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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

RealMama Week: Cheap Eats does NOT mean low Quality :)

    RealMama Week, Day 2 
guest post provided by Michelle Collins from The Economical Eater
I eat, I cook, I write, I blog, I don't eat meat - and I have barely any money to spend on anything besides bills and student loans. Growing up in a family of six with a budget to stick to, I learned to appreciate good food enjoyed around a full table without spending a lot of money.
 Quick, Delicious, & Inexpensive Family Pantry MUST Haves for a Great Dinner EVERY Night of the Week:

Anyone who knows me knows that I am cheap. I pay attention to serving sizes strictly in order to not waste food/money, I have never left a room without turning a light off (only in order to keep my electric bill low), and I will wait to fill up my gas tank until my car is literally running on fumes. 

Michelle Collins, aka The Economical Eater

    When it comes to food, though, I am probably the cheapest – but it has been proven to me time and time again that affordable food does not have to mean low quality. Eating an affordable diet also does not mean you have to compromise variety or nutrition. Whether you live alone, have a family or a roommate, there are some essential items to have on hand at all times in order to make balanced, flavorful, simple meals throughout the week: 
* Black beans: I always have at least one can of black beans in my pantry at all times. A can of Stop & Shop’s organic black beans are $0.99, and I use them all the time in vegetarian tacos/burritos, scrambled eggs, and homemade black bean burgers.

Black bean burgers
Eggs: This might seem like a no-brainer, but eggs aren’t just for breakfast anymore. I love making egg sandwiches for a simple, protein-filled dinner, and I also enjoy hard boiling eggs to incorporate in salads throughout the week – or to make egg salad, which goes a very long way for how little it costs to put together at home.
Frozen vegetables: Frozen veggies provide an easy, affordable alternative to getting your daily dose of vegetables. They’re not only great to incorporate in a weeknight pasta dish, or for toppings on a homemade pizza, but they also provide a quick side dish to any meal – and a perfect accompinament to a weekend morning omelette. I love having spinach and peas on-hand especially, since they are so versatile. 

Chickpeas: Roasted chickpeas are incredibly easy to make, and make a delicious, healthy snack that keeps well in a sealed container. Making your own hummus is also a lot cheaper than buying it at the grocery store (chickpeas cost about $0.99 since, too), and if you like Indian food, a simple dinner of chickpeas, some frozen vegetables and a slew of spices (served with some warm Naan) is simple, inexpensive and satisfying. 

Quinoa: One box of quinoa goes a very long way. Quinoa is not only chock-full of protein, it is also extremely adaptable. For a tasty twist on a classic dish, try these quinoa "meat"balls, or make a simple summer dish of quinoa, crumbled feta cheese and grilled zucchini. 

Quinoa 'meat' balls
    Of course, there are many other affordable kitchen essentials that come in handy, but these are some of my favorites. It’s always great to know that with a few shortcuts – and just a few dollars – you and your family can eat well-balanced, nutritious meals every day of the week.

* NNM Note: Ironically, ALL of the items mentioned here in the post by Economical Eater are all ones provided by your local WIC office (well, minus the quinoa) :) 

* Find and 'Like' The Economical Eater on Facebook
* Follow The Economical Eater on Twitter 
* and keep up with all her great recipes and restaurant finds on her blog 
 What are some items/ingredients you always have in your kitchen

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