Eating Healthier Foods on a Modest Budget

If you have tried to buy healthier foods at the grocery store, you 
might have been put off by the price. After all, organic apples are 
so much more expensive than conventionally grown ones, and 
whole grain snack crackers cost more than white soda crackers.  
But those price comparisons are not the whole picture.  Maybe 
whole grain snack crackers cost more than white ones, but have 
you compared that to the price of a bag of flour, from which you 
could make your own snacks? Sometimes you have to rethink the 
way you view food prices to really get the healthiest food for the 
best price.
Healthier Foods
Here are some tips on how you can buy and eat healthier foods, 
even on a modest budget.

"Cheap" Food Isn't Always as Cheap as You Think

So your favorite brand of potato chips is on sale for $2 a bag, and 
you have a coupon!  Before you gloat about your good deal, have 
you checked the price of a 3-lb bag of organic potatoes? They 
may be on sale, too and guess how many more potato dishes you 
can make from that bag than you can from a bag of potato chips. 

The same goes for nearly all processed foods, they may seem 
cheaper, but buying the whole, healthier foods version is often 
cheaper. Think of it this way: instead of buying completed, 
processed foods, buy ingredients instead. Rather than buying two 
loaves of bread, buy a bag of whole wheat flour for the same price  (or less) and make far more than just two loaves of bread. 

Stick to the Edges

Overall, whole foods are cheaper than processed, prepackaged 
ones and the whole foods are generally sold along the outside 
edges of the average grocery store.  In the center of the store, 
you'll find cereal, candy, bread, canned foods, and so forth, while 
along the edges you'll find produce, meats, and dairy. The 
exception to this might be whole grains and dried beans.  Many 
stores stock their whole grain flours and dried beans in the center 
aisles.  It might take a couple of investigating trips to the store to 
find your better buys but in the end to get the healthier foods, 
it's well worth it.

Cut Back on Meat

When it comes to budgeting your groceries for healthier foods, 
you may find that meat takes up a big chunk of the budget. 
However, replacing meat with processed meat substitutes (such as tofu burgers) is not particularly cost effective, either.  Instead, 
consider replacing meat with other protein sources, such as brown 
rice and/or beans. 

Buy in Season

Buying foods in season can save a lot of money, and some health 
experts claim your body processes seasonal foods better.  Buying 
local foods helps, too, and stocking up on favorites when they are 
in season can save a lot.  Canning, freezing, and drying seasonal 
fruits and vegetables helps boost your diet in the winter months, 
and it's easier on your budget. 

So the next time you reach for a bag of chips, and all that...think !

As most of you know, I grow my own fresh vegetables, nine months out of the year.  One of the most ask questions I get is, “What do you do with all those fresh vegetables”?  I eat the most of them but I do give about 25% of them to family and friends.

When I pass them on, I also try to give them one of my favorite recipes for this easy dip.  I use this on cold and hot, fresh vegetables.

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This can be used as a cold dip, salad dressing or drizzled over steamed vegetables.

Recipe:

1/2 cup of your favorite Italian Dressing

1/2 cup of Mayonnaise

Shake in a lidded jar until completely incorporated.  Chill for 2-3 hours before using.  Store in the refrigerator between uses.

Option Recipe:

When I use the recipe on hot fresh vegetables, I change it a little bit with a little Cream Cheese.

1/2 Cup of your favorite Italian Dressing

2 Ounces of Cream Cheese [room temperature]

1/3 Cup of Mayonnaise

Follow the directions from above, making sure the cream cheese has mixed throughout the dressing before refrigerating.

If you want some help growing your own fresh vegetables, check out www.GrowingWhatYouEat.com where I share all my gardening secrets.

Eating fresh organic vegetables every day is one of the top ways to keep yourself healthy and alert for the future.

Try this recipe at your next gathering but be ready to chop a lot of fresh vegetables.

 

 

 

Are you getting enough iron in your diet? Many people don’t get enough iron in their diet. It’s an important element because it carries oxygen throughout your body. It’s required for digestion and many functions on a cellular level. Without enough iron in your diet, you will feel fatigued and can get sick easier. Women and children are particularly susceptible to iron deficiency and supplementation is often recommended to help them prevent anemia.

Red meat and shellfish are both easy sources of iron. However, there are many vegetable options, too. The following are a few of the vegetable choices that are richest in iron:

Seeds

Squash and pumpkin seeds are among the highest in iron. One ounce contains 4mg of iron or 23 percent of your recommended daily value. An ounce of sesame seeds also contains 23 percent of your daily value, sunflower seeds have 11 percent and flax seeds have 9 percent of your daily value. As you can see, a handful of seeds can help you get the daily iron you need.

