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Cheap & Healthy (or not) Eats! Share?

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by dbell1, Jan 27, 2011.

  1. Allskate

    Allskate Well-Known Member

    I think a lot of it is where you buy something. Trader Joe's saves me a lot of money. There is food I see there that is sigificantly less than the exact same product at the grocery store across the street, and a lot less than at stores like Whole Foods, though I do think that Whole Foods has gotten better in recent years for at least some products. (I can't eat gluten, and I was suprised to find that Whole Foods probably has the best prices for some gluten-free products; sometimes a girl just needs a sandwich.)

    I'm picky about the meat I eat, preferring pasture raised and organic, but it's expensive. I usually get deals buying in bulk or stock up when it's on sale.

    I also try to buy whatever is in season, partly because those fruits and vegetables tend to be less expensive. I've been getting great prices on apples and tangerines recently. I've come to know which vendors at the farmer's market have the best prices and best products, so I get relatively good prices for things like eggs, spinach, tomatoes, etc.
  2. Southpaw

    Southpaw Saint Smugpawski

    Here's a crock pot recipe for Eggplant & Chick Pea Stew that is so. effing. good. And cheap. I added some red pepper flakes into the mix to give it a little bite, skipped the spinach and served it over fettuccine instead of polenta and it's SO yummy. You can put it over anything - rice, couscous, whatever you've got on hand.

    Eggplant & Chick Pea Stew
  3. Norlite

    Norlite Well-Known Member


    And a slice of tomato! I personally must have the tomato! Breakfast sandwiches is an treat I make myself often at home. Even for a small supper if I've worked late and don't want to cook much. There's just something so good about the combo of egg, bacon, cheese and tomato on an english muffin. Whoever at MickeyD who thought of that first is a genius. :lol:
  4. PDilemma

    PDilemma Well-Known Member

    I will once they are in season again. Too expensive and too low quality right now!
  5. Southpaw

    Southpaw Saint Smugpawski

    Ain't nothing worse than a mealy tomato.
  6. skatemommy

    skatemommy Well-Known Member

    I add spinach to mine...it wilts with the heat and is so tasty. Ground cayenne pepper or season salt also is good...
  7. numbers123

    numbers123 Well-Known Member

    I'm pretty sure it wasn't healthy but tonight's dinner was tasty. And could be a good fill teen age boys up.

    Polish sausage but into 1/4 inch slices, green peppers, red peppers, yellow peppers, onion,diced tomatoes, itatiian seasonings, garlic, parm cheese, motzella cheese with bowtie pasta.
  8. Jenny

    Jenny From the Bloc

    Actually that sounds delicious! Sausage is not something we should probably have too often (all the salt, and potentially dodgy meat ingredients), but by mixing it in with all the veggies and loads of flavour, you can probably serve smaller servings of the sausage itself, and bonus, get your family eating more veggies. If you toss in olive oil rather than butter or cream sauce, even better.

    I've mentioned before that we've cut back on meat substantially in our house, and in my case, I've eliminated it almost entirely. Over time, we've found that splitting one serving of meat is plenty if we load up on the sides, and of course there's the cost savings (or, you can choose to spend the money on better quality meat if you like).

    Thomas Jefferson advised that meat should be considered a side dish, and I think he had the right idea.
  9. dbell1

    dbell1 Well-Known Member

    Snipping this - I love TJ's prices for pasta, sauce and cheeses. Pizza dough is cheap too at .99 each (and yep, I know I should buy yeast and make my own). :lol: Not a fan of their produce or veggies though. Their Belgium chocolate :swoon: is to die for and their hot dogs are amazing - smokey and nitrate free. TJ's cocoa powder is 1/2 the price of Hershey's.

    Oh, and I love my local farmer's market in season. I can walk in with $10 and walk out with a hernia and a ton of food. :shuffle:
  10. Aussie Willy

    Aussie Willy Hates both vegemite and peanut butter

    Potato pancakes - egg, grated potato, grated parmesan cheese, bit of milk, flour to bind and cook in olive oil. Put the grated potato for a minute in the microwave just to cook it a bit before mixing.

    If you want the more expensive version, add smoked salmon on top and a dollop of hollandaise sauce.

    You can do the same with corn. Creamed corn works better.
  11. IceAlisa

    IceAlisa discriminating and persnickety ballet aficionado

    So true, although mealy apples are up there in the realm of disgusting as well.

    And I am definitely going to try that eggplant chickpea stew, thanks! :)
  12. Allskate

    Allskate Well-Known Member

    I'm not a big fan of their "fresh" fruits and vegetables (though I do sometimes buy their broccoli slaw and portobello mushrooms). However, their frozen fruits and vegetables can be very good and at excellent prices. I don't buy much meat there, but I buy the well-priced Niman Ranch bacon and pork loin chops.

