Sunday, May 29, 2011

Super Moist Chicken/Turkey Burgers

The fact that ground turkey/chicken obviously tastes different than ground beef aside, I think the biggest reason people can't get on board with poultry burgers is that they are often very dry. There is very little fat in most ground poultry, and what is there can cook out quickly. While it is very important to cook poultry thoroughly, there is no need to turn them into hockey pucks! I pack this burger full of ingredients that help keep it moist, and I should really call them "Chicken/Turkey and Veggie Burgers." The veggies really stretch the meat too, so we get six very generously sized burgers from this recipe.

Hope you are all having a wonderful Memorial Day weekend! I cooked these burgers on the charcoal grill tonight and served them on Arnold 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Thins with fresh pineapple (sale price of $2 for one, of which we will eat half), organic baked beans ($1.39 for the can) and Garden of Eatin' black bean tortilla chips ($2 after sale and coupon for a bag, we ate 2/3 of it). A delicious and inexpensive meal, and to top it all off, my older son told me I should make these burgers in a restaurant! ;)

This was the first time I had ever had a ground chicken burger, and I have to say, I like it much more than I do ground turkey. I do eat ground turkey quite often, but there can be kind of a "different" taste to it at times. I did not find that at all with the ground chicken--it was nice and neutral tasting and will be showing up quite a bit around here from now on!

Super Moist Chicken/Turkey Burgers

1 lb extra lean ground chicken or turkey
1 organic apple, unpeeled and grated
2 organic carrots, grated
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1 stalk celery,finely chopped
1/4 of a bell pepper, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 oz fresh mushrooms,finely chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp mustard (whatever you've got)
Kosher salt to taste
Fresh ground black pepper to taste

Step 1: Heat olive oil in pan over medium high heat. Saute onion, garlic, celery, bell pepper and mushrooms for 8-10 minutes, until soft. Remove from heat and let cool completely.

Step 2: Meanwhile, place turkey/chicken in a large mixing bowl. Grate carrots and apple right into the bowl. Add salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, mustard and cooled vegetable mixture. Knead mixture very lightly, just until combined well.

Step 3: Form mixture into six patties and cook using desired method. My first choice is always the charcola grill, then the gas grill, and if weather permits neither, I broil them in the oven.


Ground Chicken (Smart Chicken) On sale for $3.99/lb, used $1 coupon = $2.99
Mushrooms (white button): $1.76/8 oz pkg, used 1/2 = $.88
Organic Braeburn apple: $1.69/lb, 1 apple is 6 oz = $.63
Organic carrots: $.98/1-lb bag, used 2 carrots, 1/5 of bag = $.20
Celery: $1.18/head, used 1 stalk, 1/12 = $.10
Red bell pepper: On sale for $.99 each, used 1/4 = $.25
Onion: $.75/lb, used 1/2 of a 6 oz onion = $.14
Garlic: $.25 head, used 2 cloves, 1/6 of head = $.04

Total Cost: $5.23
6 Servings: $.87 per serving

On Buns:

Add Arnold 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Thins: $2.28

Total Cost: $7.51
Six servings: $1.25 per serving

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Slow Cooker Lentil Sloppy Joes (Double Duty Recipe!)

My husband and children love sloppy joes, so I was really nervous to make this entirely vegetarian version for them! Hence, this recipe was loosely inspired by a recipe from "The Vegetarian Slow Cooker" by Judith Finlayson. I highly recommend this book if you are looking for vegetarian recipes and easy slow-cooking to boot--lots of recipes using fresh, nutritious ingredients unlike many of the vegetarian cookbooks I have searched through. Not a bunch of exotic ingredients you will spend a boatload on and/or never use again either. Many recipes are going to take some prep before you can dump them in the slow cooker, but so do most of my traditional slow cooker fares.

