WELCOME BACK to my Eating Great Food on a Budget series! This article is going to focus on all things veggies and sides. If you are looking to eat on a budget, filling your plate with less expensive veggies is key. Plus if you are hosting a party it is a lot cheaper and easier to prep veggie sides. For my Thanksgiving dinner this week I’m making mashed cheesy potatoes, roasted Brussels sprouts, and bacon mac and cheese. Collectively I’m spending about $50 for sides for about 15-20 people.
Basics – Mashed Potatoes: Often times people forget some real basic sides like mashed potatoes. Mashed potatoes go a lot further than baked potatoes and require very little prep work. Grab a 5lb bag of russet potatoes, cube up the potatoes, boil and then watch the magic begin. I like to add a stick of butter and between a half a pound to a pound of cooper sharp cheese with some milk to the boiled/drained potatoes. You can totally pick any cheese or keep the cheese out. Cheese is surprisingly expensive. Then whip the potatoes up and serve. I never peel the potatoes (too much work and the risk of losing a finger is real for me).
If you are more of a sweet potato type, make mashed sweet potatoes. Again I keep the skin on when I make mashed sweet potatoes. You can also add in some goat cheese or sprinkle in cinnamon for some fun. Heck experiment with other types of potatoes!
Next Level – Roasted Veggies: Before you run to the fresh produce department of the grocery store, please please please know that you can use frozen veggies. I’m not kidding you. Frozen veggies come pre cut and ready for roasting and COST LESS MONEY! I like to get a bag or two of Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, or carrots right from the freezer and let them defrost until I’m ready to roast them. It is important to note that you do need to drizzle the veggies with an oil. I tried to do it without oil and it was not good. After you drizzle your defrosted veggies, feel free to sprinkle them with some garlic powder, onion powder, turmeric, or other favorite spice. You can roast the veggies at any temperature you like. I usually roast mine along with whatever meat I am cooking. At 350 degrees, the veggies usually take about 45-60 minutes give or take. The higher the temperature the less time they will take. The lower the temperature the more time they will take.
Near Master Level – Bacon Mac and Cheese: I know today is all about the veggies so you can include or exclude the bacon. I know I just got done saying that you should just use frozen veggies and now I’m going to suggest fresh in this next recipe. You can use frozen if you want too! Just know that frozen cauliflower will create a lot of water that should be drained off before adding to the cheese sauce.
- 1 large head of cauliflower cut into small bite-sized pieces
- 1 tablespoon avocado oil or your favorite mild flavored oil
- 1 teaspoon mustard powder
- 6 slices of bacon cut into bite-sized pieces
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Mix the avocado oil into the cauliflower, mustard powder, and bacon in a large bowl. Spread on to a baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes. Stir. Bake for another 30 minutes.
- 4 tablespoons of butter
- 1/2 cup of chicken broth
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 2 cups of shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Melt the butter in a pot or large skillet. Add the chicken broth and heavy cream. Be sure to whisk to combine. Once you bring these ingredients to a low bubble remove the pot or large skillet from the heat. Whisk in the cheese. Once blended, stir in the bacon and cauliflower.
All of the above recipes are easy, inexpensive and tasty. The key to eating on a budget is to add spice and flavor. I’m not suggesting that you go out and pick up 20+ bottles of spices. I am however suggesting that you determine a couple staple spices and work with those.