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Dinner Diva | Cheap eats via soup

A lifestyle of poor diet and lack of exercise kills about 400,000 Americans every year—that’s as many who have died from smoking, can you imagine?? And that’s only Americans—this number does not count the rest of the world that eats poorly and neglects to exercise! YIKES!

It’s a tough world out there and today’s grocery store is no exception. Here are some tips to navigate the grocery store successfully and buy the healthy foods you need and avoid the unhealthy ones that could kill you! Healthy foods don’t need to bankrupt you or make you spend untold hours in the kitchen. Here are some tips for getting healthy happening in your kitchen today:

1) Fast Food. Look for stuff that is fast and easy to make, like sweet potatoes (stab, bake, eat). Cheap eats, massively good for you and filling. And one of my favorite fast foods? SOUP! Yes, soup! (for some great recipes, keep reading!)

2) Go Green. Baby spinach is fast-food friendly too. Not as cheap as sweet ‘taters, but worth the cost of admission! I like mine stir-fried (little bit of olive oil and lotsa garlic!) and in salads.

3) Brown Rice. You can make a vat of this stuff, scoop into individual freezer bags and freeze for later use if time is of the essence. Having a box of quick cooking brown rice at home isn’t a bad idea either, but the long cooking stuff is much less expensive.

4) Grown Your Own. Having a veggie garden is a lot easier than you think. Check out for a plan for nearly everyone!

5) Thirst Out. Water is about as economical as it can get. If you want clean and fresh water, check out different water purifiers and start pile driving the water. Cheaper than anything else you can drink!

6) Seasonal Stuff. Buy in season (summer is the time to find cheap watermelon, not the middle of winter), buy locally when at all possible and buy organically.

7) Garlic and Onions. Very inexpensive and will ratchet up the flavor and potency of nearly anything you make, not to mention the antioxidant factors as well. Keep them on hand!

8) Read Labels. And remember, if you have to spend 10 minutes deciphering a food’s label with unpronounceable chemical additives and you have no earthly idea what they are, your body doesn’t know what they are either. Not only that, but you’re going to pay for those expensive chemicals at the cash register and in your own health. Skip anything with fake colors, flavorings or “flavor enhancers”…they all ROB you of your health!

9) Vegetarians Unite. Once a week, go vegetarian. That doesn’t mean eating a bunch of soy-based processed foods, but rather choosing a vegetarian meal each week. We had fresh tomato sauce on pasta with chopped fresh oregano and feta cheese sprinkled over the top. The tomatoes and oregano came from my garden and the whole meal was divine!

10) Beans, Beans. The ultimate healthy, yet frugal food, dried beans need to be soaked, cooked and then can be made into a multitude of cheap eats, from soups to chilis to salad. Eat your beans for corn’s sake!

Don’t become a statistic and please don’t think healthy food is out of your reach or budget! It’s not hard, it’s enjoyable and the cool thing about eating healthy, grown in the ground food is you always know what you’re eating—no labels necessary!


Here is a healthy, but cheap soup recipe you can make for well under 10 bucks a family!

Cream of Butternut Bisque
Serves 4
– 1 teaspoon butter
– 1 small onion, chopped
– 1 3/4 cups butternut squash, peeled and chopped
– 1 (14 ounce) can low sodium chicken broth

– 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

– 1/8 teaspoon white pepper

– 3/4 cup half and half

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add onion and cook till onion is translucent.

Add butternut to onion and cook just a minute. Now add the chicken broth, turn up the heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and let simmer covered) till squash is tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Using a potato masher, mash the squash in the saucepan. If you like your soup really smooth, you can puree it in batches in a food processor or blender, but if you like a little more texture, use the potato masher. Mash or process to desired consistency.

Add squash back to saucepan (if you used your blender or processor) otherwise, just add the spices and half and half and bring soup to almost boiling point (but don’t boil it or you will curdle the soup). Serve hot.

Per Serving: 117 Calories; 7g Fat; 4g Protein; 12g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 19mg Cholesterol; 222mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1/2 Grain (Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 1 1/2 Fat.

SERVING SUGGESTIONS: Serve with a big spinach salad and whole grain rolls.


For more help putting dinner on your table, check out Leanne’s website,, or her Saving Dinner book series (Ballantine) and her New York Times bestselling book Body Clutter (Fireside). Copyright 2009 Leanne Ely. Used by permission in this publication.

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