Freezer Staples | Making Healthy Eating Easy and Cheaper

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I have come to realize that the most practical way to purchase healthy food on a budget is by purchasing items that will be held in my freezer. This also makes cooking for one easy as well.

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In my last post I spoke about my soup files, which have really made lunch easy. With the remainder of my freezer staples I kept that same meal portions concept in mind.

First up, Chicken Breast. I eat chicken every week in soups, curries, wraps, etc, so I wanted to find a good economical frozen bag of breast fillets. However, I still wanted hormone free, organic chicken packaged with as few preservatives as possible. I went to my three favorite stores for purchasing meat, perused their selection, and chose the best option.
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Of the options, Trader Joe’s won, hands down. This 2lb bag of frozen breast meat is hormone free , there are no preservatives, and is individually frozen (meaning I don’t have to pry stuck pieces of chicken apart. Each breast is 4oz., which for me is a perfect portion. Continuing with meat, seafood and beef.

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I live in Florida with easily accessible, cheap seafood, so it’s a must in my life. I go to the market, buy a few large fillets, cut them into the portions I need and freeze them in water (keeps frost bite away). For example, I bought one sizeable Salmon fillet and cut it into 4 portions ($6.99/lb), a good size Mahi Mahi fillet (9.99/lb, cost $7 that day) and cut it into two portions, and a pound of Bay Scallops (5.99/pound) portioned into 4 clumps. I froze each portion separately and ended up with about a months worth of seafood. I also purchased a pound of lean ground beef from Trader Joe’s (5.99/lb), seasoned and froze it in two separate portions (spaghetti and stuffed peppers).

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Last of the seafood is frozen shrimp. I almost bought shrimp from the same seafood market, but my sister pointed out that the bag from the Publix Frozen food section is peeled and deveined, which will make those tired nights easier, so I splurged and purchased the one pound bag for $18.99. Seems expensive, but when you do the portion math, it’s not so bad, none the less it’s a splurge. Next up was Smoothie fruit:

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My sister kindly pointed out to me that I could purchase a 5 lb bag of mixed fruit from Sam’s Club for $10.98, and that was that. I make a green smoothie daily and this bag of frozen fruit is by far more economical than anything else I was purchasing. I still add a piece of fresh fruit to my smoothie (banana, mango, avocado or pear), and save lots of money. Last but not least is veggies:

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I was hesitant to purchase frozen veggies because they do not have as much flavor as the fresh variety, but the nutritional value is higher, so I decided to give it a try. Economically, Walmart wins with these three pound bags of Bird’s Eye veggies are $2.99 a piece. As you can see I am almost done with one of the bags. These are so easy to steam, throw in a stir fry, noodles or curry dish. They have cut down on cooking and prep time tremendously.

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I have to admit that while economical, they do not have as much flavor as their never frozen counterparts. Plus, pesticides and preservatives, well you decide. None the less, these freezer staples have made life sooooooo much easier. My weekly grocery spending is sooooo much cheaper and meal planning now starts with the freezer!

My Soup Files | Easy Lunch

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I saw this idea on Pinterest and thought it was brilliant! At the beginning of the month I took three separate days and made 3 soups with 8 servings each: Lamb and Lentil, Carrot Ginger, and Turkey Vegetable.

Before cooking the soup, I let it cool completely and then packaged in zip loc bags in single portions. I put them flat on a baking tray and stuck them in the freezer, so that each soup froze as compactly as possible.

imageThis is method left me with a total of 24 individually frozen fresh soups. No added preservatives, no ingredients I do not recognize, easy and hella tasty. In the morning I take out a “file” and put it in my lunch box along with a glass Tupperware bowl, by the time lunch rolls around the soup is thawed. I simply empty it into the bowl, microwave the soup and throw away the ziplock bag. *i put a half cup of quinoa in the Tupperware when I take the Carrot Ginger soup to add protein which will make it more filling*

This has been freak in AMAZING! This made more than enough soup for the work week for the month. I am more than sure that I will continue doing this for at least a little while. I tend to eat other options over the weekend, and I find three soups is enough variety to keep me interested and happy with my lunch choices each week.

Meal Planning | Dinners

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I have written about trying out the meal planning idea on ourmindfulhome.com, by prepping my meals each week in the refrigerator. That worked ok for awhile, but it didn’t really allow for much variance. I decided to figure something else out by way of monthly meal planning.

As I have written for the last couple of weeks, I pretty much have breakfast, lunch and green smoothies down. They have a level of variance, but there are always options for those meals in my house, I simply replace ingredients as they run out. Plus, the ingredients for those meals tend to hold up well in the pantry or get used frequently in the refrigerator. That meant that I really just had to figure out dinner.

