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How can we make a quick healthy meal on a budget? When it comes to meals I use five criteria to measure success: taste, health, speed, digestion, and budget. Let’s jump right in.

quick healthy meals on a budget

My secret ingredients to add flavor

Have you noticed when you eat something that tastes good, stress doesn’t exist for that moment? Bland food is quite boring and can leave us unsatisfied. Let’s fix the “bla” with a little “bam-bam”. Here are some of my favorite flavor touches that are easy to use and budget-friendly:

McCormick’s Steak Seasoning.

This is so simple and super tasty.

Hot sauce.

My husband is Mr. Hot Sauce. He enjoys: Red Hot.

Fresh garlic.

I make my own garlic bread with fresh garlic, I simply use a mincer. It’s a much cleaner and healthier way than garlic powder or garlic salt. 

Oregano.

This herb helps fight bacteria, it’s high in antioxidants, helps reduce viral infection and many more benefits.

Salt.

We love our salt but need to watch the blood pressure and bones. Salt helps with fluid balance, nerve transmission, and even muscle function.

Methods for a healthier meal

My second criteria for reducing stress in the kitchen is to concoct a healthy meal using the right tools. I have five main ways to cook healthy meals:

The oven. Baking fish and starches instead of frying save us a lot of heartache…literally…and calories for that matter. Roasting potatoes, squash, and even cauliflower are super easy and a healthier method. All you need to do cube the veggie and toss it in olive oil with a little salt set the oven at 350 degrees and bake for 30-40 minutes with a little toss mid-way. Simply test with a fork for your liking.

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The toaster oven. If I’m in a hurry yet want a break from the microwave, I opt for the toaster oven. I love this thing! I use it for warming up homemade waffles, a small batch of cookies or brownies, garlic bread, a small pizza, and chicken nuggets. The toaster oven I use automatically shuts off when the timer is done, so I can put my dish in it and forget it. Here’s my favorite toaster oven.

The grill. We use our grill all year round and we live in Michigan! To keep grilling safe and healthy, it’s important to keep it clean. Be sure to scrape the grill with a brush before using, and clean the grill at least three times a year if you’re a heavy user; meaning, giving the grates a good soak in Dawn dish soap.  

The microwave. Yes, I use the microwave to warm up meals when I’m in a hurry. My main reasons for the microwave are frozen veggies, chicken nuggets, and microwave popcorn.

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Cast Iron Pan. This is my secret weapon in the kitchen when it comes to speed, taste, and easy cleanup. Everyone should have a cast iron pan. This pan, as my son would say, is ‘Beast’…meaning cool. When it gets hot, it stays hot. And cleaning it is a piece of cake, no soap! Simply rinse and heat back up on the stove to dry. Easy peasy! I love my cast iron pans.

Speed

I do love my Crockpot, but I only use it maybe once a week. There are loads of kitchen gadgets promising this or that; we get excited for a few weeks then tuck it away in an abyss cupboard. Keep it simple in the kitchen, stick to the old fashion way of cooking. You’ll find it actually goes pretty fast.

Cast iron pan

I wasn’t joking about old fashion. Like my son says, “It’s beast!”

Boiling water

The old saying to put a wooden spoon on top of the rim of the pan to make the water boil faster? Well, it works. Simply lay a wooden spoon across the top of the pan, kind of like a bridge. In about a handful of minutes, the water is ready for the pasta.

Freezer meals

I’m not a fan of freezing meals unless it’s leftover chili or stew. Lasagna is another good freezer meal, but other than that, it’s easier to resort to the grocery’s freezer meals. You should venture into your freezer and clean it from old food every quarter.

Digestion

There are a lot of factors leading to diarrhea, gas, bloating, constipation, acid reflex, and cramping. They range from food allergies, food sensitivities, food combining, eating too fast, the lack of digestive enzymes, hormones, bile acid, autoimmune disorders, gut flora, leaky gut, and/or viruses and bad bacteria.

My first strategy in figuring out why I feel icky is to eliminate the most common inflammatory foods: dairy, gluten (wheat), nuts, soy, and eggs. Food elimination will take time, but it’s worth it when you figure it out.

*Please note, I’m not a doctor, nor am I trying to be. I share information I have either experienced myself or are extremely interested in, and then I keep things simple and give you the nutshell version. Please consult your physician before jumping into new things.

Just so you know, it takes about three weeks for cow’s milk protein to vacate your system. For wheat, it takes two weeks to feel a bit better, but around three months for it to be out of your system. For soy and eggs, it’s two weeks. Here’s a good post from All Ways Well on how to go about it. Keep it simple, your body will love you, and you’ll help it heal!

Budget: 6 ways to save on meals

1 – Join store membership

One of the ways I save money on meals is to join the store membership. One of my stores kicks back $7.00 after I reach a certain goal. They also have online coupons. Not to mention member only specials! And you can even shop and scan with the app.

2 – Buy what’s in season

Another way I save is to adjust my menu with what is growing in season. For squash dishes, I delay until fall and early winter. Strawberry pie is good in March. Here is a quick guide to knowing what fruits and veggies are in season so you know when you’re getting the best deal on them. Download my In-Season guide now.

3 – Go to different stores

A third trick is to go to different stores to get the best price. For instance, the coconut milk ice-cream I buy isn’t on sale at my normal store, but it is on sale at my secondary store. This may be a lot of running around, so you’ll have to make the call whether it’s worth the gas, but I find this technique helpful. I have about five go-to stores to get the best deals. But how do you remember where you got what? You can download my Where I Buy Memory Guide and tuck it in your planner or handbag. Now you’ll never have to remember where you got what again!

memory guide

4 – Buy store brand

Buy store brand. There is not much difference in taste and quality from name brand goods to store brand.

5 – Watch the ingredients

Watch the ingredients! Yes, you can save money by reading the nutrition label. How? Some food manufacturers use ingredients that are addictive, like High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) and MSG…not to mention salt and just plain sugar. When you eat more, you buy more of it! Steer clear of HFCS and MSG. I know they’re tasty but they don’t do you any favors from a wallet and health perspective.

6 – Don’t skimp the protein

Don’t skimp on the protein. Sure some proteins can be expensive, but so are second helpings and snacking! When our bodies don’t get the protein we are hungry all the time, which can lead to overeating, weight gain, and crankiness…yes, carbs do that. Make a point to eat some protein at every meal. To save even more money, buy protein in bulk at a membership store like Costco or Sam’s. Be sure to look at the price per unit to make the best decision.

Sources of protein include nuts, dairy (unless you’re sensitive), seeds, chicken, fish, pork, beef, turkey, tempeh (soy), quinoa, broccoli, and lentils.

In conclusion

When it comes to meals, use your head not your stomach. My five criteria get the job done for me. I go for taste, health, speed, digestion, and budget. My hope is that you found some new ideas to test out. As an added bonus, here is a 5-day menu plan based on all my criteria. Enjoy!

By CT Copyright © 2020 Simplify Firefly. All Rights Reserved.

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more information.

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