There are many variations you can use to make to this recipe. I added the carrots and bell pepper, they were not in the original recipe, but you could leave them out. You could leave out the onion and garlic and go for a little onion powder or garlic powder for flavor if you have picky eaters. You could use ketchup instead of tomato sauce and cut down a bit on the brown sugar. I hate mushy food, so I like my lentils and veggies to still have some bite to them. If you don't you could always cook the lentils slightly before putting them in the slow cooker (or used canned) and saute the veggies in a little bit of olive oil to soften them up first. Or extend the slow cooking time. Experiment to find what works for you!

I like to serve these on 100% whole wheat sandwich thins/thin buns. Depending on what's on sale and available, I grab Arnold or Earth Grains. My husband and kids usually like theirs plain, but I like to top mine with some organic baby spinach, red onion, banana peppers and tomato. I usually serve these with a fresh fruit mixture and roasted sweet potato fries or a veggie and pasta salad (stay tuned for those recipes!).

DOUBLE DUTY ALERT: Not only do these make delicious sloppy joes, they are great as a vegetarian baked bean side dish! 

Lentils are a great source of fiber and iron. Just one serving (1/4 cup dry, about 1/2 cup cooked) packs 9 grams of fiber, about 36% of the standard daily recommended amount, and 15% of the standard daily recommended amount of iron. Not too shabby for a tiny little legume! I will definitely be using these in future recipes, so expect a lentil soup recipe very soon!

Slow Cooker Lentil Sloppy Joes

1 cup dried green or brown lentils
1 small onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 organic carrots, diced
1/4 of a med/lg bell pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 8 oz can no salt added tomato sauce
1 tomato sauce can of water
1 tsp mustard (whatever you've got)
1 Tbsp vinegar (any kind you've got)
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
3 Tbsp brown sugar
Kosher salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
Step 1: Soak lentils in a bowl covered generously with cold water for at least 4 hours, overnight is fine (though you may need less water in the slow cooker and a shorter cooking time). Drain and rinse.

Step 2: Add lentils and all other ingredients to the slow cooker and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours.


As Side Dish:

Lentils: 1 lb bag for $.98, used about 1/2 of the bag = $.33
No salt added tomato sauce, 8 oz can =  $.39
Green bell pepper: $.59 each, used 1/4 = $.15
Garlic: One head was $.25, used two cloves, which is 1/6 of the head = $.04
Onion: One small red onion (8 oz) was $.75/lb ($.38), used 1/2 = $.19
Organic carrots: $.98 for 1 lb bag, used two carrots which was 1/5 of the bag =$.20
Celery: One head for $1.18, used two stalks, which is 1/5 of the head = $.24

Total Cost: $1.54
Six servings: $.26 per serving
Eight Servings: $.19 per serving

As Sloppy Joes:

Add Arnold 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Thins = $2.28

Total Cost: $3.82
Eight Servings: $.48 per serving

Super Chunky Guacamole

I love guacamole. LOVE IT! I love it so much that when I was doing Weight Watchers, I ate homemade guacamole and organic tortilla chips for breakfast every day for several months. I also love my food CHUNKY, and guacamole is no exception. This recipe ends up working well for really stretching out the avocado, which can really be expensive at times, with some less expensive veggies. I don't know about where you are at, but the price of avocados (Haas) really fluctuates around here. I passed them over for a couple of weeks when they were a whopping $2.50 each, but I snatched a bunch up a few days ago, when to my utter amazement, they were only $1 a piece! Thanks to that deal, I am splurging and using two avocados in this recipe, but it can be easily adjusted to make with just one avocado or 70, if you are so inclined. If  I use one avocado in the recipe, I get four servings out of it, if I use two avocados, I stretch it to six servings. I can't stretch it past six servings since I am the only one in the house that eats it--and if you are mindlessly dipping tortilla chips in it, you're not going to get more than six servings anyway! ;) You already know I like it with my organic tortilla chips, but I also use it to top salads and chili, spread it on sandwiches and of course put it on tacos and the like. I may or may not be known to eat it by the spoonful on occasion.

