g of protein which is important for bones, muscles, cartilage, and skin growth and health. Add to your bowl of oats a banana for sweetness and added energy, since bananas are high in natural sugar. Try and avoid refined sugars as much as possible, sugar contributes to childhood obesity and high usage is known to create sugar addiction and constant cravings. Oatmeal is great for breakfast – it delivers longer-lasting energy. At only .18 cents per half a cup serving, that’s pretty good value!
Bananas pack a lot of natural sugar and can be added to a variety of foods for sweetness and density. These are used by runners for quick energy on marathons and hikers when they need a boost. These too can be purchased in bulk and they cost .59 cents per lb., on average. Each banana is roughly 15g of sugar per banana, so even a third of an average banana is quite a bit of sugar for a small child. It can be used in a variety of baked items for sweetness and density and can be mashed into oatmeal.
As they say, an apple a day keeps the doctor away. Apples have unique sweetness and there are a variety of flavors. While these are a bit more expensive than bananas at an average price of 1.32 per lb, the health benefits are enormous. These natural beauties can be the smartest choice for snacks, compared to processed snacks and sugary treats that can cause obesity. They are high in fiber, good for your heart, and can flavor other foods like oatmeal. They can be cooked on the stove with cinnamon (which can be purchased in bulk) with a little bit of water and mashed for a homemade (and fresh!) applesauce. Processed sugary treats add no value to your family’s health, and are more expensive, pound for pound than apples.
Eggs are an excellent source of protein and at approximately only 10 cents per egg. They are a very good value. Eggs can be cooked in different ways – boiled, poached, and scrambled eggs are favorites. These can be used in baked goods for nutrition and for a leavening agent, in place of baking soda or powder (which often contain aluminum.). Deviled eggs are usually popular as a snack or appetizer, and are usually made with simple ingredients that make them very savory. You can experiment with flavors.
Rice is a carbohydrate, that produces fast energy. It has some natural protein, and when combined with beans becomes a perfect protein source. Spices can be added to it for Mexican, Asian and American dishes, and they can be sweetened with honey for a sweet treat. Some Asian markets have larger bags in 10lb and 20lb bags, which can lower the cost to .35 per lb. It can also be cooked with eggs. Some variations of rice with very distinct flavors include Jasmine, Basmati, and Brown. The healthier choice is brown, due to the fact the bran is still on the kernel. Adding butter to it makes it very savory too, and it’s very easy to cook on the stovetop with a lid, on low heat. It’s easy to prepare and perfect for a quick snack that is pretty easy to digest and provides quick energy.
Beans and Legumes are a rich source of B vitamins and come in all sorts of sizes, shapes, colors, flavors, and textures. They are filled with protein, fiber, and minerals and are very hearty and filling. Chickpeas make Hummus. Peas can be eaten alone or added to soups and salads, Kidney Beans are perfect for chilis, salads, and pasta dishes. Black beans are commonly used in Mexican dishes and are great for chili too. Some ways of cooking include ham hocks, bouillon, chili powder, garlic, and onion powder. They can be blended with other ingredients and can be very savory. 1 lb. of dry, bulk black beans is about $1.39, or .10 per ½ serving.
Carrots are very good for you, have a lot of flavor, can be eaten raw or cooked, and are used in many dishes. When purchased in bulk, carrots can be a great snack, and also added to a variety of soups and dishes. They can be purchased, shredded, whole or small sizes, and at .80 cents per pound are an excellent value.
Onions are popular and used in so many dishes to add flavor. White onions, yellow onions, red onions all have different flavors. Red onions and white onions are often used raw for salads and Mexican dishes. Yellow onions are generally milder and can be sweet. They are often used in soups and cooked dishes. At only $1.74 for a 3lb bag, these go a long way to spice up dishes and enhance flavor. Green onions are wonderful too, but they cost more at about $.79 cents for a bunch.
