May Blog Posts

Brunch for 8 under $35



Brunch is my favorite way to entertain for a number of reasons. It leaves your evening open. It tends to be simple to prepare. And—my favorite reason—it’s an inexpensive way to entertain! Although hosting a brunch requires no special reason, there are plenty of holidays this spring that just ask for a mid-morning meal, namely Mother’s Day and Easter. So join me as I whip up a simple menu that can feed a group of 8 for less than $5 per person.

Here's our menu:

Vegetable Frittata
Tomato Avocado Salad
Fresh Fruit Parfait
Corn Muffins
Orange Mango Kombucha Mocktail

Although my menu has a Southwestern twist, I’m offering a few other recipe inspirations you can use to stay on budget.

Frittata

+ 12 eggs
+ 1 small red pepper, diced
+ 1 small green pepper, diced
+ 1 small sweet onion, diced
+ ½ cup chopped cilantro
+ ½ cup milk
+ 8 oz Monterey Jack cheese, grated
+ 2 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
+ Salt/pepper to taste

How to: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Whisk eggs, milk, salt and pepper together in a large bowl. Add cheese and mix well, setting aside. Using an oven safe pan or cast iron skillet, sauté peppers and onions until tender. Pour egg mixture over vegetables and sprinkle with chopped cilantro. Bake 20 minutes or until centers are set. Serves 8.

Total Cost: $6.62 (Cost per serving: $0.83)

Tip: Add more protein!

My menu leans Southwestern, so ham would be a great addition. Adding 1 cup of diced ham to the recipe raises the total cost from $0.83 to $1.30 per person.

Savory Inspiration:
Grilled Vegetable Frittata
Bacon and Spinach Frittata

Side Salad

Even on a budget, one should always strive for a half-plate of produce. For me, salads are a quick and easy way to make this happen, and a fancy salad can make any meal special. To keep it Southwestern, I picked an avocado tomato salad and threw it on top of mixed greens. I also considered an avocado, corn and black bean salad with a spicy ranch dressing and strawberry and spinach salad with raisins and walnuts. No matter what you make, you are in for a treat!

Avocado and Tomato Salad
+ 2 avocados, diced
+ 1 pint cherry tomatoes
+ 1 cucumber, peeled and diced
+ ½ medium red onion, diced
+ 3 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
+ 2 cloves garlic, minced
+ 1 lime, juiced
+ ¼ cup olive oil
+ Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
+ 5 cups mixed lettuce greens

How to: Set aside lettuce. Gently toss ingredients together. Serve over lettuce greens.

Total Cost: $8.99 (Cost per serving: $1.12)


Side Muffin

Corn muffins are the logical side to a southwestern spread, and I took the easy (and inexpensive) route. I grew up on these muffins and they never disappoint. Best of all they only cost 69 cents a box!

Corn Muffins

+ 2 boxes Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix
+ 2 eggs
+ 2/3 cup milk

How to: Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease muffin pan or use paper baking cups. Blend ingredients. Batter will be slightly lumpy. (For maximum crown on muffins let batter rest for 3 or 4 minutes, stir lightly before filling cups.) Fill 8 muffin cups evenly. Bake 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

Total Cost: $1.87 (Cost per serving: $0.23)

Savory Inspiration:
Cornbread Muffins
Berry Blueberry Muffins


Sweet Ending

Having a sweet treat signals the end of any good meal, but it’s also a chance to get more produce in your life. Any combination of fruit and yogurt–fresh, frozen, or canned—is a good option. I went with kiwis and strawberries which are perfect this time of year. In lieu of high calorie (and high cost) granola, I’ve opted for a crunchy cereal. I made individual portions for my brunch, but this would be great–and a real showstopper–as a trifle on your buffet table. Another idea is a parfait station with a variety of fruits, yogurts and toppings.

Yogurt Parfait
+ 32 ounces Yogurt (Greek or Regular) Vanilla
+ 4 kiwis, peeled and cut into cubes
+ 1 pint blueberries
+ 2 pints strawberries, sliced
+ 4 cups Kashi Go Lean Crunch
+ 3 sprigs Mint Garnish

How to: Alternate fruit, yogurt and cereal layers ending with a fruit layer and a sprig of mint.

