Slow cooker lentil soup

soup2This week I’m trying out some light meal planning, particularly for lunch. I never quite know what to eat and too often I end up buying fast food. My fast food lunches aren’t that expensive, usually about $3.75, but I know I can eat healthier and cheaper when I make food myself.

So for the next few days I’m going to try and have homemade soup and salad for lunch and see how that goes. Maybe a sandwich sometimes if I need some extra food.

Early this afternoon I made a pot of lentil vegetable soup in my slow cooker. I’ve never made soup before using the crockpot so it was a bit of an experiment. I just tried it and it’s pretty good! Basically you just put all the ingredients in and set it to cook for 7-8 hours, it’s very easy. Here is the recipe 🙂

Slow cooker lentil soup

  • 8 ounces brown lentils (1/2 of a one pound bag), rinsed
  • 5 cups water or chicken broth
  • 3 chicken bouillon cubes (omit if using broth)
  • Tomato paste, 2 heaping tablespoons
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin, optional
  • 1/4 teaspoon thyme, optional

Add everything into the slow cooker and set on low. Cook for 7-8 hours.

I stirred the soup around hour 5 just to mix everything together, but this isn’t necessary.

Food budget Friday, May 5

oranges.jpgIt’s nice to be doing Food budget Friday updates again!

I currently have a food budget of $100 per week but I would ideally like to get it down to $75-85/week. Hopefully in time I can manage to do that.

I love food and eating so it’s essential for me to keep my food costs under control, if I don’t pay attention these costs can skyrocket because I’ll just buy whatever catches my eye and looks good. Eating out at restaurants can also make my food costs way too high if I don’t manage them.

This week I was under budget a little bit which is nice. I keep meaning to make some simple meal plans, I think they would help make my shopping go smoother because I would be more focused.

Spending for the week:

  • 4/29: $11.01
  • 4/30: $25.44
  • 5/1: $10.38
  • 5/2: $15.39
  • 5/3: $7.05
  • 5/4: $8.38
  • 5/5: $15.15

Total: $92.80 

Today’s groceries & dinner prep

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Today’s grocery shopping! Honestly, grocery shopping is one of my favorite things to do, it’s almost like a hobby. Today I picked up a mix of things: a few snacks, some juice and ingredients to make dinner.

I went to my local discount grocer and got a good deal on everything; the total bill was $10.39! Not too bad 🙂

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I’m starting to prep dinner now. What we’re having is:

  • Chicken flavored rice and pasta medley
  • Mixed veggies
  • Garbanzo beans
  • Can of tomatoes flavored with basil, garlic and oregano (forgot to photo this!)
  • And some Parmesan cheese, also maybe some hot sauce to go with it

I can’t remember the price of all the ingredients but the dinner will serve 2. I think it’ll be about $1.80/person.

What are you making for dinner tonight?

Hope you all have a lovely rest of the day!

❤ Becca

4 Benefits of Frugality

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Frugality is a fantastic tool to help you live the life you really want. It is simple and freely available to anyone.

So what is frugality? In essence it is spending your money with care and purpose and not being wasteful. It is spending your money where it really means something to you, such as on school tuition, saving for a house or healthy groceries instead of something fleeting such as an expensive take-out pizza.

Frugality as a lifestyle has many, many benefits and it continues to grow dividends (!) the more you practice it. Here are my top 4 benefits:

