Thursday, April 19, 2012

Affordable Health Care Supplemental Insurance for Seniors

When older persons are viewed as "seniors," they usually possess a nice very little retirement nest together with health and existence insurance policies to fall back on. Probably they can be widows or widowers who have pension plan strategies from their departed husband and wife. Of course, this is the notion scenario with the older.

Numerous senior citizens in Usa don't have enough health care insurance for you to adequately deal with their medical needs as well as prescription substance medications. This is why health care supplemental health care insurance pertaining to senior citizens is important, and other than State medicaid programs as well as Medicare, it is possible to get affordable health care supplemental insurance pertaining to seniors.

To be familiar with four guidelines acquire the best into affordable health care supplemental insurance pertaining to older persons:

People who enroll in from a young age obtain the best prices. Nonetheless, that does not mean senior citizens usually are not entitled. Really, seniors are probably the most typical health care supplemental insurance customers.

Also . relating to your latest wellbeing situation. Extending the simple truth may seem like a way to acquire more affordable prices for your own health care supplemental insurance, company, it's true that premiums are generally based on past as well as present health problems, however resting will forever meet up with you finally, particularly when presently there comes a period when you'll need which supplemental insurance and the insurance company will not spend because you provided fake details whenever making use of.

Think about any groupings or even organizations this agreement an individual belong. These organizations may be able to assist you to obtain affordable health care supplemental insurance with regard to senior citizens.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Roommate Living: Your Food, Kitchen, and Sanity

This was first published in April 2010.

Since freshman year of college, I’ve had approximately 15,000 roommates. Some are still my best friends, favorite people, and life partners. Others smoked crazy things too late at night. One remains the only unrelated adult I’ve ever yelled at. (Surprise! It was over the dishes.)

Whether you’re fresh out of university or shacking up with your significant other for the first time, living with other people has multitudinous benefits. It can save everyone involved a ton of cash. It can be a social opportunity, cultural experience, and culinary education. It can keep you from being plain lonely.

But if you’re not careful, it can also be a terrifying descent into a cohabitational hell, in which anger and discomfort become facts of everyday life. Living with the dishes guy? Was kind of like that.

The center of roommate karma is inevitably the kitchen. Maintain a zen-like equilibrium there, and your time together will be peaceful and harmonious. Forget to buy paper towels for the third week in a row, and you could find a severed goldfish head on your pillow.

That’s why it’s important to discuss food, money, and galley-related issues up front. It puts you on the same page, sets a precedent for the future, and prevents misunderstanding down the line. So, be open with your wants and needs. Ask plenty of questions. And remember the two most important things about living with anyone new:
  • Don’t be afraid to speak up. If your roommate isn’t doing her dishes and/or owes you money for olive oil, tell her. You can assert yourself and still be considered a nice person.
  • Don’t be a jerk. You’re sharing this room with others, and should always take their feelings into consideration. Play nice, do your part, and don’t make fun of Bob’s vegan macaroni and cheese.
With those ideas in the back of your head, the ensuing discussion should be easy. For reference, here are a few good areas to touch on, along with a ton of pertinent questions.


First and foremost, you and your roommate(s) have to feed yourselves using actual food. Broaching the edibles topic could set the tone for the rest of your talk, not to mention the rest of your lease. Tread carefully, be thorough and kind, and ask:
  • Will you share food? Will you share everything or just staples? Which staples?
  • Will you share cooking responsibilities? How will you split the job?
  • When will you cook? Should you set up a schedule? What meals will you eat at home?
  • Does anyone have dietary restrictions, allergies, or ethical issues?
  • Will any food be off limits? (ex: If there’s a peanut allergy in the house, it could be best to avoid ‘em altogether.)


Once you have food, you need ways to serve it. Your requirements could vary wildly, based on your diet and/or affinity for cooking. Plan ahead, use this checklist for guidance, and ask:
  • What kitchen equipment do you already own? Is it in good shape?
  • What do you need to buy? Where should you buy it?
  • Do you have any doubles (ex: two toasters)? Do you need the extra? If not, what can you do with it?
  • Who will keep new purchases (microwave, blender, etc.) if/when you move out?
  • Is there room to fit everything? (See: Storage.)


Here comes the hard part. Beyond rent, you’ll probably spend most of your apartment-apportioned cash on food and kitchen supplies. Splitting the bills can be tricky, and payment itself even harder. Stay positive and ask:
  • How will pay for the food you buy jointly? Will you split the bills or alternate months?
  • How will you pay for the kitchen necessities (tin foil, dish soap, paper towels, etc.)? What falls under that umbrella term?
  • Who will do the actual buying? Will you take turns?
  • Will you join a bulk store or CSA? What supermarkets, ethnic markets, and farmer’s markets will you shop at?
  • How will you handle coupons, sales, or memberships?
  • How will you handle restaurants and take out? Does that go in the budget?


Pots, pans, silverware, dishes, and appliances do more than look pretty: they take up space. And when square feet are at a minimum, having a storage strategy is vital. Consider your cabinets and ask:
  • Where will you store the food? How about the dishes? And cleaning equipment?
  • Will you split storage? Who gets which refrigerator shelf? What about the pantry and freezer?
  • Do you have enough room for bulk purchases?
  • Is there a way you can easily add extra shelves, cabinets, or pot racks?
  • Are you allowed to throw things out without permission, if it looks like it went bad? (Note: This comes up more than you think. It’s like a science experiment in there sometimes.)


Though dishes are 90% of the issue, cleaning goes deeper than washing your coffee cup. In every kitchen, there are counters to wipe, floors to mop, and microwaves to liberate of caked spaghetti sauce. If this is left to one person - or worse, not done at all – things will very messy, both dirt-wise and relationship-wise.
  • How quickly will you have your dishes done? Will you split the responsibility? How?
  • How often will you light clean (counters, sweeping, etc.) the kitchen? Who will take care of this?
  • How often will you deep clean (oven, refrigerator, etc.) the kitchen? Who will take care of this?
  • Who will take out the garbage? How will you handle recycling?
  • Who will take care of repair issues as they come up? Are you handy? Will you be the point person for the landlord?
  • Who will keep track of and replace cleaning tools (Lysol, sponges, etc.)?
  • Should you create a cleaning schedule?
If you address all of these questions up front and periodically revisit them through the course of your cohabitation, you and your roommates/loved ones can enjoy a sparkling, relatively stress-free household. What’s more, you can apply the concepts to almost every shared room in the house, whether it’s the den or the shed you use to make illegal moonshine.

Readers, what about you? Do you have any roommate rules to follow, especially in the kitchen? How about horror stories? You know we loves us some o’ those guys.

(Excellent letter photo from Passive Aggressive Notes.)


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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Learning to Love Foods You Hate: A How-to Guide for Frugal Eaters

This article first appeared in April 2009.

Up until a few years ago, the list of foods I loathed was a long one. It included, but wasn’t limited to: spaghetti squash, broccoli, asparagus, red cabbage, ginger ale, cauliflower, radishes, lentils, beans, Brussels sprouts, fennel, eggplant, anise, scallops, figs, and of course, the dreaded mayonnaise. The list goes on (and on), but you get the idea: growing up, I wasn’t exactly a daring eater.

