April Blog Posts

Healthy Eating on a Budget: Heart-Happy Seafood Dinners for about $3 per serving

For those of us on a budget, seafood isn’t typically on our shopping list. Which is a shame, since it can be very affordable—especially when you shop the sales and consider it in all its forms: fresh, frozen and canned. Since research shows eating two servings of seafood per week may reduce the risk of heart disease (yay, Omega-3s), now's the time to start adding seafood into your meal rotation.

First: Fresh

When I’m adding fresh seafood to my weekly meal plan, I keep an eye on the sales flyer (download the Giant app to make it easy). As I write this, shrimp and cod are on sale at less than $6 a pound (that serves 4 for less than $1.50 per serving). Working off that sale, here’s what I’d add to my menu:

Grilled Shrimp Skewers (Serves 4)

+ 2 lbs uncooked large shrimp 21-25 count, peeled and deveined
+ 1/2 cup olive oil
+ 4 cloves of garlic, pressed or minced
+ 1 tablespoon seasoning (cajun, Garam Masala, OR lemon herb)
+ 1 tablespoon lemon juice
+ 12 medium wooden skewers

Before cooking, soak wooden skewers in water for 30 minutes to keep sticks from burning. Make marinade by combining olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and seasoning in a small bowl; marinate shrimp for 15 minutes. Skewer 4 shrimp per stick. Grill or broil until shrimp is bright pink, approximately 2 minutes per side or just until cooked through and no longer transparent. Serve with a grain—like steamed rice or crusty bread—and a vegetable or salad.

Cost per serving: $2.05 (with grain + veg $3.25 per person)

Pan-Roasted Cod with Blistered Tomatoes, Lemon, and Thyme (Serves 4)

+ 4 cod fillets (about 1lb total)
+ 2 tablespoons olive oil
+ 1 pint of cherry tomatoes
+ 10 sprigs of fresh thyme
+ 1 lemon, cut into wedges

Preheat a large ovenproof nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and preheat oven to 400°F. Pat fish dry with a paper towel. Add olive oil and fish to the skillet, and cook for 3 minutes or until golden brown. Flip fillets and add tomatoes, thyme, and lemon wedges to the pan. Place pan in the oven. Cook for 5 minutes or until fish is completely cooked and flakes easily with a fork. Serve immediately with steamed rice, crusty bread, or any other grain.
Cost per serving: $2.56 (with rice/grain $3 per person)

Next: Frozen

Frozen seafood is already a good deal, but when it’s on sale, it can get down to about $1 per serving! This week, Nature’s Promise scallops and Giant tilapia are on sale. Here’s what I’d add to my menu:

Garlic and Lemon Scallops (6 servings)

+ ¼ cup butter
+ ¼ cup olive oil
+ 4 cloves garlic, minced
+ 1 pound frozen scallops
+ 1 large lemon, juiced
+ Salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter with olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant. Add scallops, and cook for several minutes on one side, then turn over, and continue cooking until firm and opaque. Remove scallops to a platter, then whisk salt, pepper, and lemon juice into butter. Pour sauce over scallops to serve. Serve immediately with angel hair pasta and a vegetable.

Cost per serving: $1.94 (with pasta + veg for $2.94 per person)

Tilapia Tacos

+ 4 tilapia fillets, 4 oz. each
+ 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
+ 1 tablespoon chili powder
+ 8 flour or whole-wheat tortillas, 6” taco size, warmed
+ 1 cup chopped tomatoes
+ 1 cup thinly shredded purple cabbage
+ 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
+ 4 tablespoons low fat sour cream (optional)

Place fillets in a shallow dish. Drizzle with lime juice and sprinkle with chili powder; salt and pepper to taste. Let stand 10 minutes. Coat grill pan with nonstick cooking spray. Cover and grill fillets for 4 to 6 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Remove fillets from grill; cut into strips. Lay strips in tortillas. Add tomatoes, cabbage and cilantro. Top with sour cream or salsa (if desired), and serve.
Cost per serving: $2.27 (with rice $2.83 per person)

