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My 2015 New Year’s Resolution was to cook
healthier meals for my daughter and myself while staying on a tight budget. One
month in, I think I’m off to a good start! I’ve started a nice collection of
recipes on a Pinterest board I created just for this resolution. Beyond
individual recipes, I also discovered some general rules and tips that are
making things easier for me.
For instance, one wonderful discovery I made was
that avocados are on the “Clean 15 List”. You may have heard of the “Dirty Dozen”
which is the 12 fruits and veggies most contaminated with pesticides and
chemicals and therefore most important to buy organic. I try to buy almost
everything organic when I can, but yikes it can be expensive! That’s why I did
a little happy dance when I saw avocados on the “Clean 15” list, meaning you
can get by without buying them organic.. For me, living in California, I can conventional
avocadoes for 4/$1.00 on sale. This
whole time I had been buying them organic at $1.50 each. Guacamole, here we come!
In the process of trying to stick to my
resolution, a few refrigerator staples have become superstars in my book. First
off: eggs. They’re a cheap protein that works in breakfast, lunch, dinner and
snacks. Another lifesaver has been frozen pre-coked organic quinoa. I love
quinoa and all of its healthiness but I don’t like the pre-soaking and then
boiling for 20 minutes. The frozen stuff is minimally processed, organic, and ready
to go straight from the freezer. I add it to everything- salads, cookies, even pancakes.
My favorite way is to use quinoa is instead of pasta in any pasta recipe. I pat myself on the back (again!) as Beatrice
scarfs down quinoa in marinara sauce and calls it “spaghetti.”
Besides thinking of new ways to stock the
refrigerator, this resolution has also made me think of ways to be
self-sufficient with my groceries, even in tiny ways. I’m growing my own herbs because fresh herbs
make such a difference in the flavor of cooking but they often add so much to
the overall price of the recipe that I’m tempted to skip them. Who wants to pay
$2.50 for a bunch of chives when you only need 2 TB? And speaking of being
self-sufficient, one day I even got especially adventurous and used dandelion
greens from my yard (free!) for a dandelion gratin recipe and guess what? My daughter
Another great discovery for us has been smoothies. I was fortunate enough to receive a secondhand Vitamix recently and boy have I been putting it to use. For on-the-go healthy snacks, smoothies have become my new best friend. It is amazing to me how many healthy things I can sneak into a smoothie that Beatrice will happily drink. I don’t have to disguise the veggies with a bunch of sugar to hide the flavor, just fruit. Spinach, romaine, kale, celery, parsley, you name it! I’ve thrown it in a smoothie with a banana, some apple and almond milk and Bea guzzles it down like a milkshake. Meanwhile I’m watching her, secretly tabulating all the spinach leaves she’s drinking and patting myself on the back.
In all my searching for affordable healthy
recipes online, I found an awesome blog called Budget Bytes that breaks down
each recipe into cost per serving, which inspired me to do the same for the
meals I’m making. That will help me choose whether more expensive ingredients
are worth the splurge.
WHERE I WISH I WAS AT:
Even though I have a
growing collection of cheap and healthy recipes, I don’t feel vey organized
with my shopping. I want to get better
at planning out meals for the week so I am not wasting any produce because I
only used half of it in my recipe. I want to have the whole week of meals
figured out when I go shopping, so I’m not making lots of last minute trips to
the store or last minute decisions on what’s for dinner (those tend to be less
healthy). And by planning out meals for
the week I don’t mean making a huge amount of one recipe and then just eating
that for breakfast lunch and dinner for a whole week. Because, yes, that did
happen to me this month and let me tell you there is such a thing as too much
jambalaya no matter how healthy and delicious it is.
I’m thinking there must be apps or websites designed
specifically for the problems I’m running into. I bet with a bit of strategic
Googling I can find something (preferably free) to help me organize my meals
and multi-purpose the perishable items in my refrigerator. So in February I plan on searching for
something that fills that need. I’ll add any apps or websites I find to my
Pinterest board for you to check out as well, along with more recipes I find
along the way.