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How to eat healthy this summer while saving time and money

With summer fast approaching, parents are busier than ever chauffeuring our kids to and from summer camp, activities, grandma's house, play dates, and much more. Not to mention that most of us work full time jobs as well.

Planning your family's meals will save you time and money on wasted food, last minute and unhealthy drive-through visits, and not-so-good-for-you frozen meals. Here are five tips to consider when planning a healthier summer diet on a budget:

1.     Make a plan.  As hard as it is to find a second to breathe this summer, not planning your meals and creating a shopping list to go with it will cost you time and money.  If you experiment with new recipes, keep them to 30-minute meal recipes.  Getting your kids involved and interested in planning their favorite meals is a great opening to talk about food, introducing them to new dishes and spending quality time together preparing the actual meals. You can always subscribe to a family friendly menu plan for a few cents a day.

2.     Grill once eat twice.  Grilling is a very healthy, fast, and simple cooking method. Homemade burgers, kebabs, and chicken breasts are three very easy to make examples of fast grilling meals. Since you have a plan for the week, try to grill another night’s meal in advance and store in the fridge for later.  Making vegetable kebabs? Grill additional vegetables to serve as a side with grilled chicken the next day.

3.     Make-ahead breakfast.  Why not have a breakfast-for-dinner once a week and use that as an opportunity to make extra pancakes or waffles you can freeze?  Instead of grabbing a granola bar or sugar filled breakfast convenience item, toast up a delicious waffle you made on a previous night and spread some homemade Nutella for example.

4.      Pack healthy snacks.  Snacks are one of those things we always need to have on hand as a parent but packaged items can get expensive! I am a firm believer on messing up the kitchen once and getting lots of things done.  You can make mini kitchen sink muffins, homemade nutritious granola bars, cookie dough bites, brown rice krispy treats, and homemade fruit roll-ups in 1-2 hours and have snacks for weeks.

5.      Make drinking water fun. Sports drinks, juices and sodas are not only filled with sugar and artificial ingredients but they also get expensive. In hot summer days, water is your best thirst quencher.  You can add fruit to your water and make fresh aguas frescas. 

Making sure your family’s meals and food budget don’t fall off the cliff this summer comes down to planning. It only takes an extra hour a week to plan ahead and cook ahead so that weeknight meals are a breeze and you don’t feel frazzled and unprepared.

About the Author:

Laura Fuentes is the Chief MOM at MOMables™.  A wife, mother of 3 and a lunch enthusiast who insists on healthy, wholesome food for her family.  On her personal blog, Super Glue Mom, she writes about motherhood, green living, deadlines and keeping her cool, even when her kids super-glued her hair.  She’s also a food contributor to numerous sites, and helps parents overcome the difficulties of cooking for picky eaters.