Hot dogs, peanut butter, ramen — if these items are all on your grocery list, you might not have the healthiest eating habits. If these items were the ingredients of your last three meals, you might be backpacking.
Living out of a backpack and on a tight budget isn’t always conducive to having nutritious meals. Eating cheap can often mean eating unhealthy. But, with a little creative thinking, even cheap pantry staples can transform into healthier, tastier dishes.
Chicago dietitian Amari Thomsen recently wrote a great article on her blog, Eat Chic Chicago, with the help of guests staying at Getaway Hostel. She found that boxed macaroni and cheese was a popular grocery item amongst travelers staying at Getaway. She then came up with some delicious and inexpensive recipes that add both nutrition and flavor.
Below is an excerpt from the blog post that originally appeared on Amari’s blog:
Think Outside the Box
Nothing says convenient comfort food quite like boxed macaroni and cheese. Healthy? Let’s not kid ourselves. But with so many students and travelers turning to this pantry staple for a quick, easy and shelf-stable option, there are certainly ways to make it more nutritious.
With the simple addition of a few ingredients (think protein and veggies) you can bring nutritious life to this budget-friendly meal. While the following recipe ideas involve a variety of brands and flavors of macaroni and cheese on the market, feel free to mix and match! Simply cook the macaroni and cheese according to the package directions and add in the fixings!
Tuna Noodle Casserole
Annie’s Whole Wheat Shells and White Cheddar Macaroni & Cheese
Cook the macaroni and cheese according to the package directions. Add drained tuna, peas, and chopped mushrooms. Garnish with chopped parsley.
Back to Nature Harvest Wheat Macaroni & Cheese
Cook the macaroni and cheese according to the package directions. Add cooked ground beef, ketchup and chopped red onion. Top with shredded lettuce.
Chipotle Black Bean
Kraft Cheesy Southwest Chipotle Macaroni & Cheese
Cook the macaroni and cheese according to the package directions. Add drained black beans, diced tomatoes, and jalapenos. Garnish with chopped cilantro and scallions.
See the complete list of recipes here: Think Outside the Box
Amari Thomsen is a Chicago dietitian, professional blogger and owner of Eat Chic Chicago. As a freelance writer and nutrition coach, Amari focuses on integrating modern and traditional techniques to promote real food nutrition.