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In Blog, Food, Healthier sweets, Recipes on
May 29, 2019

Oatmeal Raisin Power Balls

Typing that recipe name out makes this recipe sound epic..power balls, they give you all the energy to do all the things! No, not really, it’s just a cool name, BUT these little balls do pack in some super nutritious goodies that will definitely give you some extra energy when you need a little pick me up. I’ve been making variations of these power balls since Pinterest first came out and I found a recipe for a basic version of these. I wish I could throw out some credit to whoever posted that recipe on Pinterest but it was literally back in the dark ages of Pinterest and I can’t find it. Anyway, over the years I have made these little balls into my own and this is one of my favorite ways to make them.


Time- 10 minutes
Yield- 10 balls

Ingredients:
1 cup rolled oats
½ cup peanut butter
½ cup raisins
¼ cup honey
¼ cup milled flax seed
¼ cup shelled hemp seeds
1 tbs chia seeds
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp cinnamon

Instructions:
Throw everything together in a bowl or a stand mixer and combine together. Roll into balls and store in an sealed container for up to a week but I can guarantee they aren’t gonna last you that long.

 

Simple enough, eh? Enjoy!

In Blog, Dinner, Food, Recipes, Vegetarian, Weekly meal plans on
April 3, 2019

Well Fed Weekly Meal Plan #6 : Easy Healthy Dinners

The snow is melting, the days are getting longer, and I’ve got a little skip back in my step as we emerge from a long and hard winter. Better weather yields for busier days and more places to go and things to do so I need some quick and easy meals. This week I have compiled some of our tried and true familia favorites. I hope you and your family love them as well.

Hey, stop. Before you go any further, if you haven’t read how I meal plan, you might want to check it out to understand this a little better. Cool, thanks.

Dinner 1 (M/TH): Minimalist Baker’s Mediterranean Baked Sweet Potatoes  

Photo by Minimalist Baker

First of all Minimalist Baker is amazing. She always has the best, easiest, and healthiest recipes. So shout out to my girl. But this one is SUPER easy. She roasts her chick peas in spices and they get all crunchy and delicious and it’s totally amazing but if you don’t got time for that you can skip that part and just use regular chick peas. I put this together in the pinchiest of pinches: preheated the oven washed off some sweet potatoes, sliced them in half, coated them with olive oil, stuck them in the oven and let them do their thing while I got some Etsy orders done. The actual prep time for this meal is literally like 10-15 mins. Other than the sweet potatoes, drain some chick peas, whip up the sauce real quick, and get your toppings, and wham bam boom all done!

Dinner 2 (T/F): Pinch of Yum’s Firecracker Vegan Lettuce Wraps

Photo by Pinch of Yum

Ok yall. This is our new favorite dinner. Oh my gosh golly goodness it is SO good. Crispy fried up tofu, brown rice noodles, literally the most tasty peanut sauce I’ve ever had, all wrapped up in a nice crispy, crunchy lettuce leaf. If you do not like tofu or if it grosses you out, I beg you to try this recipe because I think it just might change your life. The most important thing you can do for tofu is fry it up for a good while, obviously don’t let it burn, but toss in some olive oil, tofu cubes, and give it a stir every few minutes until it has a crispy outside layer.

Dinner 3 (W/Sat): Apron String’s One Pot Tomato Basil Pasta

Photo by Apron Strings Blog

I’m all about a recipe that says “one pot” in the title. One pot means less dishes for me to do. This recipe literally calls for you to dump a ton of stuff in a pot, boil it, then drain it and serve. How can you not be down with this? It’s a nice fresh spring pasta dish.

Dinner 4 (Sun)Well Fed Familia Pressed pesto hummus and roasted vegetable wraps

This is yet another go to or us. When I am meal planning and I don’t literally want to use a single brain cell, I put this down for a couple of dinners. It is easy, healthy, versatile, colorful, warm, and even the meat eaters I’ve made this for love it too. There is no deprivation here, it is a filling meal between the thick and hearty hummus and all nutrient dense roasted veggies. If you really need to get this ish done and on the plate in no time just buy some good pre-made hummus and pesto.