I still hate mayo. I will ALWAYS hate mayo. George Clooney could serve me mayo wrapped in chocolate bacon on a gold-plated re-issue of Who’s Next, and I would throw it back in his face. But my opinion’s changed on most of those other foods. These days, I’ll gladly scarf a floret of cauliflower. Brussels sprouts hold a special place on my dinner table. And eggplant? Well, eggplant is my favorite thing ever, aside from the panda song from Sifl and Olly. (In fact, you could say I’m drunk on eggplant mystery.)

Granted, part of it is just me aging. At 31-years-old, my palate’s matured a little, and my tastes now lean more toward savory than sweet. The other part, though, can be directly attributed to recent changes in my lifestyle.

See, a few years ago, I resolved to learn to cook, to eat healthier, and to better manage my money. As it turned out, vegetables and legumes were vital to making this work, since they’re exponentially cheaper than meat and much more nutritious than most starches. So, I had to confront my fears. I had to expand my produce repertoire beyond corn, carrots, corn, and carrots.

These strategies helped. I learned to tolerate, and even love, a lot of foods I had longstanding issues with. Try ‘em for yourself, and please add your own suggestions to the comment section.

Make it unrecognizable.
Case study: Eggplant
Seedy, mushy, and horrifically purple, eggplant appealed to me about as much as a drug-free colonoscopy. Then, in 1997, my friend H hid it in her homemade tomato sauce. And … revelation. Soon, I was on to eggplant dips, eggplant pastas, and finally, plain ol’ broiled eggplant. The trick was getting the image of the vegetable out of my head, and forcing me to associate it with otherwise good food. I suspect it would work beautifully with any vegetable that could be pureed or furtively included in a sauce (butternut squash, bell peppers, etc.).

Use it in a recipe with foods you love.
Case study: Brussels sprouts
As far as I was concerned, Brussels sprouts were tiny, bitter cabbages that masochists ate when they ran out of bigger bitter cabbages. Little did I know that slathering them in Parmesan would provide a delicious gateway into healthier, simpler preparations. See also: Red Cabbage (ew) with Honey (nice), Apples (yay!), and Bacon (king of cured meats). It's actually quite scrumptious.

Try it in an ethnic dish.
Case study: Broccoli
Broccoli: looks like trees, tastes like butt, right? Yeah, I used to think like that, too. But in high school, Ma ordered Chicken and Broccoli from our local Chinese joint, Da How. Suddenly, it was broccoli: looks like trees, tastes like HEAVEN (with garlic and brown sauce). Sometimes, a food is more appealing when its paired with flavors you’re not necessarily accustomed to. Like bean sprouts on top of Pad Thai. Or peas stuffed in a samosa. Or tomatillo sauce spread across an enchilada. Pick a cuisine and start experimenting.

Cook the best-reviewed recipe you can find featuring that food.
Case study: Cauliflower
Most aggregate recipe sites like Epicurious, Food Network, and All Recipes have sophisticated rating systems with which home cooks can evaluate any dish. If you’re feeling ambitious, plug an ingredient into one of their search engines. Then, prep the recipe with the best overall reviews. For example, Ina Garten has a Cauliflower Gratin that’s received an average of five stars from 132 people (which is outstanding). I’ve tried it myself, and without exaggeration, it changed the way I felt about cauliflower. I just … I just didn’t know it could taste that good. Now, stuff like Roasted Garlic Cauliflower and Curried Cauliflower Soup with Honey are making regular appearances in my mouth.

Understand you don’t have to eat it the way your Ma (or Pa) prepared it.
Case study: Spaghetti Squash
Across the country, millions of Irish-Americans loathe vegetables because growing up, produce was boiled beyond recognition and then forced by threat of death into their reluctant maws. But take heart, my freckled brethren! It doesn’t have to be this way. Did you know carrots can be roasted? And broccoli rabe, sauteed? And spaghetti squash, combined with red sauce, mozzarella, and pine nuts to create something COMPLETELY DELICIOUS? It’s true. So, love your Gaelic Ma. Embrace her. Call her often. Just … try to forget her cooking. It’ll make this whole process much easier.

Try a dish with a subtler incarnation of that food.
Case study: Tarragon
This one’s a little difficult to explain, so here’s an example: I despise anise. Even thinking about its black licorice flavor makes my tongue curl. Recently though, I discovered a White Bean and Tarragon Soup that I quite like. Tarragon, like fennel, possesses traits similar to anise, but it’s much, much subtler. In the soup, it was complemented so well by the other ingredients, I didn’t even taste the hate. Maybe I'll feel the same way about anise someday. Think of this principle like salsa: you start out mild, and work your way up to medium and hot varieties.

Give it just one more shot.
Case study: Beans
For some inexplicable reason, I always assumed I hated beans. As a kid, they looked funny to me. And in my six-year-old brain, funny-looking food = bad food. It wasn’t until I grew up, sacked up, ate one and didn’t throw up, that they became a regular part of my diet. (Okay, hummus helped.)

If you truly hate it, let it go.
Case studies: scallops, figs, radishes, mayo
Scallops will never be my thing, no matter how fresh they are, how well they’ve been prepared, and how many times I try them. Figs, radishes, mayonnaise – still disgusting, as well. (Which, did I mention I hate mayonnaise? I did? Oh, good.) Sometimes, a certain food just won’t do it for you. And it’s okay. Just move on to the next one.

And that’s it. Readers? Suggestions?


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(All images courtesy of NatalieDee.com. Go there now.)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Spaghetti with Asparagus, Egg, and Parmesan: a Mutant Freak of Deliciousness

This post first appeared in April 2009.

Though I’m cooking more often now, creating my own recipes continues to scare the living daylights out of me. My self-spawned dishes tend to be three-out-of-five star affairs, meaning they’re servable, but won’t necessarily knock your socks off. See, I’m still mastering certain techniques (read: all of them), and find pairing flavors tougher than Advanced Calculus. (Hey, if mathematicians had to eat their results, they’d have never picked up calculators in the first place.)

So, when I invent something that actually works, it’s like … it’s like … hm … how to express this without resorting to hyperbole?

Oh! I have it. It’s like riding a golden unicorn over a rainbow while world peace breaks out in the background. Or U2 playing an acoustic gig in my living room as I’m hand-fed chocolate-covered strawberries by Raoul Bova. Or taking a permanent vacation from my job, but with eternal severance pay and health benefits. (Dare to dream.)

Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating. But it is pretty cool. And today’s recipe, Spaghetti with Asparagus, Egg, and Parmesan, is one of those rare triumphs.

Tuesday night, I was in a spaghetti mood, but had a use-it-or-lose-it pound of asparagus whiling away in the crisper drawer. With no funghi available, Pasta with Asparagus and Mushrooms was out of the question. So was Roasted Asparagus with Poached Egg and Parmesan, since I reallyreallyreally wanted some pasta. But both recipes fused together? That could work.

And did it EVER. It’s my new favorite comfort food. Creamy and cheesy and asparagus-y, I can see myself eating this over and over again until my death in 2097. (Yes, I’m shooting for 120. Believe in the stars!) And? AND? I would say I could eat 14 bowls of the stuff, but a single serving filled me to the brim.

Of course, should you decide to give it a shot:

1) To cut the fat even further, omit ½ tablespoon olive oil and a little parmesan.

