Showing posts with label Recipes on a budget. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Recipes on a budget. Show all posts

Monday, October 2, 2017

Best Ways to Budget for Weekly Meals

  No matter who you are, or where you live in the world, everybody eats daily meals. Depending on budget and geographic location, your choice of ingredients and diet can vary from shellfish on the sea to vegetarian and vegan choices. But no matter your local sources and personal tastes, food can cost money, and sometimes the costs can spin a little out of control. Thankfully, a budget can be utilized to create a delicious.and weekly meal plan, without breaking the bank. When creating your weekly meal budget, it is important to make sure it is realistic – food isn't free – and focus on ingredients and recipes that are available to your and your resources. All this planning ahead and being smart with your shopping choices will ensure you have affordable, healthy, and even efficient meals for your lifestyle.

Written by : Dakota Findley of  Survey Says.

Create a Realistic Budget

     It is important to keep your food costs at the lowest possible point, while still remaining realistic for you and your family. There is no need to starve yourself, but with a little food planning, you can make massive changes in your life outside of just eating, such as working your way out of debt or saving up for school or even a future trip you have been wanting to take.

      Even if you have irregular income, such as being self-employed, or if you think there is no need to budget for food because you are not struggling for monthly income, the values and benefits to building a budget should not be underrated.
Budgets, in their most basic form, are simply comparing your income to expenses, so having a budget allows you spend exactly what you can, without pulling yourself into debt. A well-made budget should take into account all of our expenses, and help guide your shopping decisions so you can have sufficient funds for meals while always maintaining financial balance in the bank.

Ingredients and Recipes 

     Start with the basics, and consider the two major factors that go into cooking: ingredients and recipes. These two aspects can be altered and modified to fit your unique tastes, financial situa-tions, and even locally available resources.

     When it comes to ingredients, there is a strong value in purchasing foods that are highly versatile, such as chicken or fresh tomatoes, as these foods can easily be added to multiple recipes. It is also helpful to choose healthy ingredients (such as chicken, pasta, and beans) that tend to be relatively inexpensive, allowing for larger purchases and more meals at a lower cost, and can be shared between a large variety of dishes.

     Cheap meals do not have to be bland or tasteless or even the same every day, and if you mine the internet you can find loads of lists of recipes designed to be friendly on the wallet while re-maining tasty. Many popular foods can be prepared in multiple servings and for minuscule amounts per servings, for example:

• Stovetop Mac n’ Cheese: $4.77/6 servings, or $.88/person
• Chili: $14.63/10 servings, or $1.46/person
• Egg and Black Bean Burrito: $4.86/8 servings, or $.61/person

These lists can range from easy to cook and serve options such as grilled cheese and tomato soup, spaghetti with homemade marinara, ham, white beans and cornbread or oatmeal with banana. At other times, you need meals you can trust in your kitchen during especially costly weeks, such as rent week, with meals like chicken, spinach and cheese quesadillas, pan-roasted chicken thighs, tomato and cannellini bean soup or skillet hash browns.

Plan Ahead 

The idea that we know and understand food and its costs—after all, haven't we been eating food every day of our life?--can lull us into a false sense of security when it comes to planning ahead in our food and meals. However, with the right approach, planning out meals and shopping purchases ahead of time can be a massive money saver, and keep you healthier as well.
When you have all your meals portioned out in the fridge ahead of time, ready for the week, then you won't accidentally overeat on a specific occasion, or wonder when your stomach is growling if you can grab a bit more of your fair share. When you overeat at mealtime, it results in unhealthy results for both your stomach and your wallet, as you then have to go out and purchase even more food.
In addition, when you have planned out your meals and have them ready to eat, then you won't want to waste food and money by not eating those meals and calling for pizza instead. Planning your meals out ahead of time can reduce splurges on eating take out dishes.

Use Sales in Your Planning 

Grocery stores have sales almost every week, and these sales can be used to your advantage by choosing recipes and meals for the week that correspond with what items are placed on sale. In short, you can get meals that are a bit fancier, with better ingredients, if you take the extra re-search to see what the sales are for that week.
Sure, it might seem to be a hassle to track down what sales are being offered, but the best way to ascertain what this weeks sales may be is actually simple: just track down your grocery store manager and ask. He or she is sure to happily explain to you the best ways available to save money at their store.

Become a Couponing Pro 

Of course, coupons have gained a reputation even today for ensuring you can get some massive savings when you are out buying ingredients for the meal plan of the week. Coupons are simply small pieces of paper (or codes on your mobile device) that can be used in certain grocery stores as cash, and they simply have to be handed over to the cashier during checkout.

