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Old 12-07-2008, 08:05 PM   #1
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Default Cheap, healthy meals?

So, right now money is getting kind of tight. I am looking for cheap, yet healthy dinner meals that aren't too costly. Perhaps some that involve a bulk of boneless chicken/etc. Any help is appreciated!
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Old 12-07-2008, 08:09 PM   #2
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Sandwiches can be relatively cheap- if you buy your cheese in bulk and stuff like that.
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Old 12-07-2008, 08:52 PM   #3
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Cheap cuts of meat in a crock pot are awesome. You can buy a pork roast on sale or a beef roast ... trim off as much fat as you can. Put it in a crock pot with a selection of veggies, pour over a can of diced tomatoes, add a few splashes of worcestershire sauce or soy sauce, and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Serve with brown rice or pasta. Add a big green salad if you want more veggies.

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Old 12-07-2008, 09:05 PM   #4
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You can get a bag of split peas for 88 cents! (just like bags of beans also cheap) and then make your own split pea souP!
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Old 12-07-2008, 09:07 PM   #5
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One of our favorites, especially in winter, is chicken soup. I boil up a couple chicken breasts (boneless, skinless). When they are done, chop them into bit-size pieces and put them back in the broth. Add some onion, celery, carrots, and maybe some chicken bouillon and cook an hour to get flavors mixed well. We eat it served over whole grain noodles.

Chili is also cheap if you use extra beans and less meat. Our church also uses rice to stretch barbeque sandwiches and you can't tell the difference.

Hope this helps! I'm also looking forward to hearing other ideas, too!
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Old 12-07-2008, 09:10 PM   #6
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Default Ground Turkey Chilli

Ground turkey chilli- It has a fraction of the fat of ground beef. You can ALWAYS substitute fresh or frozen products for the canned. Please amend as needed. Feel free to amend the amounts used, because i usually cook A LOT. My recipe looks a little like this-
Ground turkey (2.5 lbs)
canned black and pinto beans (1 black, 1 pinto)
onions (2 large)
garlic (2 elephant cloves, 5-6 regular cloves)
canned tomato sauce (~ 48 oz)
sea salt and pepper to taste
(I like lots of spices, so i usually end up adding thyme, cumin, sage, and parsley).

1. Brown the ground turkey with onion and garlic (again, fresh, powdered, etc.) in a LARGRE pot. Drain the meat, leave it in the large pot.
2. Rinse the canned beans in a strainer (Gets rid of some of the xtra sodium. I got that tip from a dietician) and add to the meat.
3. Add tomato sauce and spices and bring to a soft boil.

Voila. Feel free to enter this recipe into a nutritional calculator. It's relatively high protein, high fiber, and low fat per cup. I usually get good reviews on it.


* I've started mashing the beans (Potato masher, food processor) prior to mixing them with the meat. Its easir on the digestive tract (Got that from my s/o's mom).
* if you want *pow* flavor, mix the beans with fresh garlic , a teaspoon of olive oil, and garlic in a food processor.
* you can add parmesan cheese, soy cheese, etc, for xtra flavor.
* I read that adding salt AFTER food is cooked is a great way to reduce sodium.
* you can make a chucnky chicken chili by subsitiuting chunks of boneless chicken for the turkey; if you do this, i encourage using navy beans instead of the black and pintos.

PM me with what you think!
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Old 12-07-2008, 09:49 PM   #7
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I "stretch" sloppy joes and pulled pork with shredded cabbage. For sloppy joes, I just sautee the cabbage along with the ground beef. For pulled beef or pork, I just put the cabbage into the crockpot with the meat, sliced onions, and sauce. Now that I'm watching carbs, I serve it openfaced on one slice of whole grain bread. Or over a small baked potato. I've been meaning to try it over spaghetti squash or sweet potato, but haven't tried it that way yet.

