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I know that many families struggle with feeding a family on a limited budget and have even convinced themselves that it is too expensive to eat healthy food. I get a lot of push back when I talk about eating healthy food, or organic vegetables, or fresh food. People argue that it is expensive to buy good food – fattening food is cheap – carbs are cheap – processed food is cheap – frozen dinners are cheap and easy – take out pizza is cheap and fast.
I recently watched a good friend buy a whole grocery cart full of cheap but mostly processed food. I knew he was on a budget and gave him a some direction when I couldn’t stand it anymore – it was a good for me to see how buying choices are made. Even items we believe are healthy are often not. The food companies spend time and money and lots of Research & Development to fool us.
Good food doesn’t have to be expensive if you buy what is on sale, have a plan and work on assembling a small but flavorful pantry of basics and spices.
I gave myself a challenge to create a weekend menu of breakfast lunches and suppers with a $20 budget for essentials. Friday night through Sunday. I jotted down a few ideas after work on Friday before heading to Publix.
In order to stretch my dollar, I knew I would need a few multi-use ingredients such as chicken to roast for supper with the rest for Chicken Salad for lunch. Eggs would be another – using eggs for Sunday morning breakfast with biscuits, egg salad for lunch, and maybe a quiche.
Friday Budget Supper – Gemelli pasta with Ricotta and Sauce, Rainbow Chard sauteed in garlic and olive oil. Gia Russa sauce was a buy one get one free last week, so my jar of Spicy Sicilian red sauce was just $2. I used all but a 1/2 cup to sauce pasta for my husband (.50 cents Barilla buy one get one free) and swirled in half a container of ricotta to add protein and creamy flavor to the dish – the fresh chard was .99 a bunch. I invested $3.50 in my supper that easily fed four. I put some of the sauce over a scoop of Ricotta for myself ($2 for the container)
Saturday Budget Breakfast – we both had scrambled eggs, Ty had multigrain toast as well.
Saturday Budget Lunch – Open faced Egg Salad on Whole Grain toast with tomatoes. Publix eggs on sale 1 1/2 dozen for $2. Fage yogurt was 10/$10…I bought one container and use it in place of mayonnaise in my egg salad to cut back on fat. Tomatoes are just .99 a pound. I picked up two beautiful ripe Roma tomatoes for well under a dollar. Lunch set us back a whopping $1.20
Saturday Budget Supper – Roasted Asian Chicken with Bok Choy and Buckwheat Soba. Publix had whole chicken legs for .79 cents a pound (3 lbs. $2.57) – I cut them apart into four legs & four thighs – fast marinade of soy sauce, siracha, oyster sauce, rice vinegar, ginger, garlic, and sugar free orange Smuckers – roasted at 425 for 35 minutes. I added bok choy, (.85) and roasted another 10 minutes. Served with organic buckwheat soba. I invested $3.75 in a meal for four.
Baked a pumpkin pie … .79 can of Libby’s pumpkin puree, .20 two eggs, a buy one get one free can of 2% Carnation Milk at .65… spices, a pie crust from my pantry items. Sugar free Pumpkin Pie for $1.65
Sunday Budget Breakfast – Bob’s Red Mill Organic Thick Rolled Oats (.50 pantry item) with cinnamon, a touch of nutmeg, sweetener, and blueberries (.50) – mine gets a dollop of the Greek yogurt we opened for yesterdays egg salad. A $1 breakfast investment
Sunday Budget Lunch – Chicken Salad (using Asian roasted chicken, Greek yogurt, minced onion and celery, diced apple, salt & pepper). A great lunch using last nights leftovers. If you dont have an apple, use chopped orange segments or a few blueberries for that burst of sweet and fresh. There is such a thing as a free lunch!
Sunday Budget Minnestrone Soup – When I cut up the chicken for our Saturday supper, I removed the back pieces from the whole legs and made a fast stock. While this was simple for me, I get that many people do not have knife skills yet, so a chicken bouillion cube is fine for most. I bought a slice of Boars Head pancetta, an Italian bacon, that I sauteed with onion, garlic, cubed potato and carrot, diced zucchini, fresh green beans, a can of diced tomatoes, white beans and stock. The aroma of my cauldron of simmering Italian soup fills the condo! This thick soup will make a great meal, plus lunch or a second small supper with a lettuce wrap or sandwich. My large pot of soup cost me about $3.70 – a great deal!
The bottom line is that we have had wonderful fresh delicious meals for the entire weekend… it was low fat, high in fiber and nutrients, low in calories… and the irony is that I made the same meals I would have prepared if I had an unlimited budget. Eating well does not have to be expensive.
My $20 Budget Weekend Shopping List
$2.00 Gia Russo Spaghetti Sauce
.50 Barilla Pasta
.99 Swiss Chard
2.00 Polly-o Part Skim Ricotta
2.00 18 eggs
1.00 Fage 0% Greek yogurt
.65 Roma tomatoes
2.57 Chicken leg thighs
.85 Bok Choy
.79 Libby’s Pumpkin
.65 Carnation 2% Evaporated Milk
.99 wheat berry bread from Publix bakery
.99 fresh blueberries
.45 a slice of Boars Head pancetta, uncured bacon from the deli (cut on number five)
1.35 potato, carrot, zucchini
1.25 fresh green beans
.65 can of cannellini beans