    My favorite section is the cheese section. Fantastic selection - from goat cheeses to mozzarella to manchego, etc -- and at such great prices. Great prices for olive oil and vinegars, too. Great prices on their almond butters and jams, too.

    I love their Ethiopian coffee, and I swear by their lemon echinacea drink when I have a cold.
  13. IceAlisa

    IceAlisa discriminating and persnickety ballet aficionado

    TJ's produce usually is not great but recently it has improved a lot (perhaps they've been using local farmers?). Their tomatoes and Persian cucumbers have been terrific lately.

    I luuurves their almond butter with roasted flaxseed on a good bread with some pear slices--my version of PB and J.
  14. Auntie

    Auntie Well-Known Member

    To me, a big part of being able to cook good tasting meals at home is having a well stocked pantry. If you are trying a new recipe and have to buy the cumin, the chili powder and the paprika, you will easily add $10 or more to your bill. Then you just want to say "forget it!".

    A well stocked pantry also lets you throw a meal together when you are rushed or tired. A bag of rice, some frozen veggies and a good stir fy sauce make a healthy and filling meal.

    The Minimalist column in the NY Times has great "throw together" meal ideas and pantry suggestions.

  15. Andrushka

    Andrushka Well-Known Member

    Jamie Olivers website is a good source of simple but healthy meals as well.And some of the recipes from Jamie at Home can be tweaked to make larger amounts of things.
  16. Wow, that does look good, thanks for posting! My crock pot is severely under-utilized, I'm going to dust it off to try this over the weekend.

    As for Trader Joe's ... I agree on the quality & healthyness (and yummyness), but I certainly wouldn't call them cheap! Admitedly I'm not super familiar with them since we don't have them here and I only shop there when I go over the border, but I've found them to be quite expensive. More in the "gourmet & treats" category than everyday budget eating.
  17. Allskate

    Allskate Well-Known Member

    I guess it depends on your idea of "budget eating," but I definitely don't consider them gourmet. Nothing like Whole Foods. Sure, they carry real cheese, not cheese products, and if you're looking for dirt cheap "food products" or the quality of food you'd find at Taco Bell, TJs isn't the place to go. But, I buy things there that I'd definitely pay more for at the supermarket. You'd have a hard time finding bananas for less than what TJ's charges. Same with a lot of the veggies, especially the frozen ones. The breakfast bars I buy I can't find anywhere else for less. Salad dressings, spices, etc. are all much more expensive at the grocery store where I live. Maybe it varies by area of the country.
  18. I don't do "dirt cheap food products." In trying to compare apples to apples, so to speak, I find their prices for things like beans, nuts, and tofu to be higher than what I pay at my regular stores in Vancouver. I'm not famliar enough with their produce prices to compare those. And their prices (and quality) for cheeses and prepared foods are quite good, but cheese and prepared foods are simply not budget eating items.

    To me, "budget eating" is making your own food from "real" ingredients: fresh fruit & veg, beans, nuts, and grains.
  19. Allskate

    Allskate Well-Known Member

    Then I guess you have better prices at your grocery stores. Where I live, these products are generally cheaper at TJs than at the grocery stores. Also, where I live, cheese probably would be considered more affordable than nuts. But, definitely, the nuts are generally more affordable at TJs. Also, most parents are going to want to give their kids some dairy products even if they are on a tight budget.
  20. By volume, perhaps. But when you compare on price-by-nutrition basis, probably not so much.

    Sure, but cheese is the most expensive (and most fat- and salt-laden) dairy option. Milk and yogurt are both considerably less expensive.

    Don't get me wrong, I loves my cheese! And a little strong cheese used sparingly can add a lot of flavour & richness to a budget meal. But it's not economical to use as a significant source of protein and/or calcium.
  21. Allskate

    Allskate Well-Known Member

    The primary reason I have yogurt or cheese evey day is because of the B-12 (especially important because I don't eat a lot of meat) and because of the calcium. There is no b-12 in nuts and I'd have to buy and eat a lot of nuts to get the same quantity of calcium that I get in yogurt or cheese. Plus, as I said, prices are going to vary by location and my grocery store charges at least seven or eight dollars per pound for shelled nuts. If I'm just looking for protein, there are more affordable options than either cheese or nuts. And it would be huge calorie overload to use either nuts or cheese as your primary source of protein.

