|For lower income families or people who have very tight budgets, February can be a stressful time with feelings of being over extended, especially in the pocketbook due to the added expense of high utility bills along with still paying for Christmas items that were put on charge accounts. It seems like prices are going up and the dollar is harder to stretch. It just doesn’t go as far as it used to.
Many who struggle to make ends meet this time of year include: single moms trying to make it on their own, elderly who can barely afford their prescriptions, and the working poor who are often working two or three jobs at minimum wage with no benefits. Let us not forget those in the Asia catastrophe, without homes or family members as well.
It’s easy for us to get comfortable when we have all of our basic needs met without much effort; but what about those less fortunate? The Bible says in Hebrews
13:16 — Do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.
One of the greatest gifts we can give (ourselves) is when we help someone else, not because we feel we have to or we ought to, but for no other reason than because we want to.
February is often a month of the winter blues. If you are feeling discontented and unhappy, do something for someone else. If times are tough financially for you, there are plenty of other things you can do that will take very little from your pocketbook, but will be worth more than gold to the ones you help:
- Tell your friends and family you are taking up a collection of canned goods along with good, clean, used winter items such as coats, gloves, mittens, hats, blankets, socks, sweaters, boots, sweatpants, scarves, sweatshirts, etcetera to take to a free distribution center for the poor. Please don’t take junky, worn out, or dirty items. Take things that you would appreciate if you were unable to afford them for yourself; things your family is no longer wearing or using, but you know someone else would appreciate and use.
- Ask your local school if they will allow their students to take a collection. The class with the largest amount collected will get a prize. See if a local business will sponsor a prize such as: free pizza for lunch or a movie.
- When you are cooking or baking make extra for a single parent or elderly couple.
- Ask your extended family if they would like to pitch in and purchase gift certificates for a family going through tough times. Gift certificates are especially nice because it allows the family members to purchase what they need in the correct size. Often for a family going through financial bondage, shopping is out of the question and they wear hand-me-downs. Something brand new is a special treat.
Think not about what you can’t do; rather think about what you can do to make a positive difference in someone else’s life. Your kind actions may be the only little bit of God’s love they see.
Here are some fast and easy dinners perfect for this time of year. Why not make a double recipe and share with a family you know will appreciate your thoughtful kindness?
Beef & Broccoli Casserole
Move over Hamburger Helper. You won’t want “boxed” meals after eating these easy entrées.
2 1/2 cups fat-free low-sodium beef broth
1 pound beef (eye of round), cut into bite-size pieces
1 (16-ounce) bag frozen broccoli cuts
1 (10 3/4-ounce) can 98% fat-free broccoli cheese soup
1 cup fat-free peppercorn ranch salad dressing
2 3/4 cups instant white rice
5 slices fat-free American cheese, cut into small pieces
• Combine the broth, beef, broccoli, soup, and salad dressing in a 3-quart nonstick pan.
• Bring the broth to a boil over high heat and stir in the rice.
• Turn off the heat, cover the pan, and let it stand for 5 minutes.
• Stir the cheese into the pan.
• Let it stand, covered, for 2 to 3 minutes longer or until the rice is tender.
• Fluff the rice with a fork.
• Serve hot.
Note: For Pork (or Chicken) and Broccoli Casserole with Zesty Cheese Sauce, prepare the recipe substituting bite-size pieces of pork (or chicken) tenderloin for the beef.
Yield: 8 (1 1/3-cup) servings
(with beef) Calories: 302; Fat: 4g (11% fat); Cholesterol: 37mg; Carbohydrate: 44g; Dietary Fiber: 3g; Protein: 22g; Sodium: 800mg
(with pork) Calories: 297; Fat: 3g (10% fat); Cholesterol: 40mg; Carbohydrate: 44g; Dietary Fiber: 3g; Protein: 22g; Sodium: 793mg
(with chicken) Calories: 290; Fat: 2g (6% fat); Cholesterol: 39mg; Carbohydrate: 44g; Dietary Fiber: 3g; Protein: 23g; Sodium: 806mg
Preparation time: 5 minutes or less
Cooking time: 18 minutes or less
Total time: 23 minutes or less
Menu Idea: Serve with a fresh garden salad and Orange Fluff (page 242), from Busy People’s Low-Fat Cookbook.
Using leftover beef and cooked noodles makes this recipe super easy!
1 (12-ounce) jar fat-free seasoned pork or beef gravy
2 cups pasta, cooked (any small twisted noodle)
2 cups shredded cooked beef (eye of round) or 1 pound ground beef, browned
• Mix the gravy, pasta, and beef in a saucepan over medium-high heat.
• Cook until heated through.
Note: Leftover spaghetti noodles work well in this recipe. Soak them completely in a bowl of water in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Yield: 4 (00-cup) servings
Calories: 240; Fat: 4g (15% fat); Cholesterol: 49mg; Carbohydrate: 24g; Dietary Fiber: 1g; Protein: 25g; Sodium: 525mg
Preparation time: 20 minutes (include cooking pasta)
Cooking time: 5 minutes
Total time: 25 minutes
Menu Idea: This is very good served with Potatoes a la Larry (page 000) and Glazed Green Beans (page 107), both from Busy People’s Slow Cooker Cookbook.
This is an easy way to make an old-time favorite with only three easy-to-find ingredients.
16 ounces (1 pound) macaroni
1 pound ground beef (eye of round) 1 (15-ounce) can fat-free spicy vegetarian chili with black beans
• Cook the macaroni according to the package directions.
• Brown the ground beef in a skillet over medium-high heat until crumbly; drain.
• Stir the macaroni and chili into the skillet and cook until heated through.
• Serve warm.
Yield: 10 (1-cup) servings
Calories: 256; Fat: 3g (9% fat); Cholesterol: 25mg; Carbohydrate: 39g; Dietary Fiber: 4g; Protein: 18g; Sodium: 84mg
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes
Menu Idea: This is a meal in itself, but you can also serve it with Garlic Beans (page 106), from Busy People’s Slow Cooker Cookbook, and Spiced Apples (page 132), from Busy People’s Low-Fat Cookbook.