Busy Cooks Guide to Easy Meal Prep

I know what it’s like, being so busy you don’t have time to prepare healthy meals and snacks at home. Things get crazy-busy sometimes, and there does not seem like enough time to do all that we have to do.

But there are things that will help to make meal prep easy during the busier times life will throw at you, and I want to share with you what tactics I use to create quick, easy meals when life is too hectic.

Spend an afternoon preparing

If you have a few hours, it’s a good idea to prepare some things in advance. Here are a few things I do, depending on the time of year:

  • Make tortilla wraps and place them in the refrigerator between sheets of parchment paper. I find a recipe online for Paleo wraps, and use that.
  • Wash and cut up vegetables. Store in containers in the refrigerator. Use ends and greens when making stock.
  • Place fruit in bowls to grab when you want a snack or are in a hurry.
  • Prepare lunches for work or school so you can easily grab them before leaving.
  • Make a vegetable stock and store it in the refrigerator for use during the week. Any extra can go into the freezer. Use ends and greens, as well as any leftover vegetables that won’t get eaten fresh.
  • Roast a chicken, then cut it up into serving sizes and refrigerate. Freeze what you wont use in the next four days.
  • Make chocolate sauce and store in canning jars in the refrigerator. Use this with fresh fruit if you are wanting a dessert-type item.
  • Make energy balls and store three to a small container.

Buy frozen seafood

I like to check out the frozen seafood section to see what I might be able to use for meals during the week. Scallops and shrimp are easy to prepare, and can be used in many food combinations.

This week I found bags of raw, peeled, deveined, tail-on shrimp for $5.00, so I picked one up. I’ll keep it in the freezer, and take some out whenever I want to make a dish.

What will I use the shrimp for? Any number of things, including:

Make a soup

Soups are a wonderful way to add vegetables to your menu. Just throw the ingredients in a pot on the stove – or in a crock – and cook at the beginning of the week. This could be done on a prep day.

My best friend will cook up a huge pot all at once, and I just love my chicken and vegetable soup and my sausage and pineapple one.

I put servings of soup in small canning jars after they’ve cooled some, and place those in the refrigerator. They are easy to warm when you are short on time, and taste great.

Know what fruits can be stored near each other

A few medium size mixing or fruit bowls will hold a lot of fruit. Place citrus vegetables in one, apples and pears in another, and bananas and grapes in the third. One can be used as a centerpiece at the table, and the other two can be placed at either end of the counter.

School and work lunches

I usually put these together during a prep day, because I’m already doing related tasks. All I’m really doing is packing things up a little differently than in spend an afternoon preparing above.

I have a shelf specifically for work meal items, and organize the containers and other items in a way that makes things easy to grab. I work 5 shifts in four days, and will bring everything I put together on the first day.

While cutting up vegetables, I’ll have five containers reserved for work. Into each of those, I’ll put a few servings of vegetables, a few cut up berries or some grapes, and a serving of meat, unless the meat will be in soup form. In that case, the soups are already packaged as individual servings.

If I will be having wraps, I’ll also store the wraps separately.

Much of the time, to make things easy, I’ll have the same foods for all five meals, switching out different fruits or snacks. Having packets of dark chocolate covered blueberries and cherries helps with this, as does having some energy balls on hand.

Easy meal combo’s utilizing raw vegetables include:

  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, sliced strawberries, sugar snap peas in pods, broccoli, carrots, celery, and a small amount of nut butter
  • rice, seasoned ground beef, diced tomato, corn, grapes
  • turkey slices, roasted sweet potato, mashed squash, peas, cranberries
  • veggie wraps, shrimp scampi on the side (to be added to the wrap later), strawberry slices
  • sausage and pineapple soup, carrot sticks, celery with nut butter, cherries

Quick breakfast ideas

While a box of cereal is the ultimate in quickness during our busy mornings, those types of boxed, processed things are not exactly the healthiest of choices. I like to make my own cereal, and it takes less time than making pancakes. Here are a few of may favorites:

Another ideas is to make a batch of Paleo granola to use as cereal during busy mornings. Add half a cup to a bowl, top with fruit and organic, unsweetened coconut, and add nut milk.

