Healthy meal ideas for family of 4 can be challenging since you need to make sure you’re around 4 meals a day. Healthy meal ideas for family of 4 shouldn’t require a lot of time in the kitchen either, because you want to spend more time with the members of your family.
HOW TO FEED A FAMILY OF 4 FOR $100 A WEEK
Grocery prices are skyrocketing. Suddenly, your usual grocery haul is costing 20% to 30% more than it did just a few months ago.
Less food for more money. What is your plan?
In fact, you can feed a family of 4 for less than $100 a week.
THIS $69.79 MEAL PLAN LEAVES SOME WIGGLE ROOM IN YOUR BUDGET
I paid $69.79 for all of this food – enough to feed a family of 4 for a week:
Because I came in under budget (the goal was $100), there is some wiggle room for you to buy snacks, beverages, and additional foods.
HOW TO DO IT
Where you shop matters.
I did 95% of my shopping at ALDI. The only grocery items I didn’t buy there were lentils and ready-cooked bacon off the grocery store salad bar. Walmart is also a great place to buy cheap groceries.
- This meal plan is comprised almost entirely of affordable, easy-to-find pantry staples
- This meal plan makes great use of leftovers
- Snacks: Carrots are peeled and chopped and celery is chopped – these are intended for snacks as well as ingredients in many of the recipes below. Additional bananas and apples were purchased for snacks.
These recipes assume that you have pantry staples stocked in your kitchen, such as cooking oil, butter, basic spices (garlic powder, taco seasoning), basic sauces (soy sauce, mayo), salt, and pepper.
If you have to purchase these items, the total cost will be higher than $69.79.
OPTIONAL ITEMS: SAVE $$$
The shopping list below covers the basics. But there may be additional ingredients listed in the recipes I’ve linked to below.
For example, the bacon fried rice calls for fresh ginger and chopped green onion. These are both optional ingredients. If you happen to have them, add them to the recipe. If not, you can skip them and save the money – the recipes will still taste great!
- Breakfast: Perfect scrambled eggs (2 eggs per person, use half and half instead of heavy whipping cream), ham, and avocado slices
- Lunch: Sandwiches and deli meat + veggie sticks
- Dinner: Homemade chili (use 2 cans of chili beans, avoid buying extra chili toppings – save leftovers for tomorrow)
Prep for tomorrow: Save leftover chili, prepare slow cooker apple oatmeal, hard boil 4 eggs
- Breakfast: Slow cooker apple oatmeal (refrigerate leftovers)
- Lunch: Hummus with veggie slices and hard boiled egg
- Dinner: Leftover chili over roasted sweet potatoes
Prep: Slow cooker salsa chicken cooks in 3 to 4 hours on high, or 5 to 6 hours on low. Plan accordingly.
- Breakfast: Leftover slow cooker apple oatmeal
- Lunch: Sandwiches with deli meat, veggie sticks
- Dinner: Slow cooker salsa chicken, Mexican-style rice, black beans
- Breakfast: Denver omelette (2 eggs per person, use half and half instead of heavy whipping cream) with diced ham, onions, and peppers (learn how to make a perfectly fluffy omelette)
- Lunch: Tomato lentil soup
- Dinner: Leftover salsa chicken tacos on flour tortillas, topped with shredded cheddar cheese
Prep for tomorrow: Cook 3 to 4 cups of rice for bacon fried rice.
How do I start cooking healthy for my family?
Block time out of your day for cooking.
When raising a family, cooking is a necessity. It’s not practical nor cost-effective to take the kids out to eat every day. All you need to do is realize this and set aside some time in your day to devote to crafting some nutritious meals.
Maybe you’re just learning cooking, so you need to spend a little more time creating your routine – or if you’re an avid cook already it might take a little less time.
Just do some reflection and thinking and figure out how much time you have to spend every day and go from there. Then, it becomes part of your day as opposed to a burden or an additional thing you have to do.
Cooking family dinner doesn’t have to take all day, either. Let’s talk about a few ways to massively reduce the amount of time it takes and streamline the whole process so your family can eat well and you don’t have to sacrifice hours each week to make it happen.
Buy a variety of food.
Too much of almost any one thing isn’t healthy – and it’s certainly boring. Be sure to buy all different types of food: starch, chicken, meat, salads, fruits, vegetables, healthy snacks like granola or yogurts, berries, nuts, and much more. This is especially important to keep the kids satisfied.
Sure it’s easy to eat the same thing every day, but will the kids like it? My guess is no. So, try for some variety! But keep this in mind too…
Strive for a balanced diet with fruits and vegetables.
Variety is good and with variety comes balance. Be sure you’re eating all the different types of foods in healthy quantities. But there are so many food pyramids out there.
Most pyramids suggest eating mainly fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, with some dairy and protein mixed in each day. They also suggest that you limit the amount of sweets and saturated fats you eat.
