For the past few years, I have been volunteering in a program called Cooking Up Energy, which is a program designed to teach children healthy cooking and eating skills and lower the rates of childhood obesity. Since then, so many mothers have been asking me for advice on cooking healthy meals for their families on a budget. Some of the obstacles mothers face are budget, time and the fact that their children do not like vegetables.

The first tip for working on a budget is to buy fresh produce in season and shop at local farmers markets. By buying what is in season and shopping locally, you are saving transportation costs and benefiting from eating produce in its freshest state – farm to table. The second tip is once the produce is home use it as soon as possible.

Some good tips for saving time are to wash and cut the produce when you are home from shopping. Although, you may have heard that once cut the produce loses some of its nutrients, however, having your vegetables ready to use will make it easy for a fast dinner preparation. The idea is to use all your fresh vegetables and throw them away because of lack of time. The next tip is to cook extra, make soups, or use a crock-pot. This is great for busy days when car poling and other errands are over whelming.

So now you are thinking, “This sounds great, but my children do not like vegetables and this all sounds like a waste of time and money.” Eating a diet of fresh vegetables and fruit along with lean protein is the best way to absorb vitamins and minerals. There are some easy creative ways to get your children to enjoy doing this. By teaching your children to shop and cook for the wonderful foods that someone took the time and effort to grow and raise is a fabulous way to teach children the life skill of preparing meals. Being part of the meal preparation gives children pride in what they have put together for the meal and gives them a desire to enjoy it. Children love to help cut up all the vegetables (I recommend knives that are made for children) and then arrange them in a salad or stir-fry. Also, enjoying family meals together and sharing all of the day’s events is a great way to end the day.

Although this may all sound like one more job to do, the benefits will far out-weight the extra effort. You and your children will be healthier by eating better quality foods, your family will have the opportunity to spend more time together and your children will learn a life skill.

Happy Cooking!

From: Dianne Cochrane