Top 3 Recipes: Cooking For the Entire Week On A Budget

As a recent college graduate and a current unemployed person, in these last few years I’ve been looking to save money wherever I can. And, honestly, who isn’t?

One of the biggest money drains I have to budget for is my groceries. I eat gluten and soy free, and those specialty foods can get incredibly prices. I mean $6 for a half-loaf of bread? You gotta be kidding me! I try and pass those items as often as I can, and use them sparingly when I do buy them, but still it makes budgeting tricky.

Over these last few years, I have compiled some pretty stellar recipes that don’t require any specialty items and can last almost an entire weeks worth of meals. Depending on where you shop (I shop primarily at Aldi), these recipes can be made for under $10 and last a single person 6-7 meals. As long as you don’t mind left overs and repeat meals, these recipes will satisfy both you and your wallet.


Hearty Quinoa Stew

What you’ll need:

  • 2 cartons of Vegetable or Chicken Broth
  • 1 bag of Baby Carrots (You are welcome to add other veggies as well)
  • 1 bag of Small Medley Potatoes or 3-4 Normal Potatoes (I prefer small medley potatoes)
  • Your favorite spices (I use turmeric, ginger, garlic, curry powder, salt and pepper)
  • 3 cups of Quinoa (Rice or other similar substitutes work as well)

Recipe:

  1. Cut your potatoes and carrots into small pieces approximately the size of the tip of your thumb.
  2. Pour your broth into a large pot and add spices until you get a well seasoned broth. Easy tip for how many spices to add is to start small, only add 1/2 teaspoon at a time of each spice. Taste regularly to determine the flavor you prefer.
  3. Once the broth is hot and spices have reached a desired level, add your cut up potatoes and carrots to the pot.
  4. Bring the stew to a boil then turn it down to let it simmer. Stir regularly to cook evenly.
  5. The stew will be ready when the potatoes and carrots become soft.
  6. Prepare the quinoa or rice in a rice maker or pot. There should be instructions on the amount of water you should use for the starch you have purchased on the package.

To Serve and Store:

  • Put the quinoa in a bowl and pour the stew over top. That’s it- it’s ready to eat!
  • For Fun: sometimes I’ll add a scrambled egg or two on top for some extra protein.
  • To store put you quinoa and stew in separate containers and put them in the fridge. Use separate containers so that the quinoa doesn’t become soggy.

Rice, Bean, and Veggie Medley

What you’ll need:

  • 3 Bell Peppers
  • 1 Onion (red or yellow work best)
  • 1 bag of Spinach
  • 2 cans of Black Beans
  • 3 cups of Rice
  • Spices (I prefer Tajín, but you can use your favorite spices on this one)

Recipe:

  1. Put your rice into a pot or rice maker and follow the package instructions to cook.
  2. Put your beans in a pot and bring to a medium heat. Stir the beans regularly to ensure they are evenly cooked and don’t stick to the bottom of your pot.
  3. While the beans and rice cook, cut your bell pepper and onion into small diced pieces. You can add these to your beans when they are well heated if you prefer cooked veggies, or you can leave them raw.

To Serve and Store:

  • Once everything is cooked, put a handful of spinach into the base of a bowl. Add your rice onto your spinach; then, add your veggies and beans. Mix it all together and add your desired amount of spice.
  • For Fun: I will also often add and egg or two to this recipe for added protein.
  • To store place your rice, veggie mix, spinach, and beans into four separate containers to ensure nothing goes soggy, and place them in the fridge.

Simple Curry

This recipe is credited to my college roommate, Justine. She is like %90 of the reason I know how to cook anything at all, and everything she makes is incredible.

What you’ll need:

  • Cumin Seeds
  • Coriander seeds
  • Ginger
  • Garlic
  • Turmeric
  • Curry Powder
  • Cilantro
  • Salt
  • Oil of your choosing
  • Veggies of your choosing (potato, carrot, spinach, onion, etc.)
  • 1 carton Vegetable or Chicken broth
  • Coconut Milk (optional)
  • Peanuts (optional)
  • Chickpeas (optional)

Recipe:

  1. Start by putting your desired spices in a pan toasting them with oil. Cut up your veggies (the pieces don’t have to be small) and add them to your spices to cook.
  2. Pour 1 carton of vegetable or chicken broth and 1-2 cans of coconut milk into a pot with a teaspoon of salt and heat to a boil. If you chose not to use coconut milk, just use a second carton of vegetable or chicken broth.
  3. Add your toasted and seasoned vegetables to your pot and lower temperature to a simmer. Regularly stir and taste your curry to see if it needs additional spices. Add spices as needed.
  4. Once your veggies have softened, add peanuts and simmer for a few more minutes.

To Serve and Store:

  • Pour your curry in a bowl over rice or any starch, or simply eat it as a curry soup.
  • Top with cut up cilantro for added flavor.
  • To store simply pour the curry into a container and refrigerate.