Quick snack ideas

Parfaits are an easy snack, and can be refrigerated overnight. Make a couple up during prep day for a quick, easy snack later and the next day. A few options include:

Trail mixes are another great snack option, and can be made up in advance and used throughout the coming week or so. Stored little canning jars, they will be easy to grab.

Quick lunches and dinners

If you have the components from spend and afternoon preparing above, you probably already have the components for a few meals. Buy frozen seafood and make a soup offer other ideas. Here are some more that can be made ahead and warmed later, or made quickly the day you want them:

*****

With practice, meal prep days will go more quickly and you might choose to make more options on that day.

What do you do to keep it healthy during the busiest of times?

Shannon

 

 

 

End of the Week Lunches

What do you do for lunches at the end of the week, when your food items are getting low? I use leftovers to make new meals. I also try to keep it simple.

In the picture above you see yesterday’s lunch. I used some leftover beef roast at the center of the plate. Not a lot; just a few slices. Around it, I’ve placed a half of a pear, chopped, carrot rounds, cucumber slices, broccoli, and raw string beans.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck, copyright February 2017. http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/shannonbuck

For to today’s lunch, I again had a few slices of beef, surrounding it with lots of cabbage, broccoli stems, and carrot rounds. Both meals were tasty and healthy, and left me feeling satisfied. And lemon water was my drink of choice at both meals.

Because everything was leftover from other meals, their costs already counted, these two meals were free.

I try to use up food from the fridge before it goes bad, even if there isn’t much of a particular ingredient. This helps me to save money on my overall grocery bill.

How do you use leftovers?

Shannon

The Experiment: Saving Money by Not Using a Shopping List

If you read Try This to Save Money on Groceries and A New Way to Plan Meals, you know I was planning an experiment. I meant to do this before now, but the temperatures have been too low for me to walk from Walmart to work. Ordinarily I do the shopping then walk to work, placing my food in the refrigerator until my shift is over. However, I’ve not been able to shop regularly because my asthma kicks in at drastically low temperatures.

This weekend has been marvelous! And I decided today was the day to shop.

Ordinarily I plan my menu before I go to the store, shop sales, and use coupons (trying to use sales with coupons when I can!) and keep it all very organized. Today I decided to do things a little differently. I did not plan a menu, except to know that I wanted lemons and limes so I could make some lemon-limeade this week. I also needed some almond milk.

I did take stock of what I have available at home. I was all set with:

  • Organic diced tomatoes
  • Organic coconut milk
  • Coconut water
  • Coconut cream
  • Organic coconut oil
  • Organic ghee
  • Organic almond flour
  • Organic coconut flour
  • Organic tapioca flour
  • Organic raw honey
  • Organic maple syrup
  • Eggs (A few store-bought + 1 dozen farm fresh from my friend Tam!)
  • Carrots
  • Sausage, enough for 1 meal
  • Frozen fruits, for smoothies (Some melon chunks, and some citrus fruits.)
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1 side salad
  • 1 Granny Smith apple
  • 1 Buttercup squash

Keep in mind, I usually have most of the above items on hand before a grocery shopping trip.

During a good shopping trip, where I buy quite a bit, it would not be uncommon for me to spend between $60.00 and $65.00. Just for me. And that is (mostly) good-for-you stuff, with just a few items that are processed and not real good for you to lessen costs a little.

I did not want to spend that much, and I wanted to test out my theory that one can save money without planning for a shopping trip, while buying many of the less expensive things and still getting enough healthy food to feed oneself for the week.