Nuts

Nuts including cashews, pine nuts, hazelnuts, peanuts, and almonds all have a good amount of iron. An ounce of cashews has 1.7 mg or 9 percent of your daily value. An ounce of pine nuts also contain 9 percent of your daily value. Hazelnuts, peanuts, almonds, and pistachios all have 7 percent plus Macadamia nuts have 6 percent of your recommended daily value of iron in your diet.

Beans

Lentils and white beans have a good amount of iron in them. A cup of cooked beans has 6.6mg or 37 percent of your daily iron in your diet value. Other beans that are high in iron include soybeans, kidney beans, chickpeas, Lima and navy beans, black beans, pinto beans and black eyed peas. For many, a diet of beans and rice is a staple because it also provides a complete protein.

iron in you diet

Whole Grains

Whole grains also have iron. Quinoa is the highest with 15 percent of your daily value in one cup. Oats, barley and rice also provide iron for your diet and fortified grains plus many cereals contain more. Read the ingredients on their box to choose one high in iron for your diet.

Finally, let’s not forget dark leafy greens like spinach, beet tops, collards and chard which have 36 percent of your daily iron needs, per cup. The next time you make a pot of vegetable soup, drop in 3 or 4 handfuls of the leafy greens to enrich the iron in your diet. The goal is to make sure that you get enough. If not, your doctor may recommend supplementation to keep your body supplied with the right amount of iron it needs to run properly.

Have you ever tried to come up with a new desert but drawn a blank? Try using a cake mix and see what you can come up with for that special treat.
Here are three of my favorites.

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Apple Spice Cake
1 Yellow Cake Mix
1/2 Can of Apple Sauce
1-2 Teaspoons of Apple Pie Spices
2 Eggs

Pour the cake mix into a medium size mixing bowl. Stir to remove any large lumps. Add 1 teaspoon of Apple Pie Spices and stir to incorporate. Add the apple sauce and eggs, whisk to mix thoroughly until the batter is smooth. If you cannot smell the spices, add more 1/2 teaspoon at a time. The older your spices are, the more you will need as they loose some of their taste and aroma with age.
If you feel the cake mix is not moist enough you may add more applesauce to the batter, 1/4 cup at a time until you are satisfied with it’s texture.  But don’t over do it or you will end up with a dense cake instead of a light airy one.
Bake at 375 degrees until the top is golden and bounces back to the touch, about 35 minutes. Top with a light covering of Powdered Sugar for a beautiful desert.

Cherry Dump Cake
1 White Cake Mix
1 Can of Cherry Pie Filling
1 Stick of Butter, cut into 1/2 inch slices

Spread the pie filling on the bottom of an 11 inch casserole dish then sprinkle the cake mix over the pie filling. You want to keep the dry cake mix even throughout the covering. Next place the butter pieces over the cake mix and place in a 350 degree preheated over until done, about 30-35 minutes in most ovens. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream for a delightful desert.

Peanut Butter Cookies
1 Yellow Cake Mix
2 Eggs
1/2 Cup Peanut Butter, smooth or chunky, your choice
1/4 to 1/3 Cup of Vegetable Oil [start with 1/4 cup and add the extra, a teaspoon at a time, only if you need it.]

Mix all ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. You should have a tight dough that you can roll into small quarter size balls. Place each ball on a cool cookie sheet about 3-4 inches apart. You do not need to grease the pan, as the dough has more than enough oil to keep the cookies from sticking. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-9 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven and allow to cool for 5-6 minutes before removing them to a cooling rack, to completely cool. You should get 32-36 cookies from one cake mix box.

 

Beets, The Forgotten Vegetable

There are many great vegetables we enjoy during the winter months. While the foods we probably most think about during that time are the turkey, the ham, and the desserts, the vegetables really play an important role, both in that holiday meal and for the rest of the winter.

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Beets In The Garden

Everyone has their must have vegetable at the dinner table but rarely do you see beets on the family table. Beets are a great vegetable to enjoy all winter long. Fall to spring these are in season. They are sweet, especially when roasted, and make a great addition to any salad. So enjoy that garden salad all winter long with some fresh roasted or pickled beets on top.

Mixing beet tops in with your favorite salad greens is another way to get more vitamins and nutrition into your everyday dinner salad. They are packed with vitamins A, B1, B2, B6 and C. Beets also contain Folic Acid, Iodine, Manganese, Potassium, Iron, Calcium, Copper and Phosphorus. All these things are needed for a healthy body.

You can eat beets that have been boiled, steamed, sauteed or roasted. Select beets that are firm to the touch. Older beets become spongy with age. Beets that are between 3 and 4 inches are best for roasting and cooking but smaller ones can be pickled for use in salads and relishes.

Store your fresh beets in the refrigerator until ready to use. Beets have an outer skin that needs to be removed before eating. If you roast the beets, their skin will slide off easily but if you are boiling or using them raw, peel them with a vegetable peeler first.