One of my favorite, and one of the most thorough food “pyramids” that I’ve come across, comes from Australia. In this article written by a design professional, he critiques today’s food pyramid and suggests we follow Australia’s healthy eating plan.
Lead by example.
If you’re eating unhealthy, you’ll provide them with unhealthy food. Kids follow their parents’ lead, so they’ll begin to develop unhealthy habits. But no need to worry: you can form a healthy habit too!
If you struggle with healthy eating, just start small. Maybe you want to limit yourself to just eating out once or twice a week. Maybe you start by adding just one serving of fruits and vegetables a day to your existing eating habits. Whatever will successfully start is what you should do.
Then over time, you’ll develop a habit and make more changes and continue to eat more healthily! You’ll see this have an impact on your kid’s eating habits too. After all, they only eat what you make!
What are some healthy meals for kids?
We’ll start with breakfast and walk you throughout a typical day with some nutritious meals for your family that are easy to make too!
A balanced breakfast is so important to start the day off right.
For kids young and old, Denver omelets are a great option. A Denver omelet is an omelet with diced ham, green bell peppers, and onions. I like to add mushrooms in mine as well. You can always go with the standard fried or scrambled eggs, but this way, your kids get some of their vegetables to start off their day!
If you’re looking for something a little heavier, you can add cheese too – but this is optional. My favorite is cheddar.
Denver Omelet with Mushrooms
Time to make: 5 minutes or less
- 2-3 eggs
- Green peppers
- Red peppers (optional)
- Mushrooms (optional)
- Cheddar cheese (optional)
Without the cheese, you can cut down on your calorie intake. If you’re not one for omelets, try oatmeal and yogurt, too! You can add all kinds of fruits and veggies to either of those for a healthy and quick option that everybody loves.
Oatmeal and Yogurt
|Servings||Amount of Milk or Water||Amount of Salt||Oats|
|1||1 cup||dash||½ cup|
|2||1 ¾ cups||⅛ tsp||1 cup|
|6||5 cups||¼ tsp||3 cups|
Time to make: 10 minutes
- Bring water or milk to a boil.
- Add oats and let them cook for 5-6 minutes. Stir occasionally.
- Remove from the heat, cover with a lid and let it sit for 2-3 minutes.
Oatmeal is healthy mainly because oats are 100% whole grains. For some added sweetness, I love to add a little brown sugar, too. But not too much!
Yogurt is a really easy breakfast meal too. I recommend original yogurt since it doesn’t have a lot of calories to begin with. Original Yoplait Yogurt, for example, has 170 calories and 1.5g of fat, while their Light yogurt has 90 calories and 0 grams of fat.
Unless you eat several yogurts a day, the original yogurt is great to implement into your diet. Otherwise, go with nonfat or light!
Now onto lunch. What kid do you know that doesn’t LOVE chicken nuggets? I found this great easy recipe online that’s just three steps. It takes less than 30 minutes to prepare these delicious nuggets and your kids will love them. And they are actually healthy. Yeah!
And here are the instructions:
And, of course there’s the classic grilled cheese and tomato soup combo that everyone loves. But it’s in the spicing up of these sandwiches that really makes people happy and allows your family to enjoy a custom meal!
I love to add ham to mine, and this way you can give your kids the protein they need.
I also found a great recipe for shrimp grilled cheese below.
All you need is shrimp, cheese, bread, and butter. You can use whatever cheese you like. This writer used extra sharp cheddar to give her sandwich a little kick.
And she used Trader Joe’s Sprouted 7 Grain Bread for the bread. But of course, any whole wheat, whole grain, or multi-grain bread are good options for your grilled cheese.
The day’s almost over and it’s time for dinner. But no need to stress, thanks to my chicken teriyaki rice bowl.
- 2 cups of water
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup of white rice
- Chicken tenders or chopped boneless skinless chicken breasts (4-6 ounces per person)
- 1 sliced onion
- 1 sliced pepper
- Special sauce
- Place two cups of water into a pan and bring the water to a boil.
- Cover the rice and reduce the heat. Let it simmer for 20 minutes.
- While the rice is simmering, you can make the vegetables and your special sauce. If you don’t want to use the restaurant-style teriyaki sauce, you can use Yoshida’s, but it is not as thick.
- Chop 1 onion and 1 pepper and put them into a large stir-fry pan.
- Add 1 tbsp of olive oil and cook on high heat until the vegetables are slightly brown and appear crispy.
Pro tip: You can also add three cloves of minced garlic for extra flavor or a tablespoon of store-bought minced garlic.
Note: Stir-frying produces a lot of smoke and heat, so hopefully you’ve got a powerful range hood to improve your kitchen ventilation. As you’ll be cooking on such a high-heat, be careful not to overcook the vegetables.
One thing I love about this recipe is there is no need to use instant rice, which is often dehydrated and includes preservatives.
