My oldest son recently turned 8 years old. Along with that birthday has come a growth spurt. Clothes that fit him a month ago are now too short and too tight. He is hungry all the time! Our pantry and refrigerator are emptying out more quickly than before.
This has made me realize that I need to re-think my typical grocery shopping trip. I shop for groceries weekly and, depending on the store, the foods I purchase are pretty much the same from week to week. This helps me stay on track with my budget. Unfortunately, an increase in appetite does not mean an increase in food budget. I need to look more closely at the foods I plan to make in the coming weeks to make sure my son (and the rest of my family) get the nutrition they need while staying within our food budget.
As I plan my next grocery shopping trip, here are three things I am going to look at more closely:
- Protein. I need to spend more time looking at the grocery ads before I go shopping to make sure I am choosing protein foods that fit my meal plan and my budget. For many recipes, I can substitute a less expensive protein choice.
- Stir-Fry is a great recipe for this – I can use beef, pork, chicken, fish, or tofu.
- Vegetables. I need to add more vegetables to my recipes. My whole family likes canned beans and frozen vegetables. These are choices that can add nutrition to a recipe without putting me outside of my budget.
- Snacks. I have gotten into a habit of buying pre-packaged snacks. Yes, they are easier, but they are more expensive. I think I can save myself money by reducing the number of pre-packaged snacks I buy and packaging snacks into reusable containers myself.
- Trail Mix is an easy snack to make and to package into small containers that will travel easily with us to the park or the pool this summer.
Stick with me on this one! When it is my turn to blog this summer, I will give you updates about how I am doing with my grocery shopping changes.
Has all of our talk about fiber this month got you thinking about adding more fiber to your meals? I sure hope so! Today I have two meal plans to share with you. Both include three meals, one snack, and 25-30 grams of fiber.
Meal Plan 1: (Fiber in grams)
- 1 1/2 cups Zesty Whole Grain Salad (5)
- 1 sandwich with
- 2 slices whole wheat bread (4)
- 1 slice cheese
- 3 ounces deli meat
Total grams of Fiber: 29 grams
Meal Plan 2: (Fiber in grams)
Total grams of Fiber: 25.5 grams
Note: If you need more or less fiber depending on your age and gender, adjust amounts of food up or down to meet your personal needs.
Our May recipe of the month is Cowboy Caviar. This recipe is easy to make, tastes amazing, and packs a nutritional punch. All you have to do is combine some beans, chopped vegetables, and a chopped avocado with a quick homemade salad dressing. With that, you are ready to serve, or, in my case, eat!
I am not sure that I have mentioned this on the blog before, but, in addition to being a lover of great food, I am a dietitian. The food lover part of me drools over this recipe because it tastes so good and it is versatile. I can serve it as a dip for a party, I can scoop it into a tortilla and eat it as a wrap for lunch or supper, or I can simply grab a spoon and eat up (I have been known to do all three). The dietitian part of me loves this recipe because it is packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber. In the coming weeks you are going to hear a lot from us about the wonderful nutrient fiber. Next week, Christine is going to tell us about what fiber can do for our bodies and foods that have fiber in them.
In the meantime, make a batch of Cowboy Caviar and let me know what you think. Enjoy!
Our April recipe of the month is here – Fish and Noodle Skillet. This is a variation of one of our favorite Spend Smart. Eat Smart recipes – Ramen Noodle Skillet. This recipe is made nearly the same way with the exception of cooking fish in the skillet with the vegetables instead of adding pre-cooked meat toward the end of the cooking time.
My children really like this recipe for several reasons:
- They love the ramen noodles. Ramen noodles are fun to look at and they are fun to eat. For this recipe, the ramen noodles need to be broken apart before they are added to the pan. This is a great job for children to help out with.
- They love fish. Even if you are not a fish lover, this recipe is a great way to get your fish in. The fish is mixed in with the noodles and vegetables, so it does not have that “fishy” flavor some do not like. Mixing the fish with noodles and vegetables also makes it more filling, so it saves you money.
- They love the leftovers. This recipe tastes really good when it is re-heated and served for a quick and easy meal the next day. Re-heating meals in the microwave is another way children can help out in the kitchen. They can push the buttons on the microwave and learn to identify their numbers at the same time.
Try our Fish and Noodle Skillet today and find your own reasons to love it.
Our March recipe of the month is Homemade Mac and Cheese. This recipe is an easier (and healthier) way to make a classic favorite, so it is a good way to get children involved with a meal. In the coming weeks, our blogs will focus on different ways that children can grow a love of cooking by helping out in the kitchen.
