Posts Tagged ‘frugal’

It seems I’m not the only one with lunchboxes on the brain.  Apartment Therapy dumped yet another super cool brown bag idea in my inbox this morning.  I suppose it’s the economy.  Everyone wants to save a buck these days and, and taking a bagged lunch is one of the easiest, healthiest ways to save a whole bushel of ’em.  And if you can pat yourself on the back for being green on top of it all, that’s even better.  But how about doing all of that in style?

oots1These lunchboxes by OOTS! marry good looks and practicality better than any I’ve seen so far.  I simply adore that blue and pink combo.  And look how my Klean Kanteen would fit on top!  I love it.  Love, love, love it.

Unfortunately, at $45 each when you by them with the inner lidded compartments (a must in my book), these boxes are a little harder on the budget up front than some other perfectly suitable options (exhibit a: the Laptop Lunch, which I reviewed yesterday).  The only catch is, this one is light years ahead of the Laptop Lunch in the cool quotient department, at least when it comes to adult usage.

oots 2

Oh dear.  I’m not sure I can justify spending the money on it right now, but I really want one.  Birthday fairy?  Santa Clause?  Easter bunny?  Are you listening?

Go check these out at the official OOTS! website. This design team has some really cool baby and child accessories too, by the way.

(Photos are from the OOTS! website.)


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I admit that we spend a lot on groceries.  While eating healthfully doesn’t necessarily equal a high food bill, when you toss in the stipulation that grains and most legumes must be avoided too, well, you can only go so low.  Fortunately, I still find ways to cut costs.  I buy quality meats through a co-op, make the most of my Costco membership, comparison-shop like mad, cook from scratch almost exclusively (i.e., no convenience items), buy my eggs from a farmer who doesn’t know his real worth (I wrestle weekly with wanting to tell him that he really should be charging more and yet wanting to keep getting a steal of deal), and try to focus on low-cost cuts of meat and cheap vegetables and fruits. 

Lately, I’ve also been trying to build an arsenal of frugal, grain-free, legume-free recipes.  Most of them aren’t fancy, but as long as they taste good and don’t kill our budget, we’re happy.  The best meals for us are those that work great with the addition of rice or quinoa for my hubby, who needs the carbs.  Poor Man’s Rosemary Beef and Vegetables is just such a dish.  A few weeks ago, I found myself in a real pinch without a menu plan and a dwindling supply of ingredients in my fridge and pantry.  Panicky, I threw a few items together and came up with what turned out to be a new favorite.  It’s not elegant, and it’s not pretty, but, boy, is it tasty!  We liked it so much that we’ve made it a couple of times since, and I have it on the menu for tonight too. 

Made with ground beef (can it get any cheaper?) and the most frugal of vegetables, this recipe is my contribution to The Nourishing Gourmet’s Nourishing Frugal Recipes Carnival.  It stretches a pound of meat a long, long way, especially if you eat it with the rice.  To spread the meat even thinner, try adding diced potatoes to the mix. 


Poor Man’s Rosemary Beef and Vegetables

1 pound ground beef
6 to 8 garlic cloves, crushed
1 medium onion, diced
1 large carrot, diced
3 medium stalks celery, diced
1/2 small-medium head of cabbage (red or green), thinly sliced
28 ounces petite diced canned tomatoes
2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary (or 2 teaspoons dried)
1 teaspoon dried thyme (or 1 tablespoon fresh)
sea salt
black pepper

Brown the beef with the garlic and onions.  Drain.

Add the rest of the ingredients, bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 15 or 20 minutes.  Adjust seasonings.

Serve alone or over cooked brown rice.

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The first event of the Frugal & Nourishing Carnival (co-hosted by The Nourishing Gourmet and Keeper of the Home) has finally arrived, and I am really excited to share this fantastic recipe with everyone!  I had planned to post it several weeks ago because my husband and I enjoyed it so much, but when I read about the Frugal & Nourishing Carnival, it occurred to me just how cheap this recipe is.  So I decided to save it.  This worked out well because I had the opportunity to make it again and do some serious tweaking.  Now it’s even better.  Win-win!  

If you would like to join the carnival, dash on over to The Nourishing Gourmet and leave a link to your favorite healthy, cheap main dish recipe(s) posted on your blog, or if you don’t have a blog, leave a recipe in the comments section.  This Friday, we’re all contributing main dishes, but next Friday we’ll write about our favorite frugal and nourishing side dishes and set up a link at Keeper of the Home.  Please do participate!  We’re all feeling the squeeze of rising grocery costs and need your great recipes to help.