I normally use and much prefer red bell peppers but only had a green one left today. They happened to be on sale for $.59 at the grocery store, and since the organic ones were way too insanely priced to even consider, I snatched some up, brought them home and washed them really well. I cannot wait until bell peppers start popping up at our farmers market or in my garden, whichever comes first!

So money talk is out of the way, let's talk nutrition. Avocados are packed with good stuff! Yes, they do have a fair amount of fat, but much of it is the good monounsaturated stuff. They also have pretty close to a little of everything when it comes to vitamins and minerals. A perfect food?! The monounsaturated fatty acids they contain are supposed to be good for busting belly fat...I will let you know how that works out for me.

Super Chunky Guacamole

2 Haas avocados
1 Roma tomato
1/2 small onion, chopped
1/2 bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
juice from 1/2 lime
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
optional: diced jalapeno or red pepper flakes to taste

Directions: Prepare your avocados using your preferred method (see bellow for my suggestion). I like to leave mine cubed/diced, but you can mash yours if you so desire. Add all other ingredients and stir well.

Haas avocado: $1 each x 2 = $2
Green bell pepper: $.59 each, used half = $.30
Lime: $.35 each, used 1/2 = $.18
Garlic: One head was $.25, used two cloves, which is 1/6 of the head = $.04
Onion: One small red onion (8 oz) was $.75/lb ($.38 total), used 1/2 = $.19
Roma Tomato: One small one (4 oz) was $1.18/lb = $.30
Total Cost: $3.01
Four servings: $.75 per serving
Six Servings: $.50 per serving 

Handling Your Avocado

I call this the "score and scoop" method. It's easy to do and works really well.

Slice the avocados in half lengthwise, working carefully around the pit. I forgo the traditional knife removal method and remove the pit by softly squeezing the half in which it's embedded--it pops right out.

I then score each half of the avocado in a criss-cross pattern with a paring knife. Work carefully and do not go through the skin. Now it's ready to scoop out with a spoon!

Mango and Black Bean Chili

This is a recipe I developed myself, and it has become one my family's favorites. The first night I made it for supper, my oldest two children asked to have some more as a bedtime snack (and I happy obliged)! It's warm and comforting yet light enough to enjoy even in the summer. The mango literally melts into the background and adds just the slightest hint of sweetness that compliments all of the other ingredients. I always make it in the slow cooker now, but I will add an alternate stove-top preparation as well. It lends itself easily to dividing or multiplying if you are feeding more or less, and there are many ways to make it to your exact liking.

I use whatever ground meat I have on hand (usually extra lean ground beef), today I am using ground chicken (Smart Chicken) since it was on sale in my grocery store's Health Market, and I printed a coupon from Smart Chicken's website to use for another dollar off. I go easy on the meat, which helps the pocketbook a bit as well as satisfies both my meat-loving family and my own desire to eat as little meat as possible. I use canned organic black beans, as they are the same price as a can of non-organic at my grocery store. Using dried beans would save even more money. I usually use my grocery store's own brand of organic corn tortilla chips for garnish (well, my husband doesn't really "garnish", he ends up with a 50/50 mixture most of the time), but today I used Blue Chips by Garden of Eatin'. They are all natural, made with organic blue corn and have no added salt (and yes, they are still delicious)! My grocery store's health market has them on sale for $3 a bag, and I printed a $1 off one bag coupon at You could garnish with regular tortilla chips, corn chips, sour cream, shredded cheese, etc. My grocery store no longer carries organic mangoes, but I find the non-organic variety on sale quite often, maybe because in southern Minnesota, they are still somewhat "exotic" and don't move quickly? I love red bell peppers, but if you prefer green or yellow or orange or can find them cheaper, use what you like. The price of red bell peppers really fluctuates around here, so what I use varies (until my own peppers start sprouting out in the garden!). Today I used up the half of a red one I had left plus half of a green one. I like my chili really chunky, and I think this recipe generates more than enough moisture as it is, but if you think it needs more liquid, add a cup or so of vegetable stock, beef stock, water or even tomato sauce/juice. I add jalapeno or crushed red pepper flakes to my own bowl after I dish everyone up, as I am the only one who likes it with some heat. ;)

