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Food Wednesday: Eating in a tanking economy

March 11, 2009

You all know the drill. What are your tricks and tips for eating healthy for cheap these days?

For me, I don’t have anything particularly new to say. My guidelines are something like

1) Be realistic. Buying dried beans may be much cheaper than canned, but the canned beans are actually going to be used. I try not to engage in fantasies about becoming a hardscrabble pioneer type who bakes all her own breads, cans her own preserves and always has some beans soaking on the counter because I’ll just end up with a lot of unused yeast, empty jars and bags of beans lurking in the back of the pantry.

2) Take advantage of super deals only if it is something I know I like and will use. When my local Kroger had a sale on canned chickpeas, I bought like 10 cans because I already have 5 recipe staples that I use them in. However, when they have a special on eggplant, I pass because I hate the stuff and won’t ever use it.

3) I have a rotating cast of cookbooks from the library. This keeps things interesting and allows me to find lots of new uses for ingredients.

4) I don’t go to the store when I’m hungry. I have absolutely no ability to think about food logically when I’m hungry and surrounded by the stuff.

5) Make things that are usable in multiple dishes. I love these Tuscan white beans ( made with ‘butter’, sage and tomatoes) I make because they are a great side dish, good over pasta and can also be mashed and made into little bean croquettes.

Ok, so here are some things I always have on hand that are versatile, healthy and fairly cheap:

Dried lentils: these cook in about 30 minutes, are high in protein and fiber.
canned beans: they have a bad rap when it comes to cost, but I can generally get them on sale for well under a dollar.
canned tomatoes: too many uses to count. I stock up when there’s a sale.
carrots: They last a long time in the crisper. I use them in sauces, soups and salads.
tofu: Yeah yeah, ewwww. Get over it. Useful in a hundred ways and I can buy a package for under two bucks.
onions: I go through a bag a week, easily. Nothing can compare to the flavor caramelized onions add to a dish.

And some things I splurge on:

Lettuces: I hate iceberg and those pre-packages bags are overpriced and kind of icky. I buy fresh spring mix made at the store when I can.
Spices: I buy often and I buy in tiny amounts.
Olive oil: I don’t spend as much as some people, but when using in salad dressings or on bread, those cheapish blends just aren’t ok.
Actual whole wheat bread: I use sprouted wheat bread. It’s not cheap, but I love the texture.

One Comment leave one →
  1. March 11, 2009 10:25 am

    My eating habits aren’t so cheap, but I go for convenient and healthy. This means leftovers, though maybe not how you think. I make six slices of bacon at once, use one, put the rest in the freezer. I fry two slices of tofu at once, use one, put other in freezer. I make a double salad, eat half, rest in fridge for next day. I make two pizzas, eat half, put the rest in fridge for a few more meals. If I make soup, I put 2/3 in the freezer, eat a few bowls (I am not a fan of leftovers, but I make myself eat it). All stuff I cook usually ends up in a few different meals.

    The most important thing is for me to have stuff on hand to eat when I have very little time. More than fruits and veggies, it’s gotta be something that’ll hold me for a few hours. It always seems that I get home from work at 4:45, leave for gym at 5:10. If I don’t have something I can find to eat in that time, I either don’t make it through the workout, or I eat way too much when I’m done. I have to get away from so much dairy, though this morning I had raw full fat milk in my coffee (half milk, half coffee), and a kiwi, and it held me until 1:30.

    As for staples, I have many cans of various tomato stuff, lots of dried beans (I use them), a constant full stocked supply of veggies (I eat them), broth, veggie burgers, walnuts, salted pistachios, spicy ramen. I’m still working on a lot of this stuff, but this is where I’m at so far.

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