These recipes have saved me so much money over the years. As someone who doesn’t mind eating the same thing for a number of meals in a week, these are delicious and only get better the longer they keep. Each of these recipes will last about 1 week in the fridge before any veggies get wilted or anything begins to sour. Honestly, you’ll love these recipes so much you won’t mind eating them a few times in a row either.

Let me know: Will you be trying any of these recipes? Have you already tried some? Which is your favorite?

Homemade Rosewater

Sometimes in life you just need a moment to feel ethereal. To feel pure, like a Disney princess singing to a little bird in a field of gardenias, roses and peonies. And recently, I need that more often than not- and I’m assuming you do too. Really, who doesn’t want that?

A simple little at home trick to get yourself feeling like you’ve been sucked in to an elegant, enchanted fairy tale is to make yourself some rosewater. Rosewater is incredibly quick and easy to make and seemingly has an infinite amount of uses. You can use it as a bath soak, facial toner, hair cleanser, face mask, nail treatment, aromatherapy, and so much more. Heck, you can even use it in your cooking.

Let’s go through two ways you can make rosewater. The first way is to make just a simple rosewater, and the second is to make a rosewater essence which is a more concentrated version that just makes a bit less per batch.

Simple Rosewater

Rosewater in its simplest form can be used for just about anything, and it’s super easy to make. Personally I love using rosewater for a little DIY hair cleanser as a replacement for dry shampoo after a workout, as a toner when my face needs a little moisturizing boost, and as a face mask when mixed with a bit of aloe vera gel from my garden.

How To:

  1. Pick 3 or 4 fresh roses from your garden or at your local nursery/grocer.
  2. Pull all the petals off the main flower and rinse them to get any dirt or little bugs off.
  3. Take your clean petals and place them in a pot of water (fill a medium pot with as much water as you’d like- I recommend making just as much as you can properly store).
  4. Place the pot on the stove top and bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling turn the temperature down to a simmer and let sit until the petals begin to look wilted and the water becomes tinted with the color from the flowers.
  5. Strain out the rose petals, and let the water cool before putting it in to your storage containers.
  6. Once you pour your rosewater in to your air tight containers place the ones you want to save in the refrigerator to keep fresh. The rose water is ready to use and will keep for about a year when stored properly.

Rosewater Essence

Rosewater essence is better to make when you intend to use it for cooking or aromatherapy purposes. It is not necessary to use the concentrated version on the skin, and if you have sensitive skin it may be too harsh. However, in its concentrated form, the smell and taste of the rosewater are much more potent and make a great, light, floral addition to many DIY concoctions.

How To:

  1. Pick 3 or 4 fresh roses from your garden or at your local nursery/grocer.
  2. Pull all the petals off the main flower and rinse them to get any dirt or little bugs off.
  3. Take your clean petals and place them in a medium sized pot that is about half full of water.
  4. Place a smaller bowl in the center of the pot, and bring the water in the pot to a simmer.
  5. Once the rose petals begin to look wilted and discolored turn off the stove top and cover the pot with a lid. As the water cools the condensation that will form on the lid will drip in to the bowl you placed on top of the water.
  6. After the water has completely cooled remove the lid and remove the bowl. You should have a substantial amount of rosewater essence in your bowl, but it will not be full of all of the water you started with.
  7. Transfer the rosewater essence to an air tight container and place in the fridge. This should keep for about one year when stored properly.

I’ll tell you, this last time when I made rosewater I made a big mistake. Not in the recipe, not in the preparation, but honestly one of the dumber mistakes I could have made. I didn’t measure out the amount of water I’d be able to store at all. I just went about my merry way, making a big ol’ pot of rosewater not even thinking about how to store it. Well, I ended up using about 5 jars (every jar I had at my disposal), and then still had about a cup’s worth left over. Please, don’t let all that good rosewater go to waste and measure out what you can use before you just go about making your rosewater like I did. I ended up using what was left as a soothing warm facial steam, so it didn’t go totally to waste, but I would have liked to save everything I made for later projects.

The first thing I made with my simple rosewater was a little birthday gift for my friend: A rose water and aloe vera gel face mask. If you want the recipe for that, I’ll be posting it soon here, so be on the look out for that.

In the mean time let me know: What are your favorite uses for rosewater? What are some rosewater DIYs you’d like to learn how to make?

DIY Hair Growth and Anti-Dandruff Spray

I’ve mentioned in a previous post that my scalp health is the pits. My scalp is a notorious war-zone in which the skin just refuses to act natural. No matter how much I hydrate or attempt to balance my scalp, within only a day or so my scalp goes right back to it’s crazy business. I’ve used just about every dandruff shampoo and “itch relief” product at the drug store, and all of them have similar issues. They were either chock full of chemicals and ingredients I didn’t recognize, or they helped my scalp but made the lengths of my hair dry and waxy. Aside from the relief of rosemary rinse that lasts about a day and the ice packs I keep in the freezer that help sooth the burn from itching so much, I needed a long term solution. I only wash my hair every 2-3 days for the health of the lengths of my hair, but my scalp has been in dire need of extra love. I needed something that I could use more often than just in the shower.