Stew meat, on sale at $3.80 per pound = $16.07 (saved $7.53)

Organic spinach and arugula, good size package, 5 ounces = $3.28

Almond milk, 1/2 gallon = $2.98

Vegetable tray (cherry tomatoes, green beans, celery, carrots), 2 1/2 cups = $5.98

Organic Red Delicious apples, 7 count = $3.67

Kiwi, 3 = $1.35

Bananas, 4 = .77

Limes, 4 = $1.32

Green cabbage, 1.94 pounds = $1.32

Strawberries, 1 pound = $1.98 (Saved $.50)

Meyer lemons, 7 count = $1.98

Sweet potatoes, 2.15 pounds = $2.11

Red potatoes, 1.19 pounds =$1.17

Total Spent = $43.98

Savings over a typical week = $16.02 – $21.02

  • I can get quite a few meals out of the stew meat, red potatoes, and sweet potatoes, when using them with the carrots and squash I have on hand.
  • The spinach and arugula will mainly be used in smoothies, but I might also make a couple of meals where I serve them with eggs and sausage. This will allow me to stretch the sausage to two meals, and be plenty filling.
  • I may also make some homemade applesauce.
  • I was so happy they had lemons and limes. They didn’t the last time I was in there.
  • I was surprised at how good the strawberries looked, and could not resist the price.
  • Organic is expensive, and I cannot afford to get everything this way. So I do what I can, with what is available. I hear apples are one of the worst fruits to buy non-organic, so I’m trying to be good with that. The same with the spinach.
  • I do know the Clean 15 and the Dirty Dozen, but Walmart in my area does not always have organic options for everything, and I couldn’t afford to get all organic anyway.
  • I truly wish I could afford grass-fed, etc., meats, but they are just not in my budget.
  • The trays of organic vegetables did not look all that fresh this week, so I went with the non organic tray.
  • Notice how I did not use coupons, and only a couple of items were on sale, yet I still came in at less.

I’ll have to deal with what I have on hand now that the shopping trip is over, but I don’t think that will be a problem. Between my groceries and what I already had on hand, I am pretty well set.

Tomorrow is my day off, and I’ll spend it making meals for the week. I will better know afterward how many meals I have for the coming week.

Happy shopping!

Shannon

Even More Workweek Meal Prep, Plus

Autumn is the time of year I start to cook and bake more. Makes life feel more homey πŸ™‚ And I love the way it makes my place smell. This was the time, when my daughters were young, that we would stock up on foods so we could make what we wanted on a whim. I started having them cook with me from a young age.

Just this week Zowie, now 22, mentioned she was shopping to begin stocking her pantry. And Skye, 24, and I are planning to bake together when I visit her in a couple of weeks up north. Preparing delicious meals brings back warm family memories.

I messaged both of my daughters last night to find out what recipes from childhood were their favorites. My plan is to scrap a cookbook with our favorites. So far, I know my mac and cheese recipe will be in the book, as well as the chunky applesauce, mashed potatoes, and shepherds pie. There will be plenty more recipes going into that book! Something to work on during the winter months.

Today went like this:

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014.I love slow cooker meals. Renting a room, I don’t have an oven for roasting big meals. Just a little toaster oven. Two slow cookers aid me in making a couple of meals on autumn and winter cooking days.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014Pork and vegetables went into the first crock. This is an easy recipe. I didn’t bother to cut the meat, because the meal cooks long enough so the meat falls apart easily. This made 5 meals, with the carrots coming from my parents garden.

The next crock contained beef I found on sale for $4.87, a savings of $1.88. It was steak and not a roast, but the result was delicious. This also made 5 meals. Both the squash and carrots were free, from my parents garden. Cook this the same as the pork and vegetables above.

1 pound beef

1 squash

5 or 6 small carrots

leftover sweet potato from the crock pot pork meal (bout 6 bite size pieces)

cover with water, or vegetable/beef stock

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014.I decided to make cupcakes for my coworkers. They were such a big hit. The chocolate mayonnaise cake recipe I used came from my mom. It makes 18 cupcakes. I had leftover ingredients from the last time I baked, so I only needed to buy mayonnaise for this dessert. I used the cheapest brand and the smallest size I could find. Thankfully Jose, the head maintenance man at work, agreed to take the leftover mayo off my hands.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014.Because I am a messy cook, the cooking spoon and measuring cup (for scooping batter) go on a napkin. Believe me, it is better this way.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014.

