"I mean, let's face it, we're all working. We all need to make a living, and our work is not necessarily in the kitchen. So the key to keeping it simple is literally do ahead what can be done ahead," said Jackie Keller.
Keller owns Nutrifit, a healthy meal delivery service that requires her to make light and lean luscious to keep clients happy. But just like families on a budget, she must watch her bottom line.
"Just because you're on a budget, and you can't afford expensive 'health' food doesn't mean you can't make everyday food in a very healthy way," Keller said.
For your family, the key is not to use the L word: leftovers. By cooking the protein separately, it gives you the opportunity to add your spices, your sauces and your produce later to make not one, not two, but three separate meals.
Keller says pick three ethnic cuisines that are somewhat different from one another, but all can incorporate the same basic protein, whether it's chicken, beef, turkey, tofu or beans.
"All of those proteins can be incorporated into a dish from another country," Keller said.
Night one: Start with chicken on bone, adding a bit of broth to a light herb cheese spread for an herbed cream sauce, with a side and a salad.
Night two: Mediterranean chicken with couscous beans, mint, cumin and seasonings completely foreign to the first dinner.
Night three: Go south of the border with fajitas, sliced grilled veggies salsa and tortillas.
"These are all under $7 for four meals, and they're made with readily available ingredients," Keller said.
Buying a whole chicken is the most economical, followed by cut chicken with skin. The less processed, the better for price. Keller suggests cooking all the chicken one night with minimal spices. Then, shred, cube and spice it up as you make your meals.