Nutrition Matters – March 2021

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Holiday Meal on a Budget:  In the weeks and months leading up to a holiday it can be hard to figure out where you are going to find the time and money for gifts, activities, and festive food. With friends, family and co-workers telling you what they are preparing to do for the holidays it can be tempting to copy their plan, even when you have different financial situations. With St. Patrick’s Day coming up, think of how to make a plan that may be uniquely yours. One that fits your needs, budget, and your unique expression.

You can experiment making a delicious meal that is cost efficient. Cooking at home has many benefits compared to eating out. Here are a few benefits to be mindful of:

  1. It costs less to cook at home and you won’t overspend on adding an appetizer or dessert.
  2. You can control what ingredients you buy and can choose healthier options.
  3. You can use your SNAP dollars towards buying groceries for your special meal, rather than spending from your “eating out” budget or funds dedicated to another purpose.

Spinach is one of the few vegetables that is in season during March in North Carolina. The recipe below can be prepared for less than the minimum monthly FNS/SNAP benefit ($15). Try this Italian Spinach and Chicken recipe for St Patrick’s Day this year:

Italian Spinach and Chicken Recipe:  Prep time: 5 minutes, Cooking time: 30 minutes and Makes: 7 cups

Shopping List: 1-24 oz jar tomato paste: $0.88, 3 pounds chicken breast at $1.98/lb: $5.94, 1-package frozen spinach: $1.00, 1-16 oz. bag shredded mozzarella cheese: $2.77, 12 count bag of rolls: $1.98. Total: $12.57

Pantry Staples: Salt (26 oz): $0.36, Pepper (3 oz): $2.68   Tip:  Space out buying pantry staples over the course of a month so that you don’t go over your budget for any one week.

Ingredients:  1 cup tomato pasta sauce, 1 pound chicken breast cut or pounded into 1/2 inch thick slices, 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper, 1 package frozen spinach, thawed and drained or 4 cups fresh spinach leaves, 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese.

Directions:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour 1/2 cup of pasta sauce in a large baking dish. Sprinkle salt and pepper over chicken and add to the dish. Top with remaining 1/2 cup of pasta sauce, spinach and mozzarella. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until chicken is no longer pink inside and cheese begins to turn brown. Refrigerate leftovers with 2 hours. Warm the bread in the oven when your dish has about 10 minutes left to cook. Enjoy spending less and saving money on your holiday meal!

For additional foods, health and nutrition information contact Shelina Bonner, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, North Carolina Cooperative Extension-Greene County Center at (252) 747-5831.