If you're not avoiding artificial sweeteners or sugar, I like the barbecue sauce recipe I got in a WW meeting ages ago - equal parts of catsup and diet (or regular) cola. It makes a great simmer sauce in the oven, on the stove, or in the crockpot.

Cabbage, at least locally, is about the cheapest vegetable you can buy if you buy it whole. So, I usually shred my own cabage, but if there's a sale on the preshredded coleslaw mix (with carrot and purple cabbage mixed in with the white cabbage), I'll use that instead (only if it's a really good sale). Every once in a while, the Walmart will sell the coleslaw mix for $.75 or even $.50 a bag). Even at 50 cents a bag, a whole cabbage would be cheaper, but I can be tempted by convenience as much as the next gal.

Really, the trade-off between cost and convenience is the biggest trap in the grocery store for those trying to save money. The time savings seems big and the money savings seems small, but the "just pennies more" add up really fast. I'm not saying you shouldn't buy any short-cut items, just that if you're willing to do some additional prep work you can save a lot of money.

You've just got to become familiar with the cost and time involved, so when you see a short-cut item you can ask yourself if you're willing to "pay yourself" to do the job. For me, I can shred a cabbage with a large knife in 5 to 8 minutes - I can ask my husband, and he can do it in about 2 (he was a chef, and a line cook before that).

Cabbage, I don't mind doing myself. Carrots, for a roast I will peel and cut, and they only take a few more minutes than cabbage. But for snacking, I prefer the taste of peeled baby carrots, so I'm willing to pay a little more for them, and if I buy them in a large bag, they're nearly as cheap as large, whole carrots.

Whole chickens are cheaper than a whole cut chicken. And whole cut chicken pieces are cheaper than white meat pieces, which is cheaper than boneless, skinless white meat. The cheapest cuts of chicken are skin-on dark meat pieces. So legs and thighs. Often the leg quarters are cheaper than either legs or thighs alone - but you've got to check.

When I do buy boneless, skinless I usually buy thighs. They're a little bit higher in calorie than white meat, but not by a lot and they don't dry out as easily. I never use boneless breast meat on the grill anymore, or for broiling or dry baking, either. In fact, we eat a lot more dark meat, because it's so much cheaper.

Cutting your own chicken can save you money, but I tend not to do that, because I don't care for the mess of cutting raw chicken. However, I do often buy rotisserie chickens at Walmart. They're usually only about a dollar more than for a whole, raw chicken. So, I can buy a raw chicken for $3.50 to $4.00, or I can buy a rotisserie chicken for $4.50 - $5.00. Hubby and I get two meals out of the chicken, and I make soup out of the carcass.

I buy tvp (textured vegetable protein or textured soy protein) from the health food store and saute it with ground beef for any recipe calling for browned hamburger. A lb of dry tvp is equivalent to about 3 lbs of hamburger, and I can get it at about the same cost as 1 lb of 85% lean ground beef. I've written the recipe here a dozen times, so if you want it and can't find it by searching, just ask and I'll link to it.

There are dozens of threads here on eating cheaply (using Aldi in your search will probably find many of them - because I usually either mention Aldi or my tvp recipe whenever a thread opens on the topic). Aldi is a german-owned discount grocery chain. The food is great, and not of inferior quality - the store just does not pay for much advertising, and many of the "extras" in the grocery store, the customer does for themselves (the aisles are neat, but not pretty and you bag your own groceries, and you pay a quarter to rent the cart - you get it back when you return the cart, but the store then doesn't have to pay a guy to retrieve shopping carts all day). Also, you pay for your shopping bags (3 cents for paper, and I thnk 10 cents for a reuseable plastic shopping bag), or you can bring your own market bag, or scavenge the store for leftover boxes.