I hope this helps give you some ideas for your weekly menu. Whether you use just one of these recipes or the whole meal plan, I wish you happy cooking and eating. As always, stay well fed my friends!

In Blog, Dairy Free, Dinner, Food, Recipes, Vegan, Vegetarian on
March 6, 2019

Moroccan Spiced Chickpeas with Pistachio couscous and goat cheese

Do you have a meal that makes you think of a specific show or movie every time you eat it? For me, that is this recipe. This meal reminds me of James Bond- Skyfall. In fact if I make it, Steven and I feel like we can’t eat it without watching Skyfall. It’s too funny. Who else is quirky like this? I made a variation of this recipe for the first time shortly after we were married. We were living in our first home together- a 500 sqft apartment in San Antonio and it just so happened to be the night we rented Skyfall. Well, we LOVED the movie and we LOVED this recipe so much that the two just go hand in hand now.

Y’all this is one of our favorite recipes ever. I have tweaked it over the years and this is the sweet spot right here. All of the beautiful spices come together to make a flavorful and hearty vegetarian (or vegan without goat cheese) meal that the whole family will love. Bonus points if you watch Skyfall while eating it. Take a trip to Morocco from your own kitchen!

 

       Ingredients:

  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 2 carrots
  • ½ tsp coriander
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 inch knob ginger minced (or ½ tsp ginger powder)
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 2 tbs tomatoe paste
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 4 cups cooked chickpeas or 2 cans chickpeas
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 3-4 cups cooked couscous (cook according to package)
  • Optional- stir pistachios into couscous, top bowls with goat cheese crumbles, and chopped cilantro

      Instructions:

  1. Add olive oil into a large pot and turn on to medium high heat. Dice onion and add to pot. Stir around for 1-2 minutes. Next chop carrots and add to pot. Stir to prevent burning.
  2. Add all spices and chopped garlic and ginger into a bowl. Toss everything into the pot at once and stir to coat carrots and onions. Turn down to medium heat and add in diced red bell pepper.
  3. Stir in tomato paste, and then add in the can of diced tomatoes. Next add in the chickpeas and broth. Allow everything to come to a boil and then cover with lid and turn down to simmer for 15 minutes or more to allow all of the flavors to meld nicely together.
  4. In the meantime cook couscous according to the package. It’s SUPER easy btw to cook couscous. Once it is done, fluff it with a fork and stir in pistachios if desired.
  5. To assemble to bowls add a layer of couscous, top with a hearty scoop of the Moroccan spiced chickpeas, toss on crumbled goat cheese, chopped cilantro, and more pistachios if desired.
  6. Eat it up!

In Blog, Dinner, Food, Weekly meal plans on
February 11, 2019

Well fed weekly meal plan #5: Money saving meals

Happy love month my people! You know what, now that I say that I take it back because every month should be love month, right? Really though, let’s work on loving our people and those around us and beyond every day of every month. Easy enough? Haha we can at least strive for that. Ok now that I’ve gotten sidetracked I will share the point of this post: another weekly meal plan! Whoop whoop! This week I bring you our family’s favorite healthy money saving meals. On a budget? We sure are. Here are some tasty and satisfying eats that will keep you on track with your budget!

Any recipe I add in these meal plans are my own or recipes that I have found over the years and have been tried and true winners for our family. Of course, you know the size of the crowd you’re cooking for, so if you are going to follow this week’s meal plan, look at the portions to decide if you will need to double/triple/whatever the recipe.  This meal plan includes dinner, lunch, and breakfast. Yes, we eat a lot of leftovers, yes we eat the same thing for breakfast and lunch 7 days in a row (usually) but it saves money and time and that’s why I spend so much time looking for recipes and coming up with recipes we love. I hope you enjoy!

Hey, stop. Before you go any further, if you haven’t read how I meal plan, you might want to check it out to understand this a little better. Cool, thanks.

