Do you buy your apples organic? A recent screening from the U.S. Department of Agriculture found pesticide residue in 98% of apples, the highest rate of all the produce it examined. The numbers are shocking! To us, it’s clear: organic is healthier, safer, and overall better for us, our families, and the environment. While we would prefer to feed our little ones apple slices that aren’t contaminated with pesticide residue, organic isn’t exactly the thriftiest option. However, there are ways to get organic for cheaper. You can still make cheap family meals with organic ingredients. All it takes is a little bit of brain power and prioritizing to make organic fit into your budget-friendly family meal plan.
Shop seasonal: Shopping seasonally will give you the most bang for your buck when it comes to organic, and you can often find seasonal ingredients on sale, too!
Go for the off-brand: Both regular and all-organic supermarkets frequently provide organic versions of big-name organic products. When you’re at a supermarket, pick the store brand over big-name organic products.
Shop at farmer’s markets: Most of your buys will be cheaper and fresher at the farmer’s markets. If you don’t see a sign that says organic, be sure to ask. Most farmers at the markets are making the transition into organic farming, but haven’t earned the necessary funds to get officially certified. Just because they’re not considered organic by the USDA, doesn’t mean that they’re not farming using organic, sustainable, and healthy practices. The best thing about farmer’s markets? You can haggle! Try to land a deal with the farmer for misshapen produce, or for bulk purchases. With a little bit of swindling, you could land yourself a deal.
Buying clubs: A buying club is a great way to get the organic food you want for cheap. Buying-club members purchase food and other organic products in bulk and then split the stash. In a buying club, you may be able to get 30 percent to 40 percent off the retail price.
Grow it yourself: We may not all have a green thumb, but growing small herbs, fruits, and veggies could give you a little bunch of produce for a fraction of the retail price. Best of all? It’s right in your backyard! If you’re a beginner, try growing a small indoor garden with plants like spinach, carrot, kale, basil, and rosemary, which will give you plants all year round.
Know what you should and shouldn’t buy organic: You don’t have to buy everything organic, necessarily. Plants with a husk or thick rind often go unpolluted by pesticides because of their thicker skin. Produce that usually goes pesticide-free includes avocado, pineapples, cantaloupe, kiwi, watermelon, grapefruit, and onions.
If you’re trying to keep your meals cheap but healthy, keep these tips in mind! When you buy organic you’ll taste and feel the difference, while feeling better about the meals that you’re serving your family.
Every diet, nutrition, or health book will tell you the same thing: eat more fish! Studies show that those who consume more fish are less likely to have diabetes and heart disease, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. This is namely due to fish’s omega-3 fatty acids, which have been known to regulate your body’s inflammation. Luckily, fish dishes can be easy and extremely quick to make. Try out some of these quick easy meal ideas, which only take about 20 minutes a piece!
Tilapia in Garlic Butter: Garlic butter is delicious and can be great on any kind of fish, really. This butter tastes especially wonderful with tilapia, which doesn’t have an extremely fishy taste like many other fish. Brush your tilapia with garlic butter, along with other spices like garlic, pepper, salt, and paprika to extra taste. Bake for about 15 minutes and serve with a salad or some pasta for a delicious meal.
Pan-Seared Paprika Trout: While trout contains about 5 grams of fat, these fats all come from omega-3s, making them both delicious and healthy. Just one, 3 ounce filet carries about 19 g of protein, making it a great pick for those who need a hearty dose of protein in their diet. All you have to do to make a paprika trout is season fish on both sides with salt, pepper, and garlic powder and cook for about 4 minutes on each side. Serve with broccoli and a spicy sauce for a great meal.
Soy and Ginger Broiled Salmon: Salmon is the reigning king of omega-3s and some studies have shown that this fish may even help with joint cartilage and insulin effectiveness. Luckily, a salmon dish only takes about 25 minutes to cook. Try a soy and ginger salmon, which can be made by simply throwing a marinated salmon in a broiler for about 8 minutes. Serve with peanut noodles and an Asian-style salad with ginger vinaigrette.
Pan-Seared Halibut with Tomatoes: Halibut only takes about 10 minutes to prepare and tastes great when seared in a large saute pan, prepped with grapeseed oil. Serve along with tomatoes, olive oil, garlic and parsley on a bed of fresh greens.
Sweet and Spicy Shrimp Stir Fry: Shrimp, like tilapia, is approachable and mild, and perfect for people that aren’t exactly fish fanatics. Shrimp tastes great in a stir fry with a sweet and sour sauce with lots of vegetables, like mushrooms, bean sprouts, broccoli, and scallions.
If you absolutely despise fish, we understand. Try taking a high quality fish oil supplement to get a good dose of your omega-3s. However, for you fish-lovers out there, next time you want to whip up a great quick easy meal try one of these recipes. The omega-3s in fish may make you feel better than ever!
