Protein Tips

Beans/Peas/Lentils

Beans/peas/lentils are great meal extenders, so you can feed more people. Add them to soups, salads, casseroles, and dips. All varieties, dried or canned, are inexpensive and easy to use. 


Meal Tips:

  • When making tacos, add a can of beans to your taco meat to make the meal go further while adding fiber, flavor, and texture.
  • For a meatless taco salad meal, cook up some lentils according to the package directions, add taco seasoning, and toss with fresh greens, tomatoes, salsa, cheese, and sour cream. 
  • If you have leftover ham, whipping up a split pea with ham soup is a tasty way to make use of meat that might otherwise go to waste.

Eggs

Eggs are a great staple item. They are inexpensive and can be eaten for any meal. 


Meal Tips:

  • Scramble a couple of eggs, toss in a bag of frozen veggies and some cooked rice then season with soy sauce for a quick fried rice. 
  • Top a slice of whole-grain toast with a fried egg for a quick and hearty breakfast.
  • If you have some fresh veggies that are not quite fresh enough for a salad, chop them up and toss into a pie plate. Add some whisked eggs, a splash of milk, salt, pepper, and cheese and bake for a crust less quiche. 

Peanut Butter

Peanut butter is a great staple to have on hand. It contains protein and fat to keep your body going. Shop sale items, store brands, and compare unit prices to make sure you get the best deal. 


Meal Tips:

  • Stir a spoonful of peanut butter into a bowl of hot oatmeal. 
  • For a sweet, healthy treat, peel a banana and place it on a plate. Heat 2 tablespoons of peanut butter in the microwave until hot, then drizzle over the banana. Top with a few chocolate chips, nuts, or dried cranberries for a delicious snack, breakfast, or dessert!
  • Top apple slices with a thin layer of peanut butter and sprinkle with whole grain cereal for a crunchy snack.

Nuts/Seeds

Nuts/seeds can sometimes be expensive, but peanuts and sunflower seeds can be an easy, inexpensive snack that come in many flavors.


Meal Tips:

  • Try making your own trail mix from items you have on hand like popcorn, pretzels, nuts, sunflower seeds, dried fruit, and whole-grain cereal. 

Soy Products

Soy products are items like tofu, edamame (soybeans, shelled or in the pod), and soy meat replacements.


Meal Tips:

  • Soy products can be used in place of meat in soups, salads, casseroles, etc. 

Low-Fat Meats and Fish

Low-Fat Meats and Fish, like lean cuts of chicken, pork, beef and fish can add a lot of flavor to meals. Look for skinless varieties or remove skin before cooking for lower fat, healthier recipes. After cooking, you can drain or rinse the fat away, too. Look for ground turkey or ground beef. These items are often on sale, so compare prices to find the best deal. Don’t forget about the freezer section. Sometimes you can find better deals on frozen meats and fish. 


Meal Tips:

  • To make meats go further, mix in other ingredients like grains (like rice, barley, or oatmeal), vegetables (like mushrooms, onions, bell peppers, or potatoes), or beans. 
  • Add meat to a sauce and serve over whole-grains or as part of a meal where meat is not the main ingredient, such as casseroles.
  • Canned fish and chicken can be added to soups and casseroles for a blast of flavor and as a meal extender.

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Grains Tips

Pasta

Pasta is a great ingredient to add to recipes to make them go further. Look for and buy whole-grain pasta, when possible. Most grocery stores have multiple brands of pasta; compare prices to make sure you’re getting the best price. 


Meal Tips:

  • Pour chili over whole-grain pasta and top with shredded cheese.
  • Pasta salads are great because you can use whatever vegetables you have on hand. Toss whole-grain pasta with chopped onion, bell pepper, tomato, cucumber, zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, olives, cheese, or leftover chicken; season with salt and pepper and mix in enough mayonnaise or salad dressing to bring the mixture together. 
  • If you are serving a broth-based soup (canned or homemade), you can toss in some cooked whole-grain pasta to make a heartier meal.
  • Don’t forget that you can add frozen or canned vegetables to your pasta dishes. Frozen broccoli or canned peas are a great addition to boxed macaroni and cheese. 