Finally: Canned

Canned foods get a bad rap, but it’s undeserved—and there is no cheaper way to get your daily dose of Omega-3 fatty acids. While tuna gets most of the attention ($1/can on sale), don’t forget salmon, clams, and sardines. Like tuna, they are shelf stable and are great to have on hand for quick and inexpensive dinners. Here’s what I’d add to my menu:

Linguine with Clam Sauce (Serves 4)

+ 2 (6.5 ounce) cans minced clams, with juice
+ 3 tablespoons butter
+ 1/4 cup olive oil
+ 3 cloves garlic, minced
+ 1 tablespoon dried parsley
+ 1/4 tablespoon dried basil
+ 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
+ 8 ounces (1/2 package) linguini pasta

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook pasta according to package directions and drain. Combine clams with juice, butter, oil, minced garlic, parsley, and basil in a large saucepan; add pepper to taste. Place over medium heat until boiling. Serve warm over pasta with a vegetable side like asparagus.

Cost per serving: $1.33 (with asparagus $2.20 per person)

Salmon Cakes (Serves 4)

+ 1 (14.75-oz.) can salmon, drained
+ 2 green onions, thinly sliced
+ 1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
+ 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
+ 1/4 cup mayonnaise
+ 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
+ 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
+ 1 large egg, beaten
+ Freshly ground black pepper
+ 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed

In a bowl, mix salmon, green onions, dill, breadcrumbs, mayonnaise, lemon juice, mustard, and egg and salt and pepper to taste. Form into five evenly-sized patties. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and cook patties in batches until golden and crispy, 3-4 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels. Serve over spinach with lemon wedges for squeezing.

Cost per serving: $1.51 (with spinach $2.14 per person)

Tip: Canned fish is already cooked and ready to eat—just drain the liquids and add to your favorite dish. Take out skin if you prefer but don't throw out the soft, calcium-rich bones! Mash them with a fork and you won't even notice them.

Here’s to you, your heart, and your budget!

Mandy is a registered dietitian and in-store nutritionist for Giant Food who is passionate about showing people how to eat healthy (and deliciously) on a budget. As a mom of two teenage boys she knows firsthand how difficult it can be to stay on budget, keep it interesting, AND keep it healthy-ish. Let Mandy check the prices and create a plan that will satisfy your taste buds, wallet, and schedule. In her Healthy on a Budget series, she will convince you that it’s NOT “too expensive” to eat healthy.

Tofu vs. Seitan

Plant-based eating is one of the fastest-growing trends this year. There are plenty of plant-based proteins to choose from, like nuts, seeds, beans, and legumes. Two plant-based proteins that you may be less familiar with—or, more realistically, you've heard of but don't know what's in them—are tofu and seitan. So let's dive in!

Although the plant-based eating trend may be new to mainstream America, tofu and seitan have been used in Asian cuisines for centuries. Tofu, the more popular of the two, is made from soymilk. Soymilk curds are pressed into blocks, similar to how cheese is made from cow's milk. Tofu can be firm, medium-firm, or extra firm all depending on how tightly it's packed and the water content. Firmer tofu holds up better for things like pan frying, while less firm tofu is better in smoothies or soups. In general, the firmer the tofu, the more nutrient and calorie dense it will be. A close cousin to tofu is tempeh. This plant protein is made from fermented soybeans. Tempeh has a nutty flavor and, since it's made with whole soybeans, the texture is not smooth like tofu. Tempeh is a good source of probiotics as well as protein, fiber, and other nutrients!

Seitan is made from wheat, specifically wheat gluten. Gluten is the protein component of wheat. Despite headlines that tell you gluten is the devil, gluten (and wheat) is good for you, as long as you don't have an allergy. Traditionally, seitan is made by mixing wheat flour with yeast, water, spices and other flavors into a dough before cooking it and rinsing it to remove the starch from the mixture. Seitan is known for having a "meaty" texture and is often used in meat-substitutes sold at stores or served in restaurants.

