Moms of littles-listen up! Your days of making regular recipes for you and your spouse, sharing a few cut up bites with your tiny ones and having leftovers for days will come to a screetching halt. One morning you will reach into the fridge, certain there is a fresh gallon of milk (or two), only to find 6 measly drops! Want to grab an apple on the way out the door? No chance! In the mood for some toast? Too bad- NO BREAD! Most families have years to grow into larger meal planning and growing portions sizes, and in some ways we did too, but it also felt like overnight, our grocery needs were multiplied many times over.
There was one unique factor for our family. As regular readers may know, our family has recently grown through adoption. It took 3 years to bring our son home from Central Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and by the time he arrived, he was 9 years old, joining his 10 year old brother and 12 year old sister. Now my bio kids had been gradually (obviously) been growing and eating more, etc but suddenly, like overnight-there was no food anywhere. Has this happened to anyone else? Like literally one day my kids were content with a snack size bag of cheerios and now they need 3rd lunch! Growth spurts all around combined with active kids created constant need for a stop at the store.
My coping mechanisms are not rocket science but here are some tips for saving money and sanity, and I think they apply for a wide range of ages (even adults)! It’s really important to me that we aren’t just adding filler to our lives (in more than one way) and I strive to make eating and nutrition a cognitive and mindful experience:
- smaller strategic snacks-if I’m not home when they get off the bus or not paying close attention, this means they are inclined to basically eat dinner at 4:15, they’ll have a series of snacks or most of a bag of pretzels, and when dinner is served at 6pm-no takers! This is problematic for multiple reasons, but one is that if they don’t eat much dinner, they’re hungry again by 8pm! Our effort as parents is always to offer fruits and veggies first, then move on to a protein/ fat if they are truly hungry.
- my kids always think they need to fix hunger IMMEDIATELY- it’s instinctive of course but there is zero cognition of WAITING until dinner! I again try to encourage them to have something small and wait a few minutes.
- we are always working on identifying hunger vs thirst (i.e. especially if they have not had enough water during the day) and we really push water. It helps with a huge variety of issues from leg cramps to headaches to hunger and truly gives kids of all ages an opportunity to recognize and get in touch with what their body actually needs nutritionally.
- create healthy “filler” in your actual meals- in the old days mom would throw a loaf of white bread on the table or make extra pasta to fill everyone up and stretch a meal. Given what we know now about processed foods and their effect on kids behaviour, ability to focus, and overall health, we try to make things go further with produce. Making a chicken and broccoli casserole? Add an extra cup or two of broccoli. Want to include a starch? We love brown rice and quinoa. You can also bulk up a recipe with kale and spinach, especially mixed in our eggs
- let kids help-making meal prep a family affair keeps the focus on the meal to come. Kids can cut, stir and measure while also tasting a bit of what they are helping create. I think its a great opportunity to learn a new skill, and a perfect time to fill you in on their day.
Starting these techniques when kids are young is a great way to build a firm foundation of being in touch with true hunger vs mindless snacking/ eating, and it helps keep mealtime as the focus. What are some ways you encourage healthy eating while also watching the grocery budget?