Po’ Food – Or Eating Healthy Doesn’t Have to Be Expensive

There was a study done recently that came to the conclusion that healthy eating is a privilege for the rich (http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/early/2011/08/03/hlthaff.2010.1273.abstract). I disagree and I am going to show how you can have healthy vegetarian meals for cheap at the plain old grocery store. The only things you really need are a stove with oven and a refrigerator.

I am thrifty. I tend to prefer the stand grocery stores to the boutique grocery stores. You are more likely to find me at a Jewel or a Giant than a Whole Foods (unless I need something hard to find like vegan ravioli).

This is one of my po’ food recipes. I got the recipe from Whole Foods and I have not changed it. It is one of my favorites. I love Mexican food. I crave it even. This recipe is very satisfying and you do not miss the meat at all.

Layered Enchiladas http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipes/2873


2 cups frozen corn
1 cup frozen bell pepper strips
8 oz frozen spinach
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes (drained)
2 limes
4 tablespoons chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 15 oz can black beans – drained and rinsed
8 corn tortillas
1 cup mozzarella cheese (leave this off for vegan or dairy free)


Preheat oven to 400ºF.

In a large pot, combine corn, bell peppers, spinach, juice from one lime juice, 1 tablespoon chili powder, and tomatoes and cook over medium-high heat until liquid is almost evaporated, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mash beans with 2 tablespoons cilantro, and remaining 1 tablespoon chili powder and juice from the other lime juice.

Arrange four tortillas on a large parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Spread bean mixture evenly on tortillas. Top each with about 1/2 cup of the vegetable mixture and some cheese. Top with remaining tortillas, vegetables and cheese and bake until hot throughout and cheese is melted, about 15 minutes. Transfer to plates, garnish with remaining cilantro and lime wedges and serve.


The frozen veggies were on sale and the bags are large enough that I get 2 meals out of them.

Corn $1.67/bag so .84 for the meal
Peppers $1.50/bag so .75 for the meal
Spinach $1.67/bag so .84 for the meal

The cilantro comes in bunches at $1.67/bunch and I only use about ¼ to 1/3 so the cost for this meal is .50

The black beans are $1.00/can
The diced tomatoes are .67/can

The limes are 4/$1.00 so for this meal .50

Mozzarella cheese $2.49 and I use it for several meals so $1.25 for this meal.

Tortillas are $1.19 and there are 2 leftover (you can slice these in to strips, brush with a little olive oil and bake for a tortilla strip garnish).

Chili powder – I buy the huge box at Costco that last for a long time but if you buy a smaller quantity at the grocery you can get it for $2.49 and it will make lots of these meals.

I also buy a can of vegetarian refried beans for $1.59 as a side

If you are keeping track that means the entire meal costs $11.62 and it serves 4 making the cost per serving  $2.91.

I am willing to be honest, though. This also costs my time for shopping and preparation.  You need some basic kitchen equipment. In this case you need a large pot, a mixing bowl, a cookie sheet, a roll of parchment paper ($3.49 and it goes a long way), a sharp knife. I use a fork to mash the beans and a plastic poon to stir the veggies and a spatula to lift the enchiladas off the cookie sheet and on to the plates.

In a future blog post I will talk about a bargain kitchen set up – how much it costs and where to get it. In the mean time, never underestimate the availability of kitchen essentials at thrift stores and garage sales (don’t say eww because these things all wash up just fine).

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