Quarantine is still a reality for many people in the world and in our country. People have had to rely on savings or their stimulus check to get by for some time before heading back to work. And still, for some, that reality is still distant. Meanwhile, they're working with what they have which is why it's important to be resourceful more than ever. This pandemic has forced us all to go back to basics, to the core necessities, food, shelter, and of course, safety.
Stretching your grocery budget with the money you do have at hand now may be one way to ease people's minds. It can be quite a challenge for those mostly used to eating out but nevertheless it is possible as long as we make smart decisions.
Think about which ingredients are more likely to be more versatile in your kitchen. This depends on your culture and food preferences but I think we can all agree on some basic staple foods to prepare a variety of dishes. For me, these are rice, chicken, pasta, spinach, lettuce, onions, mushrooms, eggs, lean ground beef, potatoes, tomatoes, pasta sauce, bread, cheese, and shaved turkey or ham.
Just with these ingredients, I can make a variety of great dishes! Look at what fruits and veggies are in season and stick to those. Maybe try to avoid packaged, ready-made foods as they tend to disappear from the pantry or fridge much quicker! Purchase whatever you can in bulk and you will find you will make many more bills for your buck!
More than ever, I've truly learned to cherish those leftover mashed potatoes or spaghetti from the night before. Leftovers are time savers and the great thing about them is you can always re-create it into a new and fresh meal! Don't throw them away, repurpose them :) Get creative in the kitchen. I promise they won't go bad overnight.
Instead of using the microwave to reheat, use a pan. Drizzle some olive oil, add some fresh spices, and find other ingredients to complement it with. If I just have mashed potatoes for example, and I see I have a fish or chicken filet, I will just grill the chicken and boil some broccoli and I have a full meal for less time! Also, you can download the Epicurious App for cooking inspiration and look for recipes with the ingredients you have. I don't usually follow the recipe exactly as is, I experiment with other things and have not been disappointed.
Remember to choose one protein, one carb, veggies, and a small amount of good fat like olive oil on a salad. If you follow this guideline as a rule of thumb you should find the peace that you and your family are getting all the nutrients you need.
If you already do this, then I'm sure it is definitely helping your food budget. For those who are used to having meat whether it is chicken or red meat or pork, every day, I recommend to replace it with some vegetarian alternatives like beans, tofu, quinoa, or alternative pasta like chickpea pasta which is full of protein and other amazing nutrients! You're helping the environment, your wallet, and improving your diet by introducing other protein sources that are packed with other vitamins and minerals that you wouldn't otherwise get.
Have you ever tried making a delicious lentil soup? I make one once a week and add veggies like carrots, potatoes, and green beans. It lasts a few days and you can also freeze it if you want to have it again on a different week! You can add short pasta or rice and it tastes amazing. Such a smart idea for those who only like to cook a few times a week.
Frozen or canned vegetables will last longer and prevent you from throwing away food and running to the grocery store as often. Frozen or canned veggies have the same nutritional quality as the fresh ones so don't worry about that! You have to work with what you can right now and vegetables are better than no vegetables.
Keep checking in for more tips!
Thank you for reading and stay safe.
Joanna Gil, B.S. Nutrition