Dinner 1(M/TH): The Garden Grazer’s Black Bean tacos with Avocado Cilantro sauce

Buy the beans in bulk, cook what you need and it will save you so much over time in eating your beans this way. This kind of meal is almost a no brainer and doesn’t require very many ingredients. Filling, satisfying, full of protein, and customizable.

Dinner 2 (T/F): Budget Byte’s Thai Curry Vegetable Soup

When you click on the link this recipe has the cost of the ingredients broken down for you. How cool is that? A creative and flavorful soup made with rice noodles, veggies, and a comforting broth. Perfect for winter and perfect for saving some green.

Dinner 3 (W/Sat): Pass the Plants’ Best Damn Vegan Lasagna


This was one of the first intentionally vegan meals I ever made. I thought it sounded kinda weird using tofu….but omg let me tell ya’ll- it is ingenious to use tofu (herbed and spiced up) as a ricotta substitute. Also it is full of healthy protein. Check this recipe out for sure. And not purchasing meat is a major money saver.

Dinner 4 (Sun): Minimalist Baker’s Thai Carrot Salad with Curried Cashews

How fun does this recipe sound? Or am I the only one that would consider recipes fun..? I know, I’m weird J.  A hearty green salad kicked up with carrots, homemade curried cashews (it’s just tossing nuts in some stuff and roasting them in your oven) and then a delicious sweet thai peanut dressing. Sign me up please! Another quick, easy, money saving meal to add to your menu this week.

Lunch for all: The Food Charlatan’s 20 minute Lemon Broccoli Pasta Skillet


To pull of feeding 3 of us lunch for a full week I make a GIANT pot of this and we all typically have some kind of fruit alongside it. I’m telling you- this is a go to on a week where I don’t feel like putting ANY effort into lunches- it is so quick and easy to throw together and then you have lunch for the whole gang for days!

Breakfast for husband and toddler: Old fashioned rolled oats with berries, bananas, and peanut butter every dang day because it is cheap, filling, and nutritious.

Breakfast for me: Well Fed Familia’s Vegan Morning Power Protein Smoothie

I get fixated on a breakfast item and eat it for breakfast everyday for about a month and then I get sick of it and take a few months off before I eat it again. Well in September I got on a smoothie kick. Loads of goodness and healthy protein keeps me fueled and full for the morning until lunchtime and my toddler always steals at least 10 sips as well. If you don’t want to do the protein powder just throw in ¼ cup of oats which will give you extra protein and help to fill you up.

I hope this helps give you some ideas for your weekly menu. Whether you use just one of these recipes or the whole meal plan, I wish you happy cooking and eating. As always, stay well fed my friends!

In Blog, Food, Indulgent sweets, Mama, Mi Familia on
January 15, 2019

Going to war with sugar

I don’t know about you but I love dessert. I love chocolate. I love cookies. I love pie. I love cheesecake. I love tarts. I love all the baked goods. For my whole life I have had a mega sweet tooth. I used to joke about it and talk lightly of it but the older I got the more I would wonder if I had a problem with it. It’s always been this weird thing where I value whole and healthy foods and love cooking healthy recipes- I know my stuff about what fuels our bodies and minds and what hurts them but I would always overlook that stuff when it came to sugar. Life without sugar sounded/still sounds miserable! Baking is a love language to me, going out for coffee and a treat with a friend stirs my soul, having a late night glass of wine and chocolate with my husband gives me life. So what’s the big deal? Sugar makes me happy; it brings forth pleasure and merriment. The big deal is that I have little to no self-control with it. The big deal is that the more and more I take the time to dig into this the more and more I realize I am addicted to sugar.

