There are 12 essential ingredients that every cook should have on hand at all times. These include the main protein – whey, casein, egg, chicken, fish, cheese, soybeans, lentils, brown rice, corn and flaxseed oil. Nuts and avocados round out the rest. If you want a versatile source of good fats you can try peanut, almond, and sesame seed oils. You should also be aware that refined grains and sweets should be avoided at all costs.
It is also important to include healthy carbohydrates such as whole grain bread, pasta and rice. Unprocessed vegetables like carrots, green beans, cabbage and cauliflower should be included. As for fruits, you need to make sure you get enough servings of berries and citrus fruits. Some people may think you should eliminate sugar from your diet, but the reality is that there is probably more sugar in some foods than in others.
Other items that should be included are fresh herbs and spices, fresh seasonal vegetables, and dairy and non-fat dairy products. Most people skip these in favor of convenience foods like chips and fries. But the health benefits of eating these foods in moderation far outweigh the short-term savings. Also, if you are making a big batch of baked items, consider using cookie cutters that cut circular, not square. This means your cookies are nice and flat instead of having lumps and bumps in the right places.
Many families these days eat meals together and continue to do so even after the holidays. This is good because it means you don’t have to be too restrictive about what you serve your family. Even when you start with the most basic ingredients, you can easily add variety by cooking different kinds of meals at once. For example, you can make a spinach and feta omelet, turkey chili, or even a tossed salad with chicken, turkey, and brie. There really is no limit.
When cooking for a large group, consider buying multi-grain bread and crackers. These ingredients will go a long way in adding variety to your meal. When shopping for ingredients, remember that cheaper is not always better, particularly when you are cutting costs to prepare a healthy diet menu for your family. Look for the “big-name” brands that you recognize as authentic, as well as the healthier ingredients and less packaged foods that appeal to you.
Another thing you can do to save money is to take advantage of sales or “competition” pricing. You can find great bargains at any time of year. During the winter holidays, when people shop out of necessities such as food, you can often find deep discounts at stores such as Wal-Mart or Target. You may even find items available at a discount at the beginning of summertime.
Do not forget to shop early for promotional items such as food processors, toaster ovens, and vacuum sealers. You can save quite a bit of money on food processing equipment by shopping at the beginning of a season when demand is high. In addition, consider purchasing items from liquidation warehouses. These warehouses often have special deals for end-of-stock items. Liquidation prices are often below retail, allowing you to buy more items, but in small quantities.
Finally, to make the most of your new recipes, be sure to buy quality ingredients. You may be tempted to shortcut through cooking, selecting ingredients that will make your recipe appear easy. However, if you cook with lower quality ingredients, you will find your recipes don’t turn out as well. If you start with high-quality ingredients, your meals will cook thoroughly and be healthy. Start planning your next dinner budget based on the following 12 essential ingredients for healthy cooking on a budget: