One of the main things people cut first when they are trying to manage their budget is food. That has always perplexed me. Other than air and water, without proper healthy food, most humans would whither and die. So then why would anyone cut their food bill in order to make ends meet? Somehow people have gotten their priorities confused. When times are tough, that’s when you need to eat better. Not poorer.
Some of the most nutritious and healthiest food recipes can be found amongst the peasant nationalities (Italian, Portuguese, Mexican, Russian to name a few) In order to keep on working and sustaining life, many peasant communities knew that they had to eat healthier in order to survive. You can’t go out and work the fields or the office cubicle if all you had for dinner the night before was cut up pancakes and milk. (yes! a well known Dinner On A Dime actually suggested this for supper as a means of saving money)
It’s a well known fact that in order to maintain any semblance of good health, you must have protein at each and every meal. This doesn’t mean animal or poultry protein. There are excellent soy and bean sources for protein. Without constant super charges of protein in your diet, you will lose muscle and body mass, much to your detriment.
Why should you care about making sure you get enough protein?
- It is a component of every cell in your body.
- Your body uses it to build and repair tissue.
- You need it to make enzymes, hormones, and other body chemicals.
- It is an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood.
Like carbohydrates and fat, protein is a “macronutrient,” meaning that you need relatively large amounts of it to stay healthy. Unlike carbohydrates and fat, your body does not store protein, so it has no reservoir to draw from when you’re running low. Protein comes from a variety of sources, including meat, milk, fish, soy, and eggs, as well as beans, legumes, and nut butters. When proteins are digested, they leave behind amino acids, which the human body needs.
Since I am of Italian descent, I can only mostly speak of the many, many recipes my family has passed down to me from the ‘old country’. My Italian grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins were survivors of World War II and if you know history, Italy suffered greatly under that war. One of the prime, most important qualities passed down to me from the previous generation was the importance of food. I know many of the dishes I cook today were based on my predecessors survival.
Recipes such as pasta & peas, lentils & rice, cauliflower in tomato sauce over spaghetti, all originated on my grandparents dinner table as they made their way back to civilization after the war.
This doesn’t mean that I don’t watch my bottom line on my food expenses. Just like everyone else, I’m always looking for ways to cut down on costs. Unregulated, I’ve been known to spend upwards of $700 per month just on food! For two people, hubby and myself, that’s way too much money for us to be spending on food. Nonetheless, I am compelled to keep up with our healthy style of eating while searching for ways to keep costs down.
I’ve found two ways, so far, for me to keep a cap on my food budget line items. The first one was setting up a weekly/monthly food plan. The second was reducing our food category budget to a more sustainable amount ($425 a month, down from $700 a month!) Every time I spend money on food, I write it down in my Excel spreadsheet. When I see I am nearing my monthly allotment, I stop spending money on food and I switch over to eating out of my stocked pantry.
Here’s my menu food planning for the week. Breakfast and lunch are usually the same:
Breakfast: eggs (any style), oatmeal or cereal, juice, coffee
Lunch: sandwiches (turkey/chicken cold cuts and sliced cheese, salads with tuna or chopped chicken or a hard boiled egg, hearty soups or smoothies with yogurt, fruit and protein powder.
Dinner: Meatless Monday (rice & beans, pasta & beans) green mixed salads. Taco Tuesday, made with chopped turkey with all the fixings (or turkey chili over brown rice). Wednesday (chicken, either roasted, cutlets or tenders) Thursday (the other meats, such as pork, beef, lamb) Friday is always home-made pizza night. Saturday is fish, mostly salmon. Sunday is pasta day (home made marinara sauce over pasta with a green side salad)
I don’t follow the meal planning perfectly to the guidelines as above. But that’s just what they are: a guidelines. Every meal has some form of protein. Every day has a fresh green salad. Every day has a vegetable. Every day has a fruit (orange juice, strawberries, anything in season). We have fish at least once per week. We have beef at least twice per month. Chopped turkey and chicken cutlets are mostly our mainstay.
No Italian table would be without a daily glass of wine. I buy our wine by the gallon. I store them on our basement steps as the temps down there are always a constant 55F degrees, which is the perfect temperature for storing wine. This summer we are going to have sangria (with a slice of frozen orange or lemon). Hubby loves Paisano which is a very good, inexpensive red table wine.
No dinner meal is complete without dessert. I made this yogurt pound cake from scratch. It’s the perfect base for fresh cut strawberries and tons of whipped creme (at only 15 calories per tablespoon) ENJOY!
Dinner (especially Sunday dinner) wouldn’t be memorable without that perfect cup of coffee. I prefer this Latino blend of Cafe’ Bustelo. For almost 90 years, Café Bustelo has established itself as the leading coffee brand in many Latino households from Florida to New York and other parts of the United States. But hidden in the bold aroma and flavor of the old Cuban-style espresso is a story about early Spanish-speaking immigrants who came together from different countries to build one of the first Latino communities in New York.
Seek out the peasant recipes in your nationality. Share them with your friends and family. Heck! Share them with me! I’m always on the lookout for healthy, inviting, soul pleasing recipes. That’s what has kept our ancestors alive. It certainly wasn’t from cut up, boxed pancakes from a mix you just added water to and a bowl of milk.
You are what you eat. Think real carefully before you make any drastic cuts to your food budget. Now, stay healthy and happy eating!