Prepackaged, grab-and-go organic meals—from frozen entrees to salad bars—offer convenience and portion control, but they ultimately cost more than a home-cooked meal.

Sure, I’ll occasionally buy prepared foods like roasted beet salad and falafel plates at my local natural and organic food store, but I limit such purchases to extremely crazy-busy days. Most weekends, I’ll prepare a large pot of soup or double the recipe for a dinnertime entrée and freeze leftovers for future meals, which saves time and money.

For some busy families, purchasing prepared foods—especially prepackaged fruits and vegetables—may be worth the additional expense. This is particularly true if convenience encourages families to make more nutritious choices, says pediatrician Robert D. Murray, MD, director of the Center for Healthy Weight and Nutrition at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, OH.

But if you want to stretch your food dollars in the new year, Dr. Murray suggests purchasing bulk items and individually packaging them at home for single-serving, on-the-go snacks.

Plan snacks ahead of time, and be sure to combine food groups to maximize nutritional value. For example, place whole-grain crackers and low-fat cheese in small storage containers. Peel and cut carrots into snack-sized pieces, and drop them in containers with a few teaspoons of peanut butter.

And be sure to pay attention to portion size to avoid serving up too much of a good thing!

Photo courtesy of Whole Foods Market