Hey guys 🙂
How’s everyone doing?
I’ve been doing a few polls in my instagram stories lately (if you’d don’t follow me on insta already, my handle is @holisticnutritionninja) and this blog post is by far the one that’s been voted for AND requested via private messages the most.
So, today I thought I’d share a few healthy dinner ideas that don’t break the bank…
Now I know a lot of people are under the impression that eating healthy is expensive and honestly, I both agree and disagree with this.
If on the one hand you’re going to opt for everything organic and vegan dairy alternatives and super-food powders and ten different nut butters and edamame pasta and every other item you can find in the ‘health’ section in the supermarket, then YES; this can become insanely expensive. Now, FULL DISCLOSURE – I have personally tried many things of this nature and I’m not trying to shame anyone who chooses to eat this way. In fact, I think that If you’d like to experiment with different things and are curious and would like to try a new nut butter or whatever it may be, then go for it. But keep in mind that you don’t need all these frills to eat healthily. These are all optional add-ons. Not only are they optional, I would argue that most of these things are actually totally unnecessary for a healthy diet.
On the other hand, when we look at what was historically known as cheap peasant food (like rice, beans and lentils to name a few) these are all actually very nutritious. These types of foods were (and in some places still to this very day) the foods that the less financially affluent people would tend to consume . In the past, many people would use animal foods sparingly to add flavor as opposed to making say a piece of steak the main component of the meal in poorer regions especially. Financially, eating these types of meals makes sense. Health wise, this makes a lot of sense too.
The truth of the matter is that most of us consumer too many rich foods. Now I’m not here to say that you can’t eat this or that – you can do whatever you please. As I started in my blog post What is a “healthy diet” anyway? practically anything can form part of a healthy balanced diet.
I personally choose to cook mainly vegetarian and vegan foods at home then eat whatever I fancy when we go out for dinner – which tends to be once to twice a week. This is not to say that you HAVE TO do this to be healthy. It’s just the way I prefer to eat and even though it is based upon sound scientific and nutrition data, you don’t have to do this. I choose to do it to add more variety and experiment with more veggies to my diet which increases fiber, vitamins & minerals and phytonutrients. This is why the dinners I’m going to share here are mainly vegetarian.
To me, the simplest way to think about it is that if something is a whole food that came from nature – like veg, fruits, legumes, eggs and so on – it’s safe to assume it’s healthy. If a food comes from a factory, maybe check to see what’s in it. Highly processed foods tend to contain additives, tons of salt, stabilizers and nasty ingredients that are not ideal to put it mildly.
This is not to say that all food processing is bad. Many foods would be inedible unless processed and many people would go hungry without the easy and cheaper processed foods. The fact that we can choose means that we are undeniably and immensely lucky.
I also know that veggies can be quite pricey and don’t have a long shelf life. So what I have found helpful is to buy a little at a time. Also, don’t be afraid of tinned or frozen veggies. Frozen veggies can actually contain more nutrients than fresh veggies that have been in the shop for a couple of days and then in your fridge for a couple more!
So, without any further delay, here are FIVE budget-friendly dinners:
MEAL 1 – LENTIL DHAL
This has to be one of my new found fave meals. It’s so satisfying and so easy to make. This ideal of those days when you don’t know what to make and you’re out of veggies! I love serving this over some rice. So good! Lentils are really inexpensive – I bought a Kilo of split red/orange lentils for around Euro 4!
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium onion (chopped finely)
- 1 large tomato / 6 cherry tomatoes (chopped)
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger
- chili to taste (optional)
- 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon milk curry
- 1 can (light) coconut milk (400ml)
- 1 cup / 200 grams red/orange split lentils
- 4 cubes frozen spinach
Start by adding olive oil and chopped onion to a pot over medium heat. Allow it to cook for a minute or two and then add chopped tomato. Cook together for another minute of two then add ginger and the dried spices and cook them with the onion and tomato for around five minutes until very fragrant. Now add coconut milk, 400ml Water, the lentils, some salt and pepper and frozen spinach to the pot. Give it a good stir and cover. Simmer for at least 15 – 20 minutes on medium to low heat. That’s it!
MEAL 2 – VEGGIE OMELETTE (serves 2)
This is the sort of dinner I make when I want to use up and the veggies I have in my fridge – plus, as I’m sure many of you who follow me on social media know, I LOVE eggs.
- 3 eggs
- olive oil
- 1 onion (sliced)
- veggies – example: thinly sliced marrow, kale, spinach, mushrooms, bell peppers, snap peas etc.
