Ever since I became pregnant with my daughter, money has definitely been on my mind more than ever. I am sure many families can relate. Unfortunately, I have been unable to solely breast feed Lylah and have had to resort to using half breast milk and half formula for reasons I will explain in a later blog. Even though we use half formula…it’s still incredibly expensive and was an expense we had hoped not to have to make. So with all the medical bills piled on my counter top, the formula and diaper expenses and not to mention our insurance lacking doctor well visits for Lylah…I have had to get smarter 😉 and put my dollar stretching skills in to REALLY good use. Not only am I a coupon freak (I will actually choose where to do my shopping based on what stores will accept my coupons) but I also like to plan my meals according to whats on sale.
I think we can all agree that sometimes the cheapest food is not so great for our bodies. $0.97 loaf bread is usually enriched white flour and loaded with preservatives, chemicals and conditioners and juices are all loaded with sugars and color chemicals as well just to mention a few. It’s awfully tempting to reach for this stuff when its ONLY $1 or two and you are trying to stretch $50 for a week of groceries for a family of 4 or so. So here are a few tips I have included along with a few money saving meals ideas that we enjoy in my home. I hope this helps! I know it does in my family.
Tip #1 Eat less meat and eliminate dairy. It’s an extra bonus for your health and pocket if you skip it altogether and it will broaden your very narrow horizon of food options. Trust me…the most expensive things on your list is meat and dairy products. I don’t think any of my readers will be surprised that this is my first tip!
Tip #2 Make beans, grains and potatoes a healthy part of your diet. Buy grains and beans in bulk and cook them in bulk too and store in the fridge for easy access and to save time as well. Lets be honest, beans, rice and potatoes have to be some the CHEAPEST things on your list, if it even makes your list! If it isn’t, seriously you are missing out healthfully, tastefully and budget wise. You can also put them over a bed of greens for a quick meal. Don’t let gas be the excuse why your don’t enjoy beans and potatoes, gas is natural and if you aren’t use to eating these foods as much as my family then ease in to it. Eventually your gut will build the enzymes to break it all down better giving you less gas.
Tip #3 Plan meals according to what is on sale at your favorite grocery stores. You can usually add just about anything on top of rice or salad or mix with potatoes or beans. If carrots and brussel sprouts are on sale then one night my family will be having them roasted (no oil!) with onions, potatoes, and zucchini on top of brown rice or in a soup another night or juiced carrots in a smoothie for breakfast.
Tip #4 Make your own everything! If you want granola bars…make it yourself and make enough to last the whole week. Oatmeal is inexpensive and could be used as the main ingredient. Add what you like such as dried fruit, nuts and seeds. If you like an extra crunch you can add Grape Nut Cereal. It’s less expensive and much healthier than the store bought ones loaded with you guessed it…sugars, oils, chemicals and preservatives.
Tip #5 Drink water. Skip the store bought juices and sodas. If you are itching for something other than water, buy some organic tea bags and make tea at home. Drinking water is not only better for you, but your skip the added sugars and calories per meal and of course…your wallet will be a little fluffier 🙂
Tip #5 Buy only what you need unless it’s in bulk and you will be able to freeze it for later use. Eating fresh and on sale can sometimes be a waste if you go all out and buy all fresh veggies and fruits on Sunday and by Wednesday your on sale lettuce is already moldy. This has happened to me which is why planning your meals is important so I buy ONLY what I expect my family will eat in 1 week which means the 5 pound bag of apples for my husband and I may not be the best option unless I plan to bake a pie or something (highly unlikely, I am not much of a baker) or I plan to juice for a few days. Frozen veggies sometimes are more cost effective since they don’t go bad as fast. I usually cook meals with the foods that may go bad earlier in the week.
Healthy Budget Meal Ideas
Oatmeal – Rolled oats are cheap and healthy. Make your own oatmeal every morning, it only takes me about 12 minutes from start to finish. I usually add cinnamon and banana or you can do apples and add nuts or flax seed.
Breakfast Potatoes – I chop potatoes and add them to a non stick skillet with 1 tbs of water and cook them with onion or you can use onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder, and sea salt. Serve like tacos with soft corn tortillas.