I have a 6-cup muffin tin that thankfully fits in my toaster oven, and I only needed to use the oven three times. Not bad.

While things were cooking and baking, I took inventory of what I had on hand to round out these 10 meal. There was plenty of celery and pickled beets.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014.And a few lovely apples leftover from last weekends visit to the orchard. Liberty and Macintosh. Yum. These were free.

I checked the first tin of cupcakes by sticking a toothpick into them. If the pick comes out clean, they are done. I bought these at Wal-Mart, a three pack. Each box is a different color. Nifty.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014.They were done. I allowed them to cool a bit before removing the cupcakes, then filled refilled.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014.The peanut butter frosting recipe is so easy to make. You can’t go wrong with it. Simply mix a container of white frosting with peanut butter to taste. I used a little extra peanut butter this time and it was a hit. Everyone loves this frosting. Because I don’t really eat peanut butter, Jose agreed to take what was leftover off my hands.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014.I saved out two cupcakes for a coworker with diabetes. She doesn’t eat frosting. And the maintenance guys both got two because they give me rides home from work a couple of times a week. I kept two cupcakes for myself, and shared the rest at work. I have to admit, my mommas recipe is the best!

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014.

Once the beef meal was portioned out, and one of the pork meals, I still had this much of the pork recipe but no more containers. I’ll need to invest in more containers. What’s left is enough for four more meals.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck copyright 2014.And this is what six meals looks like. I only need five for work, the other half will make great at-home dinners that I can just warm up. Three apples and a jar of pickled beets really did round out the meals. And so did the celery packs. There were 6 packs. One was leftover from last week. They come in a 5-pack, and cost $1.15.

Have a great day!

Shannon

Meal Prep for the Coming Workweek

Another workweek. Another food prep day. Do I mind spending an entire day each week cooking? Absolutely not! I love to cook. And I have less to do on a day-to-day basis when I do this.

This week was pretty basic, and not overly expensive. Here goes:

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

I started with a slow cooker meal. This week I made an Autumn Sausage Slow Cooker Meal that came out real well. I love slow cooker meals. They’re so easy to put together, and free up plenty of time for preparing other foods and getting my cleaning done. Then I also have time for writing. The squash I used in this recipe was a freebie from my parents garden. And the cost before taxes for the sausage was $3.75. Take a look at the store’s selection. You may find a more affordable sausage option than what you use already. I did.

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

I then made the base for my iced tea for the week, Berry-Orange Iced Tea. In a few days I will change the tea bags and replace the old orange slices with new. I just keep refilling the pitcher with water during the week. The tea bags were left over from last winter. The fruit was left over from last week. So I did not pay any more to make this.

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

Next I made more Chunky Applesauce. This is such a simple recipe. I cook the apples down in water. I don’t add anything else when cooking. When I’m ready to eat the sauce, I add some organic cinnamon. Organic tastes so much better than the stuff I used to buy. The apples were also leftover from last week, so this is essentially another freebie.

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

And I put together 6 Vegetable Jars. This weeks jars consist of carrots, celery, broccoli, sugar snap peas, cherry tomatoes, and a bit of cheese. The carrots were left over from last week. As was the slice of cheese that I broke into 6 pieces.

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

Plus I had leftover vegetables to have with other meals or as snacks.

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

After using up all the sandwich meat that comes in the covered containers, I reuse the containers for packing my lunches. I split the food between the containers. I know it does not look like much, but I bring other foods as well.

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

This all made 6 meals, and I have a few snacks. Not too bad.

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

So, this is my food from the days work:

  • 6 proportioned out slow cooker meals.
  • 6 vegetable jars.
  • Extra vegetables.
  • 2 applesauce jars.
  • A jar of pickled beets.
  • An orange.
  • 2 bottles of water. Free from a guest at work. (She actually gave me 8 bottles.) I’ll drink tea at work when I don’t have the water (also free), or the iced tea I made is for when I’m at home.

