Pasta is a frugal kitchen staple that can feed many on a tight budget.
We have had our fair share of pastas and we have hundreds of different ways to prepare it with different mix-ins and sauces to where it is different nearly every time.
Well, one thing that is also important to us is eating healthy. Pasta is not always a healthy option, but there are things you can do to prepare and buy healthier pasta.
We have been doing these tricks ourselves for many years. You can take any pasta and prepare it in a healthier way. Even better, start with a healthier pasta and use these tips to make it that much healthier!
Also these tips will help you to be able to feed your family or large crowds for much less than what other meals would cost!
Tip #1: Cooking Healthy Pasta Just by Cooking Under Al Dente
Cook your pasta until right before Al Dente! Why? Well, this is a healthier way to cook the pasta as when you cook the pasta to it’s very soft form, the sugars have been broken down for you and you get a high spike in your glucose levels. When cooking to just under al dente, you do not experience such high glucose spikes. This is good for anyone to consider when eating, not just diabetics! It will also leave you fuller longer, which means not needing to eat as much (which saves money) and not having to refuel on food again so quickly.
How do we ensure cooking this way: I boil the water first, then I dump all of the pasta into the boiling water and set the timer for 1 minute under the recommend Al Dente cooking time. Most pasta boxes will give 2-3 recommended cooking times – we just choose the shortest and cut another minute off!
Tip #2: Dashing Cooked Pasta With Balsamic Vinegar
We love this one! We literally do this every time we cook pasta, and the kids have no idea (and they hate vinegar because they can smell it on our salads!).
From the Dr. Oz Show HERE:
Vinegar’s acetic acid slows down how quickly you digest and absorb glucose from starch; this helps to control hunger and makes you less likely to eat later. Add 2 tablespoons of vinegar to a starchy dish to stabilize your post-meal blood sugar.
As soon as we are done cooking, we throw the pasta in a bowl and toss with a few dashes of balsamic vinegar, then continue the preparation like normal! We even do this in the kid’s Annies Organic Mac and Cheese before adding the cheese sauce 🙂 Shhhh!
Tip #3: Mixing Fresh Veggies to “Expand” the Pasta
We’ve been doing forms like this for a long while, but our ideas expand as time goes on for tips on how to expand the pasta! 🙂
Some examples are:
- Spaghetti Squash with spaghetti (or just use spaghetti squash entirely!)
- Cauliflower with the shaped pastas (great in homemade mac and cheese)
- Zucchini chunks with shapes or shreds with the spaghetti or fettucini noodles
- Eggplant for some of the lasagna layers
- Fresh Tomatoes (all types!)
- Carrot Shreds
- Sweet Pepper strips thinly sliced for spaghetti or in chunks for shape pasta
- Broccoli chunks
- Replacing half (or all if you have enough!) of your spaghetti with 1 spaghetti squash.
- Fresh herbs are a nice addition too for some extra healthy spice
- What other ideas do you have?
Again, it was something we already were doing, but the list of items we are adding is continually growing. It is a brilliant idea to add veggies to your pasta and slip it in for the kids to eat and for the family to eat healthier without anyone really noticing the difference! After adding your “fresh veggie expanders” then just prepare like you normally would or the recipe that you were going to do originally!
Our family can eat 2 boxes of spaghetti/pasta each meal, so by doing any of the above, it means 1 box and then a good serving of veggies quite easily!
Depending on the dish, we also add beans for a cheap healthy protein too! Beans actually work quite well with pasta!
Tip #4: Start with a healthier pasta from the start
Pasta is really great – what is great about it is that there are so many options out there. You don’t have to go with the cheapest, most nutrionally empty pasta out there – but if you did, the tips above will help.
However, why not spend just a bit more for a healthier version that will ultimately be more filling and save money in the long run. A healthier pasta is still less money than many potential dishes out there.
We have found that Costco and Trader Joe’s are the absolute best places to get a good prices on healthier pastas. At Costco we can buy Organic Whole Wheat Pasta for a good price. Amazon also has it, but not as good of a price (but Amazon will have sales too!).
This is the exact pasta we get at Costco in bulk for less
We use this spaghetti and then make it even healthier with the other 3 tips above.
Also, 2 of our family members are gluten-free. We have found that Trader Joe’s has the best prices on a good gluten-free pasta. Also, many gluten-free pastas are made with corn, and Trader Joe’s uses non-GMO corn, so this is a major plus. And the price is $1.50-$2 a pack – which is a SUPER price for gluten-free, GMO-free pastas! They do have rice ones as well. The corn is cheaper than the rice, but both are still a super value.
If you don’t live near a Trader Joe’s, you can get quite a good selection of options on Amazon for a good price too! You can see the many deals on gluten-free pastas online HERE.
You can get gluten-free pasta at Walmart as well for a decent price. However, we just load up when we make our trip to Trader Joe’s.
Finally, the other pasta that we will use on occasion are the Annie’s Mac and Cheeses. Honestly, they are still more expensive than the bulk organic whole wheat or gluten-free pastas, but our kids love them and feel like they are getting the mac and cheese experience. We just wait for our local Kroger grocery store to offer them for $1 or less and then grab a case.
When we have a pasta dinner, we will make two separate pots for organic whole wheat and another for the gluten-free and follow the veggie, al dente and vinegar tips on both!
At this point, we rarely have a plain ol’ white pasta. There are so many affordable options for healthy pastas now that a few dollars more per month is worth it!
As far as the sauces go, we have hundreds of creative concoctions. We honestly just throw in whatever we have at the time and make it quite fun and different. We rarely make a meat pasta sauce, but this saves even more money and health by going meatless on pasta nights!