If you are like most American families, money will be tight this holiday season. But that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your wallet or health to have another beloved and cherished holiday.
Below are our tips for buying healthy meals on a budget this holiday season:
1. Buy fresh, buy local
Both of our neighborhood grocers have recently started carrying “locally grown” fruits and vegetables in the produce section. Many of these staple foods – sweet potatoes, squash, green beans, corn – are cornerstones of holiday fare. According to LocalHarvest, “Most produce in the US is picked 4 to 7 days before being placed on supermarket shelves, and is shipped for an average of 1500 miles before being sold.”
Supporting local farmers is better for the environment (their produce doesn’t require as much refrigeration, packaging, shipping, etc.), and, is better for your health since they don’t have to travel far or wait long to get on your table (once harvested, produce loses nutrients quickly). And less fossil fuels are burned throughout the process, which is better for everyone’s health! Locally grown produce is definitely cheaper than buying organic, and can be less expensive than their industrial farmed counterparts.
2. Stock up when things are on sale
My eye literally starts to twitch when I’m forced to pay full price for things that I could buy on sale. So I stock up when things are on sale and I buy whatever fruits and vegetables are in season. Recently, I found all varieties of organic sugar on sale at my local grocer, Wegman’s. So, I bought brown sugar, granulated, powdered – every type of sugar I will possibly need to make cookies and goodies throughout the holiday season.
I am also an in-season purchaser of fruits and vegetables. This website allows you to select your home state and current season to find out what fruits and vegetables are in season. Check it out before you go to your local grocer so that you know what to look for at the store. Most vegetables can be frozen for later use (red/green/yellow peppers, broccoli, green beans, potatoes, corn, etc.). We have been buying peppers in bulk, chopping and freezing them in Ziploc bags as long as I can remember. As far as potatoes go, you can cut them into fries-size and freeze them to bake later. Nothing beats homemade sweet potato fries.
3. Make your meals from scratch
Who needs all that processed food anyway? If you make every dish on your table, you know exactly what’s in your food. No genetically modified ingredients or BPA to worry about – you will know exactly how much (or little) salt, sugar, butter, etc., is in your food. So forego the canned cranberry sauce, instant mashed potatoes and jar of gravy. You might need to start cooking a couple dishes the day before, but chances are your kids will love to help you in the kitchen and you’ll have complete peace-of-mind while you’re cherishing your family meals(s).
4. Heed the motto “Less is more”
If you’re making the entire meal from scratch (#3 above), who wants to make 3 different varieties of potatoes? Give your inner Martha Stewart a break. She’s tired and could probably use a long soak in the tub.
The only person who’s going to notice that you don’t have 6 different casseroles on the table is you! If there are a few sides that are big hits in your family, go with those, and forget about the rest. (If anyone complains, make sure they know that next year they’re welcome to host dinner).
5. Fill up your plate with LOTS of vegetables
Who wants to get to January and have another 5-pound-reason to hit the gym every day? One surefire way to get through the holidays without weight gain is to make sure that you have plenty of vegetables on your plate alongside the turkey. And I’m not talking about vegetable “casseroles!” If they are engulfed in heavy soups and/or butter, they don’t count. The more “whole” the vegetable, the better – sweet potatoes right out of the oven, roasted squash, baked green beans.
Of course, the best way to keep yourself healthy during the holidays is to eat balanced meals and to exercise. Bundle up the kids and walk them in the stroller. Or go to the local mall and walk in warmth. Or try out that new gym down the street (they’ll give you free pass for a couple of hours). There will be plenty of time to lay on the couch and watch movies, too. But the best way to enjoy some guilt-tree couch potato time during the holidays is to work up a good sweat first!
Don’t be shy – please leave us a comment and tell us how you save money and eat healthy foods during the holidays!
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