Spring is in the air, and it’s not just your house that can use some freshening up—it’s your meals, too! Pack away those hearty comfort foods and start fixing fresher, healthier and lighter fare. There are some great ways to brighten up spring meals without breaking the bank. Healthier, less processed foods can always be found around the perimeter of your grocery store, so start your shopping there.
As you fill up your cart, keep in mind these five healthy, money-saving ideas for spring:
1. Highlight Spring Vegetables
When I think seasonal spring food, I think of crisp lettuce, fragrant strawberries, fresh spinach, peppery radishes, elegant asparagus and the sweetest of sweet peas. Luckily when these items are at their best they are also at their cheapest—for example, a pound of strawberries can go for $2.50 in the spring, compared to $5 when out of season.
While these items are fresh, plentiful and inexpensive in your local stores and farmers markets, let them shine in main course salads, easy and tasty stir-frys and recipes like this Grilled Spinach Veggie Pizza.
2. Eat Eggs for Supper
Eggs are a low-cost, high-quality protein that shouldn’t stay relegated to breakfast. At $2-$3 a dozen, there is no reason not to let eggs take the center stage on your dinner table. While a “breakfast for dinner” of bacon, eggs and toast can be fun on occasion, quiche or this delicious Sausage Vegetable Frittata are more appetizing for dinner. Add a salad of fresh, seasonal spring greens for a healthy, inexpensive meal.
3. Switch to Spring Soups
Soup is always a great way to eat well on a tight budget. With soup you can use odds and ends of vegetables and inexpensive cuts of meat to feed a crowd. The big trick for spring soups is to keep it light, so skip the rich, meaty stews and thick cream bases and opt for a lighter broth instead. Try something with a bit of international flair—like this Puerto Rican Chicken Noodle Soup that features inexpensive yet delicious chicken drumsticks.
4. Char some Chicken
Chicken is a year-round family meal standby for a reason. Tasty and economical – especially when purchased on sale – chicken is sure to please. In my neck of the woods, I regularly find chicken leg quarters for $.79 per pound. That’s serious savings compared to boneless, skinless chicken breast at $4.99 (or even its occasional $1.69 sale price).
For the spring, take your chicken out of the casseroles to marinate and grill it instead. Paired with fresh spring vegetables, some rice or crusty bread and you have a meal fit for a king. As a bonus, any leftover chicken can be used cold on a green salad or be made into sandwiches for lunch. Since spring is time to try something new, give your thicker, tomato-based BBQ sauce a pass and go for the tangy sweet combination of flavors in this Grilled Honey Lime Chicken recipe instead.
5. Hide Something Healthy
Sometimes, if you’ve got picky eaters in the house, you just have slip those fantastic fresh spring vegetables in your food with no one the wiser. A blender or food processor can help pulverize fresh or frozen cooked carrots, spinach, kale and squash into an invisible yet healthy addition to your meals. For example, this Sneaky Spaghetti Sauce tastes like an old family favorite, but includes carrot, zucchini and bell pepper puree in the sauce.
What’s your favorite way to freshen up your spring menu?