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Resolution to Make Healthier Meals, Month 2

Read the first part of this Resolutions series: Make Healthier Meals: Part 1

WHERE I'M AT:

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!

RELATED: The Smarter Way to Chop an Avocado

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 loved it!

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.

RELATED: The Best Detox Smoothie

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.

LOOKING FORWARD:

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.

Read the first part of this Resolutions series: Make Healthier Meals: Part 1

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