Meals and Snacks from the Pantry

In the coming weeks many of us will be spending most of our time at home and doing lots of food preparation for ourselves and our families. As you prepare your grocery list and plan your meals for the weeks ahead, below are some Spend Smart. Eat Smart. recipes that can be made from pantry staples or made ahead and frozen.

These recipes use items I keep on hand to help with quick, nutritious meals for my family.  Some of my go-to staple ingredients are canned beans, canned tomatoes, canned fruit, chicken broth, peanut butter, quick oats, frozen vegetables, frozen fruit, whole wheat tortillas, brown rice, whole grain cereals, whole wheat bread, frozen chicken breast, and onions. Since most of us are still able to get to the grocery store, there is no need to buy excessive amounts of food, but buy some extra items each time you go so you have a good supply on hand and do not need to go as often.

Winter Black Bean Soup

Oatmeal Pancakes

Peanut Butter Balls

Crispy Granola

Make Ahead Burritos

Berry and Greens Smoothies

Mexican Chicken Soup

Vegetable Quesadillas

Lentil Tacos

And to help you with your meal planning, check out our 5 Day Meal Planner.

Stay healthy!

Make Ahead Burritos
Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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Make Veggies the Star

Adults should eat an average of two to three cups of vegetables per day depending on age and sex. Does this sound like a lot to you? If you are balancing a busy schedule, a tight grocery budget and often eating meals on the go, this may seem like a high bar to reach. I have found that making vegetables my main dish once per day helps me reach 2 ½ cups per day, which is the recommendation for me. 

At lunch, I do this by packing salads to take to work. Some of my favorites from our recipe collection are Zesty Whole Grain Salad, Summer Bounty Salad and Chicken Club Salad. Each of these packs up well and gets me at least half-way to my 2 ½ cups of vegetables per day. Generally, I eat the rest of my veggies as snacks and as a side dish at dinner. 

Soup can also be a very vegetable-rich main dish. I make soup nearly every week and keep a variety of soups in single-serve containers in my freezer. I will admit that I improvise soup a lot. I make soup out of the veggies that I have left in my fridge at the end of the week. Sometimes I use other leftovers such as herbs, potatoes, meat, beans and grains as well. This not only leads to a tasty meal, but also helps me prevent food waste and make good use of the food I have before I buy more. When I feel like using a recipe, one of my favorites is Vegetable Soup with Kale and Lentils

How do you make veggies the star of your meals? Please share your ideas in the comments or on our social media.

Take care!

Chicken Club Salad
Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek is a State Nutrition Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She coordinates ISU’s programs which help families with low income make healthy choices with limited food budgets. Christine loves helping families learn to prepare healthy foods, have fun in the kitchen and save money. In her spare time, Christine enjoys cooking, entertaining and cheering on her favorite college football teams with her family and friends.

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Overnight Oats

Our February recipe of the month is Overnight Oats.  This recipe makes breakfast time easy and filling. In the evening, you stir together your oats and liquid ingredients, tightly cover the mixture, and leave it in the refrigerator overnight.  In the morning, add your favorite toppings and enjoy a great tasting and filling breakfast.

We have three different types of overnight oats for you to try – pumpkin, peanut butter, and yogurt.  Here is how I like my overnight oats:

  • Pumpkin:  the pumpkin overnight oats are my favorite because I love everything pumpkin flavored.  I usually just stir a teaspoon of chia seeds into these oats.
  • Peanut butter:  the peanut butter overnight oats fill me up the most because of the added protein and fat from the peanut butter.  I love bananas with peanut butter, so I usually add a sliced banana to these oats.
  • Yogurt:  yogurt is a food that I have a hard time eating on its own, so mixing yogurt into oats is a great way for me to get the benefits of yogurt.  I like to add berries and chopped nuts to these oats. 

The best thing about this recipe is that you can make it your own with the liquid ingredients and the toppings.  The link to the recipe is below and it includes all three varieties of overnight oats.

Enjoy!

Overnight oats
Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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Chopped!

Last July I wrote a blog about challenging myself to eat vegetables at breakfast to help me get more veggies in my day. I have to admit, I’ve not done very well at keeping up with that challenge. However, I’m still being mindful of how I can eat more vegetables throughout the day and during meal time. One item I have started buying at the grocery store is chopped salad kits that seem to be the current trend. Even though there have been salad kits around for quite a while, I have never gotten into the habit of buying them. I gave the chopped salad kits a try and it turns out I really like them! Here are a few reasons why:

  1. The different kits include nutrient dense leafy greens like red and green cabbage, kale, Brussel sprouts, romaine and green leaf lettuce. A lot of them also include green onion and carrots.
  2. There are many different flavors to choose from. So far I’ve enjoyed Chipotle and Cheddar, BBQ Ranch, Pomegranate, and Thai. 
  3. I can enjoy the salads without having to buy a bunch of different ingredients in full-size packages. This can help reduce food waste because we easily eat all of the salad before it goes bad. Sometimes if we have a larger amount of leafy greens, some go bad before we get to them.
  4. They are easy to mix together and add as a side dish to a meal.
  5. And maybe the biggest reason I like them is because my 10 year old son, who doesn’t like many vegetables, will eat them!