Do NOT Waste Food 

     There are more reasons not to waste food than the classic excuse of starving children in far away countries. Wasting food is like throwing away cash, and today there is a massive waste of edible food, even in America, that is tragic when you take into account the number of starving children, also in America. Instead, find ways to work leftovers and unused ingredients into new and creative recipes, and take the extra moment to eat all the food you buy so you don't waste money.

Budgeting As an Essential Step to Eating Well and Affordably 

      No matter what your situation is, having a food budget is an important step to having a stable financial future and making long term changes in your bank's health. By following our guide to properly budgeting for your meals, you can take steps right away to eating healthy and cost effectively.

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Monday, September 25, 2017

Healthy School Lunch Ideas

How's everybody's school year going? I am sure that most of us have mixed emotions about our children going to school. Busy as usual and we are all becoming masters of time management. Between the challenge of taking them to school every morning, packing lunches, homework and after-school activities, it can be overwhelming and tiring. Time management, planning and being organized are my top key suggestions in surviving ( and thriving ) the school year.

Sometimes, our kid's order food from the cafeteria and most of the time...I pack their lunches. It is affordable, and I do love packing their food. However, it can also get crazy when you ran out of ideas of what to pack. In our household, it is a case of hit and miss. There are some recipes that they do request and love, and there are school lunches that absolutely do not even want to touch. Luckily, there are a lot of talented parents out there with lots of school lunch and after school snack ideas.  Here are 20 school lunches that are healthy and delicious!

I especially love food containers that have compartments in it. It is much more inspiring to pack them good and healthy lunches that way. If you are hunting for one, here are a few ideas:

We also use Mabels Labels to keep our girl's containers and bottles from getting lost.  Here's why I love and recommend Mabels Labels ( not only because I am not an affiliate).

1. They are cost effective. Why? They are very durable and made to last. Lucy had been using the same lunch container since last school year. It's been washed numerous times of course and had been not just in school but also when we go for short trips. You will get your money's worth.

2. Customer service.Their customer service is service at their best. I am an "just order it online" kinda mom. Online shopping can be hard when you experience glitches. However, there is some company that is not too friendly when you need assistance in ordering. You can count on their customer service, you will get help and will be answered.

3. Designs and system. Their designs are way too cute! Plus their online store is very easy to navigate.

Back To School _HK 240x250

I have also use their labels not just for their containers but also their personal belongings. I have used it to label their Bibles as well. Sunday school can get really busy, and we have been through several Bibles that got lost. You can use Mabels Labels to keep your kid safe. They also have allergy label alert, bag tags, household label as well. Visit their website to see their products!

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Monday, September 18, 2017

Best Gluten-Free Baked Chicken

Our girls are both in school now, and it's funny how I miss the little one here at home. The quiet time is nice, and I can shop by myself without the youngest one in tow. I will not lie, the first few days were hard. It is a new season of life for us. With me, going back to school for my Master's degree and two young girls in full-day elementary school.

As days passed by though, the extra quiet time was handy. I can concentrate on my homework and readings...and there is a LOT of reading. Since this season of life brought us a new level of busy, I am using a lot of simple recipes. I use my crock pot often and I look for ways to simplify our day to day routine.  This chicken is so easy to prepare and very tasty! By far, the most tender, juicy and most delicious chicken I've ever made. The secret? Cinnamon.

Yup, you've read that right. Cinnamon gives this chicken a distinct but great taste. So, please for the love of not skip the cinnamon. Try it!

This best tasting chicken is gluten free and frugal to boot! Save more by buying chicken drumsticks that are on sale. You can double the recipe so you can just warm and serve the next day. Serve it. with rice or gluten-free pasta

This also great with mashed potato or mashed cauliflower. Chicken legs are tender and my family absolutely loved it.

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Monday, July 10, 2017

Kale Brownies

Kale and brownies...I know it doesn't sound so appetizing. It is not just kids who turn their noses away from kale, despite of all the good benefits of this vegetable. Some grown ups can not make themselves eat this wonder veggie.  Our youngest have the strongest aversion to veggies. Luckily, she now eats peas and carrots on fried rice.  Over the years, I now have some tricks up my sleeve to get her to eat vegetables.

I have mixed zucchini with muffins , spinach with popsicles . I am also known for mixing grated sweet potatoes in meatballs and meat loaf. See here for : Chocolate Zucchini Muffins and Fruit and Veggie Popsicle.

