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low-budget

Snacks

Home Made Creamy Garlic Hummus

Homemade Hummus

Save a bit of money with this home made Hummus with garlic recipe. It can be augmented with roasted peppers, cucumbers, pine nuts and can be served alone, with vegetables or chips (as shown) or as a side dish with falafel.

When I told my wife, Vee, I was going to try to make hummus, she was all for it. We’ve always simply gotten store bought hummus (like Sabra) and used pita chips as mouth shovels but I started to wonder if I could make the same dish as easily for much cheaper; after all, a small 6 ounces of store bought hummus can cost roughly $5 and, at least in our household, is consumed in one sitting.

Homemade Hummus Ingredients

The primary ingredients to making hummus are chickpeas and tahini, a sort of ground sesame seed puree. To get perspective on cost, a pound of chickpeas cost roughly $1.50. The tahini I chose is store bought and was $5.99 for a pound (or 32 tablespoons). The total amounts to $3 for a full pound of hummus. Take that Sabra!

From a health perspective, a serving of hummus provides roughly 10% the RDA for fiber and B vitamins and before chips, amounts to roughly 170 calories.

This recipe is fairly simple and can be considered a basic hummus. You can easily build on the flavor profile by adding roasted onions or peppers, pine nuts or whatever you can think of that would taste good. On a side note, the book that inspired this calls for 4 cloves of garlic. Being Italian, that just seemed too little for such a big batch. I doubled up the garlic goodness. When I say salt to taste, you are going to want to go pretty heavy on the salt as the chickpeas devour the salt.

Serve with pita, pita chips or vegetables.

Inspired by Jennifer Reese’s wonderful cookbook, Make the Bread, Buy the Butter.

Print Recipe
Serves: You decide. Makes a little over a pound Cooking Time: Depends

Ingredients

  • 4 cups cooked Garbanzo Beans
  • a Little bit of the Garbanzo bean water
  • 4-8 Cloves of Garlic
  • Your fav Oil of choice (I use EVOO or avacado oil)
  • Pinch of Coriander
  • 2 teaspoons of Cumin
  • 5 tablespoons of Tahini
  • Juice from 3-4 Lemons
  • Salt to taste

Instructions

1

In a food processor, add and puree all ingredients until smooth.

2

Thin with oil and the left over water that the chickpeas cooked in.

3

Salt to taste.

4

Extra Lemon will give it more acid if needed.

Diet

8 Strategies to Eat Healthy on a Budget

I once saw a meme that stated something to the effect of “Don’t talk to me about obesity until you can tell me why a salad costs $7 and a burger and fries costs $3.” This is true.  It’s a real problem.  And it becomes even more real once you decide to commit to actually making dishes rather than buying pre-packaged ones.  There are solutions out there and over the past couple years, I’ve watched my food budget actually shrink when I decided to buy my food along the edges of the grocery store.

Get a Costco Membership if you spend more than $100 per week on food and toiletries

When I first considered Costco a couple years ago, I wasn’t sure if the price of the membership would be worth the amount saved.  Joining Costco was probably one of the smartest things I have done in terms of grocery shopping.  Here’s why…

  • Better sourced meats at better prices – If you are concerned about Organic meats, Costco has them and they are better priced than traditional grocery stores.  For example, in my area, 4 pounds of organic ground beef (90/10) is $19.99.  Organic boneless chicken thighs are 3.99/pound.  If you are concerned about the bulk sizes, don’t be.  They package them in separate perforated sections which means you can freeze them and use them one at a time.
  • Cheaper produce in some cases – I pick up most of my fruits and vegetables from places other than Costco BUT in some cases such as romain lettuce, you can save a couple bucks.  Once again, it is in bulk (currently I get 4-5 heads at a time) but the bulk price is actually cheaper than the grocery.  Same thing applies to spinach.
  • Cheaper Milk, cheese, butter and eggs –  2 dozen organic free range eggs from a local farm is $8.  Kerry Gold butter (grass-fed) in a three pack is $7.  A full gallon of milk is $2 and change.  Costco Brand coffee is great as well.  Need I go on?
  • Toiletries, paper products and dog food – Not only are the majority of these cheaper but you will spend less time getting them.  What used to be a weekly trip to the grocery for detergent has turned into once every month to month and half.

Not everything is cheaper and the rabbit hole you could go down is pretty deep but if you stay focused on the essentials, you can come out ahead.  There are a couple memberships to consider.  The cheapest one is $50 but if you spend over a $100 a week, go for the executive membership.  This option gives you 2% on your purchases which means that once a year you will get a check to cover the next year.

Buy Spices from Specialty Groceries

You can find things like Paprika, Cumin and other spices much cheaper at Indian and Asian grocery outlets than you can at places like your local Kroger.  In some cases, the cost can be a fifth of the cost of your big box grocery store.