After the recipe, at the end of this post, I’ve included links to other inexpensive recipes I’ve posted before.  But today, I want to write about Lentil and Egg Cups and why I’m so pleased with them.


First, Lentil and Egg Cups is a very frugal main dish. 

Want a break down?  Let’s see:

1 lb lentils (the regular brown kind): $0.65
8 eggs (free-range from my farmers’ market @ $3.00 per dozen): $2.00
1 medium onion: ~$0.50
2 tablespoons Kerrygold butter (~$4.00 per 8 oz): $0.50  (coconut oil is roughly the same price)
garlic and seasonings: maybe $0.35?

Total cost for 8 ramekins: $4.00

Now, these 8 ramekins will suffice for 4 to 8 main dishes.  My husband eats 2, and I eat 1 (and feel very full, by the way).  Let’s compromise and say it makes 6 main dish servings.  $4.00 / 6 = $0.67.

That’s $0.67 per serving.  Wow!!  Can I get an “Amen”? 

Obviously, you still need to include some vegetables in the meal, but as long as you stick to the less expensive ones, you’ll still keep the cost low.  I served this with some baked, mashed pink banana squash the first time and with a huge green salad the second time.  Both were great.


Second, Lentil and Eggs Cups is a nourishing (and vegetarian) recipe. 

1)  Lentils — high in fiber (both soluble and insoluble), high-quality vegetable protein, minerals, and B vitamins; low glycemic index

2)  Eggs — Sally Fallon says, “They constitute the most complete, nutritious and economical form of animal protein available and are valued by traditional cultures throughout the world” (Nourishing Traditions, 32).  Donna Gates agrees, saying that eggs, particularly the yolks, are very nourishing to the thyroid.  Eggs are high in protein, sulfur, choline, tryptophan, and healthy fats.  Free range eggs are always best, and when the chickens have been given access to bugs and such, the Omega-3 EFAs are very high–often in a 1:1 ratio with the Omega-6 EFAs!

3)  High-Quality Butter or Coconut Oil — Both are high in beneficial saturated fats.  Organic, grass-fed cultured butter, like Organic Valley Pasture Butter or Kerrygold, is high in CLA and Omega-3 EFAs and seems to aid weight loss.  The “cultured” part ensures that the butter is somewhat pre-digested, making it much easier on your body.  Virgin, unrefined coconut oil appears to do everything from stimulate your metabolism to support your thyroid to fight pathogenic yeast.  These are two fats you definitely want in your corner as you pursue better health!

4)  Seasonings — Onions and garlic are high in sulfur (good for the liver) and have many healthful properties.  They promote cardiovascular health, guard against cancer, and promote digestive health.  The spices in the curry powder aid your digestion according to Ayurvedic thinking.

5)  Soaking — Soaking the lentils in water and some kefir, yogurt, or raw apple cider vinegar overnight helps break down phytates, which can otherwise inhibit mineral absorption.  It also helps “pre-digest” the lentils slightly, making them easier for your body to digest and absorb.  This is very important, since most of us have poor digestion, even if we don’t realize it.  (To boost your digestion even more, eat a helping of cultured vegetables, rich in enzymes and probiotics, with this meal.  Garden Style with Dill and Marinara Style are two of my favorite recipes.)


Finally, Lentil and Egg Cups are delicious.

Since we’re all human beings with taste buds, “frugal” and “nourishing” aren’t really sufficient reasons to cook a particularly dish.  So let me assure you that this meal is wonderful.  I’m completely hooked.  Yeah, I know it’s a little weird.  I certainly never thought of mixing eggs and lentils–and certainly not with the egg broken on top like this!  I first saw a recipe like this while browsing The Kitchn blog and was so intrigued I decided to give it a shot.  Why not?  I knew I wouldn’t be wasting a lot of money on it.  Besides, I was on an egg kick.  Discovering truly free-range eggs has revolutionized my attitude toward eggs.  Before the farmers’ market, I had started gagging on eggs and was just about to give them up permanently, even though I was buying the so-called “cage free, Omega-3” eggs at the grocery store.  They were tasteless.  But real eggs?  Wow!  They’re rich and tasty and beautiful to look at.  Now I can’t get enough of them.  I try to tell Dustin (my farmer) how great his eggs are every week.  It’s so adorable the way he blushes and shuffles his feet and confesses that he always passes along the compliments to the chickens when he gets home from the market.  It’s very endearing.

