How I Prepare Food for the Beginning of My Workweek

It’s not likely I will ever get up early enough to make lunches, on mornings I have to go to work. Instead, I tend to spend part of my Sunday afternoons preparing for my first three-day stretch. You see, I work a mixed schedule every week: 8-3, 7-3, 3-10, Thursday off, and then 3-11 Friday and Saturday with Sunday off. Because of this, I like to be prepared for those first few days each week. I bring my 2 lunches and 1 dinner to work with me, and place them in the housekeepers refrigerator. Then I don’t have to worry about forgetting anything.

What I Prepared

lemon-honey waters

lemon iced tea

vegetable jars

applesauce

butternut squash and carrot mash

chili

zucchini chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting

As you might imagine, my place smelled amazing all day!

 

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014
Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014

The first thing I did was start the chili. I always make this in a slow cooker. Find the recipe here. I used New York strip steak, ground sausage, ground beef, and turkey smoked sausage as my four-meat combo. I had a coupon for the sausage: Buy 1 get 1 free, and they were on sale at $2.50 each. So I paid $2.50 for both, and only used 1. Good deal!

While my chili was slow cooking, I made some applesauce. The chunky applesauce recipe is here, though you may enjoy an apple-pear sauce instead. For my sauce, I used 2 Red Delicious and 1 Granny Smith. They came in a bag of about 4 each, with some oranges, and were on sale $3.50 when I was at the store the other day. Another good deal!

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014.
Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014.

Once the apples cooked down, I divided the sauce between three containers. I left them uncovered to cool, then covered and placed them in the refrigerator.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014.
Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014.

While the chili and the applesauce were cooking, I filled a few jars with vegetables. In 1 jar I put cucumber rounds. The other two jars I filled with celery sticks and broccoli that I had leftover from the previous week. You can find more vegetable combination ideas here. With the broccoli and celery being left over from last week, and the cucumber coming from my parents garden, I did not spend any money to make these vegetable jars.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014.
Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014.

I also made up a few water bottles of lemon-honey water. I keep these on my table, drinking one each morning. My first morning water is always room temperature. Supposedly, this is good for you. Simply place a few slices of lemon in the water bottle, add a teaspoon of honey if desired, and add water. Cover and set aside. A guest at the inn dropped off a couple of lemons at the front desk, indicating they couldn’t bring them across the border. Free for me!

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014.
Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014.

Using the other half of that lemon, I made lemon iced tea. Considering the tea bags were leftovers from the previous winter, I did not really pay anything to make this either.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck Copyright 2014.
Photograph by Shannon L. Buck Copyright 2014.

The butternut squash and carrot mash was easy to make. Because the squash came to me fresh from may parents garden, and the carrots were left over from last week and figured into that budget, I did not spend anything to make this recipe. Another freebie!

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014.
Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014.

The squash and carrot mash was more than enough to cover dinner, 2 work lunches, and a work dinner. Notice how I used the rest of the cucumber for my dinner.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014.
Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014.

And I had leftovers.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014.
Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014.

I topped the squash with chili. Look at that healthy dinner! It was delicious. And already my work meals are taken care of. I had more leftovers.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014.
Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014.

My 2 lunches and 1 dinner for the beginning of my work week. Squash and carrot mash topped with chili, vegetable jars, and applesauce. Yum!

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014.
Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014.

And the leftovers? Enough for dinners at home Monday and Tuesday. I will have some cucumber and zucchini rounds on the side.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014.
Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014.

Next, I used my moms recipes to make dessert. A chocolate zucchini cake with cream cheese frosting. I know people tote the separating of wet and dry ingredients, then combining them, but I just don’t do that. It would only mean more dishes to wash. I combine everything into one bowl. For the cake recipe, I used zucchini from my parents garden.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014.
Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014.

And it is easy to mix everything together.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014.
Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014.

Because I rent a room, I only have a toaster oven for baking. I made small cakes in mini bread pans, and 6 cupcakes.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014.
Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014.