 Anytime I get a craving for something sweet I feel like I need to satisfy it. Whether it’s something more “innocent” like keeping a bag of dark chocolate chips in the pantry and having a handful, or buying a special sweet treat for myself at the grocery store each week, or feeling the sudden need to bake a whole batch of cookies and eat spoonfuls of dough as I go. I haven’t shared this or wanted to share this publicly before because I think it is embarrassing. It feels like this dirty little secret that I’m a human too and I lose control with certain things in my life and can’t get a handle on them. Every year I think “how am I going to tame my sweet tooth?” How am I going to learn to appreciate baking and eating sweets occasionally without feeling a loss of control anytime I have a sugar craving or access to a room full of goodies? I never choose to share publicly because I know I am going to lose the war with sugar. I know I am weak and will cave in so why share? Why don’t I just save myself from the world knowing I am a failure in this area? Well this year, 2019, the same exact thoughts are still running through my head but the difference is this year I had the courage to put it out there to the world that I struggle with self- control when it comes to sugar and I want to change it. I am scared because I worry I will fail, a whole year is a heck of a long time to keep a goal in my opinion. Giving up sugar all together for a long or extended time seems impossible to me and I don’t think I need to do that. What I want to do is to learn how to value my health first and to gain self- control where I can enjoy sugar occasionally without letting it rule me.

My solution to this is my 2019 goal: Eat sugar only once a month. I came up with this because as mentioned earlier, baking is my love language, it is therapeutic to me. Also, I want to be able to have a special dessert date here and there. Those things are ok, we don’t need to beat ourselves up about that, but because I am recognizing I have a problem with sugar and a lack of self-control, I need to set up some rules for myself to work through it. Now if I fail at this goal I will be disappointed with myself and I don’t need shaming from anyone else because I will already feel shame about it, but I feel like this is the strongest I’ve been mentally going into a sugar centered goal and I am excited about it. I think I can do it. So I will describe my “rules” below and if you feel like this is an area in your life that has gotten out of control I invite you to join me! I would absolutely love the accountability and to see what you choose to spend your one day a month sugary treat on.

2019 Sugar once a month challenge guidelines

* One day a month (12 times this year) choose a sugary treat to enjoy.

* You can bake it, go out somewhere and order it, have it at a gathering/party, or just choose something from the store.

* I am allowing myself to still have local honey for my allergies and to sweeten smoothies as well as maple syrup for recipes occasionally.

* I am not going to use coconut sugar or other sugar alternatives for healthier baking as this can become a slippery slope for me.

* Be mindful of labels and if there is added refined sugar. I will not be ridiculously strict on this as my main goal is to get a handle on the dessert kind of sugar cravings, but I will be mindful to avoid sugary drinks and sauces, etc.

* Eating fruit is absolutely allowed and encouraged

So what do you think? Is this a good challenge for you? If you decide to join me in this New Year challenge feel free to let me know! Tag your monthly sugary treat on Instagram with the hashtag #wellfedsugarchallenge2019. You are stronger than you think and so am I. It’s time to stop letting sugar have control!

In Blog, Dairy Free, Dinner, Food, Recipes, Vegan, Vegetarian on
November 20, 2018

Fall Vegetable Soup

Happy Thanksgiving week! It really doesn’t feel like Thanksgiving where I live because everything is COVERED in snow. Like multiple feet of snow already. WHAT?! So my brain is already in Christmas mode BUT I love Thanksgiving and I love Fall so I am going to reel it back a bit and throw out a wonderful warm fall vegetable soup that will keep you warm and satisfied this season. This fall vegetable soup would even do great on a Thanksgiving table this week as a unique healthy option.

My fall soup combines butternut squash, sweet potato, carrots, apples, and onion all together with buttery and sage undertones. HECK YES. Mmmm. Major mouth party. Ok, that got a little weird, sorry.

Make it and pair it with a good ole salad and something to dip in it, you know a good soup vessel to soak up all the thick creamy goodness in your bowl. Ok, let’s get to it. This soup doesn’t need any more of an intro!