2) Don’t throw out the pasta water. Love it. Be liberal with it. It’s vital to everything.

And that’s it, folks. Have a lovely weekend, and experiment if you get the chance. Occasionally, it’s worth it.

Spaghetti with Asparagus, Egg, and Parmesan
Serves 3

8 oz thin spaghetti
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound medium-thin asparagus, rough ends snapped off, cut into 1-inch pieces
Cooking spray
3 eggs
½ tablespoon tap water
Kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper
2 dashes cayenne pepper
¼ cup grated parmesan

1) Cook pasta ‘til al dente and drain, reserving ¾ cup of cooking water.

2) Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add asparagus and saute for 4 or 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add ¼ cooking water and cook for another 3 or 4 minutes, until asparagus is crisp-tender.

3) In the meantime, spray a small nonstick pan with cooking spray. Crack three eggs into it, and add ½ tablespoon tap water. Cover and cook over low heat for a few minutes, until the top of the yolks cloud, but are still soft and runny. Remove from heat.

4) When the asparagus is done cooking, add drained pasta to the pan, stirring to reheat if necessary. Off heat, add the remaining ½ cup of cooking water, cayenne pepper, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir.

5) Ladle pasta into bowls along with 1 tablespoon water/sauce from bottom of pan (or more, if you like). Place egg on top and sprinkle with about 1-1/2 tablespoons parmesan cheese. Break egg, mix everything together, and enjoy.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price Per Serving
446 calories, 13.4 g fat, $1.24

8 oz thin spaghetti: 800 calories, 4 g fat, $0.33
1 tablespoon olive oil: 119 calories, 13.5 g fat, $0.12
1 pound medium-thin asparagus: 91 calories, 0.5 g fat, $1.99
Cooking spray: negligible calories and fat, $0.03
3 eggs: 221 calories, 14.9 g fat, $0.55
½ tablespoon tap water: negligible calories and fat, $0.00
Kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper: negligible calories and fat, $0.02
2 dashes cayenne pepper: negligible calories and fat, $0.01
¼ cup grated parmesan:108 calories, 7.2 g fat, $0.68
TOTAL: 1339 calories, 40.1 g fat, $3.73
PER SERVING (TOTAL/3): 446 calories, 13.4 g fat, $1.24

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Couponing for People Who Hate Couponing: A Zero-Stress Guide to Clipping Big Bargains

This post first ran in April, 2010.

WARNING: If you know what a Catalina deal is and/or have actually employed one, this may not be the post for you. If you occasionally slice your pinky open while using adult scissors, this is definitely the post for you.

When you think of couponing, what’s the first thing that pops into your head? Is it GoGurt? Is it a planet-sized binder and never-ending stack of circulars? Is it a crazy cat lady, forever in search of the single slip of paper that will net her 14 free packets of McCormick fajita seasoning?

It’s understandable. Long stereotyped as the favorite pastime of bargain-happy grandmas and moms of 47, clipping coupons gets a pretty bad rap. Many believe it gets you minimal deals on junky food. I didn’t touch coupons for years, figuring the time it took to collect them was disproportionate to the amount of money they saved.

Now I know better. While I still buy groceries primarily based on the circular, I’ve come to realize that a simple, no-frills approach to couponing nets good money for little time investment. I don’t freak out, I don’t buy rainbow-colored faux food, and I save a couple hundred bucks each year. Not too shabby.

If you’re considering coupons, but don’t know where to start, read on. These simple explanations and stress-free strategies could kick off a lifetime of half-price egg noodles. If you do nothing else, make sure to scroll down to the GOLDEN RULE OF COUPONING, wherein I explain the practice’s most important tenet as well as the origin of the universe.

(Also? Readers? What am I missing? I’m sure it’s a lot. The comment section awaits.)


There are a few ways to collect coupons. Some are intuitive, others not so much.

Newspapers. Since the beginning of time, the Sunday paper has come equipped with bazillions of coupon-stuffed circulars. If you can’t swing a subscription, bum them off friends and family after they’re done reading. This is how I amass most of my deals. (Thanks, Dad.)

Store circulars and magazines. Occasionally, coupons will appear in publications within a supermarket or drugstore, probably by the door or the cashier. Though you’ve already made your plan, leaf through these, since they can offer good last-minute deals or bargains for next time.

Store shelves. You know those little ticket dispensers that line supermarket aisles? If they’re located by a food you enjoy, grab one. Hey, you never know.

Mailings. If you really like a particular company, you can frequently sign up online to receive coupon packets through the mail.

Online. Online coupon deals can be tremendous, but also a giant headache if you spend too much time looking for them. So, be judicious in your search. Speaking of which, there are three basic ways to collect and save.
  1. Go to aggregate sites like Coupons.com and Mambo Sprouts (organic).
  2. Visit individual company pages like Betty Crocker.
  3. Cruise popular forums and consumer sites like A Full Cup and Coupon Mom.
Be warned: you might have to sign up for the service and/or install a special printing program, but it can be worth it. Also, not every store accepts print-outs, and many supermarkets often restrict what you can and can’t use. Give your local chain a call before planning any big shopping trip.


My coupons currently sit in a small stack on my clock radio, vaguely organized by general category. Sometimes, I weed through them and pick out the expired ones (which can then be donated to the military). Your preferred method may vary, but other folks seem to enjoy:
They’re all small, cute, unobtrusive, and cheap (except the last one). Store ‘em in your desk or among your cookbooks.


It’s Sunday afternoon. You’re sitting down at the kitchen table, coffee at your side, clippers in hand. In front of you rests 20 coupon circulars, waiting patiently for you to begin slicing and dicing. How in the good name of Bea Arthur do you approach this? By following these simple rules:

Forget brand loyalty. You’re looking for products (ex: cheese), not brand names (ex: Sargento). If you find a coupon for a brand you like (Tropicana!), that’s fantastic, but the better toothpaste deals come when you let go of your Crest fixation.

Clip only for products you need or use. When you don’t eat yogurt, own a dog, or have dentures, getting bargains on Activia, Alpo, and Polident is senseless. A good rule of thumb: if you have to think about clipping a particular coupon for more than a few seconds, skip it.

Avoid clipping if you can find a comparable generic product. Even with coupons, store brand foods are almost always cheaper. In most cases, people can’t tell the difference in flavor or texture, either.

Don’t clip for junk. It’s undeniable: most coupons are for processed, insanely over-packaged crap, and hoarding them will only lead to blown cash and rampant unhealthiness. (*cough* Hot Pockets *cough*) However, you should always …

Be on the lookout for pantry staples. Yay! These diamonds in the aspartame-blanketed rough are more common than you might believe. Currently (4/14/10), in my alarm clock stack, I have coupons for bread, olive oil, sour cream, butter, soy milk, mustard, dried beans, chocolate chips, cooking spray, corn starch, baking powder, rice, pasta, and egg noodles. Not to mention tin foil, gum, deodorant, and the all-important Zyrtec (a brand we will not forgo).

Be on special lookout for personal products. Coupons are fantastic for cosmetics and body care items (shampoo, toothpaste, etc.). If you like L’Oreal eyeliner, and see a bargain, don’t hesitate. You could consistently save 50% or more without much effort.

