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Cheap & Healthy on a Budget: Recipes + Tips


With the state of the economy right now, times are financially tough for many families.  Healthy, quick and family meals can continue inexpensively with some creative planning.  I like to call that "Budgeating." 

I sent a request out for cheap, healthy and quick recipes and I appreciate those who sent them in!  Here are a few feature recipes that you might want to try.  All of them are under $10 and serve four people.  Be sure to check out my cheap food tips at the end of this post.


Chicken Tacos with Salsamole

Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD

Boston, MA


1/2 teaspoon salt

pinch of each: fresh ground black pepper, crushed red pepper, dried thyme, dried rosemary, onion powder

1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast

8 (8-inch) whole wheat tortillas

"Salsamole" (1 cup salsa + 1 cup guacamole)


Heat the grill, or coat a 12-inch skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat.  In a small bowl, combine the salt with the pepper, red pepper, thyme, rosemary, and onion powder. Rub the chicken with the salt mixture. Grill or bake the chicken for 5 minutes on each side, turning once. Remove from the heat and let rest. Cut into thin slices and keep warm.  To make tacos, spread salsamole on each tortilla, top with sliced chicken and roll up or fold into quarters to eat.  Liz recommends pairing with a nice fruit salad.  I decided to pair it with fresh corn on the cob (cheap if you remove the husks) and some sliced banana and peanut butter to stay under my tight budget.  

Recipe Notes: This original recipe is actually Steak Tacos with Salsamole out of Liz's new book, MyPlate For Moms: How To Feed Yourself and Your Family Better .  But when I went to make the recipe, I could not find sirloin on sale.  So, I prepared it with chicken.  Consider modifying your old recipes or the recipes of others to make stretch your dollar.  Check out her book, by the way!


Whole Chicken Crock Pot

Amanda Wendt

Trumbull, CT


4 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon thyme

1 teaspoon white pepper

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 large roasting chicken (with pop-up timer if possible)

1 cup onion, chopped (optional)


In a small bowl, combine the spices.  Remove any giblets from chicken, remove skin and clean chicken.  Rub spice mixture onto the chicken.  When ready to cook, put chopped onion in bottom of crock pot.  Add chicken. No liquid is needed, the chicken will make its own juices.  Cook on low 4-8 hours.  Serve with your favorite beans or rice.  Add a side salad to complete the meal.

Amanda’s Notes: I highly recommend a pop-up timer in the chicken because some crock pots cook faster/slower than others (my crock pot cooks this recipe in 4-5 hours).  And I typically serve this with brown rice or a baked sweet potato and a veggie...broccoli or zucchini are my kids' favorites.  Or a salad. 


Scrambled Egg Pizza

Neva Cochran, MS, RD, LD

Dallas, TX


8 whole eggs

1/4 cup 1% low-fat milk

1/2 cup canned diced Italian tomatoes, drained

1/2 cup canned mushrooms, drained

1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup shredded mozzarella

1/4 tsp. dried oregano

non-stick cooking spray

2 tsp. canola oil


Heat a medium saucepan coated with non-stick spray and oil over medium heat. Add onion and bell pepper and cook until just soft. Add tomatoes and mushrooms, turn heat to low and simmer. Beat eggs in a mixing bowl with milk. Scramble in pre-heated skillet coated with non-stick spray until thickened and no visible liquid egg remains. Transfer cooked eggs to a serving bowl or platter and top with tomato mixture.  Sprinkle with cheese. I served it with whole wheat tortillas a bit extra cheese per person, and apple slices for dessert.

Recipe Notes: My friend, Neva, sent me this super cheap recipe (I priced it at $5.21 with the apple slices!) and it's so easy for moms to whip up.  The original recipe called for whole wheat rolls, but I decided to save money since I was already buying the whole wheat tortillas for Liz's recipe.  I also went ahead and used red onions and green bell peppers with this recipe since I was about to make the red beans and rice (see below).  When possible, take your whole week's worth of dinner meals and modify the same why I did to save some cash!