As much as I like them, there are a few things that I see as downsides.

  1. They can be expensive. At regular price they can cost between $3.50 and 4.00. And this is for national or store brands. Each bag has about 3 ½ 1 cup servings. Therefore, I buy them when they are on sale. Recently, a national brand was on sale at one of the stores I shop at for $1.88 so I bought 3 of them. My co—worker mentioned that she has gotten them for $1.00 when they are almost to their ‘best if used by’ date. 
  2. There are three different plastic bags with ingredients. There is the large bag with the salad and then two smaller bags; one with the dressing and one with the toppings. Therefore, I try to reduce my use of plastic bags by bringing reusable grocery shopping bags and a reusable produce bag. 

If you have a goal of eating more vegetables, you might try one of the chopped salad kits as a side dish at an upcoming meal. If you would rather make your own salad, we have many recipes on our website.

plate of Salad isolated on white
Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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Homemade Protein Snacks

Last week I shared the cost and nutrition of three different brands of protein packs. However, when comparing the price of an individual pack to building my own at home, the results can’t be beat. I saved money, used a reusable container to avoid waste, and got more protein than I would have with the store-bought snack packs.

Here are some ideas for building your own protein snack pack. As you can see, most of the items are cheaper than buying the pre-packaged option! All of these snack packs have 10 grams or more of protein per serving and varying calories based on your needs. 

Build your own: 


Grocery Store Total Cost per ServingSupermarket Total Cost per ServingCalories (kcal)Protein (grams)
1 ounce ham + 1 ounce cheddar cheese + 2 tablespoons almonds$1.53$0.9222020
1 ounce cheddar cheese + 2 tablespoons almonds + 2 tablespoons dried cranberries $1.16$0.9025010
1 boiled egg + 1 ounce ham + ½ cup carrots$1.13$0.6016517
2 tablespoons hummus + ½ cup carrots + 1 string cheese $0.97$0.6217510
1 ounce turkey jerky + 1 string cheese$2.12$1.1815020
½ apple + 2 tablespoons peanut butter + 1 string cheese $0.80$0.7030014

To get the most out of the protein you consume, try spreading it throughout the day. Healthy adults need 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, according to the Recommended Daily Allowance. The average female would need around 46 grams, and the average male needs around 56 grams of protein each day. 

This blog was written by Iowa State University Dietetic Intern Laurynn Verry.

Protein Snack Boxes – Convenient or Costly?

From work or school to sports practices, events and everything in between, finding time to eat during the day can be difficult! It seems like grabbing a quick snack at the grocery store is a perfect solution…until you compare the cost to individual servings of protein foods. Yes, I will admit that I am guilty of buying these little convenient protein packs to stash in my lunch for a quick afternoon snack before I head out the door to my next event. However, I might rethink how much I’m spending on this packs. 

Below are some common protein packs, which vary from 1.5 – 2 ounce portions. There are many brands that make these packs. I chose these three because they are common national brands and not because of any particular attributes of the products. The average cost from a smaller grocery store was $1.89, the price at a larger supermarket was $1.28 and from a convenience store was $1.75


Cost/Serving Grocery StoreCost/Serving SupermarketCost/Serving Convenience Store Calories* (kcal) Protein* (grams)
Oscar Mayer P3 (ham, almonds, cheddar – 2.3 ounces)$2.19$1.50$1.9919012 
Sargento Balanced Breaks (white cheddar cheese, almonds, dried cranberries – 1.5 ounces)$1.49$1.09$1.691807
Hormel Natural Choice (ham, white cheddar cheese, dark chocolate pretzels – 2 ounces)$1.99$1.25$1.5918010
Average Cost:$1.89$1.28$1.75

*Calorie and protein information from supermarket website

After researching the pre-packaged protein packs, I wanted to check pricing on individual items. Here is what I found. 

Individual costs of protein foods


Cost/Serving Grocery StoreCost/Serving SupermarketCalories* (kcal)Protein* (grams)
Ham – 2 ounces$0.62$0.366010
Almonds – ¼ cup $0.55$0.351606
Peanuts – 1 ounce$0.19$0.121607
Cheddar cheese – 1 ounce$0.25$0.211107
String cheese – 1 each $0.29$0.24707
Eggs – 1 each$0.12$0.05706
Hummus – 2 tablespoons$0.29$0.19702
Peanut butter – 2 tablespoons$0.11$0.091907
Turkey jerky – 1 ounce $1.83$0.948013

*Calorie and protein information from supermarket website

Some of these have more protein in them as a single item than the snack pack as a whole! I even have many of them on hand at home.  Next week, I will share how I put together some of these snack packs in my own kitchen.

This blog was written by Iowa State University Dietetic Intern Laurynn Verry.

Meatballs

Meatballs

Happy New Year!  Our January recipe of the month is Meatballs.  This recipe is on the menu plan regularly at my home because everyone in my family likes it and because it is versatile.

