Eating Well on a Limited Budget

Ed Note: The below comment was originally posted to my blog by Jill Ferris. There is a great deal of wisdom here. Read on.

Many years ago when I was worrying about how to eat healthily on a very very limited budget I met a young mother who was raised in a poor family (12 children) who told me what they ate growing up.

Basically, they ate cooked dried beans, cornbread and some sort of cooked greens (like turnip greens) for at least two meals a day all year long. She said they got ice cream once a year for Christmas or Fourth of July. That was it.

When she married and moved across the country she went to a doctor and dentist for the first time in her life and was told that she was the healthiest person they had ever seen. The dentist had never seen teeth as strong as hers!!

I thought about her parents and wondered if they worried all those years about not really “providing” for their family and wondered if they realized what wonderful health their children had because of growing up without refined foods!

Meeting her was reassuring to me. I realized that good nutrition can be very simple and very plain. It can be very very inexpensive. It, of course, must be balanced (the beans and the corn bread compliment each other and the greens are a wonderful food if not overcooked).

I realized that we could get very, very poor and still afford GOOD nutritious food!

So that’s my money saving tip! Relax, trust in God to provide what you need, ask Him to teach you simple ways to make nutritious foods (sprouting seeds is one of those ways; they are very cheap but highly nutritious!) and have the confidence to know that you are providing the BEST for your family!

The above tip was writted by Jill Ferris and I think this is a top tip for frugal eating!
Be encouraged.

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12 comments to Eating Well on a Limited Budget

  • […] week I printed the testimonial about a “poor” woman raised in a large family of 12 children who were fed beans, cornbread, and […]

  • Denise Nickel

    Here are a few of my favorite bean recipes. I hope to win the vegetable wash as I don’t have very much carpet left (allergies/wood floors). Thanks!

    Bean and Ham Soup

    Use when you have a ham bone or leftover ham.

    Soak 2 cups of washed and culled beans overnight (I buy organic beans in bulk and make a mixture – black, kidney, red, navy etc.) Add 1/8 tsp. of baking soda to soaking water which will help reduce indigestible sugars.

    Drain mixture in the morning and rinse beans. Add 2 quarts of water and ham shank or soupbone.

    Simmmer for 21/2 -3 hours.

    Remove shank and cut up meat.

    Then add:

    28 oz. can tomatoes, chopped
    1 garlic clove, minced
    2 T. salt
    1 large onion, chopped
    1 large red pepper, chopped or equivelent amout of red pepper flakes

    I also add 1 C. celery and 1 C. carrots cut small so don’t have to simmer extra time

    Simmer all the ingredients for 30 minutes except the ham as it’s already cooked.

    Add the ham when there is 10 minutes left to simmer. If I have frozen kale on hand, I put some of that in at that time also (with the ham)

    Refried Beans – very good

    I use my crockpot for this one:

    3 1/2 cups cleaned and rinsed
    3/4 onion, chopped
    3 garlic cloves, minced
    3 T. oil

    Everything goes in the crock pot and then I fill it up the crockpot with water covering everything, but making sure there is head room. I let it cook on hight for about 6 hours or when the beans are ready.

    Add 2 T. salt at the end of the cooking so beans don’t get tough

    Then take 2 C. of the bean mixture (water and all) and put in a fry pan with oil on the bottom. Mash the mixture and add a little cheddar, or whatever cheese you like, to the mixture while mashing until the water is gone or to the consistency that you like.

    They are so tasty:)

    Taco Soup

    1 lb. ground beef, browned and drained
    28 oz. crushed tomatoes
    2 C. Corn (frozed, canned or fresh)
    2 C. Black beans (already cooked, or in can)
    2 C. Kidney beans (already cooked, or in can)
    2 C. Pinto beans (already cooked, or in can)
    1 pkg. or equivalent of bulk or homemade taco season
    1 medium onion, chopped

    Combine all ingredients in slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 4-6 hours.

    Garnish individual servings with corn chips, cheese, and sour cream, if desired.

    May also serve with warm tortillas.