  1. Frugality encourages you to be more creative and resourceful and look for interesting/unique solutions to problems. Do you want to read the latest cool novel? Instead of spending $16 and buying it how about checking it out of the library. Same goes for movies and CDs- the library is one of the best sources of free entertainment and learning around! A nice bonus about the library is once you’re done you give it back and you can avoid adding clutter to your house. How about food? Before going out to eat and spending a lot of money can you eat some food you have at home instead? If you have a few basic ingredients, such as pasta, sauce and frozen veggies maybe simply buying some grated cheese will help make dinner a lot more interesting! And you will save a lot versus buying a whole meal.
  2. Frugality helps you save for the big, important things in life. I’m endlessly amazed at how easily money can slip through my fingers and that’s one of the reasons I’m so grateful to frugality. It helps me to hang on to money and save it or invest it so I can put it towards important life goals. These goals are entirely personal, they can be short term such as saving to buy a new pair of shoes or longer term such as a home or retirement. But the important thing is that the money has a purpose.
  3. Frugality and savings can help give you a safety net when life gets hard. One of my main drives to be frugal is to have a wide “safety net” of savings if something bad/tough/challenging happens in my life. Money is simply a tool, a fantastic tool that can really, really help you if you have an emergency or fall on hard times. It can give you medical care, a roof over your head and food on your plate. It doesn’t replace love but it can be very helpful.
  4. Paying off and staying out of debt. In early 2012 I was deep in debt with high interest credit cards and a car loan and really upset and freaked about by it; and I had brought it all upon myself. Around this time I was reading a lot of personal finance blogs and began to “see the light” and became determined to pay off all my debt and never, ever go into debt again (except for a mortgage). I threw every single penny I earned at my credit cards and car loan and in one year had paid off all my debts. It was one of the greatest reliefs of my life.

The most basic formula for being frugal and saving money is: to spend less than you earn. That’s it! There is truly nothing more to it; admittedly however this is simple but not easy.

The more you can widen that gap between what you spend and earn the better (and to save the difference!). Any savings is awesome even if it’s only $5/month, but the more the better 🙂

Grocery shopping with mom

groceries.JPGHi everyone,

I’m in California for the week visiting my mom. As always I’m very happy to see her and spend time together.

On our way home from the airport yesterday we stopped to buy some groceries, which she very nicely treated me to. We went to a discount grocer so we got a pretty good deal on everything.

When I visit we are often very busy so I rely more on microwaveable foods or other foods that are very easy to prepare such as pre-washed salad greens.

In the photo is most everything we bought except for some rice, chocolate mints, garbanzo beans and green tea.

I really like frozen foods and use them a lot at home. Frozen veggies are an inexpensive and easy way to include vegetables in a meal. I also love that they are already cut and washed!

Hopefully these groceries should last me for a couple of lunches and dinners 🙂

Frugal favorites: Homemade lunchbox

lunch2When it comes to saving money I believe that little things, done consistently, can really begin to add up.

Every week day I make my little household a lunch box for the day. I believe that both the cost and health benefits are very good. And it’s definitely cool to have a lunch box even if you’re a grown up 🙂

These are some benefits of a homemade lunch:

  • Less expensive
  • Healthy, fresh food
  • Proper portion size (most importantly: not too much food so it’s not a calorie overload)
  • Made with love ❤

Here is a very standard lunch box that I make: It includes fruit, veggies, a sandwich (made on gluten-free bread) and some corn chips. If I used regular bread it would be much cheaper, but health needs comes first.

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Now let’s break down the cost (I’m estimating but it should be pretty close):

Apple: .50 cents

Veggies: .35 cents

Gluten-free bread: .87 cents

Chips: .25 cents

1 Hotdog (in sandwich): .40 cents

Mustard: .03 cents

Total: $2.40

A typical takeout lunch where I live is $6.50-10, so the math here is pretty clear: a homemade lunch definitely is the best.

Here’s a nice bonus: Often a takeout lunch will come with a soda and sometimes a dessert like a cookie. By bringing a homemade lunch you can bypass the temptation to get a “free” soda with your meal. It’s all about the little things 🙂

Frugal favorites: Frozen collard greens

veggies.jpgI have a new frugal favorite: frozen collard greens!

I know how important leafy greens are for good health, but I gotta be honest: I often forget to eat them. It’s not intentional, it’s simply that bunches of fresh greens such as collard greens and kale are often huge and take time to clean, chop and cook.

These bags of frozen collard greens are fantastic. They are very reasonably priced and make incorporating more greens into your diet very easy. The greens are pre-washed, pre-cut and ready to be mixed into the cooked food of your choice; such as soups (lentil, split pea, minestrone, etc), stews, lasagna, frittatas, pasta sauce and many, many more.

Simply cut open the bag and pour in the greens; that’s it! The greens are delicate and cook quite fast. I recommend not over-cooking them and adding them closer to the end of the cooking process.

Tonight I had gluten-free pasta and meatballs. I added about 1/2 cup of frozen collard greens to the pasta sauce and it turned out great 🙂

These will definitely be making more appearances in my cooking! ❤