Thursday, September 12, 2013

Wallet Friendly Meal Ideas

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Recently I had a friend post on Facebook that she was looking for cheap recipes.  I can understand that raising a large (and ever growing) family can cause strains on the ole pocket book. But aside from that she's also trying to achieve a healthier lifestyle. So I offered to write up a little something on the healthier side for cheaper meal ideas. 

Now you've all heard the phrase "You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy & fake!" right? To a point I agree. If it's fast food, comes through your car window, it's likely fake and you shouldn't be eating it. BUT there are ways to eat clean & healthy on a budget, while keeping your wallet happy.

If you don't know it by now, I'm a Pinterestoholic. It's pretty much my virtual cookbook. I'm able to organize things my way (thanks to my OCD) and I can access it on my phone when it's dinner time so there's no shlepping the laptop to the kitchen counter.

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The first thing you should know about my boards... just because I pin it as "clean, healthy or weight watchers" does not make it so. I like to pin things that I a) believe would go over well with the family and b) that I can adapt to our clean eating style. Most of the time you'll see me post in the description what I intend to change when I make it (examples: no vegetable oil, use coconut oil instead / no mayo, use Greek yogurt instead). Also you can find my boards for motivation, exercises and fitness related posts. Feel free to click the picture above to view my boards and follow away!

One key component to making ANY of these recipes work for your budget is PLANNING. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. I have a white erase board, square calendar style, on my wall next to the fridge. This is where I write down my meal intentions, what we plan to have, when leftovers may happen, and where my husband gets his say in what he gets to enjoy. ;o)

Start by rounding up a handful of recipes, figure out what ingredients you need, what you have on hand and work it around your budget. Trust me, planning is your best friend!!!!

Now I'll get down to some of my favorite, budget friendly recipes.

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 photo ParmBroiledTilapia_zps31fcaa72.jpgTilapia can be purchased in bulk, making it more affordable, and is generally vacuum sealed individually making it ideal for quick prep. This is one of our most recent favorite recipes, and it works well for Swai fillets as well, another budget friendly fish option.

The Parmesan Broiled Tilapia recipe I found at Spend With Pennies has amazing flavor and can be on the table in around 10 minutes. The basic ingredients I use are plain Greek yogurt, dried dill weed, lemon juice, Kerrygold butter,  and Parmesan. Once I was in a pinch and didn't want to take a few minutes to grate my Parmesan so I subbed some already grated Pecorino Romano. Mmmmm!

 photo bbcasseroleteaser-540x405_zpse75fa014.jpgWe do try to throw in a meatless meal from time to time and this Sweet Potato, Quinoa & Black Bean Casserole from Healthy & Homegrown was one I wanted to give a shot. The first time I tried it I did not have all the ingredients I needed but I made due with what we had and it was still wonderful. The name pretty much tells you what's in it, but I didn't have tortilla shells or enchilada sauce. I used tomato sauce, seasoned with basil, garlic & oregano and it was still fabulous! A dollop of plain Greek yogurt was an amazing way to top it off.

 photo OnionSoupChicken_zps011d10b9.jpgAnother thing you will come to love about clean eating is making your own seasonings. Anything mixes/seasonings that you can buy at the store... generally can be replicated at home and when you do, you'll know that there are no additives or hidden chemicals. Home made seasonings can spice up any meal. I found this Onion Soup seasoning recipe at Our Nourishing Roots, and created my own stove top and crock pot versions of Onion Soup Chicken.

 photo SpicyPaprikaChicken_zps053d1401.jpgIn our home we enjoy spicy food and so this Spicy Paprika & Lime Chicken is AH-mazing! Citrus + a slap of spice and perfect on a huge bed of romaine and fresh veggies. It also includes healthy fats provided by coconut oil. And if you've been following me long you know I LOVE my coconut oil. Check out this recipe and more from Eat Drink Paleo.

 photo GreekChicken_zpsec9c1c86.jpgThis is another recent find and it's so delish! Cubed up chicken & your own home made Greek seasoning? What's not to love? I spiced mine up a bit; after cubing the chicken and tossing it into the dish I sprinkled a portion of the Greek seasoning over the chicken but not all of it. I then tossed on top of the chicken, whole cherry tomatoes, sliced mini bell peppers, chopped onion and quartered Brussels sprouts and topped it off with the remainder of seasoning. Because of the added ingredients I had to extend the cook time a bit, but it was so good. Definitely worth a look around over at He and She Eat Clean.