Black beans are high in fiber, protein, folate and other minerals, and a half-cup serving has around 10% of the standard daily recommend amount of iron. Canned tomatoes have fair amounts of vitamin A, vitamin C, and lycopene. Mango is a good source of Vitamins A and C, and they have a little fiber as well. Bell peppers are full of Vitamin C. And of course you'll get some nutritional benefits form whatever meat you choose to use--though you could absolutely make this a vegetarian dish as well. I really like to watch our sodium intake, so whenever possible, I use low sodium beans and tomatoes when I am using store-bought canned.

Mango & Black Bean Chili

1/2 lb extra lean ground beef/turkey/chicken, browned and drained
2 15-oz cans organic low sodium black beans, drained and rinsed
2 15-oz cans low sodium diced tomatoes, not drained
1 mango, diced
1 small onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp mild chili powder
1 tsp cumin
Organic corn tortilla chips for garnish
Optional: 1 jalapeno, diced (or to taste), or red pepper flakes/cayenne to taste

Directions: Place browned/drained meat in slow cooker and and all other ingredients. Mix well and cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours. Garnish each serving with crushed organic corn tortilla chips.

Alternate preparation (stove-top): Brown and drain meat. Heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil in a large Dutch oven/stock pot over medium-high heat. Saute onion, garlic, red bell pepper and jalapeno until barely tender, about 3 minutes. Add mango, zucchini, chili powder, cumin, and jalapeno/pepper flakes/cayenne if desired, stirring for another 2 minutes. Add meat, tomatoes and beans. Bring to a soft boil, reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 1 hour.


Smart Chicken ground chicken: $3.99/lb (on sale) - $1 off coupon, used 1/2 lb = $1.50
Organic black beans: $1.39/can x 2 = $2.78
Canned diced tomatoes (no salt added): $1.09/can x 2 = $2.18
Mango = $.50
Red bell pepper: $1.50 each, used half = $.75
Green bell pepper: $.59 each, used half = $.30
Garlic: One head was $.25, used three cloves, which is 1/4 of the head = $.06
Onion: One small red onion (8 oz) was $.75/lb = $.38
Organic corn tortilla chips: $3.00/bag (on sale) - $1 off coupon, used 1/4 of the bag = $.50

Total Cost: $8.95
Six servings: $1.49 per serving
Eight Servings: $1.12 per serving

Handling Your Mango

Don't be intimidated if you have never sliced a mango--it's really simple! A paring knife is much easier to handle and highly recommended for this job. The pit is rather flat and oblong-shaped, and it runs the entire length of the fruit. It's right in the middle, so you'll need to start cutting off-center. Start on one of the wide "faces" of the mango and slice it off, using your stealth-like knife skills to maneuver around the pit if you go a little too deep. Repeat on remaining three sides. Score each piece down to the skin with your paring knife (don't go all the way through the skin) in a criss-cross pattern and then push the fruit up and out from the skin side (like you're trying to turn it inside-out) so that you can easily slice off the resulting cubes. Totally useless trivia for the day: the two wide pieces of mango you slice off are called "cheeks", and the two thin pieces are called "fingers".

UPDATE 5/24/11

Last night my husband said we may as well make this a vegetarian dish to mix it up once in awhile (yes, I was floored by this meat-lover's suggestion!), especially since I have only been using 1/2 lb of meat anyway. So the cost for making it vegetarian would look like this:

Organic black beans: $1.39/can x 2 = $2.78
Canned diced tomatoes (no salt added): $1.09/can x 2 = $2.18
Mango = $.50
Red bell pepper: $1.50 each, used half = $.75
Green bell pepper: $.59 each, used half = $.30
Garlic: One head was $.25, used three cloves, which is 1/4 of the head = $.06
Onion: One small red onion (8 oz) was $.75/lb = $.38
Organic corn tortilla chips: $3.00/bag (on sale) - $1 off coupon, used 1/4 of the bag = $.50

Total Cost: $7.45
Six servings: $1.24 per serving
Eight Servings: $.93 per serving

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

I like to make this soup year-round, as it is light enough to enjoy even on warm days but oh-so-comforting on cool days. I like to eat it with a vegetable-laden sandwich on whole wheat bread or with a vegetable and greens salad--it is really versatile and lends itself well to being part of any meal.