I also browse a lot of online thrift webstites. Some of the tips aren't so diet-friendly but many are. Hillbillyhousewife is a good site for dieting on a budget and has some great tips. I love the Tightwad gazette books, but her diet advice is a bit skimpy. Sure a lot of the tips sound far fetched, but which ones are different for other people I've noticed. Because talking to other people who liked the book, whenever I've made fun of a tip I meet someone who uses it, and some of the tips I use others say "Ewww, gross."
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Old 12-07-2008, 10:15 PM   #8
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Ooh, I wanted to add that trying store brands has probably been my best money saving tip. I learned years ago that many of the generics and store brands are made in the same plants that make the name brands and usually the only difference is the label.

Walmart's brands are excellent. Their salsas are great and make great simmering sauces (I love simmering chicken or a lean pork roast in the Walmart black bean and corn salsa. A dutch oven is fine, but the crock pot is even easier, and just cook until the meat is tender enough to shred for just amazing soft tacos).

Walmart also has one of the best frozen vegetable mixes I've ever had. It's an asparagus stir fry and well under $2.00 a bag, whereas any of the name brand fancy blends are usually quite a lot more. The snap pea stir fry blend is really good too, and the same price. I just love them for versatility. One of my most-requested pot luck recipe is "that vegetable salad," I'm known for. It's basically just adding an italian dressing (usually light, but not fat free, or my homemade) added to the frozen mixed vegetables along with a chopped onion and anything I feel like adding to gussy it up (sometimes artichoke hearts, or diced bell pepper, or pickled pepper rings, grape tomates, whatever) and let the salad thaw in the fridge overnight from evening until the potluck at lunch or dinner the next day.

It's also a pretty cheap salad to make for myself.

My husband and I go to a private overstock store (like Big Lots) which gets in gourmet and health food store products once a month. Salad dressings and marinades are almost always under $.69, and the store also gives them away with a $10 purchase, so I have an entire cupboard filled with salad dressings and marinades. As a result, I also learned that even the worst salad dressing usually makes a pretty good marinade for cheap cuts of meat.

If you do have a Big Lots or another overstock or liquidation stock store - check it out. You can save a lot on some things. For us we save the most on the gourmet products, pastas, and condiments. We no longer buy expensive condiments. Between Aldi's, Walmart, the overstock store and the oriental store, we probably spend 1/3 of what we used to.

Oh, which reminds me I forgot the oriental grocery. If you do any oriental cooking, an oriental market can save you tons of money, especially if you're willing to buy staples like rice, soy sauce, rice wine, rice wine vinegar or fish sauce in larger containers than you're used to. A small bottle of Kikoman's will run you about $3 at Walmart (here anyway) but in an oriental grocery that $3 will buy you a quart of gourmet soy sauce (I recommend mushroom soy - yummy). Rice is very cheap, but comes in ten and twenty pound bags. If you eat a lot of rice and have room for a rubbermaid bin in your kitchen or pantry, that's great. Otherwise, it's a little impractical.

The oriental grocery has a lot of hidden bargains too, even if you don't do any oriental cooking. Canned mushrooms are one. You know how an itty bitty can of mushrooms usually costs nearly $1, or at least half that if you're willing to buy the broken pieces in a can? Well in the oriental grocery there are often several varieties of canned mushrooms and they come in a standard one pound sized cans (like other veggies). Usually for only a little more than the itsy bitsy mushrooms in a can. Straw mushrooms are a great substitute for button mushrooms and can be used in any recipe calling for canned mushrooms. The cans are sometimes so large that I'll drain what I didn't use and pour into a freezer bag or container to toss into spahetti sauce or another simmered dish.

Bean sprouts, green onion, and cabbage (several varieties including white cabbage, bok choy and napa), cilantro, basil, and mint are often much cheaper in oriental groceries also - or they will cost the same, but be much fresher so they'll last longer in the fridge.

Beware the snack aisle - it's just as addictive as in the american grocery aisle. But you do find a few things that are rather interesting. If anyone is nostalgic for roasted chestnuts, but doesn't want to bother roasting them, roasted chestnuts are a popular asian snack and you can get them roasted and peeled in a vacuum-packed pouch and either eat them out of the bag or heat them.