 photo Turkey-Santa-Fe-Stuffed-Potato-Skins_zps5b651548.jpgAnother of my favorite recipe sources is Skinny Taste. I discovered Gina when I began my journey with Weight Watchers and she has some really great, easy and oh so savory recipes. One of our favorites are Loaded Santa Fe Baked Potato Skins, topped with my fav Greek yogurt and green onions of course. This recipe is great for it's dual purpose! First you have dinner with these amazing loaded skins, but the next day you can eat the Skinny Garlic Mashed Potatoes made from the skins flesh. How awesome? Two meals from one dish!

 photo turkey-zucchini-burger-3-up_zps267dbee8.jpgAnd last but not certainly least... The most awesome way to sneak a vegetable into your child without them being able to detect it! Turkey Burgers with Zucchini is another great Skinny Taste recipe. I am telling you, because of this post I have been able to get my kids to eat more vegetables than I ever thought possible. Of course now they are pros at eating whatever I put in front of them, but this most certainly helped in the beginning when we began transitioning to eating clean.

You're probably wondering where's the beef? Well, we do eat 93/7 or 90/10 beef depending on what we find in bulk, and we generally use it for burgers every other week, it's been a compromise with the hubby. LOL. I find the only other time I use it is for our Tex-Mex taco salad or when I make Spaghetti Squash with meat sauce. Being raised a meat & tater girl... sometimes there's nothing better than a big juicy burger!

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All of the recipes below come from They are a great resource, but be sure to double check the ingredients and avoid using canola or vegetable oil. Always use your healthy oils; olive oil or coconut oil. Click on the pictures to open the recipes in another window. Note: I've never made the sauce that accompanies the nugget recipe so I cannot vouch for it.

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Beef & Bean Chile Verde
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Chili Cornbread Casserole
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Cornmeal Crusted
Chicken Nuggets
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Tortellini Primavera

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There are a bunch of great Weight Watchers resources out there, but I have to be honest... Skinny Taste is my go to. She has a huge recipe box full of fabulous ideas, and I've yet to make a bad recipe from her.

 photo WW_SpinachRolls_zps72bee449.jpgI was hesitant to make these Spinach Lasagna Rolls until a fellow WW friend told me that she did. I made a couple of tweaks to the recipe: 1) Add a bunch of minced garlic (I'm a garlic lover) 2) Use Basil, Oregano & Garlic flavored tomato sauce (or add those spices to your own tomato sauce). My kids even eat this and it's another great Meatless Monday idea.

 photo WW_StuffedPeppers_zps62ed14fc.jpgI'm always looking for new ways to up the veggie intake and I LOVE me some bell pepper. This Turkey Stuffed Bell Pepper recipe is a perfect combination of vegetable, protein, complex carbohydrates and full of flavor. I've even been know to throw in some fresh chopped asparagus, just because I can.

 photo WW_ZucTots_zpsb1de971f.jpgThis recipe isn't a complete meal but it is a perfect accompaniment to your dinner. Zucchini Tots! Yep, I had two zucchini's in dire need of a destiny and I found this awesome recipe. In fact I think the first time I made them I paired them with the Parmesan Broiled Tilapia from above. Believe it or not, the kids chowed them down and the hubby text me from work that a co-worker needed the recipe. Apparently he was bragging over them enough that he shared one and well... all it takes is one bite and you're hooked.

 photo WW_BuffaloCkn_zpsfcf31b6f.jpgI'm a huge proponent of being lazy when it comes to food. Meaning, I enjoy being in the kitchen, but I don't want to live there. So it's no surprise that I utilize my crock pot year round. I'm pretty sure I use it at least once a week. This is one of my favorite recipes, Crock Pot Buffalo Chicken Lettuce Wraps. I have no other words to describe this meal other than p-e-r-f-e-c-t.

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Speaking of crock pot... My friend I would marry you if it weren't for my husband. This post turned out a lot longer than I intended, so I will save my crock pot favorites for another day. Stay Tuned!

Feel free to link your favorite recipes in the comments below!!!!

**Please note that not all of the above photographs are mine, I used the photographs from the links 
 sourced. All credit is given to those website owners.**

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