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TOPIC: Healthy Family Meals when your broke & not a good cook?

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November 8, 2010 10:42 AM
I'm find myself struggling with that saying Fast, Good and Cheap (and how you can only do 2...Fast & good...but then not cheap..Good and cheap...but then not fast etc).... I somehow want all 3 when it comes to food!

I'm coming off a eat out all the time life style, so eating at home all the time, especially when I'm not a great cook, makes me crazy sometimes because the food either a) is bland and boring b)Isn't enough to make me feel full c) Takes to long to cook and we opt for $5 hot & ready pizza (happens way more than it should)

On top of that, we are kind of broke at the moment...and I don't see extra money coming in anytime soon. Trying to eat healthier over the last month 1/2 (while trying to keep me from feeling deprived) our grocery bill seems to have gone up not down :(

I want to start planning out our meals (something we haven't been doing), hopefully this will help save us some money, but me and my husband were brain storming the last few days, and most of the foods we came up with were easy...but eating them all the time gets way boring...I wish I could like Salad more, but eating it 3 times a week is about my max before seeing lettuce makes me want to puke. And I like veggies, but it just gets so boring eating a side of steamed veggies with every meal.

I feel so stuck right now, because when I try to come up with meals so we can save some money all I see is a bunch of food that doesn't sound yummy, and makes that $1 McChicken sound sooo good.

Or if I'm at work, and they are catering (and telling me I'm free to eat this catered food) BBQ Ribs, Mashed Potatoes & Gravy, Corn soaking in butter & then wedding cake for desert

...and I'm in the corner trying to eat a salad...after eating salad all week...I don't foresee my will power being very good. But at this point, I'm not in a place to be picky about my food, Its either eat the $1 worth of Salad or $1 worth of Ramen Noodles at 400 calories a package (and I can so eat like 2-3 packages before I feel full)

Some of the things we've come up with are chicken & rice w/ side of veggie, Salads (taco salad, BLT salad...trying to think of different ones), Stir Frys, Spaghetti (which if I'm only eating 2-3oz...I have no idea what to put on the side of this...besides salad..ugh more lettuce...)

So I'm trying to find meals that are
- Healthy & Low Cal
- Cheap (I'm hoping to get our grocery bill down to around $250 or less a month)
- Filling ... Its really hard to stay under calories when I feel like I'm starving
- Has flavor .... one of my biggest problems is eating at home the food always seems so boring...and then I crave eating out because I'm sick of eating rice, steamed veggies, and lettuce
- Low Sodium - This seems to be the big thing, Sandwiches w/ low cal bread & lunch meat seem super cheap...but each slice of meat has like 300-600mg of sodium. :(

I've tried googling this, but I don't consider $15-$20 a meal, even if it feeds the whole family...very cost effective...so whoever was writing some of the articles I was reading were crazy. I'm looking at meals to average around $3 (or less) each, and still feed everyone, not just me. That was another thing I found, is peoples blogs about how they eat on only so much a month, then when your reading their foods...you figure out its because they are single and only have to feed 1 person.

Sorry for the extra long post, but I was already in a pessimistic mind set last week, and now I have the added stress of no money...its making this "lifestyle change" seem impossible.

Any help with meal ideas or recipes would be greatly appreciated.
  1788027
November 8, 2010 10:54 AM
We feed a family of 7 on about $400 a month and nearly everything we make is something that's quick and easy. Here's some examples of what we eat:

Quesadillas -- A tortilla (or two, if you're really hungry), .25-.3 cup of cheese, and some sort of meat (I usually go for pepperoni), folded over and baked in the oven at 350 for 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted. It's a 300 calorie meal for 1.
Tacos -- 3 tacos with meat and cheese are right around 400-450 calories, depending on how much cheese I use. Browning the meat is quick, then you just pour in the seasoning and let it simmer for 5 minutes or so.
Baked chicken -- Pop a cut up chicken in the oven for an hour. Use the drippings mixed with a little flour and water to make a gravy to use on rice. We usually do sweet peas and corn as well, all of which we microwave.
Scrambled eggs, toast and bacon--Less than 15 minutes prep time.
Hamburgers -- we do them on the grill outside. Sometimes I make roasted potatoes with them.
Pigs n a Blanket -- We buy a big box of frozen ones from Sams Club and it's like 330 calories for 5 of them.
Mushroom chicken -- Same as baked chicken, but instead of flour and water to make a chicken gravy, you pour onion soup mix and a can or two of cream of mushroom soup in while the chicken is cooking to make a gravy. We don't do this often because it's higher calorie and very high sodium (the onion soup mix is a killer!)

