One of the easiest things to get into your diet is whole grains. But how to do it on a budget sometimes escapes some people, and rightfully so, when a full loaf of 100% whole wheat bread can cost up to $5 - and fuggitabouwt those "sprouted grain" breads that you have to refrigerate - I've seen them go for a whopping $9 a loaf!!
So, how can you get in the whole grains without having to dip into Billy's college fund?
Pasta is relatively cheap - and when used in casseroles or skillet meals, one 1 lb box can feed a family of four for almost a week. There are inexpensive varieties of the whole grain stuff - some store brands even go for $1 a box! Can't beat that!
Whole Wheat Pasta Skillet
The little glove guy ain't got NUTHIN' on this one!
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1 lb ground turkey breast
1/2 c chopped onion
1/2 c chopped bell pepper
2 c whole wheat elbow macaroni or other short pasta
2 T tomato paste
1 1/2 C chicken stock/broth
1 packet taco seasoning OR 1 packet spaghetti sauce seasoning
1/4 c reduced-fat pepper jack OR part-skim mozzarella
In a high-sided skillet heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the turkey breast, onion, and bell pepper and cook until meat is no longer pink and the vegetables are tender. Add tomato paste, broth, and seasoning packet, mixing well to combine. Add pasta. Raise heat to medium high and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low and cover. Allow to simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until pasta is tender. Turn off the heat, cover with cheese and put the lid back on. Allow to sit for 5 minutes for the cheese to meld and sauce to thicken.
*TRICK - pre cook your pasta and cut the time in half! Allow the liquid to reduce over medium heat for five minutes, add the pasta and cook for another five, or until the pasta is heated through!*
Brown rice is very cheap - you can get a 1 lb bag for less than $1 or a box of instant for about $2 (give or take). Granted, the "real deal" can be a bit of a pain to cook, so what I do is cook up the whole bag at once and portion it out for meals throughout the week. That being said, I do keep two boxes of instant brown rice in my cabinets at all times. It really does come in handy in a pinch.
Asian Style Chicken and Vegetables with Brown Rice Bake
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and cut into cubes
2 C frozen mixed vegetables (any type)
2 C pre-cooked brown rice
2 T soy sauce
1/2 C chicken broth
1 can reduced sodium, fat free cream of chicken soup
1 tsp. Chinese five spice seasoning
In a large bowl, combine broth, soup, soy sauce, and five spice seasoning. Check the seasoning for flavor, and add more if needed (remember to add in SMALL doses - both five spice powder and soy sauce can be potent). Add chicken, vegetables, and rice. Mix well to combine then turn out into a rectangular glass baking dish that's been sprayed with cooking spray. Cover with foil. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until heated through and liquid is just absorbed. Remove from oven and allow to stand 5 minutes.
This is where it can get pricey to go whole grain. While there are some wonderful whole wheat breads on the market, if you just can't justify shelling out the money, try making your own homemade wheat bread. To get the soft texture and a great rise, add some "vital wheat gluten" when you add your yeast - the results are beautiful. If you don't have the time or don't want to take the time to make your own bread, shop around for the best value on whole grain breads. And don't forget to read labels - fiber content per slice should be around 2 grams.
Homemade Wheat Bread
Yes, it's a little involved. This is not an every day thing, for sure. But it is SO worth it.
2 C warm water
1 packet yeast (NOT rapid rise!)
1 T sugar
3 tsp Vital Wheat Gluten
1 T olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 C all-purpose flour
3-4 C whole wheat flour
STANDING MIXER TECHNIQUE:
In the bowl of the standing mixer, combine water, yeast, sugar, and gluten. Allow to sit 5-10 minutes, or until foamy. This "wakes up" the yeast. Using paddle attachment, mix in all purpose flour on low until well combined. Add olive oil and salt and mix well on low. Add 2 cups wheat flour and combine on low. Continue to add wheat flour by the 1/2 cup ful until dough pulls away cleanly from sides and bottom of bowl (depending on your altitude, location, air quality and weather, you may need more or less than four cups. Don't be alarmed if this is the case, contrary to popular belief, bread baking is NOT an exact science!). When dough is pulling away from sides, switch to dough hook attatchment. On low, kneed dough for five minutes, or until it springs back when pressed gently. Remove dough from bowl, spray bowl with cooking spray, replace dough and cover with tea towel. Allow to rise in a warm place for one hour or until double in size. Punch down dough by gently placing your hand in the center of the mass then pulling the sides in on themselves. Form dough into loaf and place into loaf pan sprayed with cooking spray. Allow to rise for another 45 minutes. Bake in 350 degree oven for 45 minutes, or until the bread sounds hollow when tapped. Allow to cool in pan for five minutes, then remove from pan and allow to finish cooling on tea towel.
Whole grains are such an important part of being on plan. The fiber and nutrients obtained, not to mention the vital complex carbohydrates, are important for digestive health and energy. Don't skip these just because you can't afford them. As you can see, eating healthy isn't as expensive as you might think!