Eating healthy isn’t reserved for the rich and famous. You can feed your family on a budget without resorting to boxes of processed macaroni or worse — the drive-thru. Keep reading for tips on how to make it happen while utilizing the best seasonal foods available.
Cooking can be a hassle, which is why the line at McDonald’s is so long by noon every day. But if you set your kitchen up for culinary success, you won’t have to stress the question of “What’s for lunch?” Here are some things to keep in mind:
- A clean kitchen is a cook-able kitchen. Your daily kitchen cleaning routine should leave your kitchen counters clear and your sink empty. Instead of shoving used skillets into the oven and out of sight, take the time to wash them and put them away so they will be ready for the next use.
- Your cookware matters. Look at your pots and pans as an investment in your culinary creativity. Choose a quality set from a trusted brand such as All-Clad, Bulbhead, or Cuisinart. Consider also investing in handcrafted kitchen utensils or cutting boards to ensure you’re using natural materials as well.
- A full fridge isn’t always the best option. While making sure your family has enough food is absolutely a priority, giving them too many choices may be sabotaging your health and efforts to eat properly. Make sure your fridge is stocked and not over-stuffed with healthy foods
- Gauge your space needs. If you don't have enough storage to keep your counters clean, consider some upgrades. Add extra cabinet and drawer space, invest in a new oven with a convection feature, and top it off with a stainless steel range hood. These chances can pay off not only when you're cooking, but also in the event you ever need to sell the home.
- Keep recipes handy. The last thing you want is to constantly misplace your recipe in the midst of cooking. It slows you down and can lead to burned or overcooked meals. For cookbooks, use a cookbook stand and a marker to keep your page open and easy to access. If you’re using cooking videos, make sure to have a folio case for your tablet or phone to prop up your device, and adjust your settings so your screen doesn’t turn off every 60 seconds.
Keep these items on hand to ensure you never have a boring breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
- Spices and seasonings. The way you season a dish can turn it from bland to grand. Something as simple as a chicken breast can be turned into your children’s favorite food. Keep an assortment of sea salt, peppercorn, sage, rosemary, vanilla extract, allspice, basil, oregano, and other shelf-stable flavor boosters.
- Eggs, yogurts, and grains. You can use items such as eggs, grains, and yogurts as the focal point of each meal instead of relying on fatty meat. A breakfast of steel-cut oats topped with fresh fruit is a great way to grab the kids’ attention first thing in the morning and keep them from begging for a snack by 9 a.m.
- Extras. Light but filling snacks, such as bananas, cherries, apples, and celery, are heart-healthy alternatives to chips and cookies. Eating Well offers more information on how to properly store fruits and vegetables.
Seasonal foods not only taste better but, when bought locally, have a more intact nutrition profile for your palate’s pleasure. Grab the kids and make a weekly pilgrimage to your local farmers market for:
- Fresh produce. During the summer, food such as tomatoes, watermelon, peppers, potatoes, and onions are in season. For fall and winter, look for hearty squashes, dark greens, root vegetables, apples and pears.
- Homemade snacks. Farmers markets are filled to the brim with local artisans peddling their culinary creations. Buying handmade snacks is a better option than grabbing a box of sugar-filled, processed cakes from the grocery store shelf. But always ask if the food was actually made by the seller. It is not uncommon for vendors to purchase re-branded bulk foods, which don’t offer the same health benefits as small-batch snacks. Better yet, make your own.
- An education on food. A true farmers market offers an unlimited supply of knowledge where food is concerned. Let your kids ask questions about the growing process. They may be curious as to why food grown locally doesn’t look the same as their grocery store counterparts.
It is possible to keep your family healthy throughout the year with a well-stocked kitchen. Although it takes a little bit of preparation, the payoff is that you and your family don’t succumb to the junk food blues.