Ingredients: 

1 yellow onion

1 small butternut squash

1 medium sweet potato

2 medium carrots

2 Honeycrisp apples

4 garlic cloves smashed

2 fresh sage leaves finely chopped

1/4 tsp thyme (dried or fresh)

2 tbs butter (use vegan butter to make this recipe fully vegan)

1/4 tsp cinnamon

4 cups vegetable broth

1 can full fat coconut milk

salt and pepper to taste

Instructions: 

  1. Chop onion and melt butter in a pot over medium heat. Add chopped onion into butter to sauté for 2 minutes stirring often.
  2. Add smashed garlic cloves, cinnamon, thyme, sage, salt and pepper and stir around 2 mins.
  3. Add diced butternut squash, diced sweet potato, diced carrots, and diced apples. Stir for 2 minutes.
  4. Add vegetable broth and bring everything to a boil until vegetables are penetrable with a fork. Then add in coconut milk.
  5. If you have an immersion blender, lucky you, stick that guy in and blend everything up, if not, transfer everything carefully to a blender and blend away until everything is nicely pureed.
  6. Enjoy!

 

 

 

In Blog, Dairy Free, Food, Vegan, Vegetarian on
October 15, 2018

Top 10 easy, healthy, toddler snacks

Do you ever get in a snack rut for healthy easy ideas to keep your kiddos well fed? I compiled a list of our top 10 easy, healthy toddler snacks. I hope you get some good ideas off of this list. Happy snacking!

Ruby Rockets Fruit and Veggie Coconut Yogurt Tubes

Yall! These are hands down my favorite healthy toddler snack. Yogurt in a tube is so quick and easy to hand to a little one but most are full of sugar and not dairy free. I came across these in the store over the summer and bought them because they are full of fruit, full of veggies, and dairy free and have no added sugar. What a win! They taste like a smoothie in a tube and sometimes I’ll even eat them too.

Ruby Rockets Fruit and Veggie Better Bars with Coconut Milk

These are such an awesome healthy treat for toddlers, actually really anyone! Your kiddo gets to eat a popsicle that tastes delicious and oh hey, it is full of fruit and veggies, and is dairy free and has no added sugar. Boom. What!? Best mom win and kid win ever. Ruby Rockets was so kind to send us a box of each of their four flavors to try. My toddler’s favorite is the strawberry and my favorite is the fudge. While eating these popsicles you would never know that they have beets, squash, and carrots in them!

Larabar

Made entirely of fruit and nuts, Larabar is a perfect healthy toddler snack. These bad boys are dairy free (even the ones with chocolate chips), gluten free, certified kosher, and chock full of goodness! My toddler specifically loves the Blueberry Muffin and Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip flavors. These are filling and if your kiddo can’t handle holding the whole bar yet just chop them into little cubes and put them in a snack cup.

Popcorn

Popcorn happens to be my favorite snack, so naturally my daughter has developed a love for it as well. There are so many awesome healthy popcorn brands these days that can be found at most grocery stores. We love Boom Chicka Pop, any store brand organic pre-popped popcorn, or better yet when I have the time I pop our own at home. It is so easy- add some oil to a pot, I use coconut oil, once it is heated you add the kernels, it provides quite the fun activity to gather round and watch it pop, then add desired toppings. We like it simple with salt and pepper. I do not recommend microwave popcorn!

Rice cakes

There are so many different flavors to choose from. We like to buy plain rice cakes and spread peanut butter on top. It can make quite a mess letting a toddler walk around with a peanut butter covered rice cake though. If you are worried about the mess just give it to them plain!

Apple sauce

No explanation needed for this. Just a tried and true kiddo favorite through the years. Praise the Lord for applesauce squeeze pouches! Just make sure apple is the only ingredient for the healthiest option.

Picture by My Kids Lick the Bowl

Homemade Muffins

Homemade muffins take some time up front but once they are done you have quick go to snacks for the rest of the week. There are so many healthy muffin recipes online, our favorite is this ABC Muffin recipe which has apples, carrots, and bananas in the muffin. Littles eat these up!

Fresh or Dried fruit

My toddler loves grapes cut in half, apple slices with peanut butter, bananas, ok , she actually loves pretty much any fruit. If you don’t want the sticky hands try raisins, craisins, or any other dried fruit but make sure it is a good size for your child. My little one loves to walk around and eat this out of her snack cup.

