Category: Wellness Tips

How to Make an Effective Meal Plan

 

Ahhh pre-made meal plans…I gotta tell ya, I love to hate ’em. Finding them, selecting them, and most of all, following them. They are stinky, like fish. That will make more sense in a few paragraphs. Promise.

Why are they stinky, you ask? Well I would be more than happy to tell you.

The food we eat is connected to everything in our lives. Everything. Your budget, your spouse (or lack of spouse), your kids (and their preferences, allergies, and appetites), your schedule, your culture, and your mood all play in to the food you choose to eat. That being said, someone would have to thoroughly understand all of those things about you in order to select foods that are good options for a meal plan for you. Now, how many meal plan makers know you that well?

Let’s take, for example, some meal plans I’ve been on in the past for different blog experiments. For the heart healthy meal plan I followed, the ingredients increased my grocery budget by 75%! Typically I use dinner leftovers for lunches, but that meal plan used NO leftovers for ANYTHING. You know what that gets you (besides an expensive grocery trip)? A fridge full of leftovers waiting to go bad. It also leaves you cooking two meals every night – dinner and tomorrow’s lunch. Not sustainable, functional, or enjoyable.

 



 

My final gripe about following meal plans made by others? Sometimes I just don’t like the food. Like, for example, coleslaw. I’m not a huge fan, but it’s on the meal plan, because the person who made it didn’t know me and my lack of appreciation for coleslaw. So here I am, either eating coleslaw or feeling as though I somehow “failed” my meal plan because I didn’t like it.

And you know what else (yes, I lied about the final gripe part)? As a dietitian, my goal is to empower my patients to live a healthy life they love. Now even if I gave them the perfect meal plan that worked great for their lifestyle, are they empowered? What will they do when the week-long meal plan is over? Will they just eat the same food week after week forever?

Of course not.

Remember the old saying, “Give a man a fish and feed him for a day, but teach a man to fish and feed him for the rest of his life”? Well, a meal plan is a fish.

 



 

I can give someone a meal plan fish and they can meet their nutritional goals for a week (if they manage to stick with a meal plan someone else made), or I can teach someone how to plan for themselves and meet their health and quality of life goals. Truly, they are the only ones who know themselves well enough to do it. So usually, if my client’s would like to have weekly meal plans, we set aside a portion of each of their appointments and make the meal plan together. It’s not easy and it’s awkward at first, but once they get the hang of it they are empowered. After a few sessions they’ve got the hang of it and they’re making their own meals plans (that they love, that fit their budget and their health goals). They can eat for life – on a budget and with foods they love! And that is why I love what I do.

And why I hate stinky meal plan fish. End rant.

 

Related Articles

How to Meal Plan on a Budget (step-by-step walkthrough)

The Must-Try Meal-Planning Hack to Stop Wasting Food and Money

How to Meal Plan to Save Time and Money (with free printable meal-planning template!)

 



Wellness Tips

don't diet this year

 

The New Year is almost here! So why not put out my dietitian two cents on New Year’s resolutions, particularly as they apply to healthy eating goals? Do you want to become healthier in the new year? That’s excellent! The next thing to do is determine specifically how you plan to do that. Are you going to exercise more? Eat more fruits and vegetables? Drink more water?

 

Too often the answer is, “I’m going to lose weight by following _______ diet.”

 

I encourage (and plead and beg of) you NOT to make that commitment this year. Here’s why:

 

Whoever made _______ diet did not have you in mind.

 

They don’t know about your budget, your son’s food allergy, your love for lattes, your busy, busy mornings, or your picky, picky toddler. They made _______ diet with the goal of getting pounds off of people and more than likely, selling some books/supplements/shrink-wrap belts/etc along the way. You may be able to fight, claw, and scratch for a few days, weeks, or even months. But the chances that the entire diet plan fits so effortlessly into every part of your life that you can maintain it forever are slim to none. It’s likely that you’ll throw your hands up at some point and say, “I’m DONE!”

