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Canned Vegetables

I am not snobbish about canned vegetables.  We eat them every week in my household.  Some folks won't eat them because they consider canned vegetables too low-class for their lifestyle.  Other folks claim canned vegetables are void of nutrients and therefore not worth consuming .  I never felt that way about them.  Especially during the winter, when most fresh vegetables are out of season, I find canned vegetables to be a real money saver.  The USDA's Food Pyramid recommends everyone eat at least 3 servings of vegetables per day and if you're trying to lose weight then 4 or more servings per day is preferred. Canned vegetables, when purchased for 75¢ a can, cost only about 25¢ per serving.  This is an almost unbelievable bargain in terms of healthy eating. 

Canned Veggie Savings: To save the most on canned vegetables, there are a few details to remember.  Generally store brands are the least expensive. All of us should be watching our sodium intake. Luckily many stores now have their own brands of no-salt-added canned vegetables. Low sodium canned vegetables taste fresher than their salted counter parts.  At my local super-store they cost about 65¢ per 15-ounce can. 

Another point to remember is that canned vegetables go on sale several times a year. When you see them at 2 or 3 cans for $1, stock up.  Buy as many as 4 dozen, especially for standard vegetables you use frequently.  Do not stock up on weird vegetables your family won't eat.  I once stocked up on hot chili beans at 4 for $1.  I bought a dozen of them figuring they would be great for quick meals of chili, or beans and cornbread.  Sadly I was mistaken and wound up giving 11 of them to the church canned food drive.  They had peculiar seasonings which my family did not care for.  The moral is, try a single can before you buy a lot, and only stock up on foods you know the family will appreciate.

Varieties I usually buy. No-salt-added when possible, 15-ounce cans unless otherwise noted.

Asparagus

Beets

Collards, Turnip Greens, Kale

Corn

Green Beans

Peas

Mixed Veggies

Mixed Greens

Pumpkin

Tomato Paste (6oz)

Tomato Sauce (8 oz)

Tomatoes 

Tomatoes & Green Chile Peppers
(10 or 14 oz)

Sauerkraut

Spinach

Sweet Potatoes (26oz)

Bamboo Shoots (6 to 8 oz)

Water Chestnuts (6 to 8 oz)

Mushroom Stems & Pieces
(4oz and 8oz)

Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce

Pimentos or Roasted Red Peppers

When I'm on short cash I omit the last five.  They are extras that taste very good, and add variety to our diet.  They have a higher unit price than the others though, and don't add as much nutrition for the money spent.  There are lots of other vegetables available in cans if you are interested in stocking up on a variety of them.  My rule of thumb is to find the unit price or price per ounce of green beans and then use that as my measuring stick. Canned vegetables that cost more per ounce than green beans are probably not a budget buy so for the most part I avoid them. For last five items, I use mushroom stems and pieces as my measure. Any that cost more per ounce than the mushrooms are too high for my budget. 

Canned Veggie Nutrition & Health:  First off, according to Laura Karr, author of The Can Opener Gourmet, canned vegetables (and fruits) are up to 99% pesticide free. Karr says, "This is accomplished though the normal washing, peeling, blanching and heat processing of canned fruits and vegetables." I found this really interesting. Next, most canned vegetables are picked at the peak of harvest and processed immediately. Vegetables at the supermarket are stuck in warehouses and then transported by truck or railway to distribution centers, where they're warehoused again before making it to the supermarket shelf. At home vegetables usually sit around for a few more days before they're eaten. Most canned veggies are picked and processed the same day, often it takes only a few hours from harvest to processing. This preserves most of the nutrients in canned goods. Some canned vegetables are even higher in vitamins and minerals than fresh. For instance pumpkin and sweet potatoes are many times higher in vitamin A than fresh supermarket varieties. To top it off, if you buy plain canned veggies then you can bet that they are fat-free, trans fat-free, cholesterol free, gluten free, casein free and preservative-free. That is a lot of goodness for such a quick-cooking, budget-friendly and family-friendly commodity.