That is 6 meals and, because my work schedule changed this week, I only need two of them for work. I put three slow cooker meal portions into the freezer. They will be good on my days off.

You may also enjoy

More Work Week Meal Prep

Even More Work Week Meal Prep

Enjoy!

Shannon

 

More Workweek Meal Prep

With autumn upon us, I spend more time cooking. I love it, really. It’s still a little warm for it, though. The room I rent gets over heated, and I find myself running the air conditioner and the fan to keep it cool. Soon though, it’ll be cool enough not to have to worry about that.

Last week I showed you how I go about making meals for the beginning of my workweek. This week I switched things up just a bit. For instance, you’ll notice there is no dessert. Dessert is not something I usually make, actually. Because I don’t like the way my body feels after eating it. Ever since I did the Whole30 program last year, and then moved on to a mainly Paleo way of eating, I’ve had a hard time with the sweets. Dairy is sometimes an issue as well. I just feel better when eating healthier πŸ™‚

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

First, I took out my trusty crock pot. I have two of these, but only needed one today. Mine are of a 3-quart capacity, and that usually gives me plenty of food.

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

I filled it with the makings of a nice beef soup. Though the version I made for this week was a little downplayed: Beef, butternut squash, sweet potato, and carrots. I added some parsley and oregano a little before it was done. The squash for this meal was a freebie from my parents garden.

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

Once the soup was cooking, I put together these vegetable jars. The 3 jars each contained cucumber, celery, and broccoli. The cucumbers were also free, and from my parents garden, and the other vegetables were left over from another meal. So these really didn’t cost anything more to make.

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

I didn’t have a lot to spend on groceries this week, but I did have some leftovers from last week. The orange was one of those leftovers, so I didn’t pay for it. It was counted in last weeks food costs.

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

I simply peeled and sectioned an orange to make a fruit jar. I hate trying to peel and section oranges when I’m working, because I have to hurry through the process and end up with a mangled orange. It’s easier to have this already done.

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

When the beef soup is done, I simply split it between containers. As you can see, I have enough for 5 meals: 3 work meals, and two dinners for home. Also, you may notice a lack of liquid. Crazy, I know, but I rarely eat my crock pot meals as soup. I do not know why. I usually skip most of the liquid, adding just enough to aid me in mashing my potato, squash, and carrots when I’m ready to eat.

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

And these are my meals for work. 3 days worth. Yum!

Share your ideas for meal prep for work in the comments, or email me at shannonlbuck@gmail.com. Let us know how you save money to eat healthy at work.

 

Shannon

Fruit Jars

Fruit jars are so easy to make. Start by rinsing off the fruit, and patting them dry with a clean cloth. Then prepare the fruit by cutting, sectioning, and whatnot. Make sure the canning jars are clean and dry.

There are many fruit combinations you can create, or you may choose to have just one fruit. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  1. Orange sections
  2. Watermelon, cantaloupe, and honey-dew melon balls
  3. Grapes, strawberry slices, and raspberries.
  4. Grapefruit sections, orange sections, and halved grapes.
  5. Grapes. (These can be frozen.)
  6. Blueberries and raspberries.
  7. Kiwi, halved grapes, and raspberries.

Fruit jars will last at least 3 days in the refrigerator.

These make a great component to any meal, or can be used as a snack, and are easily placed into a lunch sack.

Enjoy!

Shannon

Save More Money by Packing Meals for Lunch or School

In our daily lives, we try to make life easier on ourselves. These efforts can end up costing us a bunch of money. Far more than we really want to spend. When you order out or buy “from the machine” at work or school, you’re spending unnecessary money. You can easily prepare foods 3 to 5 days in advance, having them at the ready for when you need them, without spending as much.

I do this each week. I take one day to prepare meal components for the coming week. It doesn’t always take a full day, and I do use the slow cookers to make things easier.