We do the first 5 every Monday-Friday without fail. Saturday and Sunday we rotate some other meals just to make some variety.
  906249
November 8, 2010 10:57 AM
I have found that adding "fun" things to salads makes them a lot easier to eat all the time. Some things I've added are mint (sounds strange, but it was dee-lish-ous), feta cheese, lime, tuna fish, mangoes, and even watermelon.

Also, soups are good because a little bit of ingredients go a long way, and soups are pretty darn hard to mess up. Just throw some veggies and some kind of meat, and maybe some grains into some broth and let it boil. Add the ingredients from "harder" (carrots, potatoes, barley) to "softer" (celery, peppers, tomatoes), so that things don't get overcooked. You can make a whole bunch and freeze it in serving sizes. Also, a little bit of parmesan cheese grated on top or a lime squeezed in there goes a long way and gives it that extra kick so it's not so boring.

Hopefully that helps! I'm curious to see what some of the other suggestions are too!
  1149434
November 8, 2010 10:58 AM
Hmm...well this is what our family of three eats on most occassions:

grilled chicken or turkey breast (4 oz/person) = $1.50
frozen veggies (1 1/2 cups/person) = $1.50
instant rice (3/4 cup/person, cooked) = $1.00 (guessing high here)
Grand Totals = About 400 calories & $1.33 per person

Key is to buy in BULK and to keep it simple.
November 8, 2010 11:05 AM
chicken thighs are cheaper than chicken breasts (but a lil higher in cals) but I use those a lot because of price. Do you have crockpot? Throw them in and add stuff! (corn, salsa, kidney beans for a 'southwestern' chicken) and if you have a large crockpot, you can put more in and I use the leftover chicken to make a salad for lunch the next day.

Also keep 'staples' in the house when you have money like frozen/canned veggies, lettuce low-cal cheese, whole wheat tortillas. You can make wraps, salads, soups, quesadillas. I made a 270 cal pizza! (flat out wraps 90, 1/4cheese 90, 5 peperoni's 65, sauce 25) and you can a ton of veggies like mushrooms, onions, whaterver, it's YOUR pizza!

I have searched the internet for low-cal recipes lately because I do NOT want bland food. So check out eating well. com, hungry girl. com, etc to find more. Good luck! also, if you want I and email recipes since I save them all :)
  1762000
November 8, 2010 11:11 AM
Turkey burgers.

Ground Turkey hamburger helper wholesome helper w/ canned peas

Stouffers Frozen skillet meal w/ veggie
  2137325
November 8, 2010 11:13 AM
i apologize if the list gets long....

turkey bacon blt's
salad with diced chicken breast (bake boneless skinless chicken breast in oven with pepper,garlic powder and garlic salt with a drizzle of olive oil)
tuna salad subs (use 1 can of tuna,light miracle whip,salt pepper and relish)
pork chop wraps(dice pork chop,sprinkle with garlic powder salt and itallian seasoning with a little hot sauce,cook until done. put pork chop in a tortilla with favorite salad dressing and favorite lettuce or uncooked spinach with favorite croutons)
tortilla pizzas(tortilla shell,pizza sauce,reduced fat cheese and fave toppings)
omelete(1/2 cup of eggbeaters,i slice of kraft cheese,diced green,yellow or red peppers,salt,pepper)
meatloaf(lean ground beef or ground turkey,egg,bread crumbs,pepper,dijon mustard,onion salt,garlic powder and ketchup)


SIDE DISHES
mozzerella sticks(low fat mozz cheese,fiber one original cereal,egg beaters. place the stick of cheese in egg beater place that in ground up cereal and bake in oven until cheese kind of begins to ooze
asparagus(sautee in olive oil pepper and salt)
garlic bread(loaf of italian bread,country crock light butter,garlic salt and fat free mozz cheese shreds. spread butter on bread sprinkle with garlic salt and put on cheese,bake until cheese is done)
roasted red potatoes(boil red potatoes until still slightly firm,cut in to chunks drizzle with olive oil,dice onion and garlic and put in fry pan until slightly golden)
knorr side dishes. use skim milk and light butter to reduce cal.