Back to kale and brownies. You can mix kale with brownies without tasting the kale!  Trust me. Lily's got this awesome skill of dissecting her meals inside her mouth. Gross sounding BUT this skill of hers is funny and puzzled me through out the years. She can detect, the smallest piece of diced or shredded veggies in her mouth.  This kale brownies however was a HIT. She not only ate a couple right off the bat but she happily declared that this brownie recipe is soooo great.  They are moist, fudgy and full of chocolate goodness. Go ahead and give it a try!


1 large bunch kale
1¼ cup flour
2 Tbsp. cocoa powder
1 tsp. salt
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup  unsalted butter ( if using salted, skip the salt)
1½ cups granulated sugar
½ cup packed brown sugar
4 eggs at room temperature, beaten
1½ tsp. vanilla extract

Wash the kale and pat it dry. Only use the leafy parts of the kale. Place the kale leaves in a steamer and steam for 5 minutes or until wilted. Puree the kale using a  food processor. Drain any excess liquid and set aside the kale.

You will have approximately have 1 cup of  kale. 
In a separate mixing bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, and salt. 

 Mix until thoroughly combined. Melt the chocolate chips and butter. I did not use a double broiler. I just used the microwave. Starting at 20 seconds stirring and then 10 second intervals until evenly melted and smooth. Let the melted chocolate sit until it cools to room temperature. 

Add the eggs, kale, sugars, and vanilla in a separate bowl.

 Mix the kale mixture with the chocolate mixture until combined. 

Gently fold in the flour mixture until just barely combined, taking care not to over-mix.

 Prepare a 13″x 9″ pan by greasing it with butter and then lining it with parchment paper.  Carefully pour the brownie batter into the pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. 

Carefully lift the brownies up (by holding on to the parchment paper) and transfer to a cooling rack. Leaving the brownies on the pan may over cook it and it will make your brownies really dry.  This is totally optional but you can sift powdered sugar on top of the brownies.

If you are wondering if they ever figured my "secret" ingredient.... the answer is NO. It is deceptively delicious and tasty! 

It is fudgy and dense.  Who knew that I can successfully have our youngest eat Kale?  I know for sure that this is not going to be the last time that I will be whipping up these  homemade brownies.

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Friday, July 7, 2017

Skillet Sweet Potato Tacos

This meatless recipe is so easy to make. You can add it to your list of weeknight skillet meals. Kid friendly to boot too! Our girls enjoyed it as much as I do. Frugal recipe as well, you can use homemade black beans or use low sodium canned black beans. I am over at My Joy Filled Life , sharing this tasty, easy and yummy recipe Skillet Sweet Potato Tacos. 

If you are looking for more meatless and frugal recipes , check this out :

Top this delicious sweet potato tacos with fresh avocados and chopped cilantro. Use hot sure or your favorite salsa.  Serve it with soft tacos or with quinoa!

 Hop on over to My Joy Filled Life to grab this recipe.

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Friday, June 30, 2017

Patriotic Swirl Cupcakes

It's been crazy hot here in Inland Empire! Triple digit miserable hot. I do all the cooking and baking early in the morning to avoid overheating the whole house. You can't take this girl away from baking treats. I've been on a cupcake craze lately. Looking for a cupcake recipe from scratch.  In fact, I made a Pinterest board dedicated to my love for cupcakes. Though my love for cake pop is also right there with my love for easy and simple cupcake recipes.

How do you make easy cupcakes from scratch?

This simple and easy cupcake recipe that I will share with you is a basic white cupcake. It is not crumbly and dry. Moist and full. It's uses all purpose flour and not cake flour. It needs egg whites only. I used Aldi's Fit N Active egg whites. We do have regular milk so I used almond milk instead. It turned out crazy good.

Don't get me started with the easy and simple buttercream frosting. With all the recipes that you can fin for cupcake frosting, by far this is the easiest that I found. You will also find some product suggestions that I used making these cupcake . I have provided amazon links as well. Please see my full disclosure HERE.


This easy and simple cupcake recipe makes: 24 cupcakes

3 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups, sugar
3/4 cups milk
5 egg whites

Buttercream Frosting
4 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
2 tbsp milk
1 cup solid vegetable shortening

 Tools you will need : piping bags, tip # , Wilton color right system, flour sifter , extra bowls , cupcake liners, electric mixer ( This is the mixer that I use and love.).


Let's start with the cupcakes. Line your cupcake/muffin tin with paper liners.  Pre heat oven to 350 degrees.  Sift flour and baking powder.

Beat butter until light and fluffy. Add in vanilla, mix well. Add flour alternately with milk. Your batter will look really dry.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff ( NOT DRY). Fold the egg whites into the batter.