Beets go well with other root vegetables, can be added to soups but one of my favorite ways is to make chips that are healthier for you than the regular potato chips.

Beet Chips

3-4 Small Beets

Oil for frying

2-3 Tablespoons of flour

Sea Salt to taste

Peel the beets and slice into thin pieces, using a mandolin. Heat the oil on medium high heat. Add the beets to a ziploc plastic bag, sprinkle the flour over the beets and shake to cover. Add the beet slices to the hot oil, shaking off any access flour first and fry until slices are a golden brown, about 4 minutes. Sprinkle the salt over the top. Eat and enjoy while still warm.

 

The first thing that comes to my mind, when dealing with leftovers, is soup. You can make a soup out of just about anything you have on hand, including holiday leftovers.

Roasted Chicken Leftovers

This year we didn’t have turkey for Christmas, we had [3] Roasted Chickens instead. After pulling off the meat, I kept the carcass to make our soup of the week. I’ll add them to 4 quarts of water with a teaspoon of salt, 2 celery stalks, 1 medium onion and 2 carrots. I’ll bring the mixture to a boil, then turn the heat down, allowing it to simmer for an hour or so, then drain off the broth, to use for the soup stock. I’ll reserve any loose chicken meat and the vegetables.

To the stock, I’ll add back in the carrots, celery, onion* and any leftover chicken, vegetables, including the mashed potatoes and gravy. The potatoes will thicken the soup and give it a creamy texture. Taste to see if it needs more seasonings, then simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, giving the ingredients time to mingle. Serve the soup with a loaf of warm French Bread and a new dessert. No one will know they are eating what was left of their holiday feast.

My second suggestion is a frittata. It’s another easy dinner that can utilize a lot of the stuff you might otherwise have thrown away.

To make one, use two or three eggs per person. Crack into a bowl and beat with salt and pepper. Then, add in vegetable leftovers, using whatever is in the fridge. Cold meat, can be sliced into bite size pieces and added in. Cooked vegetables can go right in. You may want to rinse them in hot water to remove their older seasonings. If so, be sure to drain them well before adding them to the egg mixture or your frittata might become wet and runny.

Firm fresh produce (carrots, broccoli, and even mushrooms) should be sauteed until tender, preferably with a little garlic or onion, before adding to the eggs. Italians even throw in leftover pasta, which is a great way to use those leftovers. Then, heat a little olive oil in a large saute pan, that can also be used in the oven and pour in the egg mixture.

While the egg mixture is cooking, turn the broiler on low. Heat eggs on stove top until they start setting around the edge of the pan. Then, grate some cheese over the top. (Use what you have on hand. Cheddar is really good with broccoli; Italian cheese like Parmesan is delicious with ham and/or mushroom.) Turn off the stove top and place the pan under the broiler until eggs are set and cheese is melted. Allow to cool briefly, then slice as you would a pie and serve.

You have just made good use of food items that might have gotten tossed. In turn, you have a couple of delicious dinners and saved lots of money in your food budget using your leftovers.

* cut the vegetables into 1/2 inch pieces

Cooking Meals and Saving Money on Winter Comfort Foods

The cold weather months are excellent for hearty comfort foods that warm you up and keep you full. Delicious soups, stews, and hot casseroles abound, most so good, that you almost don’t miss the warmer weather. Even better, many wintertime comfort foods can be made without spending a lot and they go a long way.  Often, you can feed a big family or make enough for a week’s worth of meals, and spend very little money on each serving.

enchiladas_nim

Save Time

Most people tend to slow down during the winter. Maybe it’s the cold, or maybe it’s the layer of ice or snow which is keeping everyone in the sloth mode, but people tend to move slower and take their time.  All that extra time spent bundling up and thawing out means you don’t have a lot of extra time to cook a gourmet meal. Luckily, winter is the best time for some simple meal ideas.

Slow Cooked

Slow cookers, or “crock pots” as they are also called, are the perfect solution for family meals on the go. Simply put your ingredients in the cooker in the morning, turn it on, and then come home to a delicious hot meal waiting for you. Most recipes are so simple you just throw everything in and go, while others may require very little prep.

cold weather comfort foods

Fix It and Forget It

Winter cooking is a great time to make use of some super easy “fix it and forget it” type meals. For example, a pot roast with some chopped veggies can be thrown into the oven and a timer set, cooking to perfection while you relax or get some other tasks done.

Savory Staples

To save money and keep your tummies full and satisfied, look to stocking winter staples. Root vegetables like carrots and potatoes go well in just about any savory winter dish, keep for quite a while, and are almost always some of the cheapest produce your grocery store has to offer.

Pantry Perfection

For simple, delicious, and hot meals of your favorite comfort foods, to warm you up when the weather gets cold, look no farther than a stocked pantry. Canned goods, rice, and pasta make for fast, easy, and cheap casserole ideas that cost even less than the time it takes to throw them together.

