Tag Archives: healthy habits

Favorite Ways to Save Kitchen Bucks

So there are really only a handful of ways you can make real food work in a kitchen:

  1. Save money by making a lot of it from scratch, but it will cost you time
  2. Save time by buying real-food shortcuts, but it will cost you money
  3. Somewhere in-between the first two options, using both as you can (this is me, although I tend towards option #1)

I recognize this can feel daunting. And as someone who’s been at this for Y-E-A-R-S there are seasons in life – due to schedules, motivation, health, etc… that sometimes, this real-food-thing doesn’t seem possible, effective, profitable.

I am not above vacillating. We’ll go backwards. I’ll allow just enough cheats and junk in the house… and y’all, we FEEL it. Colds we can’t kick. Digestive issues that are awful. And of course, hormonal imbalances and weight gain. So while I, just like the rest of this planet, falls into it… I’m here to say a) give yourself some grace and forgiveness (and let’s not forget this is not about rules, y’all! So when there’s freedom from rules…) and b) encourage you and give you a few tools in the toolbelt.

Because sometimes, this wavering is because of money and schedules and not just laziness. (Disclaimer: sometimes mine is just laziness, so no judgment here.) You’re not sure how you can get this done and it just feels better to cheat. And cheat frequently. There are some basic skills that I feel keep me away from full-out junk diets AND still save money and don’t cost an exorbitant amount of time.

So…. If you’re wanting some easy ways to cut your costs in your kitchen and still get nutritious food in, here’s some suggestions….

Easiest ways (assuming you own a VERY basic slow cooker):

Cook your own beans. Buy them dried, and let them soak/cook in a slow cooker. After they’ve cooked and cooled, I freeze them in tupperware to thaw as needed.  I recommend this method as shared by fellow blogger and as I discussed in my recipe for Cajun beans ‘n’ rice.

Saving Kitchen Bucks - Foodies Gone Real

Oatmeal. Soak it and then cook in your slow cooker.  I detail my method over in my recipe for Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal… I wrote up how to do it for plain oatmeal, and then tacked on how I made it with pumpkin (which is really just added flavor at the end).  I usually make a huge batch, then once it’s cooled, keep in the refrigerator to reheat throughout the week. It’s super cheap and easy, filling food in the mornings. I don’t do pumpkin all the time (maybe only a 1/10th of a time?). Mostly, it’s just cinnamon + sweetener because that’s cheapest and easiest.

Saving Kitchen Bucks - Foodies Gone Real

Make your own broth. Of all my slow cooker methods, this is my favorite. Because most people just throw away chicken skin and bones and vegetable peelings… and this is using something you would ordinarily throw out! It’s like better than free! Haha. Shaye at The Elliott Homestead explains it best! I use this method ALL the time. I haven’t bought broth in probably over five years.

Make granola. Okay, so this obviously does not require a slow cooker, but an oven at minimum.  It’s easiest, though with a dehydrator (but please, oh please, don’t let that deter you!).  Method and recipe can be found here.

Saving Kitchen Bucks - Foodies Gone Real

If you have more time and/or right tools:

Make bread. I used to do this EVERY week. I now do this not out of obligation but for fun, and we buy our bread. This is a prime example of choosing to spend more money on something so that’s healthy so I don’t have to spend my time on it.  There’s loads and loads of great recipes out there, but due to my own gut/dietary needs, I rely heavily on Jovial Foods Einkorn Cookbook (check it out here… I raved about it in this post… and I still can’t say enough about it.)  It can be SUCH a rewarding experience, and there’s no taste or texture comparable purchased in the store.

Saving Kitchen Bucks - Foodies Gone Real

Make yogurt. This feels like a science experiment or chemistry lab every time.  It’s a pretty fascinating experience learning about how bacteria grows (or doesn’t).  I learned a great deal from The Prairie Homestead here.  I use a dehydrator, now, for this – but you can do without it. It does take some time and patience… BUT WILL SAVE YOU GOBS.

Make your own bars. Granola, larabars, fruit-n-nut, etc. I will confess I’m still learning this… in that I haven’t done as many.  Granted, it’s still cheaper to buy generic store brand granola bars… but don’t look at the ingredient list if you do. If you do, and want a cleaner option… then you’ll likely end up with an option that is closer to $1 (if not over) each.  I’ve collected quite a few recipes at my pinterest board here.  My current favorite are these blueberry bliss bars.  YUMMO.

Make waffles. This is no surprise to you, right? I’ve raved about waffles and the Einkorn recipe posted here is a top sought post. It obviously requires a waffle iron (special tool)… but you can get them inexpensively.  I usually double (sometimes triple!) the recipe and freeze 7-10 in bags so I can pull them out as needed, akin to the waffles you can buy at the store. I promise… THIS SAVES MONEY. Serious money.

