On A Budget? Meals that Won’t Break the Scale or the Bank

by Jaclyn Holtzman

Let’s face it: we are all on a budget. I recently moved to Los Angeles, which is one of the most expensive cities, and I am fresh out of college. Top that combination! Unfortunately, I am sure that many of you can. If you are one of the lucky few who is not on a budget I am going to ask you for money. Then, I am going to go out on a limb and guess that you would not mind saving a few bucks on your groceries so that you can spend elsewhere. Below are two healthy recipes that will not require you to take out loans. In fact, I venture to say that they are cheap! They should help you get on the right track, and then it is your turn to start creating.

 As a newfound, self-proclaimed, health-freak with limited funds, I have been experimenting with the less expensive health foods this world has to offer. When in doubt, stick to whole, natural foods: items that come from the Earth and are not manhandled. I have recently discovered a few super foods that are spectacular because of their health benefits, their price and their versatility. Included in this elite category are spaghetti squash, quinoa, kale, and sweet potatoes.

 The recipes being divulged are for Spaghetti Squash with Homemade Pasta Sauce and Vegetables and an Asian-inspired Quinoa Stir-Fry dish; two wonderful dinners that are cheap, healthy, and plentiful enough to feed a family or to allow for days of leftovers. Sign me up!

 Spaghetti squash is the healthy alternative to spaghetti. It is chockfull of carotenes, vitamins and fiber. I bought a 3lb beauty at Trader Joe’s for $2.30, and it could have fed four hungry people.

You can either top it with store-bought pasta sauce (Target carries a cheap all natural version) or make your own! Add some fresh or frozen veggies to up the nutrients even further. The best thing about frozen vegetables is that none of the nutrients are lost in the freezing process!

 Quinoa is an extremely old “grain” that has slowly been entering the kitchens of healthy-living Americans. Although it functions like rice or pasta, it actually is not a grain, but a cousin of spinach and beets. Quinoa is a complete protein and offers a myriad of other health benefits as well. Whenever you can substitute quinoa for pasta-go for it! In this recipe I pair quinoa with some Asian flavor. Quinoa is not as cheap as pasta, but a little does go a lot further than you would think. One cup of uncooked quinoa can feed a family of four. I bought a big bag at Costco for about $8. It is so versatile; there are recipes using quinoa for breakfast, lunch and dinner!

 As you will see, there are a few key ingredients to healthy cooking: garlic, extra virgin olive oil, and vegetables! Make sure you have these in the house at all times!

 Spaghetti Squash with Homemade Pasta Sauce and Veggies

 Ingredients:

 1 spaghetti squash

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves of garlic

2 28oz cans of Italian plum tomatoes

1 6oz can of tomato paste

1 10oz bag of frozen spinach, defrosted (can substitute fresh spinach or any other vegetable that is on sale)

salt to taste

 Directions:

  1. Puncture spaghetti squash with sharp knife several times. Microwave for 10-15 minutes depending on the size of the squash. Allow it to sit for another 5 minutes to complete steaming process.
  2. Place a saucepan on medium heat. Add olive oil. Sauté garlic for about 2 minutes, and then add canned tomatoes and tomato paste. Break up tomatoes to allow juice to escape. Bring to a boil. Let simmer until thickened. Add salt to taste.
  3. Add spinach to saucepan to cook.
  4. While sauce is cooking, slice one end off of the spaghetti squash and then slice lengthwise. Use a spoon to scoop out seeds and then a fork to scrape out the squash. It should come out easily in spaghetti-like strands.
  5. Place squash in a serving bowl, then pour sauce with vegetables on top.

 Stir-Fry Quinoa

 Ingredients:

 1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed

2 cups water

¼ cup low sodium chicken broth (or vegetable broth)

2 tsp whole-wheat flour

2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves

2 eggs

1 10oz bag of frozen spinach, defrosted (can substitute fresh spinach)

frozen broccoli, defrosted (can substitute fresh broccoli)

 Directions:

  1. Place rinsed quinoa and water in a pot. Cover and bring to a boil. Let simmer and stir occasionally until quinoa are plump and barely any water is left. Keep covered and set aside.
  2. Stir chicken broth, flour, soy sauce and vinegar together in a bowl. Set aside.
  3. Place a pan on medium heat and add olive oil. Sauté garlic and onions, occasionally stirring until onions are translucent. Add broccoli. Add eggs and continue to stir creating scrambled eggs. Add spinach and sauce mixture and bring to a boil.
  4. Pour stir-fry over the quinoa.

 A couple helpful tips for grocery shopping to keep yourself in check:

  1. Make a list of everything, and I mean everything, you have in your kitchen. This may be a pain during the initial go-around, but if you write it on a white board you can erase and update as you consume and purchase. This means you won’t double purchase, and you’ll use the food you have before buying more.
  2. Before going to the grocery store, compile a list of ingredients you will need to make predetermined dinners for the week. This will cut down on throwing random, unnecessary items into your shopping cart.

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18 Responses to On A Budget? Meals that Won’t Break the Scale or the Bank

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  2. Recipes sound great! Can’t wait to try them…..

  3. your directions for creating the dishes are easily understood and thorough. am sending you a check to help in your budget.

  4. Health food rocks! Your recipes sound Deeeeelicious! Can’t wait to try them for myself!

  5. I’ve been meaning to try quinoa. Thanks for the recipe.

  6. Thanks for sharing. I now know what to try for dinner tonight!

  7. Made the spaghetti squash last night….delicious and easy!! Can’t wait to try quinoa….looking forward to more healthy recipes that I can afford!!

  8. Sounds very healthy and good–a good friend made us split pea soup with that grain and it was really good– keep up the good work of helping us save money and get healthy.

    Judy from florida

  9. Loved the spaghetti sauce!! made it with pasta on the side, too…..

  10. I can’t wait to try the Stir-Fry Quinoa…sounds yummy.

  11. Gave them to my wife who made both this week…..delicious, nutricious and easy!!

    Looking forward to more….

  12. Ohhhh, can’t wait to try these recipes. Thanks for sharing

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  17. Thanks for the great recipe ideas!!

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