According to the National Restaurant Association (NRA), 133 million Americans eat out every day. Michael Donohue, spokesperson for the NRA, contends that, “The typical adult eats at a restaurant nearly six times a week.” While this is great news for restauranteurs it may make budget-minded moms and pops blush with shame. So why do we eat out so much? Time is partially to blame. The grocery shopping, the cooking, the prep, the cleaning — all of these things take time that we, as working Americans, really don’t have. Luckily, however, there is a way to get in and out of the kitchen in a flash. There are plenty of chefs and cookbooks that have proved to us that having dinner out in under 30 minutes is achievable.
Tips to making your kitchen 30 Minute Meal-Worthy
You can’t just throw together 30 minute meals if you’re in the midst of a filthy or unorganized kitchen. You need to be adequately prepped to churn out meals in a flash. One way to prep for a 30 minute meal? Practice what chefs like to call “mise en place,” or “to put in place.” The basic premise of mise en place is that if you put everything out in front of you before you start to cook, you’ll be able to prepare a meal quickly and efficiently. Get your mise en place set up by doing the following:
Make sure you have all of your ingredients in front of you
Have plates ready so you can put the meal on the plates and serve it while the dish is still hot.
Have stations set up for different phases of the meal. Arrange a washing, chopping, and seasoning station.
Put all of your herbs or different chopped ingredients in bowls so that you can easily grab and use them. The bowls can be quickly thrown in the dishwasher after use.
Apply this technique to all of your meals to churn them out as quickly as possible.
Examples of 30 minute Meals
Thirty minute meals usually include elements like a meat that can be cooked in a skillet in a flash and simple recipes without hundreds of ingredients. Meals that you can cook in under 30 minutes include:
Steak with herbs: Steak is so easy to just throw on a cast-iron skillet and cook. All you need is herbs like rosemary, parsley, and oregano to really make a rib-eye taste delectable in only about 8 minutes!
Lemon Garlic Tilapia with Spinach: Just sauté some spinach and throw a tilapia filet on the skillet with garlic, lemon, and butter for a delicious dinner that only takes about 20 minutes.
Parmesan Chicken Tenders: Bust out your olive oil and get ready for some quick frying. You can bread your chicken tenders in rosemary, shredded parmesan, red pepper flakes and garlic cloves. Then, just fry up your breaded tenders and serve with a pasta salad and some leafy greens for a great meal.
You can make the time to cook for thirty minutes each night. Just start planning your meals out, and open your mind to the possibility that cooking could actually be enjoyable.
If you haven’t noticed, simple foods are in. These are foods that stick to their roots, aren’t too tampered with, and fuel us with the healthiest hardiest stuff mother nature has to offer. However, many processed foods are loaded with additives — some that aren’t harmful and others that are. So what can you do to eliminate the additives in your diet? The easiest thing to do is to make commonly tampered with foods in your own home, so that you know exactly what’s going into your food. While we don’t have time to cook from dusk until dawn, cooking simple food recipes when you have the chance could greatly reduce the number of additives you and your family are ingesting on a daily basis. Here are some additives to watch out for, and meals you could make that will cut them from your diet:
Sodium Nitrate: Also known as sodium nitrite, this preservative is commonly found in lunch meats, hot dogs, and bacon and can cause the formation of nitrosamines, or cancer-causing chemicals. This reaction is especially prevalent in bacon. While we don’t expect you to find a hog, wrestle it down, and make some bacon out of it, you can easily make salami, bologna, ham, and roast beef at home for fresher-than-ever deli meat slices. Roast beef is particularly easy to make from home. Buy top sirloin to you don’t have to cook it for long and ask the butcher to tie it for you, recommends Saveur magazine. A low, temperature and slow cooking give the roast beef a uniform pink color. After cooking, just cut and serve!
Artificial coloring: Condiments, beverages, and many processed foods typically have artificial coloring and these colorful additives are suspected of causing increased hyperactivity in children. The FDA also banned Red Dye number 2 after studies showed that large doses could cause cancer in rats. Avoid blue no. 1, blue no. 2, green no. 3, red no. 40, red no. 3 yellow no. 5, yellow no. 6, orange B. One way you can avoid this additive is by making your own ketchup. All you need is tomato paste, white vinegar, brown sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, molasses, and agave nectar to make ketchup with no additives and lower sodium!
Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil (Trans Fat): Vegetable oil can be made into a semi-solid shortening when it’s combined with hydrogen. Unfortunately, this process turns fats into trans fats, which promote heart disease. “Harvard School of Public Health researchers estimate that trans fat had been causing about 50,000 premature heart attack deaths annually, making partially hydrogenated oil one of the most harmful ingredients in the food supply,” according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). Avoid trans fats by making your own snack foods, like potato chips and cookies. While we all know how to make chocolate chip cookies, you may think that potato chips are a bit trickier. They’re surprisingly easy to make! All you need is a good handheld slicer and you can slice potatoes and toss with oil, then bake until golden brown for about 15 minutes. Salt, pepper, chili powder, or minced herbs can all be added to the mix to make your own, special treat.
Saccharin: Saccharin (Sweet ’N Low) is about 350 times sweeter than sugar and its used in diet foods as a sugar substitute. Many studies on animals have shown that saccharin can cause cancer of the urinary bladder, according to the CSPI. Saccharin has also caused cancer of the uterus, ovaries, skin, blood vessels, and other organs in rodents. Other studies have shown that saccharin increases the potency of other cancer-causing chemicals. All in all: avoid this chemical! While we can’t make sugar at home to avoid products with sweet and low, you should use Stevia if you’re a fan of artificial sweetener.