Rice

Rice is a great staple to have on hand because it can be used in many different meals and recipes. Rice is great as a side dish, either plain or tossed with vegetables. Try brown and/or wild rice varieties to add more fiber. 


Meal Tips:

  • Don’t have whole-grain pasta on hand? Chili poured over rice is a delicious alternative. 
  • For a quick meal, try scrambled egg over rice seasoned with soy sauce. 
  • Chicken and rice casserole is a tried and true meal that is well-loved. Add some frozen veggies as a side and dinner is ready! 

Tortillas

Tortillas can be used in many different ways. They make great snacks and meals for the whole family. Look for whole-grain or corn tortillas when they are on sale.


Meal Tips:

  • Spread cream cheese on a whole-grain tortilla, top with any chopped veggies you have on hand, roll it up, slice into pinwheels, and serve for a tasty snack. 
  • Make your own breakfast burritos with scrambled eggs, cheese, beans, and salsa. You can make a big batch all at once, wrap the burritos in plastic wrap, and freeze for quick breakfasts on the go! 
  • For a sweet treat, spread peanut butter on a whole-grain tortilla, add slices of apple or banana, and sprinkle with a few nuts or chocolate chips. Roll it up and enjoy!

Bread

Bread is a pantry staple. Look for and buy whole-grain bread, when possible. Bread prices can vary widely; be sure to compare prices and look for sales. Bread freezes well. Stock up if you find a good sale and store it in the freezer until you are ready to use it. 


Meal Tips:

  • Sandwiches make great portable meals. There are lots of sandwich fillings to choose from. Try sliced deli meat, cheese, veggies, fried eggs, nut butters, or hummus. 
  • A grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup makes a great lunch!
  • For a delicious breakfast, try egg in the hole. Simply cut a hole in the center of a slice of bread, toss it into a skillet with melted butter, crack an egg into the hole, and cook on both sides till the egg is done and the bread is crispy. 
  • Do you have a loaf of bread that’s starting to go stale? French toast is a great way to use it up! 

Oatmeal

Oatmeal is great for breakfast, but it’s also good as a snack and meal extender. If you can buy canisters of plain oats instead of single serve packets, you’ll save money and have better control of added sugars.


Meal Tips:

  • Try adding oatmeal to your favorite meatloaf recipe in place of breadcrumbs. 
  • There many ways to flavor a simple bowl of oatmeal. Add fresh, canned, dried, or frozen fruit, nuts and seeds, or peanut butter. Don’t limit yourself to sweet oatmeal recipes! There are plenty of savory oatmeal recipes for delicious, warming oats for breakfast lunch or dinner. Try cooking the oatmeal according to the package directions, then add in chopped green onions and grated cheese and top with a fried egg for a hearty meal. 
  • You can make ahead healthy, portable breakfasts by prepping overnight oats. Overnight oats are a no-cook solution for making oatmeal. Fill a small container with rolled oats, top with milk, and add your favorite mix-ins like fruit, nuts, or cinnamon, stir it up, and let it sit overnight in the fridge. Overnight oats typically stay good for about 5 days in the fridge, so you can make breakfast for a few days in just minutes. 
  • Homemade granola is a great way to use oats if you have a lot on hand. It makes a great snack on its own or tossed with some dried fruit and nuts and is an excellent breakfast in a fruit and yogurt parfait, or as a topping for yogurt. 

Cereal

Cereal can be more than just for breakfast. Look for and buy whole-grain cereals when they are on sale, the added fiber can help you feel full longer. Remember, store brands can be just as good. 


Meal Tips:

  • Make your own trail mix by mixing whole-grain cereal with nuts, seeds, popped popcorn or pretzels, and raisins or other dried fruit.
  • Dry cereal is an easy snack on the go – toss your favorite cereal into a small container and take with you so you have a ready-made snack. 

Popcorn

Popcorn can be a great filling, whole-grain snack. Buying popcorn kernels instead of microwave popcorn bags can be less expensive and allows you to control the added fat and sodium.