Take advantage of double and triple coupon days. Never in my life have I seen a Double Coupon Day in a New York City supermarket. But I’m assured they exist in many other wonderful parts of the country, as does the rare and hallowed Triple Coupon Day. Check your grocer’s website for dates.

Beware hoarding. Odds are you’ll never end up in a terrifying A&E series, but there is such a thing as going overboard on coupons. If you don’t have sufficient storage OR the product will go bad before you use it, avoid buying multiples.


If you take nothing else away from this post, remembering this single rule will still help you bank mad cash every year:

Wait for sales to use your coupons.

Sales alone can save you money. Coupons alone can save you money. But they’re at their most powerful when combined. This may mean waiting a few weeks after your initial clippage, but trust me, it’s worth it.

Let me give you an example: I buy Del Monte diced canned tomatoes all the time. They’re usually $1.89 at my local supermarket. (Not a typo. I double checked.) Two weeks ago, they went on sale for $1.00 each. That’s a good deal by itself.

However, I also had a coupon for $1.00 off four cans, meaning each dropped to $0.75. What would have been a $7.56 spending spree became a $3.00 bargain. I saved 60% off the usual price.

Sweet, right?

In order to obtain these most excellent deals, leaf through your supermarket circular (at its own website or Money Saving Mom) before going shopping. Food companies generally offer circular and coupon deals around the same time, so matching them will be easier than you think.

And that’s our ballgame. Readers, what advice would you give a beginning couponer? What do you think of the words offered here? Did I get anything wrong? (Seriously, please tell me.)


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[(Photos courtesy of Hearts and Home (coupon book), Encyclomedia (coupon dispenser), and Strom Products (egg noodles).]

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Beginner's Guide to Beans, Plus 42 Bean Recipes

This article first appeared in October 2009.

Some will balk at their flavor and size. Many will have texture issues. And still others just won’t enjoy the farting.

But know this: there are few cheaper, healthier, and more versatile foods than the humble bean. Members of the legume family, beans can be found everywhere from gourmet restaurants to campfire cauldrons. They’ve been vital to the survival of certain populations, and instrumental to the development of particular cuisines. Also, they taste good.

Still, there are folks out there unfamiliar with chickpeas and pintos, kidney and black beans. And for them, CHG proudly presents the following: a breakdown of why beans are wonderful, plus 42 tried-and-true recipes in which to use them.


Low in fat, high in protein, and astronomically high in fiber, beans work beautifully as the main components of recipes, but also as fabulous alternatives to meat. This is for a few reasons: A) they create a complete protein when paired with nuts, seeds, or grains, B) their chemical composition makes you feel sated longer than a lot of other foods, and C) they have a bulky and substantial mouthfeel, so you never feel deprived. Studies have found them to be solid tools in weight loss and maintenance, and integral to the prevention of all kinds of diseases.

If that ain’t enough for you, this WebMD blurb is pretty convincing: “In a recent study, bean eaters weighed, on average, 7 pounds less and had slimmer waists than their bean-avoiding counterparts -- yet they consumed 199 calories more per day if they were adults and an incredible 335 calories more if they were teenagers.” Sweet.

P.S. True to the well-known rhyme, beans make you both smartier and fartier. They contain both certain vitamins that improve brain function AND undigestable sugars, which lead to exciting intestinal activity, which leads to gas. So there you go.


Grown globally from Ethiopia to Australia, beans are some of the most plentiful - and subsequently cheapest - edibles anywhere. A pound of dried beans in Brooklyn will generally run about $1, and will produce four to six cups of food after rehydration.

Compare that to meat. In my neighborhood, a pound of chicken breast (one of the healthier animal options) runs $1.69 on sale. It shrinks slightly when cooked, ultimately producing around two cups of poultry.

Let’s do some math, then. One cup of cheap chicken is $1.69 divided by two, or $0.85. One cup of beans is $1.00 divided by five, or $0.20. Using these (incredibly) rough numbers, chicken breast is 425% the price of dried beans.

Of course, the numbers will vary by area, sales, and math skills, but you get the idea.


It’s a controversy as old as storage itself: dried or canned beans? On one hand, dried beans are universally cheaper, and widely considered to possess a creamier consistency and better overall flavor. On the other hand, canned beans aren’t terribly expensive themselves, and the taste difference is pretty negligible when you’re talking about everyday kitchen use.

The tiebreaker, then, is time. If you have the wherewithal, forethought, and 90 to 480 minutes to rehydrate a bag of dried chickpeas, you’ll be rewarded in kind. If you‘re throwing dinner together and an hour-long prep time is crazy talk, canned beans are the way to go.

It’s worth noting that if respected cooks aren’t using canned beans already (Giada DeLaurentiis, Sara Moulton, etc.), they’re starting to come around. Even die-hard dried fans like Mark Bittman have been giving props to metal dwellers recently. Meaning: don’t fear the Goya.


If you’ve ever tried chili, hummus, minestrone, Texas caviar, Mexican food, Indian food, Italian food, or, er, refried beans, you’ve already experienced the wonder of the bean. They’re omnipresent in cuisines all over the world, and come in a range of flavors and sizes that can be adapted to thousands of dishes. Here are six of the most common found in the U.S., along with a few recipe suggestions for each.

(A quick note before we get to the beans themselves: there are a zillion types of legume, and some [like the soybean] are rocketing in popularity stateside. But to keep things manageable, we’re sticking to a few big ones.)

Black Beans
Used frequently in Latin cuisines, the black bean is a small, ebony bean with an earthy flavor. I find it pairs very well with grains, and makes for a stellar soup.
Black Bean and Tomato Quinoa
Black Bean Brownies
Black Bean Burrito Bake
Black Bean Salad with Fresh Corn
Black Bean Soup
Calabacitas Burritos
Stuffed Peppers with Black Beans and Corn

Black-Eyed Peas
A terrible band, but a wonderful food, black-eyed peas are all over Southern cuisine. Like other beans, they’re great sources of fiber, folate, and protein. Unlike other beans, you will always feel like they’re looking at you.
Black-Eyed Pea (Texas) Caviar
Black-Eyed Pea Salad
Collard Greens and Black-Eyed Peas

Cannellini/White Beans
There are a ton of variations on the white bean, but I dig cannellinis in particular for their creaminess and flavor. Found in many Italian dishes, you’ll find that Microsoft Word often corrects its spelling to “cannelloni,” which is annoying.
Escarole and White Beans
Garlicky Long Beans and Beans
Grilled Zucchini with Quinoa Stuffing
Guacamole Bean Dip
Penne with Lemon, Potatoes, and Cannellini
White Bean and Tarragon Soup
White Chicken Chili
Spinach and Cannellini Bean Dip

Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans)
Without chickpeas, there would be no hummus. And without hummus, there would be no joy. Vital to Italian, Indian, and Middle Eastern cuisines (among others), the plentiful and versatile garbanzo bean can be found in virtually every form, from dip to stew to flour (though I have yet to see a chickpea smoothie). Due to its subtle flavor and increasing ubiquity in the U.S., I like to think of the chickpea as a gateway bean; if you like it, odds are other legumes will soon follow.
Beets and Greens Curry with Chickpeas
Chickpea Salad
Couscous with Chickpeas, Tomatoes, and Edamame
Curry in a Hurry
Greek-Style Chickpea Salad
Lemony Light Hummus
North African-style Chickpea Salad
Pasta e Ceci
Pasta with Zucchini and Chickpeas
Pasta with Broccoli and Chickpeas
Pindi Chana (Spicy Chickpea Curry)
Roasted Chickpeas
Shredded Zucchini and Chickpeas Over Polenta

