Another key strategy for shopping healthy and frugal is to be flexible in your recipes and meal plans. What fresh vegetables and fruits are in season and on sale varies from week to week. For me, my goal is to eat as much fresh vegetables in my diet as I can, so I have switched my menu planning strategy a little bit. As I wrote yesterday, we also worked to cut way back on other areas to save money, which was helpful as we transitioned to this diet plan, and has been helpful for how often I have to go buy a new outfit at the share shop or Salvation Army due to weight loss (down 4 sizes so far).
Rethinking Favorite Recipes
Just as we have to figure out how to make family favorites cheaper, with less expensive ingredients (walnuts instead of pine nuts in pesto, for example), we can also look over our favorites for ways to make them comply with any dietary restrictions we have. It’s not always easy to do, but some recipes are easier than others.
In my case, I had a hard time finding new recipes that weren’t full of at least one thing I couldn’t eat for the time being. I really had to come up with things to eat from playing around in the kitchen. Admittedly, this is something I love to do anyway, and something I’m really good at, so I had that advantage. i started off with what we already ate.
when we ate spaghetti, I put the sauce over brown rice and quinoa, instead of pasta. The rest of the family had noodles.
For pizza, everyone ate pizza, and I ate a salad or roasted sweet potatoes ( <– new favorite food). No one else was willing to give up pizza.
For tacos, I ate my taco filling on a plate with a fork instead of wrapped in a tortilla, and I loaded it with veggies.
So, I just thought about how to make my frugal favorites without the bad stuff. For many recipes this did work. I also came up with new things to eat.
Centered Around Filling Root Vegetables or Dried Beans
Instead of basing my meals around starches and carbs, adding a bit of meat and veggies to the dish as I can afford (Which is cheapest), I have to base my meals around the veggies, usually startchy veggies like root vegetables, which fill you up but cost less. I also usually try to create dishes that can be used with or without carbs. Because I had about 50 pounds of noodles in my pantry (no kidding), those still needed to be used up by my husband and kids.When eating dishes like chicken soft tacos, I just eat it “naked” (without the tortilla), and loaded with veg, whereas the rest of the family eats it however they want.
I wasn’t very familiar with veggies because I’m not a veggie person. I decided to buy a different veggie every week to try. I googled ways to make it, or played around with it. I even progressed to the point of eating an artichoke even though it’s green. (dear husband says I have the appetite of a 3 year old. I’m trying to change that).
I make some dishes that could be made with or without noodles, or could be made with vegetables cut into noodle shapes.
I even realized how easy it was to make “fettuccine” out of parsnips and carrots with a vegetable peeler. Everyone in the family has grown to love winter squashes too and of course sweet potatoes. I got a Benriner Cooks Help from Amazon.com, which spiral slices veggies without much effort, and without much waste (it is NOT like that horrible spiral slicer from pampered chef), which allows me to make all kinds of veggie noodles for salads and other dishes. We eat with our eyes first. Somehow this tricks pasta addict me into thinking I’m eating noodles without eating noodles. Best spent $40 bucks on cooking tools. I used Swagbucks to get that too.
These kinds of vegetables are usually always a decent price, although winter squash is certainly cheaper in the autumn. I find it easier to plan my meals with one of these in mind for at least some of my meals.
Alternately, I use dried beans, including lentils, to form a base of any meal, maybe adding some meat too.
(I apologize if I’m not really making too much sense here. I keep re-editing this post…lol…when I switched to how I was going to eat, I basically threw all cookbooks to the side. I couldn’t find ANY recipe even in all of my healthy vegan cookbooks, that fit my new reality…I created and continue to create, meals on the fly. But, I’m working at writing them down especially if they are a hit)
Flavored with Complementary Pungent Vegetables
I add vegetables that have a lot more flavor, such as red peppers, broccoli (which I still do not like at all by the way but I force myself to eat it) ,onions, garlic, radishes, etc.) as accents, based on waht is on sale and readily available. This week, Red Peppers are on sale 10 for $10, so we bought quite a few of those.
I’ve even discovered how amazing adding a few shakes of “Broccoli slaw” to many dishes is. It goes well with salad, in stir fries, and even tossed with spaghetti squash.
And of course, adding a bit of healthy meats to the dish can finish it off, or using dried beans.
Our family has always been big salad eaters, so this was not a huge change for us. At least once a week, we have a dinner of just salad, sometimes with a grille chicken breast on it. We rarely have just lettuce (usually romaine) in our salad. We add whatever other vegetables are in season or on sale.
Now that it’s been a very warm summer, we also make other kinds of “salad” such as spiral sliced (with the benriner) carrots, radishes, parsnips, and onions all tossed in a vinegar and oil dressing, or tossing veggies in with roasted spaghetti squash.
Beware of Condiments
As I noted yesterday, we need to be careful about condiments. These can be the big expenses in our grocery budget, but they can also cost us big in terms of our health because of all of the junk they put in them.
We made more from home as of late. I have found that just vinegar and oil is enjoyable once you get used to it. Other condiments such as katsup, teriyaki, and others can still be bought, but with coupons, sales, and careful label reading. Kikkoman’s normal Teryaki sauce (which is practicaly it’s own food group in this house until recently has high fructose corn syrup listed in the front. Thankfully Kikkoman came out with another teriyaki that is HFCS free. It still has too much sugar for me, but at least it doesn’t have HFCS in it.
When it comes to buying any condiment, we first decide if we really need it. Some things are not optional (mayo for my dear husband for example). Now when buying them we read the labels carefully and stock up during sales when we also have coupons, for maximum savings. There aren’t as many coupons out there for healthier fair, but coupons for condiments are the exception.