|(Photo from livelighter.org)|
During one of my pregnancies our family had all kinds of "fun" stuff going on like unemployment, moving, and starting a business. Though stressful, it gave me the opportunity to learn some tricks about eating as healthy as possible even when money was tight or non-existent.
I realize these won't work for everybody. Maybe you are a vegetarian, or you don't have any room for a garden, or no time for baking. Or maybe these are even a little too expensive for your situation. But take what works for you and use that to make your pregnancy as healthy as you can with what you have. Lots of these work well with growing young families too.
Make your own broth-
Making your own broth is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to add extra nutrients back into your diet that ordinarily you would just throw away. Also, you save money not buying canned broth which is full of sodium and MSG.
I like to make mine with chicken bones or a carcas. People tend to like eating only chicken breast, but if you are broke, they cost SO much more. Buying the cheapest chicken, legs or thighs usually, or a whole chicken is FAR cheaper. You can almost always get them for 99 cents a pound or less.
Make the meat one night and then save all your bones, (and skin if people don't eat it.)
That night, put all the chicken leftovers in a crock pot and cover with water. Throw in a little white vinegar- maybe 1/2 a cup or more. Turn it on high and let it cook about 24 hours. The cooking combined with the vinegar is said to pull the nutrients out of the bone. (I also cut or break my bones before hand.) There is a lot of nutrients in the marrow that we normally toss, but if you cook it this way, you can use it. (You can also make vegetable stock with the leftover pieces of veggies. Just keep a container handy in your fridge and make stock once a week.)
Divide your broth into containers and put in your fridge or freezer to use later instead of water or commercial broth. Soups, rice, beans, sauces, pretty much anything that would have used water can be replaced with homemade broth. It will add flavor and nutrients and costs you nothing to make.
Rice and Beans-
When you get tired of rice and beans you can switch it up and make beans and rice.
Seriously, we still eat this at least once a week. Soaking your own dry beans and then cooking them in your crock pot all day is much cheaper than buying canned beans. They are actually about the same price in the bulk organic bins at my local health food store as they are in bags at the grocery store.
Make them with your broth, an onion, some garlic, and seasonings, and you have a cheap complete protein. My kids beg for rice and beans. If you can afford it some cheese and sour cream, tomatoes and greens on top make it taste better.
Again, you can use your broth and cheap veggies. If you have some meat you can throw it in there too. I usually make home-made biscuits with mine just because then everybody likes it better. Soup is a great way to get vegetables in, especially if you need more greens. As far as nutrients go, you can often find carrots, celery, and greens at decent prices. Which brings us to our next idea.
If you have space for a little garden, you can save some money on vegetables during the summer. We got a lot of vegetables from our garden last summer. Why- because I grew the stuff I knew I could actually grow, which was....
Zucchini is super easy to grow, hard to kill, and it produces like mad. You can throw it in pasta sauce, soup, bread, pancakes (shredded), eggs, casseroles, and even make a fun zucchini boat. Even one plant can produce a lot and help your budget. They like lots of sun and water though, so if you pay a lot for water that is a consideration. You can even shred it and put it in the freezer in bags for zucchini all year long!
Depending on where you live, gleaning may be an option. There is an entire street in my town lined with walnut trees and they just fall on the ground and rot. Yes, you look homeless, but there is a lot of nutrients and protein in walnuts. Free is about as cheap as you will ever find them. You can even take the kids. Then open them and freeze them.
Sometimes if you live in an area where there are crops, they let people go after the harvest to get the extras. You can get pounds of fruit or vegetables that way. If you are really talented, you can even can your own fruit.
Eggs are a very cheap source of protein for a pregnant mama. Protein rich foods tend to be more expensive, so people who have less money tend to eat lots of carbs. But eggs can be added to carb rich dishes to get some more nutrients.
Eggs can be stirred into hot dishes like plain oatmeal, batters, even macaroni and cheese, in order to increase the protein you get. Even if you aren't a huge fan of eggs, you won't notice them in these dishes.
We eat a lot of pasta because...pasta is cheap, and it has the added benefit of the kids loving it. Plus, it makes you feel full. When I am pregnant though, and I need more nutrients I would make my own pasta sauce.
The cheapest way I found was by buying those HUGE cans of crushed tomatoes at a store like Costco. They usually cost under three dollars and yield around 4 jars or more of pasta sauce. Add your own cheap vegetables (like zucchini) onions, garlic, and whatever you have on hand.
To add extra protein, we would put cottage cheese on top of the pasta and sauce. It just kind of tastes like lasagna, without all the work. Cottage cheese isn't super cheap, but the price per gram of protein is usually less than most meats you would buy.
Cut out the junk-
Sometimes people are broke, but still spend a dollar here and there on candy. This is extra food that doesn't feed your body nutrients, but still costs money. The dollar you spend on the candy or gum could have bought a few bananas instead. Rather than spending money on things that don't feed you good stuff, switch it out for something healthy.
What are your tips for cheap and healthy meals for families? Add them in the comments-