I began a Food Budget Lifestyle as my New Year’s Resolution, 2018. You know what? Even with only a few weeks under our belts, our family has saved hundreds of dollars! We are planning meals, using what’s in the pantry, and being smarter about where we purchase our groceries. We also are always on the lookout for healthy, delicious recipes that are budget-friendly.
In my quest, I’ve found, one ingredient that beats all others when it comes to packing a punch for nutrition at an easy to swallow price. That special item is the BEAN. Whether you buy beans dry or in cans, you’d be hard pressed to find a main ingredient that beats it at the checkout line! Beans are nutrient-dense, full of fiber, and extremely economical. Rather than pricey meats, beans can be used as the main ingredient in a meal or added to meat to make the meal go further (think, for example, of that hearty, delicious bowl of chili you love). What’s more, there are a TON of varieties of beans – pinto beans, kidney beans, edamame, great white northern beans, chickpeas, black beans! The list goes on and on. With this kind of versatility, your recipe options are endless! And, let’s not forget, the endless recipes for great tasting, meals that are easy to prepare and can be served for literally pennies per plate!
WHAT YOU’LL “SHELL” OUT
A large, 32 oz. bag of dried beans typically runs about $3.50 or less depending on the variety. That one bag can supply your family of four with a good two meals, at least! If you are looking for convenience, and prefer to not soak your beans over night, go for the canned varieties. A 15.5 ounce can of beans will run about $1.50, give or take a few shekels and depending upon the type of bean. If you really want convenience, there are some amazing bean soup mixes on the market that cost anywhere from about $3.00 to $6.00. How can you beat that?
RECIPES & MEALS
Yes, you’ve reached the fun part of the article! My favorite meals!
I’ve tried the following recipes myself and can guarantee you that, despite being healthy, they are, in fact, teenager-approved. Some of these dishes are from prepared mixes you can buy right off the grocery shelf, whereas others are recipes you can make from scratch. I bet your family will love these awesome bean dishes!
- Camellia Chipotle Black Bean Soup. This dried bean mix is a go to food for my family -We usually have it twice a month! The cost of the soup mix runs about $5 or $6 and, in addition to feeding a family of four, I always count on leftovers to take to work or pack for school lunches the next day. It also freezes nicely, so you can put it away for a cold or rainy day! The soup mix calls for a red bell pepper, 2 red onions, and a lime. If you so choose, you can dress it up with tidbits such as a bit of sour cream, some shredded cheese, or slices of avocado. I actually use this not so much as a soup, but more of a meal, serving it over yellow rice (Cuban style).
- Chili. Who doesn’t love a pot of chile? You can make this vegetarian style with black beans and pinto beans, or the traditional way with ground beef. Either choice makes for a delicious standby that everyone loves!
- Hurst’s 15 Bean Soup. This soup mix is delicious and, while it has the option to throw in ham, I usually prepare it without. For about three bucks for the mix, you can make a hearty dish for four! A bit of french bread and a salad, rounds this meal out nicely.
- Herbs de Provence Shrimp and White Bean Salad. This one I threw together myself. I had a small amount of shrimp I found in the freezer and a can of white beans. I dusted some Herbs de Provence seasoning on the shrimp, and sautéed the two ingredients in a bit of olive oil. Laid it over a spring mix salad that had been tossed with just a bit of Italian dressing, and, presto, there it was – a delicious meal! While shrimp may not be the cheapest protein on the market, if you use a small portion, you will get your bang for a buck!
- Manishewitz Split Pea with Barley Soup. Ok, now technically, peas aren’t a bean, but they are in the legume family, so I’m sticking by this one! The point is, even if you don’t think you’d like pea soup, this mix may change your mind! It did mine! No need to add even a single additional ingredient – it is an all-inclusive packet that you throw into boiling water and simmer for about an hour. For about $2.50 a packet, you have a great meal. Serve with sandwich or healthy salad. My teenage son lights up when I make this!
- Black Bean and Cheese Quesadillas. This is a super easy lunch to put together. All you need are some tortillas, Colby and Monterey Jack shredded cheese, and a (drained) can of black beans. The addition of the beans make an otherwise plain cheese quesidilla, far more nutritious. Serve with a bit of salsa and some sour cream.
- New Orleans Red Beans and Rice. If it’s Monday in New Orleans, it’s red beans and rice day. Period. Here is a quick take on a classic.
- Edamame Beans. Looking for a delicious (and possible addictive) snack that won’t hurt your budget or your diet? Buy a bag of frozen edamame beans for under $2.00, heat them in the microwave, and toss with a bit of kosher salt. If you prefer a meal, try this creative Asian Quinoa Salad recipe.
Use one of these meals each week and you will not only cut your grocery budget, but stay warm and toasty from the inside out throughout the remaining long two months winter!
Follow me at http://www.cashcrashblog.com, to see how I went from crashing my budget at the grocery store, to feeding a family of four on about $100 a week!