19 Cheap and Easy Tips to Make Over Your Next Meal

By , SparkPeople Blogger
This post started as a list of ways to use hummus. Then it evolved into a bit of a foodie braindump. All these great tips and tricks have been floating around my brain for the past few months. It's time I shared these quick, affordable kitchen tips and healthy eats with you! I hope you find them useful and inspiring.

  • Make your own nut butter. It's so much cheaper, and there's no added salt! Toast raw nuts until they're barely fragrant, then run through the food processor. I start by running them through the slicing attachment, then put in the chopping blade and let them break down, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl from time to time. Add cinnamon, maple syrup or dark cocoa powder for extra special treats.

  • Poached eggs are delicious: atop a bowl of pasta and tomato sauce, on a salad, and on a bowl of savory oatmeal. The broken yolk makes a delicious, creamy sauce. Trust me. It's life-changingly delicious, especially atop the pasta.

  • Shredded carrots tossed with hummus that's been thinned with a tablespoon of water is a wonderful side salad. I grate a bag of carrots (using my food processor) every week and use them in stir-fries, casseroles and salads.

  • Hummus is a secret weapon:

    • Add it to tomato sauce instead of cream or milk.

    • Hummus and salsa is even better than cheesy Mexican dip. Warm it for an over-the-top guiltless treat.

    • Use hummus instead of mayo. More flavor, less fat!

    • Hummus makes a great salad dressing, and you can even thin it with broth or water to make a dressing for pasta salad--great with peppers, onions, cucumbers, olives and other Mediterranean staples.

  • Swapping sour cream and cheese for guacamole is a great decision. You'll love it.

  • Shredded cabbage is delicious in burritos. Toss it with chopped cilantro, a pinch of salt and a bit of lemon juice to soften and flavor it a bit.

  • Shredded sweet potatoes + canned black beans + salsa + quinoa and a few other goodies = a cheap, easy vegetarian casserole. I make this almost weekly these days.

  • Baby spinach is the little black dress of vegetables. Thank goodness, because I bought a three-pound bag at my warehouse club a week ago. In the past week, I have added handfuls to:

    • blueberry smoothies (just blend it with your milk before adding other ingredients)

    • pasta sauce (throw in one handful per person, stir and simmer)

    • scrambled eggs (add it at the beginning; it will wilt by the time the eggs cook)

    • macaroni and cheese (sometimes I eat Annie's mac and cheese from a box; throw the spinach in the pot after draining the pasta, then top with hot pasta and continue as usual)
    • wraps (place your other ingredients on top, then roll and eat)

  • Add a banana and a tablespoon of ground flaxseed to your morning oatmeal before cooking it. The banana will melt and add sweetness, and both will make your oats thick and creamy. You won't need any other sweetener.

  • Top your cereal like you top your oatmeal. In summertime, I eat Quaker Oatmeal Squares or Raisin Bran. Cold cereal doesn’t fill me up, so I add a spoonful of almond butter or chopped nuts, a handful of berries or a sliced banana, and ground flaxseed or chia seeds to my bowl.

What are your favorite tips and tricks in the kitchen? In addition to sharing them in the comments below, please feel free to add them to our new Secrets of Success feature.

Which tips did you like best?

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