Tuesday, January 13, 2015

As bills from holiday spending or overspending start piling up, you may be looking at ways to save money.  Believe it or not, making healthier eating choices can help your bottom line.  Avoiding the “drive thru dinner trap” is a great way to keep you eating healthy and making smarter financial decisions.  No need to panic, with a little planning and preparation you will be successful.

As I mentioned last month, I love a good deal but in order to save money and make good eating choices you need to first, TOSS THE COUPONS.  You know the ones I am talking about, “Buy a large pizza and get free breadsticks” or “Get a free drink with your purchase of a burger and fries.”  When eating out, you and your family are more likely to overeat and overspend (those .99 add on items add up) when a healthier, less expensive meal can be found in your own kitchen.

Second, PLANNING.  The biggest contributor to successfully avoiding the drive thru lane is planning. Schedule meals for a week or month at a time.  If it’s going to be a busy day and not much time to prep your food, plan a slow cooker meal that you have frozen ahead of time or pack something to have on the go.  Time Saver: If cooking some protein, plan two meals to utilize it.  For example, lean ground beef for taco salad, season half, then use remaining for taco soup or lasagna roll ups. Grilled chicken can be used atop a salad, then added to stock for chicken noodle soup.  If lunch time is the culprit, try these 90 no heat lunch ideas here.  Keep in mind with drive thru meals, you typically don’t end up with left overs.  You either eat it all or toss it.  Planning makes your dollar stretch much farther.

Third, FREEZER MEALS.  Once you have planned out the weekly or monthly menu, identify meals that could be prepared, then frozen.  When cooking the meals, make a double batch and freeze in either single serving portions or enough for your family. Then when time is short or you’re too exhausted to cook, you’ll know you have a quick healthy meal ready for you at home. (Find 20 make ahead meals here, or unprocessed meals here.)

Fourth, keep an EMERGENCY “storage” in your car, bag or at your desk.  This can be something you replenish daily or food that could last for the week.  If you’re feeling really ravenous, grab a quality granola bar or fruit leather from the glove box.  This can satiate you enough to get home for dinner and make finding a drive thru less appealing, when you have a good snack to tide you over.

Lastly, keep some HEALTHY SNACKS and quick meals at home.  If it’s late at night, you don’t have to grab a Dollar Menu sandwich.  Keep your money in your wallet and come home for a smaller, yet nutritious meal.  This could be anything from nuts, low fat cheese, whole grain bread and of course fruits and vegetables.  Make sure to pair a protein with a fiber and you’ve got a meal that can sustain you until breakfast. Find some ideas here.