What to Eat During the Very Lean Weeks

It is easy for me to say “Eat healthy. It is the best way to stay healthy.” I’m aware that this isn’t always possible for everyone, not even myself. My income is just enough to cover rent and a phone during the winter months, with very little left over to cover food. Last winter was particularly difficult food-wise. For all I know, this winter could be the same.

While my new eating goals mean I don’t eat grains, dairy, sugar, and overly processed foods (and even though leaving these behind means I’m finally losing the excess weight!) I know that, when winter comes along, some of this stuff will have to be consumed just so I can afford to feed myself.

This is because my hours at work get cut during the slow season. Last year, this past slow season lasted longer than the year before.

We do what we have to do.

What does this mean?

It means purchasing items such as oatmeal, whole grain pasta, and whole grain breads, rice, and beans… and maybe even a few boxes of some cheap cereal. And yes, there will be the occasional box of white pasta or rice or package of white bread. It also means canned foods and not fresh. I’m stocking up on sale items that I’ll use, but keeping my choices to a minimum.

Canned peas are a starchy vegetable choice that I will bring back into my diet for the winter months, but not corn. I’m really trying to stay clear of corn products in particular. As much as possible anyway.

I have stocked up on a few healthier items because I worked a bunch of overtime this summer. Coconut milk, cocoa bliss, and coconut cream. Unsweetened coconut flakes. The all-expensive coconut and almond flours (which will not last all winter, but will allow me to make pancakes and muffins once in a while). Pickles and fruit jellies from the farmers market, along with pickled beats, honey, and maple syrup and cream. Not enough of any to last the winter, but enough to feel like I’m treating myself and so that I am eating a bit healthier than last year.

It’s also my intention to pick up a few winter squashes, some pumpkins even, to have on hand. They should last a little while on the counter. And some apples on sale because they can be wrapped in newspaper and placed in a box to store, and farm fresh eggs will last quite a while outside of the refrigerator.

While I’m doing all this, I am fully aware that there will be weeks when I have hardly any food, and only a few dollars (if I’m even that lucky) to purchase food items. So, what meals might I make that, while not exceptionally healthy, will be healthier than my options for last year. Here are some ideas I’ve come up with so far:

  1. Chili made in the slow cooker to top pasta and rice.

  2. Shepherd’s pie made with the cheapest meat and vegetables possible, and mashed potatoes.

  3. Tuna mixed with diced celery and apple.

  4. Chili topped toast.

  5. Soup made from leftovers, using water and not chicken stock or broth.

  6. Baked beans, with diced tomato and a cheap meat added. This can also top rice, toast and pasta.

  7. Oatmeal topped with fruit slices, and maybe a little maple syrup.

  8. Pumpkin muffins, maybe with a few dark chocolate chips added. Or some diced apple.

  9. Scrambled, fried, sunny side up, poached, hard and soft boiled eggs, as well as omelets. Served with both a serving of fruit and vegetable when possible.

  10. Pasta or rice topped with peas.

Some things to keep in mind:

  • Full birds and roasts are often cheaper per pound, though it is wise to check cuts of meats if can get a special deal. Once your main meal is complete, pick the meat away from the bones. Good size pieces of meat can be used as a base for one or more main meals. For example, a breast can be used for the next nights main course. Then, the smaller pieces of meat can be split between two or three containers for soup, omelets, stock, and pasta sauce. The bone can be used to make broth, then thrown out.

  • Leftover pasta can be combined in a pan with diced potato, carrots, and peas for a one-pan meal.

  • The same is true for rice.

  • Leftover bean meals are great wrapped in lettuce or cabbage leaves for a non-grain based wrap.

  • Make the cheapest meal possible, in a way that gives a few days worth of leftover options.

  • Purchase sale items when possible, with coupons if available.

  • Try to combine meat, a little fat, and a vegetable into each meal.

  • Even if meat is not available, add a vegetable to the meal.

  • Buy fruit on sale, to dry for snacks during the winter months.

How do you get through the leanest weeks? Let us know in the comments below.


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