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Stretching Meals On A Budget – Bariatric Edition

What a suitable topic for the times we are living. With what’s going on today, we all need to be concerned about the high cost of food and the best ways to stay healthy. Food becomes a very important topic when wanting to protect our health. 
When I was in school studying nutrition, it amazed me at how much money a lot of the other students in my class were paying for their food. They were buying “all organic” and only the best “farm fresh eggs. When it came to meat, they were buying local (which I love but cannot always afford). 
Not too many other students were taking care of a family of four people. This is where the disconnect was for me. They were A LOT younger than I was and most of them didn’t have kids. They didn’t think anything of visiting a farmers market and dropping 100 bucks on lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, a few liters of bone broth and some fancy kombucha. 
My fellow students thought nothing of dropping hundreds of dollars on vitamins and supplements. 
I, on the other hand, was always finding ways to scrimp and save. I don’t know how much you spent on groceries last week but my bill was pretty “up there”. Believe me, we are not eating filet mignon and lobster tails. This is just the regular grocery bill with some beer, wine, and cleaning products thrown in.
I put myself to the challenge each week when I visit the grocery store. I wonder if this pandemic will change the way we grocery shop? I used to do groceries about twice a week. Will I go back to my routine or will I stick with once a week for my groceries moving forward? I guess time will tell.
I do find myself taking a bit more time at the grocery store to be sure that I don’t miss anything. I don’t enjoy lining up outside waiting to get into the grocery store and the entire atmosphere inside has changed dramatically. Nobody looks at each other. Masks are being worn and people are irritated and afraid. Last week I had to wait for an hour in line to get to the cash register to pay.
I shop the sales. I glance at the weekly coupons that are sent to my email box and figure out which cuts of meat, chicken, and fish are on sale that week. Once I know that I plan my week of meals “loosely” on what I am going to buy that is on sale.
Last Saturday (that’s my current grocery day), I bought two big packages of chicken legs and thighs, a large package of ground beef, some chicken breasts, and two pork shoulders. On top of the meat, I loaded up on veggies (cherry tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, green beans, jalapeños, mushrooms, carrots, onions and a big bunch of broccoli).
When I got home on Saturday, my food prep started. I prepped burgers for the grill and at the same time, I made a big spaghetti sauce. The spaghetti sauce will be used for a lasagna and a small lasagna without noodles for me. I took advantage of my kitchen time and I put together a big low carb chicken/broccoli casserole that was topped with cheese and baked in the oven. 
Right there, I had meals for Saturday, Sunday and Monday. We are going to grill the chicken thighs and legs on Tuesday and I will serve them with coleslaw and green beans. The leftover chicken will be used to make a chicken vegetable soup and I may even have enough chicken to turn into burritos for my kids and husband. This rolls us into Thursday and I have two pork shoulders which will hit the slow cooker for 10 hours. There will be enough food to last us well into Saturday and the next food haul. 
I cook large portions of food because we don’t have any problem eating leftovers for breakfast and most of the time I don’t eat breakfast as I am intermittent fasting until at least noon. My kids take their lunches to work. They are part of the “essential workers”. Their lunches consist of leftovers or sandwiches and salads.
Now, I always cook meals that include all of us and I rarely make meals “just for me”. If I cook chicken, rice, beans, and salad…. I eat chicken and salad and I choose to stay away from the higher carb foods. That is my personal preference as I try to keep my blood sugars and insulin levels low.
I do not walk into a grocery store and shop just for me. I don’t have the option of buying expensive bone broth and specialty foods. I like to keep it simple and buy whole foods but foods that we ALL can eat. If I want bone broth, I take the bones from the chickens I just cooked and use those to make bone broth.
Occasionally I pick up something that is “just for me”, like carb-free tortillas or dark chocolate.
This doesn’t mean that if you have the money to spend extra on yourself that you shouldn’t do that. This is just the way that I feed my family during these times. This is also the title of my blog today, S T R E T C H I N G your meals. I am a PRO at doing this so I wanted to take you into my kitchen and show you how I do it.
I have fun getting creative and saving money. It’s kind of like my hidden talent. It makes me proud to be able to feed my family on a budget. I think we all should be proud of how hard we work to make sure that our families are well fed. 
I hope that you also enjoy food prep and trying new recipes. If there is a good tip that you can share that makes your life easier and less expensive, shoot me an email. I will share it with our closed bariatric group. I think that we need to stick together right now and share any good, healthy ideas that we have. 
I send you all optimistic, healthy hugs xo

About the Author: Sheri Burke is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and Bariatric Surgery Coordinator at International Patient Facilitators in Tijuana and Cancun, Mexico. She has worked with bariatric surgery clients for over 10 years and especially enjoys providing nutritional guidance to pre and post bariatric clients.  In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two teens and cooking up a nutritional storm in the kitchen.

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