real food. real life.
Looking for ways to eat on a budget? I imagine so. It seems everyone is looking to save a bit at the grocery store. Food is a necessity and when you've got multiple mouths to feed, it adds up fast. I don't have all the answers, as we struggle with staying on budget with food every month and not overspending. It's tough. It was much easier before Hannah. I was much more disciplined in living off the food we had in our cupboards until I allowed myself to go shopping again. Or sticking to the list. For some reason, our one year old just doesn't understand that she ate all the grapes and pay day isn't until next week! :) Oh grapes, seriously, they are expensive little suckers, aren't they!?
Okay, in all seriousness though, I have become very thrifty in the kitchen and would love to share with you any tips I've learned along the way.
One, of course, is if you can, meal plan. I know it sounds like a pain, but it really does work. You end up using the food you have, not buying mid-week or eating out on rushed days. It does take a little getting used to, I suppose. We've been doing it for a few years now, but our meal planning journey started with getting a CSA vegetable and fruit share. Not being in charge of the food we were buying and just using what we get forced me into major meal plan mode. However, it's not for everyone, I understand. You kind of have to like cooking, I think... but then again, I think more people would like cooking if they learned just how easy it can be if you keep it simple. But that's for another conversation. I'll just here that another way to save money is to cook your own food. Seriously. Stop buying packages of things that contain ingredients you could easily whip up yourself for a fraction of the cost. Don't know how? Learn! Youtube is amazing. You can learn how to cook anything. The trick is to always keep on hand common cooking ingredients, like lemons/limes, garlic, onions, an array of spices, oils, vinegars, nuts, seeds, grains, vegetable/chicken stock or bouillon, sweeteners, etc. Always keeping theses stocked will pretty much ensure you can create anything.
Among some other simple concepts like - keep a grocery list posted in the kitchen so when something runs out, you write it on a list instead of going to buy it right away; or stick to fresh food that is seasonal and local rather than buying the same things every time that are probably shipped in from another country - seasonal local stuff should be cheaper (and much better for you and the economy:) and it will mix things up for you at home!; which brings to me the point of stop buying everything at the grocery store - take a day to check our other markets or local spots... there just might be some hidden gems out there that sell the same food, or better, for a fraction of the cost! (which if you're from around here would be Gateway & Dave's in Dartmouth!); buy in bulk for things that you use a lot or for things like meat as you will save on the cost of the product as well as on the gas going to the store; try using places with point cards but beware of coupons - don't fall for the plan of buying more of something that is not even good for you to begin with just to save money - it is often cheaper to just buy the ingredients to make that thing yourself; which of course brings me back to making your own ingredients like breads, pastas, sauces, dried herbs, dressings, etc. but this does take time... but time is all about priorities.. :)
Okay, this brings all brings me to my main point. Saving money on food. The biggest way that we have saved money has honestly been to be more open minded in the kitchen. And by this, I mean, embracing other styles of food, mainly meaning - going meatless more often that not. Some may be embracing a 'meatless Monday' idea... we have more adopted to the lifestyle of 'meat on Monday' and maybe another random day, too idea... Haha. Yes, Meat is expensive! And it's not really that important in your diet when you consider how much cheaper things with similar nutritional value are - like beans, legumes, leafy greens, etc. There a lots of ways to make meals meatless... just don't add meat. But for some, you can create a whole new meal using different ingredients. Like one example is what used to be basic stir fry over rice for us has now become delicious stir fried veggies with nuts and egg added into a sweet, nutty sauce, often over rice noodles for a little added fanciness. Yum.
Anyway, that is not what I'm posting today. Sorry folks. But what I am posting today is equally as easy and delicious.
Today, I am posting an alternative to your pricier chicken fajitas. I present to you a much cheaper (and I believe just as delicious) version - Spicy Black Bean & Corn Fajitas! It cooks faster, too, as most vegetarian dishes do, because most of the vegetables are ready to eat anyway. Just throw them together, add spices for flavour, and top with your regular toppings. It is delicious. I'm not lying. I know my tastebuds are used to dishes like these, but my meat-loving husband vouches for these as well. They are pretty yummy. And healthy, too. I didn't mention that yet - the health benefits of swapping out a little meat now and then for some nature-grown protein - you can't go wrong.
You could be even more awesome and cheap in the kitchen like my super awesome self and make your own tortilla wraps (doesn't take long once you get the hang of it). Just click on the link and it'll take you to the recipe we use to make a batch of yummy, flour tortillas. Bonus, you could also make your own salsa! But don't worry, I didn't do that today. We used store-bought salsa. Nobody's perfect. :)
Give 'em a try guys. The more open minded in the kitchen, the more money you might have in your wallet! :) I will insert here, in case anyone is wondering, that Hannah loves these. She even just ate the leftover 'meat' on it's own for lunch today. Seriously. Love my kid. :)
Spicy Black Bean & Corn Fajitas
Total Time: 15 minutes
Drizzle of olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups cooked black beans (or a 14 oz. can), rinsed
1/2 cup cooked/leftover corn kernels
3/4 cup or so of chopped peppers of choice
tbsp chilli powder
juice of 1 lime
sea salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup oats or cooked rice
Regular fajita toppings of choice! (We used tomatoes, spinach, salsa, and Lee had cheese)
What to do:
1) Heat oil in a cast iron pan or frying pan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and salute for 3 minutes. You should smell the yumminess already. :)
2) Once things are smelling good, add in corn, peppers, and black beans. Add a touch more oil, if things are sticking. Stir around, just a few minutes, until things are all heated up.
3) Add in spices, lime juice, and oats/rice. Stir to combine. Now, you could serve as is right now. Or, you could make it a bit 'meatier' as I like to do. Optional: Using a potato masher, press into the mixture to smush about half of the bean mixture together. It will get thicker and the oats/rice will start to 'meat' it up. :) Stir, taste test for more salt/pepper or even a bit more spice if wanted. Remove from heat.
4) On a tortilla, spread a bit of salsa, chopped spinach or kale, chopped tomatoes, or whatever else you like to put on your fajitas and the bean mixture. Add cheese if you can/want. Wrap it up and enjoy! SOOOOO good.
We really cooked these things. From scratch. On weeknights. And we even had time to do the dishes.
They have real, simple ingredients that you'll find in your cupboards. They're healthy and delicious. No lies.
Thanks for reading. Leave a comment below!
Here's a pic of me and my babies. Just because.
A Bit About Me...