Since becoming a stay at home mom, our income has literally been cut in half, so I’ve had to become extremely frugal (even more so than I already was). Other than cutting out any unnecessary charges per month (cable, satellite radio, etc) and haggling my way to the lowest price possible for bills (internet, phone, electric), I’ve really been stepping up my meal planning.
I’ve always meal planned. Part of it was to make sure I only bought what was necessary (thus, saving money) at the store, and part of it was because I’m so type A that I need some sort of plan to have peace of mind. Now, I’ve honed those meal planning skills to include extremely frugal meals that still taste decadent. Just because we’re eating cheaply doesn’t mean we can’t eat well.
And, to be clear, cheaply does not mean highly processed foods for our household. I found, long ago, that overly processed ingredients made me feel gross. I’d feel sluggish after eating them and sometimes even slightly sick. So, for almost a decade now, I’ve tried to keep our diet as close to a whole foods diet as possible. Even for comfort food recipes, there is no cream of anything, not much pre-packaged stuff (except for rare occasions), and whatever pre-packaged stuff we do use, I scan the ingredient list to make sure it’s made with quality ingredients. For instance, did you know that a ridiculous amount of pre-packaged food has soy added as a cheap filler or preservative?
Having hypothyroidism, I try to avoid soy like the plague. Too much soy slows thyroid function, which I need like a hole in the head. If I eat too many pre-packaged foods (often times with soy in them), that’s enough to mess up my already sloth-like thyroid. This doesn’t mean that I grill family and friends who invite me over to their house about every ingredient that goes into their food. That would be rude, and I would hate to be that person. But I find that, if I take care of myself when cooking for my family, even if someone else is less whole foods based (and perhaps has soy in their ingredients), it won’t affect me. Now, if I go multiple days with crazy amounts of processed foods with soy in them, then my hypothyroid symptoms come back with a vengeance. It’s all about balance.
One of my old guilty favorite foods was the boxed flavored rice. Think Rice-A-Roni or similar. I’ve always loved my carbs, and the more creamy or cheesy, the better. So, I set out to find an alternative. Rice is always a great go-to for us because it’s cheap, you can buy huge bags of it, and it’s easy to custom fit to whatever your meal may be. I found a really delicious Creamy Parmesan Rice recipe that only calls for rice, butter, garlic, water, milk, salt, parmesan cheese, and parsley. No cream of anything, no pre-packaged soy craziness, nothing. It’s super easy to make, and I’ve made it to accent many meals. Definitely check it out if you’re a sucker for those pre-packaged mixes too. This is not only healthier, but it tastes great!