  • Melody

    This is a recipe submission for the frugal bean dishes. We’ve always been great bean eaters and love a variety of serving options. Here is one of our favorite regulars. We usually always have prepared and frozen ahead of time boxes of cooked beans, chicken, and broths. This makes the scratch cooking wholesome foods job a lot easier and faster to get on the table.

    Mexican Chicken Tortilla Soup
    3 c. chicken broth, or more
    1/2 c chopped onion
    1 c. or so diced red potatoes, or equal to a can or so of black, pinto, or chili-style beans
    2 c. frozen corn, optional
    1 c. cooked brown rice, optional
    1/2 large green pepper, diced
    2 tsp minced garlic
    2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut up,
    1 can (14 oz) Mexican style stewed tomatoes
    1 tsp chopped jalapeno peppers
    1/2 tsp gr. cumin
    organic corn chips, as garnish
    1 Tbs. lime juice (I’ll usually use 1/2 squeezed lemon)
    1/4 c chopped cilantro
    salt and pepper, to taste

    In a large soup pot over med-high heat, bring 1/2 c broth to a boil. Add onions, potatoes, gr. pepper, and garlic. Cook and stir for 5 min. Add chicken, cook and stir for 1 min. Add stewed tomatoes, jalapenos, cumin and remaining broth. Bring to a boil, lower temperature and simmer for about 15 minutes or until potatoes are soft. Add lime juice and cilantro just before serving to not overcook. Serve with the chips.
    I’m never precise when cooking this. The ingredients list is the foundation of this recipe. Your amounts or soup construction is your choice. It does seem to matter on not cooking your lime/lemon cilantro that you add at the end.

    Another tip, we live in a grocery store challenged area. There are times when cilantro can’t be found. I try to keep a pre-chopped frozen baggie of it in my freezer from when I do find a nice supply.

    I hope you will enjoy this soup as much as we do.

  • Helen

    These legume recipes came from my mother-in-law, Martha, who is a great cook. They are delicious and economical and with bread or rice make a sufficient, hearty meal.

    Lentil Soup
    To this basic recipe can be added sausage, hot dogs, garlic, diced tomatoes, carrots…
    Wash 2 cups lentils
    Add 8 cups water
    1 teaspoon salt
    1 onion, chopped
    Simmer 1-2 hours or until tender.
    Salt and pepper to taste. Puree if desired. Add water if too thick.

    Split Pea Soup
    2 cups split peas (We prefer yellow peas.)
    Ham hock or bone
    8 cups water
    1 onion, chopped
    Simmer 2-3 hours.
    Remove ham meat from bone, chop and return to the soup.
    Salt and Pepper to taste.

    This is not a soup; it is thick, fork food. It can be eaten as a side dish. Sometimes we cook sausages separately, and eat it with apples for a simple supper.
    Sauté 2 large onions, chopped, in oil.
    Add 1 cup lentils
    ½ cup whole-grain rice (If you use white rice, add it after half-an-hour.)
    4-1/2 cups water
    and bring to a boil. Simmer covered for one hour, stirring occasionally.
    Add 1-1/2 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.

    Peas Pudding
    Another side dish, which we make also with yellow split peas.
    In a large pan, cook ½ cup minced onion and 1 cup diced ham in butter until onions are limp but not brown. Add 2 cups washed dry peas and stir until slightly brown. Add 1 quart chicken stock or water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer covered about 45 minutes or until peas are tender but not mushy. Watch and stir often after about ½ hour so it doesn’t burn. Season with salt.

  • Anita

    Thank you for sharing this article. It’s really encouraging to know that we can eat healthy on a budget. Our family enjoys simple county cooking, so it good to know that it’s a healthy way to eat.

  • Corrine

    This is a family favorite that is cheap & easy to make. Substitute whatever ingredients you have on hand for a creative pot of chili. It’s tasty with other garden vegetables as well such as chopped kale, swiss chard or spinach. Be careful not to overcook the greens so add the spinach at the very end before serving and the other greens 1/2 way through the crockpot cooking time. If you have a lot of new potatoes from your garden that are misshapen you can easily extend the pot by adding them. Just scrub them well to remove the dirt. This was my son’s idea to use up his crop of little potatoes and we enjoyed the variation.