hope these help a bit
November 8, 2010 11:14 AM
I'm a student but we regularly have 6 of us cooking together on a regular basis.
For spaghetti you can just throw all of the veggies into the tomato sauce so no salad has to be involved. Also if you like lentils or beans they can be used as a much cheaper and low calorie alternative to meat. Basil, garlic and thyme can make almost anything taste amazing. Bean chilli and egg fried rice are also good meals, and once again you can quite easily add enough vegetables to the rice or the sauce.
November 8, 2010 11:30 AM
Bump!!
  1143222
November 8, 2010 11:39 AM
QUOTE:

Hmm...well this is what our family of three eats on most occassions:

grilled chicken or turkey breast (4 oz/person) = $1.50
frozen veggies (1 1/2 cups/person) = $1.50
instant rice (3/4 cup/person, cooked) = $1.00 (guessing high here)
Grand Totals = About 400 calories & $1.33 per person

Key is to buy in BULK and to keep it simple.


That is something I try to do myself... but I will mix it up sometimes by replacing the chicken with pork chops or steaks. or the rice for pasta... and I always try to have some different fresh herbs to mix in to change up the flavor without adding calories.
  2493402
November 8, 2010 11:41 AM
...It's amazing what you can do with a couple of canned veggies. I've been eating salads that are made up of lettuce, some canned corn, canned black beans, a little bit of cut up pepper jack cheese, and equal parts taco sauce (or salsa) and ranch dressing. Throw in some tostitos chips for crunch. This is delicious.

Or, if you're tired of lettuce, make some brown minute rice and throw in the rice and beans and cheese. Add some hot sauce and then you have another low-cal meal.

Stir-fry is pretty easy to do as well. Make the rice, meanwhile saute-ing some frozen/canned veggies in a pan, then add the cooked rice. Use a little bit of low sodium soy sauce and a lot of hot sauce. If you have chicken breast add that in.

I also make corn-flake chicken when I babysit for the kids. They absolutely LOVE this. Crush up 3 cups of corn flakes in a ziplock bag. Add in 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp ground black pepper (or however much you like). When I make it I coat chicken breast in soy milk, put it in the bag, and shake it. I forget what the original recipe calls for, but one of the girls is allergic to milk so I subbed the soy milk. It might have been regular milk. You could probably use water if you want. Anyways, arrange coated chicken on a pan and bake at 350 for about an hr, depending on the thickness of the breasts (that's what she said? ha ha ha....).
Edited by pinstripepirate On November 8, 2010 11:46 AM
  1919975
November 8, 2010 11:42 AM
bump
  2072305
November 8, 2010 11:52 AM
QUOTE:

...It's amazing what you can do with a couple of canned veggies. I've been eating salads that are made up of lettuce, some canned corn, canned black beans, a little bit of cut up pepper jack cheese, and equal parts taco sauce (or salsa) and ranch dressing. Throw in some tostitos chips for crunch. This is delicious.

Or, if you're tired of lettuce, make some brown minute rice and throw in the rice and beans and cheese. Add some hot sauce and then you have another low-cal meal.

Stir-fry is pretty easy to do as well. Make the rice, meanwhile saute-ing some frozen/canned veggies in a pan, then add the cooked rice. Use a little bit of low sodium soy sauce and a lot of hot sauce. If you have chicken breast add that in.

I


Yes, I use those crunchy onions that are usually in those green bean caseroles for my salad and wraps. But as someone else said, the key is to buy in bulk. I also buy canned chicken breast. I usally add pepper, garlic, onion salt, SOMETHING because it's bland, but because it's fully cooked it's quick and easy to use in things like a quesadilla, or for soups.
  1762000
November 8, 2010 12:07 PM
bump
  1237591
November 8, 2010 12:17 PM
basic spices arent that expensive and even ones that seem a LITTLE expensive you dont use them as often so all in all they last such a long time that they are worth it. spices are the way to make a boring meal into a fabulous meal. (even if you're making something out of a box because its easier, which i do all the time, always add some of your favorite spices to it and trust me its EVEN better. ex: mac and cheese from a box is delicious with cayenne and turmeric in it. EXPERIMENT!)
  1530433
November 8, 2010 12:23 PM
if you can, try making some stuff on weekends, a big pot of turkey chili, a pan of lasagna, some whole wheat pizza crusts, and then portion it out and freeze it. That way, you do all your cooking on one or two days, and can have quick, fast, and easy homemade meals that are good for you! Here are some of the things I make that are all about 30 minutes or less, and pretty good for you!

