Sunday, 12 February 2012

What's for Dinner?

Clean Eating Beef Chili and Cornbread
Clean Eating Beef Chili
Makes approx. 10 to 12 servings


1 lb extra lean ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
1 large green pepper, roughly chopped
1 1/2 cups dried kidney beans (cook in advance)
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, chopped (optional)
2 (28 oz) cans whole tomatoes, broken up


In a large skillet brown ground beef.  Drain off any fat and return beef to pan.  Add onions and peppers and saute for about two minutes.  Add spices to beef mixtures and cook for one more minute to meld the flavors. 

Slow cooker method:
In the slow cooker stoneware, add tomatoes, beans and beef mixture.  Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours, or on high for 3 to 4 hours.

Stove top method:

In a large dutch oven, combine tomatoes, beans and beef mixture.  Bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer.  Simmer for 2 to 3 hours, stirring occasionally. 

Notes: This chili is quite spicy with the addition of the chipotle pepper, so feel free to leave it out if your family prefers something a little less spicy.  The canned kidney beans can be used as a substitute for the pre-cooked dried beans.   Use about 2 cans for this recipe. 

Clean Eating Cornbread
Makes 6 servings
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup cornmeal
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup 1% milk
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup honey
2 eggs, slightly beaten

Preheat oven to 350.  In a medium bowl combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt.  Make a well in the center and add the wet ingredients.  Stir until moistened.  Pour into a greased 9" square baking pan.  Bake for 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Notes: This recipe easily doubles if you need to serve more people.

Is Clean Eating on a tight budget possible?

 I started Clean Eating about seven months ago, and it has completely changed the way I look at food and the way I shop and cook.  For those who are unfamiliar with what Clean Eating is, a simplified explanation would be: Clean Eating is choosing foods that are as close to their natural state as possible.  Clean foods include lean meats, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, dairy products and a very limited amount of natural sweeteners.  What this means is no chemicals, nothing processed. 

When I made the switch to Clean Eating, one of my main concerns was the impact it would have on my wallet.  It is getting more and more expensive to eat, especially in this current economic climate.  Over the past seven months I've discovered that, yes, it is possible to maintain a healthy, clean diet on a budget.    There are several strategies that I use successfully to keep our foods costs down, while keeping the nutritional content of our food up.  I have five strategies that have helped me keep my food budget healthy along with our diets.

Know what you're eating.  In a nut shell this strategy means you need to plan your meals.  Grocery stores are businesses, and their sole objective is to get you to spend your money on their products.  If you go without a plan, you are going to spend more than you want.  In order to have a plan, you need to decide what you're going to be eating for whatever time frame you've chosen.  Some people plan their meals a week, two weeks or a month in advance.  I plan what we're going to eat a week in advance.  I usually shop for groceries every Saturday, and this works well for me. 

Most people who meal plan, only plan what they are having for dinner.  While this is a good start, it doesn't go far enough.  There are two other meals, plus snacks that need to be accounted for in addition to dinner.  Planning breakfast and lunch isn't all that difficult but you do need to think about what you'll be eating, otherwise you'll ended up purchasing these meal somewhere and that will cost more money than if you'd made these meals at home. 

Once you know what you'll be eating for the week, you need to make a list of what you need to buy at the store.   My second strategy ties in very closely with this first one and it is as follows:

Strategy #2
Shop the cupboards.  When planning your meals for the week, look at what's in your cupboards and freezer and see if there are any meals you can make using what you already have.  Even if you plan one meal a week using what you already have on hand you'll be ahead of the game.  Or if the meals you plan use almost all ingredients you have at home, then that's less money you have to spend at the grocery store.  I routinely plan at least one evening meal that utilizes what I have in the freezer and pantry.  Sometimes I'll even plan a whole week's worth of meals using what I already have, and only purchase staples like milk and fresh fruits and vegetables on grocery day.

Strategy #3 
Buy what's on sale and in season.  Base your meal plans around what's in the sales flyer.  With Clean Eating, going through the flyer is quite easy because you only need to focus on what protein, produce and dairy is on sale.  I'm fortunate that the grocery store closest to me does what's called price matching.  This means that I can bring in a competitor's flyer and get the advertised product for the same price.  So I go through all the flyers for grocery stores in my area and make my list based on them.  Buying seasonal produce is less expensive than buying non seasonal produce.  Plan meals around what's in season in your region.  Buying on sale and in season, in addition to saving money, also helps you add more variety to your diet as different items go on sale each week.

Strategy #4
Cook from scratch.  I love to cook, and it's a hobby and passion of mine, so cooking from scratch is not a hardship for me.   For some people, cooking is a chore.  Depending on which camp you fall into this next strategy will be easy or difficult for you.  Cooking from scratch helps you keep control of your budget and more importantly control over what goes into your body.   Make as much as you are comfortable making from scratch and slowly add more until you are making most of your meals from scratch.  You're body will thank you.

Strategy #5
Utilize leftovers.  Throwing food away is like throwing money in the garbage.  Leftovers tend to turn into science projects in the fridge if they aren't deal with.  Since I'm only cooking for two people, leftovers usually happen every night in my house.  Most of them time, I take leftover dinner to work for lunch the following day.  Or sometimes I turn leftovers into a different meal for dinner.  For example, leftover roast chicken can be turned into chicken pot pie the next day, and the bones used to make broth as a soup base.  When you're making your meal plans try to think of how you'll incorporate any left over food.  If there is a significant amount left over, like spaghetti sauce for example, it can be packaged and frozen and used for another meal.  One idea is to have one night a week be leftover night, which would use up any left over food and give you a night out of the kitchen too.

The preceding five strategies have really helped me keep my food costs under control.  Try them and see if they can work for you too.  Also if you have any money saving strategies for cutting your grocery bill while maintaining a healthy diet, I'd love to hear about them, so please feel free to leave a comment.