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We get it: Organic ingredients are effing expensive compared to their conventional counterparts. But that doesn't mean you have to settle for a plate of food you feel shitty about putting in your body—just smarten up about meal planning, instead. For example, you can swap out pricey organic meat and dairy for more cost-effective protein-packed fare like lentils, black beans, and whole grains. And never overlook the value—and time savings—you can get with buying an organic frozen meal or premade ingredients, from time to time. As you'll see from the nine dinners here, cheap and organic can actually go hand in hand: All our meals ring in at less than $5 per serving. 1) Mango, Avocado, and Black Bean Salad with Lime Dressing
"Organic meats are going to be expensive; a pound of organic ground beef is roughly $7 at the supermarket," says Libby Mills, RDN, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "But a can of organic black beans is a mere $2. A bag of dried organic black beans? Even cheaper." Serves
2 ripe but firm avocados, pitted, peeled, and cubed3 Tbsp lime juice2 ripe but firm mangoes, pitted, peeled, and cubed1 jalapeño, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped2 Tbsp chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish1 tsp freshly grated lime zest½ tsp sea salt¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper¼ tsp sugar3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil1 can (15-oz) no-salt-added black beans, rinsed and drained 1.
Gently toss avocado with 1 Tbsp of the lime juice in medium bowl. Add mango and jalapeño and gently toss to combine. Set aside.2.
Whisk remaining 2 Tbsp lime juice, cilantro, lime zest, salt, pepper, and sugar in large bowl. Whisk in oil until thoroughly combined to make thick dressing. Add avocado mixture and black beans and toss gently. Spoon salad onto plates, garnish with cilantro and serve immediately. (Recipe via Whole Foods Market) 2) Whole Grain Tabbouleh Salad
No one thinks about whole grains as a protein source, but—surprise, surprise!—they are, with 1 cup of quinoa, oats, and even whole wheat averaging about 6 g of protein (the same amount found in an egg). Even better, organic grains are super budget-friendly. Organic quinoa costs, on average, $0.75 per 1/4 cup serving. "Buy bulk or store-brand organic grains, and prevent overbuying for a recipe by bringing your own measuring cups to the store to measure bulk ingredients," suggests Mills. Serves
1 c cooked quinoa, millet, or barley1¾ c vegetable broth1 lg ripe tomato, diced½ c finely chopped cucumber⅓ c chopped scallions⅓ c chopped fresh mint¼ c chopped fresh parsley and tender stems¼ c extra virgin olive oil3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice 1.
Rinse quinoa in fine metal strainer until water runs clear. Transfer to medium saucepan. Add vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, 30 minutes. Turn off heat and let stand 5 minutes. Fluff with fork. 2.
Spread quinoa onto sheet pan to cool. (You can prepare quinoa a day in advance and keep chilled until ready to use.) Transfer cool quinoa to salad or mixing bowl.3.
Add tomato, cucumber, scallions, mint, parsley, oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir well. Cover and chill before serving.Lentils are another plant-based protein and money-saving superstar. Organic large green lentils average about $2.49 per pound. "I love this recipe because it makes a light, yet substantial dinner in a pinch," says Mills. Makes
1 c green lentils3 Tbsp olive oil2 lg stalks celery, diced2 med large carrots, peeled and diced1 lg onion, diced2 cloves garlic, minced2 tsp salt½ tsp freshly ground black pepper1 bay leaf1 qt vegetable or chicken brothPinch red-pepper flakes 1.
In large pot, bring 1 qt water to a boil. Add lentils and remove from heat. Let soak for 15 minutes. Drain water and set lentils aside in bowl.2.
Return same pot to stove; add oil then celery, carrots, and onion. Sauté over medium heat until vegetables are tender and onion is translucent. Add garlic, salt, pepper, and bay leaf. Cook, stirring, 1 minute.3.
Add lentils and vegetable broth. Cover and simmer over low heat, 1 hour. Ensure liquid covers lentils, adding more broth if needed. Discard bay leaf before serving.4.
Serve with red-pepper flakes and a dollop of sour cream.
For more summer flavor, add chard or spinach. Cut leaves into bite-size pieces, removing thick center veins. Add chard in the last 10 to 15 minutes of cooking time and the spinach in the last 5 minutes. 4) Vegan Zucchini-and-Cashew-Nut Stuffing
"This recipe can be enjoyed as a main course casserole with a side of cooked asparagus and fresh garden salad," says Mills. "Or used as a stuffing to baked tomatoes, baby artichokes, or mushroom caps." Serves
8 to 12
3 c oats2 c peeled and shredded zucchini2 c cooked quinoa2 c diced tomatoes2 c diced onions2 c vegetable broth1 c coarsely ground raw cashew nuts1 c minced fresh parsley3 garlic cloves, minced2 tsp sea salt
Mix all ingredients and pour into 13" x 9" pan lightly coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350°F for 45 to 50 minutes. (Recipe via Libby Mills) 5) Shake and Eat Salads
All you need is a mason jar and a good grip to shake up this organic meal. Sub in 2 to 3 tablespoons of salsa for the Honey Lime Cumin dressing to cut down on prep time and switch up the flavor. Dressing
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar2 tsp honey2 tsp fresh lime juicePinch cumin Salad
⅓ c cooked black beans or quinoa⅓ c cooked corn kernels1 Roma tomato, diced1 c chopped romaine lettuce, washed and dried
Add all ingredients to mason jar. Start with dressing ingredients, then beans, corn, and tomatoes. Add lettuce last. Chill until ready to shake and eat. 6) 365 Organic Vegetable Lasagna or Vegan Lasagna
($3.99 for 1 serving)Realistically, not everyone has time to make an elaborate, healthy meal come 8 PM. The good thing is that supermarkets like Whole Foods are stocking their freezer cases with affordable, pre-made organic dinners that are nothing like the sketchy TV dinners you ate as a kid. This lasagna is made with all organic ingredients and costs less than $4 per serving. All you need to do is heat and eat. 7) Engine 2 Plant-Strong Fiesta Blend and Wild Rice Blend
($3.99 for 3.5 servings)This brand's frozen whole-grain combos, like the Fiesta Blend and Wild Rice Blend, cost less than $1.25 per serving. Mix into salad, sautéed greens, or pair with a small piece of protein and you've got yourself a clean, well-balanced meal that's ready to eat in less than 10 minutes. 8) 365 Organic Quinoa with Vegetables
($3.99 for 2.5 servings)Quinoa does take a little while to cook, so no one will blame you for opting for a precooked batch every now and then. 365 Organic Quinoa with Vegetables is a mix of white and red quinoa, sweet potato, and zucchini. One serving rings up to about $1.50. Pair it with an organic turkey burger and dinner will still only set you back as much as one latte at Starbucks. 9) Amy's Black Bean Burrito
($2.99 for 1 serving)This quick and clean source of plant-based protein (8 g per serving) will replenish your body at the end of a rough day for less than $3. Heat it up, chow down, and bask in the glory of knowing that you could have paid for this meal with the loose change you have hanging out in the junk drawer. Source
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