Saucy Ways to Eat Better and Save Money

homemade pesto

Today’s guest post is by Barney Whistance.

Everybody enjoys satisfying their taste buds and cravings by eating a scrumptious meal. Whether it’s homemade mac and cheese on a chilly night, fresh green salad with Caesar dressing or pizza with your favorite zesty ranch dip, you know you need the right sauce to elevate your food from plain nice to super yummy.

However, often at the end of our trips to the grocery store, we are left with a lengthy receipt of items bought, a big dent in our bank account and many questions buzzing in our heads. How did the bill reach that high? Did I buy things I shouldn’t have? Why does this always happen? Why are these oh-so-tempting and fancy-named sauces so darn expensive?

Well, the answer is because they are! And they aren’t expensive because of the product it contains but more so because of the brand it belongs to and the designing, packaging, and marketing that went behind it. Knowing that we wish that we could sometimes maybe try making them ourselves yet we are never able to muster up the motivation and effort to do that. Nonetheless, there are solid reasons which should encourage you to replace your store-bought sauces and dips with cheaper, healthier and tastier homemade ones.

Dipping Sauce

When you replace these commonly used dips with your own versions, you will be saving your hard earned money. Secondly, you will be healthier due to the reduction in sugars, salts, vegetable oils, and nutrition-less fillers like gum or starch. And thirdly you will enjoy a more renewed, sensitive and mature taste palate formed by tasting fresh and natural ingredients. The following are some healthy sauces you can easily make at home.

  1. Tomato Sauce: A staple in every American household as we buy 10 billion ounces of it each year, ketchup is found in around 97 percent of our homes.  But such high consumption of store-bought ketchup is unhealthy and unnecessarily expensive. Why waste money on a fancy looking ketchup when you can make the same quality sauce at home for less than a dollar? All you need are some cans of tomatoes and some simple spices. Cook it all together and add flour, or grind veggies like onions or beet for a thicker consistency and a unique flavor. To make it for a sassy dinner party you can experiment with red wine, basil, and parsley.  According to moneypantry.com, homemade ketchup is less than half to a quarter of the cost of a store bought one.

  2. Mayonnaise: Mayonnaise is so commonly used that we just expect it to be there in our fridge all the time, although the commercial versions can be costly, not great in taste and high in calorie and sugar content. However making it is very easy and a person who doesn’t know how to cook can even do it well. With just 5 ingredients and a blender, you will do your pocket and health a big favor especially if you, like most Americans, use it often.

  3. Pesto sauce: While sounding intricate and complex, pasta’s partner – pesto – can be made with any aromatic and tasty green leaf, nutty oil and hard salty cheese. If you have lemon, garlic, salt and olive oil, then you can make this sauce for any budget that you are under. You can add kale and other greens to up the nutritional value, in addition to the standard basil.

  4. Yogurt/Greek Yogurt: Another daily use food product, making yogurt will not only be easy but very cost effective, especially in Greek style. Most people assume that it’s very hard to make Greek yogurt but in fact the opposite is true. Making both types of yogurts is simple, it involves boiling and cooling the milk, mixing in a spoon of yogurt either natural or store bought and then keeping the mixture at a warm temperature for a few hours. That’s your yogurt, now remove whey or the watery liquid from it completely through a sieve, strainer cloth or tissues and what you are left with is the exotic Greek variety. Cost savings for homemade yogurt compared to a store bought one is up to 84%.

  5. Jams, curds and concentrates: Commercial store bought jams often seem extremely cheap but when you take a look at the ingredients there’s hardly 20% fruit. That’s expensive for a load of sugary water with preservatives. Making your marmalade and concentrates at home will be much cheaper, tastier and healthier. However, the tip here is to remember to stick with the fruits with are in season so that you can find them easily and cheaply and make big batches. Curds too are highly priced at stores with low-quality ingredients whereas the same can be made with all organic ingredients at home with less than half the price.