    Yogurt and milk contain a lot of water. Depending on the cheese, you can get the same amount of protein and calcium from one ounce of cheese as from one serving of milk or yogurt. It's really not a big price difference, at least for where and what I buy. And most yogurt comes loaded with sugars. None of my friends can get their kids to eat plain yogurt and I don't really care for it myself. Which one is the better nutritional choice probably depends on the rest of the person's diet.

    Artemis, in terms of price, I think one big difference between Canada and the United States, especially for people who have kids, is that most milk here is produced using hormones and you have to pay a premium if you don't want to have milk with hormones. People I know who don't buy premium anything, buy the hormone-free milk because they don't feel comfortable giving their kids the hormones and antibiotics found in most of our milk. Maybe it's the import rules, but it's much easier to find affordable hormone-free cheese, and Trader Joe's is particularly good in that regard.
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2011
  22. BigB08822

    BigB08822 Well-Known Member

    This is exactly my problem! Any time I make a meal I have to go shopping for almost every ingredient. The only thing I keep stocked is rice and we try to have frozen bread to go along with meals. Other than that, I have to go buy it. As far as spices, I only have dried oregano, garlic powder, dried parsley, dried onion and the usual salt and pepper. I could never make a homemade chili or taco seasoning. I tried to keep canned vegetables when I see them on sale but they are so high in sodium I hate to eat them. With the new meat place we found, they freeze a lot of vegetables and we will try to use those. A little more as far as cost but when you consider the servings it isn't that much more and we control the salt. I made purple hull peas last night that were AMAZING!!!
  23. skatemommy

    skatemommy Well-Known Member

    What is the consensus of Aldi's? I buy olive oil, salt and pepper grinders and name brand Chicago deep dish pizza (when they have it) there. Yes, I am one of the few paying cash and not with a Bridge card but their prices really are good. They also have Buffalo Mozzerella for $2.99 same brand as my grocer for $6.00. Is is just a midwest thing?
  24. Angelskates

    Angelskates Well-Known Member

    I couldn't find the pantry suggestions on the NYT site :shuffle:

    I'm making slow cooked mushroom and artichoke lasagna for a lasagna party tonight - 5 different kinds on lasagna in one night :swoon:
  25. BigB08822

    BigB08822 Well-Known Member

    Any advice how to do that on the cheap? lol I love lasagna but the cheese alone racks up the bill, the rest isn't quite so bad!
  26. Angelskates

    Angelskates Well-Known Member

    I just don't use so much cheese (I am sensitive to dairy), though I do use more than one cheese - ricotta, parmesan and mozzarella. I've posted here before that my friends and I tend to cook together twice a month and take home different meals for our freezers. That way we buy and cook in bulk, but the bill is split and we get a variety of meals, rather than having to make many meals of the same things. To me, the worst thing about buying and cooking in bulk, is that it tends to be cheap but boring, so I might not want to eat it and therefore eat out. There's no doubt it is cheaper, buying for a single person is expensive. Group cooking is awesome, fun with good company and music, cheaper and saves time during the week. :)
  27. Cyn

    Cyn Well-Known Member

    I've shopped at Aldi's a few times in the past year - I'd go more often, but it's 25 miles each way, so I go there only when I'm going to be in the vicinity. Since most of the stuff there is off-brand, we save a fortune on a lot of pantry basics and snacks (pastas, crackers, trail mix, dried fruits, dairy products, certain canned items) and from time to time, produce.

    I never buy jarred spices at the grocery store - as stated upthread, they're expensive to the point of zapping any desire to cook. Instead, I get them either at Fresh Market or at the Farmer's Market in NE Atlanta - both places have small bags and sell them by the ounce at a fraction of the cost for the ones in jars. I buy salt, pepper, and granulated garlic at Big Lots - they have large plastic "jars" for a buck apiece. Big Lots is also a place where I stock up on certain sundries and canned goods - $1.25 will buy a ginormous back of pretzels, and they also carry 6-packs (16.9 oz. bottles) of Gerolsteiner sparkling mineral water for $3.50.

    I've recently started doing the coupon thing, as well as scouring the weekly ads from the grocery stores and pharmacies. Between the two, the savings can really add up over the course of one month. As a way to save up money, I take the amount of money saved from the coupons and ads, put it in a manilla envelope, and leave it there. At the end of the month, when I add it all up, I am always :eek: :cheer2: at the amount. That money then goes into an account separate from my checking.