Propyl Gallate: Propyl gallate retards the spoilage of fats and oils and is often used with BHA and BHT, because of the combined effects of these preservatives. “The best studies on rats and mice were peppered with suggestions (but not proof) that this preservative might cause cancer,” according to CSPI. To avoid propyl gallate, make your own chicken stock at home. It’s extremely easy and all it takes is a chicken carcass (after you serve a chicken for dinner, keep the bones), onions, celery, bay leaves, and garlic.
Avoid products with these names on the label or make the substitutes at home – your food will be a lot healthier and it’ll probably even taste much better.
You may include tons of fruits and veggies in your diet think that you’re getting the right amount of nutrients, but the average American falls short on many key nutrients, including calcium, fiber, potassium, magnesium, and vitamin D, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That’s why you should always keep these vitamins in mind when you’re planning out a healthy menu. You should not only follow the food pyramid, but make sure you’re introducing dishes with high amounts of neglected nutrients. Here are some ways that you can get these nutrients into your menu when you’re doing your healthy menu planning:
Calcium: We all need calcium for strong bones and dental health. You can easily get your recommended 1,000 mg of calcium a day by kicking off your day with calcium enriched cereal and a bowl of low fat milk. An omelet, packed with spinach and garnished with cheese, could also do the trick. Eggs are extremely high in this nutrient.
Fiber: Fiber is another “problem nutrient” for many Americans. However, this nutrient is a breeze to fit into lunch and dinner. Try making a taco salad, with plenty of fibrous lettuce leaves and beans. A fruit salad is an extremely fibrous dessert, but make sure to include plenty of raspberries, which have about 8 grams of fiber per cup. Whole wheat pasta with a side of split pea soup gives you a great dose of fiber, as does lentil soup.
Potassium: Taking in a sufficient amount of potassium is critical to regulating blood pressure and heart function. Get enough of this nutrient in your diet by trying a dish with avocado, like tortilla soup. Salmon with a side of sweet potatoes could also do the trick, as these two ingredients are filled with potassium.
Magnesium: Magnesium is an essential mineral for transmitting nerve impulses and detoxification, in addition to numerous other body functions. Bran cereal will give you plenty of magnesium, as will rice and wheat products. Start your day off with a bowl of bran flakes and some low fat milk to get an adequate dose of magnesium. Also, spice it up! Dried herbs have tons of magnesium.
Vitamin D: About three-quarters of U.S. teens and adults are deficient in vitamin D, whose deficits are being blamed for everything from cancer to heart disease and diabetes. Get a healthy dose of vitamin D from oily fish, like salmon or cod, which can be served with grilled mushrooms for another dose of vitamin D. You could also try serving a shrimp stir fry — 40 oz. of shrimp has about 40% of your daily vitamin D.
Cooking these meals will assure that you and your family get the right amount of critical nutrients when you’re doing your healthy menu planning.
A vegetarian diet can be beneficial for everyone, including omnivores. Not only is eating vegetarian better for the environment, but there are a number of studies that claim that eating less meat could reduce cancer risk. In fact, large studies in England and Germany showed that vegetarians were about 40% less likely to develop cancer compared to meat eaters.
While the health and environmental perks are great, having a vegetarian meal every once in a while can also help you cut a pretty penny out of your meal budget fast. Without the need for pricey meats, your grocery store budget will plummet. Even if you only partake in something like “Meatless Mondays,” you could end up saving a ton in the long run. Here are some great ideas for vegetarian family meals on a budget:
Vegetarian chili: Vegetarian chili is inexpensive and delicious. Make it in bulk and have some friends over to help you enjoy it. All you need is kidney beans (or black beans and chickpeas) as a base and dried chili peppers, corn, onions and tomatoes.
Ravioli with Arugula: You can “jazz up” ravioli with minced garlic, shallots, and arugula. Ravioli is a great budget-friendly vegetarian meal that is perfect for when you really don’t feel like cooking.
Stir Fry: Rice is extremely inexpensive, as are bagged frozen vegetables and both ingredients can be used to make a great stir fry. Buy the generic brand of frozen veggies and stock up when they’re on sale to whip up a great stir fry. Use peanuts as a base for your sauce to give your stir fry a bit of protein. Get your nuts wholesale at a warehouse club for the best buy.
Bean Burgers: Instead of having meaty burgers, cook up some bean burgers, which can be garnished to taste just as good with some guacamole and a buttered hamburger bun. Bean burgers, made with quinoa, pinto beans, and cornmeal, can be made for $3 or less.
Sweet Potato Fritters: Get creative with your veggies by making them into crispy fritters. You can make sweet potato, zucchini, or even cauliflower fritters.
Eating vegetarian meals isn’t just great for your health, it’s great for your budget, as well! Try planning a “Meatless Monday” where you can prepare vegetarian family meals on a budget.