The Budget Series - Simplify
Step 2: Simplify!
This step may sound unreasonably, well, simple, but it’s true! Learning to SIMPLIFY your recipes, preparations, and even your expectations can have immeasurable benefits AND help to curtail your budget!
In the last post, we talked about ELIMINATING unnecessary food items from your pantry and grocery list (this is also a means of simplifying). Today, we're talking about simplifying what you do with the foods you DO have in your kitchen.
Ask anyone who knows me, and they’ll tell you I have a propensity to make things more complicated then they need to be! This is the case in many areas of my life, but most definitely in the realm of food.
Ask my husband how many times I tried serving "fancier" meals to my family the first few years we were married only to have entire plates of food left on the table after dinner (LOL!). Time and expensive food wasted RARELY makes a tired mama happy!
Thankfully, I quickly wised up and learned to SIMPLIFY! I finally heeded my husband's wise (and frequently stated) words: “Work smarter, not harder”.
I could be wrong, but I think SIMPLIFYING & BUDGETING almost always go together.
Anytime we have to adjust our budget, it almost always involves us simplifying our purchases AND our expectations.
When it comes to budgeting healthy meals, SIMPLIFYING looks like this: Find your favorite meals within the Ancestral/Paleo/Keto model and use them regularly! AND always have the basic ingredients on hand to do so.
I know this may sound boring, but it can be really fun!
Rotate & Repurpose
I have a rotating list of about 5 or 6 dishes that I always have the ingredients for and which can be easily swapped out if for some reason I don’t have an ingredient on hand. While I try to meal plan most weeks, there is always a week that slips through my fingers. This process has helped me successfully deal with those "unplanned" moments!
In those instances, I default to my standards, which are simple, easy and don’t require a lot of fancy ingredients or preparation (most of the meals I cook don’t require these).
TRAY DINNERS are a huge hit in my house and only require a protein (brats, chicken, beef, fish, or whatever I have on hand), veggies (generally onions, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, any potato, Brussel sprouts, or a mixture of the above), spices (garlic, oregano, chili powder or whatever), salt & pepper, and a healthy fat (generally avocado oil, but you can also use butter, coconut oil, or bacon fat).
Chop the veggies to relatively similar sizes, toss them with your fat and seasonings, and place in the oven at 425 for 15-25 minutes (depending on the veggies). I usually cook the protein in a separate dish in the oven or in a skillet on the stove.
I always have ground beef, onions, avocados, cheese, avocado mayo, fermented pickles, and salad greens on hand to throw together a BURGER SALAD or some sort of TACO SALAD using ground beef, leftover rotisserie chicken or grilled chicken.
These are super easy to throw together, and you can change up the toppings to whatever you have on hand or prefer.
Try a ROTISSERIE CHICKEN SALAD made with avocado mayo, macadamia nuts, chopped celery, salt & pepper and served on a bed of mixed greens (I love baby kale, arugula, & romaine.)
My breakfast/brunch standards include a COCONUT FRUIT SMOOTHIE (1/2 c. canned coconut milk, 1-2 Tbsp. almond butter (or half an avocado), ½ c. kefir, & ½ c. berries), a FRIED EGG SALAD (over-easy egg fried in butter and set atop some salad greens with a bit of balsamic vinegar) -delish!, or some plain Greek yogurt mixed with almond butter, a bit of stevia, some coconut milk & topped with toasted coconut flakes, nuts & berries.
If I need a snack, I just eat a spoonful (or single serving packets) of nut butter or coconut butter (simply delectable!), a handful of macadamia nuts, homemade trail mix, fat bombs (I have some easy recipes coming), a slice of cheese, a cup of herbal tea (my fave!), celery & nut butter, a boiled egg with salt & pepper (or mayo), or an avocado with salt & pepper.
These are always things I have on hand and which can be used for breakfast, lunch, dinner or a snack. They never go to waste!
If you’re interested, my Recipe Starter Pack includes all of my standard recipes and will soon be available for purchase in my Store digitally and in print! I’ll be posting some of the recipes on the blog as well.
But my point here is, find some simple recipes packed with flavor & nutrition, that are easy to throw together, and use them regularly!
Need some inspiration? Find an Ancestral, Paleo, or Keto food blog you like or buy a good cookbook. I highly recommend recipes & resources from Nom Nom Paleo and Mark’s Daily Apple. I use these on a DAILY basis.
One last tip on ROTATING… Don’t feel like you have to purchase 4-5 different proteins and 10 different veggies every week. Learn to rotate them!
For example, if you find a bunch of grass-fed ground beef on sale one week (and this happens often if you know where to look), buy a bunch and find several recipes to feast on for a week using that particular meat (or put some in the freezer for next week).
Same with veggies. Buy broccoli, baby spinach, bell peppers & carrots (whatever is in season or on-sale) and use them throughout the week in various recipes (or the same recipes with different spice profiles).
The next week, focus on chicken, cauliflower, kale, berries, and sweet potatoes (or whatever strikes your fancy that week). In this way, you cut down your chances of letting produce foods go to waste and overspending your budget, especially if you can find things that are on sale.
Rotating your foods still allows you to get variety in your diet - just on a week-to-week basis.
Now, of course, here and there I still like to cook something a little more involved, because I LOVE to cook! But I've actually had a lot of fun finding different ways to prepare and change up the same basic recipe (i.e. REPURPOSE). It's really fueled my cooking creativity.
So, have fun with this and don't make it complicated! Find things you love and use them regularly AND repurpose your leftovers!!! There's nothing wrong with that!
Okay peeps, stay tuned for the next post in The Budget Series - Shop Around! This post will focus on learning how to find store deals your area, online or with local farmers and markets. I did this while working 2 jobs and managing 4 kiddos. It can be done!