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.
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.
I know it’s time to make soup when my refrigerator, pantry and freezer are getting full of small bags of rice, pasta, meat, beans, and vegetables. I make soup using the ingredients I have on hand without a specific recipe.
This weekend I made ham soup. Saturday I simmered a ham bone with a chopped onion and some celery. I covered the bone and veggies with water, put a lid on the pot and it cooked away for a few hours. Then I removed the bone and vegetables and let the broth cool in the fridge overnight.
On Sunday I spooned off the hardened fat from the top of the broth and started reheating the broth. Then I pulled together a lot of odds and ends to give the soup great flavor and texture:
A cup of leftover cooked kidney beans
A cup of leftover ham
A cup of chopped chicken from the freezer
Some chopped vegetables (one onion, a cup of baby carrots and 3 small potatoes)
For seasoning I used one of the spice packets that come with Ramen noodles (leftover from coleslaw when I used the noodles but not the spice).
The friend I had over for dinner loved the soup. She wanted the recipe. Uh-oh. Should I admit she was eating leftovers? Instead I told her I created the soup. I found a great handout from Utah State University Food Sense, Create a Soup which shows how you can make soup from what you have on hand.
Utah also has similar cheat sheets for making casseroles, pizza and fruity desserts from what you have on hand. To see a list of what’s available and links check out the Spend Smart. Eat Smart web page.
I love to talk about family mealtime – it reminds me of happy memories of my childhood and all the conversations we shared around meals! I didn’t realize then how important our time together was, nor how much money we saved by eating at home. It’s true, though, families can save money by eating at home. When you eat out or use processed foods, you buy labor as well as the food.
So, how do you save money by eating together at home? Spend Smart Eat Smart website has lots of great ideas for saving money as you prepare meals. Prepare double or triple batches of favorite recipes to have on hand when you are in a hurry. Save money when you buy ingredients in quantity to make several batches. Make a list of foods that cook quickly and save time, such as scrambled eggs, fruit and toast; stir fry meat and veggies.
Keep meals simple and easy – a family meal together doesn’t have to be elaborate or include expensive ingredients. A simple meal, eaten with others while sharing conversation, is worth more than the most elaborately prepared dish. What I remember is how good it felt to gather around the table and share. Don’t let this simple concept become lost in the busy-ness of everyday life.
We’d love to hear from you about ways you’ve found to carve out time for meals with your family and saved money at the same time!