Potatoes can be used in a variety of dishes and cooked in many ways – from baked, steamed, broiled, boiled, and fried. The healthiest are red potatoes, sweet potatoes, but favorites include Russets and Yukon Golds. There’s also a variety of fingerlings which are a variety of colors, and are skinny and small – about the length of your thumb. Potatoes are high in calories and carbs, which is why people might say they “stick to your ribs.”. They are filling, and can be a nice compliment to eggs, make a great base for soups, and can be eaten as a dish. Yukon Golds or reds can be cubed and cooked gently on the stove. Top them with cilantro, avocado, sauteed onion. A favorite Irish and Southern dish is potatoes and onions. You can buy a 5lb bag of red potatoes for as low as $3.27.
Tomatoes are packed with Vitamin C and minerals. They come in a variety of sizes and flavors. Discount stores carry organic Roma tomatoes in 1lb bags for only $2.49. These are great for salads, can be made into salsas, used for soups, and can season bean and rice dishes too. Cherry tomatoes can be eaten fresh, as a snack, or on a salad, cut in half. Romas can be cut up for salads and sandwiches, and don’t get runny. More full-bodied varieties with a lot of juice can be great for soups and tomato dishes. Combined with tomato paste, Italian spices, and a little maple syrup, you can make a great homemade pasta sauce the kids will love.
Avocados are the champions of a vegan and raw food diet because they are so nutritionally dense. They are used in a variety of ways, like avocado toast (sprinkle with onion and garlic powder!), salads, sandwiches, made into guacamole, and more. Discount retailers sell organic, bulk bags for $3.26 for a bag of 3-5. These are the gold standard of nutrition. They can take the place of more expensive and less healthy meats.
Flavor enhancers, sweeteners, spices, and nuts in bulk purchase
Some flavor enhancers may be fresh, and some dehydrated, but even used sparingly can completely change the flavor of a dish. Common spices and flavors found in bulk that are sure to satisfy many palettes include Parsley, Cilantro, Garlic, and Jalapenos. These add hutzpah to any dish. These can also be used in soups, salsas, with rice, and in bean dishes. They make foods savory and are very inexpensive too.
Bulk Spices: These spices work well with the list of foods above include Cinnamon, chili powder, paprika, sea salt, pepper, Italian seasonings, garlic powder, onion powder, curry, and cumin. You can do a lot with these spices, so experiment and see which ones your family likes best.
Sweeteners: Honey and maple syrup, when used sparingly, add flavor naturally and it tastes so good. You don’t need more than a teaspoon to sweeten anything and is way better than refined sugar. These items come in bulk too and are the best value purchased this way.
Oils: Most processed oils are very bad for our bodies. Cold-pressed olive oil and butter are the better fats if we must use oil. A little butter (1 teaspoon) in rice, oatmeal, and potatoes, with other flavors, makes things savory but doesn’t bulk up your waistline. Olive oil can be used to sauté vegetables too, a teaspoon of olive oil can also go a long way.
Nuts: Nuts are more expensive, but many offer good kinds of fats for our diets, like walnuts and almonds. A tablespoon of chopped nuts in oatmeal adds texture and flavor and is very good for your heart. These can be about the same price as meat, per lb., but are better for our bodies. They add an immense texture to any dish. Grab a handful for a healthy snack. A little goes a long way, and they can also be eaten alone as a healthy protein snack! Sunflower seeds are less expensive and can be great on salads and other dishes for great texture and flavor. Buying in bulk is your best bet for best pricing.
Research suggests that meats are less healthy for us, bad for the planet due to waste, and are difficult to digest. If you want to use meats, try buying smaller quantities of higher quality meats from natural grocery stores and break them down into small packages and freeze them. Use it more for flavor than for bulk.
Mostly, avoid processed foods, so you stay healthy and keep your energy up. Being a Mom is a lot of work, and while sugary foods taste good and give you an immediate high when you are stressed, they won’t help your brain function or stabilize your blood sugar for lasting energy.
Let us know what cost-effective methods you have used and how these have helped you in your quest for healthy and tasty.