Teaching Kids to Be Healthy (and Frugal) in the Kitchen

It's so exciting when your kids learn to cook.  My 14-year-old, for example, makes one or two meals a week, and her favorite is breakfast!  We have had the opportunity to use meal preparation as a way to teach two very important principles with regards to meals: frugality and health!

One of the ways that I've tried to get my kids on board with spending less and serving better is to "makeover" some of the foods that they like to eat with more affordable, healthy options.  Here are my four favorite foods that I've made with the kids, along with how they can be used to reinforce these lessons.

1.  Pancakes.  Do you often fall back on "breakfast for dinner" when you've had a hectic day?  We do it often, and my daughter usually takes the lead on the pancakes (or even waffles.)  By skipping the pre-made pancake batter mix and creating our own batter, we save money AND we can substitute half the flour for whole-wheat flour or even add in a healthy bonus ingredient (like canned pumpkin.)  We love playing around with different recipes to see how we can make cheap and yummy meals!

2.  Chicken Nuggets.  It's a staple for school cafeterias, but in our house, we opt for healthier choices from the home kitchen!  Our chicken nuggets are simply cut up pieces of boneless skinless chicken breast, rolled in a coating of egg white and homemade whole-wheat bread crumbs and seasoning.  We bake them for extra crunch and less fat.  Did you know that they are also about half the cost of the frozen version?

3.  Tater Tot Casserole.  Normally made with cream of mushroom soup and lots of cheese, we've scaled back on the fat and salt by making ours with a homemade beef base sauce with green beans mixed in.  The homemade beef base is more affordable than canned soup, the meat stretches further with the green beans, and my kids get an extra serving of veggies, too!

4.  Pizza.  While I could make homemade pizza, it's sometimes easier (and more affordable) to take a basic frozen pizza and add fresh toppings!  We will buy a plain cheese, for example, and create a veggie pizza with peppers, onions, avocado  tomato, and black olives.  It would cost quite a bit to order take-out for this gourmet combination of toppings (and you really can't find specialties like this in your grocer's freezer.)

Kids will all grow up to be adults someday, and food will make up a substantial portion of their household budget.  By teaching them to be creative with their ingredients, you can help them stretch their future dollar AND create healthy lifestyle choices that will further decrease the cost of staying healthy down the road.  What recipe redo's would you like to share with your kids?

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