I have heard a lot of family members and friends complaining recently about being in a meal rut.  If you are feeling the same way, this meatball recipe may be for you. Last week I made a double batch of these and was able to use them for several different meals:

  • Meatballs work well on their own with a fruit and a vegetable on the side.
  • Serve meatballs with noodles and a favorite sauce to make your own version of spaghetti and meatballs.
  • Leftover meatballs make tasty sandwiches topped with cheese and veggies.

These meatballs freeze well, so you can freeze them in individual servings for future meals.  Use this recipe your way and let us know how you like it.

Enjoy!

meatballs

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

As a new mom to a 14-month-old, getting into a new routine when it came to meal time was hard! I work part-time for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach and am a full-time wife and mom. I need quick, healthy meals and snacks to prepare and Spend Smart. Eat Smart. has been a lifesaver in my home!

As the holidays are fast approaching, below are some of my family’s favorite recipes. We tend to entertain a lot during December and these yummy recipes have become quite the hit with our friends and extended family around the holidays. 

*Main dish: Turkey Vegetable Quiche 

*Side dish: Easy Roasted Veggies 

*Soups: Our Favorite Chicken Noodle Soup 

*Desserts: Pumpkin Apple Cake 

*Snacks: Hurry Up Baked Apples

If you are stumped on what to make for a holiday gathering, pick one (or all!) of these tried and true recipes to really wow your guests.

Happy Holidays!

Written by: Katy Moscoso


Turkey Vegetable Quiche
Katy Moscoso

Katy Moscoso

Katy Moscoso is a Program Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. As a new mom she is always on the lookout for easy, healthy recipes to prepare for her family.

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Mushroom Quinoa

Our December recipe of the month is Mushroom Quinoa.  This recipe includes sautéed mushrooms, and any recipe with sautéed mushrooms is a win for me.  The mushrooms are cooked with onions, garlic, herbs, ground black pepper, and salt. At the end, cooked quinoa is stirred in to make a tasty side dish.  If you are not a mushroom lover like me, you can substitute a different soft vegetable such as bell peppers or zucchini.

Since I love any recipe with mushrooms, this recipe is the perfect lead in for a theme we are going to explore all month.  We are each going to take a week to share our favorite Spend Smart. Eat Smart. recipes with you. To start us off, here are some of my favorites:

  • Soup:  Autumn Soup, I like the smooth texture and the rich flavor of this soup.  I use it often in the fall when winter squash is abundant.
  • Salad:  Croutons, I know this is not technically a salad, but these homemade croutons make it more likely that my family will eat salad.
  • Main Dish:  Black Bean Burgers, my family loves burgers and this is an economical and tasty way to serve them more often.
  • Side Dish:  No Knead Whole Wheat Bread, my family will eat this homemade bread for any meal or snack, it also makes a great grilled cheese sandwich.
  • Snack/Dessert:  Frozen Pudding Sandwiches, my children often request these and they can double as a snack or a dessert.

Please comment below with your favorite recipes, we would love to know.

Enjoy!

mushroom quinoa
Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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All Forms Fit!

Last week Christine shared some tips for storing produce so you can enjoy it before it spoils. One of the tips was to mix up the form of fruits and veggies that you use. As she mentioned, all forms can be part of a healthy eating pattern. Using different forms of produce in my meal plans helps my family and I eat the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables while still staying within my budget and the amount of time I have to spend in the kitchen.

Here are some questions I ask myself when I’m deciding which form to buy.

  • Is the produce in season? I buy fresh produce when it’s in season. It costs less and is likely to be at it’s peak flavor. When it’s not in season, I don’t buy it or I buy it frozen or canned. You can freeze extra produce if time and space allow for use at a later time. For more information on freezing produce, check out this handout.
  • How will I use the produce? For example, if I’ll use tomatoes in a soup or stew, I’ll most often choose canned tomatoes. However, if I’m using the tomatoes in a salad, fresh tomatoes are probably a better choice.
  • How much waste is there? If I buy fresh broccoli, I’ll pay for the entire weight, even though my recipe might only call for florets. In this case, I may choose the frozen broccoli florets.
  • How much time will it save me overall? In addition to the cooking time, I also think about the preparation and clean-up time. When I’m short on time during the week, I plan meals that use produce that takes little time to prepare. For me, this means I use more frozen and canned options on weeknights.

Here are some of the different forms of fruits and vegetables that my family enjoys for our meals and snacks. 

Fresh: baby carrots, bell peppers, snap peas, spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, apples, bananas, oranges, pears, grapes, peaches, blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries

Frozen: peas, corn, carrots, broccoli, stir fry vegetables, mixed vegetables, blueberries, and mixed berries

Canned: black beans, tomatoes, green beans, pineapple, mandarin oranges, and applesauce

Dried: raisins and cranberries

Juice: 100% orange juice
For more information, watch our video on How to Get the Best Deal on Fruits and Vegetables.

Tomato
Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood

Jody Gatewood is a Registered Dietitian who enjoys spending time in the kitchen baking and preparing meals for her family. She does lots of meal planning to stay organized and feed her family nutritious meals.

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