Thursday , December 8 2022
Make a salad or a soup into a cheap and healthy meal.

Stretching Your Fall Food Budget

With so many people out of work these days, there's all the more need to economize in the kitchen. Here are some money-saving ideas for healthy eating.

Greater Tuna

Bulk up your tuna salad in a healthy way by grating a small carrot (or half a large one) into the tuna. Mix with mayo and whatever you like to flavor your tuna with (I'm partial to horseradish, capers, and some black pepper). Load up the sandwiches with lettuce and sliced tomato for even more delicious bulkiness. More tuna salad, no filler.

Out Here in the Fields

Speaking of lettuce, you can gather your own salad greens in most any park. Dandelion greens are your friends, and they're free. Early spring is the best time, before the familiar yellow flowers appear. Make sure to wash the leaves well before using in your salads or sandwiches. (For more tips on vegetables you can gather yourself in city parks as well as natural green spaces, check out the website of one of my gustatory heroes, Wild Man Steve Brill.)

Crazy Salad

Speaking of salad, it's easy to make a salad into a full meal. Along with your greens and fresh vegetables, a can of chickpeas or pink beans (rinsed well!) adds a mess of protein to your mess. Chopped walnuts are another excellent and healthy protein option. Eat with a hunk of whole-grain bread and there's your meal!

45-Minute One-Pot-Meal Vegetable Soup

This is a favorite around my house, and it makes a full meal. The ingredients, to a large extent, can be whatever you have on hand. I usually make it as a completely vegetarian dish, but it doesn't have to be. Fundamentally, you'll need:

– Water or broth
– Vegetables in season
– Onions
– Carrots
– Natural peanut butter
– A protein source or two: a can of beans, 6 oz. of tofu, leftover chicken – any or all of the above, or use your imagination
– Rice or millet
– Mustard
– Cider vinegar (or rice vinegar)
– Olive oil
– Salt and pepper
– Optional: Lee Kum Kee chili garlic sauce
– Optional: garlic

There's nothing more comforting than homemade soup on a crisp Fall day. Making a delicious vegetable soup from scratch is cheap, easy, and fast (you can make this in 45 minutes).

Heat about 4 cups of water or broth to a simmer. Put in two tablespoons of natural peanut butter (the kind that has only two ingredients: peanuts and salt). This gives the soup a heartiness that makes people ask, "What makes this soup so good?"

Grab whatever vegetables you have in the fridge, leftovers included (even most salad vegetables work in soup, including lettuce). In the Fall, it's good to have on hand some cheap root veggies (turnips, parsnips) and squash from your local farmer's market or supermarket.

Cut the root veggies up small so they'll cook through – remember, this is a 45-minute soup! Cut up and add onions and carrots (and crushed or chopped garlic for extra flavor and healthfulness if you like).

Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, then add a half cup of uncooked millet or white rice. (If you have leftover grain already cooked, add it five minutes before the end instead. Note: Yes, brown rice is healthier. But it takes longer to cook. Use brown rice if you have it already cooked – add five minutes before the end.)

Simmer/stir for five more minutes, then add any softer vegetables (squash, greens, celery…) If you're short of fresh veggies, frozen peas work well here too; so do frozen corn and green beans.

Add a 15-oz. can of beans (any kind, rinsed) and/or half a cake of firm or extra-firm tofu, cubed small. If you have leftover cooked chicken, cut it up small and add that.

Add two tablespoons cider vinegar, one tablespoon olive oil, some salt and pepper, a teaspoon or two of spicy mustard, and (if you can get it) a teaspoon or two of Lee Kum Kee chili garlic sauce – the hurried cook's best friend.

Simmer for another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. The result? The soup my family swears by. Eat with a slice of bread or some crackers and you've got a hearty one-pot meal perfect for a crisp Fall day.

About Jon Sobel

Jon Sobel is Publisher and Executive Editor of Blogcritics as well as lead editor of the Culture & Society section. As a writer he contributes most often to Culture, where he reviews NYC theater; he also covers interesting music releases in various genres. Through Oren Hope Marketing and Copywriting at you can hire him to write or edit whatever marketing or journalistic materials your heart desires. Jon also writes the blog Park Odyssey at where he visits every park in New York City. And by night he's a part-time working musician: lead singer, songwriter, and bass player for Whisperado, a member of other bands as well, and a sideman.

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