This recipe starts with cooking whole wheat pasta in boiling water. While the pasta is cooking, children can measure out the spinach into the bottom of a colander. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water and then pour the rest of the water and the cooked pasta over the top of the spinach in the colander. Children can see how the spinach changes from raw to cooked simply by adding the hot water.
To make the sauce, you only need to put the cooked pasta and spinach back in the pot and stir in the remaining ingredients – cooking water, shredded cheese, plain yogurt, onion powder, and garlic powder. Children can practice measuring, pouring, and mixing.
The only thing left to do is eat. Enjoy!
Our February recipe of the month is Honey Mustard Dressing. This is a super easy homemade dressing that can be used for more than just salads.
To make this dressing, combine ¼ cup each of only four ingredients – Dijon mustard, honey, cider vinegar, and oil – in a container with a tight fitting lid. Shake well and serve. This dressing has many uses:
Try our Honey Mustard Dressing this month; I think you will like it!
Happy New Year from Spend Smart. Eat Smart.! We are happy to welcome you to 2018 with our January recipe of the month – Tamale Pie.
A bottom layer of ground beef, onions, peppers, and salsa is topped with a delicious, golden layer of cornbread. You will want to eat this right out of the oven, but I promise it is better if you let it rest about five minutes before slicing and serving. The rest time lets the bottom layer thicken up a little and makes it much easier to scoop from the dish to your plate.
This dish has been a hit with the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. family and I hope it is a hit with your family too!
‘Tis the season for festive fun! This is my favorite time of year to pull friends together for a party. Formal dinner parties are not really for me. I prefer to invite friends over for a casual get together with some tasty food that is not too difficult or expensive for me to prepare.
For this week’s blog, I have done a recipe round-up of party friendly recipes from Spend Smart. Eat Smart. I hope they make it onto your party spread!
- Mango Salsa: This is a delicious option alongside traditional salsa. It is tasty with homemade Baked Tortilla Chips or store bought ones. This recipe works well with jarred or canned mangoes if you do not want to work with fresh ones. It will be the talk of your party!
- Peanut Butter Balls: Holiday parties are usually overwhelmed with cookies and sweets. These little nibbles are a nice change of pace and look great alongside Fruit Kabobs.
- If your party is around a mealtime and you do not want to have a sit down dinner, consider putting out the components of a Tostada Bar. It is less work for you and fun for your guests to do themselves.
- Sometimes it is nice to bring everyone together around a hot pot of soup. Our Slow Cooker Pork Chili is perfect for this. You can keep it hot in the slow cooker for everyone to enjoy as they come and go.
- For a sweet ending to your party, try Chocolate Surprise Cupcakes. They start with a cake mix to keep your baking simple.
Our December recipe of the month is here – Chicken, Corn, and Rice Casserole.
This hot and tasty dish is sure to warm you up on a cold winter evening.
My weekly menus usually reflect the seasons. In the winter, I enjoy making hot casseroles that fill our home with delicious smells and the warmth of the oven. This time of year, I find comfort in gathering our family around the table, enjoying a hot meal together, and having a long conversation. Chicken, Corn, and Rice Casserole is a great recipe to gather around.
To make this recipe, stir together cooked brown rice, frozen corn (that has been thawed), a can of chicken, a can of diced green chilies, a container of plain Greek yogurt, and shredded cheese. Put the mixture into a casserole dish and bake at 350° F for 30 minutes. When you serve it, you can let each person add their own toppings (salsa, shredded cheese, jalapeños, sour cream, crushed tortilla chips).
Last week Christine gave four tips for saving money on holiday groceries. She mentioned that during the holidays stores will occasionally have deep discounts on items like turkeys or hams. This is a good time to include planned-overs in your weekly menu to save money. During the busy holiday season, it can also save you time in the kitchen.
Planned-overs are leftovers you plan into your weekly menu. When you have a day off or an evening free, you can make an entire extra meal such as a casserole or prepare extra ingredients that can be included in recipes later in the week. Let’s imagine we bought an extra ham during a great holiday sale. Below is a sample menu that uses the ham we got on sale and includes some planned-over shortcuts to use throughout the week.
Sunday Ham and Easy Roasted Veggies (cut up the ham to use Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday)
Monday It’s a Meal Strata (cut up extra vegetables to use for Tuesday and Wednesday)
Tuesday Mama’s Pizza Boats
Wednesday Whole Meal Salad
Thursday Ham and Brown Rice (make extra rice for Saturday)
Friday Slower Cooker Black Eyed Pea Soup
Saturday Fiesta Skillet Dinner
Prepared dishes and cooked ingredients will only last four days in the refrigerator. If you won’t be able to use them within four days, freeze them to use at a later date.
For more dinner menu ideas using planned-overs, check out our How to Use Planned-overs video.