Pretzels

This is a simple, non-messy snack! We love the plain pretzel rods and they provide a perfect crunch that my daughter loves. A great easy snack for on the go.

Chocolate cashew milk

One of my daughter’s favorite treats is a cup of chocolate cashew milk. This is the most sugary idea on the list but I included it because it has 55% less calories and 33% less sugar than lowfat dairy milk. It is delicious, filling, and sometimes mama has a glass as well. Just pour a small serving in your toddler’s sippy cup and voila!

In Blog, Dinner, Food, Lunch, Recipes, Vegetarian on
September 17, 2018

Baked Falafel Salad with Tzatziki Dressing

In junior high school I had a friend who would bring a delicious looking homemade lunch every day. I would stare longingly at her lunch as I ate my daily peanut butter and honey sandwich. My mom made a lot of homemade meals, we weren’t deprived, however I was raised in a sandwich for lunch everyday kind of family. One of the things that always caught my eye was when my friend would have pita bread with vegetables and these odd little circular patties. I remember one day I asked what they were and that is the day I learned about falafel. Now I didn’t go on to try falafel for several more years, but once I did, I knew it was something I needed in my life regularly!

Now if you are like me in my junior high days wondering what the heck is falafel, let me tell you! Falafel is a Middle Eastern staple made out of chickpeas, fresh herbs, garlic, spices, and onion. Falafel is filling, full of protein, and is absolutely delicious paired with tzatziki sauce (we will get to that later), or thrown in a pita, or on a salad. Today I am going to teach you how to prepare falafel with a salad and tzatziki dressing. Traditional falafel recipes call for uncooked chickpeas, I prefer to use cooked or canned chickpeas in my falafel because I prefer a more moist falafel.

Now about that Tzatziki dressing- first, for those who have never heard of this or maybe you’ve seen it on a menu or another recipe and you thought how in the world is tzatziki pronounced, here you go: “Tah-see-key.” Tzatziki is a tangy yogurt sauce with cucumber, lemon, and dill. It is so creamy and is typically served with Greek gyros.

My recipe today will combine a green salad with crisp veggies, my baked falafel, drizzled with my tzatziki dressing, and topped with feta. Well enough is enough, let’s get cooking!


Baked falafel salad with tzatziki dressing ingredients:

Green leaf lettuce

Cucumber slices

Grape tomatoes halved

Carrot slivers

Red onion

Falafel (recipe below)

Tzatziki dressing (recipe below)

Feta crumbles

Instructions:

Chop salad vegetables, prepare the baked falafel and tzatziki dressing. Plate everything together, drizzle with tzatziki dressing, and toss on feta if you like.


Time: 20 minutes to prepare

           30 minutes in the oven

Yield: 18 falafels

Falafel Ingredients:

3 cups cooked chickpeas or 2 cans chickpeas drained

½ C fresh parsley leaves

½ C fresh cilantro leaves

1 small yellow onion (chopped in half)

4 small cloves garlic

Juice of 1 lemon

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tsp baking powder

¼ C flour

½ tsp cumin

½ tsp paprika

½ tsp turmeric

½ tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

Instructions:

1)      Preheat oven to 375 F.

2)      Combine chickpeas, parsley leaves, cilantro leaves, small yellow onion, 4 cloves garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil together. The easiest way I have found to do this is by using a magic bullet and using the largest cup option. If you do not have a magic bullet use a food processor. Everything combines easiest if you do it in 2-3 batches. If you try to stick all the ingredients in it will either not fit or it will give you a ton of trouble trying to blend it together. Just work with it, you will get everything well combined eventually. If some of the chickpeas and herbs are still a little chunky, no worries.

3)      Once you have the above ingredients combined put it in a mixing bowl and add the baking powder, flour, cumin, paprika, turmeric, salt, and pepper and stir together.

4)      Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or oil it up to prevent sticking. Scoop out 1 ½ inch balls of the falafel dough and roll into a ball, set it on the baking sheet in rows (they do not expand so they can be close together), then flatten each ball slightly with your hand.