- feta cheese (to crumble on top)
There’s no exact way to make this, however my preferred way of making a veggie omelette is to start by heating up some olive oil in a large pan on medium to high heat. First add the onions and cook for a few minutes while chopping up and preparing the rest of your veggies. Once the onions are cooked, add the rest of your veggies and cook well. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl with a splash of water (not sure why but it makes the omelette more fluffy). Once the veggies are cooked, add the beaten eggs to the pan, turn the heat down and cover and cook on low heat for several minutes until the eggs are cooked through. I don’t flip it – I’ve made one too many messes on my stove top to even bother. My favorite way to make this is allowing the eggs to cook, crumbling the feta on top – then either cover again to cook until the feta melts and serve as is OR by closing the omelette by GENTLY folding it in half in the pan and then transferring to a plate. Serve with a side of rocket leaves, avocado or some sweet potato fries and you have yourself an awesome quick inexpensive meal loaded with nutrients!
MEAL 3 – LENTIL CHILI
Lentil chili is the veggie version of chili con carne – I like making this quite often in winter, it’s so warming and nutritious and I love that it’s a one pot meal. I LOVE cooking but after a long day at work, the last thing I want to do is deal with a super messy kitchen, which is why I love one pot meals. I recently shared this recipe on the blog, which you’ll find here https://holisticnutritionninja.blog/2019/03/06/lentil-chili-%f0%9f%8c%b6/
MEAL 4 – BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP
Not to toot my own horn or anything, but this soup is one of the best things I’ve EVER made. I love it! It’s really easy to make, very filling and whether it’s a week night dinner or a fancy affair, I’m sure you’ll love this! I like having this with a side of crispy rye bread. It doesn’t contain too many ingredients and the ones it does contain and inexpensive – added bonus. I posted this recipe here a while ago and got some amazing feedback – which makes me so happy 🙂 If you’d like to try this one out for yourself, and I strongly suggest you do, the link to the recipe is here https://holisticnutritionninja.blog/2018/11/06/creamy-butternut-squash-soup-ingredient-prep-uses-meal-three/
MEAL 5 – TUNA CASEROLE
Of course, as the title suggests, this is not vegetarian or vegan, nor does it contain fresh tuna. This isn’t anything fancy or special in terms of ingredients or cooking methods. It’s just a very easy, really accessible, super inexpensive dish that is actually really yummy.
- 2 cans tuna in oil
- 2 onions
- 2 sweet or white potatoes
- All the veggies you have on hand – literally any Veg you want.
- Chili to taste (optional)
- Turmeric powder (totally optional – I just enjoy the flavor)
Start by adding the oil from the tuna to a large pot or deep pan and add chopped onions and chopped potatoes. While they cook together in the tuna oil, start chopping and adding the rest of your veggies. I normally use brussel sprouts, marrows, carrots, aubergine and some type of canned beans. Add some water or stock to the pot too to make sure the veggies and potatoes have enough liquid to cook in. How much water you need will depend on the amount of veggies you’re using – start with 1/2 a cup and increase as required. Just chuck everything in and add salt, pepper and your chili and spices if using. Then allow to cook until potatoes are tender. That’s it! This might sound weird but I normally let it go on high heat because I like it when the bottom bits get a bit caramelized and stuck to the bottom – this is of course optional haha!
I know this doesn’t sound like much in terms of recipe inspiration but I do urge you to try this – super easy and simple, hassle free and rich and creamy! Enjoy 🙂
So, there you have them 🙂 Five dinners that are easy, nutritious and definitely won’t make a big dent in your wallet.
Just to recap…
- Reducing the amount of meat, fish and poultry on your shopping list and using plant based alternatives such as beans and lentils will definitely help you stick to a smaller budget all the while working well in tons of recipes and full of amazing nutrients.
- Don’t be afraid to use tinned, dried or frozen fruits and veggies – there’s no shame in that nor is there any evidence that they are not good for us. They can, in some cases, be even better than fresh!
- Don’t be fooled by superfoods – technically, there really isn’t such a thing so don’t spend your hard earned cash on silly detoxes or super powders
- Finally, if you can, avoid ready made foods – there are TONS of quick and easy recipes you can follow. I realise that we’re all pressed for time nowadays, but making our nutrition a priority will help all of us in many ways. Make a big batch of something you enjoy eating and freeze the leftovers to make life easier or try some ingredient prep; here’s an article I published here with some more info on this https://holisticnutritionninja.blog/2018/10/27/meal-prep-like-a-pro/
That’s it from me for today 🙂 I hope you’ve enjoyed this and will try out these dishes!
If you have any questions or requests for future blog posts, please leave them in the comment section below. Don’t forget to click on the ‘follow’ button below to stay updated on all the content I share here. Also, I do share a TON of recipes over on my facebook and instagram pages
Sarah’s Healthy Eats – @holisticnutritionninja
As always, if you do try them out, please let me know 🙂
Thank you for taking the time to be here and read this ❤
Until my next post, be well xXx