 



 

Here’s the other reality about weight-loss diets: they aren’t necessarily good for you. If the goal is only to take pounds off, most of them work like a charm. They do! The pounds come off for most people (not all) if they really follow a diet plan. The problem is, if the goal is to keep weight off, most diets are total failures for most people.

 

Most weight-loss diets in some way mimic starvation (often with a myriad of dietary contortions that are miserable and difficult to follow). Do you know what mimicking starvation does to your body? It tells it to live off of stored fat (hence, weight loss) and it teaches it that starvation is a very real possibility in your life. In fact, it has happened! It teaches your body that every time it gets a chance it should take every single extra calorie and store it away as fat to help you survive starvation. That means that as soon as you are sick of your diet (or reach your weight loss goal) and begin to eat normally, your body will be itching to build up its “savings account” of fat again to weather the next starvation storm.

 

This also means that every time you “cheat” your body will store that innocent little piece of cake or that perfectly acceptable apple crisp and send it straight to fat storage. Have you ever thought, “it seems like if I even look at dessert I gain weight”? It is practically true for some dieters. Your body will not happily burn through something that it sees as a vital deposit in a dwindling emergency fund.

 

Most weight-loss diets teach your body to store fat!

 

These diets slow down your metabolism (bye, bye energy!), prepare your body to regain weight, and let’s be honest…just suck to follow. Let’s be real.

 



 

Here’s what to do instead:

 

1. Don’t get married without dating first!

What I mean is, don’t commit to stick to a plan if you have no clue how well it is going to work for your body and your life. If it feels like fighting, clawing, and scratching, then it’s not the right change for you. Avoid committing to any plan that you haven’t tried out first. Honestly evaluate how it fits into your life and if it doesn’t, it’s not your failure – it’s the wrong plan!

 

healthy habits that fit your life

 

2. Commit to a habit, then figure out how to make it work in your life.

Instead of a whole plan, pick a healthy habit. Want to drink more water? Great! Pick an ounce goal (80-100 oz is a good start for most folks) and try however many strategies you must in order to find the one that actually helps you get there. Try carrying a water bottle everywhere. Try setting mini-goals (20 oz. by 10 am, 40 by noon). Try an app like My Fitness Pal. Try a cheesier app like Plant Nanny. Try fruit-infused water. Try tea. Try filling a gallon jug of water daily. Try whatever you need to try until you get closer to where you want to be. The real work is in finding the strategy that doesn’t feel like work.

 

Once you’ve figured that one out, choose another habit and stack it on top of the first. Ready to eat 5 servings of fruits and veggies per day? Walk for 20 minutes 3 times per week? Regardless of the goals you pick, this test-driving strategy means you’ll have the opportunity to make each change fit your life. Once you stack up all your new (and easy to stick with) habits, just think how much healthier you’ll be! Not to mention how much more enjoyable it will be than that “clean eating” cleanse you were thinking about trying…

 

3. Put your blinders on

This is the toughest part and it’s a total mental game. Your cousin’s on keto, your PTO pal is on paleo, and your fitness-nut friend is fasting 16 hours a day. They’re all losing weight and you’re over here working on your water intake. It can truly be maddening. Remember from before – most any diet will get weight off. Most any diet will not keep weight off. Remind yourself how many times you’ve watched someone (or you yourself have done this…it’s okay!) diet, lose weight, then gradually gain it all back and then some. All of these people you know are setting their bodies up to gain more fat in the long run. It’s sad, but it’s true!

So try not to let them influence you. It’s so, so hard, I know! I’m a dietitian – I’ve studied nutrition for 10 years – and I can still feel myself being influenced by social media progress photos from diets and supplements that I know are not safe or effective. It is a battle. But it’s a battle worth fighting, because even if keto is the perfect fit for cousin Kathy, you are not Kathy.

You must find your healthy life.