Anyway, this would be an excellent dish for company or a busy night because it can be mostly prepared in advance.  If you have your lentils cooked and ready, all you need to do to get it on the table is spoon them into the ramekins and break the eggs into the wells.  After 25 minutes in the oven, you’re good to go!

One final note: I really like these leftover.  They taste great cold and are very portable.  In fact, I’m eating one for breakfast right now.  Yum!


Lentil and Egg Cups

(inspired by a recipe at The Kitchn)

1 lb lentils (about 2 1/4 cups; I used regular brown lentils)
1 to 2 tablespoons butter or virgin, unrefined coconut oil
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon curry powder (garam masala works too!)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme (1 teaspoon if dried)
3/4 to 1 tablespoon high-quality sea salt (like Real Salt or Celtic Sea Salt)
3 cups water

8 ramekins, ~8 oz each (mine are square, but round ones are just fine)

Begin the night before by rinsing the lentils, then soaking them in water and a generous splash of kefir, yogurt, homemade cultured buttermilk, raw apple cider vinegar, or other probiotic beverage.  After 12 to 24 hours of soaking, drain and rinse the lentils.

The day you wish to eat your meal (or just get the lentils fully prepped), begin by placing a large pan over medium heat.  When hot, add the butter or coconut oil.  Then add the onion and garlic, stirring until soft and translucent.

Add the curry powder and stir just until fragrant, about 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Dump the lentils and thyme into the pan, then pour in the water.  Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to simmer for 30 minutes, or until soft.  (Don’t make my mistake and assume they’ll cook more in the oven.  If they’re under-done, cook ’em some more now.)  

Add the salt and taste it to get the balance right.  If there is still some liquid in the pan at this point, remove the lid and simmer until the water has evaporated. 

Smash the lentils slightly with a fork.  They don’t need to be severely smashed–just enough so that they stick together a bit.

Mound about 3/4 cup of the mixture into each greased ramekin (don’t forget to grease them!), then form a well in each one.  Break one egg into each well.

Place the ramekins on a cookie sheet (this is just for easy transport), cover with foil, and place them in an oven preheated to 350.  Bake them for about 25 minutes, until the eggs are set.  If you like your yolks runny and your whites soft, you might shoot for 20 minutes.  If you like your egg very firm (it’s better leftover this way), try going until 30 minutes.


Here are some other frugal and nourishing main dish recipes I have floating around this blog:

Lemon Lentil Soup with Collard Greens
Spicy Red Lentil and Kale Stew
Italian Beef, Vegetable, and Bean Soup (using ground turkey and dried beans makes it super-frugal)
Busy Day Mexican Chicken Soup (using fresh, dark meat chicken and dried beans makes it more frugal)
Quinoa Pilaf with Green Beans, Kale, and Peas
Crockpot Chicken and Quinoa (closely based on Kimi, The Nourishing Gourmet’s, recipe)

A lot more relatively inexpensive recipes are in my Recipe Box (see tab at the top of the page).  I didn’t list them here because they not quite as dirt cheap as what I’ve linked to above.  Some of them contain ingredients like coconut milk, butternut squash (which can be expensive if you buy it in the grocery store, but not at a farmers’ market), and more meat.

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Discouraged by rising grocery costs?  Trying to eat healthfully without breaking the bank?  Then join in the Nourishing Frugal Foods Carnival, taking place on Friday, July 11 and Friday, July 18.  Two of my favorite blogs, Keeper of the Home and The Nourishing Gourmet, are co-hosting this timely carnival.  Start thinking now about your favorite healthy, inexpensive recipes and gather them together. 

On Friday, July 11, head over to The Nourishing Gourmet and use Mr. Linky to add a link to your blog post on your favorite healthy, frugal main dishes.  If you don’t have a blog, you can leave your recipes and other meal ideas in the comments section.

Then, the following week, on Friday, July 18, visit Keeper of the Home and use Mr. Linky to link back to your blog post on your best easy-on-the-wallet, nourishing sides, salads, and desserts.  Again, feel free to leave your thoughts and recipes in the comment section if you don’t have a blog.

If you’ve never participated in a carnival before, now is the time to join the fun!  You will get to read lots of posts all at once on nourishing and frugal meal ideas, plus you’ll get to share your own brilliant thoughts.  The more people participate, the more we all benefit. 

I’ll post another reminder next Friday, just so no one forgets.  I think this is going to be a great event!

Now I just need to start brainstorming…

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