Eating Well on a Budget

In my dream world, I’d eat at a different restaurant every day, just trying as many different foods as I can. Since that’s not happening anytime soon for both health and financial reasons, it’s a good thing I can cook. We’ve had some great meals on a budget, and I thought I’d share them for anyone else who is hoping to eat well without breaking the bank.

Pardon the shadow.

This is broccoli cheese soup, which I made in an attempt to be better than Panera Bread at everything. It was pretty good, full-flavored but light. The soup’s thick texture came from pureed broccoli, not cream or cornstarch. If you’ve never made this at home, I recommend it! It’s easy, and a much healthier alternative to something that most restaurants pump full of calories.

This is Philadelphia tomato pie, which was a hit both at home and with my coworkers when I brought in leftovers. I got the recipe from Serious Eats. Philadelphia tomato pie is one of those things that you can’t truly appreciate unless you taste it. It just sounds weird. Pizza-like, but thick and doughy crust? No gooey, stringy cheese? But try it, and you’ll be a convert.
This is pretty self-explanatory. If you know me at all, you’ll know that making the best possible pizza at home is something I’ve been working towards for years. I’ve made some tweaks to my dough recipe and cooking method, so I’m getting close. This pie features just tomato sauce, mozzarella di bufala, and proscuitto. It was awesome.
Here is an iPhone photo of last Sunday’s Asian-themed meal. We’ve got honey-soy lacquered duck, stir-fried asparagus, and citrus ginger rice. This was awesome. Duck is definitely my favorite protein, especially when you sear it so it’s medium rare and really juicy!
And here’s another iPhone photo of another Asian-themed Sunday supper. We’ve got spicy seared tuna, roasted Brussels sprouts, and some plain white rice (yes, we like rice a lot). This was also awesome. (And in the background is the pot and a leaf from the beautiful orchids that surprised me when I got home last week – just had to mention that).

You might be asking how I call these budget meals when they’ve got expensive protein. Well, yes, the duck and tuna were definitely the most costly parts of the dinner. Buying these at a grocery store and preparing them at home is a fraction of the cost of eating the same meal at a restaurant. We just eat more vegetables and enjoy smaller portions of meat.

As for the health factor? Pizza, admittedly, isn’t the healthiest choice… but in this case, it’s not so bad. My pies are exercises in moderation. The crust is thin, not heavy and bready. I use sparse amounts of toppings that add pops of flavor without overwhelming. The ‘worst’ part, the cheese, is lightly scattered: just a piece of the flavor puzzle, not the whole thing. This is not calorie bomb pizza. And just because I don’t have photos of my veggie pies on here doesn’t mean they don’t exist! Furthermore, the meals that we eat are generally very healthy. Even the broccoli-cheese soup that you saw above isn’t bad for you. The dish was 95% broccoli and plain chicken stock; the remaining five percent consists of flour and butter for the thickening roux, and a little bit of cheddar cheese. If you cook with whole, healthy ingredients, a little bit of fat for flavor goes a long way, and you’re still eating light!
Anyway, these are just some of the meals that we’ve been eating lately. Eating at home is a great way to stay on a budget and stay healthy. If you plan it right, you just might end up with better meals than what you’d get at a restaurant. Does anyone want recipes?
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