A unique feature of both tofu and seitan is that both are rather bland on their own, allowing them to take on whatever flavor you add. Seitan is higher in protein than tofu, boasting about 20g per 3oz serving (compared to around 7g per 3oz serving of tofu). While both are good sources of iron, tofu offers more calcium, especially if it's made with calcium sulfate (a coagulant that helps the soymilk turn to curds). A 3oz serving of tofu prepared with calcium sulfate delivers about 20% of your daily calcium needs. Of course, your daily calcium needs vary based on personal factors like weight and gender.

Preparing these plant-based proteins does not have to be intimidating. They can be baked, pan-fried, grilled, stir-fried, and more. You’ll even see dessert recipes using tofu, like pie or cheesecake. Seitan is more meat-like, so if you want that meaty texture while still eating plant-based, you can use it to make things like seitan steak or seitan nuggets.

All in all, both are great options for plant-based protein and work well in a variety of dishes, plus, you can buy them right at the store! Look for both seitan and tofu in the refrigerated section of the store, often alongside other plant-based options.

Marissa is a registered dietitian and nutritionist for Giant Food who is passionate about helping people understand the story behind what they eat. She’s curious about everything, especially when it comes to food. Since Marissa asks all the questions, she is here to give you the answers. In her series “Food Explained,” Marissa will dive into the differences between common foods and what they mean for you and your health!

Spring Cocktails

As the weather gets warmer, I start to think about entertaining and with entertaining comes cocktails. If you’re looking to streamline beverages into one theme, look no further: springtime calls for sparkling wine. Specifically Prosecco, an Italian sparkling wine known for its light and (mostly) dry flavor in addition to its wallet-friendly price tag. This spring, set up a Prosecco bar at your next gathering and watch the compliments roll in. Here are five things you’ll need in addition to the bubbly.

  1. Fresh fruit: A variety is best, but you can suggest fun flavor combos by making menu cards and grouping certain items together (or check out some ideas below!). For a tropical spin, pair mango with slices of lime. Want to keep it sweet? Berries are a classic addition to sparkling wine. Peaches and apples also compliment the crispness of Prosecco.

  2. Fruit juice: To add extra flavor to plain Prosecco, consider blending fruits to make a juice. Homemade peach nectar and Prosecco make a fresh Bellini. Strapped for time? Make a juice bar with store-bought 100% juices! Orange, apple, and cranberry all work well.

  3. Herbs: I’m a huge fan of savory cocktails, and adding fresh herbs is the best way to make them. Consider putting out potted herbs—they double as decor! Thyme, sage, mint, rosemary, and lavender are all great options.

  4. Cheese: Whether it’s brunch, happy hour, or sometime in-between, wine and cheese are always a match. Experts specifically recommend soft, buttery cheeses like brie and Camembert to pair with sparkling wine. For variety, add subtle cheeses like Baby Swiss and Gouda.

  5. Sweets: Prosecco and dessert is a party theme I can definitely get behind. Keep your menu simple with chocolates—truffles are a great recommendation. Want to bake? Light and fluffy desserts such as macaroons, sponge cakes, and soufflés are good options. For a creative twist, make Prosecco the dessert by freezing it into a pop!

Emily is a Registered Dietitian and in-store nutritionist for Giant Food. A proud millennial, Emily loves good food made easy and hasn’t met an avocado toast she doesn’t like. If you’re looking for simple and fun better-for-you options, Emily has them! In her series, Emily will serve up creative recipes and uses for trending foods, all of which can be found in-store at Giant Food.

Food Waste in America

Who hasn't wondered if their food is safe to eat? Have you ever cleaned out your fridge and wondered if items were still fresh—and then tossed it out? Almost all of us have all tossed food because we were concerned about quality.