NOTE: I eat a lot of salad, but it’s just me eating these salads. First I tried making them myself using heads of lettuce as the base, but each lettuce I tried would start turning yucky before I had a chance to eat it all. I would have to throw away lettuce each week. Then I tried the pre-packaged lettuce mixes, but within a couple days these too were going bad. Mainly, I now use prepared salads from Walmart. They are $2.98 each, and only contain the lettuce, a little meat, and a dressing I don’t eat. I add other vegetables to my meal myself.

Seriously, if anyone knows a more affordable way to do the salad thing let me know.

I’m open to suggestions on keeping salad greens fresh longer.

I would rather waste my money on these salads than on produce that ends up in the trash.

How do I go about preparing food in advance?

I do a number of things. You may choose different ways of doing this than me, or you might use one or more of my ideas. My hope is you’ll use these ideas to come up with a game plan that will work for you.

  1. I buy my salads for lunches, and dinners if I’m choosing to eat extra light that week.
  2. I decide on a topper or two for the salad. For instance, I might make a 3 meat chili for lunches. If I’m also going to enjoy salads for dinner, I will choose another topper such as chicken. These foods will go into the slow cooker.
  3. If I don’t choose salads for dinner, I decide on another slow cooker meal. Sometimes this will be a beef roast with white and sweet potatoes, and a carrot or two. Other times I might make a chicken soup, or taco meat. It really depends on my mood and budget. My favorite is corned beef, white and sweet potato, and squash. If I do this, I can have a salad with a topper a couple times, as well as a meal on a couple of other occasions.
  4. Then I decide on my other vegetables. I cut them up, and place them in pint size canning jars. Put the covers on and place them in the refrigerator. Some combinations might include 1) Carrot and celery sticks, 2)Broccoli and cauliflower, 3) Cucumber, zucchini, and summer squash.
  5. I’ll then decide if I want fruit with any of the meals I will pack. If so, I’ll make some homemade apple sauce, apple-pear sauce, or apple-peach sauce. Or have oranges and bananas available to grab. Another option is a fruit-based salad, such as an Easy Apple Tuna Salad or an Easy Melon and Strawberry Salad.
  6. Trail mixes are good as snacks while at work or school. There are so many ways to make them.

For instance:

Banana Chip Trail Mix

Candy Corn Trail Mix

Apricot Trail Mix

Holiday Trail Mix

With the above components, you’ll be able to make hearty meals for lunch and school. Or any time you need an on-the-go-meal. Enjoy coming up with your own meal versions as well, and share your favorites with us in the comments. Feel free to email me any time at shannonlbuck@gmail.com. And try one of my eCookBooks. They include some recipes that are no longer here on the blog. Main Meal Magic and Beverages on a Budget are good ones to start with.

Shannon

Put Together Delicious Meals From Leftovers

If you want to save money on food, one of the easiest ways is by keeping your leftovers. If you wont get to eat the leftovers within a day or two, be sure to freeze them for later use. By not wasting these food items, you may have enough for one or two meals a week. You might even go so far as to create intentional leftovers. However you get them, use your leftovers to make a smoothie, to add to homemade pancakes or breads, or to make entire new meals.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  1. Leftover chicken, the last of the shredded cheese, a couple of cucumber slices, and Paleo hamburger bun will combine well for a delicious sandwich.
  2. Two chicken legs, 1 cup leftover carrots, a russet potato, and half of a sweet potato, when combined with water, will make an excellent soup. Be sure to get as much meat off the bones as you can.
  3. A couple eggs, 1/2 cup cubed turkey, and a little diced tomato will make a good egg scramble.
  4. The last of the lettuce, 3 cherry tomatoes, and a couple sliced strawberries combined will give you a nice side salad.

Be creative when using leftovers. If you can’t think of an actual meal to make with what you have on hand, warm it all up and provide the family with a pot luck dinner.

What ideas can you come up with? Feel free to tell us in the comments for this post, or email me and shannonlbuck@gmail.com.