Dreamfields (or whole wheat) penne pasta with steamed broccoli and parmesan cheese
Pizzadillas (one or two tortillas filled with your favorite pizza toppings and sauce)
Enchiladas, made with chicken or sauteed lean ground beef, enchilada sauce, and 2% mexican blend cheese
Open face tuna melt sandwich - use a piece of whole wheat baguette or crusty bread, cut it open, top with tuna, cheese, onions, etc
Grilled cheese and tomato soup
Chicken Gyros - slice a grilled/sauteed chicken breast (marinated in a little olive oil, salt pepper and oregano) and place in a pita with red onions, tomato, and tzatziki sauce (greek yogurt, cucumber and garlic)
Omelets with veggies and cheese

Good luck :)
  641069
November 8, 2010 12:34 PM
bump! Great ideas everyone!!! happy
November 8, 2010 12:34 PM
QUOTE:

I'm find myself struggling with that saying Fast, Good and Cheap (and how you can only do 2...Fast & good...but then not cheap..Good and cheap...but then not fast etc).... I somehow want all 3 when it comes to food!

I'm coming off a eat out all the time life style, so eating at home all the time, especially when I'm not a great cook, makes me crazy sometimes because the food either a) is bland and boring b)Isn't enough to make me feel full c) Takes to long to cook and we opt for $5 hot & ready pizza (happens way more than it should)

On top of that, we are kind of broke at the moment...and I don't see extra money coming in anytime soon. Trying to eat healthier over the last month 1/2 (while trying to keep me from feeling deprived) our grocery bill seems to have gone up not down :(

I want to start planning out our meals (something we haven't been doing), hopefully this will help save us some money, but me and my husband were brain storming the last few days, and most of the foods we came up with were easy...but eating them all the time gets way boring...I wish I could like Salad more, but eating it 3 times a week is about my max before seeing lettuce makes me want to puke. And I like veggies, but it just gets so boring eating a side of steamed veggies with every meal.

I feel so stuck right now, because when I try to come up with meals so we can save some money all I see is a bunch of food that doesn't sound yummy, and makes that $1 McChicken sound sooo good.

Or if I'm at work, and they are catering (and telling me I'm free to eat this catered food) BBQ Ribs, Mashed Potatoes & Gravy, Corn soaking in butter & then wedding cake for desert

...and I'm in the corner trying to eat a salad...after eating salad all week...I don't foresee my will power being very good. But at this point, I'm not in a place to be picky about my food, Its either eat the $1 worth of Salad or $1 worth of Ramen Noodles at 400 calories a package (and I can so eat like 2-3 packages before I feel full)

Some of the things we've come up with are chicken & rice w/ side of veggie, Salads (taco salad, BLT salad...trying to think of different ones), Stir Frys, Spaghetti (which if I'm only eating 2-3oz...I have no idea what to put on the side of this...besides salad..ugh more lettuce...)

So I'm trying to find meals that are
- Healthy & Low Cal
- Cheap (I'm hoping to get our grocery bill down to around $250 or less a month)
- Filling ... Its really hard to stay under calories when I feel like I'm starving
- Has flavor .... one of my biggest problems is eating at home the food always seems so boring...and then I crave eating out because I'm sick of eating rice, steamed veggies, and lettuce
- Low Sodium - This seems to be the big thing, Sandwiches w/ low cal bread & lunch meat seem super cheap...but each slice of meat has like 300-600mg of sodium. :(

I've tried googling this, but I don't consider $15-$20 a meal, even if it feeds the whole family...very cost effective...so whoever was writing some of the articles I was reading were crazy. I'm looking at meals to average around $3 (or less) each, and still feed everyone, not just me. That was another thing I found, is peoples blogs about how they eat on only so much a month, then when your reading their foods...you figure out its because they are single and only have to feed 1 person.

Sorry for the extra long post, but I was already in a pessimistic mind set last week, and now I have the added stress of no money...its making this "lifestyle change" seem impossible.