That means that you eat what works for your body, your family, your budget, your lifestyle, and makes you happy. Put in the work to find out what that is, and you’ll be so pleased with how easy it can be to be healthy!

 



 

Related Articles

How to Make Healthy Changes that Actually Stick

To Diet or Not to Diet: 5 Ways to Know if an Eating Plan is Right for You

What to Do When Your Healthy Plan Falls Through

Goal Setting Wellness Tips

eating well on a budget

 

While some sales come and go without warning, stores discount certain items on predictable sale cycles. These usually line up with holidays, seasons, or annual events (think back to school, etc). One way to lower your grocery (and overall household) budget is to work with the sale cycles as much as possible. Whenever a food or item is on sale, stock up! Buy as much as you can fit your budget and pantry and will reasonably use in the following year.

Produce, of course, also goes in and out of season. In-season produce is cheaper, more delicious, and more nutritious than out-of-season produce (which is usually picked before it is ripe and transported long distances to get to you). If your budget allows, purchase in-season produce in large volumes to preserve for the rest of the year. Food preservation is much simpler than you might think! Stay tuned, because I’ll be talking more about how to preserve foods to save money and boost nutrition in a future post.

Meanwhile, use this handy list to help guide you to a stockpile of useful items and nutritious foods, all purchased at rock-bottom prices. I’ve saved hundreds of dollars each year (and simultaneously upped the nutrition factor of our food) by following these sale cycles.

Click here for a free printable version of the list.

 



Sale Cycles

January

Food: broccoli*, cabbage*, tangerines/mandarins*, oatmeal, yogurt, chips, soda, Christmas candy

Household: exercise and fitness equipment, supplements, electronics, winter clothes, wrapping paper, Christmas decorations

February

Food: oranges*, kale*, biscuits, cinnamon rolls, canned goods, chocolate

Household: televisions, toothpaste/toothbrush, contraceptives, perfume

March

Food: avocados*, spinach*, frozen foods

Household: cleaning supplies, bleach

April

Food: bananas*, ham, eggs, Easter candy

Household: kitchenware, vacuums, cleaning supplies

 



 

May

Food: condiments, pickles, chips, hamburger patties/hot dogs and buns

Household: sunscreen, towels, paper/plastic plates and utensils

June

Food: strawberries*, watermelon*, milk, yogurt, condiments, pickles, chips, hamburger patties/hot dogs and buns

Household: sunscreen, paper/plastic plates and utensils, tools

July

Food: raspberries*, blackberries*, marionberries*

Household: sunscreen, aloe, paper/plastic plates and utensils, outdoor furniture

August

Food: cherries*, blueberries*, zucchini*, corn*, tomatoes*, cereal, lunch meat, cheese

Household: school/office supplies, clothes (including socks and underwear), tissues, bleach wipes, camping equipment, linens, pillows, towels

September

Food: peaches*, pears*, apples*, green beans*, live herbs

Household: school/office supplies, lawn mowers, barbecues, cellphones

 



 

October

Food: pumpkin (fresh* or canned), acorn or butternut squash*, potatoes (including sweet potatoes)*, candy, baking ingredients

Household: muffin cups, kitchen/baking utensils, tires

November

Food: turkey, boxed stuffing, baking ingredients, gelatin, marshmallows, gravy, broth, canned soup, canned green beans, Halloween candy

Household: toys, aluminum foil, electronics

December

Food: candy, baking ingredients, sweetened condensed milk

Household: wrapping paper, toys, batteries

 

*Produce seasonality varies by location. Click here to find a seasonal produce chart for your state.