Total Cost: $8.81 (Cost per serving: $1.10)

Savory Inspiration:
Fresh Fruit Trifle
Cheesecake Parfaits


A Touch of Fizz

Fancy brunches require a fancy drink and fancy to me always means something bubbly. While the classic Mimosa or Bloody Mary is always a great choice for brunch, why not try something new? Kombucha is a fermented tea that offers just the right amount of bubbles with a unique flavor that’s perfect for a mocktail. You can use flavored Kombucha or plain and add any fruit or fruit juice that suits you and your menu. If Kombucha isn’t the right beverage for you, I’ve added a few Savory inspirations you can substitute (and save some $$).

Mango-Orange Kombucha Cocktail
+ 2 16 oz Bottles Kombucha (any flavor)
+ 2 cups of 100% Mango Orange juice
+ 1 orange, sliced (or 1 cup of fresh fruit)

How to: Add all ingredients to a large pitcher and stir. Serve over ice and enjoy!

Total Cost: $8.33 (Cost per serving: $1.04)

Savory Inspiration:
Fruit Punch Mocktail
Raspberry Lemon Spritzer




Cheers to Mom, the Easter Bunny, and ladies (and gentlemen) who brunch for no reason!

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 series ‘Healthy on a Budget,’ she will convince you that it’s NOT “too expensive” to eat healthy.




Table Salt, Sea Salt, Kosher Salt, and Himalayan Pink Salt



If you asked me to predict a food trend a few years ago, I would not have put my money on salt, but here we are. Pink salt, black salt, sea salt, table salt, you name it—we have seen them all! While I'm all for using salt for flavor, excess salt intake can still contribute to a host of health issues.

Salt is made up of sodium and chloride. Too much sodium is linked to high blood pressure, increased risk of stroke, heart failure, and other health conditions. This is why the Dietary Guidelines recommend consuming less than 2,300mg of sodium daily. For at-risk groups, the recommendation is 1,500mg/day. To put this in perspective, one teaspoon of table salt has about 2,300 mg of sodium. When it comes to salt, some is fine. Our bodies need sodium for things like fluid balance and nerve function. At the same time, it doesn't mean we want to go wild adding it to our food with abandon.

Another essential component of most table salt is iodine. Nearly all table salt has iodine added (you can confirm by looking for the word iodized on the package). It was done in the early 1990s when populations began to experience adverse effects of iodine deficiency (like goiter).

Most table salt is processed from naturally occurring salt deposits. Table salt is ground very fine and sometimes has anti-caking agents added to prevent clumping. Kosher salt, the preferred salt of most chefs, is similar to table salt except it is not ground as small so it has a larger flake size. Kosher salt is usually not iodized.

Sea salt is made from, you guessed it, evaporated sea water. Though sea salt may have trace amounts of other minerals, it is predominately sodium and chloride, like table salt. Sea salt does not have iodine added and is, therefore, not a good source of iodine. Any minute amount of minerals that sea salts may contain, like magnesium and potassium, can be found in a variety of other foods.

When it comes to Himalayan pink salt, the story is quite similar. Himalayan pink salt is mined from salt beds that were deposited by ancient oceans some 200 million years ago. This salt was raised when the Himalayan mountain range was formed and the deposits have been buried by lava, ice, and snow ever since. Himalayan pink salt does contain minerals, but most of them are not useful for the human body or present in such trace amounts that you likely won't see any benefit.

What about sodium?

Are sea salt or Himalayan pink salt lower in sodium than table salt? The short answer is no. By weight, these salts contain nearly identical amounts of sodium. However, by volume, sea salt and pink salt will have less because the salt crystals are larger, so the same measuring spoon simply cannot fit as many crystals. The same is true of kosher salt and any other salt that has a larger crystal size.

Interestingly, a survey done by the American Heart Association found that 61% of people who took the survey thought that sea salt was a lower-sodium option to table salt. While there is certainly nothing wrong with any of the salt options discussed, it is vital that we understand the truth about their benefits (or lack thereof).

My advice is to let your preference guide your decision here. All four salts taste fine to me, and taste is subjective. If you enjoy one better than another, have at it. Just remember that no one salt has lower sodium or an appreciably higher mineral content than the others.

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!