If you have never tried butternut squash, you are really missing out! It's smooth and creamy when baked/roasted (the only way to prepare it in my book), a little sweet (not as much so as a sweet potato), and one cup of baked butternut squash cubes contains over 4 times the standard daily requirement of Vitamin A, just over half the standard daily requirement of Vitamin C, 8% for Calcium, 7% for Iron and 2 grams of protein. Not too shabby for on oft-overlooked vegetable!

Butternut Squash Soup

1 medium butternut squash (about 2 lbs)
1 organic apple
3 medium organic carrots
2 stalks celery
2 cloves garlic
1-inch thick slab of onion (rings)
olive oil
kosher salt
fresh cracked black pepper
optional: red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper to taste

Step 1: Wash butternut squash thoroughly. Cut it the long way down the middle and scoop out seeds/pulp with a spoon. Drizzle with olive oil, a little kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper. Place on a cookie sheet (I lined mine with foil to make clean-up easier) and in a 400-degree oven for 30 minutes.

Step 2: Wash apple, carrots and celery. Core apple and cut into eight pieces. Cut carrots in half the long way and then in 1-2 inch chunks, depending on thickness. Remove as much string from the celery as possible and cut in 2-inch chunks. Crush garlic cloves and  remove skin. Cut onion ring/slab in half so they are then in half-circle shape, separate. Remember to save the trimmings for more vegetable stock!

Step 3: When butternut squash has cooked alone for 30 minutes, remove from oven and add celery, carrot, garlic and onion to the pan, leaving squash on it as well. I ended up with a pile of everything at each end of the pan, but you can plop it all in the middle or do it however it works best for you. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Place in same 400-degree oven for 30-40 minutes, until vegetables are nice and caramelized (you want to see a bit of color on them). Remove from oven and let cool for 20 minutes or until squash halves can be comfortably handled.

Step 4: With a spoon, scoop flesh from one squash half into a blender, add half of celery/carrot/onion/garlic mixture and 2 cups of vegetable stock. Blend until smooth and pour into large soup/stock pot or Dutch oven. Repeat with remaining squash, vegetables and stock. Add red pepper flakes or cayenne if desired and taste to see if any additional salt or pepper is needed (we try to keep a low sodium diet, so I don't add salt beyond what I sprinkle on the veggies). Heat through over medium-high heat and serve or refrigerate/freeze.


Butternut squash: one medium (2 lb) squash was $1.49/lb = $3.48
Homemade vegetable stock = next to nothing
Organic apple: one 8 oz apple at $1.29/lb =  $.65
Organic carrots: 1-lb bag for $.98, used three of them, which is 3/10 of the bag = $.29
Celery: One head for $1.18, used two stalks, which is 1/5 of the head = $.24
Garlic: One head was $.25, used two cloves, which is 1/6 of the head = $.04
Onion: One medium red onion (12 oz) was $.75/lb ($.56 total), used about 1/3 of it = $.19

Total Cost: $4.89
1 cup servings (8): $.61 per serving
1 1/2 cup servings (5): $.98 per serving

Homemade Vegetable Stock

I love making my own vegetable stock! Store-bought stock is expensive, not to mention full of sodium, gluten, etc. Even the organic stocks can have undesirable ingredients, and they are even more expensive. I make stock often and always have some on hand in the freezer. I use it for soups/stews/chili, gravies/sauces, many slow cooking recipes, and even to add a  little more flavor when I'm cooking vegetables, brown rice, quinoa, etc. It's so rich and flavorful (just look at the picture above!) and ridiculously cheap.

