Each September, the country celebrates National Family Meals Month to encourage families to enjoy more meals together using items purchased at the grocery store. The Family Meals Movement, which was launched by the FMI Foundation in 2015 as a campaign to shine a light on the importance of family meals, has grown exponentially in recent years. Their goal for the public is simple: to pledge to have one more meal together, at home, per week. According to the Foundation, more than 8 in 10 parents say it is important to eat at home together as a family.
The benefits of gathering around the table to share a meal are positive and lifelong, according to research, which shows that children who grow up sharing family meals are more likely to exhibit prosocial behavior as adults, have higher grades and positive self-esteem, and are less likely to engage in risky behaviors, or become obese.
Budget Friendly and Nutritious
In our fast-paced world, it’s easier to grab fast food, or pizza, rather than face the prospect of preparing a home-cooked meal, let alone one that is budget friendly and nutritious, but it can be done and is easier than you may think. According Giant Company nutritionist Taylor Guskind, meal planning should start before leaving the house for the grocery store. How many of us fail to take inventory of our pantry and end up with purchasing more than we need of various products like sugar and flour? “Check on your staples like oatmeal and flour, then look at our weekly ads and coupons, which run in the paper and are also accessible on our app,” said Guskind.
Guskind also suggests keeping prices low by purchasing items in bulk. “A 10-pound bag of rice is cheaper per serving than Minute Rice, for example. You can cook a lot at a time, then freeze the rice in gallon-sized freezer bags and place them flat in the freezer, then thaw when needed,” she said.
Giant Company also features free virtual health and wellness classes that parents can tune in to over their lunch hour. Guskind’s next virtual class will be held on September 28 at noon. “Because orange is the color for Hunger Action Month, I’ll be doing a butternut squash taco, which will cost $5.44 for four servings,” said Guskind, explaining that it’s a budget friendly dish, which allows for two tacos per person. “The soft corn tortillas come in a 30-pack, so you’ll have plenty left to prepare the dish again,” she said.
Another tip Guskind offers is for families to skip the meat and add black beans for protein and affordability. She also suggests using canned goods, which are inexpensive compared to other options. “If you do use canned goods, try to find low-sodium options,” she said.
A family favorite in Guskind’s house is naan pizza, made with barbecue sauce, cheddar cheese, rotisserie chicken and red onion, which is baked and then topped with cilantro. “I serve it with a side salad, or a veggie for an inexpensive meal,” she said.
The FMI Foundation also offers an array of nutritious recipes for families on the go at their website at https://www.fmi.org/family-meals-movement/make-meals-happen/view/nfmm-news-page/2020/04/17/recipes-practical-easy-and-delicious
David Fikes, Executive Director of the FMI Foundation, stresses the importance of family meals and suggests parent visit their website at fmi.org for more helpful tips and tricks for making the most out of mealtime. “We have long known that family meals have a tremendously positive impact. In fact, just as our nation was being impacted by the pandemic, the most comprehensive study to date published in The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior demonstrated the undeniable value of family meals. It showed that more frequent family meals were associated with better dietary and family functioning outcomes,” he said.
Giant Company nutritionists offer a recipe for a side dish and a sweet treat with orange as the theme for September’s Hunger Action Month.
Whipped Orange Sweet Potatoes
- 4 sweet potatoes
- 1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
- 1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
- Zest of 1 orange
- 1/3 cup half-and-half or light cream
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 large eggs
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and spray baking dish lightly with cooking spray.
- Microwave sweet potatoes until tender when pierced with a knife. Remove from the microwave and set aside until cool enough to handle.
- Scoop the flesh of the sweet potatoes into a large bowl and discard the skins. Add the butter and beat with an electric mixer until smooth.
- Add the orange juice and zest, half-and-half, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and a few grinds of black pepper.
- Beat to combine, then taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
- Add the eggs and beat on medium-high speed until the mixture light and fluffy, 1-1/2 to 2 minutes.
- Transfer the sweet potato mixture to the prepared baking dish and smooth the top with a spatula.
- Cover and bake until puffed and slightly golden, about 25 to 35 minutes.
Orange Pumpkin Cookies
• 1 stick butter
• 1 1/2 cups sugar
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
• 1 egg
• 1, 15 oz. can pumpkin
• 2 1/2 cups flour
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1 teaspoon cinnamon
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1 package chocolate chips
1. Cream butter and sugar with electric mixer.
2. Add vanilla, egg, and pumpkin.
3. Add dry ingredients.
4. Gently fold in chocolate chips.
5. Bake at 350 for 14 minutes.