A Week’s Worth of Budget-Friendly Meals

Let’s face it – in today’s economy every penny counts.  With everything getting more expensive, stretching a dollar is becoming harder to do.  Well, with a little bit of creativeness and using on hand pantry items (i.e. Parmesan cheese, shredded cheese, and canned goods), you can easily feed a family of four using just ONE store bought rotisserie chicken for the ENTIRE WEEK!

We would all like to buy fresh produce from the Farmer’s Market and/or places like Whole Foods, but if you are anything like me, your budget just doesn’t allow it.  And to be quite honest – frozen veggies are just as good as their fresh counterparts.  Just last week I read an entire article on frozen and canned goods versus fresh goods.  Aside from some of the preservatives and flavorings you have to watch out for in canned goods – the nutrition is just as good.  Also – when you can, buy off label items.  Market Pantry (Target), Great Value (Walmart), and Kroger Brand foods are just as good.  I know because I buy them.  Finally – I’m fortunate that my grocery store sells loose carrots and parsnips so I don’t have to buy an entire package of carrots which would eventually go bad from lack of use within the week.  So if you can – buy what you need so it doesn’t go to waste.

Let’s talk about stretching the dollar.  When stores are having sales on long shelf-life items like canned goods and frozen veggies – stock up!  You can easily throw together a good meal using these on hand items in a pinch.

Finally – we are all busy people.  If we could, we would love to serve our families sit-down gourmet meals every night of the week, but between teaching, tutoring, and teaching group fitness – I certainly don’t have the time for that.  So I need quick AND easy meals that also taste good.

Now that you get the picture – let’s look at some recipes!

Monday – Chicken Noodle Soup
What you Need:
6 cups Reduced Sodium Chicken Broth
1/2 onion, chopped
2 parsnip, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 cup chicken, shredded
1/2 bag extra wide egg noodles,
Salt & Pepper to taste

Directions
1.Pour broth into a large stock pot.  Add veggies to broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 30 minutes until veggies are soft.

2. Meanwhile – cook noodles as directed on package.

3. Add noodles and chicken to soup base, salt and pepper to taste.

4. Enjoy!

Tuesday – Chicken Enchiladas
What you
Need:
1 package of fajita size flour tortillas
1 can corn, reduced sodium
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup chunky salsa (your choice in level of hotness)
1 can Red Enchilada sauce
1 cup chicken, shredded
Optional toppings – sour cream, shredded cheese, green onions

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a glass baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.  Set aside.

2. In large skillet, combine beans, corn, chicken, and salsa.  Heat through and add salt & pepper to taste.

3. Lay out tortillas, with a spoon – evenly distribute enchilada filling among the 10 tortillas, aligning it with the side of the tortilla.  Carefully roll the tortilla and place seam-side down in the prepared baking dish.

4. Pour enchilada sauce over the enchiladas and bake for 30 minutes.

5. Top with optional toppings and enjoy!

Wednesday – Chicken and Noodles
What you Need:

1 can cream of chicken, low fat if you can find it
3/4 cup skim milk
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/8 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder
2 cups chicken, shredded
1 1/2 bags extra-wide egg noodles

Directions
1. In a large pot, combine cream of chicken and milk.  Bring to a low boil and reduce heat to medium.  Stir in parmesan cheese, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder.  Stir until thoroughly combined.

2. Add in prepared noodles and chicken.  Stir until noodles and chicken are thoroughly coated and heated through.

3. Serve and enjoy!

Thursday – Chicken Stir-Fry
What you Need:

1 package of frozen stir-fry vegetables
1/2 onion, chopped
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp vegetable or canola oil
1 cup shredded chicken
2 cups of brown rice (unprepared)
2-3 tbsp Teriyaki sauce
Pepper

Directions
1. Prepare rice according to package.

2. Meanwhile, in a saute pan – heat up oil, add onion and garlic.  Saute until onion is transparent, about 5-6 minutes.  Stir often to avoid burning.

3.  Add frozen vegetables.  Cook for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. Once vegetables are no longer frozen, add chicken, Teriyaki sauce, and pepper to pan.  Cook another 5-8 minutes until veggies are heated through and crisp, not soggy.

5. Serve over 1 cup of rice and enjoy!

Friday – Chicken Chili
What you Need:
2 15-oz cans diced tomatoes with green chili, not drained
1 small onion, chopped
1 tbsp. garlic, minced
1 tbsp. canola oil
1 15-oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 15-oz. can light red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 15-oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
Remaining chicken
1 packet reduced sodium chili seasoning

Directions
1. In a large pot – heat up oil and saute onions and garlic for about 5 minutes.  Stir frequently.

2. Dump in tomatoes with juice, black beans, kidney beans, cannellini beans, and chicken.  Stir well.

3. Finally add chili seasoning.  Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat.  Cook for another 10 minutes.

4. Serve with any toppings you like and enjoy!

Don’t like these recipes – you can also throw shredded chicken on top of an extra large salad for a quick and healthy meal.  Just be sure not to drench your salad in fatty dressing.  Try to stick with a balsamic vinaigrette.

Bonus Recipe – I LOVE THIS RECIPE.  You can easily substitute this recipe for one of the other recipes above.

Easy Chicken Bake
What You Need:
1 package (2 pounds) frozen hash browns, thawed
1-2 cups of chicken, shredded
1/2 cup melted butter (or margarine)
1 can cream of chicken soup (reduced fat or sodium if you can find it)
1 8-0z. container fat free sour cream
1/2 cup chopped onions
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1 tsp low sodium salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 cups crushed corn flakes
1/4 cup melted butter (or margarine)

Directions
1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

2. In a large bowl, combine hash browns, 1/2 cup melted butter, cream of chicken soup, chicken, sour cream, chopped onion, Cheddar cheese, salt and pepper. Place mixture in a 3 quart casserole dish.

3. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, saute cornflakes in 1/4 cup melted butter, and sprinkle the mixture over the top of the casserole.

4. Bake covered in preheated oven for 40 minutes.

**NOTE – you can freeze the soup (minus noodles) and enchiladas for up to three months if you don’t want to eat them right away or have too many left overs.

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About Food4Thought

I am no fitness expert. I am simply someone who has found joy in fitness and nutrition. I am a certified group fitness instructor. I’ve been teaching at the local health club for about 3 years now. While Zumba was my first love, I have since added Total Conditioning, Bodyworks plus Abs, and Core to my repertoire of classes. I work with a personal trainer to help me reach my fitness goals that I cannot obtain through group fitness alone. This year I ran my first 5K and plan to run my first 10K in March. To further my knowledge in the fitness realm, I have begun reading Strong Women Stay Slim, New Rules for Lifting Abs, and The Body Sculpting Bible for Women. On my list to read next is Wheat Belly. I am always looking for new ways to further my education and knowledge to better serve the members that take my group fitness classes. Lately, I have started tinkering with recipes, buying healthy cookbooks, and finding easy, tasty, and healthy foods to make. Like I mentioned earlier, I am by no means an expert, but the things I share with you have helped me tremendously with my fitness journey. It is my hope that with these easy tips and recipes, that you too can make these tiny steps and see big positive changes in your life.

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