Vegetable Stock 

Step 1: Whenever you cut up fresh vegetables, rinse off the parts you would normally toss away, put them in a gallon zip-top bag and keep in your freezer. Examples of what I save are the ends of onions, scallions, bell peppers, egg plant, bok choy, radishes, celery, green beans, parsnips, carrots, zucchini and asparagus, parsley and any other herb stems and mushroom stems. You can even save the peels from apples, pears, sweet potatoes and squash. If there are things I know I won't use up before they go bad and can't/don't want to prep them for freezing and using later, I will chop and add those to the bag as well.

Step 2: When your bag is full, add it to a 4 qt stock/soup pot or Dutch oven, along with three crushed cloves of garlic and a tsp or so of black peppercorns. NO SALT! ;) You can always add a couple chunked fresh carrots, celery stalks, scallions or some sprigs of parsley (or even dried), but I haven't found it necessary, I always get lots of flavor in my stock without it. If you use a pot larger than 4 qts though, you may need it. You could also add 1/4-1/2 tsp of dried herbs you like or even some fresh ones, but I like to keep the flavor rather neutral since I never know what I might be using it for.

Step 3: Add cold water to the pot, up to about an inch from the top. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer on low heat for about 30 minutes, remove from heat.

Step 4: When cool enough to handle, place a colander over a large bowl or pot that will hold all of the stock and pour the stock into the colander. Let drain for a few minutes so that you get as much of that liquid gold out of there as possible. Compost your mushy veggies! :)

Step 5: Pour stock into freezer containers and freeze what you will not use within the week. You can even pour it into freezer bags and lay them flat while they freeze so they take up little room.

COST: Next to Nothing

Eating Healthfully and Saving Money (Welcome!)

I think the most unfortunate fallacy that exists regarding eating a healthful diet is that it has to be expensive. I recall watching a program where a family said they couldn't afford to eat healthfully, and they went through a fast food drive-through and spent around $18 for the four of them. Are you kidding me?! I could easily take that $18 to the grocery store and turn it into three easy-to-prepare, healthful meals! Yes, there are expensive healthful ingredients, and it can get pretty expensive when you start getting into the organic, natural and socially/environmentally conscious items (when you can find them), but there are many ways to save as well. Here are some things I do to save in my area/stores, and you can feel free to share your own tips!

1. Go to the Facebook pages and websites for the brands you use. If they do not have an option to print coupons or request them by mail, ASK! I just printed coupons for Smart Chicken, Kashi, Muir Glen, Mom's Naturals, Stonyfield Farm and Organic Valley. Sign up for their newsletters to be notified of savings as well. There are also often coupons in the weekly newspaper inserts for dairy and dairy replacements, whole wheat pastas, whole grain rice and breads, etc., so make sure you look through those too!

2. Buy produce when it's on sale and plan your meals around it. There are some staple produce items I have to have no matter what, but there are many that I enjoy when they are on sale. Buy extra and freeze.

3. Don't automatically assume you can't afford organic. My grocery store often marks down organic produce to move it quickly, and I can get it for less than the non-organic equivalent. Same with organic pantry, dairy and other items--they mark them down to move them and/or entice people to try them. Stock up when you find a good deal! And compare prices--an organic can of black beans is the same price as the non-organic ones at my grocery store!

4. When it comes to produce and buying organic, keep the Environmental Working Group's "Dirty Dozen" in mind. Due to the heavy use of pesticides, these are the 12 produce items you should buy organic when you can: celery, apples, peaches, strawberries, blueberries, kale, grapes, nectarines, bell peppers, spinach, cherries and potatoes. The Clean 15 require less pesticide use or have thicker/protective skins and are safer options for buying non-organic: onions, avocado, sweet corn, pineapple, mango, asparagus, sweet peas, kiwi, cabbage, eggplant, papaya, watermelon, broccoli, tomatoes and sweet potatoes. The selection of organic produce is still very limited in my area, and I am sure it is many other places as well, so I don't always have the organic option for those it is recommended for. Whatever you buy though, WASH WASH WASH your produce thoroughly so you don't transfer any residues that may be on the outside to the edible inside!

