Stir-Friday + Guest Bender: Caroline from See Cat Run

by Jenn (eating bender) on February 6, 2010

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Happy weekend, everyone!

I was super excited to sleep in this morning. For whatever reason, I have been particularly tired this week and the extra ZzZzZs were much needed! Now it’s time to get productive 😉

Before I get to today’s fabulous Guest Bender, I wanted to share the dinner that Bobby and I enjoyed last night. Mainly because it ties in perfectly to what Caroline is going to tell you about later on in this post – this meal was cheap – and also because I have to thank Bobby for making it as I came home a bit late. It was ready and waiting to be enjoyed when I got home. Let’s call it…Stir-Friday!!

What’s in the background, you may be asking? 😉 It’s actually a sample I received as part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program called Kikkoman Ponzu Lime. We poured some on both the chicken and the veggies as they were cooking. I would compare the taste to soy sauce with a zip of citrus flavor mixed in – kind of like a garnish on top of a drink. We both liked it!

Here’s the description from the company website:

“Kikkoman Lime Ponzu Citrus Seasoned Dressing adds a kick of lime juice to the umami mouthfeel of soy sauce. Use Kikkoman Lime Ponzu to marinate or finish fajitas or fish tacos, as the finishing touch to guacamole, in an Asian or Latin salad dressing, or mix with mayo and spices to create a delicious, creamy lime dipping sauce for fried foods.”

The veggies we used were from a frozen bag – you’ll see more about the benefits of using frozen veggies as a cheap and easy cooking tool in Caroline’s post – and included carrots, edamame, water chestnuts, and broccoli. Combined with the chicken, it made for a perfectly delectable and oh-so-easy dinner.

And, of course, there was also a bit of wine thrown into the mix.

This one was a Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot. It had a really nice aroma and balance of fruits and spices, as well as a very smooth finish and after taste. Bobby and I both enjoyed this one.

Now, I’ll stop yammering and get to our Guest Bender :mrgreen: I just couldn’t help but share since it complements what she will be talking about so perfectly!


Before we start, here’s Caroline’s disclaimer:

Now before I tell you my story let me just point out that I am by no means a nutritionist and though I am working towards becoming one, I haven’t made it past my core classes. The information that I base my healthy diet on is simply from articles that I read online, books I find at the library, and from other blogs I read. This is simply what is working for me and it might not work for everyone else.


Eating Healthy on a Budget

My name is Caroline and I write the blog See Cat Run. I’m 24 years old working my first post-college job at a major university in Georgia. I’m training for my first half marathon and taking classes part time in order to become a registered dietitian. I pretty much make the minimum possible wage at this University and have quickly learned to eat on a budget, which is what I’m here to talk about!

My shift from unhealthy foods has taken awhile. First I made a conscious effort to drink more water. Then I tried to stop eating the cheapo frozen dinners. I switched to whole bags of Bird’s Eye Steamfresh frozen veggies with Mrs. Dash (to continue my quest to cut down on sodium) but they haven’t been on as good of a sale for at least six months so I’ve found other alternatives. I also tried to stop eating as many frozen pizzas with my husband on nights he was home, which means we’re now rather sick of spaghetti.

I’ve never felt comfortable cooking meat on my own and have never really liked it enough to miss it (though I do crave hamburgers from time to time). So I obviously don’t have to deal with that expense. I would make myself burritos for dinner with black beans and whole wheat wraps, but that got boring.

I’ve actually become a little obsessed with Michael Pollan. I read The Botany of Desire a few months ago which inspired me to start splurging on organic spinach since I was eating it twice a day and the book had me wanting to avoid inorganic potatoes! (That’s right, potatoes! Just imagine what could be in foods grown above ground.)

Now I’m reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which has inspired me to try to eat foods with as short an ingredient list as possible (which means little to no fast food). If I buy myself meat (and as already discussed that’s a huge if) it’s going to be organic (Publix has good prices on organic ground turkey, actually). I also try to buy as locally as possible. There’s a weekly farmer’s market in town that recently ended for the season, but we’ll buy in season produce there for a lot cheaper than the super market, and its all sustainably grown. If we had farm stands I’d buy from them too.