Saving Kitchen Bucks - Foodies Gone Real

There are other options, too, for overall savings.

Overall stewardship of resources can make money spent in the kitchen possible, too.  (More info on that concept here.)  Here’s some other ways I save money:

Swagbucks. I earn swagbucks points on Swagbucks that converts into gift cards, which in turn gets used mostly for Christmas shopping.  Check it out here. I combine those gift cards with Black Friday savings (and other deals around that time of year) and make out like a bandit. No joke. With swagbucks and deal-hunting, the net worth of those gifts is often quadruple the amount of money I actually spent. I do not lie, I can show you the spreadsheets for proof! :)

Cleaning Supplies. I buy very, very little cleaning supplies. I have managed this between baking soda, vinegar, and Norwex.  Norwex products are mostly cloth-based and you combine them with water, clean whatever it is that needs it… and done. Yes, that simple. You wash the cloth and do it all over again. I use Norwex for dusting, wood, glass, toilet bowl, make-up removing, floors, just to name a few. Those are all areas of my home I’m not longer spending money on products that get consumed and I have to repurchase.  This isn’t even touching on the issue that there’s no chemicals and you don’t have to worry about toxicity.  Check out Norwex here.

Laundry Detergent.  I make my own … recipe forthcoming.  It’s a basic combination of washing soda, borax, dye-free oxiclean, bar soap (that’s been shredded).  There are loads of other options online.  I still buy some detergent, too… because we only have so much time. Sometimes, I need to buy it because I just don’t have time to make it and I’m running low.  However, it’s much cheaper to make it than buy a clean/green detergent… so it’s back to that basic choice of money versus time.

Reusable Bags for Snacks & Sandwiches.  I love, love, love these things.  They save money on the plastic bags, I’m no longer buying a consumable. I’m not contributing to the plastic-consumer-driven economy, either. They wash well with dishsoap.

 

So….

What do you do? How do you balance your time and money?

 

 

 

 

 

 

DISCLOSURE: There may be affiliate links within this post. I never recommend anything arbitrarily and receive small financial benefit. If I choose to recommend something, it’s of my own free will and volition and MORE because I think you’ll benefit from hearing about it more than me gaining the $$. 

Meal Plan: 5/8 – 5/14

I should be cautious when I say this, but I think this might actually be a normal week for us.  (BAHAHAHAHA!  Now that I’ve said it, we all know Murphy’s Law will go into full-force, and it will be anything but normal!)

I had some great success with newer recipes today (Saturday 5/7)… some of which will be posted to the blog soon (potatoes! health(ier) biscuits!).  I also tried a new homemade bread recipe that was SO.MUCH.EASIER.  Not to mention, I sliced the bread… and no crumbling.  If you’ve been making bread by hand for any length of time, you know that this can be quite a feat.

Anyway, without much further ado…

SUNDAY:
Breakfast:  cereal, eggs, bananas
Lunch: not sure yet.  We may come home and have our traditional pasta, but with it being Mother’s Day I don’t really know the plan.
Dinner: guacamole grilled cheese (or just by the spoonful for me!)
Snacks, Other: make blueberry muffins… probably this recipe from Holistic Squid
Packed for Daughter’s lunch tomorrow: PBJ, cucumber slices, yogurt, applesauce

MONDAY:
Breakfast: leftover biscuits (from this recipe from The Elliott Homestead), cottage bacon, pineapple beet carrot juice (homemade)
Lunch: salads with extra bacon or pan-fried chicken breast, applesauce, yogurt
Dinner: chicken broccoli alfredo 
Snacks, Other: homemade granola (recipe soon!)
Packed for Daughter’s lunch tomorrow: homemade lunchable, carrots + peanut butter, home-canned pears

TUESDAY:
Breakfast: leftover blueberry pancakes from Ditch The Wheat (I added blueberries), homemade breakfast sausage (I use this recipe from Prairie Homestead… make a batch, freeze smaller portions in baggies), applesauce
Lunch: quesadillas with grilled chicken, carrot sticks
Dinner: grilled salmon, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts + bacon
Snacks, Other: Overnight chocolate oatmeal (for tomorrow morning!)
Packed for Daughter’s lunch tomorrow: leftover quesadillas, cucumbers, apple slices, blueberry muffin

WEDNESDAY:
Breakfast: Overnight chocolate oatmeal, salmon+scrambled eggs+cream cheese+chives (leftover salmon from last night!)
Lunch: ham + cheese rollups, salads
Dinner: Roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, roasted carrots
Snacks, Other: make homemade yogurt (I use this method from the Prairie Homestead, but use a dehydrator to maintain temperature instead)
Packed for Daughter’s lunch tomorrow: PB & J, Apple +spinach squeezy pack, yogurt

