Family Food Budgeting and Meal Planning If we are to understand the problems of families whose members suffer from malnutrition, it is essential that we know something about the family budget. In families with a low income, the budget is usually very tight. However, this situation can also exist in many middle class families, especially those living in the cities, where food costs are high. It is not unusual for the head of the family to say that before he even sees his pav packet, the money is spent. This is not surprising when one considers the bills which must be paid every month, for the budget must include: the house rent, the electricity and gas bills, money for kerosene or firewood, food, transport fares, general maintenance of the home, clothing, school fees, medical fees, allowance for domestic help, tax, petty cash, entertainment allowance and allowance for dependants. Also, most people try to save a little money. It is the duty of every nurse as a counsellor to encourage the mother to plan her family's meals. This should ensure that the basic nutrients for good health are provided in a variety of appetising ways. To provide variety, the different classes of food should be utilised and the methods of cooking varied, for otherwise eating soon becomes a dull routine, and children very quickly become bored and refuse to eat monotonously presented food. Furthermore, planning of meals reduces costs because it means that foods in season can be chosen. Also, hunger is more easily satisfied with cleverly prepared meals. With meal planning, left over food can be utilised in a different way before it spoils, thus avoiding wastage. Food can be bought in bulk because in this way it is cheaper, although storage facilities must be adequate to prevent attack by domestic pests such as rodents. With careful planning, every member of the family should be able to eat the same meal and so minimise costs and save fuel. The number of meals eaten by the family should be considered when planning meals. Most people eat three meals a day with light snacks in between. However, some people eat only twice a day and others once daily. Those who eat once a day may tend to overload their stomachs and this will result in abdominal discomfort. Growing, lively children and working adults, whose tissue cells are very active, definitely require regular and frequent supplies of nutrients, and so need to eat at least two to three times daily and take light refreshments in between. Each meal does not, of course, have to be large. Some people prefer their main meal in the afternoon while others like to eat their main meal in the evening, when the whole family is together. It should be remembered, however, that a heavy meal at night time may interfere with sleep, especially in older members of the family. Breakfast is usually a light meal which should consist of body-building, energy-giving and protective foods. An example of this meal, using local foods, could be pap (with milk and sugar), and fruit juice. If required, buttered bread, and tea, can also be given. Margarine may be used instead of butter. The mid-morning refreshment could consist of roasted corn and groundnuts, or a milk drink and biscuits. Lunch, if it is to be the biggest meal of the day, should contain plenty of proteins, such as fish, meat or poultry, an energy-giving food to help satisfy hunger, for example yam, rice and protective foods, such as vegetable soup, oranges or bananas, and water to drink. A mid-afternoon refreshment could take the form of roasted plantain and groundnuts, or a slice of pineapple or any fruit in season, and a glass of milk. Supper, for those who eat a heavy mid-day meal, should be fairly light. It should consist of body-building foods, any seafood, liver, corned beef, shrimps ,energy-giving food like fried plantain, bread, agidi or yam chips, and protective foods in the form of vegetables, perhaps in a stew. Ice cream or fruit may be served as dessert. Water should be given to drink. Around bedtime, a nourishing milk drink like Milo or Ovaltine may be served. Generally speaking, protein foods are the most expensive food items, especially those of animal origin. However, it should be remembered that plant proteins are also quite good sources of protein and certain plant proteins used together are good substitutes for animal proteins. With regard to carbohydrate foods, yam can be very expensive when boughtout of season, but during such times cocoyam is readily available and tends to be cheap, so the family could eat this instead. Rice and gari are easily preserved in air-tight tins and are therefore always available; the cowpea is a legume which can be a useful staple food. All these could be used more often when yam is scarce. Leafy greens and other vegetables like okra tend to be expensive during the dry season. Families could overcome this by planting their own vegetables, making sure that they receive adequate water. There is usually plenty of fruit, for when one fruit is out of season, others are available. Oranges tend to be very expensive in the cities during the Muslim fasting period; this is because most families break the fast with them and so the demand for them is increased. However, as the fasting period lasts for only four weeks, extra money might be made available during this period. It is difficult to say exactly how much a family would need to spend on food weekly, because prices fluctuate. When buying food, women should be guided by the family's nutritional requirements and the nutritional value of the foods they buy. In this way, they will have the satisfaction of knowing that they are using the food budget wisely and helping to keep their family healthy. The importance of good food in maintaining good health cannot be overemphasised and it is often true that good health brings wealth and happiness.
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