Enjoy fruits and vegetables for less

Sandra R. Cain For Better Living

You may have heard people say that it costs more to eat healthy. This is sometimes true but here are a few tips to help you save money wile still getting your fruits and vegetables.

Dried beans, peas and lentils: Beans (black beans, kidney beans, pintos, chickpeas, red or green lentils, split peas, etc.) are vegetables that do double duty. They count in two groups. They are in the vegetable group as well as the meat and beans group. Canned beans are convenient and economical. But, dried beans are the real deal. Soak them overnight and cook for a couple of hours. Beans are great for soup, chili, tacos and burritos.

Sweet potatoes: North Carolina grows more sweet potatoes than any other state. Sweet potatoes are packed with fiber, potassium, and vitamins A and C. They are healthier than white potatoes. Try them baked with a little cinnamon and sugar. You can also make baked sweet potato fries. Slice potatoes and toss with a little olive oil and some salt and pepper. Then bake for 30 minutes at 425 degrees.

Frozen fruits and vegetables: When fresh produce costs more and money is tight, serve frozen fruits and vegetables to your family. Research shows that the frozen vegetables (broccoli, green beans, corn peas, etc.) have similar levels of vitamins and minerals as fresh. Frozen berries and other fruits are also similar to fresh. Buy a large bag, use what you need, then keep the rest frozen with a tight seal on the bag.

Canned fruits and vegetables: Canned produce can also be healthy, easier and cost less. Fruits and vegetables are canned when they are freshest and highest in vitamins and minerals. Due to the lack of air during storage, canned produce stays pretty stable and nutritious until it is served. Look for vegetables without added salt and fruits canned in 100% juice or water. Avoid heavy syrups.

Dried plums and other fruit: Dried fruit is another healthy choice when fresh costs too much. Dried fruit has vitamin A and several of the B vitamins. It also has lots of minerals. Choose brands with no-added sugar and buy in bulk whenever you can. Dried fruit makes a great snack to eat when you’re on the run. It can also be added to salads, pancake mixes, muffins, rice dishes and casseroles.

Source: North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services


Tamale Veggie Pie

1 cup chopped onion

1 garlic clove, minced

1 teaspoon canola oil

1 can (14 ½ ounces) Mexican diced tomatoes

1 can (15 ounces) pinto beans, rinsed and drained

1 cup shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese

1 can (4 ounces) chopped green chilies

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped

¾ teaspoon ground cumin

¾ teaspoon chili powder


½ cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

½ cup yellow cornmeal

½ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

1 egg

½ cup plain yogurt

2 teaspoons butter, melted

In a small nonstick skillet coated with nonstick cooking spray, cook onion and garlic in oil until tender. Transfer to a large bowl. Drain tomatoes, reserving 2 tablespoons juice. Add tomatoes and juice to onion mixture.

Stir in the beans, cheese, chilies, jalapeno, cumin and chili powder. Transfer to an 8-inch square baking dish coated with nonstick cooking spray.

For topping, in a small bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk together the egg, yogurt, and butter. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Spoon over filling. Gently spread to cover the top.

Bake, uncovered, at 375 degrees, for 20 to 25 minutes or until filling is bubbly and a toothpick inserted into the topping comes out clean.

Sandra R. Cain is the Bladen County Extension director. She can be reached at sandra_cain@ncsu.edu or 910-862-4591.

Sandra R. Cain For Better Living
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