Kidney Beans (red and pink)
Substantive and quite large in comparison to other common legumes, kidney beans go great on salads and substitute fabulously for meat in chilis and stews. And seriously, what’s a frugal kitchen without red beans and rice?
Chili Corn Pone Pie
Pumpkin Turkey Chili

Pinto Beans (Frijoles)
Wonderful on their own and even better mashed, these pink-brown legumes claim the great honor of being the only bean my mom likes. Also, I could be talking out my neck here, but I find pintos a little sweeter than black beans and chickpeas.
Refried Beans
Swiss Chard with Pinto Beans and Goat Cheese

Multiple Beans
Each of the following recipes use more than one type of bean.
Bodega Beans (any)
Camp Stove Veggie Chili (black, kidney)
Curried Chickpeas and Black Beans (chickpeas, black)
Easy Vegetarian Bean Chili (any)
Gallo Pinto (pinto, black)
Indonesian Curried Bean Stew (chickpeas, black, kidney )
Light Leftover Turkey Chili (black, kidney)
Turkey Chili with Beans (white, pink, kidney)

And that's our ballgame. Readers, how about you? What are your favorite bean recipes?


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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Pasta Puttanesca: Fancy Food for Frugal Entertainers

This post first appeared in February 2009. HOTUS and I eat it every Valentine's Day. It's dang good.

I’ve learned many things since moving out on my own (make the bed, don’t do drugs, etc.), but perhaps none have been as vital as the following excerpt from a 2003 life skills instruction manual. It was written by a wise, wonderful, unassuming literary icon (note: me) upon her brother’s college graduation, in hopes of inspiring him to put pants on:

“Learn to be at least marginally entertaining. Even if you are aggressively anti-social or covered in boils, the time will come when people want to see you. You must be prepared. Clean your place and don’t leave them to entertain themselves.”

See, with great power (adulthood) comes great responsibility (hosting friends and family). And occasionally, that means feeding people.

Which is why sometimes, in my darkest hours, when all else seems lost, I turn to Rachael Ray. I have conflicting feelings about RR, mostly because she invented “yummo,” which should be banned from all lexicons, everywhere. Still, she knows how to please a crowd. And I respect that.

I respect this Pasta Puttanesca, too. The recipe comes from an episode of 30-Minute Meals called “Quick Italian Classics,” and for the time involved, it’s outstanding. I made it for The Boyfriend on Valentine’s Day, and we almost had babies on the spot. (We didn’t though, Ma.)

Beyond the salty, briny wonder, the best thing about it is the serving size. It will feed roughly 3,000,000 people, and impress at least 2,999,990 of them. When you’re entertaining as a young’un, quality and quantity are good to have.

Should you try it on your own, know the following:

1) If you’re averse to seafood or olives, run far, far, far away. Don’t look back. Then stop and take a breath. Then start running again.

2) Just to restate: this is A LOT OF FREAKING FOOD. The Food Network site claims this will make four servings, which might be true if you live in a family of insatiable giants. In my phenomenally humble opinion, it’ll serve a minimum of six, especially if you include garlic bread or a salad or something.

(THINGS TO PONDER: Can one claim to be “phenomenally humble”? It’s essentially saying you’re the absolute best at being modest, which negates the whole thing. Discuss.)

3) For kicks, we added a drained can of quartered artichoke hearts. (The Boyfriend loves ‘em.) They’re not listed in the original recipe, and are only included as an option here, because they’re somewhat pricey (but highly suggested).

4) I used half black olives and half kalamata. BECAUSE I COULD. MUAHAHAHAHAHA!

So, next time you're forced to feed a crowd, consider the Puttanesca. It could be a valuable part of your adulthood.

Pasta Puttanesca
Makes 6 servings
Adapted from Rachael Ray.

1 pound spaghetti 
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 to 6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tin flat anchovy fillets, drained
1 /2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
20 oil-cured black olives, cracked away from pit and coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons capers
1 (28 to 32-ounce) can chunky style crushed tomatoes
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
A few grinds black pepper
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
OPTIONAL: 1 14.5-oz can artichoke heart quarters, drained

1) Cook pasta in salted water until al dente. Drain and set aside.

2) In a large skillet, combine oil, garlic, anchovies, and red pepper and heat over medium heat. Cook about 3 minutes, until anchovies are completely dissolved. Add olives, capers, tomatoes, black pepper, and parsley (and artichoke hearts, if using). Once it starts to bubble, drop the heat to medium-low and cook 8 or 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3) Add pasta to pan. Toss to coat. Serve.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price Per Serving
434 calories, 9.3 g fat, $1.50

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil: 239 calories, 27 g fat, $0.23
4 to 6 cloves garlic: 22 calories, 0.1 g fat, $0.20
1 tin flat anchovy fillets, drained: 119 calories, 5.5 g fat, $1.59
1 /2 teaspoon red pepper flakes: negligible calories and fat, $0.02
20 oil-cured black olives: 175 calories, 15 g fat, $1.84
3 tablespoons capers: 6 calories, 0.2 g fat, $1.64
1 (28 to 32-ounce) can chunky style crushed tomatoes: 279 calories, 0 g fat, $0.98
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained: 82 calories, 0 g fat, $1.19
A few grinds black pepper: negligible calories and fat, $0.02
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped: negligible calories and fat, $0.49
1 pound spaghetti, cooked to al dente (with a bite): 1680 calories, 8 g fat, $0.80
TOTAL: 2602 calories, 55.8 g fat, $9.00
PER SERVING: 434 calories, 9.3 g fat, $1.50

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

10 Ways to Eat Less Meat

This was originally published in May 2010.

Today, we continue our May Top 10 series by addressing a popular topic in both the food and personal finance blogospheres: eating less meat.

“Why in the good name of Bea Arthur would I want to eat LESS meat?” some might ask. “I don’t get enough bacon as it is. Plus, humans were meant to be carnivores, right? Otherwise, how do I explain the dead alpaca in the fridge to my kids?”

Well, sweet reader. We come not to demonize meat, but to praise consuming it in moderation. Because when raised right and chomped sensibly, beef, chicken, pork, lamb - maybe even that alpaca - can be pretty good for you. What’s more, it’s good for your wallet, your children, the Earth, the moon, the universe, other universes, the multiverse, the Rebel Alliance, Hoth, Dagoba- … Sorry. Got carried away there.

Following that line of reasoning, here are 10-plus strategies for reducing your meat intake. Some are well known. Others, less so. But all told, it’s a pretty decent list, if I do say so myself. (Note: And I do.)

Of course, if you’d like to change anything or add your own suggestion, the comment section awaits. That’s what it’s there for, after all. (Also: quoting Glee.)

1) Have one or more meatless nights per week.
It’s hard to say whether the movement began with bloggers or Johns Hopkins’ Meatless Mondays. Either way, this 15% reduction in your weekly meat can have a massive positive impact on … well, everything we just mentioned (the environment, your heart, Tatooine, etc.). The options aren’t as limited as you think, either. Vegetarian burritos, pizza, chili, and pasta are so tasty, you won’t miss the extra eight ounces of pork.