Pour batter into the prepared cupcake tin. I used a tablespoon to measure my batter. I did 3 tbsp for each slot.  Bake for 7- 19 minutes. Check if it is fully baked by inserting a toothpick into the center of the cupcake. When it comes out clean, you are good to go! Transfer the cupcakes onto a cooling rack.

Are you ready for the buttercream frosting? Note that I am making a pure white icing. If you are not wanting to produce a pure white icing , reduce the shortening to a 1/2 cup only, then add 1/2 cup of butter.
Beat the shortening , 1/2 tsp NO COLOR butter flavor  and vanilla. Gradually add the sugar, one cup at a time on a medium speed. Icing may appear dry at this point, gradually add milk and beat at medium speed.
 If you want a thinner consistency ( add 2 tbsp of milk or water).
I divided my icing into three bowls . Reserve the white icing and set aside.

Start adding the colors.

For the red : 40 R
Blue : icing + 26 B + 8 R + 4 P

 I used Wilton Color Right System

I enjoyed tinting the icing! I also used Color Swirl 3- Color Coupler.

Fill each bag with red, white and blue icing and fitting with tip #1M . Pipe a  swirl on each cooled cupcake. 

 Aren't they pretty?

 Decorate your cupcakes with your favorite sprinkles!  I used patriotic star sprinkles .

You can  also use cupcake toppers or colored sugars. Now that is the really fun part! 

I just love the colors!  The cupcake is not dry and crumbly.  If you have left over buttercream frosting, just put it in an airtight container store it in your refrigerator. When you are ready to use it, just bring it to room temperature and "re- fluff" .
Use the left over on cookies too!  Our girls love to decorate cut out cookies . I hope that you will enjoy this easy cupcake recipe.

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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Clean Eating Sweet and Sour Tofu

These past weeks have been a fun and busy week for us. We did a summer blast ( a summer camp from our church), volunteered to help and had a dance recital. In between those? ..the usual family stuff. Now , I am just slowing it down.  Calm before the storm so to speak. We have at least two weeks of rest and unplanned days. July will be another kind of fun, extra activities and busy for us. Our secret to not go stressing and crazy? Take it one week ( or a day) at a time , a good planner , lots of prayers and to remember that this day (or season) will pass. So try to find happiness and thankfulness in small things.

I had been craving for sweet and sour pork lately. Because of the busy weeks that we had, our fridge was not fully stocked yet. Luckily, a package of tofu and veggies ..saved the day. This recipe is so easy to make! Full of flavor and healthy to boot. Perfect for my craving. The sauce is so good and I love that the tasty sauce was absorbed by the tofu. Not everybody likes tofu. Depending on how you cook the tofu, it can really be bland. But this recipe? You will surely fall in love with a bowl full of  sweet and sour tofu.


1 package extra firm tofu
2 tbsp cornstarch, divided
2 tbsp EVOO
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp organic powdered ginger
1 cup diced red bell pepper pepper,
1 cup diced green bell pepper pepper
1 cup , sliced zucchini
1 cup , sliced red onion
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup sweetener of choice ( maple syrup, agave, raw honey)
2 tbsp liquid aminos
2 tbsp cold water
black pepper
optional: red pepper flakes or homemade sambal oelek


Start by draining the tofu. Place the tofu on a plate lined with absorbent paper towels.
 Place another towel on top of the tofu and top with another plate. Leave it for 15 minutes then I flipped the tofu again, making sure to drain it well. Cut the tofu into 1 inch cubes ( or a little larger if you like) , place in a bowl, drizzle with 1 tbsp of cornstarch. Mix carefully.

Heat a wok or large pan over medium-high heat. Add oil and fry the tofu until crispy and golden brown on all sides, about 10 minutes. 

While the tofu is frying, in a separate bowl mix the rice vinegar, sweetener, and liquid aminos. . You can adjust the ingredients to your liking( sweet and tangy) I know some like it more sweet, some like it more salty. In a separate small bowl, stir together the water and remaining tablespoon of cornstarch. Add the cornstarch mixture to the sauce and set aside. When the tofu is cooked, remove it from the pan and drain on a plate lined with paper towel. 

  Heat a tbsp of  oil,using the same frying pan , saute the red onion until translucent, add garlic .  Add the chopped vegetables and cook until tender, about 2 minutes. 

 Pour the sauce over and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the sauce has thickened. Remove from the heat and add the tofu. Stir to coat.

 Serve over warm rice or quinoa.

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