Accordingly, I decided to plan  my meals monthly, thus having a more global view of what I will need each month. For example, on April 1 I planned 15 meals, which will allow for leftovers, eating out once a week, or choosing soup for lunch. This month the list includes:

April
1. Chicken & Shrimp Stir Fry
2. Wings w/veggies
3. Stuffed Peppers
4. Stuffed sweet potato
5. Veggie Quesadilla
6. Shrimp Scampi or Scallops
7. Chicken and broccoli w/pasta
8. Spaghetti w/beef
9. Chicken Masala w/grains
10. Thai chicken w/grains
11.Mahi w/veggies and grains
12. Salmon w/veggies and grains
13. Tacos
14. Cornish Hen
15. Rosemary Chicken w/grains and veggies

Each week, on Sunday, I pick three meals for the week and begin making my grocery list from there. So far this month:

Week 1
Stuffed Peppers (MT)
Spaghetti (WR)
Thai Chicken (FSun)

Week 2
Salmon (MW)
Quesadilla, Tacos (TR)
Mahi (FSun)

This week will be:

Week 3
Mahi MW
Chicken Masala w/grains (TR)
Scallop & Shrimp Stir Fry (FSun)

I will write about my freezer later as it is stocked full, but this is working well for me. This plan allows for a lot of variety and allows me to use any leftover ingredients that may go bad that week. Plus, my weekly grocery bill has gone down quite a bit. At the end of the month, I think I will find that I have cut it in half! This means that this method is a win for me.

My Go To Lunch Options

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I take lunch to work daily, so I need something that is easy to store, holds up well for a couple of hours and doesn’t require a ton of day of prep. For me, that means that I have settled into a soup or sandwich routine.

Everyday I take either soup or a sandwich for lunch. I will do a separate post on how I do soups and maintain a variety, but with hearty soups, a bowl full is all I need, for vegetable soups I take a piece of toast to fill me up. Sandwiches are usually a veggie sandwich with cheese crumbles for fat or a meat sandwich with no cheese to lower calories. I am toying with the idea of veggie wraps, but I need to do more research into low cal, healthy and most importantly tasty wrap choices.

I do not make a plan each week to buy specific ingredients for my sandwiches, I just decide at the beginning of the week whether or not I am going to do veggie or meat sandwiches and purchase what I am missing. I keep my refrigerator stocked up with sandwich fixings:

Hummus
Red Onion
Bell Pepper
Peppadew Peppers
Alfalfa Sprouts
Cucumbers
Tomato
Avocado
Feta, Blu, or Gorganzola Cheese Crumbles
Meat (Turkey, ham, roast beef, chicken)
(when avocado’s are in season, I often use them for healthy fat instead)

I keep my freezer stocked up with several kinds of soup, portioned into single servings. This means that I can choose to have soup for a day or two, a sandwich for a couple days, and continue to switch it up. I also take leftovers because they are always a good, easy option. I do not take salad anymore because, well, it just doesn’t appeal to me at the moment.

Anyone out there take wraps? What tortillas do you use and how do they taste?

Daily Eats | Meal 2 & Dessert

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Ever since I took on the Simple Green Smoothies 30 Day Challenge early last year, I have drunk a green smoothie almost every day! Late last year I decided that if I made it into the new year still drinking a green smoothie daily, that I would buy a good blender. Welp, I met that goal, saved money and bought a refurbished Blendtec:

blendtec

It takes 40 seconds to blend a smoothie which is more than half the time to it took to prep and make a green smoothie in my old blender. I never realized the blender would solve my sweet tooth issues as well, but it has! I have been making fresh sorbet and its so delicious that it satisfies my sweet tooth daily. I make a Sorbet once every eight days and have a half cup after dinner most nights. Its low in calories, natural and delicious.

My favorite Sorbet recipes of late are:

Serving: 8

Citrus Strawberry (by Blendtec)
2 Medium Oranges
1/4 cup Honey
16 oz. Frozen Strawberries

Strawberry Banana
2 Ripe Bananas
1/4 cup Honey
Juice of 1 Orange
16 oz. Frozen Strawberries

Strawberry Mango
16 oz Fresh Strawberries
1/4 c Honey
Juice of 1 Orange
16 oz Frozen Mango

Yield: 1/2 Cup

Its strawberry season, so I am using them as much as possible. Once Mango’s are more in season, I will use them more for variety. It takes about two minutes to make Sorbet in the Blendtec, so its freakin Awesome!!!!!