So you want to eat healthy food on a low budget? Well who wouldn’t? – But in these hard times that’s not so easy is it? If money is tight and time to prepare nutritious family meals is limited, it’s all too easy to get drawn into buying unhealthy high fat pre-packaged foods. These often look like the cheapest option – but is that really the case, and what is their true cost in terms of our overall health and well-being?
Pulses are an excellent way to improve the quality of our diet, and the great thing is they also allow us to save money into the bargain. Pulses are the family of foods that include dried beans, dried peas and lentils. They are high in fiber, high in protein, low in calories and can help to lower cholesterol, so all in all they are simply a great health food which is also satisfying and cheap.
But surely dried beans take an age to prepare with all that soaking and boiling? – That’s certainly true, but these days all good supermarkets stock a wide range of tinned pulses which are equally nutritious, still very cheap and also very quick to prepare. For example, my own Easy Bean Stew Recipe from preparation to on the table takes me no more than half an hour (see link below).
It would be quite wrong however to discount dried beans and pulses just because of the preparation time, after all they are so cheap that I always keep a stock of various types in my store cupboard for when I’ve had the time to plan meals ahead. Planning is the key point here, if I know I’m going to make a bean dish tomorrow, I just put the beans in a bowl of water before I go to bed. As soon as I get in from work the next day, I change the water put them on the cooker to boil and they’re ready to incorporate into my meal by the time I’m ready to start the main preparation. Really easy, but just needs a little forethought.
Aside from their inherently healthy properties, pulses also improve our diet in other more subtle ways. Pulses are generally very filling, so to balance that out we are usually inclined to need less meat in the dishes we create with pulses. This can reduce the overall bad-cholesterol quantity in the meal, but also by bulking out stews, soups and casseroles, pulses can also make the same amount of expensive meat fill more plates which is again no bad thing. Taking this a stage further, pulses have traditionally formed the basis of some of the very best of vegetarian dishes, so if you’ve been looking for a way to cut down on, or cut out meat completely, pulses are the way to go to achieve this.
If like many of us you are currently struggling to make ends meet, and the weekly shopping budget never quite seems to fill the shopping cart, then why not let pulses help you out a little? Your family probably already loves a good chilli con-carne full of nutritious red beans, so you’re half way there. Why not try out my Easy Bean Stew Recipe or get experimenting with some different types of beans and lentils and a few herbs and spices? With a little effort you could easily add a whole new repertoire of tasty dishes to the family menu. They don’t even have to know that you saved a bundle whilst providing them with healthy food on a low budget!