    Crockpot White Chili
    Serves 6 to 8.
    1 pound Great Northern or navy beans, soaked (2 ½ cups dry beans)
    2 large carrots, sliced
    1 medium onion, chopped
    3 cloves garlic, minced or ½ tsp garlic powder
    2 tsp ground cumin
    1 tsp oregano
    1 quart homemade chicken broth with bits of meat removed from bone

    Put beans in medium pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and allow to simmer 20 minutes. Discard water. Put all ingredients in crock-pot. Stir to mix thoroughly. Cover. Cook on low 10-12 hours or high 5-6 hours.

    After cooked:
    · Add up to ½ tsp sea salt if desired to the crockpot or sprinkle individual bowls with paprika or cayenne pepper for no salt diets and other family members add salt to bowls as desired.
    · Sprinkle bowls with Monterey Jack cheese or whatever you have on hand
    · Want soup instead? Add up to 2 cups hot water.
    · Serve with fresh bread, salad, and fruit for dessert.

    Enjoy~ Corrine

  • Courtney

    This is a really basic but extremely versatile recipe that is ridiculously easy! I like to use the two-stage process, so when I soak my beans overnight, I add a couple of teaspoons of whey (you can also use lemon juice or other acid).

    1 pound beans (I use pintos)
    Filter water
    Bag of baby carrots (or 7-8 carrots peeled and sliced)
    Olive oil

    Into the crockpot the night before I want to use my beans, I put about one pound of pinto beans (black, white or other beans would be great too), enough filtered water to generously cover them and 2 Tbsp whey. In the morning I pour the soaked beans into a collander and give them a rinse. Then back into the crockpot, cover with filtered water again, and switch the pot to low to simmer for the day. I always add either one bag of baby carrots, or 7-8 peeled and sliced carrots to simmer with the beans (they add nutritional value as well as a very nice texture when the beans are smashed later). Remember to check the water level once or twice during the day and adjust accordingly (they need be just covered with water).

    When the beans are soft, switch off the crockpot (I usually let them go at least six hours) and get out the masher. I like to add a generous drizzle of olive oil and some good quality salt to taste at this point. When the beans and carrots are nicely smashed, I usually scoop out some and mix it with browned turkey or beef to fill burritos. The rest I portion into freezer bags to make tacos, taco salad, Mexican taco soup, rice and beans topped with taco fixings, Mexican layered casserole, nachos, etc… I love having the basis for a variety of healthy, delicious and very economical meals at the tip of my fingers.

  • Darcy

    This recipe is so good with a loaf of crusty bread and a green salad.

    Tuscan White Bean Soup

    1 pound of soaked white beans (your choice)

    Cook 3 cups of chopped onions in olive oil until soft.
    Add 2 garlic cloves and cook an additional 2 minutes.
    Add the beans
    Add 2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon of pepper, 1 teaspoon dried rosemary, and 1 bay leaf.
    Add 2 quarts of stock (your choice)

    Raise to a simmer and cook about 30 minutes until beans are tender.
    Using an emulsifier, blender, or food processer, puree soup and serve.

  • Sonja

    A favorite bean recipe around here is for Dahl or Curried Split Peas. The recipe is as follows:

    1C dried split peas (soaked for about 4 hours in 2 1/2 C Water)
    Bring to a boil and add:
    1t Tumeric
    1/2t Red Chili Powder
    1t Salt
    Simmer partly covered for about 20 minutes or until soft. Add extra water as needed – should be kind of thick.

    While the peas are simmering saute in a small frying pan:
    3T margarine or butter
    1 large onion thinly sliced
    1t whole cumin
    10 whole cloves
    5 whole black peppercorns.
    Fry until onions are well browned then add to the cooked peas.

    I usually serve this over rice. I start a pot of rice when I start cooking the beans and everything is done in about 30 minutes. Often we have boiled eggs with this for extra protein and we like to put peanuts and raisens on top to make it pretty and taste even better. This is a really easy recipe that is really cheap and very tasty. Oh… one note… I usually pick out the whole cloves and peppercorns before serving this to my family because if my kids bite in to a clove they won’t eat this again for weeks! Enjoy!

