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Budget meal planning tips & recipes from Melissa d'Arabian

In August 2009, Melissa dArabian won season five of The Next Food Network Star, beating out thousands of hopefuls for the ultimate dream job: her own Food Network show. As a wife and a stay-at-home mother to her four preschool-aged daugh...

Meal-planning for Moms

As moms, we know what it’s like to have the well-being of others resting on our shoulders, so my cooking style has evolved since I’ve had my four daughters. My experiences have definitely influenced my overall cooking style, but now I’m more pragmatic and practical. I want to make sure I’m giving my kids all the essential nutrients their bodies need.

5 budget-friendly tips from Melissa d'Arabian

1.Save the crust!

My kids like sandwiches without crusts, so I am constantly cutting them off sliced bread. Instead of throwing them away, I save them in resealable freezer bags. I turn them into "dippers" which my kids use for dunking in jam (crusts are apparently completely delicious, just not on a sandwich when you are five years old), or I use the crusts to make fresh and fluffy bread crumbs. The color of the crust makes for nice browning when I cook with the breadcrumbs.

>>> Fast ways to make over leftovers

2. Don't overlook bread as a base for sweet snacks. Meal-planning for Moms

My husband is French and he grew up eating bread and chocolate together. Try it – it's a delicious dessert or snack! Just spread a baguette with a smear of butter and add a small piece of chocolate. Or, make an "apple pie sandwich" by spreading a slice of sandwich bread with a bit of butter and filling it with sliced apples.

3. For parties, go to the day-old bread rack and stock up on a bunch of bread – the more varied, the better!

If it is not sliced already, slice the bread thinly and brush olive oil on all the exposed cut edges. Grill, roast or sauté the bread until golden and serve in a large basket with dips, spreads, grilled veggies, cheeses, garlic-infused olive oil or even simply alone. It's a festive and inexpensive side item to feed a crowd, it looks beautiful, and it goes with everything! Plus, an interesting bread basket can double as table décor.

4. Keep different varieties of pasta in your pantry for quick, nutritious weeknight meals.

Your weeknight strategy: Get the pasta started -- and while it's cooking, pull out a large sauté pan. Add a little olive oil and then check your crisper drawer, freezer and pantry for aromatics, herbs, veggies or meats to sauté in the olive oil. You can always go simple with just minced garlic, red pepper flakes and some slivers of broccoli, for instance.

>>> See how to measure pasta serving sizes

Once the pasta is cooked, toss it into your sauté pan, adding a little of the pasta water and some Parmesan cheese to make a light sauce.

5. Check the bulk aisle for more unusual grains to try when they go on sale.
Quinoa is uber-hip right now.

As a bonus, quinoa is a complete protein and the crunchy, nutty taste is crave-worthy. (Get some great quinoa recipes here!) In addition to rice, mix things up by trying bulgur, millet or couscous.



Next: Recipes from Melissa d'Arabian

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