I frosted these cup/cakes with the homemade cream cheese frosting, and I kept just a couple small pieces of cake for myself. The rest I gave away to people at work.

As you can see, I had a very busy day of cooking. I also cleaned and did the fall decorating. I was one busy lady.

Shannon

NOTE: (January 2017) While I am eating much healthier these days, and this blog is going to be reflecting that, I am not above having something sweet once-in-a-while, especially a family favorite such as this cake. I make it once a year.

Every so often you will see a recipe that is not healthy but, for the most part, this blog is now going to be about eating as healthy as possible on a budget,

 

 

Vegetable Jars

Vegetable jars are so easy to make. You’re simply filling small canning jars with raw vegetables, covering, and storing in the refrigerator until they are ready to use. The produce will last for most of the week this way. They can easily be grabbed as a component to a work or school lunch.

Some vegetable ideas for jars

  • Cucumber rounds
  • Celery sticks, broccoli, and carrot sticks
  • Cucumber, zucchini, and yellow squash
  • Carrots, broccoli, pod beans
  • Pod peas, carrots, and cucumber
  • Pod peas, pod beans, and yellow squash
  • Cherry tomatoes, snow pod peas, and carrots
  • Grape tomatoes, broccoli, and cucumber

As you can see, there are plenty of combinations to choose from.

What other vegetable combinations can you come up with? Let us know in the comments.

You may also be interested in

Fruit jars

Shannon

 

Butternut Squash and Carrot Mash

Fall is in the air! And I’m back at trying new things, as well as sticking with a few old stand-byes. My most recent experiment took place because I had just a couple of carrots, as well as a squash fresh from my parents garden. I topped my butternut squash and carrot mash with some of the chili I made the same day.

Ingredients

2 carrots, cut into rounds

butternut squash, cut into chunks – enough to almost fill a small pot

water

  1. Place the carrot rounds into the pot, and top with the squash until the pot is not quite full.
  2. Add water to barely cover the vegetables.
  3. Boil until the carrots and squash are tender enough to mash.
  4. Drain the water off the vegetables, and mash with a fork.

Tips

  • Add cinnamon and nutmeg to the mash if desired.
  • Save money by using vegetables from your garden.

Serving Suggestions

  • Serve over chili or spaghetti squash.

Happy fall!

Shannon

A Good, Healthy Lunch, on a Budget

Earlier I showed you a typical breakfast. Now I’m showing an example of a budget friendly lunch. This is not necessarily a typical lunch for me, as one usually consists of a salad, a piece of fruit, and some type of protein. But this was an affordable option for me a couple of weeks back. It worked and, while not 100% Paleo, it filled me up for the cost.

The picture shows what I had, except for the beverage.

Orange sections, left over from a pitcher of fruit water I made. (Try this water recipe for something refreshing to go along with this lunch.)

Peas in pods, carrot rounds, celery, broccoli, tomatoes

4 slices of ham

4 slices of cheese

I wasn’t sure if this would keep me full or not, but it held me over just fine. I did have a few cups of water in between lunch and dinner, so that may have helped.

What healthy lunches do you make when your budget is tight? I rarely eat grains and dairy, so I’m always on the look out for Paleo type lunches.

Shannon

A Good, Healthy Breakfast, on a Budget

I keep telling people they can eat healthy without spending an exuberant amount on food. This is true to an extent, if you keep it simple. Stick to the basics, and your meal does not have to cost an arm-and-a-leg. Also, watch your serving sizes.

The picture shows a breakfast I had a couple of weeks ago. It is actually pretty typical, for me. (Don’t mind the paper plate! It is a leftover from my daughters’ engagement party.) The most expensive aspect was the smoothie. I could have saved more money by just having a piece of fruit with breakfast, and drinking either water or tea. But I had the coconut milk on hand, and the berries were not badly priced (for berries!)

I do try to always pair vegetables and a protein source with a little healthy fat, in this instance by cooking the sausages and egg in coconut oil. This combination is a healthy way to consume food. I eat a mostly Paleo diet.