 



 

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3 Easy Steps to get Started Couponing

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How to Meal Plan to Save Time and Money (with free printable meal-planning template)

 

Eating Well on a Budget Wellness Tips

use coupons effectively 101

 

Ahhh clipping coupons – a pastime that might conjure images of a raised-in-the-depression housewife from the fifties, snipping up a newspaper to save pennies on bread or canned soup. Today, though, I often hear complaints that clipping coupons is just not worth it, because there is usually a generic product that I still cheaper. I had the same issue for the longest time – why bother with taking the time to hunt out and clip coupons if it just doesn’t bring the cost down enough? I still desperately wanted to bring my grocery budget down as far as possible, so after some research on couponing for beginners I learned that there are some simple yet crucial steps to using coupons effectively.

1. Find Your Coupons

The more coupons you have, the better coupons will work for you. Find your coupons and choose a way to store/organize them that works for you. If you don’t know where to start, try a coupon binder. You’ll need to keep your coupon stash updated to get the best value out of it!

Here’s where you can go to stock your coupon stash:

  • Good Ol’ Sunday Newspaper – This is my personal favorite. Sunday newspapers have a significant chunk of coupons inside, both from grocery stores themselves and from manufacturers. If you really want to go for budget gold, buy an early edition Sunday paper or get your Sunday paper for $1 from the Dollar Store, but you can also subscribe to the Sunday paper only and have it delivered to your home.
  • Coupon Websites – Did you know there are entire websites devoted to printable coupons? There. Are. Tons. I’ll give you just a few that I’ve had success with in the past:
  • Manufacturer’s Websites – This can be a little more hit and miss, depending on the manufacturer, but if there is a specific brand of product you know you want to buy, it never hurts to just pop over to their website and see if they’ve got a nice little discount for you.
  • Valpak/Mailers – Most likely, you already get these coupon packs in the mail, but if you don’t, you can request an envelope full of coupons here.
  • Store Coupon Clubs – Depending on where you shop, your grocery store of choice may offer coupons and/or discounts of their own. Often these are now in the form of an app (like Safeway’s Just for U or Fred Meyer’s self-named coupon app). You can also check out individual store’s websites for printable coupons.

 



 

2. Stack Them Up!

The key to getting the best value is to not just take a coupon and slap it on a product you want to buy. Much of the time, there is a generic option that still ends up cheaper than the brand name with a coupon.

The trick is stacking. In most stores, you can use two coupons on the same item, so long as one is a store coupon and the other is a manufacturer’s coupon. To maximize the value, you can also stack these on top of a sale price (to know for sure, check your grocery store’s website to find their coupon policy, and read the fine print on the coupon). Here’s an example of one such deal:

 

coupons for beginners

Large can of beans:

Original price $1.25

Sale price: 99¢

Manufacturer’s coupon: 50¢ off

Store coupon: 25¢ off

New price: 24¢

You can find these kind of deals by matching up your store’s weekly ad with coupons in your stash, but there are also coupon websites/blogs like The Krazy Coupon Lady where people go to post the deals they find for specific stores so you don’t have to find them for yourself! Why recreate the wheel?



3. Stock Up

Most coupons allow you to purchase more than one item at the discounted price. Whenever you can fit it into your budget, purchase the maximum amount that the coupon allows (provided that you will use the product). You can know for sure how much you can get by reading the coupon. There is usually some text that will say “Limit ___.” Buy as many as are allowed and fit your budget.

Purchasing several products at cheap, stacked coupon prices means you will have a pantry full of items (purchased at rock bottom prices) to use for weeks to come. That’s how to get the best bang for your grocery buck!

So there it is – couponing 101! You can get started couponing with just this little guide, but if you really want to dive in to the depths of coupon discounts, check out The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Couponing by The Krazy Coupon Lady. Give coupon stacking a try – it can be a lot less work (and save you a lot more money) than you might think!



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prevent food waste to save money

 

Wouldn’t you love to know how to keep produce from going bad?

We’ve all experienced the sad breakup – when you look in your produce drawer and see the wilting broccoli you bought two weeks ago looking sadly up at you.

You were going to eat me for snacks, remember? I was going to be good for you!”

But,” you think, “you’re past your snacking prime! And I already have dinner plans that don’t involve you. Tomorrow’s not good either. I don’t know when I’ll get around to eating you.”