Granola bars, croutons, bread and baby food are some other food and snacks that you can easily make at home for yourself and your family. Remember the bigger your batch the more you save. You can also easily freeze the batches of most of these for later use. This way you will cut down your needless costs and keep your body slim and healthy. In the end, you will find that making more and more of your food at home will reap many benefits to your entire lifestyle.

 

Barney-Whistance

 

Barney Whistance is an enthusiastic Finance and Economics blogger who is most interested in global economic climate. Apart from doing majors in Finance, he is also a Chartered Accountancy Student and planning to complete his Ph.D. in Finance before he turns 30. You find him on Twitter.

5 Easy to Make Summer Salads

This week’s Meal Planning Monday is by Amy of Savvy Saving Couple.

Memorial Day kicked off the unofficial start to summer. That means warmer weather, sunshine, lazy beach days and cookouts. I don’t know about you but I love a good BBQ meal! For me, it is all about the delicious and easy to make summer salads.

Since the heat is up, I don’t exactly feel like spending my days stuck indoors cooking. That is why my family eats a lot of easy to make summer salads, and smaller meals. We love potato salad, green salads, pasta salads, and even simple sandwiches.

Here are some of my top 5 easy to make summer salads that are sure to please the crowds. They require minimal effort, and are jam-packed with flavor and zest.

Pesto Caprese Macaroni Salad: This pasta salad is a unique twist on pesto and caprese salad. I guess you can say it combines the best of both dishes into one make-ahead salad that could even double as a main dish. It is perfect for picnics and BBQ’s because it only gets more flavorful the longer it is chilled (up to 24 hours).

Parmesan Pesto Steak Salad: Looking for a salad that doubles as a meal? This protein packed dish is perfect for leftover steak tips, or even a cheaper cut of grilled steak. The pesto, extra Parmesan and steak are a surprisingly tasty combination that my husband loves!

Feta, Basil, Tomato and Bowtie Pasta Salad: I don’t know about you but I love pasta and feta cheese combined. This recipe is super colorful and totally tasty! It is almost like a caprese salad, but the main star is the salty feta which balances well with the fresh basil.

 

Corn and Asparagus Salad: The flavors of summer make this vegetable based salad a winning dish. Freshly shucked sweet corn, and tender asparagus pair well with honey, and balsamic dressing to make a sweet and savory medley.

Cheeseburger Salad: Who doesn’t love a good burger this time of year? Last year I was trying to watch my carbs so I decided to make a cheeseburger salad that contained all the classic of a burger with fresh Thousand Island dressing. The result was an amazingly tasty salad that I could probably eat every single day! I even made hamburger bun croutons that I added sparingly to my plate—way too good!

 

 

 

 

 

Meal Planning Monday ~ Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

             Last night’s new side dish was a complete and total failure!  I was attempting to make mashed cauliflower.  “Your family won’t know the difference between this and real mashed potatoes,” the recipe declared.  Yeah, right!  The texture was all wrong – more like sauerkraut than mashed potatoes.  The taste was okay, but hubby and I thought it would be a waste of good gravy, and made some instant mashed potatoes instead.  The failed kitchen experiment went into the trash.

            Mistakes and flops are a part of life, even in the kitchen.  Sometimes it’s the cook’s fault and sometimes the cause is a bad recipe.  I’ve resolved to try at least one new recipe per week this year.  I’m sure I will find some new favorites, but I expect that some will be mediocre and a few will be total flops. I used to take failure in the kitchen very personally, but I’ve realized there’s no point in beating myself up over it.  My new motto is: Nothing ventured, nothing gained!

            I’ve actually been trying quite a few recipes and cooking methods to go along with my recent Detox Drop and Carb Stepping process with the Diet Free Life methodology.   So I have been searching for some yummy recipes that are lower in carbs, thus the mashed cauliflower experiment.  I’ve even created a Pinterest board for those low carb recipes I want to try.  Below is my meal plan for this week.