The components of the meal consisted of:

Mixed Berry Smoothie

2 sausage links

1 fried egg

peas in pods, carrot rounds, celery, broccoli, and tomatoes

The meal was simple and tasty, and kept me full until not long before lunch. Good deal. Note that I rarely ever eat grains. Usually just when my budget is just too tight to manage. Also note the absence of real dairy. I rarely ever have dairy. These foods are a no-no with my lifestyle change, and I should not be eating them at all. I do, once in a while, consume cheese… I just can’t help myself 😉

What healthy things do you eat for breakfast?

Shannon

Ground Beef and Vegetables

This recipe calls for the use of leftover baked white and sweet potatoes, as well as a few other ingredients. It’s easy to make, and the other ingredients could also be from leftovers if you had enough available. It is a simple recipe that will not take long to make.

Ingredients

3/4 lb ground beef

1 tbsp coconut oil or butter

1 to 1 1/2 cups peas

2 cold baked sweet potatoes, chopped

1 cup chopped squash

desired seasonings

  1. Melt the fat in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add ground beef and cook until done, cutting the beef into small pieces as it browns.
  2. Drain off the access fat, then put the beef back into the pan.
  3. Add the vegetables and cook until warmed through, stirring as needed.
  4. Add seasonings. Cook for a minute, then remove from heat.

Tips

  • There is no need to buy peas if you have other leftover vegetables that can be substituted. Try carrots or celery.
  • Use fresh produce whenever possible to save on the food bill.

Serving Suggestions

  • Serve with a fruit salad, such as watermelon and cantaloupe balls with mint.
  • Or, serve with a side salad of Romaine lettuce, cucumber and tomato.

Do you have a favorite recipe similar to this? Share with us in the comments below, or message me privately at shannonlbuck@gmail.com.

Enjoy!

Shannon

Easy Turkey Soup

I started the Whole30 plan today, and have to come up with new recipe versions, and sometimes completely new recipes. You will benefit from this, in that I’m going to share each of the recipes here on the blog.

This turkey recipe is a new one for me. One I thought up and threw together just this evening. The parsley I grow fresh in a pot on the table. The recipe is giving me 2 servings, that I’ll serve along with vegetables in the form of a salad/ vegetable slices.

Ingredients

1 cup shredded leftover turkey (reserve any bones and skin for making homemade turkey stock.)

1/2 of an acorn squash

1 carrot

water or homemade stock

fresh parsley

  1. Put the shredded turkey in a slow cooker.
  2. Peel the squash and cut into chunks. Add these to the slow cooker.
  3. Wash the carrot and cut the ends off. Cut into rounds and add to the slow cooker. Reserve the ends for making homemade stock.
  4. Pour just enough water or homemade stock over the ingredients to cover.
  5. Cook on high for 2-3 hours, until you can easily stick a fork through the vegetables.

Tips

  • Try different herbs, which can be grown on a windowsill so you don’t have an added expense.
  • Try growing your own vegetables to save money.
  • Use canned turkey if you prefer.
  • Add a tablespoon of coconut oil if desired. A good way to get some good fat if you are also doing the Whole30.

Serving Suggestions

  • Serve with cucumber and carrot slices.

Enjoy!

Shannon

Shepherd’s Pie Variations

The shepherd’s pie recipe I used when the girls were growing up was a favorite of ours and our cousin Ashland. At its most basic, this is what it was:

1 pound browned ground beef, rinsed and drained and spread over the bottom of a baking dish, topped with 1 can of drained whole kernel corn and 1/4 cup of the reserved liquid. This was topped with mashed potato. Sometimes I sprinkled cheese over the top. I might replace the beef with cooked chicken sometimes, and occasionally use peas.

Pretty basic, but maybe not the healthiest way to enjoy this dish. One of the best things about this recipe is that it can be changed to match sales. Each ingredient can be switched out to save money. You can also make it according to what produce you get from the garden.

