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Delicious, healthy … and thrifty!

Larissa Newton
February 1, 2016

There’s a stigma around healthy eating that it’s also going to cost you big bucks.

Some “fancy” grocery stores seem to be known as healthier because they offer more organic options, or even food that just sounds more lavish. These stores play on that perception by charging you more money.

But eating healthy does not have to be expensive.

You might have heard of one of the newest food crazes where you making noodles out of vegetables using a spiralizer. This craze is delicious, healthy AND cheap.

For Christmas, I was spoiled with a spiralizer attachment for my KitchenAid mixer, but one of the most-well-reviewed options on Amazon is only $10. I’ve been using mine pretty much daily to make a lunch of zucchini noodles with a variety of sauces. A huge bowl of the noodles with a tasty red sauce will likely clock in at under 150 calories.

Honestly, vegetables are your best friend when it comes to eating healthy on a budget. You just have to know how to cook them.

Afraid of Brussels sprouts? Don’t be. Get them fresh and roast them with some chopped red onion and drizzled with olive oil. Actually, roasting vegetables is always a good idea.

Or you can get frozen veggies and mix them in with beans, rice or couscous — all of which are cheap options. Just find a good balance between the amount of starch and vegetables (the more veggies the better).

Eggs can be a great option, too. Mix up those same veggies with eggs to make a huge omelet. Throw some fresh fruit on the side for a beautiful breakfast.

Speaking of breakfast, learn to embrace oatmeal. And I’m not talking about those measly bowls of instant oatmeal. One of my favorite writers, Hungry Girl, has recipes for what she calls growing oatmeal bowls. In one of her daily e-newsletters, she describes them as, “An HG recipe for old-fashioned oatmeal in which the amount of liquid and the cook time for standard recipes are DOUBLED, yielding enormous portions with impressive nutritionals. Often indulgent; always super filling and crazy delicious.” That same email has Oversize Carnival Oatmeal (with chocolate, bananas, peanuts and caramel) and Blueberry Muffin Oatmeal. The calorie counts are just 312 and 270, respectively.

Are you hungry yet?

Another key aspect of eating healthy on a budget is planning ahead.

I’ve written before about making slow cooker freezer meals. Prepare all the ingredients ahead of time and pop in the freezer until you are ready to cook. That morning, throw the frozen concoction right into the slow cooker, turn it on and go about your day. You’ll come home to a steaming meal of awesomeness.

But really, just making a weekly menu can save you a ton of time. And knowing what you are going to eat in advance can keep you from snacking — especially if you stash those healthy snacks at your desk rather than scavenging from the vending machine. That saves you cash and calories.

It’s easy to say that it’s too expensive to eat healthy, but, please, don’t give in to the hype. Healthy foods can be delicious and thrifty, too.

Tackling veggie noodles

Turning your favorite vegetable into noodles is all the craze right now, but how do you do it? The easiest way would be to buy a spiralizer, which are abundant in the market. Spiralizers can range in price from just $10 all the way into the hundreds. I was gifted with a spiralizer attachment for my KitchenAid mixer at Christmas; it costs about $100. The Veggetti, however, gets awesome reviews on Amazon and costs only $10-$15; you’ll just need to use a little more elbow grease since you’ll be turning the vegetable by hand.

You can also skip the spiralizer and use a simple peeler to slice the veggie into super-thin strips.

Now that you’ve got your vegetable noodles, it’s time to cook ’em up. I’m a fan of sautéing them in a skillet at medium-high heat. Use an olive oil nonstick spray to keep things healthy. Cook and stir the noodles until they are hot and slightly softened — 3 minutes or so. Then, I add my favorite sauce to the pan (basic red sauces are awesome and low-calorie) and mix with the noodles until heated through.

That’s it! You’re done! Plate that deliciousness and eat it up.

➺ Note: Eating your vegetable noodles at work? I’ve found that microwaving my zucchini noodles for about a minute, adding the sauce and then microwaving for another 45 seconds works just as well.

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