Extra Tips

Keep it simple – The simplest meals are often the most delicious, especially during the winter when anything hot and savory really hits the spot. Very few ingredients can go a long way.

Prep ahead – A little extra prep in the morning, or even spending time to prep once a week, can make meal times easy in the wintertime. For example, chopping up veggies and putting them in bags in the freezer cuts down on time and makes it super simple for you to just grab them whenever you need to.

Coupons – Most coupons tend to be for canned and boxed goods, so winter is the best time to make use of these pantry staples and save a lot of money.

Cooking is easy when you utilize some of these simple solutions. Not only can you make hot, satisfying comfort foods, but you can also save money in the process.

Have you ever wondered how our grandmothers managed to keep food on the table without going to the grocery store every day? They knew the importance of keeping a few staples on hand in their pantry.  Many great meals have been made using these ingredients.

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Kitchen Pantry

Flour

Flour is the beginning or the end of many great meals. It can be used, not only for bread items but gravies, pies, or making a great batter for frying chicken. There are several kinds of flour. The most common one being enriched white, whole wheat, self rising and all purpose.  Keep your family’s favorite in your pantry and see how often it comes in handy for your meal.

Rice

Rice, like the flour comes in many types. It’s very versatile pantry item and can be used from breakfast to dinner. Brown rice is better with meats, while white rice is what I call company rice. It likes keeping company with other food items, such as soups, salads or casseroles.

Pasta

I love pasta of all kinds. Just when I think I have tried every kind, I find a new one. You can cook a pound of pasta and have several different meals just by what you top or mix it with. It turns a simple soup into something spectacular, a salad into a meal and a tomato sauce into something divine. Choose your favorite, then keep it in your pantry to  save on your grocery budget through out the year.

Spices to keep on hand.

You should always have salt and pepper in the house but a few more to have on hand are:  Basil, Chili Powder, Cinnamon, Gloves, Ginger, Marjoram, Oregano, Sage and Thyme

These are my favorites but you should experiment with several spices and see what your family likes best. Buy them in small container as they will loose their strength as time goes on. Large containers can be a waste of your food budget.

Beans

There are many kinds of beans.  All are a great source of protein and can stretch your food budget.  They can be used alone of in salads, dips, soups or stews.

Pinto Beans are usually the most popular but I like the dark red Kidney Beans and the small Northern White Beans for most of my meals.   

Sugar, Honey, Molasses

Keeping one of these sweets on hand in your pantry, will ensure you the best results in your cooking and baking.  We all love something sweet in our meals.  It can be the baked beans, or the chocolate cake but having that little bit of sweet taste makes the whole meal, seem better.

Vegetable Oil, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Natural Butter

Very little cooking can be done without using one of these pantry stable.  Adding a little oil or fats will enrich the flavors of  meats or vegetables.  They also allow us to make a more fulfilling meal with salad dressings, gravies, breads and deserts. 

When you have these staples in your home pantry, there will always be a way to put a meal on your table.

Most of us are busy throughout the year but with the holidays coming we sometimes need a little extra help in keeping up with our duties.  These are a few of my favorite quick and easy dinners to do, just that.

Chicken Pizza Casserole:

Line an oven safe casserole dish or pizza pan with frozen chicken nuggets, get them as close as possible. Then pour a can of tomato sauce over the nuggets. Layer in about ¾ cup of mozzarella cheese and your favorite veggie toppings*. Cover tightly, with foil.

If you are going to use within 48 hours, place it your fridge until needed, then bake covered at 450 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove the foil, and bake until the cheese has melted and slightly browns.

*Cut your veggies into bit sizes for even cooking. A Jar of pizza sauce can be used instead of the tomato sauce for extra flavor.

Cheesy Mac and Beans Casserole:

Cook one or two packages of macaroni and cheese, depending on the size of your family, following box instructions. When done, place in oven safe large bowl or casserole dish. Make a dimple or path in the macaroni and cheese then pour in a can of drained dark kidney beans. Chop a large onion and do a quick fry with 1 tablespoon of oil, in a medium skillet until the onion is almost cooked. Spread the partially cooked onions over the cheese and bean mixture. Cover mixture with about 1 ½ cups of chopped chicken, ham or grilled beef, spreading it evenly. Cover with foil.

Cover your casserole dish with foil, then place in fridge until needed or freeze for later use. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 325 degrees and bake for 20 minutes, then remove the cover and sprinkle about ½ cup of shredded Cheddar cheese over the top and bake another 10 minutes until the cheese has melted and turned a light brown.

Serve with a tossed green salad for a nourishing quick meal. 

These two easy dinners, can be time savers for any night of the week.  They are delicious enough for company or just for family night.

More tips for easy dinners can be found at  http://hassieskitchentable.com/whats-dinner/