Healthy Kid Meal Plan on a Budget
The key to keeping your sanity, keeping money in the bank, and ensuring your child actually eat the food in front of them is this: SIMPLICITY.
Do not scour Pinterest for 100 ideas of what you should feed your child, just stick with the basics. Remember that real foods are simple foods and that everyone should consume a rainbow of colours each day.
Kids thrive when they know what to expect. Meals are no exception! Your little one can help you decorate a menu to keep on the refrigerator so everyone knows what will be served for the week ahead. The easiest thing you can do is to create a theme for each day of the week and rotate easy meals.
Monday: Chicken Mondays
Tuesday: Taco Tuesdays
Wednesday: Pasta Night
Thursday: Breakfast for Dinner
Friday: Fishy Fridays
Saturday: Pizza and a Movie
Sunday: Family Choice
(Just an example, feel free to create your own themes, as you know your child the best!)
Make meal prep easy:
Buy in bulk and plan for at least 2 weeks (preferably a month) at a time. You can pick up produce weekly, but everything else can be purchased in one larger trip and frozen.
Take one afternoon a week to prepare and portion breakfast, lunch, and snacks for the week.
Always make a large enough dinner to last another night of leftovers – or to be turned into another easy meal.
Include your toddler or young child in your kitchen cooking adventures. A child who helps is more likely to eat.
Empty the pantry and cabinets of processed, junk foods. They are addicting and one of the reasons young children refuse to eat whole foods.
If time is hard to come by in the early evenings, consider making freezer meals. Again, keep them simple.
Food is expensive, so it is very important to utilise everything you purchase. Buying meat in bulk, out-of-season vegetables frozen, and sticking with in-season fruits will help the budget. When buying pantry items, only purchase what will be eaten. Cheap lunches like peanut butter sandwiches can become even more budget-friendly when your peanut butter jar is large enough to last an entire month or more. The same idea applies to all pantry items: maple syrup, nuts, applesauce packs, etc.
Remember that your freezer is your best friend. Muffins, waffles, smoothies, cooked meats, and so many other options can be frozen and pulled out the night before.
Having themes is a great start, but what to actually cook?
A whole chicken gives you more bang for your buck than any pre-cut sections do. Throw that sucker into a crockpot with some seasonings and turn it to low for 6 hours. You now have the option of making your own broth too (money saver!). Cooking a whole chicken each week will provide two dinners worth of meat. You can stretch your meats even farther by adding beans and lentils for extra protein. Most kids won’t even notice the additions. You can use the leftover dinner meats and mix them into a macaroni and cheese for lunch, or dip them in hummus, or make an easy oven baked nacho. Cut up fresh fruit on the side and call it done.
Fish can be fried, baked, or broiled. Wild caught, frozen options may be less expensive than fresh. If you throw a combination of rice and quinoa into a pot with peas (or other vegetables), you’ll have a deliciously healthy, kid-approved meal!
A smoothie can get expensive to make, so stick to the basics with yoghurt, frozen fruit, spinach, and milk. You can get as fancy as your budget will allow. Smoothies give you the opportunity to eat the rainbow and sneak foods in that aren’t typically consumed. It is also a great way to hide probiotics or a vitamin!
Other great ideas:
- Eggs can be eaten in so many different ways, and they are cheap! Protein is a necessity to fill up the belly, so include eggs whenever possible.
- If your child only loves two vegetables, rotate them and add a few pieces of something new every so often.
- Interactive meals like dipping vegetables into hummus, dressings, mashed potatoes, etc are fun and a guaranteed win.
- Portioned bags mixed with nuts (protein), dried fruits, cereal pieces, and granola are great to grab and go as you walk out the door.
- Skip the juices and stick with water to save money.
- Local butchers may give you a competitive price, if not, join a wholesale store such as Costco (Warehouse Club if you’re in Singapore) and portion foods before freezing.
- Spice up the adult portions of meals with a sauce or seasoning after you pull the child’s portion from the dish. You can have them taste yours before hearing them complain about it on their own plate.
About the Author
Elizabeth is a researcher, author, and content writer for My Baby’s Heartbeat Bear, a brand that makes recordable stuffed animals to listen to your baby’s heartbeat. She spends her days as the ringleader of a never-tiring circus; one full of tightrope walkers, nerf gun shooters, mess makers, and danger-seekers. Elizabeth is currently expecting baby #5 and homeschooling the rest of her tribe. She exists on toddler kisses, caffeine, and tears of (panic) happiness.