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3 more ways to save on food–with kids

Jun 09, 2011 | | Comments Comments Off

Today’s MSN column focuses on “How to eat when you’re really broke.” It’s written for a general audience, but here are three more kid-specific ways to save on your groceries:

Make water the go-to drink. Don’t stock sodas or fruit juice, and limit milk to mealtimes. (Kids under 4 need two servings of dairy products a day; kids 4 to 8 need two to three; kids 9 to 18, four servings.) One cup of milk or yogurt or 1.5 ounces of cheese (think 6 dice-sized pieces) counts as a serving.

I used to be shocked at the idea of limiting milk—until I became a parent and saw how much a child who likes dairy will drink if left to her own devices.

Fruit juice is another liquid that’s easy to overdo. Many juices are loaded with sugar, and even those that aren’t have plenty of calories. Nutritionists tell us eating whole fruit is a better way to get our vitamins.

Forget the clean-plate club. A better way to control waste is to reduce portion size, and offer seconds if the child wants. Encouraging kids to keep eating when they’re full can set them up for eating disorders. And shrinking those portions means you can use leftovers for other meals, rather than fighting over uneaten food or scraping it into the trash.

I once watched a distracted mom grab a soup bowl, scoop about two cups of cereal into it and soak the pile with milk—before putting the meal in front of a two-year-old, who had about three spoonfuls before she declared herself “done” and toddled off. The mom probably would have had trouble finishing that much cereal. Often we don’t pay enough attention to how much food we’re shoveling into ourselves or onto our family’s plates, but cranking back can lead to dramatically less waste—and lesser waistlines, if that’s an issue.

Limit grazing. If you have athletes or teenaged boys in your house, you’ve probably come home to cupboards and a fridge that appear to have been cleaned out by locusts. (One friend’s son ate an entire loaf of bread in a single sitting.) Giving kids free range of the kitchen is expensive, and bound to lead to frustration when the ingredients you counted on for dinner have been hoovered up by Billy and his buddies. So stock a snack cabinet or shelf with healthy, relatively cheap options: air-popped popcorn, pretzels, whole grain cereals, raisins, peanut butter, apples, bananas and whole-grain crackers. Tell them they can have at those, but touching anything else will lead to dire consequences–such as cooking duties for the next week.

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