Food Network host Sandra Lee has a new show called Sandra's Money Saving Meals, premiering May 10 at 12 p.m. In each episode she not only cooks up accessible, aspirational, and affordable meals, but also prepares "Round 2" dishes with the leftovers.
We asked Sandra for her top tips on saving money at the grocery store, eating healthy on a budget, and how to get our kids to eat leftovers...
CM: Many moms tell me that they don't have the time or the money to eat healthy. What do you think about this?
Sandra Lee: You don't have to spend hours in the kitchen—or a fortune in the supermarket—to put a nutritious meal on the table. You just have to make good choices and read food labels.
- One tip is to swap when you shop and replace full-fat milks, cheeses, mayonnaise, dressings, bread and crackers with lighter versions.
- You can also cook lighter by reducing the use of fat. Steaming, poaching, broiling and grilling are all good options.
- Forget butter and use heart-friendly olive, canola, corn or soybean oil instead.
- Many store name brands include a lower fat, lower sodium product for the modern day consumer. Buying reduced-sodium can limit your intake to 1,500 mg per day.
- To fill up on flavor, not fat, stock a wide variety of spices and seasonings.
What inexpensive, versatile staples are always good to have on hand to build meals around?
- Garbanzo beans, roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, and artichoke hearts mixed with chunky sauces over whole grain couscous, rice and pasta are great staples.
- Keeping a few key items on hand like seasonings, baking mix, condiments and lean protein will ensure that a tasty meal is just a mixing spoon away. They are not meal specialties alone, but all of these items are multiple purpose food products that can be turned into other meals.
- I also like to buy ground sausage whenever on sale to keep in the freezer as a substitute for ground beef, as it cuts out a lat of prep work. The flavors make any dish you whip up taste fabulous.
How do you save money at the grocery store?
- I recommend, planning your meal out for the week and make a list that you stick to. This prevents impulse purchases that add up to a significant amount of money over time.
- Keep track of sale items and buy staple items in bulk. Top name brand items go on sale the first of the month, when many people have more money in their pockets. At the end of the month, when people have less money, the store brand or tier two name brands go on sale.
- Buy things in season when you can. When items are out of season the price more than doubles because of all the shipping and handling that is involved. For example, Asparagus in season is roughly $1.69 a bunch, out of season you can expect to pay of up to $5.99 a bunch. However, if it is out of season you can shop for it in the frozen section. When corn is out of season, I'd suggest going to the frozen section of the grocery store is a place where you can get an item that is out of season at a reasonable price. In season four ears of corn will run you $1.00, out of season one ear will cost you $1.00. In the frozen section you can get a bag of corn that is frozen at the peak of freshness for $1.99 which is roughly equal to four ears.
- Save money by doing the prep work yourself. I now chop my own garlic, I do a bulb at a time, chop it then put a teaspoon of oil in the container to prevent it from drying out. By doing it myself, I pay 75 cents for the bulb, which produces the same amount as pre-chopped would be at $1.99.
My family HATES leftovers. How can I make leftovers fun?
- Just about any leftover meat or seafood can be slices and stir-fried with pre-cut vegetables to make a complete meal. Just add some stir-fry sauce and served with rice and you will have a savory meal.
- You can also use leftover vegetables and meat as filling for old-fashioned omelets, scrambles and hash. Almost any flavor combo works well with eggs. Children love the idea of having breakfast for dinner and if you can get them to help prepare a meal or choose what goes into the meal, they are more likely to eat it without a fight.
- With Easter coming up, you are bound to have leftover ham from your main dish. You can easily transform your leftover meat into "Round 2" recipes. It only takes two cups of Ham to star in a Ham and Potato casserole, Ham and Rice Casserole or Ham and Spinach Bake. When you are busy, this is the perfect way to save time, money and enjoy a meal with reduced prep and cost. Encore, encore!