Yesterday we took a walk through the grocery store, navigating how to stock your fridge with a week’s worth of clean eats (without breaking the bank).
However, despite stocking up on groceries, often times the biggest stipulation in “spending your money wisely on food” and eating out with liberation comes down to the taste.
“I’m not a good cook.”
“I don’t like my cooking.”
“It always tastes better when someone else makes it.”
And thus: $10 picking up something here…$15, plus tip, at the restaurant there…wasted groceries…happen.
Today, we are diving in to all those budget friendly practices for getting the most out of your food dollars (and actually enjoying what you eat) while also not sacrificing on taste (win-win!).
Check it out:
Plan out your recipes for the week. No duh Sherlock, right? But if you really value taste—and variety—pick 1-3 ‘different’ recipes or foods to try. Heck, it doesn’t have to be anything gourmet or special. It could be as simple as buying some beets to roast with carrots, instead of your usual sweet potatoes; or rainbow chard instead of kale; or ground bison instead of beef to make your usual favorite burgers. There are so many different types of veggies alone that side dishes become creative. If you are a technology person, utilize the power of apps for menu planning and grocery list building. Check out Paprika, Ziplist ,Plan to Eat, Pepperplate, and Cook Smarts.
Don’t buy all at once. There is NOTHING worse in grocery land, than buying a week’s worth of groceries, only to have your produce wilting at week’s end. Plan to shop every 3-4 days; not only do you cut time at the store (just buy what you need to last you 3-4 days), but you save money with fresh produce that is acutally going to be USED. Plan your grocery run accordingly with your schedule (on your way home from work), right after your morning workout, on the way home to shower from the gym, etc.
Cook in Bulk. For EASY meal prep, cook one time per day, and cook enough to last you for lunch the next day; while you’re at it, prep your breakfast the night before during dinner prep if your schedule has you on the go. For instance: Tacos one night? (see below). Make a big salad with leftover meat for lunch the next day; or toss the meat into some eggs come breakfast time. Or, if you’re throwing chicken or burgers on your stove top, why not whip up 2-3 more servings’ worth? You can totally mix it up every meal too—lettuce wrapped burgers + some goat cheese, lettuce and tomato for one meal…burgers with avocado on top and sweet potato fries the next meal…a fried egg or 1-2 slices of nitrate-free bacon anyone? So many options that “cooking in bulk” does not have to mean the SAME EXACT meal every time.
Crockpot it. The greatest cooking invention ever invented—let your food cook itself. A great way to cook in bulk…while barely lifting a finger doing so. It is NOT intimidating. It’s just not. If you are going to be gone all day, turn it on low or medium heat, throw your chicken, or pork loin, roast, chicken thighs, stew meat, veggies and whatever spices all in at once….and “let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be…” (You’ve got to try my crockpot pork and apples recipe below).
Make ahead. Like you, I loathe the idea of spending 2-3, even 4 hours, on a Sunday meal prepping for the week! (#IWantToDoOtherThings). That being said, theres nothing like knowing you have something in your fridge, prepped to eat when hanger strikes. I like to meal prep, incrementally, throughout the week: Cook up 1 thing I can have during the rest of the week; and therefore always have a stock of something on hand. This could be as simple as mixing up some Primal Mayo, pulled rotisserie chicken and chopped apples or celery for chicken salad on hand; throwing together a breakfast casserole in the crockpot (see below); a chicken or ground beef + broccoli casserole (see below); or roasting sweet potatoes (in bulk) or roasted Brussels sprouts (I buy Trader Joe’s whole pre-bagged sprouts, dump them in a glassware baking dish and cook at 400-degrees with olive oil, sea salt, pepper). A little step that takes about 10-15 minutes, all done while my dinner is cooking on the stove at the same time! When dinner is done, my make-ahead dish is cooking and I know I am armed for the rest of the week with some ammunition.
Spice it up. The beauty of spices is that the same dish can taste COMPLETELY different, depending on which ones you use. Curry. Cinnamonny-sweet. Spicy. Basil-fresh. Italian herb. Pumpkin pie or apple pie spice. Quite honestly, there is NO science to it. Just throw some on there (or on part of your dish, in case you really hate it) and concoct. You HAVE to try this pumpkin pie spiced squash dish below!!
Buy whole chickens. Pre-cut chicken is more expensive. Buy the whole bird to get more meat (and bang for your buck). Concoct your chicken, then save the bones for delicious, nourishing bone broth to sip as a snack, use for soups, or flavor your veggies with. See my recipes below for simple cooking!
Stop buying bottled salad dressings, marinades, spaghetti sauces, ketchups and other condiments you can make yourself. For dressings: Basic olive oil or flax seed oil + vinegar dressing is so easy and fast to make. All you need is the basic ingredients and a jar. You can change up flavors by adding a variety of dried or fresh herbs, mustard’s and using different vinegar’s. The basic ratio is 2 parts oil to 1 part vinegar. Check out these easy dressings here and this list for all sorts of condiments here. In the long run, you save more money, as a little bit goes a long way.
The moral of the story?
“Smart, budget-friendly meal prep” really all comes down to eating and enjoying what you create! When you actually learn to like and look forward to your own cooking—you save dollars already, just knowing that you have food at home you can and WILL eat (willingly). You concurrently save money, just by not eating out as much, using what you have, and cooking little by little—to enjoy freshness throughout the week.