You sigh…and if you’re a conflict avoider, you slide the drawer shut to deal with it another day. If you’re a rip-the-Band-Aid-off person, you toss it in the trash right then and there. All your good intentions, all your dreams for your broccoli relationship dashed, and all that good grocery money wasted.

I know you know what I’m talking about.

It is frustrating to see a piece of produce nearing the end of its usable life, knowing that you will not realistically have a chance to eat it before it sees the other side.

Well, I have a solution: catch-alls!

 



 

I’ll tell you how it works. Let’s go back to poor Mr. Broccoli. He’s laying there, wanting to be nutritious, but you know he doesn’t have a chance in the next few days. Right then, you place him in your veggie catch-all container. This is a large plastic container or gallon zipper bag full of all of your previous veggie good-intentions-gone-bad. Then they all go in the freezer to commiserate together. Don’t worry about peeling, chopping, dicing, stemming, or anything right now (unless you have time). Just toss the whole darn thing in the bag and put it in the freezer. Keep a separate container for your fruit catch-alls.

 

food saving hack to save money
Some of your produce may change color when you freeze it – it’s okay, it’s still good!

 

Then, when your catch-all bag is full, put a catch-all on your meal plan for the next week. Catch-alls are meals that you can make with just about any combo of frozen fruits or vegetables past their prime, but not yet covered in fur. Here are some examples:

Veggie Catch-alls: stir fries, soups, curries, breakfast scrambles/frittatas

Fruit Catch-alls: smoothies, compotes (just simmer diced fruit in a pot with some cinnamon – add a little water if they aren’t juicy fruits – until it thickens, serve alone or over ice cream!)

Catch-alls make it so that you don’t necessarily have to do anything with the produce the minute you notice it is on the way out. Often, you don’t have time right then to do much about it, but you can take a second to toss it in the freezer. Then, when you use the catch-all, you have an entire meal’s worth of produce that you don’t have to buy!

Here are a couple of tips to make catch-alls work their very best:

  • If your catch-all meal requires slicing and dicing, take the catch-all bag out to thaw about 30-40 minutes before you need to prep the produce. You don’t want them totally thawed (they’ll be soft and messy to cut), but you don’t want them frozen solid either.
  • There are certain types of produce that work best in certain types of recipes. For example, frozen mushrooms work best when diced small. Greens are best used for green smoothies or for soups after they’ve been frozen (I keep these in a separate container from my veggie catch-all bag for this reason). You’ll learn some of this by trial and error too.
  • If you have a second to peel a banana before putting it in your fruit catch-all bag, do it. Trust me on this one. They are much easier to peel before they’ve been frozen.

To get you started, here are a few recipes for good catch-all recipes. You can exchange the produce in the recipe for whatever you have!

 

VeggieRed Curry Soup

FruitGreen Pumpkin Pie Protein Shake

VeggieSalmon and Red Potato Hash with Dijon Aioli

 

Give it a try – you won’t regret saving all that money and keeping all that food out of the garbage!

 



 

Related Articles

The Must-Try Meal-Planning Hack to Stop Wasting Food and Money

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How to Meal Plan on a Budget (step-by-step walkthrough)

 

Eating Well on a Budget Wellness Tips

budget meal planning bulk shopping

 

Last week, I walked you through how I meal plan on a budget of $100 per week for a family of four. I’m going to walk you through my meal-planning process again, this time for a stock-up week. If you haven’t read that first post yet, start there, because I’m not going to explain each step this time. I am going to show you how I stay within budget, even when I need to stock up on more items than I did last week.

 

Besides the amount that I’m buying, the main difference between a “stock-up week” and a “top-off week” is that I make sure to go to a store with an excellently-priced bulk section (Winco) for a stock-up week. Buying items in bulk is not only cheaper, but more customizable, and prevents food and packaging waste. Buying food in bulk allows you to select the exact amount that you need, want, or can afford, and can help make staying within budget much easier. I’ll start with a quick walk-through of the meal-planning process, then I’ll show you how bulk buying makes my $100-per-week grocery budget possible.