I am lactose intolerant so I don’t eat much dairy, even yogurt makes my tummy rumbly!

Otherwise I eat a lot of oatmeal, simple salads, rice and beans or tofu. I’ll make stir-frys a lot with whole grain rice and frozen veggies. I seriously rely on frozen veggies (cheap and frozen while in season) and if at all possible choose whole grains over refined.

Eating this way is sometimes made tough because my Husband is allergic to beans and tofu (so I can’t always include him in my dinner) and also through living with our roommates because they don’t care how they eat. Like when we were all making pizzas the other night, the boys went to the store and bought the cheapest white pizza crust they could find.

When we do have pizza or pasta, I’m trying to start eating a small salad before them so that I fill up faster and have more leftovers.

To be brief, my methods are basically:

  • cut out unhealthy frozen meals
  • use seasonings (Mrs. Dash) on things like vegetables instead of salt
  • use frozen vegetables
  • use whole grains for pasta, rice, bread, etc
  • use cheap sources of protein like beans, lentils, peas
  • buy local and in season if possible and
  • (something I’m still working on) experimenting with different spices, seasonings, and sauces because they can completely transform a meal that is kept on heavy rotation


Thanks for sharing your perspective with us, Caroline! This makes for a great question that I would really like to ask all of you: how do you eat on a budget?

I’m really making an effort to be more conscious of my budget this year. I would love to hear your ideas for how that can apply in the sense of food. Let me know what you think :)

Time to get going on the weekend! That means doing some blog reading, of course…my favorite!


{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Erica February 6, 2010 at 10:57 am

I’m a HUGE stir fry fan- I love how you can always mix up your add ins to make a new creation. Hope you have a fabulous weekend :)


2 Jenn (eating bender) February 7, 2010 at 11:18 am

Hope your weekend has been fab as well!


3 Mara @ What's For Dinner? February 6, 2010 at 11:02 am

LOVE stir fry! We got a huge wok for our wedding, and haven’t really used it yet!


4 Jenn (eating bender) February 7, 2010 at 11:18 am

I’ll use it with you! 😉


5 Jacquie February 6, 2010 at 11:11 am


I too am on a budget for my food as I finish up school and then get a job. I really rely on meal planning, eating seasonally and focusing more on fruit, veggies, and whole grains and beans. The last two are very cost effective especially when you buy from the bulk bins and the first two are just things I can’t live without. Without trying, this means I’ve been eating more vegan because meat and dairy are expensive from conscious sources, but I’ll still have them here and there. You just got to balance your priorities :)


6 Jenn (eating bender) February 7, 2010 at 11:21 am

Whole grains and beans are my favorite! I agree with you – meat and dairy are expensive options that are good once in a while :) Priorities, priorities, priorities!


7 Gracie February 6, 2010 at 11:41 am

I eat on a budget by checking out the grocery store flyers *every* week. I generally try to find sales on things that are usually expensive but I use a lot – i.e. almond milk, greek yogurt, etc. And when possible, I buy the generic/store brand of a product. They’re sometimes half the price of the brand name!


8 Jenn (eating bender) February 7, 2010 at 11:19 am

Love it! Those are great tips :)


9 Stef @ moretolifethanlettuce February 6, 2010 at 12:39 pm

stir friday is the best day related pun i’ve ever heard! i actually get a thrill out of eating on a budget. i’m a huge proponent of bulk bin items from whole foods (i’ve found that even the organic oats, beans, dried fruit, nuts, etc are wayyy cheaper from WF’s bins than conventional packaged in other stores, and they taste better too!) i also buy veggies at the height of their season from the farmer’s market at good prices and then freeze them for use later in the year. you can’t go wrong or get a better value than a grain + veggies + tofu + whatever seasoning you like. way better than greasy takeout!


10 Jenn (eating bender) February 7, 2010 at 11:19 am

Aw, thank you! I’m thinking of making it a tradition :) Love your tips on eating on a budget – awesome!


