The Challenges Of Having A Picky Eater On A Limited Grocery Budget

What do you do when your kid only wants to eat junk? You think outside the (fast food) box.

Buying groceries on a budget can be very frustrating with a child. I try to purchase as many fruits and vegetables as possible and keep away from pricey packaged goods. Having a daughter who is possibly the pickiest person on the planet puts added stress on my limited budget. One moment she loves carrots and the next week, it's as if they are the worst food on the planet. My daughter’s constantly changing taste buds are costly and I’m often at a loss as to what to feed her.

It is a common dilemma for parents to be caught between trying to feed their children healthy foods and at the same time make sure they don’t go hungry. My daughter wants to eat vegetarian chicken fingers, breaded goods and candy. Broccoli isn’t even an option and she believes that sauces are full of blended and poisonous vegetables. I am forced to make many bribes to ensure she gets minimal nutrients and I'm often left exhausted after she finishes a meal.

For many years, I refused to give in to her madness, and would only purchase fancy health foods. I was under the impression that if it was the only thing offered, she would eventually break down and eat it. Instead, all that occurred was food ending up on the floor or walls, and both of us in tears over the money wasted on my strict shopping list. The hardline approach clearly wasn’t going to work for my strong-willed young diva. I went to sticker charts next. We divided the chart into the each of the food groups, and my daughter received a sticker for each fruit, vegetable, or grain she ate. This worked much better and helped us get on track, though she still refused to try most new things.

Recently, I have decided to take a balanced approach between letting her have free reign with her diet and trying to enforce a healthy-foods -only menu. Each shopping week, I make sure to purchase her go-to staples. This way, I always have certain foods in the fridge that are reliable and I’m not wasting my money. My daughter’s go-to foods are not unhealthy either. She is more open to fruits, and apples, bananas, and oranges are always available. I purchase one weekly fast-food option such as a frozen pizza, vegetarian chicken strips or another option. This food choice is a good back-up if the new, healthy dishes are a bust or we are having a quick dinner that night. Only purchasing one or two packaged foods avoids breaking the bank as well because these items on the grocery list are often the most expensive.

Then we move into the new foods. My daughter and I try one new meal a week. We discuss it in advance, buy the ingredients together and then cook as a team. She even has a chef outfit that she loves to wear for this ritual. When she is involved in the process, she is more willing to try the food. Shopping for the ingredients together and showing her the prices also helps her to understand that the food costs money and needs to be eaten. An important note though is my daughter is five years old now. When she was younger, connecting food to a price tag would have been difficult. Understanding that eating and budgets are important is increasingly getting easier for her to comprehend as she gets older.

Another fun way to help make my grocery budget more effective through buying healthy foods is the preparation process. My daughter and I have a collection of mason jars, and we cut up and divide vegetables and fruits into the containers for easy access. She loves the jars and is much more likely to eat the bright fruits and vegetables that are already cut up and ready to be consumed. Blending vegetables into smoothies and sneaking healthy options into baked goods also helps save costs and keeps her tummy full.

Fresh foods are essential on the grocery list and much cheaper than packaged alternatives. I am always looking for new ways to convince my daughter to be more open to the delicious options that fruits and vegetables provide. I am vegan and she is vegetarian, so it's vital that she eats enough vegetables and legumes. Every week feels like a learning experience, but the most important thing is to not lose faith. Eventually, she will eat and I will compromise with her and let her eat veggie chicken fingers until she is ready for a lime coconut lentil stew or any other delectable vegetable dish. 

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