Getting kids to eat well can be hard. For parents on a budget, the challenge can be overwhelming. There are things a parent who is struggling with money will have to face that their well-off counterparts might not consider. Will the food I buy be wasted? Can I afford an alternative option if my child won’t eat it? Do I have the facilities to prepare and cook different foods? Can I afford the gas bill? As parents we want the best for our children. What we fuel them with is critical to their future well-being, and fuelling them with the correct foods is one of the most important things we can do. So here are some tips for managing that on a budget:
Buy at the end of the day, when shops are closing. Daily shopping can save money, and offer variety. The choice of marked-down produce changes each night. Look for reduced stickers – Tesco will reduce prices by up to 90% for food going out of date on the day of purchase; Lidl reduce by 30%, etc. For vegetables, one day past a best-before-date isn’t going to suddenly turn them toxic. Buy them at night to eat the next day.
Get creative. Get your child involved in shopping and preparing the vegetables. Try to ‘Eat a Rainbow’ when you can. Peppers, tomatoes, sugar snap peas, even red onion(!) can all become a rainbow of produce. Make it fun!
Don’t force your child to eat, but do continue to offer an array of vegetables, and get them to always try ‘one mouthful’. It can take 15-20 exposures to a food before a child will accept it won’t kill them (really, some kids think peppers are poison). You want to create a positive relationship with food, and this grows from continually experimenting. If your child hates boiled broccoli, try cutting it smaller and flash frying instead. Many kids will eat something when it’s prepared differently.
Grow whatever you can. You’ll won’t yield enough on a windowsill to feed your child, but you can grow enough so they can enjoy tasting. Let them pick at the veg. I love baby pepper plants, and my children would ‘steal’ the veg as soon as it was ripe. Let them steal – let them learn vegetables are a premium product for them to sneak off with, like biscuits!
Scour markets and forage. Markets and greengrocers are fantastic. They allow you to buy only what you need, lessening the risk of waste. Forage for herbs and wild plants like garlic and rosemary. Use them to add flavour to dishes and make memories for free by using the time to bond and spend quality outdoor time with your child.
Don’t be scared. Your child won’t starve if you stop feeding them oven-baked nuggets. I promise. Have fun changing habits, and don’t let the tantrums get you down when they invariably happen. Remember it is a big change to overhaul a diet, and it takes time. Don’t give in – you’re doing the best for your child!
Stretch meat with veg. Grate watery veg like courgettes or carrots to make mince go further, meaning you can buy less. It even makes burgers and meatballs softer and tastier! Use lentils, beans or chickpeas instead of some (or all) of the meat in a recipe. Use meaty vegetables like mushrooms, aubergines or roasted cauliflower “steaks” in place of meat occasionally.