Monday ~ Mmmm Chicken, sautéed mushrooms, and parmesan baked zucchini.  This chicken is a new recipe, and it looks easy and delicious.  Put four boneless chicken breasts in a glass baking dish.  In a small bowl, combine ½ cup of sour cream (I’ll use reduced fat sour cream) and ¼ cup of parmesan cheese.  Spread over chicken breasts in a baking dish.  Sprinkle Italian bread crumbs on top.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

Tuesday ~ Eggplant Rollitini with a spinach salad.

Wednesday ~ Out to dinner with a friend to one of my favorite restaurants – BoneFish!

Thursday ~ Fish tacos and refried beans.  My version of fish tacos is very easy.  Season some tilapia with Mrs. Dash’s Fiesta Lime seasoning.  Pan-fry it with some olive oil cooking spray.  Divide among tortillas, and top with mixed salad greens, shredded cheese, some salsa or hot sauce, and guacamole.

Friday ~ Portobello Mushroom Pizzas

Saturday ~ Pesto Chicken Thighs in the crock pot with garlic roasted asparagus.

Sunday ~ Lately Nick and I have been eating Mexican carry out on Sundays.  If not, I will make my “grown up grilled cheese” sandwiches and vegetable soup.

Meal Planning Monday ~ Pesto Perfection

            Hi, my name is Christine Luken, and I’m addicted to pesto!  Really – I can’t get enough of that basil, garlic, and olive oil perfection.  And lately I’ve been eating it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Breakfast?  Yes!  It wouldn’t have occurred to me to put a smear of pesto on an egg sandwich until Panera debuted their Mediterranean Egg White sandwich several months ago.  It’s essentially a breakfast panini – bread, egg white, pesto, cheese, and sundried tomatoes.  It’s super-delicious, but not cheap!

            So I decided to make my own version at home!  First I cook my egg in a little bit of Smart Balance spread or butter.  I take two pieces of whole wheat bread, outsides buttered and sprinkled with Parmesan cheese.  Once the egg is cooked, I add it to the bread with a smear of pesto on one side and some sharp white cheddar cheese and cook it like a grilled cheese sandwich.  My mouth is watering as I type this!

            Of course, pesto isn’t just for breakfast!  You can add it to your sandwiches for lunch instead of mayo or mustard.  And I love making a great pasta dish with a pesto-based sauce and a good glass of red wine for dinner.  Here are a few great recipes ideas for you fellow pesto addicts!

  • Warm Italiano Spread ~ This is one of my favorite appetizer recipes from Kraft!  It’s simple, delicious, and my party guests always love it!

  • Creamy Pesto Chicken & Bow Ties ~ This is a new recipe that I’m trying this week.  It’s a little different from my usual pesto and chicken pasta recipe and I’m excited to try it!  See recipe below.

  • Pesto Stuffed Crescent Rolls ~ Leah suggested I try these rolls for a delicious side dish for dinner.  Pesto and mozzarella cheese tucked into a warm crescent roll – what’s not to love about that?

  • Pizza ~ If you like to make your own pizza, why not top yours with pesto, mozzarella, and fresh tomato slices?

What’s your favorite way to enjoy pesto?

Creamy Pesto Chicken & Bow Ties (From CampbellsKitchen.com)

2 Tablespoons of butter

1 ¼ Pounds of skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into cubes

1 Can (10.75 ounces) of Campbell’s Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup 98% Fat Free

½ Cup of pesto

½ Cup of Milk

½ of a 1-pound package of bow tie (farfalle) pasta (about 3 cups), cooked and drained.

Heat butter in a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat.  Add chicken and cook until browned, stirring often.

Stir in the soup, pesto, and milk and heat to a boil.  Reduce heat to low.  Cook for about 5 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.  Stir in the pasta and cook until the mixture is hot and bubbling.