2) Buy less meat. And when you do, only purchase pricey, delicious, humanely raised meat.
You have three grand and a choice: You can go to McDonald’s every night for a year, or Babbo every night for a month. You’d choose 30 days catered by Mario Batali over 3,000 stupid chicken nuggets, right?

Buying farmer’s market meat is kind of like that. You purchase less overall (because it’s pricey, yo), but what you do buy is so delicious, it’s worth the wait.

Not to mention … imagine a world where the chicken tastes like chicken. I’m not talking about the wan, watered-down, quasi-poultry we know and tolerate. I’m referring to genuine, robust fowl that screams, “I am bird! Hear me cluck! Or roar! Or roarcluck! Whatever.” That flavorful planet is attainable, if you’re willing to go for it.

3) Don’t eat meat before dinner.
You may have heard of Mark Bittman’s “vegan before 6” diet. Essentially, the New York Times writer doesn’t eat any animal products before dinner. (Um … that may have been somewhat self-explanatory from the name of the diet, in which case, I apologize.)

While restricting cheese and eggs might be a little too much to take, dude’s definitely on to something. How simple would it be to cut the bacon out of your morning feast? Or to swap grilled eggplant in for grilled chicken on your panini? Or to buy the deli’s awesome, overlooked Italian Bean Soup instead of their admittedly lame Chicken Noodle? Try it for a few days, and see what happens. Could be easier than you think.

4) Don’t make meat the focus of your meals.
There’s nothing like a good cheeseburger, but eating one every night takes its toll. Relegating meat to side dishes or secondary ingredients ensures you still get a decent helping of beefy goodness, without the egregious bad things. Chilis and soups are particularly wonderful for this, as is everything in Joy Manning and Tara Mataraza Desmond’s Meat Lite column on Serious Eats.

5) Go ethnic.
Mediterranean, Indian, Chinese, Thai, and even Italian and Mexican food rely much less on meat than traditional American cuisine. Throw your family a culinary curveball by having a World Kitchen Night, and preparing a few simple recipes from around the globe. Beyond the obvious benefits, you’ll also open minds and create adventurous palates. Sweet.

6) Filet or pound your cuts.
The recommended serving for meat is four ounces, which is about the size of a deck of cards. If you put that in front of my brother, he’d laugh maniacally and then shove a fork into his thigh, a la Gene Wilder in Young Frankenstein.

There’s a way around that, though: Take a large piece of meat – chicken breast, let’s say – and A) slice it in half through the middle, or B) pound it super-thin. This creates the illusion of a big cut, even though the piece is essentially missing its bottom half. Bonus: it’ll cook more evenly, as well.

7) Learn to make more vegetable, grain, and pasta-based meals.
Baked Ziti. Falafel. Pizza. Easy Vegetarian Bean Chili. Lasagna. Quinoa Soup with Avocado and Corn. Ratatouille. Macaroni and Cheese. Pasta Puttanesca. Black Bean Burrito Bake. Veggie Lo Mein. Stuffed Peppers. Tomato and Bread Soup. Pumpkin Orzo with Sage. Roasted Veggie Sandwich. OH MY SWEET HEAVENS, BUTTERNUT SQUASH RISOTTO. All substantial. All delicious. None will make you crave a hot dog.

8) Find substitutes you dig.
Not everybody likes tofu. I get that. Bean curd is an acquired taste. Still, have you ever tried seitan? Done correctly, it’s scrumptious. I’m not kidding. Leigh makes these barbecue seitan bites that are practically crack.

Meat substitutes scare people off sometimes, but flavor- and texture-wise, they’ve come a long way since Tofurky. If you’re open to the idea, the trick is finding one (or two or eight) that works for you. Whether that’s Portobello mushrooms or tempeh or Morningstar Farms Chix Patties (Which? Mmm.), odds are it’s a better option than many commercially available meats.

9) Make your vegetarian friend(s) cook for you.
Two of my friends have been vegetarians for nearly 20 years each. (One is aforementioned Veggie Might genius Leigh.) Both are among the best cooks I know, presumably because they’ve been forced to experiment with a wider variety of foods to compensate for the lack of meat. If you have similar pals, watch them cook. Ask how they get by. Eat with them. Vegetarians are experts at non-meat lifestyles, and you can learn a lot just by hanging out in their circles.

10) Do the math.
Save your next four grocery bills. Add up the totals. Subtract half the money you spend on meat. (That other half will be spent on more grains, vegetables, and beans, presumably.) Imagine saving that every month, for the rest of your life. Not too shabby, eh?

BONUS: Avoid the meat areas of your supermarket.
Out of sight, out of mind, right? It works for me.


These four tips are pretty sweet, and I didn’t see them anywhere but the cited sources.

Forget about protein.
Mark Bittman: “Plants have protein, too; in fact, per calorie, many plants have more protein than meat. … By eating a variety, you can get all essential amino acids.”

Use it all.
Planet Green: “Try not to throw anything away, and look around for cheaper, more interesting cuts of meat at your butcher.”

Adapt old meaty recipes.
Diet Girl: “Back when I first shacked up with Dr G, I started by taking my old standard meat recipes and finding veggie substitutes. This meant lots of beans and lentils.”

Make extra helpings of your side dishes.
Owlhaven's Mary Ostyn makes only 1 to 1-1/2 small servings of meat per person, but cooks extra veggies, grains, and such. It keeps costs down, and ensures her kids don’t go overboard.

And that’s it. Sweet readers, the comment section awaits. Oh, and don’t forget: next week, our 10 Series is tackling storage and leftovers. If you have tips for maximizing either, I’d love to hear.


If you enjoy this post, you might also like:

(Photos provided by Wheatbridge [chicken], Baby-Halloween-Costume.com [cow], and BuyCostumes.com [pig])

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

50+ Cheap, Healthy Super Bowl Recipes

This post first appeared in 2009

Two years ago, we posted a piece called Cheap, Healthy Party Food, filled to the brim with inexpensive, Super Bowl-appropriate recipes. Most of them came from thoroughly vetted outside sources like All Recipes and Cooking Light. All appeared delicious.

Since then, between CHG and my weekly Healthy & Delicious column at Serious Eats, we’ve compiled hundreds of our own recipes, many of which are floofin’ perfect for the upcoming game. We made and ate every single one of these, and can recommend them without reservation. Even to your Dad (whom I’m sure totes loves healthy food, especially on Super Bowl Sunday).

If you have suggestions or excellent, apropos recipes from your own blog, leave ‘em in the comment section! Together, we can make this the most delicious Super Bowl since the last time Tom Brady was in it.

(Special note: frugal shoppers! Even if you hate football with the white-hot intensity of a thousand angry suns, this is a great week to stock up. Look for sales on cheese, sour cream, beans, frozen foods, crackers, dip, and more at your supermarket.)

