This has been an interesting experiment in not only working with what you have to save money, but also making sure that my "make-shift" meals are still healthy. This can be a little challenging when much of what is in my pantry is crackers, pasta, and other carb variations.
The other challenge has been staying "inspired" by the lackluster pantry items. As I've said before, a subscription to Cooking Light was a true blessing after 2 months of hardcore dieting in the fall. I was able to maintain my diet and continue losing weight by finding new ways to make low-fat small meals, and new sensible alternatives for food groups that I love. Unfortunately, working with what you have means you have to work hard to not go buy additional ingredients that might be needed for a fun new recipe.
Here are some of the things that I've had to work with:
- Multi-grain crackers (wheat sociables), triscuits
- LOTS of fat free cream cheese (I had bought a tub, and for some reason had a block of reduced fat cream cheese too. Oh and individual packets of WW brand cream cheese.... I mean, what?! Why did I have so much... I don't have a good explanation!)
- Several frozen chicken breasts
- Frozen spinach
- Frozen corn
- Frozen chopped onion
- Frozen ground turkey
- Pasta galore
- 2 jars of pasta sauce
- 1 tube of polenta
- 1 can of cream of mushroom soup
- 1 can fat free refried beans
- 1 small can of sliced black olives.
- 2 packages potato gnocchi
- Wild rice
- 1 can garbanzos
- 2 cans canellini
- 1 can seasoned black beans
- brown rice
- blueberry muffin mix
- 1 package steamed lentils
- Cheese galore: crumbled blue cheese, feta, goat cheese; shredded mozzarella, parmesan.
- golden raisins
- 2 packages fat free brownie mix
- 1 carton of egg whites, 1 carton of egg substitute
- Pretty much every condiment, oil, vinegar and spice.
In particular, I've had a real come to Jesus with myself over how much cream cheese I had. But now, I've really come to appreciate it; it's versatile, and to me it is a condiment that is easily forgotten unless it's being put on a bagel. Cream cheese is the perfect low fat spread for wraps (remember my chicken pesto wrap?), and it's actually good on crackers too! Weight Watcher's brand of 1-point tubs of cream cheese are perfect for this: good for portion control, and great for grabbing and taking to work.
So, while I have been able to get creative with some of these items, most of the time, it's just been a matter of getting back to basics: crackers with cream cheese, pasta with spaghetti sauce, etc.
More recipes to come, although I've had to breakdown and buy a few ingredients here or there.