Check this out: Beverages on a Budget

Shannon

What to Eat During the Very Lean Weeks

It is easy for me to say β€œEat healthy. It is the best way to stay healthy.” I’m aware that this isn’t always possible for everyone, not even myself. My income is just enough to cover rent and a phone during the winter months, with very little left over to cover food. Last winter was particularly difficult food-wise. For all I know, this winter could be the same.

While my new eating goals mean I don’t eat grains, dairy, sugar, and overly processed foods (and even though leaving these behind means I’m finally losing the excess weight!) I know that, when winter comes along, some of this stuff will have to be consumed just so I can afford to feed myself.

This is because my hours at work get cut during the slow season. Last year, this past slow season lasted longer than the year before.

We do what we have to do.

What does this mean?

It means purchasing items such as oatmeal, whole grain pasta, and whole grain breads, rice, and beans… and maybe even a few boxes of some cheap cereal. And yes, there will be the occasional box of white pasta or rice or package of white bread. It also means canned foods and not fresh. I’m stocking up on sale items that I’ll use, but keeping my choices to a minimum.

Canned peas are a starchy vegetable choice that I will bring back into my diet for the winter months, but not corn. I’m really trying to stay clear of corn products in particular. As much as possible anyway.

I have stocked up on a few healthier items because I worked a bunch of overtime this summer. Coconut milk, cocoa bliss, and coconut cream. Unsweetened coconut flakes. The all-expensive coconut and almond flours (which will not last all winter, but will allow me to make pancakes and muffins once in a while). Pickles and fruit jellies from the farmers market, along with pickled beats, honey, and maple syrup and cream. Not enough of any to last the winter, but enough to feel like I’m treating myself and so that I am eating a bit healthier than last year.

It’s also my intention to pick up a few winter squashes, some pumpkins even, to have on hand. They should last a little while on the counter. And some apples on sale because they can be wrapped in newspaper and placed in a box to store, and farm fresh eggs will last quite a while outside of the refrigerator.

While I’m doing all this, I am fully aware that there will be weeks when I have hardly any food, and only a few dollars (if I’m even that lucky) to purchase food items. So, what meals might I make that, while not exceptionally healthy, will be healthier than my options for last year. Here are some ideas I’ve come up with so far:

  1. Chili made in the slow cooker to top pasta and rice.

  2. Shepherd’s pie made with the cheapest meat and vegetables possible, and mashed potatoes.

  3. Tuna mixed with diced celery and apple.

  4. Chili topped toast.

  5. Soup made from leftovers, using water and not chicken stock or broth.

  6. Baked beans, with diced tomato and a cheap meat added. This can also top rice, toast and pasta.

  7. Oatmeal topped with fruit slices, and maybe a little maple syrup.

  8. Pumpkin muffins, maybe with a few dark chocolate chips added. Or some diced apple.

  9. Scrambled, fried, sunny side up, poached, hard and soft boiled eggs, as well as omelets. Served with both a serving of fruit and vegetable when possible.

  10. Pasta or rice topped with peas.

Some things to keep in mind:

  • Full birds and roasts are often cheaper per pound, though it is wise to check cuts of meats if can get a special deal. Once your main meal is complete, pick the meat away from the bones. Good size pieces of meat can be used as a base for one or more main meals. For example, a breast can be used for the next nights main course. Then, the smaller pieces of meat can be split between two or three containers for soup, omelets, stock, and pasta sauce. The bone can be used to make broth, then thrown out.

  • Leftover pasta can be combined in a pan with diced potato, carrots, and peas for a one-pan meal.

  • The same is true for rice.

  • Leftover bean meals are great wrapped in lettuce or cabbage leaves for a non-grain based wrap.

  • Make the cheapest meal possible, in a way that gives a few days worth of leftover options.

  • Purchase sale items when possible, with coupons if available.

  • Try to combine meat, a little fat, and a vegetable into each meal.

  • Even if meat is not available, add a vegetable to the meal.

  • Buy fruit on sale, to dry for snacks during the winter months.

How do you get through the leanest weeks? Let us know in the comments below.

Shannon