5)      Bake in the oven for 30 minutes on 375. Check to make sure they are not getting brown.

Tzatziki Dressing Ingredients:

1 C Greek yogurt

1/4 of a cucumber

Juice of ½ of a lemon

1 tbs dried dill

2 tbs olive oil

2 cloves garlic

Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

1)      Combine all ingredients in magic bullet, blender, or food processor. Enjoy!

 

In Blog, Food on
September 10, 2018

How to eat well on a shoestring budget

If you couldn’t tell already, food is one of my favorite things in the world. Food connects people, food is creative and vibrant, it is comforting and exciting, and trying new foods can bring you a sense of adventure, and so on and so forth. I am a foodie through and through and one of my greatest joys in life is making sure that my little familia is well fed.

Another important thing about me is that I live on a very tight budget. My husband is working on his doctorate degree and also as a research assistant which means we are on a student income. I work part time from home which also brings in some income, but not much at the moment. So how do we eat as well as we do when we actually barely make enough money each month to cover our bases? Today I will share 8 of my best tips with you so that you too can eat well on a tiny budget!

1)      Plan out your grocery list in one week increments

Pick a day to sit down and plan out everything you are going to put into your and your family’s mouth the next week. If that sounds overwhelming to you, it might be the first and second time you do it but in the long run it will save you so much money because you took the time to plan it all out. It works best if you plan to eat the same breakfast all week long, eat the same or similar lunches each day for that week, and cook enough dinner that you can split it between two nights (less time cooking!), and plan to make or buy a few snacks everyone can munch on in between meals if necessary. You can read how I meal plan right HERE.

2)      Buy one specialty item a week

I titled this how to eat well on a shoestring budget because I want you to literally feel like you are eating an exciting variety of foods and trying new things week to week. Each week pick one special or more expensive item to incorporate into your weekly cooking/eating. For instance that could mean a fancy cheese to eat with crackers, or an organic chicken to cook for dinner that will last two nights, or perhaps you want to try an intriguing Asian dish that involves forbidden (or black) rice. These items are a little bit more of a splurge, but if you buy only one item a week like this it makes your cooking more exciting and keeps you on budget.

3)      Don’t be afraid of clearance food items or discounted produce

Just because food or produce is in the clearance or discount section that doesn’t mean it’s gone bad or it is going to make you sick. In fact stores would not knowingly mark an item down that has gone bad to sell to a customer because then they might get in legal trouble. If it’s bad, a store will toss it. I have found specialty olive oils that the store maybe just isn’t selling well marked down from $20 to $5, organic seasonal tomatoes marked down from $5 a pint to $2 because they are getting a little bit soft, and coconut milk yogurts that will have their sell by date coming up within the next couple days for 50 cents instead of $1.78 each. You can find some nice quality, normally expensive items for a great deal if you just look.

4)      Eat seasonally as much as possible

Seasonal items, most specifically produce, is cheaper because there is more of it to go around during its season, thus stores sell it for a cheaper price. For instance zucchini and squash will likely be cheaper in the summer because that is the best season for it to grow. Butternut squash and pumpkin will be cheaper in the fall because that is their growing season. Another great option is to find a local farm/orchard that has open picking hours. It is berry season right now up in the upper peninsula of Michigan and we have berry farms all around where we can go pick a pound of berries for a fourth of what they would cost in the store. It really is so fabulous!

5)      Buy staples in bulk

It is often cheaper to buy basic staples in bulk. The cost upfront will be more but over time you will save a lot of money. Many stores will have not only the price of the product but the price per ounce. For instance a 1 pound bag of rice might cost you $1.48 and a 5 pound bag will cost you $3.32 which means the 1 pound bag costs .0925 cents an ounce and the 5 pound bag costs .0415 cents an ounce. What will save you money in the long run? I buy rice, beans, nuts, honey, and dried fruit in bulk and we save money each year because of this.

