Eating healthy means different things to different people, but in this article, I will give you many helpful tips for eating quality foods that provide protein, healthy fats and carbohydrates. You will find money saving tips and delicious recipes that will stretch your food budget. Use the same principles and create your own money saving recipes!
General Money Saving Tips
Meal Planning Tips
You can save money by planning meals ahead. You will be less likely to feel the need to eat out and less likely to spend impulsively at the store. Begin by planning around food you already have in your freezer or panty. Another way to plan is by considering what is in season since those fruits and vegetables will be cheaper than when out of season. Thirdly, use cookbooks or the internet for recipes, make a list, shop and prepare meals ahead if time if time is too short to cook during the week. This can really cut down on impulse buying, eating out and feeling the need to purchase prepackaged foods. One book that is a great resource for meal planning and preparing ahead is The Stash Plan (Your 21-Day Guide to Shed Weight, Feel Great, and Take Charge of Your Health) by Laura Prepon & Elizabeth Troy.
Tips for Getting Quality Protein in Your Diet
Quality protein is one of the most expensive foods in our culture, but worth buying to avoid pesticides, toxins, hormones and antibiotics. Animal source proteins contain the most complete profile of amino acids (building blocks) for maintaining your body’s strength and health. However, you can also be healthy by eating a little animal protein with other plant protein sources, which tends to cost less. Buy 100% grass-fed and pastured or wild-caught meats and fish and combine these with grains, beans, nuts, seeds and dairy to “stretch” your budget. The following recipes are some of my favorites that combine these foods for economical and healthy protein. The possibilities are endless.
Country Style Soup
½ cup dried green split peas, soaked overnight
½ cup dried navy or great northern beans, presoaked overnight, or for 8 hours
½ cup dried lentils, soaked overnight
¼ pound nitrate-free turkey, chicken or beef sausage or hot links (spicy tastes great!)
2 quarts water
3 medium potatoes, sliced (may omit for low carb or substitute turnips)
3 carrots, sliced
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon dried sage
½ teaspoon pepper
1 small green cabbage, chopped
1 pound nitrate-free turkey or beef hot dogs (opt.)
Soak beans for 12-24 hours before cooking. Drain and cover with fresh water 2-3 times during this soaking period. Cut sausage into ¼ inch pieces and brown. Add fresh water, rinsed beans, onion, garlic, salt and pepper, thyme and sage. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to the lowest setting, and simmer covered for 1 ½ hours. Check white beans for doneness, and continue cooking if not tender. When beans are tender, add potatoes, carrots, and cabbage to soup along with hot dogs, if desired. Return to a boil and cook 15-20 minutes longer. Delicious served with whole grain sourdough bread.
Notes: A soup bone is a good flavor alternative in place of the sausage. Also, this soup can be frozen.
Tips to Stretch Your Food Budget
Traditional cultures used the whole animal. Here is a very economical way that you can use a whole chicken to feed a family of four, for at least 3 main meals:
Cut up a whole chicken. Use ½ of the breast for stir fry. With the other half breast, thighs and legs make chicken and rice. Then with the back, wings and bones from the legs, thighs and breast, make a bone broth, and then a soup. (Recipes follow)
Note: A whole chicken can cost anywhere from $3.00 for a conventional chicken on sale, to $20.00 for a pastured, locally raised one. Buy the best that you can afford, with conventional being at the bottom, then hormone, antibiotic free, then organic store bought, then local, pastured the best. A real pasture-raised chicken has higher levels of the fat soluble vitamins A, D and K2, has a better balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, and if fed ideally, will have no genetically modified residues or pesticides. Even organic store-bought chickens may contain chemicals such as chlorine used to wash them.
Chicken Cashew Stir Fry
1 chicken breast, deboned and sliced into small pieces
1 bunch broccoli, peel stalk, and slice into very small florets or pieces of stem
1 medium onion, sliced
4 ounces mushrooms, sliced (optional)
½ cup cashews (whole or pieces)
2 tablespoons arrowroot or organic cornstarch
Tamari (wheat free) soy sauce to taste
1 tablespoon grated ginger (optional)
Oil for stir frying, coconut, macadamia or avocado
Stir fry chicken breast in oil on high heat until chicken turns white instead of pink (takes a few minutes). Remove from pan and set aside. Add two tablespoons of oil to the pan and add the broccoli pieces. Stir fry for about two minutes (broccoli will start to turn bright green), then add the onion slices and stir fry another two minutes. Finally, add the mushrooms if using and stir fry another 2 minutes. (Times are approximate. The goal is to have the veggies be tender crisp.) Stir in the cashews and grated ginger; add the arrowroot mixed with 1 cup of water and stir until boiling and hot. (Add more water if desired.) Stir in about 1 tablespoon Tamari and serve over brown rice or quinoa. Pass the Tamari.
Chicken and Rice (Serves 4-6)
1 ½ cup brown rice, washed
2 cups water
1 tablespoon whey, yogurt, kefir or lemon juice
1 additional cup water or chicken stock
Assorted chicken pieces (suggested ½ breast, 2 thighs and 2 legs)
1 medium onion, chopped
1-2 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 large carrots cut in 2 inch pieces, optional
EITHER 1-3 teaspoons curry powder OR 2 sprigs fresh rosemary and 2 sprigs fresh thyme or ½ teaspoon dried thyme and ½ teaspoon dried rosemary
1 ½ teaspoons sea salt and pepper to taste
Soak rice in water and whey overnight. When ready to cook, pour off soaking water into a large cooking pot with a tight fitting lid. Add the extra cup of water or stock and bring to boil. Stir in rice, chicken, onion, celery, garlic, carrots and seasonings, and return to boil. Stir once again; then reduce to a simmer and put the lid on the pot. Cook about 1 hour, or until the rice is done. (You may also cook this in the oven (covered) on 350 for 1 ½ hours.
Chicken Bone Broth
1 whole chicken back, 2 wings plus any additional leftover bones
Water to cover
2 tablespoons raw apple cider vinegar
1 small onion
1-2 stalks celery
4-5 peppercorns (optional)
Bring water and chicken to boil over high heat in large pot. Skim off any foam for about 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients; bring to boil, and then reduce to simmer. After 2 hours, remove chicken with a slotted spoon, cool and take meat off the bones. Refrigerate the meat for later use.
Return all the bones to the pot. Either transfer to a crock pot or simmer on top of the stove for 12-24 hours. Strain the liquid from the bones and vegetables, cool and refrigerate. You may freeze this broth or use in recipes. (You may discard the bones or use a second time for broth.)
1 tablespoon olive or coconut oil or butter
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 can (28 ounces) stewed tomatoes
4 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or 2 teaspoons dried
2 teaspoons dried basil or 2 tablespoons fresh, chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 ½ teaspoons sea salt and pepper to taste
1 can kidney beans drained (or cook your own to save money)
Reserved chicken from making broth, chopped
1 medium zucchini
1 cup macaroni pasta, whole grain or gluten-free (optional)
Parmesan cheese for garnish
In a large pot, put the oil, onion, garlic, carrots and celery and cook about 5 minutes over medium low heat, stirring frequently. Add the tomatoes, broth, seasonings, beans, and zucchini. Simmer for 30 minutes. Add the pasta and reserved chicken, and cook for 10 more minutes, until pasta is done. Serve with cheese for garnish. As with many tomatoes dishes, this is great leftover!