Big Flavor, Small Budget


We’re all in the same boat these days, searching for the cheapest deal in town. If you want to cut back on food expenses, a great place to start is in the kitchen, where planned meals and nourishing food offer big flavors without the high cost. Take a few minutes on Sunday evenings to plan a menu for the upcoming week and before long, you’ll have a larger wallet, not waist line. Here are a few tips to keep in mind that will help you stick to your budget:

Eye the Unit Price

This will tell you how much you are paying per ounce for a product.

Cheap Food Isn’t Worth It

Just because it’s cheap doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Steer clear of the ‘value meals’ and create your own.

Cook Staples in Bulk

When it comes to cost and nutrition, you can’t beat the staples. Cook a large batch of potatoes, brown rice, beans, or whole grain pasta on Sunday to use for quick dishes throughout the week. With minimum prep, you can easily use these pre-cooked staples to create various meals: stir fry on Monday, burritos on Tuesday, chili on Wednesday, barley soup on Thursday and tacos on Friday. When you pre-cook your grains and beans, you will save time each night making dinner and bagging the leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch salad or breakfast oatmeal.

Stock up on herbs and spices

Don’t waste your money on expensive sauces and condiments. The former not only add more flavor, but are cheaper and healthier than processed condiments. Ever take a look at how much store bought salad dressings cost? Up to $5.00! No thank you, I’d rather use a dash of sea salt and pepper with balsamic vinegar and olive oil for a cheaper and healthier vinaigrette.

Clip Coupons

Just like Mom used to do. Get out the scissors and browse grocery ads to find sale items. Make sure to check your newspapers, magazines, and online flyers for coupons.

Plan Meals

Before you set out to the market, take note of what you have in the fridge and pantry. Jot down a list of what you already have and what you can create with those items based on the sale items at your market.

Revamp Leftovers

Leftover chicken? No problem; simply store leftovers in the refrigerator for tomorrow night’s dish. Leftover chicken is great chopped up and tossed into a skillet as a stir fry with brown rice and frozen veggies. Or crack open an egg for a tasty chicken omelet. You can easily add these leftovers to salads, pasta dishes and casseroles. The same can be said for leftover seafood, tofu, beans, or ground meat. Leftover turkey burgers? Chop ‘em up and mix with a jar of tomato sauce for a whole wheat pasta dish. Or opt for a Mexican night and fill tortillas and tacos with the chopped turkey burgers and sautéed veggies with salsa and a dollop of Greek yogurt. My concept is to create a variety of meal ideas that will give your leftovers a whole new twist.

Use Cash

Instead of swiping your credit card without taking notice of the dollar amount, fork over your George Washingtons and you’ll realize how much you’re spending.

Get Creative

Staples don’t have to be boring. Mix and match your staples; try a new grain such as quinoa, barley, spelt, or buckwheat. Cook up a batch of beans for an economical week of meals and add them to scrambled eggs, burgers, salads or pizzas. Buying more whole foods and less processed packaged foods will not only save you money but will allow you to explore new recipes and cooking techniques.

Frozen and Canned

Yes, frozen veggies are healthy and fairly inexpensive. Pick up a few bags of Grade A veggies and toss them into your meal. However, beware of the sodium content on canned goods; opt for low sodium canned tuna, salmon and sardines. These are great sources of lean protein that pack a healthy dose of Omega 3s.

Here’s a budget friendly recipe that is sure to please your taste buds.

Jasmine Quinoa Slaw
Serves: 4


•¾ cup quinoa
•4 Jasmine tea bags, to cook quinoa
•1 can (14 oz) chick peas, drained and rinsed
•1 cup purple cabbage, finely chopped
•¼ cup peanuts
•5 cups fresh spinach

•1 tsp. sesame oil
•2 Tbsp. lemon or lime juice
•2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
•2 Tbsp. soy sauce
•Sea salt and pepper, to taste

1.Steep jasmine tea bags in 1 cup water. Cook quinoa according to package directions with steeped jasmine tea. Drain and set aside.
2.In a small bowl, combine all dressing ingredients; whisk well. Set aside.
3.In a large bowl, combine spinach, cabbage, chickpeas, quinoa and peanuts.
4.Slowly pour dressing over the spinach mixture; toss gently to ensure even coating.

Find out more about nutritionist and author Amie Valpone at