Here are a HANDFUL of my FAVORITE easy, meal-prep-tastic recipes to make life easy (and tasty) throughout the week:
- 1 lb lean ground beef (chicken, or turkey)
- 1 yellow onion, diced, or sprinkle of onion powder
- 1 can diced tomatoes
- (pre-make) Primal Palate’s taco seasoning- http://home/laurynlax/public_html.primalpalate.com/paleo-recipe/homemade-taco-seasoning/
- 3 cups baby kale and greens mix or other salad
- In a large pan, add ground meat, crumble, and brown.
- Drain off excess fat.
- Add diced onion to sautee
- Add tomatoes and stir.
- Mix in taco seasoning- add a tbsp water if needed to mix.
- Keep on stove until taco mix has fully incorporated tacos.
- Add salad or greens to a bowl, and spoon taco mixture over the top.
- Serve and enjoy!
Pumpkin Pie Spiced Squash (a la Primal Palate)
- 1 whole Acorn Squash, (OR butternut squash) peeled, seeds removed, and cubed
- 2 Tbsp Ghee (Clarified Butter), Tin Star Brown Butter ghee preferred
- 1 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice, OR if using butternut squash, pair with Apple Pie Spice
- Preheat your oven to 425 F.
- Peel the squash, cut in half, and scoop out the seeds. Cut the flesh into 3/4″ cubes. Place in a baking dish, and toss with the ghee to evenly cover the squash.
- Place the baking dish in the oven, and roast for 20 minutes.
- Remove and sprinkle with the Apple Pie Spice or Pumpkin Pie Spice, and stir to evenly distribute the spices.
- Return the dish to the oven and cook for another 20 minutes. Stir, and cook for a final 10 minutes (50 minutes total cooking time).
- Remove from the oven and serve warm.
Crockpot Pork & Apples
- 4 Organic Gala Apples
- 1½lb – 2lb Pork Tenderloin
- 2 Tbsp Raw Honey (optional)
- Core and slice your apples
- Add a layer of apples in the bottom of the crockpot and sprinkle with nutmeg
- Place slits in your pork tenderloin, and cut tenderloin in half if you need to so it can lay nice and neat in the crockpot.
- Take one apple slice and place in each slit in the tenderloin
- Place tenderloin with apple slices in place into the crockpot ontop of your layer of apples and sprinkle top with Nutmeg
- Place remaining apple slices on top of the pork tenderloin and sprinkle once more with Nutmeg.
- Place crockpot on low, go to work and come home to dinner all ready.
Crockpot Breakfast Casserole
- 8 eggs, whisked
- 1 sweet potato or yam, shredded
- 1lb organic ground meat (pork, turkey, beef, bison)
- 1 yellow onion, diced (optional)
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- salt and pepper, to taste
- any extra veggies you want to put in there: Kale, squash/zucchini, broccoli, etc.
- Grease your crockpot with a bit of coconut oil
- Shred your sweet potato (food processor, or grater)
- Add all ingredients to your crockpot and use a spoon to mix well.
- Place on low for 6-8 hours. Eat up or store for the week!
Easy Chicken/Beef Broccoli Casserole
2 tbsp coconut oil
4 cups fresh broccoli
sea salt/pepper to taste
sprinkle of onion powder
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
3 cups cooked chicken, shredded (or 1-2 lbs ground meat, cooked)
1 cup chicken bone broth
1 cup full fat coconut milk
2 pasture-raised eggs
½ tsp nutmeg
Preheat oven 350 degrees. Grease casserole pan with 1 tbsp coconut oil. Steam broccoli until barely cooked, set aside uncovered. Melt coconut oil (1 tbsp) in a separate sauce pan, add mushrooms to sautee, season with sea salt/pepper. Transfer broccoli, mushrooms, chicken/meat into a casserole pan, distributing evenly. Mix the bone broth, coconut milk, eggs, nutmeg with a generous pinch of salt and pepper in a bowl with a whisk and pour it over the contents in the casserole dish. Make sure the mixture is evenly spread and contents are covered. Cook for 35-40 minutes until done in the middle.
Classic Roast Chicken
1 free range/farm raised 4-5 lb chicken
Preheat oven to 450. Wash chicken and thoroughly dry the chicken inside the cavity and out with paper towels. Place the chicken in a roasting pan and generously sprinkle the entire chicken with sea salt (inside the cavity as well). Add any butter, thyme, or even pepper, just the salt, and after about an hour in the oven, the chicken will be crispy golden brown on the outside and incredibly tender, juicy, flavorful and delicious on the inside!
Slow Cooker Herb Chicken (Other Option)
4 lb whole chicken
1 medium carrot
1 medium onion
3/4 cup chicken broth
8 cloves of garlic, divided (2 minced and 6 whole)
3 Tbsp of oil or ghee
1 Tbsp diced rosemary
1 Tbsp diced sage
1 Tbsp diced thyme
Salt and pepper, to taste
Peel and roughly chop the carrot and the onion and place at the bottom of the slow cooker. Also add the 6 whole cloves of garlic and the chicken stock to the bottom of the slow cooker. Pat the chicken dry and rub with the oil. Season all parts of the chicken with salt and pepper (use the amount you prefer). Rub the chicken with the spices and garlic and place the chicken in the slow cooker. Cook on low for 4-5 hours or until the chicken is cooked through.