Should you buy pre-packaged food?

Have you seen the peeled bananas wrapped in plastic in the supermarket? It’s hard to believe anyone would think that was a good idea–or think that peeling a banana is too labor-intensive. Well your food processor might not be able to peel a banana, but there are so many things that it can do that save money, and ultimately put fresher and more healthy food on your table. There are lots of other pre-packaged foods that seem to make you life easier, but cost more, and there are plenty of ways to economize and still save time.

For a quick snack, celery sticks and carrots are a healthy alternative to chips. Vitamin A  fiber,and no fat–that’s a perfect snack, especially for kids. You might be tempted to buy the pre-packaged cut and peeled kind, but  with a food processor or “salad shooter”  it’s easy to trim them into convenient snack size pieces–and they’ll be much fresher.

 

You might be tempted to buy chopped onion or bell pepper. Often they have preservatives mixed with them to keep them looking fresh. But how easy is it to chop them in your food processor? The same goes for pico de gallo. it costs more than twice as much if you buy it already made than if you whip up a batch yourself.

What about kebabs? You’ve seen the pre-seasoned and kind in the meat section, with chunks of meat, onion and bell pepper already threaded on the skewers. It’s much more economical to do it yourself. And the amount of work it takes is pretty minimal!

You can buy pre-cut fruit in the produce section–pineapple, apple, cantaloupe or watermelon chunks or slices in plastic containers. Often, the also have preservatives mixed in to keep them looking fresh, and you’ll really stretch your food shopping dollars if you cut off the rind and chop them yourself.

Apple juice and other juice boxes are a convenient way to drink your juice on the go, or give to your kids without any work of spilling, Ounce for ounce they can be 10 times the price of bottled juice, There are spill-proof cup and bottles, and they can be refilled over and over–cheaper and more eco-friendly!

In some cases you really might be better off opting for convenience over price. Skinless chicken breasts cost more per pound that cutting up a chicken, but if chicken breasts are what you’re cooking, it’s a lot easier, and less waste to buy the pre-cut packaged kind.

So, time versus money…sometimes buying food that’s already diced, chopped or packaged  just doesn’t make sense. Some convenience foods don’t make sense in terms of money and freshness. A food processor, salad chopper or old-fashioned knife and cutting board are the way to go!

New burger recipes

1New burger recipesA hamburger is probably more “American”  than apple pie. It’s a menu item that everyone loves–from kiddos and fast food burgers to gourmet NYC chefs and their $35 truffle burgers. But it can be a lot more than a beef patty on a bun. How about a turkey burger? A bison burger? A veggie burger? We’d like to share some new burger recipes that go above and beyond the typical hamburger.

It’s probably easy to find ground turkey in your supermarket, and turkey meat has much less fat than your typical hamburger meat. If you can find  ground bison meat, it’s got less fat and more protein than beef–and tastes more like beef than turkey meat. There’s not even any “game-y’ flavor, it just tastes a little different than ground beef.

Veggie burgers come in all kind of varieties–black bean burgers, tofu and tempeh burgers, garbanzo bean burgers–all with considerably less fat (well mostly, depending on how you prepare them) than a beef burger. You may want to try a new burger recipe just to mix it up a little. You can buy ‘garden burgers” in your grocery store, but there are plenty of ways to easily make burger patties at home.

Looking for a vegetarian burger recipe? Here’s a black bean burger recipe that has a little kick to it, and is easy to make:

2New burger recipesBlack Bean Burgers

  • 2 15-ounce cans of black beans, thoroughly rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup  all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup  cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup salsa (add extra jalepenos if you like it spicy)
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp garlic salt, plus salt and pepper

Process black beans in a food processor until it has a smooth consistency. Add other ingredients and mix until well combined. Divide your mixture into 6 balls and refrigerate at least 1 hour before cooking.Form each ball into a patty about 1/4 inch thick and grill for about 4 minutes on each side. Serve on toasted buns with toppings.

Want a new burger recipe using ground turkey? This is an espcially flavorful one!

3New burger recipesTurkey Burgers

You’ll need:

  • Stale whole-wheat sandwich bread, crusts removed, torn into pieces
  • 8 ounces fresh mushrooms
  • 3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 finely chopped medium onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 pound lean ground turkey meat
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon coarse-grained mustard
  • Salt and pepper
4New burger recipesPulse bread into breadcrumbs using a food processor. Pour crumbs into a mixing bowl, then coarsely chop the mushrooms. Saute onion, garlic and mushrooms in about 2 tablespoons olive oil until mushrooms are limp. Add this to the breadcrumbs. Add other ingredient and  mix well. Form the mixture into six 1/2-inch-thick patties, using about 1/2 cup for each.
Coat each patty with the remaining olive oil, then grill about 5-7 minutes per side, until the center of each patty is no longer pink. Serve with your usualy burger fixings, for a low-fat new burger recipe!
There are just two new burger recipes to add to your recipe selections. Enjoy!

Making beef jerky

1Making beef jerkyJerky is a great snack, but it’s usually expensive. It’s high in protein, low in fat, but also high in preservatives. You save money by making beef jerky yourself, and you can insure that it’s not full of preservatives and salt.

You can use a jerky-making machine (which is really just a meat dehydrator), a smoker or you can make it just by using your oven set at a very low temperature. All three ways are a great natural alternative to buying jerky in the store. You could also air-dry the meat, but that requires more space and time, and making beef jerky in the oven is surprisingly easy.

2Making beef jerkySince you can control the ingredients, do-it-yourself jerky can be much healthier than store-bought. A simple marinade on the meat—like barbecue or teriyaki sauce—will give it flavor without too much salt. Strip steak works well for homemade jerky, you just freeze the stakes slightly and slice into strips, then add the marinade. For best results, marinate the beef overnight, or at least four hours.

3Making beef jerkyYou then need to dry out the meat, and one way of making beef jerky is in the oven. You can place it on a cookie sheet or hang it through the bars of the trays of your oven. If you hang the meat, make sure to place a cookie sheet below to catch drippings. Set your oven to 250 degrees F or the lowest temperature you can. Propping the oven door open slightly can help, too.

Keep an eye on the beef jerky, as it can take anywhere from 1 hour to 2 hours to dry it sufficiently. When it’s completely dry, and stiff but still tender, your homemade jerky is done!

Store it an airtight jar or zip bag, and you’ll have a convenient, great-tasting and healthy snack, that’s a fraction of the cost of beef jerky that you buy in stores.