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Budget meals that are NOT starch-dependent?

Does anyone have any great budget meal ideas that don't involve rice, pasta or potatoes? I'm a newlywed and my husband and I are saving for a house, BUT I don't want to regain all of the weight that I took off for the wedding! (I know that I put on weight faster when I'm eating starches, evenn if the caloric content remains the same.)

Any great ideas?

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  1. Lentils: we often make dal and serve with brown rice, but you don't have to.

    Dried beans: black bean soup is hearty, filling and easy on the budget. Overall, bean soups are cheap and filling.

    1. Serve protein with veggies. One of my favorite lunches is chicken teriyaki, with broccoli, carrots and green beans with some raw cabbage.

      I cut up boneless chicken thighs, marinate them, the put them on skewers, then grill. The veggies (except for the cabbage) are either steamed or blanched.

      A bite of chicken with a bite or two of veggies. Trying to guess portion size, 1 cup of chicken to 2-3 cups of veggies. If you are still hungry, try some strawberries and non/low fat cottage cheese, 1 cup fruit to 1/2 cup cottage cheese.

      If you are concerned about weight gain via starches, look into the glycemic index.

      1. Vegetables high in fiber make for a cheap and filling side. Try sauteed cabage, broccoli sauteed, sauced or simply steamed, cauliflower mashed with low-fat cream cheese. A hearty serving of vegetables with a lean meat and sensible starch will give you all the nutrients you need for a very forgiving price.

        1. two thoughts:

          1 - as someone else mentioned choken thighs. Jfood buys a 2-pack for $1.50-2.00, so for 2 people it's a $3 investment. Then a salad on the side with iced water. jfood has this at least 2/week and its not for the money (nice added bonus) but because he likes it.
          2 - braises - uses either thighs again or a chuck roast. lots of veggies, some beef stock and seasonings, into the oven for a few hours and you probably have two dinners. for $10.


          5 Replies
          1. re: jfood

            For the OP (and of course for jfood and anyone else) - if you like the chicken thigh idea, this is a lovely and easy recipe - you marinate the chicken in yogurt:


            1. re: jfood

              chicken leg quarters appear to be the cheapest/ lb. Even cheaper than a whole chicken. Parts have been going up in price since more people are buying parts over whole chickens. I find leg quarters to run anywhere from $0.39 to 0.79/lb

              1. re: scubadoo97

                I also buy chicken leg quarters when they're very cheap. In New York the quarters tend to be terribly fatty, but I make do by trimming the excess fat and skin and using that to make schmaltz and gribenes which I use to make the occasional treat of chopped liver (which is also quite affordable at 1.89/lb. of chicken livers).

                1. re: JungMann

                  although gribenes and chopped liver are two of the wonderful Jewish contributions to world cuisine, definitely does not meet the "do not want to regain weight" standards.

                  1. re: jfood

                    The *occasional* treat. Although I thought the problem with chopped liver was the cholesterol and not necessarily the fat.

            2. Eggs! You can have a very nice (and cheap) dinner with an omlette, a green salad and some french bread on the side if you like. You can also make fritattas, quiche and souffles. Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking has some excellent entree egg dishes.

              Chili -- you can make black bean chili or chicken chili using chicken thighs. Hearty, satisfying and quite inexpensive.

              Any number of different soups -- if you make a split pea or bean soup (black bean, navy bean, etc.), you can season with just a little ham, ham hock or bacon, and you will have a flavorful, nutritious and satisfying dinner.

              Roasting a whole chicken is a good way to economize as well. You can have roast chicken the first night and use the leftovers and carcass to make chicken stew or soup the next night.

              Probably the most important thing is to stick to whole proteins and vegetables -- the pre-cut, pre-packaged, boneless/skinless varieties will cost you a LOT more.

              1. Soup! Filling, satisfying, easy to freeze, and an economical use of any veggies that may be on their way out. Chicken soup, beef stew, chili, egg drop soup, miso soup, etc.

                1. soup
                  anything with beans

                  try to substitute a sauteed or baked vegetable in place of your starch.

                  1. Gumbo Z'herbes. An odd-number (at least 5) of varieties of leafy greens, some onion, some bell pepper, and some celery with some cheap fatty cut of meat pig, and that's basically the extent of the non-staple items. You might spend a bit buying so many bunches of greens, but it'll give you enough food for a month. Rice is optional.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: mhiggins

                      Sounds delicious (I'm a sucker for greens). Is there any more to it than that? Just throw in garlic/seasonings/what have you and cook until greens are appropriately wilty?

                      1. re: macrogal

                        Here's a link to Leah Chase's locally famous version:
                        Some people make theirs without as much meat (or even without any meat). Personally, I don't puree the greens, either - I prefer them just being chopped, which also leaves my gumbo a little thinner than most.
                        It's a really easy dish to improvise, and once you've tried it from one recipe, you'll be making your own versions before too long. Basically, anything green and leafy will work great with this (which also leads me to mention that I'm a little surprised by the lack of parsley in her recipe).

                      2. re: mhiggins

                        Technically gumbo z'herbes shouldn't be cooked with meat as it's a Lenten meal.

                        1. re: JungMann

                          True; in fact, it's become associated mostly with Good Friday. But if you're not strictly adhering to a Lenten diet, why not add a little meat?

                      3. Definitely soup! Broth based with ingredients that are seasonal and likely to be less expensive.

                        1. Carne asada. Cheap cuts of meat, but the seasoning and the cooking makes it great.

                          1. Dried beans are a great souce of protein and are dirt cheap. You can season these numerous ways, put into soups, stuff into tortillas w/cheese, add to eggs, etc. etc.

                            Tofu is pretty economical calorie-wise and also is good nutritionally - depending on where you live, you might have an Asian market where you can get big tubs of tofu for cheap money. It can be baked, fried, frozen and then thawed to change its texture.

                            I used to extend and make more healthy mac-n-cheese and other pastas by adding veggies (really easy and cheap is to add frozen veg to mac and cheese), beans, and or soy crumbles. Adds a lot of protein and fiber.

                            I almost never ate meat when I was on a tight budget and maintained a 40-lb. weight loss by eating this way.

                            Good luck and best wishes on your wedding and new home!

                            1. Thai Turkey Wraps - easy and fast, fresh and low fat.

                              1. I have the same problem. 1) Eat spaghetti sauce with zucchini rather than pasta. 2) Eat beef or chicken curry with cauliflower rather than rice. 2) Stir-fry vegetables with chicken breast or beef, give your husband rice or cous-cous with it but you just eat the stir-fry.

                                1. Plenty of good recipe ideas here, so I'll share my shopping tips.

                                  When we've had povo weeks (or months... or years.. or decades!!), I always buy what's in season. No matter how much you get a jones on for vine ripened tomatoes in the middle of winter.. DON'T.

                                  Buy at Farmers markets, or go for a drive and buy at the farm gate. Make a day of it and go to a pick-you-own.

                                  Find the nearest Asian grocer and buy there. Even Western staples such as herbs or beans or canned stuff can be more than 1/2 price at Asian markets... Hell, I even buy things like paper towels and loo paper from them at much MUCH less than I'd pay at the local supermarket.

                                  Do you have $2 shops, or discount outlets like we have in OZ (I LOVE The Warehouse). You can get shampoo and deodorant and cleaning products from next to nothing. I get front loader washing powder for $3 a kg as opposed to $7)

                                  Where possible, buy in bulk and freeze.. especially meat.

                                  Get creative with mince.

                                  Start a buying group with friends... that will save you a whole lot of money if you buy your meat in bulk from a wholesaler.

                                  Good luck!!!