 

save money bulk foods

 



 

So here we go! Follow along with my budget-conscious meal planning process this week:

 

Know your budget

If you read last week’s post, you’ll know that my grocery budget last week was $85 for a “top-off week.” Since this week is a stock-up week, my budget will be higher. Today I’m working with a budget of $115. That gets me to an average of…you guessed it! $100 per week.

Utilize food distribution programs, if you can find them.

 

This week, pickin’s were more slim, so I only ended up with a nice little green bell pepper and a bag of chips.

 



 

Shop Your Cupboards/Pantry/Fridge/Freezer

Here’s where I’m at this week:

Need to use up:

  • mozzarella cheese sticks
  • a few random Swiss cheese slices
  • leftover tomato sauce
  • lots of dinner leftovers – I won’t need to buy any lunch stuff for this week
  • salad
  • baby carrots & other snack veggies
  • deli meat

Available:

  • dried grains: pasta, rice, quinoa, oats
  • dried chili beans
  • trail mix
  • lots of canned goods
  • cheese
  • 1 gallon milk
  • potatoes, onions

 

Use a master list

For stock-up weeks, I use a “supermarket staples list” that I modified from a post on Pinterest.

 

meal p

 

This lists all of the things I like to always have in stock (plus a few that I rotate through, like snacks). On stock-up week, I skim through the list and go through my kitchen to make sure I don’t miss anything that we might need or might be out of. Add them to the list!

Take stock and decide what to make

Tonight is our monthly “family fun night,” where we go to a local restaurant/arcade and hang out, so that covers dinner. Since I need to use up tomato sauce and cheese sticks, I’ll make a family favorite – pizza rolls – that uses both of those. We haven’t had fish in a while, and Winco has some really affordable salmon, so I’ll grab some of that and we’ll have steamed broccoli and mashed potatoes with it. Thursday’s a busy evening so I’ll make that a crock pot meal. Maybe a pot roast with some of those baby carrots. Friday I know we will be at a high school football game, so we’ll probably snack at home beforehand and maybe grab some snacks at the game.

That’s okay to do, by the way, just in case any clean-eating policeman ever told you it wasn’t. 

Aaaand for breakfasts I’ll use that lunch meat and extra cheese to make some breakfast sandwiches.

 



 

Make your shopping list (include estimated prices)

After going through my stock-up list and the meals for the week, here’s what my list looks like:

 

affordable healthy food meal plan

 

Click here for a copy of this shopping list/meal planning template.

On a stock-up week, I try to leave a bit of budget room for whatever meat might be on sale that week. Sale meat at Winco can be a heck of a deal, so Winco trips are good opportunities to stock the freezer.

My estimated costs for this grocery trip were only $92.50, so I’ll add ~$23-25 worth of sale meat to the list. If we weren’t going to be eating out of our restaurant budget for two meals this week, I probably wouldn’t be able to do quite so much but in this case it worked out.

 

Shop!

As I was shopping, I had some extra room in the budget, so I tossed in an extra dessert and a few snack foods that I’ll save for next week. We have a part of our pantry where I save up food when I get a good deal or have extra room in the budget. That helps each week be a little easier budget-wise, since I’ve always got odds and ends saved up in there.

 

cheap healthy food for a family of four

 

Here’s my haul, for the grand total of $114.04! I love when it comes out so perfectly. 

If you haven’t already, go check out part 1 of meal planning on a budget – both posts are important to understand the whole picture! And stay tuned for more tips on eating well on a budget!

 

Related Articles

 

How to Meal Plan to Save Time and Money (with free printable meal planning template!)

