Today I joined a group from Cooking Matters Georgia as they toured the supermarket. Cooking Matters is a program that teaches families on a budget how to create healthy and nutritious meals. It’s a wonderful organization affiliated with the one I work for (Share Our Strength). Learn more about the work of Cooking Matters here – http://cookingmatters.org/
Marcia our Cooking Matters leader:
- Be willing to buy generic
- look for manager specials be willing to freeze if not used immediately
- buy produce in season
- look to frozen for other options
- real juice vs. juice “beverage”
The challenge issued on our excursion was to buy dinner for four that included: a protein, a starch, a fruit and a vegetable.
I gladly accepted the challenge and began shopping like I hadn’t been a long time. I knew immediately sweet potatoes would be my starch they were super healthy, affordable and I can make a mean roasted sweet potato. I found frozen green beans which James actually likes green beans. I looked to fresh fruit for my dessert thinking I’d make some sort of stewed apple pear dessert with a Greek yogurt
Here’s what I bought: French Cut frozen green beans ($1), two sweet potatoes ($1.49), one pear ($.49), two gala apples ($1.67), fresh garlic clove ($.79), one lime ($.25), one container of greek yogurt ($.69) and one pound/two chicken breasts ($2.99) = after tax: $9.56
Garlic, lime, ginger chicken breasts – Baked. Cheats from my pantry: salt, pepper
Garlicy Dill Green Beans – made on stove from frozen French cut green beans. Cheats: olive oil, Dill, salt
Spicy oven roasted sweet potatoes with lime zest – Cheats: Olive oil, salt blend, Cayenne pepper
Spiced apple and pear cups – I even fit in a dessert! (best use for the required fruit). Cheats: white wine, vanilla, cinnamon.
My Pantry “cheat” items: Beauty and the Beast roses/dinner Dessert: Seconds please!
Thoughts after challenge:
- Stretching your protein food dollar is a challenge. One woman shopping with us today bought the same chicken as me and told me she was going to cut it into 4 pieces to stretch it for her kids. I know non-meat items (beans etc) would have been an option, but I would have needed some pre-planning. Not just on the fly..
- I have a garlic press. I know chefs know better ways to prepare garlic, but I have gadgets that make using these ingredients even more approachable.
- I have awesome pantry items – how many mom’s going through cooking matters programming have open white wine, a bunch of spices, etc? That’s why I called it “cheating” although I’m sure they had some of my options.
- Even $10 a dinner ($70 on dinners at home a week) is a tough stretch for families on tight budgets.
- I haven’t used a produce scale in probably 5 years. I’m blessed to just buy whatever I want, which is a reminder that I have a lot to be thankful for.
- Lime juice makes garlic turn blue? I think I knew this, forgot and was surprised when I checked on my chicken in the oven.
- I don’t think I’ve ever bought a fresh pear. I sure didn’t know how to cut it up.
- The dessert I made was AWESOME. Tasted like the inside of an apple pie, but better because the apples and pears were still somewhat crisp, and it was SUPER healthy!
I may try this challenge again soon with a little more (any) pre-planning.
Now I issue the same challenge to you. If you try to make dinner for 4 using the same guidelines (protein, starch, veggie and fruit), I’d love to hear from you on what you learned/challenges you had. Send me a pic and I’ll even see about adding to a future blog post!