How can we make a quick healthy meal on a budget? When it comes to meals I use five criteria to measure success: taste, health, speed, digestion, and budget. These days we need anything that helps! Dive into my secrets to help you get more flavor, more money, and better health. Let’s jump right in.
#1 My secret ingredients to flavor
Have you noticed when you eat something that tastes good, stress doesn’t exist for that moment? Bland food is quite boring and can leave us unsatisfied. Let’s fix the “blaa” with a little “bam-bam”. Here are some of my favorite flavor touches that are easy to use and give you healthy meals on a budget:
McCormick’s Steak Seasoning.
This is so simple and super tasty.
My husband is Mr. Hot Sauce. He enjoys Red Hot and Sriracha.
I make my own garlic bread with fresh garlic, I simply use a mincer. It’s a much cleaner and healthier way than garlic powder or garlic salt.
This herb helps fight bacteria, it’s high in antioxidants, helps reduce viral infection, and has many more benefits.
We love our salt but need to watch our blood pressure and bones. Salt helps with fluid balance, nerve transmission, and even muscle function.
#2 Methods for healthy meals on a budget
My second criterion for reducing stress in the kitchen is to create a healthy meal using the right tools. There are a ton of kitchen gadgets, but we’re going to keep it simple and focus on five ways to cook and heat up a meal.
5 Ways to Cook & Heat Up a Meal
Baking fish and starches instead of frying save us a lot of heartaches…literally…and calories for that matter. Roasting potatoes, squash, and even cauliflower are super easy and a healthier method. Simply cube the veggie, toss it in olive oil with a little salt, set the oven at 350 degrees, and bake for 30-40 minutes. Test with a fork for your liking. You may like my Warm Kale Salad Recipe!
If I’m in a hurry yet want a break from the microwave, I opt for the Air-fryer or the toaster oven. I use them for warming up homemade waffles, a small batch of cookies or brownies, garlic bread, sweet potato fries, a small pizza, and chicken nuggets. Both cooking devices automatically shut off when the timer is done, so I can put my dish in it and forget it. The air fryer is awesome for making camping more comfortable. We use this one.
We use our grill all year round and we live in Michigan! To keep grilling safe and healthy, it’s important to keep it clean. Be sure to scrape the grill with a brush before using, and clean the grill at least three times a year if you’re a heavy user; meaning, giving the grates a good soak in Dawn dish soap. One of our favorite dishes is bacon-wrapped chicken legs, this recipe is a keeper!
Yes, I use the microwave to warm up meals when I’m in a hurry. My main reasons for the microwave are frozen veggies, chicken nuggets, and microwave popcorn. Microwaves have come a long way and are safe to use.
This is my secret weapon in the kitchen when it comes to speed, taste, and easy cleanup. This pan, as my son would say, is ‘Beast’…meaning cool. When it gets hot, it stays hot. And cleaning it is a piece of cake, no soap! Simply rinse and heat back up on the stove to dry. Easy peasy! I love my cast iron pans. Salmon in a skillet recipe is totally bussing.
I do love my Crockpot, but I only use it maybe once a week. There are loads of kitchen gadgets promising this or that; we get excited for a few weeks then tuck them away in an abyss cupboard. Keep it simple in the kitchen, and stick to the old fashion way of cooking. You’ll find it actually goes pretty fast. My favorite crockpot recipe is Simple Game Day Sloppy Joes.
Cast iron pan
I wasn’t joking about old fashion. Everyone should have a cast iron pan. Read the benefits above.
The old saying to put a wooden spoon on top of the rim of the pan to make the water boil faster? Well, it works. Simply lay a wooden spoon across the top of the pan, kind of like a bridge. In about a handful of minutes, the water is ready for the pasta.
I’m not a fan of freezing meals unless it’s leftover chili or stew. Lasagna is another good freezer meal, but other than that, it’s easier to resort to the grocery’s freezer meals. You should venture into your freezer and clean it from old food every quarter.
There are a lot of factors leading to diarrhea, gas, bloating, constipation, acid reflux, and cramping. They range from food allergies, food sensitivities, food combining, eating too fast, the lack of digestive enzymes, hormones, bile acid, autoimmune disorders, gut flora, leaky gut, and/or viruses and bad bacteria.
My first strategy in figuring out why I feel icky is to eliminate the most common inflammatory foods: dairy, gluten (wheat), nuts, soy, and eggs. Most likely one of these foods is your trigger. Food elimination will take time, but it’s worth it when you figure it out.
*Please note, I’m not a doctor, nor am I trying to be. I share information I have either experienced myself or am extremely interested in, and then I keep things simple and give you the nutshell version. Please consult your physician before jumping into new things.
Just so you know, it takes about three weeks for cow’s milk protein to vacate your system. For wheat, it takes two weeks to feel a bit better, but around three months for it to be out of your system. For soy and eggs, it’s two weeks. Here’s a good post from All Ways Well on how to go about it. Keep it simple, your body will love you, and you’ll help it heal!
#5 Budget: 6 ways to save on meals
1 – Join store membership
One of the ways I save money on meals is to join the store membership. In fact, one of my stores kicks back $7.00 after I reach a certain goal. They also have online coupons. Not to mention member-only specials! And you can even shop and scan with the app. They might know what you buy, but they’ll also send you coupons to match your shopping list.
2 – Buy what’s in season
Another way I save is to adjust my menu with what is growing in season. For squash dishes, I delay until fall and early winter. Strawberry pie is good in March. Here is a quick guide to knowing what fruits and veggies are in season so you know when you’re getting the best deal on them. Download my In-Season guide now.
3 – Go to different stores
A third trick is to go to different stores to get the best price. For instance, the coconut milk ice cream I buy isn’t on sale at my normal store, but it is on sale at my secondary store. This may be a lot of running around, so you’ll have to make the call whether it’s worth the gas, but I find this technique helpful. I have about five go-to stores to get the best deals. But how do you remember where you got what? You can download the Where I Buy Memory Guide from Freebies and tuck it in your planner or handbag.
4 – Buy store brand
Buy store brand. There is not much difference in taste and quality from name-brand goods to store brands. Simply look for the store brand and compare prices. You can even keep track at how much you save!
5 – Watch the ingredients
Watch the ingredients! Yes, you can save money by reading the nutrition label. How? Some food manufacturers use ingredients that are addictive, like High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) and MSG…not to mention salt and just plain sugar. When you eat more, you buy more of it! Steer clear of HFCS and MSG. I know they’re tasty but they don’t do you any favors from a wallet and health perspective.
6 – Don’t skimp the protein
Don’t skimp on the protein. Sure some proteins can be expensive, but so are second helpings and snacking! When our bodies don’t get protein we are hungry all the time, which can lead to overeating, weight gain, and crankiness…yes, carbs do that. Make a point to eat some kind of protein at every meal. To save even more money, buy protein in bulk at a membership store like Costco or Sam’s. Be sure to look at the price per unit to make the best decision.
Sources of protein include nuts, dairy (unless you’re sensitive), seeds, chicken, fish, pork, beef, turkey, tempeh (soy), quinoa, broccoli, and lentils.
When it comes to meals, use your head not your stomach. My five criteria get the job done for me. I go for taste, health, speed, digestion, and budget. My hope is that you found some new ideas to test out. As an added bonus, here is a 5-day menu plan based on all my criteria. Enjoy!
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