The Quintanas, Week 10: Healthy Equals Easy -- and More Economical!

Filed under: Healthy Families Challenge

Quintanas Week 10 Picture

Finding the good, even in the deluge. Credit: David Quintana

Four children, a full-time job, community involvement and one very energetic, carefree husband can add up to one dizzy woman.

In truth, the Healthy Families Challenge has been tough to follow some weeks due to the occasional chaos in our household. I have always been fairly organized, but through the program I have gotten even better. I've learned that being orderly not only helps me stay sane, but also saves us money.

Since I was very young, I have always been the type to put up schedules and make lists for everything. I guess my brain was preparing for my future.

One thing that has been helping me is my rule of working with a weekly menu. I always create a menu because, come grocery-shopping time, it makes my job easier. I scan it for items I need for that week's meals and add them to my list. The menu helps me get organized with meals and helps my family save money. You go to the store with a list of exactly what you need, instead of wandering aimlessly and purchasing a smorgasbord of things that make no sense together. (I'm the type that stands in front of the fridge, trying to decide what to make for dinner and ending up not wanting to cook anything, so, the menu also solves that problem. I just have to check it and start cooking.)

I must admit that, when we started the Challenge, my fear was that healthier food would cost us more. Apparently, a lot of people have that misconception. Whenever I talk to the people around me what we have committed to as a family in this project, they say, "Wow, but that's expensive, isn't it?" What they don't realize is that healthier is actually less expensive.

Convenience is expensive, America!

A trip to McDonald's for the average family of four runs close to $30. Canned foods -- packed with sodium, which is horrendous for the heart -- can cost twice as much the fresh version in the produce aisle. A two-liter bottle of soda is up to $1.50 for the name brand; tap water, straight into a glass or through a filter pitcher, is much less expensive (and actually a lot easier, since you don't have to lug it home).

Feeding a picky family of six is not easy. In this economy, we cannot afford to piddle away money like it grows on trees.

During Week 3, I was blessed with a trip to the local grocery store with our nutritionist, Su-Nui Escobar. On this adventure, I learned I was looking at labels completely wrong. I had been checking carbohydrate and sodium levels, the bad stuff, but totally missing the stuff we do want, such as fiber and protein.

I also realized how much more money canned and boxed items can cost.

Needless to say, I purchased protein-rich whole foods in favor of those packaged and packed with sugar and salt, and tons of fiber-rich fresh fruits and veggies, including apples, pears, spinach and -- my daughter Chloe's favorite -- peppers.

Su-Nui, by the way, loved my menu strategy, since it makes me less likely to buy unhealthy snacks and sweets on impulse because I'm hungry. Better for our health and better for the pocket book!

Here on some other money-saving tips I've learned from friends with large families. Believe it: These strategies have helped us cut our grocery bill from $900 a month to around $700 a month:

1. Never go to the grocery store hungry. Try to go immediately following a meal.

2. Create a menu and a list before shopping. Stick to it.

3. Use the front and back page of the sale flyer to create a weekly menu. Items here are normally priced very economically -- if you see items you regularly use on sale, this is a good time to stock up.

4. But, try not to buy anything just because it's on sale.

5. Healthy snacks, like popcorn or fruits, costs a lot less than chips and cookies.

6. If you have the time clip coupons! And try to take advantage of those double- and triple-coupon days.

7. Most stores now offer savings cards. My local favorites are Winn Dixie, Lowe's Food Stores and CVS -- your supermarkets and drug stores probably have them, too. They are free. Use them!

8. Cut your husband's portions! Wait, does that only apply to me?

Happy Savings!

Who's the rest of the competition? Check out all the challengers' latest updates here.



How is the Quintana family doing? Check in on their progress!

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