The Liquid in the Can:  Do not throw it away.  Do not pour it down the sink.  Many nutrients are water soluble, which means they dissolve in water.  The liquid that vegetables are processed in contains some of the valuable vitamins and minerals that we eat vegetables for in the first place.  Sometimes recipes call for the liquid to be drained off before the vegetables are used.  In these cases, I turn to my handy-dandy Freezer Stock Pot.  This is a microwave safe container I keep in my freezer for holding all of the liquids I drain off of canned vegetables.  When I make soups, and some sauces (Like Cream of Something Soup for casseroles) I use the liquid from this container as part of the broth called for in recipes.  It takes a little bit of forethought to get flavors right, so that subtle flavors aren't overwhelmed by strong flavors.  I sometimes keep two containers, one for mild vegetable liquids like corn and green beans and one for strong vegetable juices like mixed greens and spinach. 

The best way to use vegetable liquids I think, is to teach the family to eat them (or drink them :-) as a normal part of meal time.  Children (and some adults) who object to vegetable juices mixing with the other foods on their plates, can be served from inexpensive divided plates, or their vegetables may be placed in small fruit bowls and served along side the plate. One way or the other, there is no excuse to waste the precious juice used to can vegetables.  It can go into soups, sauces, main dishes that call for broth and other places too if you just give it some forethought.

A few easy ways to serve canned vegetables.

Simply Seasoned Veggies:  This is my favorite way to served canned vegetables.  Open up a can of vegetables and dump them into a pot.  Add a pinch of sugar, a pinch of salt, and a good dash of pepper.  Add a teaspoon of margarine or butter, and bring the vegetables to a gentle boil.  Simmer for 5 minutes and serve hot.

Country Style Veggies:  I used to make this type of seasoned vegetables with bacon and bacon grease.  I don't any more.  Now I use turkey ham or even sliced sandwich ham.  Lean ham adds all of the flavor of bacon, with none of the evils associated with it.  Open up a can of vegetables.  Add a pinch of sugar, a dash of black pepper, 1-ounce of finely chopped ham, 1-tablespoon of dry onions and a squirt of vinegar.  Bring to a gentle boil and simmer for 5 minutes. This is best with greens and spinach I think, although it is also good with green beans. The ham adds less than 10 calories per serving and a ton of flavor.

Sweetly Seasoned Veggies:  Add 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 1-tablespoon of margarine or butter, and a pinch of salt.  I add a small shot of hot pepper sauce too, but this is purely a personal choice.  Simmer the vegetables and seasonings for 5 minutes and serve hot.  I like this best with carrots or beets, but it is good with sauerkraut too.

Veggies with Bread Crumbs:  Drain off the liquid from a can of vegetables.  Save the liquid in your freezer stock pot.  Heat 1-tablespoon of margarine or butter in a skillet.  Add one slice of whole wheat bread that you have crumbled between your hands.  Saute until the crumbs are toasty.  Add the vegetables and salt and pepper to taste.  Heat throughout and serve hot. 

Interesting Veggie Combinations: 

  • Corn and cooked Kidney Beans with a pinch of chili powder

  • Corn and Tomatoes
  • Corn, cooked Lima Beans and Tomatoes
  • Mushrooms and Peas
  • Carrots and Peas
  • Green Beans and Pimiento
  • Any Vegetable and sliced Onions
  • Carrots, Celery and cooked Black Beans
  • Collards and Turnip Greens
  • Corn and Pimientos

With Fresh & Frozen Veggies:  Remember to combine canned vegetables with fresh or frozen vegetables too.  Canned vegetables are already cooked.  Fresh and frozen vegetables still need cooking.  When adding canned vegetables to a skillet dish or soup, add them last, after the fresh or frozen veggies have had a chance to become tender.  Canned vegetables only need to be brought to a boil, and then they are plenty hot enough for eating.  Over cooking is hard on canned vegetables, so try to avoid it. 

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Proverbs 30:8  Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me.