How to Make Time for Healthy Meals
This is a trick question. As you can hopefully see by this point in the article, a lot of healthy meals don’t take that much time to prepare! Healthy eating is more of a mindset than a time sink. The time it takes shouldn’t hold you back.
Yes, it’s not as quick as buying a McDouble from McDonald’s, but what’s the hassle of 10 minutes to make a veggie quesadilla? Everyone can spare 10 minutes in their day.
Making a family meal plan will help increase your efficiency, too. You won’t have to decide what you are going to eat every day.
Developing other healthy habits will help you find time for healthy meals too. You won’t see it as a chore to cook healthy meals; rather it will become part of your lifestyle.
What else can I do to stay healthy?
Try to exercise two to three times a week, even for just short amounts of time. Run, go to the gym, do some yoga, soccer, basketball…whatever you like! Just find something that you can commit to over time.
With consistent exercise, you’ll start to become more conscious of what you put into your body. A triple burger from McDonald’s probably won’t sit well after a four-mile run. So in a way, the exercise will do some work for you by helping you form healthy eating habits.
Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all.
Occasional drinking shouldn’t result in any negative effects, but too much alcohol can result in liver damage, heart damage, and slurred speech, among other drastic effects on the body.
Consider not drinking for a time. See how it makes you feel. I know a few people who don’t drink at all after they started on a health kick and they have never looked back. And you can save quite a bit of money too!
Here’s How a Registered Dietitian Meal Preps for Her Whole Family For a Week
With recipes! Yes, the food is delicious all week, and no, it’s not a time suck.
Healthy eating can sometimes be seen as something that only people who are highly motivated and are willing to spend tons of time on their meal prep. However, healthy eating can become an easy choice with a bit of planning. My—and my family’s—secret to eating healthy isn’t the fact that I’m a registered dietitian. The trick is that I make time (a bit, not a ton!) every week to meal prep. In fact, during those weeks that I don’t get around to meal prepping, it becomes challenging to eat balanced wholesome meals. During non-meal prep weeks, we are more likely to eat out and also end up eating fewer veggies because they’re not ready to grab during a busy day. I believe in a balanced approach when it comes to a healthy lifestyle, where all foods can be enjoyed (some in more moderation than others). Meal prepping allows us to eat healthy most of the time and also plan out when we want to eat out, have dinner with family on the weekends, etc.
If you’re on Instagram, you may think of meal prep as beautiful pictures of meticulously-portioned out meals. While that may work for some people, when you have a family, are super busy, or just want to limit the amount of time you spend prepping, meal prep looks a little different.
I cook for myself, my husband, my 3-year-old, and my 9-month-old. Meal prepping for a family can feel overwhelming but in the long run it actually makes healthy eating throughout the week a lot easier.
When I’m thinking about meal prep, I actually don’t start with choosing recipes. I start by thinking about my main concerns about prep: That I don’t want it to suck up all my free time, that I don’t want to get bored with what I made halfway through the week, or that the food won’t taste fresh. The cornerstone of my meal prep planning is based on making it logistically simple and not too time-consuming and based on prepping in way that will mean delicious food all week long. The most important thing is food that tastes good, whether we are eating the meals on the first day or finishing up meals a few days later
Here are my tips for making that happen.
1. Don’t grocery shop AND prep on the same day.
I try not to do everything in one day because otherwise it can get very tiring and overwhelming. I do my groceries on Saturday and my major meal prep on Sunday. I may cook a few extra things mid-week if we’re running low on food.
2. Make different recipes using the same ingredients.
This will help you save money and also decrease food waste since you are using up all your food. You will notice I used peppers and mushrooms in the egg muffins but also roasted them and then cut up peppers to have raw as well.
3. Plan your menu so that your whole family eats everything or at least most of it.
Take into consideration likes and dislikes, but don’t get too wound up in trying to please everyone. Sooner or later, they’ll get the hang of eating what is made for them rather than feeling like you have to cater to every single family member. I have implemented this since my oldest daughter started eating solids and it has made life a lot easier. I made sauteed green beans and at first my 3-year-old refused to eat them but after seeing all of us—including my 9-month-old—eating them, she finally agreed to try them. To her surprise, she enjoyed green beans too.
4. Store dishes separately in airtight containers in the refrigerator.
It seems like it’ll be easier and quicker to just throw aluminum foil on the pot or over the pan. But investing in and using airtight containers will prevent your food from going bad and help it taste fresher for longer.
5. Reheat food on the stovetop rather than in the microwave.
While this adds a few extra minutes, I find that even if the food is a few days old, it tastes a lot fresher when heated in a pan on the stove top.
6. Choose recipes that allow you to cook multiple dishes at once.
For instance, bake sweet potato wedges at the same time as roasted veggies and spicy salmon.
7. Line all baking trays with aluminum foil or parchment paper.
This will help minimize clean up.