Tofu Scramble – Drain and press to release as much water as possible using a kitchen towel and a little muscle. In a non-stick skillet cook some potatoes and maybe some onions, tomatoes, spinach salsa etc. Crumble your tofu in to the skillet when your potatoes are almost done. For a yellow color you can add a little turmeric to fool the kiddos if needed, they probably can’t tell the difference between real scrambled eggs and crumbled tofu. Serve with corn tortillas or whole wheat tortillas for breakfast tacos or burritos.
Vegan Pancakes – Seriously…just because it doesn’t have eggs or dairy in it doesn’t mean it tastes like crap so give it a try if you haven’t already. You don’t have the added cholesterol and fat that you normally would in a non-vegan pancake so it’s healthier and can be cheaper. Go with maple syrup or fresh fruit for the topping. Try out this recipe for vegan pancakes, you can substitute the maple syrup for agave syrup if needed and feel free to liven it up with berries.
Beans, Rice n Salsa – Add your already cooked brown rice to a pan with a tablespoon of water and either drained and rinsed can of beans or beans your have prepared yourself, and any veggies you may have in the fridge you would like to add such as spinach, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, zucchini etc. Saute them all together and season the way you like. Either add your favorite salsa to the mix or put it on top. You can serve this over a bed of greens for a bonus healthy meal.
Saucy Chickpeas – Buy them canned or cook them up yourself, obviously cooking them yourself is cheaper. Chickpeas/garbanzo beans are pretty versatile. I drain and rinse a can of chickpeas and season with about 2 tbs of any sauce I have on hand like barbecue, teriyaki, general tsao, or a mixture of two sauces and heat it together on a non-stick skillet, you can use this recipe for Hawaiian BBQ Teriyaki Chickpeas and serve it over a bed or brown rice and or greens. You may also season them like you would taco meat and bake in the oven so they are crunchy like this recipe for Chickpea Tacos or on top of a salad or on some bean tostadas. One day for lunch I had them in tacos and the left overs I had on a salad the next day. If your in the mood for some tuna, try this Mock Tuna Salad made from chickpeas.
Noodle Soup – It’s fast, easy, cheap n tasty…my kind of meal. Any noodles go but keep it healthy by using whole wheat pasta…it tends to hold up well in a soup over brown rice pasta or better yet you can replace the noodles with brown rice. You can make this any flavor you wish with whatever you have on hand so get creative. I have added a can of cannelini beans drained and rinsed and made it Italian style with Italian seasonings, a can of roasted tomatoes and some parsley with some California style frozen vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, carrots). Mexican style usually calls for a can of pinto beans drained and rinsed and a can of tomatoes with jalapenos in it, fresh cilantro and seasoned with oregano, onion and garlic powder, chili powder and some frozen mixed vegetables (corn, green beans, peas, carrots).
Try Tofu – Tofu is cheap. Tofu is versatile and you can bake it, broil it, stir “fry” it, cream it up in a food processor or blender for sauces and SO MUCH MORE. Here are a few recipes you can get started with: Instant Vegan Alfredo, Spinach & Mushroom Quiche, Eggless Salad, Baked Tofu
Don’t be afraid of tofu, I know it doesn’t sound pleasing to those of you who have never had it but if you don’t like it one way you may like it another so don’t give up on your first try. For a quick and easy pudding dessert I like to add a package of firm tofu drained and in to the food processor with some cocoa powder (add to your chocolaty liking) and some agave nectar and a little cinnamon. Blend until smooth. I also like to crumble some drained and pressed tofu mixed with about 3 tbs of an Asian sauce of your choice in a pan lined with aluminum paper and broil 3-5 minutes, remove, mix, and repeat about 2 more times or until its nice and firm and add it to romaine lettuce leaves for wraps. You can also add almonds or peanuts and any Asian veggies to the mixture.
For other healthy recipes visit www.fatfreevegan.com or www.happyherbivore.com I highly recommend purchasing a Happy Herbivore Cookbook, it has wonderful tasty recipes and comes with great directions and descriptions of food you may not be familiar with and to be honest, many of the recipes contain ingredients that you can find at your local grocer so you don’t have to hunt down a health food store. Sometimes the most simple ingredients can be the tastiest, healthiest and least expensive.