THURSDAY:
Breakfast: blueberry muffins, bacon, bananas
Lunch: leftover chicken and carrots
Dinner: Italian sausage in red sauce and zucchini (pasta for those inclined)
Snacks, Other: smoky roasted almonds (recipe soon!)
Packed for Daughter’s lunch tomorrow: leftover spaghetti, peaches, slices of cheese, muffin

FRIDAY:
Breakfast: scrambled eggs, leftover oatmeal, apple slices
Lunch: peaches, leftovers from the fridge!
Dinner: cabbage stir fry, Korean beef from The Elliott Homestead
Snacks, Other: start bread with this recipe from Nourished Kitchen

SATURDAY:
Breakfast: einkorn waffles, bacon, fresh fruit
Lunch: homemade coleslaw, homemade bread (I tried this new method and loved it!), hotdogs
Dinner: bacon + green beans, homemade stuffing, paleo coconut chicken (new recipe I’m trying!)
Snacks, Other: prep breakfast for tomorrow morning!

Meal Plan 5/1 – 5/7

This month I’m trying something new.  I am trying to make more of my “cheap” meals right form the get-go.

I love to cook, and try new things, but sometimes this gets the best of me (and my budget) when creating that meal plan for the first full week of a month.  In other words… I hate that I’ve used up most of my budget so early and then have the STRETCH later.  So, I’m trying to STRETCH now, so maybe buying some funky ingredients later, or treating the girls to a not-so-cheap-but-healthier-than-conventional snack later in the month.

Also, check out the links – some of them are mine, many are links to recipes for other bloggers.  You should know that NOTHING I have planned for this week is new, I have made it ALL before and enjoyed it enough to do it again.

SUNDAY:
Breakfast: cinnamon toast, bacon, applesauce
Lunch: ham sandwiches with this grain-free wrap
Dinner: ravioli (except for me!), chicken thighs cooked in red sauce
Packed for Daughter’s lunch tomorrow: peanut butter jelly sandwich, strawberries, cucumber, slices of cheese

MONDAY:
Breakfast: leftover oatmeal (for family), greek omelette (eggs, spinach, oregano, feta), pineapple + beet + carrot juice
Lunch: quesadillas made with this this grain-free wrap, side salads with bacon
Dinner: homemade pizzas (GF crusts)
Snacks, Other: soak flour for biscuits tomorrow morning,
Packed for Daughter’s lunch tomorrow: leftover pizza, fresh fruit, yogurt, carrots

TUESDAY:
Breakfast: homemade biscuits, fried eggs, fresh fruit of choice
Lunch: salads with broiled chicken breasts
Dinner:  sloppy joes, sweet potatoes, green beans
Snacks, Other: make this apple spice bread
Packed for Daughter’s lunch tomorrow: leftover quesadillas, apples and carrots + PB

WEDNESDAY:
Breakfast:  leftover apple spice bread, bacon, almonds
Lunch:  leftover sloppy joes, cucumbers
Dinner:  scrambled eggs, apple slices (we have a busy night!), popcorn for snacking
Packed for Daughter’s lunch tomorrow: homemade lunchable, cucumbers, pears

THURSDAY:
Breakfast:  leftover waffles, scrambled eggs, fruit
Lunch: salads – probably this cobb salad
Dinner: chicken thighs cooked in red sauce with zucchini, pasta for those inclined :) (soak kidney beans for cooking tomorrow)
Packed for Daughter’s lunch tomorrow: leftover pasta, fresh fruit, yogurt

FRIDAY:
Breakfast:  start cooking kidney beans, leftover biscuits (biscuit egg sandwiches), mangos
Lunch:   leftovers – clean out the fridge :)
Dinner: beer braised beef (over potatoes for those who want it), broccoli, macaroni cheese
Snacks, Other: soak flour for bread tomorrow

SATURDAY:
Breakfast: pumpkin spice oatmeal, bacon (Extra for tomorrow morning), fresh fruit
Lunch:  fresh bread, cucumbers, fresh fruit, hardboiled eggs
Dinner: rice + beans (cajun style), tilapia, roasted carrots

Meal Plan: 4/24 – 4/30

First of all… MASSIVE AMOUNTS OF RELIEF.  Dear daughter #1 is out of school on Spring Break and 1) I have a break from prepping lunches 2) I don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn.
I kind of feel that my meal plan this week is a little more than I’d usually do.  However, I’m out of grocery money this money, which means I have to cook from scratch, pull out of the freezer, etc. for whatever we want to eat.
Which is REALLY not a bad thing.  Holding yourself to a budget on food really holds to using up what you have instead of letting it rot or go to waste.

