Sunday, November 27, 2011

Making a lot of healthy food when time and money are both on a BUDGET!

Now, you want to cook a healthy meal for you and your family, but your time and money are both on a budget. Our grandparents knew how to stretch a meal, but as we got busier, worked longer hours, and convenience foods became more...convenient we forgot this information. Here are some tips, refreshers, and suggestions!

Adding Veggies
Ironically, most of us are wondering how to get more vegetables into our diets, and yet adding veggies to meals is a great way to get food to stretch. Nothing wastes money like throwing out food that's about to go bad, and usually because you don't know what to do with it. Chop the veggies up and add them to soups, stews, spaghetti sauce, homemade pizza, eggs for a nice veggie omelets, or on top of rice or pasta as a stir "fry" or pasta primavera.

Crockpot Cooking
Throwing a bunch of stuff into a crock pot is another great way to not only make a delicious, healthy meal, but also to throw it together in the morning and have dinner already ready for you at night! There are free crockpot recipes online, including low fat recipes, low sodium meals, diabetic recipes, vegetarian meals, and even crockpot cooking for 2 people (when you don't want a lot of left overs). It is also a healthy way to cook, and slow cooking keeps the vitamins and antioxidants happy and full of power! Also, if you think crock pots are for soups and stews only, think again. I make breads, sauces, desserts, meatloaf, and pot "pies." Try it!

Cheaper Meats
Another way to stretch food is to buy meats still on the bones. Now, while it DOES take time to get it off the bone, that just means that you should use this time wisely. I spent $4.99 on chicken breast on the bone with skins (4 large pieces). I took the skins off since that is where most of the saturated fats are (bad fats), and cut the meat off the bones into nice pieces. I then massaged them with yogurt butter (half the calories of regular butter, but just as tasty)...and who doesn't like a massage? Then I sprinkled on salt, pepper, and paprika, and baked them. While that was cooking I boiled up some water and tossed in the bones with the scrap meat on them. Unless you are a professional chef, you're not going to get that close to the bones so there is always a little meat still on it. When that was cooked, I removed them from the water and added some carrots that were getting soft, celery, a left over onion, garlic and seasoning for a few minutes. While it cooks you remove all the left over bits of chicken from the bones - it's more then you think. I got a little more than a cup. You add the chicken to the broth and throw in any left over little half bags of frozen veggies in your freezer. You can add rice or pasta (I used 1 cup of whole wheat elbows). Lastly, don't forget to remove the chicken from the oven and serve with rice and salad or cooked veggies! So for about 7 bucks I have dinner for my family, left over chicken for sandwiches, or on top of a salad or potato, AND enough soup for the next few days - oh, and I didn't waste my money by throwing out all the veggies in the fridge! Also, because I cooked two meals at once, I definitely saved time:) You can also freeze some and have a healthy pre-cooked meal to make on some crazy-busy day later on.

Last tip: add a can of beans! These lovely little legumes (fancy word for things in the bean family) add color, protein, are low in fat, high in nutrients, and fill up tummies for about $1. They are great in soups, salads, rice, pasta dishes, and can be added to ground beef to make it stretch in all kinds of dishes like tacos, lasagna, stuffed peppers, burgers, or casseroles. You can also use them for one of your meatless meals! Happy eating:)

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