Play with the recipe. See what you can do.

(Update 2017) While the above method of making shepherd’s pie is a family favorite and is therefore staying on the blog, I wanted to share variations with you.

Here are some healthier variations, that

  1. Leftover meat medley, thawed, (Diced beef, pork, chicken, and turkey). Top with 1/4 cup of water or vegetable stock, 1 cup cooked carrots, and 1 can of peas, and then add mashed sweet potato as a top layer.  See: How to Store Food Odds and Ends for Later Use.
  2. Use turkey as a base, adding 1/4 cup of vegetable stock or broth, 1 cup chopped, cooked broccoli, and 1 cup cooked carrots. Top this with mashed butternut squash, and top with a sprinkling of fresh chopped parsley or cilantro.
  3. Use a pound of precooked venison, and top with diced tomato and peas. Add 1/4 cup of liquid from the peas (or homemade vegetable stock), and then top with mashed carrot and sweet potato.

Come up with your own variations, and tell us about them in the comments section for this post.

Shannon

 

Harvest Soup

Autumn is my favorite season. I love watching the leaves change, photographing yards dressed up for the autumn months, and creating new recipes from the foods local farmers are harvesting.

While Farmer’s Markets may seem expensive, you really can find good deals when shopping them just before closing time. In-season produce is often on sale at the grocery store, and roadside stands sell produce pretty cheap this time of the year. My stepfather recently purchased a 50 pound bag of potatoes for $10.00. This was a good deal for fresh potatoes.

Soups are just one meal I enjoy experimenting with. This is a recipe I came up with for the slow cooker.

Ingredients:

10 baby red potatoes

1 sweet potato

1 small acorn squash

10 baby carrots

about 10 pumpkin chunks

1 small can diced tomato

1 small can vegetable stock

water

fresh parsley

fresh rosemary

crushed garlic grinder

sea salt grinder

black peppercorn grinder

  1. Wash the produce. Lay on a towel to dry slightly before beginning to fill your crock.
  2. Cut any bad parts off the red potatoes, cut into halves or thirds, depending on their size, and place these in the bottom of the crock.
  3. Add the carrots to the crock.
  4. Cut up the squash and the sweet potato, placing these over the carrots.
  5. Add the pumpkin chunks, the tomatoes with their liquid, and the can of vegetable stock.
  6. Fill the crock to the 2/3 point with water, then add the seasonings. (I do seasonings to taste, adding a little now and more toward the end of the cooking time.)
  7. Cover and cook: High – 2 to 3 hours, Low – 4 to 6 hours.

Tips

  • To save the most money, grow most of the produce. Look for deals everywhere else.
  • For added savings, make your own vegetable stock. Or, purchase store brand types at the grocery store.
  • Feel free to add some meat, if desired.

Serving Suggestion

Beef and Vegetable Soup

Soups are easy to prepare on the stove top or in a slow cooker. On the stove, simply cook until the vegetables and meat are cooked through. This will depend in how big the pieces of food are, and whether or not the meat was precooked. In the slow cooker, two or three hours on high works fine. Twice as long when slow cooking on a low temperature.

Ingredients

3/4 pound beef cut into bite-size pieces

1-1/2 cup, squash cut into bite-size pieces

2 sweet potatoes cut into bite-size pieces

carrots cut into bite-size pieces

beef or vegetable broth, or water (to cover)

parsley and rosemary

pepper to taste

salt to taste

  1. Put the vegetables into the crock or pot.

  2. Place the beef on top.

  3. Pour broth and/or water over the top of the vegetables and beef.

  4. Add some fresh parsley and rosemary, as well as a little salt and pepper.

  5. Cook until the meat and vegetables are done, adding more of the fresh herbs five minutes before serving.

Tips

  • You will save a great deal of money when using vegetables and herbs grown in your own garden.

Serving Suggestions

  • A side salad of greens, tomatoes, and cucumber will well go with this soup.

Happy cooking!

Shannon