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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I love hummus! Never thought of using as a salad dressing but willing to try. Report
The hummus and the poached egg ideas both sound great! Thanks. Oh and the cabbage in burritos sounds wonderful. Report
LOVE these ideas. We visit a booth at our local farmer's market to get fresh hummus each week. Now I have an arsenal of new ideas. I love the idea of thinning the hummus to make dressing and substituting for mayo. I didn't think of either of those! Report
Thank you for all of the great ideas. i will add this to ones I already use. Report
Thanks for the great tips, yes hummas is filling yet good for you. Salsa the same yumm Report
Hummus is yuk. Deadly allergy to avocados. Poached eggs on oatmeal or pasta? And I thought I had weird cravings. Don't own a food processor and cannot afford one. The cost of nuts to make the butter is more than the butter, so I think I'll stick to purchasing it. The kind I purchase has no added salt in it. I guess some folks like these mixes of foods or the foods themselves, I'll pass for the most part. I've always topped my cereal with fruit. Flaxseed is good on almost anything. Report
These are GREAT ideas. I'm definitely going to try a few! Report
I love using fresh squeezed lemon juice on my salads. I add as much veggies as I want (bell peppers, cucumbers, etc) and then squeeze the juice of one lemon over the top. It really brings out the flavors of the salad! I have a eat "whatever" for dinner plus salad rule. I eat a small serving of whatever I want, and then fill the rest of the plate with my veggie-rich salad. It's a great way to fill me up and not feel like I'm depriving myself. Report
hummus sounds delish! Report
I'm going to try the tips with the spinach, maybe I can get my family to eat more of it without them really knowing. Thanks for sharing. Report
Great ideas - I need some new, healthy taste sensations to keep me on track this month. These will fill the bill nicely - thank you. Report
Baby spinach is the little black dress of vegetables. Report
My grandaughters just love hummus and crackers (wholewheat), they could just have them everyday Report
I think I might be making some quinoa/black bean/sweet potato casserole for dinner tonight! Sounds DELISH! I make a tasty sweet potato/black bean burrito, but it is pretty high in calories, due to cheese and sour cream. This might be my new sweet potato weapon! Report
We were introduced to hummus at a Christmas party. It is now a staple in my home. I put it on my salads as I'm not fond of salad dressings. also we use it on sandwiches instead of mayo. I have not tried to make it yet but it is on my to do list. Report
Don't forget dessert! Peel a leopard banana (you know, with lots of brown spots), and freeze it solid. Run it through the blender or food processor. Instant "Ice Cream". If you're using a blender, you might want to cut the banana into eighths before freezing on a sheet of wax paper. Report
I've been using spinach (layered raw) in sandwiches.

I also like to dip baby cut carrots in salsa; who needs the chips?? Report
No matter how those crushed beans are disguised,
I find the TASTE of Humas disgusting.. Report
Flaxseed reminds me of Cod Liver Oil...yucky Report
Great ideas to teach this old dog your new tricks for food. Report
great tips - thanks for posting! Report
Thx for the ideas. Can't wait to try your casserole. Report
i will try poached egg over pastasounds like cheap but healthy meal for large family enjoy these articles Report
Never thought of using hummus and salsa for a dip. I fell in love with hummus on a plane to Israel. I thought it was dessert....to my surprise it was not sweet as a dessert should be. The young lady next to me explained what it was. She was wonderful. I've never made it but plan to start doing that. I also like the idea of cooking the banana with the oatmeal. Thanks for the ideas. Report
Rather than using salad dressing, I sprinkle my salad with balsamic vinegar & a little cracked black pepper. Report
OMG! Those are great idea! I LOVE HUMMUS by the way... They were all helpful and things im def. willing to try! cold cereal doesnt fill me so that helps out! Report
I tried buying some hummus. It had such strong garlic I couldn't eat it. I love poached eggs and have cut them from my diet because the yolks are too high in fat. For those who still eat egg yolks there are a couple of tricks to poaching eggs so the whites stay intact. First be sure the eggs are as fresh as possible, second put a teaspoon of vinegar in the poaching water and finally keep the water tempurature down to a simmer. The flavor of the vinegar doesn't transfer to the eggs. Report
"Make a Mix Cookery" by SUNSET BOOKS is a great way to save money on food by using it's recipes. Report
Good tips.....but I read somewhere that you shouldn't heat the flaxseed in oatmeal as it loses something?? So I add it after it is cooked......just in case...:) Report
Good ideas. I really like smoothies with frozen strawberries, lowfat milk, a little light yogurt & splenda. I will have to try flaxseed & bannana in my oatmeal for sure. Report
Good ideas. I really like smoothies with frozen strawberries, lowfat milk, a little light yogurt & splenda. I will have to try flaxseed & bannana in my oatmeal for sure. Report
very creative ideas...thanks! Report
WOW! Great easy ideas, especially for hummus which was still feeling a little "ho hum" to me. Now I will have to try it and feel more confident about trying to use it Report
I will have to get out the food processor to try some of these wonderful ideas.
Thanks. Report
sounds great Report
I have never had hummus, but I followed the links to the recipes and will try it this week. Thanks for the great tips. Report
I liked the tip about the bananas and flaxseed to morning oatmeal. No sweetener required with this treatment sounds like a real treat! Report
I like the spinach idea...I need to eat more veggies. Report
Some great ideas here that I'm going to try. I've learned to love hummus and use it often on sandwiches. Never thought of adding salsa for a dip. I've also never had poached eggs, but now I'm anxious to try them. Something new I've recently learned to use is Bragg's liquid aminos as a substitute for soy sauce. I put some cooked leftover brown rice in a pan, add some frozen veggies, and spray with Bragg's. Makes a flavorful side dish. Thanks for the article. Report
I use the Costco-size Spinach similarly -- esp. in the smoothies and pasta applications. I also buy the 5 pound bag of organic carrots at Costco and use them everyday in my smoothies. I also shred carrots for salad all the time -- also raw yellow or red beets -- with a box grater, but not ahead of time -- I heard they oxidize and lose nutritional content if you do that. No?

Good reminder about poached eggs and pasta. And I will try that casserole linked to at some point. ANd hummus rocks for many applications, for sure!

:-) Report
Hummus + Salsa instead of cheesy Mexican dip? Brilliant!!

I make hummus very often, and have taught countless friends how easy it is to make (and customize!).

Another great article, Stepfanie! Thanks so much! :D Report
Make your own nut butter....superb idea! Report
Loved this blog, so many great food ideas. I will be trying these out for sure!

Elaine Report
I love spinach and this allowed me different ways to add it to my meals. The hummus ideas are great. Naver would have thought if it. I use cottage cheese in my lasagnas instead of ricotta and it gives it a zesty kick to it, thanx! Report
thanks for the GREAT new Hummus ideas! Report
never thought of hummus & salsa as a "cheese dip" sounds amazing!!! Report
Nice ideas for spinach. Smoothly mashed avocado/guacamole is also excellent as a bread spread in place of mayo. I make my guacamole simple and sweet: mashed avocado, squeeze of lemon or lime juice, light sprinkle of salt if desired. That's it. Report
Great ideas. I definately will be trying some of these. Report
I love redoux Wednesdays. We take all the leftovers out and find a new way to make them. There is no just reheating. It's like Iron Chef for leftovers and the whole family is part of it. It's fun and you're not wasting your leftovers! Report
mmmhh all of them sound delicious! cant wait to try them out, have already been adding some banana to my oatmeal before cooking it Report
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