11 eaternotarunner February 6, 2010 at 5:13 pm

Great guest post! Stir-fry is maybe the best (cheap) dinner out there :-)


12 Jenn (eating bender) February 7, 2010 at 11:20 am



13 workoutwarrior February 6, 2010 at 5:26 pm

My husband and I both just graduated from college in December so we know what it’s like trying to eat healthy but still live on a budget! Using frozen fruits and veggies is definitely one way to do that. Frozen produce also gives you more variety because you can eat foods that are out of season when they are frozen!! Also buy meats and breads when they are on sale and freeze them till you need them.


14 Jenn (eating bender) February 7, 2010 at 11:20 am

Very cool – congrats on graduating! Thanks for sharing your awesome tips :)


15 Nicole February 6, 2010 at 9:56 pm

I love stir-fry — quick, easy, delicious, versatile, oh…and healthy :)


16 Jenn (eating bender) February 7, 2010 at 11:21 am

You nailed it right on the head :)


17 Sara (effortless health) February 7, 2010 at 12:10 am

LOVE your wine glasses!


18 Jenn (eating bender) February 7, 2010 at 11:23 am

Gracias, chica!! Stemless are some of my favorites :)


19 Marianne February 7, 2010 at 1:26 am

I think eating in season (as much as possible) for produce really helps the budget. I’m not going to buy grapes in January when they are $4.99/lb, when I can get them for $1.99/lb (or less) in the summer, not to mention they will be grown closer to home. Making big batches of things like soup & stew is great, because you can freeze individual sized portions, and they are ready to go for days when you are busy. And I always stock up on items when they are on sale.


20 Jenn (eating bender) February 7, 2010 at 11:22 am

Thanks, Marianne! That’s a great thought – I definitely agree. I’m on a mission to bring out the crock pot this month and start making big batches!


21 ksgoodeats February 7, 2010 at 8:06 am

What a great guest post! I stay on budget by going to a few different stores to shop around for sales. Yesterday for example I went to two different grocery stores to get what I needed but the sales were worth it – Fage was 3/$5!


22 Jenn (eating bender) February 7, 2010 at 11:22 am

Wow – 3/$5?! I’m super impressed! Thanks, K! :)


23 jenngirl February 7, 2010 at 8:24 am

Both your stir fry and that wine sound fantastic! I’ve been wondering about that Merlot!

Much appreciated guest post! While I’m lucky that when it comes to groceries, my parents are very lenient about my budget, I know it will not always be this way (and I don’t want it to be). So I practice some money saving habits when buying and preparing food, but I’m always looking for more tips!


24 Jenn (eating bender) February 7, 2010 at 11:23 am

Get that Merlot! I can’t wait to hear what you think :)


25 Katie February 7, 2010 at 11:41 am

Great tips! I recently became a stay-at-home mom so being frugal is important. It is possible to eat healthy on a budget, but it takes some effort.


26 challenges2010 February 7, 2010 at 2:30 pm

I’m not really eating on a budget however it may seem like it. That’s because I’m buying a lot dry foods…all sorts of beans,15 bean soup mix,lentils,split peas,etc… get away from processed versions of these that have a lot of salt.


27 Karla February 7, 2010 at 6:11 pm

Your Stir-Friday looks great Jenn! I’m enjoying catching up on all the guest blogs. These are fantastic 😉

I’d say that most of the time I splurge on things that I know that I really enjoy/are really nutritious so that I don’t try to find cheap, less good imitations. For quick, inexpensive food, I enjoy broth and veggie-based soups, frozen veggies (a popular option I see!), sandwiches with whole wheat bread and wash and eat fruit (whatever is on sale).

Hope you’re enjoying your weekend girl!


28 Karla February 7, 2010 at 7:40 pm

(Not like I don’t enjoy your posts as well Jenn–I just read my comment and thought that may be misunderstood. Your writing, pictures, recipes, etc. are always amazing!)


29 Jenn (eating bender) February 7, 2010 at 7:43 pm

You are so sweet :) I totally knew what you meant and am glad you’re enjoying the guest posts, too!! Check your inbox tonight…finishing my email now!


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