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Preparing meals on a limited budget | How to cook with less | Eating Healthy | Frugal Cooking

Updated on September 3, 2012

How to cook with less and eat more healthy

If you are living on a limited income, needing to save money on food, have someone on a restricted diet, or just wanting to cut down the daily intake of food, cooking with less can actually save you money, eat healthier and be fun.

The problem is that we have become so accustomed to extra large portions sizes and cuts of meat. Just one large steak can easily exceed the recommended amount of meat and protein intake by double to nearly triple.

In reality those large portions being consumed is driving up the grocery bill when American’s have less incomes and making our country very unhealthy. It has even reached the point that health cost for treating overweight individuals and the related diseases is also severely hampering our economy.

The fact is we don’t have to spend this type of income at the store to live such an expensive and unhealthy lifestyle either.

If you have a family member already on a special diet because of diabetes, heart, or renal issues the combination of cooking smaller and smarter for them may also ward off others in the family from falling into the same path.

The recommended size of a steak or other meat product is only 3oz -5oz per serving, which is only about the size of the palm of your hand. Most steaks and cuts of meat being served per meal could actually be cut in half or even thirds to make two or more very adequate servings.

This article is based on just the two of us now as we have finally become empty nesters. The same cost saving principles can be easily doubled to a family of four.

It is also based on my need to restrict my diet to sodium and protein, something that is hard to find in processed foods at the grocery store.

My own experiences and experimenting with different recipe combinations has actually dramatically reduced our monthly grocery bill.

Once you become accustomed to cooking and living a more cost saving and healthy lifestyle you will feel better and have less stress physically and emotionally even on a limmited income.

You will even begin to find ways to share and split meals with your spouse when eating out and really begin to notice other families eating well beyond their needs and probably their means.

No need to sacrifice the look of an appealing meal or make yourself and family feel deprived by serving them a postage stamp piece of meat on a plate either.

Adding mushrooms vegetables and fun garnish such as an apple or orange slice can leave everyone leaving full and satisfied.

If the family is not mushroom and vegetable eaters, your task will be undoubtedly more difficult but by far probably more important than anything else you can do to prepare your children to go out and live a healthy long frugal life.

Eating what they like is an acquired taste, re-acquiring them away from the fast food junkie world is something that you know has to be done sooner than later. Absolutely no one will be able to afford health care at the rate it is going.

One of our fun meals is grilled mixed vegetables with shrimp and fish. Using a sheet of tin foil we add some olive oil, two frozen 3oz frozen fish portions, a couple of frozen shrimp, a package of frozen mixed vegetables, mixed Italian seasonings, garlic powder and some chopped mushrooms.

Fold into a boat shape and Place on the grill to steam until the fish is cooked. We have a low cost seaside style feast.

We purchase the thin frozen tilapia and a bag of cooked frozen shrimp from the wholesale club, both of which will last us for several months. A package of frozen mixed vegetables is around $1.78 here.

Being on a restricted protein diet doesn’t mean that I have to eat a mini burger either. My husband will chop up a few fresh mushrooms and use them as a meat extender to fill out a bun size burger for about a third of the protein grams of a burger that size.

That two pounds of hamburger that we use to scarf up in four large burgers now extends us out to three or even four different meals.

A little dab of hamburger mixed with rice and tomatoes and tomato sauce will make us a meal of stuffed green peppers and cabbage rolls.

Another little dab of hamburger mixed with shredded carrots, onions and chopped rutabagas will make a couple large meat pies. The remaining will be strung out over a mostly vegetable and mushroom pizza.

We also use mushrooms as a hamburger meat extender in spaghetti and lasagna dishes. They help to reduce the protein add to the dish, and are healthier.

Yes, fresh mushrooms are expensive but dollar for dollar at $3.78 for a lb box, just a few sliced mushrooms goes a very long ways. In fact even as much as we use them a 1lb box of fresh sliced mushrooms is even hard for to use before they start going bad.

We like our local grocery store chain they will always have large family packs of small thin steaks, pork chops and chicken tenders within the 3oz-4oz range. A package of five will cost under $4 per pack, about the same cost as one of those large thick steaks.

We bring the packs home and for the two of us will package two portions per small zip lock bag, making two to three meals out of one package. Occasionally we will splurge on one of those prime cut steaks, but only one and then cutting it into half or thirds to get it down to the 4oz range.

These small packs are easy to thaw out and will make quick and easy meals either with frozen vegetables from the garden or sliced and added on top of a salad.

We will even take a package of turkey bacon and slice across it in 5 to 6 sections freezing each section in small zip lock bags. This makes it easy to pull out and even break off a chunk to add to green beans or some scrambled eggs and potatoes.

We grow a lot of our vegetables in our home garden, stock up when vegetables are on sale, or during the seasons, and then blanch and freeze in quart size zip lock bags. This size makes a perfect serving for two, if the boys decide to drop by we just pull out two bags.

Soups, pasta dishes, and casseroles have become a favorite way for us to cook up a large dish or stock pot to enjoy a meal and then freeze up to three or more future meals at the same time. No matter what vegetables we might have on hand in the garden of freezer a large stock pot with some chicken, or beef always comes out good.

Despite having a cupboard full of recipe books, Most all of our of recipes now come from the Keepers at Home Healthy Choices Cookbook courtesy of Cottage Craft Works .com It is a thick cookbook using no white flour, no sugar and no artificial additives.

Healthy Choices utilizes home cooking healthy recipes submitted from all over the country including other countries from a group of people who subscribe to the popular Keepers at Home Magazine. Keepers at Home Magazine is published for the Mennonite and Amish communities but also sent to all different homemakers around the world.

Many of the recipes allow you to cook from scratch bulk flour and ingredients, which is far less expensive than buying pre-mixed baking mixes. It is a very frugal way of living.


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    • FrugalFatCouple profile image


      6 years ago from California

      Isn't that the truth? Its all about what portion sizes you are used to eating. If you pile it on and stuff yourself - you'll get used to that stuffed feeling. But if you really think about it....smaller portions are better for you and will not only save you money but keep you slim. And don't you really feel BETTER when you don't stuff yourself? All good ideas. Thanks for sharing!


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