Avocado Corn Salsa
Baba Ghanouj
Fresh Salsa
Guacamole-Bean Dip Mashup
Lemony Hummus
Mango Salsa
Roasted Eggplant Spread
Seven-Layer Taco Dip
Spinach and Artichoke Dip
Spinach and Cannellini Bean Dip
Tomatillo Guacamole
Tzatziki (Greek Yogurt and Cucumber Sauce)

Cactus Chili
Camp Stove Veggie Chili
Chili Corn Pone Pie
Easy Vegetarian Bean Chili
Pumpkin Turkey Chili
Turkey Chili
Turkey Chili with Beans
White Chicken Chili
Winter Vegetable Chili

Avocado Chicken Salad
Black Bean and Tomato Quinoa
Chickpea Salad
Chili-Spiced Potatoes
Ellie Krieger’s Refried Beans
Gazpacho Pasta Salad
Golden Delight Egg Salad
Lemon Basil Pasta Salad
Potato Salad for Rainy Day People
Semi-Southern-Style Cornbread
Spicy Sweet Potato Fries

Baked Ziti
Black Bean Burrito Bake
Chicken Fried Rice
Chinese Chicken and Broccoli
Chipotle Pork Tenders
Falafel with Tahini Sauce
Grilled Flank Steak with Tomato Relish
Homemade Pizza
Macaroni and Cheese
Pork Tacos
Sausage and Pepper Sandwiches
Skillet Chicken Fajitas
Spiced Chicken Skewers
Stuffed Peppers
Stuffed Peppers with Black Beans and Corn
Vegetable Lo Mein

Black Bean Brownies
Crunchy Pecan Cookies
Roasted Chickpeas

Readers? Your recipes?


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Monday, January 30, 2012

Lightened Seven-Layer Taco Dip: A Super Bowl OF FLAVOR

This was originally published in January, 2008.

As a nutritionally minded blogger, I normally advocate fresh, whole, prepared-from-scratch meals in modest proportions.

But, dude. The Super Bowl’s coming.

With the possible exception of Thanksgiving, no other event requires Americans to consume their body weight in onion dip. Nor can I think of another quasi-holiday where quesadillas are designated as health food. Sure, your party of choice might have a token crudite platter buried behind the wings, but essentially, Super Bowl Sunday is to diets what Lawrence Taylor was to Joe Theismann’s leg. (Caution: this video might kill you.)

Yet, us weight-conscious folks need options come February 3rd. And that’s where Lightened Seven-Layer Taco Dip comes in. I got the original dish straight off AllRecipes last year, but subbed in reduced-fat and fat-free ingredients, which saved 30 calories and 4 grams of fat per serving. Fortunately, there were so many loud, proudly competing flavors nobody could tell the difference. I’m making it again this year. And while the initial expenditure might look daunting (see Calculations below), just know three things:

1) With 56 servings, this is a hulking behemoth of food. It is the Mount Kilimanjaro of taco dips. If it was people, it’d be William “The Refrigerator” Perry bear-hugging John Goodman. Last year, my friends N and I barely put a dent in it, and they once downed a Ben & Jerry’s Vermonster by themselves.

2) There are ways (WAYS!) to save a little extra dough. This year, I’m going to buy ingredients on sale, make my own taco seasoning (total cost: about a quarter) and shred a block of Kraft Cheddar with my grater. Depending on how much I buy the block for, it will probably run $0.50 to $1.00 less than a bag. Good times.

3) I live in Brooklyn. Even when bargain priced, everything is more expensive here. Except maybe Chinese food.

If you’re interested in keeping it extra-healthy, the dip can be paired with self-baked tortilla chips or possibly celery. (Which, eat quickly, because people will inevitably bogart the veggies for their hot wings.)

On a final note, the rest of this week is being dedicated to Sunday’s game. Tune in tomorrow for some pigskin-appropriate links, and then again on Wednesday for a monster list of cheap, healthy Super Bowl fare. After that, it’s Thursday’s Football Favorites of the Week. Friday is anyone’s guess, but there are seven lonely leftover jalapenos sitting in my fridge. Suggestions are most definitely welcome.

Lightened Seven Layer Taco Dip
56 servings (seriously)
Adapted from All Recipes.

1-oz. package taco seasoning mix (or make your own )
16-oz. can fat-free refried beans
8-oz. package fat-free cream cheese, softened
16-oz. container fat-free sour cream
16-oz. jar salsa
1 large tomato, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 bunch chopped green onions
1 small head iceberg lettuce, shredded
6-oz. can sliced black olives, drained
2 cups reduced-fat shredded Cheddar cheese (or shred your own 8-oz bar)

1) In a medium bowl, mix taco seasoning thoroughly with refried beans. Transfer it to a large platter or bowl, spreading it out on the bottom

2) In a separate medium bowl, mix sour cream and cream cheese. Pour it over refried beans and spread.

3) Pour salsa over sour cream/cream cheese mixture. Spread out. Then, layer with: tomato, bell pepper, onions and lettuce. Finish with cheese and sprinkle olives over everything.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price per Serving
36 calories, 1 g fat, $0.25

1 (1 ounce) package taco seasoning mix: 45 calories, 0 g fat, $0.25
1 (16 ounce) can fat-free refried beans: 385 calories, 0 g fat, $0.89
1 (8 ounce) package fat-free cream cheese, softened: 218 calories, 3.1 g fat, $2.69
1 (16 ounce) container fat-free sour cream: 336 calories, 0 g fat, $1.20
1 (16 ounce) jar salsa: 123 calories, 0.7 g fat, $1.50
1 large tomato: 22 calories, 0.2 g fat, $1.00
1 green bell pepper: 24 calories, 0.2 g fat, $0.50
1 bunch chopped green onions: 32 calories, 0.2 g fat, $0.79
1 small head iceberg lettuce: 45 calories, 0.5 g fat, $0.99
1 (6 ounce) can sliced black olives: 80 calories, 6 g fat, $1.49
2 cups reduced-fat shredded Cheddar cheese: 720 calories, 48 g fat, $2.50
TOTAL: 2030 calories, 58.8 g fat, $13.80
PER SERVING (TOTAL/56): 36 calories, 1 g fat, $0.25

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The 10 Cheapest, Healthiest Foods Money Can Buy

This originally ran in May 2010.

Whether you’re broke and waiting for the next paycheck, or simply trying to cut back on your grocery bill, it’s vital to choose foods that give you the healthiest bang for your hard-earned buck.

These ten foods do just that. They’re nutritional powerhouses for pennies on the dollar. Many could be considered superfoods, and have long been staples of frugal households. I included almost all of them (sorry, lentils) for CHG's $25 Challenge, and you’ll see that Hillbilly Housewife uses quite a few in her famous $45 Emergency Menu, as well.

To compile the final list, there were three main criteria. Each food is:
  • Versatile. It can be eaten on it own or used as an ingredient in other dishes.
  • Inexpensive. A serving will cost a few dimes or nickels.
  • Nutritious. It packs high percentages of vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber, and/or calories. (Note: To be totally honest, some important, but fairly obscure minerals are included here. Manganese? I thought it was a capital in Southeast Asia. It is not, and oatmeal has 147% of the USDA-recommended daily allowance.)
Bonus: since most of the list is comprised of produce, grains, and legumes, it’s fairly environmentally and ethically sound, as well.

Of course, your opinion on some of these foods (particularly the first) might differ, and I’d love to hear what you would have included instead. But first, before we get started, two quick notes:
  • All prices are the lowest available from Peapod (Stop & Shop) on 4/6/10.
  • All nutrition data comes from, uh, Nutrition Data and is approximate. Serving sizes are noted.
Obligatory disclaimer: I’m not a nutritionist, and these choices reflect my own opinion, so take ‘em with a grain of salt. (Or don’t, because, you know - not a nutritionist.)