5. Buy local. Check out the farmers market(s) in your area. I can get organic, locally grown produce, grass-fed beef, organic eggs, organic chicken, honey, maple syrup, breads, etc. for much cheaper than I can at the grocery store, and I also have the pleasure of knowing exactly where and whom it came from! My locally owned meat market also has great deals on organic chicken and locally raised, grass-fed beef.

6. Plant your own garden. It will be a few weeks before I start harvesting any of the fruits of my labor, even longer for most of it, but I am really excited to be able to pick fresh, organic produce right out of my own garden this year! And it's that much less I will need to purchase at the store or farmers market.

7. Organic aside, there are many staples for a healthful diet that are very affordable, i.e. cheap.  Brown rice, whole wheat pasta, canned tomatoes/sauce, frozen vegetables, oatmeal, beans (canned, and even cheaper, dried), just to name a few. Watch for sales and coupons too.

8. Keep price and serving size in perspective. And "level of healthfulness." Yes, I spent $10 on a box of organic quinoa and could have paid $1 for a box of Hamburger Helper, but along with a few other healthful ingredients,  I will get at least 5 meals out of that box of quinoa for two adults and three children plus a couple trays of "quinoa cubes" for the baby! ;) And I don't have to explain the difference in "level of healthfulness" that exists between the two. While the price of a good bottle of olive oil can induce gagging for a cheapskate like me, especially when I see less healthful oils for exponentially cheaper prices, I remind myself that it really equals pennies per serving, it is something I will rarely have to buy, and the health benefits are worth it.

9. Go vegetarian! Well, not really, I know many people couldn't/wouldn't, but you can really stretch your meat, and ultimately, your money! Commit to one vegetarian meal per week to start out--there are great resources on the internet for vegetarian meals, as well as some terrific cookbooks (I'll be sharing some recipes from my vegetarian cookbooks). Stretch your hamburger, chicken, pork, etc. by adding some black beans, kidney beans, etc., or extra if the recipe already calls for beans--I always do that for tacos, quesadillas, enchiladas, burritos, taco salads, soups and chili. I even have a terrific recipe for lentil sloppy joes I am perfecting! ;) The recommended serving size for a portion of meat (chicken, beef, fish, etc.) is 3 oz, the size of the palm of a woman's hand or a deck of cards. Most people eat waaaaaaaay more than that in a sitting! Weigh or eye your meat portions (yes, you will be shocked and probably pretty bummed at first) and fill the void on your plate with more of the veggies/salad greens you got on sale this week.

10. Use smaller plates! Really--invest in smaller plates and avoid filling up a second time. Not only does it of course save money, but it really keeps your portion sizes in check and might even help you lose weight or keep you from gaining more if that is a concern. Eat slowly, and if you're still hungry after you've let your meal settle, drink a glass of water or grab a piece of fruit, some fresh veggies or a small handful of nuts. As you may have deduced, my new smaller plate is red! :)

About My Recipes and Cost Calculations

Warning--I am not a recipe follower. I make up a large portion of my recipes, and when I do come across a recipe I am interested in trying, it is often unrecognizable by the time I am done putting my own spin on it. I am also not a strict measure-er. So when you see a recipe from me, know that there may be some approximations versus exact measurements and some "this or that/whatever you've got" versus exact ingredients. The first recipe I am going to post is a very good example, as it is more of a process than an exact recipe. ;)

If you decide to try one of my recipes, keep in mind that you will of course decide when and where you can/wish to buy organic. However, I will always note what I use and calculate the cost accordingly. Spices, oils, condiments and other pantry items, while they certainly require an initial investment, will be "freebies" in recipes, and their cost will not be calculated unless the recipe calls for a large amount in proportion to a typical package size.