    Here goes:

    - 1.5 lbs. ground beef (since the fat is drained off, it's a waste of $$ to use chuck, round, or lean/xlean)*
    - 2 medium white onions, sliced
    - 2 large green bell peppers (or 1 each of green and red bell peppers)
    - 5 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
    - 1 shallot, finely chopped
    - 1 14 oz. can of mushroom stems and pieces, drained and rinsed
    - Worcestershire sauce (to taste)
    - Tabasco or Louisiana Hot Sauce (to taste)
    - black pepper
    - salt (optional - I leave it out as there's plenty of salt/sodium in other ingredients)
    - granulated garlic
    - 1 can Cream of Mushroom soup (regular or reduced sodium)
    - 1 16 oz. container Sour Cream (regular or lite, but never fat free :scream: )
    - 1 12 oz. package of wide egg noodles
    - plain (unseasoned) dry bread crumbs (optional)
    - grated parmesan cheese (optional)

    *If red meat isn't your thing, you can substitute ground turkey for the ground beef. It does, however, change the overall texture of the dish, and IMO, it doesn't taste as good. But hey, that may be just me :shuffle:

    1. Preheat oven to 350F.

    2. Put large pot of water on to boil for noodles.

    3. When water has a good rolling boil, add noodles. Keep an eye on them so that they don't overcook.

    4. In a large skillet, brown ground beef, onions, peppers, garlic, shallot, and mushrooms. As it's cooking, season with Worcestershire, hot sauce, pepper, and granulated garlic.

    5. Drain fat. Put cooked meat mixture into a VERY large mixing bowl.

    6. When noodles are ready (tender but not mushy), drain in colander, then shock pasta to stop cooking process. Add to mixing bowl.

    7. Gently stir meat and noodles together. Add the Cream of Mushroom soup and 10 oz. of sour cream, gradually adding more SC until reaching desired creaminess (some people don't like a lot of it, while others want a super-duper creamy texture)

    8. Add 2 tbsp. each of Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce. Again, these can be adjusted to taste - I like mine on fire, so there's a lot more than 2 tbsp :lol:. Add black pepper to taste.

    9. Pour into casserole dish. Mixture should be 2 ½ - 3 inches deep. When I make this, I usually have to use 1 large and 1 medium-sized dish.

    10. Top with bread crumbs and parmesan cheese (optional - although it ads flavor, I often leave this out as it's extra calories and fat)

    11. Bake, covered for 45 minutes (if one large dish). For smaller dishes, bake for ½ hour. Remove lid and continue cooking for 15 more minutes.

    Let sit for 3-5 minutes before serving. Goes great with a salad.

    If I don't want or need to cook all of it at one time, I use disposable aluminum tins, putting 3 servings into each one and then freezing them. When I want to cook one, I let it thaw out for about 3 hours before putting it in the oven.

    ETA: I've never written or typed this recipe out, and after looking at it on "paper" for the first time, I realized it looks like a tedious, time-consuming PITA, but I can attest that it's not :lol: . The prep time is pretty low - Before starting, I put all the ingredients on the counter so they're right there when I need to grab one. I put the water on to boil, and while it's heating, I slice the onions and shallots, core and slice the peppers, and peel and chop the garlic. Very low-maintenance :D .
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2011
  28. Auntie

    Auntie Well-Known Member

    Your lasagna sounds yummy. How was it? Besides the house on fire incident.:lol:

    About the pantry items ... you have to the search within the NYT column for the list. I just looked at it again I found it to be a bit trendy/pricey.

    I like this list. Just buy one or two things every time you go to the store and you'll have a great pantry in no time.

  29. dbell1

    dbell1 Well-Known Member

    I wish you lived near me. The local supermarket just put their shredded & block cheeses on sale at $1 for 8 oz. Grabbed some Mexican, Italian, and cheddar last night. They also had boneless sirloin for $2.99 a lb. Going to cut it, freeze it and make steak tacos again in a few weeks.

    Just read over the NYT list. I always have chicken, beef, and veggie stock on hand and a decent selection of baking spices/staples. My pantry staples include paprika, dried mustard, McCormick steak, chicken, and lemon spices, oregano, bread crumbs, soy sauce, and the standard salt & pepper grinders. Fridge staples besides veggies/fruits are parm cheese, Trader Joe's shredded cheeses, tortillas, and minced garlic. Found frozen 1 tsp. basil cubes at TJs, they're easy to pop into soups & defrost quickly for when I make pizza or baked ziti.
  30. Allskate

    Allskate Well-Known Member

    Spices at the grocery store are ridiculously expensive. I've been able to get spices like basil and curry for two bucks at TJs and spices like tarragon for a bit more at Cost Plus. (Cost Plus has a wide variety of spices at a variety of prices.) I'm constantly surprised by the random food products I see at Big Lots and dollar stores. You just need to be careful to check expiration dates.

    At least where I live, I can find Asian cooking ingredients for a lot less at Asian grocery stores.