Hey-o, friends of Creating Better Tomorrow! Isn’t Sarah fabulous? Being just a couple of days behind her in the due-date department (and a fellow Hoosier), I’ve been blessed to meet up with Sarah, be cheered on by her when pregnancy’s gotten tough, and in the process, develop a new friendship.
I’m Jaclyn, by the way, the lady behind BumpSweat. There I explore the various facets of a healthy, fit pregnancy, all while actively pursuing that for myself.
Something else you should know about me: I’m cheap (you could say I’m ‘frugal’, but let’s just call it what it is). My favorite maternity dress (only 1 or 2) came from Goodwill. I made all the curtains (window & shower) and pillows in our home, with fabric glue, because I haven’t brought myself to purchase a sewing machine yet and could not justify shelling out money on the aforementioned items.
Over the past several years, fueling my body with nutritious food has come to matter greatly to me. So what’s a cheap girl to do when the price of grass-fed beef and organic produce outweighs that of conventional? As a health coach and healthy-foodie, the most common complaint I hear is ‘Eating healthy is so expensive’. But I’m visiting Sarah’s blog today to show you that it doesn’t have to be. As my nutrition knowledge flourished over the years, so too did my bag of eating-healthy-on-a-budget tricks.
This bag contains a big secret, one that will be sure to knock your socks off. Wait for it…
Use the food that you’ve already spent money on to create nourishing meals
I know, genius you’re working with here All joking aside, though, the simple concept of using what’s in the pantry, fridge, or freezer often goes unfollowed. Blame it on lack of time, lack of creativity, or simply wanting to concoct that new recipe you pinned despite not having any of the ingredients on hand. We’ve all been there. Who hasn’t purchased a cart full of colorful produce, with the best of intentions to ccreate nutrient-rich, healthy meals, only to decry the rotten bag of spinach, flimsy carrots, and wrinkly peppers a week later?
A while back, my husband dubbed me the ‘Queen of Random Meals’, so I’m excited to tackle this subject. Let’s get started…
My Top Tips for Using The Food You Have to Create Healthy Meals
#1 Start with a well-stocked pantry & freezer – then utilize it!
- We waste so much money picking out new recipes that require ingredients we don’t have when there’s tons of food in the house already waiting to be used. And not only are you spending money on more food; think about the cost of time and gas to make another grocery-store trip
- Recommended pantry staples (as soon as you use each up, replenish your stock by adding it to your grocery list to buy next trip) – *this is not an exhaustive list
- Vinegars (balsamic, apple cider, red wine, rice wine, etc.)
- Organic Diced Tomatoes & Tomato Sauce
- Canned Wild-Alaskan Salmon
- Natural Peanut Butter
- Canned Coconut Milk
- Oils- coconut & olive
- Grains (rice, quinoa, farro, oatmeal, bulgur wheat, etc.)
- Sweet Potatoes
- Canned Pumpkin
- Canned &/or dried beans
- Maple syrup, honey
- And on and on… I can think of ten meals just looking at this list
- Recommended Freezer Staples
- Bags of frozen veggies (single, mixed, stir-fry, etc.)
- Homemade jams, applesauce, apple butters, etc.
- Meals you’ve made ahead of time and frozen -
- *another money-saving trick: make double of a recipe and freeze half to have as another meal
- Ideas: burritos, soups, black-bean burgers, enchiladas, sloppy joes, lasagna, etc. (all made healthy, of course)
#2 Assess what you have on-hand
- Make a list of every item of food in your kitchen
- Start with and make sure to use any perishable items (fresh produce, unfrozen meat, sauces that need to be used up, etc.), then build your meal from there
- What do I have to complete this meal? (Example meal: rice in the pantry to go with grilled bbq chicken and roasted broccoli)
- **Bonus tip: Create running ‘inventory lists’ for your pantry and freezer. Add items as you purchase them and cross off what gets used.
- If you meal-plan (another one of my healthy-eating-on-a-budget tools), use this same listing technique before searching for recipes to make
#3 Get Creative
- One of the very first throw-together meals I created was an Asian Peanut Sauce with veggies & chicken over noodles. Sounds pretty good, right? I saw peanut butter, a few veggies, and leftover roasted chicken in the fridge. With those items in mind, I perused the freezer and pantry to see what else we had. I discovered ginger in the freezer, and honey, rice vinegar, and buckwheat noodles in the pantry. A little soy sauce from the fridge, and that house-favorite meal came to life.
- Your turn: Tomatoes, ground beef, and quinoa – what could I make? Tap into that creativity… Go! (Add your response in Ven’s comments)
- A couple important tidbits to keep in mind:
- Don’t be afraid to test out new flavor combinations
- Don’t worry about what the meal will look like.
#4 Search for recipes that call for the items you already have
- Don’t be afraid to cut out or substitute an ingredient. I do this most-often with spices. If you’re unsure what to substitute with, google it.
- Utilize recipe sites – a few of my favorites:
- Break out your favorite cookbooks
#5 Create a Go-to Recipe Database and keep those items on-hand
- List out your (and your family members’) favorite meals – and stash the recipes in a handy place (in a cookbook, on your computer or phone, etc.)
- Always keep the ingredients handy for those meals
You’re turn. Step in that kitchen, figure out what items you have, and get creative. Hope this helps you whip up your own frugal, healthy meals!
Jaclyn is a holistic health coach & mom-to-be with a passion for fitness, nutrition, and healthy, balanced living. With a background in exercise science and 5+ years of personal-training experience, she quickly grew frustrated with the lack of solid, research-based advice for expectant mamas who enjoy lifting and/or high-intensity exercise. So, she started her blog, BumpSweat, to help women (pre-pregnancy, pregnant and/or new moms) navigate those waters and stay fit & active before and after baby comes. When not coaching or blogging, Jaclyn enjoys digging into the Word, cooking nutritious meals, hiking, and reading.