Oh and if you see the tiny red bananas - they're more expensive than regular bananas, but try them at least once, omg yummy.

Also, I highly recommend fish sauce as an alternative to worcesteshire sauce. It's cheaper, tastes better and people will ask you for the recipe. It adds flavor, but in a "can't place it" way. I use it in my spaghetti sauce and chili and I'm ALWAYS asked for the recipe (and people say "WHAT sauce?"
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Last edited by kaplods : 12-07-2008 at 10:22 PM.
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Old 12-08-2008, 07:37 AM   #9
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We put 2 pounds of chicken breasts in the crock with 2 cans stewed tomatoes and cumin, chili powder & cilantro... cook forever then shred. Use it on salads, w/ a pita top with lettuce and tomatoes. You can make tacos, quesadillas (*sp) whatever you like. I normally add pinto beans too for fiber.

Use some leftover of the chicken to make chicken tortilla soup - just add some chicken broth, salsa and more veggies. A couple of tortilla chips at the bottom are optional.
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Old 12-08-2008, 01:11 PM   #10
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Thanks for the tips, ladies! My main problem is I live in the city and no longer have a car. I live by two very small Superfreshs, which are expensive! So I do my shopping online through ShopRite, which is like a 20 minute drive from me, but they deliver. They're the biggest food store around me. There's also a Whole Foods, but my god, they're worse then SuperFresh! This is the price of city living and it isn't cheap.
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Old 12-08-2008, 10:02 PM   #11
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My vegan daughter has really taught me how healthy, yummy and CHEAP vegan meals can be....in fact even my carnivore hubby doesn't mind eating low on the food chain during the weekdays (then we can afford a really good weekend bbq, his fave!)

Tonight we are having Soyrizo which is a like spicy sausage, except it's soy based. Basically I sautee it with onions and peppers, then pour a can of pre-fab low fat spaguetti sauce, and serve with whole wheat pasta. You can get the Soyrizo at Trader Joe's for $3, I'm sure this whole meal cost $5 for all four of us.....and it's always a hit! It really does taste like a spicy meat sauce.

Another super cheap meal we like is tacos made with Yves Good Ground soy burger (also around $3.) It is delish made with any kind of taco bell type seasoning packet, or your own fave chili powder mix. Just chop fresh lettuce & salsa for the top and heat up a can of fat-free refried beans, heat tortillas in the micro and you're good to go!
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Old 12-09-2008, 12:07 PM   #12
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My favorite fast and easy meal -

Season a boneless skinless chicken breast and throw it on the George Foreman. When it is done, top with a mixture of salsa and defrosted frozen corn. Sprinkle with a little shredded pepper jack cheese, and microwave for just long enough to warm the salsa mixture and melt the cheese.
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Old 12-10-2008, 11:03 AM   #13
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Buy a whole chicken, you can make that for dinner one night, remove all of the chicken off of the carcass and boil the carcass and make soup with it (soup is cheap to make and there are a couple recipes on my blog if you care to take a look) I make 1 1/2 pots of soup with a single carcass and freeze it, that way you have the whole chicken for dinner initially, all of the meat for sandwiches or you can make chicken and rice the next day (rice also cheap), you will have soup the day you make it and then freeze a few quarts for later consumption a whole chicken can go very far if you make it.

this is a pretty common thing around my house to make a whole chicken and then soup, since my wife and I have gone on a low calorie life style our grocery bill has gone down by a ton! and its because we are making healthier choices like this that actually end up cheaper for us all at the same time

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Old 12-12-2008, 01:01 PM   #14
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We are trying to be SUPER budget oriented these days to pay for all the holiday extravagance (we throw a big dinner on the 25th.) --

I like eggs for dinner a couple of times a week, either in omlettes, poached on refried beans with tortillas and salsa, or stir fried with brown rice and vegetables.
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