Three Tips to Make Sure Unprocessed Makes Cents (Tomato-Topped Sole)

Amanda Yates is the Marketing Director at Food on the Table, a website and mobile app for Apple & Android that integrates the sale items at your local grocery store into recipes your family will love.  How cool is that?  She has a passion for family dinnertime… and her golden retriever, Roz.

Tomato-Topped Sole

I’ve always been a huge Marc Bittman fan, and Saturday his column in the New York Times really hit home.   He summarized the evidence that eating unprocessed foods is good for your wallet too.   In “Is Junk Food Really Cheaper?“, he points to the example that a meal for four at McDonald’s is $28, while a roasted chicken at home with vegetables and a simple salad runs about $14.

While the argument to eat unprocessed foods is strong from a health perspective, more money in your wallet can be a reason that is equally powerful.

Here are three tips to makes sure eating unprocessed doesn’t break the bank.

1. Make a Plan

There are many benefits to meal planning, but one of them is that you buy only what you need.  Because unprocessed foods don’t have the shelf life of a dinosaur fossil, you need to use them shortly after you buy them.   Before you go to the store for the week, figure out what you want to eat and make a list.  Stick to that list, use those items throughout the week, and you won’t have any excess foods rotting in your fridge by the end of the week.   Reducing food waste is a win-win.  Your wallet is happy and the food system is happy.

2. Look for Sales

If you are going to the grocery store instead of the farmers’ market, look at the sales in your circular.  Every week, most supermarkets publish weekly specials that have a variety of meat and produce.   Build your plan around those sale items and you’ll have a variety of unprocessed deals to choose from.

 3. Shop in Season

Even if you didn’t take Econ 101 in college, you can probably figure out the law of supply and demand when it comes to seasonal produce. When produce is in season, there is a large supply.  In order to sell everything before it goes bad, the price needs to drop.  Look for seasonal produce in your grocery store and you’ll get a good deal every time.

To get you started, I’m going to share a Food on the Table recipe I made for my family of four using the sale items at my local Whole Foods Market.  Sole was on sale for $7.99/lb, so this meal came in at a grand total of $15.

Tomato-Topped Sole
Prep Time: 
Cook Time: 
Total Time: 
Serves/Yield: 4
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound sole filets
  • 1 plum tomato, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 clove carlic
  1. In a small skillet, sauté onion in oil until tender. Transfer to 1-qt. baking dish. Place fillet over onions. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top with tomato slices. Season with a little more salt. Combine butter and garlic; pour over tomato.
  2. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees F for 14-18 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.
  3. I served the sole with a simple salad of greens, blueberries, raspberry vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.

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8 Responses to Three Tips to Make Sure Unprocessed Makes Cents (Tomato-Topped Sole)

  1. Bianca @ South Bay Rants n Raves October 4, 2011 at 6:03 pm #

    I’ve grown more aware of seasonal fruits & things but I still have more room to grow. I also like this recipe. I’m a fan of anything quick, simple, & healthy.

  2. Jamie October 3, 2011 at 10:27 am #

    I feel like an idiot for posting this but the eat seasonally thing always stumps me. In grocery stores you can get anything you want any time of year so other than fruits I really don’t know what veggies are really in season *going to hide under my rock now*

    • Andrew October 3, 2011 at 10:47 am #

      You’re not an idiot! Your confusion exemplifies the problem. Yes, we can get produce pretty much year round. However, it takes a tremendous amount of effort and resources to accomplish that (it may be flown halfway around the world, grown in a hothouse, consume huge amounts of fertilizer so that it can be grown in a different region, etc.), and it’s also not necessarily as tasty.

      The first place to start is to pay attention to the prices and the quality of the produce. You’ll start seeing the patterns. The prices reflect those resources — when a piece of fruit has to be flown in, of course you’re absorbing that in the cost. It also is usually of lower — or at least different — quality, since it’s had to make such a long journey. Produce that’s in season costs less than the rest of the year.

      Having said that, there are some great resources online to help you figure it out a little faster. A quick search for “what’s in season” or “eating seasonally” will turn up tons of information, such as this map from Epicurious.

      There are also some great mobile apps (which are handy when you’re at the store) — #14 on my list of “apps for healthy foodies” is my favorite!

    • Clean Eating October 3, 2011 at 5:29 pm #

      Jamie – no stupid questions just the ones not asked…

      Season veggies are much like season fruits – the more local the fruit or veggie is to you the fresher it is.

  3. Trina October 1, 2011 at 5:28 pm #

    That looks really good. If you buy stuff in season and spend a little time, you can also freeze or can the extra…then you have unprocessed food for a later day, when there isn’t much in season anymore. You could make this same recipe in the winter with canned diced tomatoes with herbs on the sole instead. Maybe add a little rice on the side instead of the salad if greens are expensive. I am going to try putting a hoop house over one of my raised beds, and keep some greens, carrots, and radishes going after it gets really cold.

  4. Amanda - RunToTheFinish October 1, 2011 at 4:50 pm #

    so far so good on day one.. minus chocolate, oh how i want chocolate 🙂

  5. Canadian Doomer October 1, 2011 at 4:26 pm #

    You say to eat seasonally but to shop weekly and eat fresh. Just curious, but what do you do when the harvest is over? It’s starting to get chilly and not much is growing anymore.

  6. Suni Ferrer October 1, 2011 at 3:13 pm #

    I’ll be making this soon! I would love to see more simple and quick recipes like this one!

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