For many single moms, time and money are in short supply, making mealtime an unneeded stressor. You want to feed your kids healthy meals but would rather not break the bank in the process. Convenience foods are tempting. They’re both quick and inexpensive, yet many are laden with sodium, fat and cholesterol. But when you spend some time at the grocer, you’ll begin to notice that healthy doesn’t always mean costly. So stock up on nutritious, multipurpose staples, like brown rice, whole-grain pastas, dried legumes, frozen vegetables and potatoes, which then leaves the door wide open to fill in with other wholesome foods.
Doubling up your favorite recipes is one of the easier meal plans for busy moms. This limits the number of ingredients needed to prepare a meal, saving money on your weekly grocery bill. Plus, many foods freeze rather well. Lasagna, enchiladas, calzones, meatloaves, soups, stews, chili and other pasta dishes or casseroles can be frozen for a month or two without affecting their flavor.
Share the Load
If you or your kids aren’t fans of leftovers, consider teaming up with another single-parent family when doubling up on recipes. Each week, make twice the amount of one or two recipes and swap half with a friend. Both families save money by limiting the amount of food purchased, yet expand their menu — as well as time away from the kitchen — with the meal swap.
Make Two Meals in One
Make foods that can be the key ingredient in more than one meal. For example, roast a chicken one night and then use the leftovers for your kids’ chicken sandwiches on day two. The same can be done with turkey, beef or pork. Boil a pound of pasta and use half of it for stroganoff one night and the other half for a cold salad side on day two.
Have Breakfast for Dinner
In many families, breakfast for dinner is a treat. For single mothers, it can also be used to save a little dough. Eggs cost almost nothing, especially when you get them on sale. Private-label bread is often the same story. Make French toast, scrambled eggs and ham steaks for a change of pace.
Find Weekly Deals
Take a page from the extreme couponing handbook and plan your meals around the weekly deals at your grocery store. Even if you don’t plan on cooking it that week, stock up on sale items, especially those with a long shelf life. To make your penny stretch even further, hit the store on double coupon days. You might find yourself getting breakfast cereals, canned goods and frozen meals for free. In fact, two to three hours of couponing can save you 70 to 95 percent on purchases.
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Based in Minneapolis, Minn., Dana Severson has been writing marketing materials for small-to-mid-sized businesses since 2005. Prior to this, Severson worked as a manager of business development for a marketing company, developing targeted marketing campaigns for Big G, Betty Crocker and Pillsbury, among others.