Any help with meal ideas or recipes would be greatly appreciated.



Really good post, Neurotic.......I read everyone else's posts to your and they all sound great. Especially adding different things to your salads. Salad doesn't always have to be lettuce. It can be any number of veggies and or other stuff.....nuts, fruits, beans, eggs. beets.....the list is endless.
Antother suggestion.......try experimenting with new and different spices to add flavors. Try looking in the ethnic section in the grocery store where they have the Mexican foods. They usually have spices hanging in celephane bags instead of in the cute little jars in the spice isle. The bagged spices are way cheaper than the ones in the cute jars & bottles. And if you have any kind of Dollar store, .99 cent stores or like Big Lots or even Grocery Outlet, those places usually have lots of cheap priced spices. BE SURE that you look at the ingredients in all spices....make sure the first ingredient is not salt. Hope this helps.glasses glasses
  1650473
November 8, 2010 1:11 PM
Bump
  2601667
November 8, 2010 1:36 PM
I have had this discussion with clients forever -- if a person eats a proper portion of healthy unprocessed foods, their grocery bill will go down. I've done the challenge with my clients and haven't lost yet! :) They show me their "before" grocery bill for a month and I show them how they can eat cheaper. One of the "catches" is that when folks buy cheaper processed foods, they almost always consume more than one serving. Thus, they raise the cost of the "cheaper" food by consuming more in volume.

If you were closer, I'd happily take you for a grocery store "tour" within your budget. But, you can do the same on your own. Just look for whole foods and avoid those weekly sale items unless the sale is on foods on the outer perimeter of the store (e.g., produce/meat/dairy). Avoid the "aisles' of the stores (except to pick up your brown rice and stone ground oats), and you'll save a lot of money and calories!!

Hang in there! You can do it!!! ;)
Edited by TrainerRobin On November 8, 2010 1:38 PM
November 8, 2010 1:57 PM
Today for lunch I had a very simple salad. I serving of fresh spinach (which is a TON if you use a food scale), 1/4 of a cantaloupe (diced to bite size) and 2 tsp (yes teaspoons NOT TBSP) of poppyseed dressing. I shook all of the above up in a large ziploc bag and poured it on a plate to eat. It was yummy, filling and only 137 calories! Other days, I have topped my romaine and/or spinach leaves with egg salad (shaken up in a bag or bowl) and then I can skip the dressing completely. I've done this with tuna salad, chicken salad, etc. Trick is to make the tuna/chicken salad yourself. I dice up a boiled chicken breast (or tuna, or scrambled egg), add olive oil mayonnaise, some dill pickle relish, maybe some boiled egg or apples or nuts or grapes, whatever I'm in the mood for. then I shake it up in a bowl or bag with my lettuce greens. (The darker the greens the more nutritious).

Sometimes I add strawberry, cantaloupe etc to my salad mix. You have to make it appetizing to keep eating it or you will get burned out.
November 8, 2010 1:59 PM
QUOTE:

Hmm...well this is what our family of three eats on most occassions:

grilled chicken or turkey breast (4 oz/person) = $1.50
frozen veggies (1 1/2 cups/person) = $1.50
instant rice (3/4 cup/person, cooked) = $1.00 (guessing high here)
Grand Totals = About 400 calories & $1.33 per person

Key is to buy in BULK and to keep it simple.


So are you saying that for 1 lb of chicken breast (4 oz per person x 4 people) you only pay $1.50? or is that $1.50 per person. If it's the latter then it's more than $1.33 per person. If not, then where are you finding chicken breast for $1.50/lb?
November 8, 2010 2:34 PM
I love this salad! 1-2 tomatoes, 1 cucumber, olive oil and vinegar, or an olive oil and vinegar dressing.

Chop up, mix. Sooooo Yummy! And nutrient dense!
  2137325
November 8, 2010 2:46 PM
I know alot disagree but lean ground beef, then you can make spaghetti sauce (use whole grain noodles) chili taco meat, hamburgers and its all about portion size...For my budget ground turkey doesn't work, not to mention the kids won't eat it.
again I know alot will disagree but I love frozen meals tonight I'm fixing a Stouffer's Farmers' Harvest throwing some baby spinach in it and it has roughly 250 cals a serving, it is whole grain, yes high in sodium,..but is easy
November 8, 2010 2:50 PM
Bump!

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