Easy Red Beans and Rice
(this one is mine)

In gredients

1 pound pre-cooked ham, cut into 1/2-inch chunks 2 (15 ounce) cans red beans, drained

1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper

2 (10 ounce) cans rotel tomatoes with green chiles

3/4 cup chopped red onion

2 cups cooked brown or wild rice


Combine all ingredients in crock pot. Cover and cook on LOW for 5 1/2 to 6 hours.  Serve over hot, cooked rice.  Serve with some steamed broccoli sprinkled with lemon juice and a dash of pepper.  Serve with light yogurt topped with fruit.

Cheap By Food Group

Fruits and Vegetables.  My local grocery store often sells  10 bags of frozen vegetables  for $10.  The other day, they had a sale on canned foods where you only pay 26 cents for 20 cans!  You have to watch the sales and then buy in bulk when able.  But remember, frozen is about equal to fresh (sometimes fresher) on nutrient quality and low sodium canned vegetables and canned fruit in their own juices are just a close second.  You can often buy bags of beans for less than $1.  Consider searching out a produce co-op in your local area or visiting your local farmer’s market.  Locally grown produce usually contains superior nutrient quality since it’s farm to plate distance is shortened, and you get to support your local farmer.  If your funds are really tight, government coupons or WIC cards encourage for the purchase of produce items.

Grains.  Make your own breads!  Make your own pancakes by adding half whole wheat flour.  Start your day off with a big batch of steel cut oatmeal in the crockpot.  Purchase things such as wild rice, whole wheat couscous, brown rice and barley in bulk or in the bags versus the boxed varieties.  Cook them in large quantities and eat them throughout the week.  Add these grains with beans, top with a low-fat cheese – serve with a side salad or frozen veggies for a super easy and nutrient-rich meal!

Dairy.  Generic brands of milk are often cheaper.  Look for dairy items that are on sale.   Blocked cheese is cheaper than the pre-shredded.  Purchase yogurts in the larger

Protein foods including meat, chicken, fish, soy, nuts, seeds and beans.   Bulk, bulk, bulk.  Remember that 3-4 ounces is a portion – decreasing portion sizes for each family member is a huge cash saving!  For seafood, shop ethnic grocers such as Asian stores, as they have a tendency to have cheaper prices.  Look for frozen bags and canned seafood on sale. 

General Cheap Tips

Be Flexible. Maybe your favorite food items are out of your budget.  Remain patient and there will come a sale.  Explore other foods.  You might find something you like better!  And the more variety we have, they better nourished we are.
Plan Ahead. Shop for your groceries one full week in advance in order to avoid the eating out trap. Eating out excessively leads to both budget and belt busting every time!

Bulk and freeze. This will not only save you money, but will also save you time – two precious commodities these days. Free resources for doing this can be found at http://www.menus4moms.com/bul k/index.php and http://bulkcooking.com/. Be sure to choose the healthy recipes!

Grow your own garden. Again, eating on a budget demands that flexibility! What a fun thing to do with your children. Don’t have enough room outdoors? No problem. Many people are growing all kinds of produce indoors. Check out an interesting article found on Bella Online – The Voice of Women: http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art15693.asp.
Brown bagged your lunches. Many of these components not only save you money, but they also help you stay on track with your healthy lifestyles. You can bag healthy food items that go on sale or even eat leftovers from last night’s dinner.
Be on the lookout for sales and good coupons. Grocery stores have weekly specials that can be found in a saver book located at the front of the store. You can also shop for coupons online at websites such as http://www.coupons.com/, http://www.couponsurfer.com/ and http://www.smartsource.com/. Consider taking a look at the coupons to help plan your weekly menu. You can search for recipes by ingredient at websites such as http://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.gov// (under Recipes) and http://allrecipes.com/search/ingredients.aspx .

Do you have great ideas to save money on food?  Please share!


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