SUNDAY:

Breakfast: cereal, eggs, fresh fruit, almonds
Lunch: ravioli, red sauce, chicken cooked in sauce. (THIS IS NOT A HEALTH FOOD! My ravioli comes straight out of the freezer section at the store. I’m in an Italian family that will not foresake their Sunday lunch tradition. :) )
Dinner:  sausage, white bean, kale soup.  Zucchini bread

MONDAY:

Breakfast: waffles + bacon, carrot + beet + pineapple juice (homemade)  (I make a big batch of waffles then freeze them off into gallon baggies to pull out)
Lunch: lunchmeat sandwiches (I just roll up the meat with lettuce and skip the bread), carrot sticks, pears
Dinner: italian sausages, pasta in olive oil/garlic, sun dried tomatoes, side roasted red peppers … soak and prep white beans for tomorrow

TUESDAY:

Breakfast:  leftover zucchini bread, eggs, fresh fruit,
Lunch: leftovers from last night’s dinner, cucumber slices, apple sauce
Dinner:  BBQ chicken, sweet potatoes, broccoli, carrot sticks, brownies

WEDNESDAY:

Breakfast: toast, cottage bacon, pears
Lunch: leftover chicken/grilled cheese sandwiches, vanilla shakeology + spinach and berries
Dinner:  homemade pizza – using http://www.mommypotamus.com/grain-free-pizza-recipe/ this time :)

THURSDAY:

Breakfast: granola, yogurt, frozen berries
Lunch:  beet, carrot, pineapple juice + leftover pizza (if none leftover, will make macaroni cheese)
Dinner:  steaks, potatoes, carrots, green beans + bacon

FRIDAY:

Breakfast: overnight pumpkin oatmeal, bacon, fresh fruit
Lunch:  chili (I make a big batch then freeze into smaller containers to pull out when I need a filler!)
Dinner:  chicken wings, stuffed peppers (stuffed with rice), broccoli. Prepping flour for bread tomorrow

SATURDAY:

Breakfast: waffles , scrambled eggs
Lunch: pig dogs (from Ithaca’s The Piggery), fresh bread, cucumbers
Dinner: chicken cordon bleu, french potatoes, green beans

I’m not a chef for every dish.

We eat boiled broccoli, potatoes that were “baked” in the microwave and pan-fried chicken topped with a pre-bought BBQ sauce.  (I do make a great homemade one.  But I’m not making it all the time.)

Bourbon Maple BBQ Sauce - Foodies Gone Real

Yes, you read that RIGHT.

Did you know we also eat cereal in this house?  And I, on occasion buy FRUIT SNACKS.

I know there are probably real gasps, real shudders, and real giggles.

The giggles come from other people that are pushing through the same kinds of things I am: an overabundance of information, often conflicting information on what’s good and what isn’t, a schedule that is stuffed full of LOTS of other things, and a food budget that is constrictive.

You can either have extra time and extra money, but you will sacrifice your health because you’re eating cheap stuff.  You’re to have “extra” health (a.k.a. good health) and extra time, but no extra money.  (In other words, you spend a lot of money on convenient healthier foods to maintain health and time.)  You could have extra great health, and extra money, but it will be at the expense of your time.  (Last example: you will have a healthy diet, and not use all your money on your healthy food, but it’s because you’re spending your TIME in the kitchen making stuff from scratch.)

So do you see this conundrum?  As my wise husband says, “You can have what you want, but you can’t have everything.”  This is this tricky balance of healthy foods, money, and time.  And I can’t win all the time on everything, and neither can you.

I L-O-V-E to cook.  Cooking is a hobby for me, but it’s not gourmet all the time every time.  Who can afford to spend all the time they want on their hobbies?  Yeah, me either.

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You don’t have to eat all these meals that take hours to create in order to eat healthily.  And I know this because I DO THIS.  I have only so much time, only so much money.  And I intend to demonstrate it… I bringing back the meal plans, y’all.

This is just as much for me as it is for you.  Way back in the day, when I posted these weekly, I was held accountable.  I felt that I needed to keep my word.  And I need that kind of financial and health accountability back.

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And it’s for you… because you need to know and believe that real food CAN be purchased, made and consumed with limited time and money.  This isn’t the sphere for just the rich and free-of-time.  It’s for the average-day people trying to do the best they can with what they have.

…..

And yes, sometimes that means fruit snacks.  (Ok, so they are the “healthy” ones, but really, y’all… fruit snacks will probably never be a health food.  Just sayin’.  Unless you make these.)

Much Love,

Sarah

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