6 Convenience Foods You Can Make Yourself

Save your wallet and waistline by making convenience foods at home

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Between meetings, it may be tempting to grab an egg sandwich from the corner deli or a bag of potato chips from the vending machine. It's easy for our busy schedules to dictate food choices, leading us to a diet of convenience. But that convenience can be costly. All that processed food will both expand your waistline and shrink your wallet. It's true: Taking shortcuts around your meals can be costly in more ways than one! Fight this submission to convenience foods, and taste the rewards of real food. Read on, and you'll see that eating real food can be convenient, affordable, and healthy.

Sweeten Your Spuds. Instead of ordering those soggy drive-thru fries on the way home, bake homemade sweet potato fries. They're simple to make: Peel and slice the potatoes; spread them on a cookie sheet with a spritz of oil; add a sprinkle of salt and pepper; and bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. Bonus convenience: Bake extra for the week, and they'll taste good for a few days.

Cost comparison: It costs about $1 to make one serving of homemade sweet potato fries—a much more nutritious bang for your buck than spending it on the greasy, drive-thru version.

[See Best and Worst Fast Food Kids' Meals]

Make Your Own Dip. Ditch that unhealthy store-bought ranch dip and make your own crudité with cucumber feta Greek yogurt dip. Here's what you need: 2 cups plain, low-fat Greek Yogurt; 1 cucumber (peeled, seeded, finely chopped); 8 ounces crumbled feta; 2 minced garlic cloves; 2 tablespoons fresh dill; 2 tablespoons finely-cut scallion; and 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice. Mix these ingredients well, and toss the mixture in the fridge for at least an hour so the flavors marry. Serve it chilled with fresh veggies for dipping. Make a big batch on Sunday and pack it into small containers for daily office snacks.

Cost comparison: With $4, you can buy either 16 ounces of ranch dip or 16 ounces of Greek yogurt. Given all the nutritional benefits of Greek yogurt, the first option is a steal.

Chuck Those Chips. Leave that greasy bag of potato chips at the checkout. I'm loving baked Brussels sprout leaves as a delicious, crunchy alternative to chips. First, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Trim the bottoms of 10 Brussels sprouts, then remove their outer leaves and toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Spread the leaves in a single layer on baking sheets lined with foil or parchment paper. Roast for about 10 minutes, or until all the leaves are crisp. Voila! You now have that perfect crunch you desire with extra vitamins and nutrients to boot.

Cost comparison: Sixteen ounces of Brussels sprouts, which will make two servings of chips, costs $3.49. Meanwhile, two bags of potato chips will set you back more than $4!

Change Your Chicken. Forget those battered and fried chicken wings that leave you feeling tired and heavy. Try a healthier and tastier version, like these sage-crusted chicken tenders. Make extra servings so the next day you can toss them with greens and veggies as a protein boost in your salad!

Cost comparison: Boneless, skinless chicken breasts cost $5 per pound—enough to make four 4-ounce servings of tenders. A box of frozen chicken tenders with three 3-ounce servings costs the same.

Start Smart with Oats. Instead of buying the box of individual pre-flavored oatmeal packages, buy a large container of plain, unprocessed oats and make your own delicious concoctions. For the week, dish out single servings into sandwich bags, or into my new favorite—unbleached paper snack and sandwich bags. In each bag, simply mix 1/3 cup of dry oats, a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg, and 1 tablespoon of dried cranberries (the sugar-free variety). This way, you're prepared for those mornings when you need to grab food on the go and eat at work.

Cost comparison: An 18-ounce canister of Old Fashioned Oats contains 13 servings and costs $3.99, while a box with 10 individual packets costs $5.49.

[See Stop the Excuses: Eat Breakfast]

Enjoy Eggs Everyday. Eggs truly are a superfood, but that doesn't mean you should indulge in the egg sandwich from the deli everyday. Pair eggs and veggies to maximize their health benefits and to keep your tummy satisfied. On Sunday, make mini veggie quiches in a muffin pan, and store them in the fridge for the week. First, whisk six eggs and 1 1/2 cups of low-fat milk in a bowl. Then add your favorite chopped veggies and 2/3 cup of low-fat cheese. Pour the mixture evenly into a lightly greased 12-cup muffin tin so that each cup is about 3/4 full, and then bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 to 30 minutes. Grab one every morning and reheat for the perfect start to your day!

Cost comparison: A dozen eggs can cost as little as $2.79, but one egg sandwich from the deli sets you back $4 or more.

Hungry for more? Write to eatandrun@usnews.com with your questions, concerns, and feedback.

Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN, is the founder and president of Nutritious Life, a nutrition practice based in New York City, and Nutritious Life Meals, a gourmet, healthy, daily diet delivery program available across the country. She is a member of Women’s Health Magazine’s advisory board and has authored Slim Calm Sexy Diet, The O2 Diet, and The Snack Factor Diet. Her fourth book, The New You and Improved Diet, will be released in December. Her expertise is regularly featured on the Today show, Good Morning America, and Access Hollywood Live, among others, and she hosts “A Little Bit Better” on YouTube’s Livestrong Woman channel. Read more of Keri’s tips every day on Facebook!