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.

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 🙂

Making a salad bar at home

I love salad bars because they help to make healthy eating easy especially when I’m on the go. As nice as they are, salad bars can also be quite expensive and they require having to travel to a store or restaurant to visit one.

Today an idea came to me: why don’t I try and make my own salad bar at home?

I eat a lot of salads and making them at home I can benefit from the variety available at many salad bars while keeping my costs down. Packing the salad in a to-go container makes them easily transportable to work, the park, or other places.

The key to a home “salad bar” is preparing in advance! Set aside 30 minutes to an hour to do all your washing and chopping and you’ll be set for a few days or a week. This ends up being a great time saver and stress reliever because all the hard work is done and you can easily put a salad together in just a few minutes.

The basic how-to for a home salad bar is very simple:

  • First, decide how many salads you want to eat for the week (or half a week). I usually eat 4-5.
  • Purchase and/or prepare your lettuce and toppings and place them into individual containers and refrigerate for up to one week. Please note: it’s best to not keep animal protein around for more than 3 days, but vegetables can keep longer.
    • Chop vegetables and fruit such as red pepper, carrots, broccoli, cucumber, pineapple, apples, cauliflower, etc. into bite size pieces. Note: chopped tomatoes don’t always keep very well for me so I prefer to use cherry tomatoes.
    • Adding a protein(s) helps to keep me filled up for longer. I like to add beans, sliced chicken, baked tofu, tuna fish, or sliced eggs. But grilled beef, cold cuts, salmon, or salami are also good choices.
    • Special add-ins, in small amounts, can give a salad extra sparkle such as bacon, olives, marinated artichoke hearts, blue cheese, dried cranberries, raisins, Parmesan cheese and more.
  • For dressings I often use a very small plastic container or ziploc bag and put it in with the salad if I’m taking it on the road with me. Otherwise if I’m eating at home I just lightly pour the dressing right on. My favorite dressings are: balsamic vinaigrette, Italian, oil and vinegar, or Thousand Island.

A couple of pictures are always helpful 🙂

My lunch today! My first salad bar style lunch at home. I included: romaine lettuce, cucumbers, garbanzo beans, tomatoes, corn and carrots.

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All the veggies ready to go for the rest of the week 🙂

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Cooking up some hard boiled eggs ,which I’ll be able to use in salads and also for snacks.

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If you enjoy salads or are looking for healthy eating ideas I hope you found this article helpful!

Meal planning and daily goals

Today I’m starting to make a basic meal plan! I wrote out a meal plan for the next three days for lunch and dinner. Breakfast I’m not including because it’s usually something very simple, such as cereal and almond milk, broth, or toast.

Of course a meal plan is flexible and can be changed anytime, but it’s nice to have something organized and written on paper 🙂 My first meal plan is for three days which I think is a good time frame. Hopefully having a meal plan will also help me to effectively use all the food in the fridge so I can shop a little less for the next couple days. Part of my frugality goal is to use up everything I have. Adding extras to a meal is perfectly fine, such as fruit or corn chips.

Here’s my meal plan:

  • 9/18: Lunch- Turkey sandwiches and salad

          Dinner- Pasta sauce and veggies with brown rice

  • 9/19: Lunch- Turkey sandwiches and salad

          Dinner- Lentil soup

  • 9/20: Lunch- Sandwiches and salad

          Dinner- Chicken vegetable soup or lentil soup

I’m seeing friends for a few hours again today so I’m really hoping that doesn’t trigger my social anxiety.

My goals for the day:

  • Read the bible and go to church, it’s very important for me to connect with God as He is the great healer
  • Eat healthfully and sensibly, but not “perfectly”
  • Turn off the tv by 9:45 pm