Meal Tips:

  • Did you know that you can make your own microwave popcorn bags at home? All you need is a microwave, popcorn kernels, and a small paper lunch bag. Simply measure ¼ cup of popcorn kernels into the paper bag, fold the very top of the bag so the kernels don’t spill out, and microwave on high until there are no more than 3 seconds between pops (usually about 2 minutes). Carefully remove the bag and enjoy!
  • Try making fun flavored popcorn at home! Toss your popped popcorn into a bowl and add your favorite flavors. Try sprinkling with Parmesan cheese, curry powder, garlic salt, or ranch dressing mix!
  • Add some variety to your trail mix by adding in some popcorn! Mix popcorn, pretzels, peanuts, dried fruit, whole-grain cereal, and even a handful of chocolate chips for a filling snack.

Go to Grain-Based Recipes

Dairy Tips

Low-Fat Yogurt

Low-Fat Yogurt is a good source of protein. Try Greek Yogurt for even more protein. Shop sales and store brands for the best deal. Purchase a larger tub of yogurt instead of single serving cups. Look for lower sugar varieties when shopping. 


Meal Tips:

  • Yogurt parfaits with whole-grain cereal and fresh or frozen fruit make a delicious breakfast. 

Cottage Cheese

Cottage cheese makes a great snack and is an excellent source of protein. Look for 1% milkfat varieties. 


Meal Tips:

  • Top a small dish of cottage cheese with canned or fresh fruit for a healthy snack or side dish. 
  • Try mixing cottage cheese into pasta sauce for added protein and creaminess. 
  • Add a dollop of cottage cheese to the top of your favorite salads for added protein and flavor. 

Cheese

Cheese can be frozen, so consider stocking up if you find a good sale. Look for and buy low-fat cheese when possible. White cheeses like swiss and mozzarella often have less fat and lower sodium. When comparing prices, consider buying block cheese and shredding your own if the price is better. 


Meal Tips:

  • Cheese adds a lot of flavor, so you can often use less to make it go further.

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Fruit Tips

Fresh, Frozen, Canned, and Dried Fruits

Fresh, frozen, canned, and dried fruits are all good choices. Check prices and choose what works best for you. Canned fruits are often on sale and inexpensive. They last longer than fresh and can be often be used in place of fresh. Look for varieties packed in 100% fruit juice. If you have fruit canned in heavy syrup, you can rinse it under running water to reduce the sugar content. Buy fresh when it’s on sale and in season. Be sure to use it up before it goes bad. You can also cook and freeze fresh fruit for later use, or chop and freeze for use in smoothies. 


Meal Tips:

  • Eating a piece of whole fruit is a great snack that needs little preparation. It also helps you feel full longer than drinking 100% fruit juice. 
  • When choosing to drink juice, try mixing it with water to make it last longer.
  • Try adding frozen fruit to plain yogurt to sweeten it up without added sugar.Raisins are great snacks on their own and can also be added to sweeten up your own trail mix, oatmeal, cereal, and other dishes.
  • If you have apples that are a bit past their prime, try making homemade applesauce. It’s super simple, and you can spice it up however you like. 

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Vegetable Tips

Fresh, Frozen, and Canned Vegetables

Fresh, frozen, and canned are all good choices. Check prices and choose what works best for you. Canned vegetables are often on sale and inexpensive. They last longer and can often be used in place of fresh. Look for low sodium varieties or you can rinse canned veggies under running water to reduce the salt content. Frozen vegetables are typically very affordable and often come in microwave steamer bags making cooking a cinch. Buy fresh when it’s on sale and in season. Be sure to use it up before it goes bad. You can also cook and freeze fresh veggies for later use. 


Meal Tips:

  • Add a bag of frozen veggies to soups, stews, and casseroles to add nutrients and make it go further. 
  • Don’t forget that you can add flavor to frozen veggies! If you buy plain frozen veggies, consider adding spices and ingredients your family likes. Try sprinkling steamed broccoli with garlic salt and pepper, top cooked cauliflower with shredded cheddar cheese, or stir a little dried dill and honey into cooked carrots. 

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