Healthy Eating on a Budget

The fact that I live exactly 0.3 miles away from a Whole Foods Market is both a blessing and a curse. With a paradise of healthy ingredients right around the corner from my apartment, I’m often tempted to stop by the store multiple times a week so that I can try a new recipe. But it’s adding up.

Pantry Cleanout: Chili roasted sweet potatoes and onions with corn, black beans, and spinach

Rather than face the prospect of a rapidly dwindling bank account, I have been trying to cook more from what’s in my pantry, rather than constantly getting lured into the grocery store. Above is one such dish I made this week. I had a small Tupperware of chopped bell peppers and onions in the fridge (the remaining bits that didn’t make it into my weekend omelet), so I roasted them up with a forgotten sweet potato, along with ample chili powder, paprika, and cumin. For protein, I tossed in a can of black beans (a pantry staple!), and I finished the dish off with corn from the farmers market (thank you, prepaid gift card) and baby spinach (another omelet remnant).

Getting creative in the kitchen is probably the best way to stretch your grocery dollar. But if you’re not quite comfortable enough to start experimenting, sometimes it helps to have a guide. Enter the Good and Cheap cookbook. This cookbook is a FREE downloadable PDF with recipes for people on a food-stamp budget (roughly $4/day).

Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4 a day

Unlike most resources for people on nutrition assistance programs, this cookbook is filled with beautiful, color photographs, and is actually a treat to flip through. The book itself isn’t a “healthy” cookbook—in fact, butter makes appearances much more frequently than this dietitian is comfortable with. However, the recipes are largely plant based, often giving fruits, vegetables, and whole grains the starring roles. Additionally, the cost per serving is given for each recipe.

Good and Cheap by Leanne Brown

Good and Cheap by Leanne Brown

Good and Cheap by Leanne Brown

The cookbook was created by Leanne Brown, in fulfillment of a Masters project for the NYU food studies program. As someone that graduated with a similarly obscure foodie graduate degree (whoop, BU Gastronomy!), I have so much respect for Leanne and the amazing project that she undertook. Like Leanne, I believe that cooking is one of the most effective (and more importantly, fun!) ways to take control of your health. And if you can do it on $4 a day? Even better!

What’s your favorite budget-friendly recipe?

– Kelly

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Lentil Love

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This post has been a long time coming. I seem to find myself talking about lentils more and more these days. In fact, I even did an in-depth commodity report on lentils for one of my gastronomy courses. Lentils are my favorite plant based protein source, not just because they are cheap and shelf stable, but because they are so gosh darn versatile! What else makes lentils so special?

  • Unlike other dried legumes, dried lentils DO NOT require an overnight soak. Simply bring lentils and water to a boil, then simmer for about 30 minutes.
  • Lentils have tons of protein! According to the USDA food and nutrient database, 1/2 cup of cooked lentils has 9g of protein and 115 calories. Compare that to 7.5g of protein and 114 calories for black beans, 7.5g of protein and 112 calories for red kidney beans, and 8.5g of protein and 95 calories for edamame (all for 1/2 cup cooked).

When I catch myself talking about lentils, I am often surprised at how few people I meet actually have experience cooking with them. People often ask me for lentil recipes, so below, I compiled of a list of my 3 favorites (all healthy, of course!). If you have visited me for an extended period of time, chances are, I have made at least one of these recipes for you. Note that I always buy green lentils, but I hope to experiment with red and black one day soon!

Simple Stuffed Sweet Potato with Lentils

1. Lentil Stuffed Sweet Potato: I created this recipe on a day that my cupboards were particularly bare, and it has since become one of my favorite meals. See here for the recipe.

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2. Lentil Chili: This recipe from Whole Foods Market is incredibly easy and versatile! I always add a can (or 2 ears) of corn for a little bit of sweetness. My finishing touch is a dollop of nonfat, plain Greek yogurt.

sloppy joe

3. Lentil Sloppy Joes: Image and Recipe from Edible Perspective. This vegan recipe from the Edible Perspective is so perfect, that I follow it exactly as it’s written every time. No additions or substitutions necessary. And did I mention that it’s made completely in the slow cooker? Too easy!

Have you caught lentil fever yet? What are some of your favorite lentil recipes?

– Kelly

P.S. I’m not the only one that’s gaga for lentils. Check out this NPR article to learn more about my favorite plant based protein.