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Reduce grocery costs without cutting nutrition

By on December 2, 2007

photo by glass_window
A bare-bones food budget means buying just what you need to maintain proper nutrition.

Mentally calculate how much it costs for a handful of items such as pop, chips, boxed cereal, ice cream, cookies, juice boxes and fruit snacks. If you free up that money and apply it elsewhere, you can stretch your food dollars and have healthier food available, such as fresh produce. You could have hot oatmeal, eggs, homemade French toast or pancakes instead of boxed cereal. Use less expensive starches, such as pastas, beans, wheat, corn and rice more often than potatoes; or get protein from milk, cheese and eggs instead of processed meats.

The following recipes include simple, inexpensive ingredients. These low-cost meals are deliciously filling comfort foods. They’re tasty enough that you won’t feel like you’re suffering through tough times, and you’ll incorporate them into your meal plan even during flush times because it is frugal to do so. Don’t confuse them with the so-called “budget meals” featuring gourmet ingredients that are plastered in glossy magazines.

One-Pot Lasagna

1 box bow-tie pasta
1 small bag frozen spinach
1 container cottage cheese
1 jar spaghetti sauce
2 cups mozzarella cheese

Cook pasta, drain and put back in large pot. Cook spinach, drain. Put in pot, and add all the other ingredients. Mix well.
Serves 4 to 6. Total cost less than $6 — submitted by D., Indiana.

Pasta Primavera

4 teaspoons minced garlic
1 pound bag frozen vegetable mix
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 pound thin spaghetti, cooked and drained
4 to 8 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

Cream sauce:
1 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
3 tablespoons flour
3 cups powdered milk, prepared

Saute garlic and veggies in oil until tender. For cream sauce, blend whole milk, salt and flour together in a measuring cup until smooth. Add prepared powder milk and milk/flour mixture to pan. Heat on medium until thickened. Stir in pasta. Serve with cheese.
Serves 4 to 6. Total cost less than $4 — submitted by Constance, New Jersey.

Pea Soup

16 ounces bag split green peas, rinse and sort
9 cups water
1 meaty ham bone
1 large onion, chopped
2 chicken bouillon cubes
1/2 teaspoon each garlic powder and oregano
1/4 teaspoon each black pepper and ground cloves
1 bay leaf
1-1/2 cup thinly sliced carrots
1 cup sliced celery

Mix all except carrots and celery and simmer 2 hours. Remove ham bone cool a bit and add any meat from the bone and the carrots and celery to the pot. Simmer another hour. Taste and add more bouillon if necessary. Remove bay leaf. May also add extra ham if wanted. Just cube and toss in to heat through.

Serves 6 hearty bowls. Total cost less than $4 — submitted by Darlene, New York.
Additional budget-meal ideas: whole roasted chicken; stir-fry; cabbage rolls; meatloaf; casseroles; homemade pizza; chicken and dumplings; stuffed peppers; taco salad; beef stroganoff; fettuccine alfredo.

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