6)      Look for the cheapest option and compare the ingredients to the most expensive option

Let’s say you are looking for a can of coconut milk for a recipe. You get to the store and there are four options of canned coconut milk. Is there a difference in ingredients that makes it worth it to buy the more expensive one or will the cheapest one work? Sometimes the cheaper option will include a filler or an undesirable additive, but often times the cheaper option is the exact same thing as the expensive option. Look at labels, look at ingredients, and don’t just assume the more expensive one is better.

7)      Set a budget and ACTUALLY stick to it

Sit down and analyze your income and what you can spend on your groceries each week. Pick a budget that works for you and stick to it. It is as simple as that!

8)      Try to make half of your meals plant based each week

When you eliminate the cost of dairy and meat you end up saving a lot on your grocery bill. If you are open to trying a more plant based diet try planning at least half of your meals to be meat free and dairy free. There are so many wonderful plant based recipes for every meal of the day that you can find online.  Cooking with beans, nuts, vegetables, grains, fruits, and spices is healthiest for you, the environment, and your budget!

In Blog, Dinner, Food, Recipes, Vegetarian on
August 30, 2018

Vegetarian Parmesan and thyme Shepherd’s pie

Happy Thursday Folks! What are your thoughts on meatless “meats?” My thought on this is that if I am going to make a meatless meal, I typically embrace the creativity of working with vegetables, legumes, tofu, and grains, etc. because we don’t miss the meat so why try to fake it with a look alike? Ok, well while that is my typical line of thought with meatless meats, I recently discovered Gardein’s Beefless Ground and it is AMAZING! It has the color and texture of beef and it is comprised of minimal and recognizable ingredients, mainly water and soy protein. We eat a lot of beans at our house and when you eat a lot of beans you typically get the toots and such (why am I sharing this with you?!) so I am excited to find a bean free option to throw in the mix from time to time!

Today I am sharing with you my tried and true Shepherd’s Pie recipe. I typically make it with lentils but this time I used Gardein’s Beefless Ground. This dish incorporates veggies that have sautéed in butter and red wine,  then the beefless ground and fresh thyme come in to add an amazing aroma, lastly it is topped off with fluffy, buttery, parmesan red potatoes. Can you just feel the joy in your heart thinking about how comforting and delicious this dish is?

I have full confidence that this Vegetarian parmesan and thyme shepherd’s pie will become one of your family’s new favorite meals. It comes together quickly in one pan and bakes for 15 minutes in the oven and then voila, dinner is served, laughs and good conversation is shared, everyone is happy and then everyone has the best sleep of their life that night. What a dream, eh?

Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:

3 lb bag of red potatoes

1 package Gardein Beefless Ground ($3.97 at Walmart!)

1 yellow onion

2 carrots

4 cloves garlic

4 tbs butter (can use vegan butter if desired)

1/4 cup red wine

1 tbs Worcestershire sauce

1 tbs tomato paste

1.5 cup vegetable broth

6 sprigs of fresh thyme

1 cup frozen peas

1 cup frozen corn

1.5 cups shredded parmesan cheese

salt and pepper to taste

Instructions: 

  1. Boil the red potatoes until soft and penetrable with a fork.
  2. While potatoes are boiling add 1 tbs butter to a large skillet over medium high heat. Chop onion and carrots and add to skillet with butter, sauté for 5 minutes.
  3. Chop garlic cloves and add to skillet with the veggies. Stir together for 1-2 minutes then add in red wine, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, vegetable broth, 1 sprig of fresh thyme leaves, and a dash of salt and pepper. Let this all come to a boil and then reduce down to a simmer.
  4. Add in beefless ground, peas, and corn and stir. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  5. While everything is simmering on the stove drain your potatoes. Put into a stand mixer bowl if you have one, if not just a regular bowl and fork to mash, add in 3 tbs of butter, 1 cup parmesan, 2 sprigs of fresh thyme leaves, salt and pepper to taste and then mix together.
  6. Add the potatoes on top of the veggies in the skillet. Top with the remaining parmesan and thyme sprigs.
  7. Put in your preheated oven for 15 minutes.
  8. Let cool and enjoy!