Are there better-rounded fruits? Absolutely. Berries will single-handedly protect you from every known disease and fight off communism. But they are inordinately pricey little buggers (especially out of season), and for the money, don’t compare to a good ol’ Cavendish banana. Lesson: Always listen to the monkeys.

Serving size: One large (5oz) banana.
Peapod/Stop & Shop cost: $0.33 each
Good source of: Fiber (14% of a 2000-calorie diet), Vitamin C (20%), Vitamin B6 (25%), Potassium (14%), Manganese (18%)
Suggested recipe: Three-Ingredient Banana, Honey, and Peanut Butter Ice Cream

We’ve discussed beans ad nauseum here on CHG, and for good reason: there are fewer cheaper sources of protein and fiber found on Earth. (Maybe Mars?) Their mutability means you can pack them into just about any recipe, and with a range of flavors and sizes, everyone’s palate will be equally pleased. Plus: hilarious farting.

Serving size: Half a cup of cooked black beans.
Peapod/Stop & Shop cost, canned: $0.21 per serving ($0.75/15oz can)
Peapod/Stop & Shop cost, dried: $0.15 per serving ($1.50/1lb bag)
Good source of: Fiber (30% of a 2000-calorie diet), Iron (10%), Protein (15%), Thiamin (14%), Folate (32%), Magnesium (15%), Phosphorus (12%), Manganese (19%)
Suggested recipe: Black Bean Soup with a Fried Egg on Top

Canned tomatoes are here not as a snack or a stand-alone food, but an ingredient. Simply, they’re the basis for innumerable recipes across countless cuisines; sauces, soups, stews, and chilis wouldn’t exist was it not for the humble tomato. And yeah, if you’re the type to dig in a can of Progresso with a spoon, that’s okay too.

Serving size: One cup canned whole peeled tomatoes
Peapod/Stop & Shop cost: $0.48 per serving ($1.67/28oz can)
Good source of: Fiber (10% of a 2000-calorie diet), Vitamin C (37%), Iron (13%), Vitamin B6 (13%), Potassium (13%), Sodium (14%)
Suggested recipe: Tomato and Bread Soup

Bugs Bunny was on to something. But while carrots can be eaten raw to great merriment, they’re also excellent roasted, braised, in soups, and mixed with other foods. Hint: for snacking purposes, skip the bags of baby carrots ($1.50), buy a pound of full growns ($0.66), and chop ‘em up yourself. You save $0.84 every time.

Serving size: One cup raw carrot sticks.
Peapod/Stop & Shop cost: $0.13 per serving ($0.50/lb)
Good source of: Fiber (14% of a USDA 2000-calorie diet), Vitamin A (408%), Vitamin C (12%), Vitamin K (20%), Potassium (11%)
Suggested recipe: Honey-glazed Roasted Carrots

Apparently, Popeye was on to something, too. (What is it with these cartoon characters?) Spinach is just about the healthiest food you can buy, and it’s easy to sneak little bits into a plethora of different dishes. Here, I’m going for frozen spinach over fresh for two reasons. First, it’s generally cheaper, and you can find better sales. Second, it takes up less space. For those of us with limited refrigerator storage, that’s important.

Serving size: Five ounces unprepared frozen spinach.
Peapod/Stop & Shop cost: $0.50 per serving ($1.00/10oz bag)
Good source of: Fiber (16% of a 2000-calorie diet), Vitamin A (333%), Vitamin C (13%), Calcium (18%), Iron (15%), Protein (10-11%), Vitamin K (660%), Vitamin E (20%), Riboflavin (18%), Vitamin B6 (12%), Folate (51%), Magnesium (26%),. Manganese (50%), Copper (10%), Potassium (14%), Selenium (112%)
Suggested recipe: Italian White Bean and Spinach Soup

Full disclosure: I knew lentils were good for you, but didn’t have any idea HOW good until researching this piece. And $0.11 per serving? My god. No wonder they’re eaten for breakfast, lunch, and dinner around the world.

Serving size: One-quarter cup of lentils, unprepared.
Peapod/Stop & Shop cost: $0.11 per serving ($0.79/1lb bag)
Good source of: Fiber (58% of a 2000-calorie diet), Iron (20%), Protein (25%), Thiamin (28%), Vitamin B6 (13%), Folate (57%), Pantothenic Acid (10%), Magnesium (14%), Phosphorus (22%), Potassium (13%), Zinc (15%), Copper (12%), Manganese (32%)
Suggested recipe: Red Lentil Soup with Lemon

Here’s a riddle: what comes in a can, goes in a muffin, or can be boiled with raisins? (If you said “bunnies,” you are sick in the head.) It’s oatmeal, folks! High in fiber and all kinds of exciting minerals, it’s appropriate for every meal. Combine it with sweeter flavors for breakfast, or soy sauce and scallions for a strangely delicious lunch.

Serving size: Half a cup unprepared old-fashioned rolled oats:
Peapod/Stop & Shop cost: $0.12 per serving ($3.69/42oz canister)
Good source of: Fiber (16% of a 2000-calorie diet), Protein (10%), Thiamin (12%), Iron (10%), Magnesium (14%), Phosphorus (11%), Zinc (10%), Manganese (73%), Selenium (16%)
Suggested recipe: Banana Oatmeal Muffins

Throughout childhood, peanut butter was as universal as Sesame Street and possibly even my mother. Even today, spooning some out of the jar is a good time, and adding a dollop into stew or oatmeal positively feels like a treat. And though PB is high in fat, it’s a good kind.

Serving size: Two tablespoons chunky peanut butter.
Peapod/Stop & Shop cost: $0.15 per serving ($2.39/18oz jar)
Good source of: Calories (9% of a 2000 calorie diet), fat (25%), fiber (10%), protein (15%, Niacin (22%), vitamin E (10%), Manganese (29%), phosphorus (10%), Magnesium (13%)
Suggested recipe: Indonesian Bean Stew

Yes, peas.

Serving size: Half a cup frozen peas, unprepared
Peapod/Stop & Shop cost: $0.23 per serving ($3.00/2lb bag)
Good source of: Fiber (12% of a 2000-calorie diet), Vitamin A (22%), Vitamin C (20%), Vitamin K (23%), Thiamin (11%), Manganese (11%)
Suggested recipe: Easy Pea Soup

Rounding out the list, it’s the tastiest of all natural starches: the sweet potato (or yam, if you’re feeling semantic). Sweet potatoes have all the benefits and cooking versatility of regular potatoes, plus lots of fiber, a metric ton of Vitamin A, and an alluring orange color. Enter their world, and you will never want to leave.

Serving size: One cup cubed (about 4.75 oz).
Peapod/Stop & Shop cost: $0.50 per potato
Good Source of: Fiber (16% of 2000-calorie diet), Vitamin A (377%), Vitamin B6 (14%), Potassium (13%), Copper (10%), Manganese (17%)
Suggested recipe: Sweet Potato and Chickpea Puree

Readers, what do you think of the list? What would you add? What would you leave off? The comment section is ready and waiting.

(Photos courtesy of Human 2.0, Real Simple, Zeer, Converting Magazine, and How Stuff Works.)


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