  • Lynn

    My best friend and I both were blessed to have Italian grandmothers (“Nonni”) who excelled in preparing any kind of greens recipe. Nothing was ever written down, but passed down. You can basically take any kind of green (collard, kale, escarole, beet tops, chard, etc.) and do “variations on a theme” with the following ingredients, based on what you like. I’ve done my best to nail down amounts, but often with passed-down Italian cooking, everything was eyeballed!

    “Nonni’s Greens and Beans”
    1-3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
    1/2 med onion, chopped finely
    2 oz chopped pancetta or any flavorful fatty leftover meat for flavor (i.e., bacon, sausage) **THIS PART OPTIONAL TO MAKE VEGETARIAN**
    Olive Oil for sauteing
    4-6 roma tomatoes, or 1/2 large can whole peeled tomatoes (I like “Muir Glen” brand best) chopped
    1-1 1/2 cups legume beans, prepared or canned (I like cannelini, great northern and black–you can mix these up or do just one kind)
    1-2 bunches of washed, chopped greens of choice (remember they cook down a LOT!)
    A little bit of chicken stock or water
    a pinch of cayenne pepper (opt.)
    S&P to taste
    Freshly grated cheese for serving

    Heat the oil (med-high heat) and saute pancetta to render the fat, then add onion to soften then garlic to soften. Add tomatoes and let cook down for about 5 minutes, stirring to move everything around. Add the greens and put the cover on the pan for a few minutes to let everything wilt down. Now add some liquid; if you have stock leftover, you can add this; if not, water is fine. The amount of liquid is determined by how loose or soupy you would like the greens and beans–my friend’s Nonni would do them pretty soupy, I like them a tiny bit drier so I only put about a scant cup of liquid in. Put the prepared beans in next and season with S,P and cayenne to taste. Cover and let everything simmer together for a good 30-45 minutes depending upon the green. Collards and Kale for example, will require more time as they are tougher.
    To serve, top with freshly grated parmesan or romano cheese…Fantastico!!!

    Escarole is wonderful this way:

    olive oil
    1 large chopped onion
    1-2 cloves minced fresh garlic
    Enough chicken stock or water to cover greens
    1 (or 2 if small) bunches escarole, washed and chopped

    in dutch oven saute the onion and garlic until soft. Add prepare greens and cover with stock or water and cover. Simmer for an hour covered. These greens come out so tasty and tender and don’t throw away that broth!! You can drink this (LOTS of vitamins here) or use it in another recipe.

  • Just wanted you to know that we are praying for your family right now. May God comfort your hearts, envelop you in His peace, and hold you close.

  • Katy

    Thanks and blessings to everyone for these frugal healthful recipes. Older folks on their own have the same need and godly desire to share with whomever the Lord brings us if we no longer have family. I have 2 favorite bean meals, one for hot weather and one for cold.

    Hot Weather:
    Equal quantities of:
    Prepared or canned beans (I love black.)
    Cooked & cooled or canned corn.
    Steamed & cooled or canned green beans.

    I toss them all with homemade oil/vinegar/herbs dressing & eat room temp or chilled. If I have some sliced black olives I love to include those too. With some nice bread like Marilyn’s this is filling and decently nutritious. If I have some cheese I make it a half grilled cheese sandwich.

    Cold Weather:
    Don’t forget the traditional Boston Beans and Brown Bread supper. We sometimrs had “dogs” with it. It’s a pot of your favorite baked beans (cooked with a little bacon, molassess & brown sugar) served with a slice of dark brown bread. Brown Bread has molasses (can add raisins) and is steamed in a can in a water bath on the stove or in the oven, or in a buttered widemouth canning jar in a crockpot. It’s a soft “quick bread” and you eat a slice of it more with a fork than trying to hold it. To add the non traditional nutritional boost of a veggie if you have it: steamed zuccini slices in the beans are nice, or a green salad with a tangy dressing is great (everything else is a bit sweet.)

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