Food waste in the United States is a BIG problem. Here are the facts:

  • Americans waste anywhere from one to two pounds of food every day! It could be a meal or two per day which adds up to 225 to 290 pounds of food per person every year. That is enough wasted food to feed about two billion people.

  • More than 40% of the food produced each year is simply never eaten, and most food waste occurs at the consumer level. Approximately 43% of food waste happens in our homes. 80% of food waste comes from perishable items like dairy products, produce, seafood, and produce.

  • It’s not just food that’s wasted. The water, food, money, and fertilizer used to grow food also go to waste. In 2010, food waste cost American consumers $161.6 billion. Fully 30% of fertilizer, 35% of fresh water, and 31% of the cropland in the U.S was used to grow food that was wasted.

Why so much waste?

Food is wasted throughout the supply chain. Farming practices, transportation, visual appeal, and pests all play a part. Additional food waste happens during processing and packaging. And consumers may play THE biggest factor. Think about how many times you’ve found rotten veggies in your drawer or dumped your milk because it smelled funky. It’s likely we are putting too much into our shopping carts each week or not having a plan for the food we do buy.

On top of this waste, we also discard billions of pounds of food each year that is safe to eat. It is because consumers not understand "sell by" and “best if used by" labels.

A 2015 survey on food waste conducted by Johns Hopkins University found that consumer preferences for fresh food and concerns about foodborne illness were the top reasons for wasting food. While fresh food is great, it’s only great for our bodies and the environment if we are eating it. Setting a good example for kids and saving money were the prime motivators for reducing food waste in this study, which I think most of us would agree with (I can’t think of anyone who is trying to spend more on food).

Goverment Regulation

The federal government is taking steps to help combat food waste in America. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) made headlines in 2015 when they announced a goal to cut food waste 50% by 2030. The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 was signed into law in December 2018. It provides a significant increase in funding, research, and policy attention around food waste. The bill will provide USDA funding to develop strategies to reduce food waste.

While it’s great that the government is working at the policy level to help with this issue, there is a lot we can be doing in our own kitchens.

Steps you can take to reduce food waste

  • Plan your meals ahead of time and only buy food that you need.

  • Check expiration dates in your pantry and refrigerator regularly. Put fresh foods at eye level in the fridge so they are easy to see and use.

  • Pick a “clean out the fridge” night each week. Use the food and leftovers in your refrigerator! Freeze leftovers instead of letting them go bad.

  • Use vegetables and meat leftovers to make your own broth.

  • Can or freeze fruits and vegetables at home.

  • Wherever possible, use the whole plant for your meals – stalks, peels, fonds, leaves, roots, and seeds.

  • Repurpose foods like dried bread for toast or bread crumbs.

  • Embrace ‘ugly produce’ that may look less attractive but is just as nutritious.

  • Learn what foods to throw away and what foods to compost. 30% of home waste comes from food and yard waste. Composting helps minimize the amount of waste in landfills and creates food for plants. Making a good compost requires ‘browns’ like branches and twigs, ‘greens’ like grass clippings, vegetable waste, fruit scraps, and coffee grounds, and an appropriate amount of water. Visit the Environmental Protection Agency to learn more about composting!

  • Take the Food: Too Good to Waste Challenge, which encourages people to assess how much food they throw out at home and find ways to decrease it.

While composting and repurposing food is fantastic, the best way to avoid food waste is to only buy what you need. Be realistic about your time, skill level, and expectations when you’re shopping. Particularly if you buy fresh meat, dairy, or produce without a plan for it, there’s a good chance you just won’t eat it.

Melanie is a registered dietitian and in-store nutritionist for Giant Food who is all about evidence-based science. She loves to delve into the latest nutrition craze (or rumor) and get the facts. In her series “Putting the Science in Nutritional Sciences,” she sorts through the hype and gives you the information you need to make an informed decision about what you see on the news and all over social media.