Beans (chick peas, cannellini, kidney, pinto, lima, black, navy) and legumes (lentils, peas) are absolutely one of the best values around – nutritionally as well as for your budget! This is one of the few canned foods (besides canned tomatoes) I consider a staple in my pantry. Canned beans and even dried beans that you cook up yourself are loaded with fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals. They are nutritional powerhouses and there is almost always a brand on sale. You can put them on salads, make a bean salad combining several types, use them for soups, puree them and mix with ground meat to bump up the fiber and nutrition content of burgers or meat loaf or make them into a delicious dip like hummus; I even puree them and use them in baked goods! (Shhh…don’t tell my family! They have no idea.) Keep in mind that if you combine beans or legumes with a whole grain like brown rice or barley, you have created a nutritious, inexpensive, complete protein.
That brings me to whole grains. Oats, brown rice and barley are among the healthiest, and most affordable whole grains. You can use them in so many ways. I already mentioned combining them with beans or legumes for a complete protein. They are wonderful extenders in ground meat meals like meatloaf or burgers (instead of bread crumbs). Oatmeal is a wonderful breakfast or even snack. They make delicious and nutritious cookies, bars, crisps and crumbles. Brown rice and barley are excellent added to soups and stews, combined with vegetables to create nutritious, satisfying vegetarian meals and as a side dish flavored with spices and herbs. And don’t discount buckwheat and grain-like seeds such as quinoa, millet and amaranth. They are a bit more expensive and are available usually at a health or nutrition store, but these versatile, nutritional powerhouses also go on sale periodically, too. Keep your eyes open for sales. Just be sure to prepare them properly. If you need info on exactly how to do that, it’s in the Nutrition-Boosting e-book, along with other strategies to get the most nutrition from all your foods. A quick note about pasta. Whole grain varieties are the best choice. Watch for the sales and stock up then. When you combine these with beans and vegetables you have an inexpensive, low fat, high nutrition, complete protein meal.
Frozen vegetables and fruits are a good choice when they are on sale and fresh produce is not. They retain much of their nutritional value – never buy canned. Also, one of the absolute best values, pretty much all year round, is frozen spinach. It is so versatile. This can serve as a vegetable or side dish sautéed with garlic and olive oil, but you can also add it into soups, combine it with grains and add this to smoothies, omelets and into your burger meat – it extends the meat, which is good in several ways. You use less meat which is healthy and it saves money. Spinach also contains a compound that synthesizes protein, so you get more benefit from the protein you combine it with. A win-win in my book.
Check the next installments – there are more tips.