The Must-Try Meal Planning Hack to Stop Wasting Money and Food

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Eating Well on a Budget Wellness Tips

reduce food waste

 

Today we’re talking about one of the most infuriating things that can happen to you when you’re working hard to stick to a food budget: food waste! You’ve been there – you take all the time to meal plan, budget accordingly, shop carefully, and then…10 days later, your beautiful broccoli is limp and gray, your spinach is slimy, and – do you smell that? Yep, it’s half of a tray of raw chicken leftover from Monday’s meal. To the trash it goes!

Few things are as obnoxious and maddening as tossing beautifully budgeted money and carefully chosen nutritious food into the trash because it made its way to the depths of the fridge and was forgotten. All those good intentions, covered in fuzz…

A few years ago, when we were really focusing on getting our household budget zeroed in (here’s lookin’ at you, Dave Ramsey!), I was working so hard to get our food budget down that I would about lose it if I had to throw food away. Especially – and Heaven forbid – expensive meat! I had to come up with a solution to stop wasting food and money. So I played around with a bunch of different options until I found a flexible fix that actually takes less work than what I was doing before. It is definitely worth a try if you, too, are sick of tossing good money in the trash.

 



 

If you read my meal-planning-on-a-budget post, you may have noticed that there were two dinner plans that might seem a little strange: “scrounge” and “whatever.”

 

budget meal plan

 

These are two days that I schedule into every week’s meal plan as built-in “use up” days. These dinners are specifically set aside for the sole purpose of eating up food that is already in the fridge (in our house, we affectionately refer to them as “Whatever Wednesday” and “Scrounge-It Sunday”).

Use-up days serve a few purposes: 1) it gives the chef(s) in your house a day off, 2) it pleases the free spirits in the family who like to eat what they “feel like” eating, and 3) it gives you the chance to dig things out of the dark corners of the fridge and pantry before they start to become fuzzy.

Because fuzzy food = dollars wasted.

So plan at least 1 (possibly 2) use-up days into your regular routine. Trial-and-error will help you figure out how many is the right amount for your household. Too many and you’ll be short on food, too few and you’ll be tossing fuzzy food (aka money) right in the trash.

 



 

When a use-up day rolls around, we usually approach it one of a few ways:

  1. If we have a lot of leftovers that need using up, we dig into all the corners of the fridge/pantry, pull out all the stuff that needs to go, and put it on the island/bar/table. Then it’s a free for all!
  2. If there’s a variety of leftover options but not so many that we desperately need to eat certain things, then everyone just gets what they want to eat for dinner out of the fridge.
  3. If there isn’t much already made or if I have a hankering to be creative, I will sometimes use leftover ingredients to toss together something easy. This can lead to some interesting combos, but they usually turn out tasty! Chopped-up cheeseburger patty with roasted vegetable garlic pasta, anyone? 🙂

Ultimately, the goal is that your perishable ingredients basically get wiped out every 1-2 weeks. This keeps you from having to toss all that great, paid-for nutrition, and keeps your fridge tidy and fuzz-free!

Sidenote for those with kids:

Depending on how old your kiddos are, use-up days can be a fun opportunity for them to learn and practice nutrition and balanced eating.

  • Ages 4-8: Sort the options into piles based on their food group (fruit, veggies, dairy/dairy alternatives, protein, and grains). Challenge your child to eat one from each for a complete meal! This also helps assuage the inevitable mom-fear that your one child (you know the one) will eat 7 yogurts and nothing else. Sometimes I offer a special use-up day dessert for those who choose something from all 5. This gives them a chance to learn and think about food groups, and you a chance to see what they tend to choose on their own!
  • Ages 9+: You can still challenge your kiddos to hit all five food groups, though they likely won’t need the visual of the sorted groups at this age. You can take advantage of use-up days to host your own cooking show-style challenges using the ingredients that need to be used up. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just throw something together as a family with the ingredients you have. This helps kids enjoy and be creative with food, all while learning to cook!

 



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Eating Well on a Budget Wellness Tips