Choose Cheaper Sourced Meats

In the grand scale of things, chicken breast is more expensive than chicken thighs and salmon is more expensive than cod or tilapia.  However, in most cases, they are interchangeable.  And in some cases, they can taste even better (I’m looking at you, chicken thighs.)  Also, the way you cook your meat can allow for cheaper cuts.  For example, a slow cooker can turn an otherwise tough piece of meat into something you can cut with a fork.

When Choosing Fruits or Vegetables, Always Choose the Ones in Season

Sounds like a no brainer but there is no reason to pay $4 for a pineapple when a couple months down the road, it is $1.  Same thing goes for grapes and tomatoes.  Respect the seasons and buy when they are in season.

Buy frozen vegetables that are rich in fat-soluble vitamins

I always have frozen spinach on hand for sauteeing.  Occasionally, when I’m in a pinch for time, I will buy a bag of California vegetables for a dollar and pair it with a protein.  Research shows that in some cases frozen is not only as good as fresh but may actually be better.

Process your own food

….meaning any fresh vegetables you buy should always be processed on your cutting board with a knife.  Listen, I understand that that shredded lettuce that you bought for $1.99 is nice and uniform but it is no better than buying a whole head of iceberg and chopping it yourself for less than a dollar.  If you buy a lot of pineapple, maybe consider investing in a pineapple de-corer.  It’s cheap and in the long run will cost you less.

Start Building a Staples List

Your ‘staples list’ is what will build the flavor profile of your dishes….

Perhaps one of the smartest things you can do is build a staples list of the things you most likely use.  Think coconut milk.  Think flour (if you use flour).  Think spices like paprika and cumin and chili powder.  Think oils like sesame oil (if you do a lot of asian food) or avacado oil.  Think vinegars.  Think sugar (if you use sugar).  A good staples list will give you more choices when it comes to choosing what recipes to make.  Plus, a good staples list can shrink the weekly bill because you aren’t buying these things spur of the moment.

Plan Your Meals

Perhaps the biggest problem that most face when they are trying to eat on a budget is how to stretch their dollar with food they bought for the week.  And the simplest way to do this is to plan.  For example, A rotisserie chicken is a great meal but can be stretched even further when the leftovers are pulled from the bone and put in a container for salads for lunch.  If you are using chick peas for a falafal, you can take the rest and turn it into hummus which can be eaten on vegetables as a snack.

 

Dinner

Spiced Chicken Stew with Carrots

Looking for an easy, heavy on the flavor, low on the pocket book meal?  Look no further than this spiced chicken “stew” with carrots.  In this dish, I use bone-in chicken thighs, a few simple ingredients and a couple pounds of carrots at a cost of roughly $1.50/serving.  And since, I’m using the slow cooker, it is literally prep and wait…

This slow cooker Moroccan flavored recipe was a crowd pleaser at my house.  More importantly, it was approved by my 9 year old, who is funny about any food that doesn’t come fried or whose name doesn’t end with the word ‘tender’.

The sweetness of the carrots and raisins are perfect compliments to the meatiness of the thighs. The almonds elevate it ever so slightly; the nuttiness is good but the crunch factor is needed to balance out the dish.   The recipe called for a slow cooker with a browning option, which I had no idea even existed so I browned the chicken thighs in a cast iron skillet before they went into the cooker.  

I was actually quite shocked about the serving sizes with this one.  Although it claimed to serve 4, we actually were able to pull six servings from it, albeit a smaller portion for me the next day.

I paired this cous-cous in a lemon, olive and oil vinaigrette, which wasn’t as much of a hit (my wife said next time, maybe we should opt for rice).

Inspired by Martha Stewart Living’s book “One Pot”.

Spiced Chicken Stew with Carrots

Print Recipe
Serves: 4 Cooking Time: 4-6 hours

Ingredients

  • 8 bone-in chicken thighs
  • 2 tblspoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds carrots, chopped into 1 inch lengths
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 cup raisins (golden)
  • 1/2 cup cilantro
  • 1/4 cup sliced roasted almonds

Instructions

1

Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper.

2

Heat olive oil in a skillet and add the thighs when hot, skin side down, about 2-4 minutes until golden brown.

3

Transfer thighs to a plate.

4

Cut the carrots and add them to the slow cooker along with garlic, cinnamon stick and cumin.

5

Place chicken on top and cover.

6

Cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours or until chicken is cooked through.

7

Add the raisins about 15 minutes before the dish is done.

8

Remove the chicken and carrots (using a slotted spoon). Finish the plate off with fresh cilantro and almonds and top the chicken with the braising liquid in the slow cooker.

Notes

I added cous-cous as a side but this recipe is delicious without it. For the carb-conscious, adding cous-cous would add roughly 41 carbs per serving. Pairing with a wine? Think Pinot Noir!