After extensive Googling, and “Pinterest research” as well, I landed on a mixture that I could use as a hairspray. This hairspray is easy to make, all-natural, and can be used anytime, anywhere. That anytime, anywhere factor is the biggest plus because when that itch kicks in and you’re not intending to wash your hair within the next 30 minutes, you need that relief, and you NEED IT FAST!

What you’ll need:

  • a spray bottle
  • a bag of organic green tea
  • 1-2 medium sized sprigs of rosemary
  • tea tree oil

How it’s made:

  • Heat 1 cup of water and add a bag of green tea and 1-2 sprigs of rosemary.
    • Let sit until tea is fully brewed and cooled.
  • Once tea is cooled, fill your spray bottle with the tea until it’s about 3/4 full.
  • Add 20-30 drops of tea tree oil.
  • Screw the spray bottle top on and shake vigorously to mix the oil and tea.

How to use:

  • Separate hair into sections and spray directly onto the scalp.
  • Once you feel the scalp is sufficiently covered, use your fingers to massage the spray into your scalp.
    • You can follow this up by brushing out the hair to help spread the spray further, but this isn’t necessary.
  • That’s it, it’s that easy.

This simple mixture is made to last and can be stored in the cabinet or in your purse for on-the-go use. It doesn’t weigh the hair down and won’t leave your roots greasy. Since tea tree oil is a dry oil, you might even notice this spray refreshes limp hair on the days you don’t wash it. You will need to shake the bottle before each use to re-mix any separation of oil and tea; however, the longer you have the mixture the more it will blend naturally.

As much as I am raving about the delight of relief this hairspray is for a devastated scalp, it has so many other benefits as well particularly for cleansing of the hair follicles and removing impurities. Aside from dandruff and itch relief, this cleansing can help promote healthy hair growth and decrease excessive hair loss.

Green tea contains a natural antioxidant compound called a catechin which helps to reduce dihydrotestosterone (DTH), a hormone derivative of testosterone (which both men and women have), that can cause hair loss. By reducing DTH on the scalp hair is less likely to fall out, allowing hair to grow thicker and healthier over time. You can also reap these benefits by drinking green tea regularly.

Rosemary has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties which can help to gently cleanse, condition, and remove impurities from the scalp that can cause that itch.

Finally, tea tree oil is a staple of both skincare and haircare that is well known for its ability to remove toxins from pores and hair follicles, as well as lift product residue off the skin along with dead skin (in this case, dandruff). You can also add a couple drops of tea tree oil to your normal shampoo for an added boost of dandruff and itch relief in the shower.

This combination not only brings sweet relief when scalp pain sets in, but also brings nutrients and over all restorative health to the scalp. And if you don’t suffer from scalp issues, this can still benefit you in your hair growth and chemical free living endeavors.

Once you’ve tried this DIY hairspray, let me know how it worked for you. It’s now a staple of my haircare routine, and I’d love to know if it becomes one of yours too.

How to Make Aloe Vera Gel

Making aloe vera gel at home is easy! (but also sticky and smelly, and you gotta be really careful how you store it once it’s made.)

I made my own aloe for the first time recently, and, boy, did I learn a lot. I’ve used the insides of my aloe’s leaves before for hair masks, face masks, and shaving gel, but that was always with other ingredients. This was the first time I set out to make good al’ aloe gel simply for the skin and scalp. We’re nearing the middle of summer here and my skin is getting parched and burnt (love that for me…), so aloe is my go to.

I had been a life guard for two years, and a swimmer for just about my whole life, so by no means have I ever been a stranger to sunburn. Over the years, I’ve tried just about every aloe gel you can find at the local drugstore and Ulta (and who are we kidding, Sephora is too expensive). I always find that the aloe from all of these places is sticky, stays sticky, and dries sticky. As someone who hates having lotion on cause I always thought that alone was too sticky, the drugstore aloe gel was just a no go. However, it was a no go that I had to go with because I had no other choice. I will say though, out of all the ones I’ve tried, I gotta give credit to Sun Bum for making an aloe gel and follow up lotion that actually soak in and don’t leave your skin feeling like a damp rubber band.

And while I do appreciate Sun Bum, it still contains ingredients I wasn’t too keen to keep around like polysorbate 20, triethanolamine, and phenoxyethanol. Seeing ingredients you can’t totally pronounce or that you don’t know what they are by their names is a concern, and a number of these ingredients can be drying to the skin (especially more sensitive skin). Plus I wanted to use aloe for more than just the burns on my shoulders. Particularly, I wanted to use it for my hair, and I couldn’t afford for my hair to end up drying out as a result of these ingredients. Out of fear, I have not tested this product on my hair, and have yet to find a review or post anywhere about using this product that way- if you try it let me know.

Enter aloe vera plant!

With all of this in mind, the aloe vera plant was the first plant I chose for my beginner garden. I didn’t go right for making my own aloe gel, but soon enough I was researching recipe after recipe to begin making my own.

Here’s what I did:

  • Start by cutting off a full grown aloe leaf at the base making sure to cut it as close to the plant as possible.
  • Take the leaf and set it upright in a cup to drain the sap.
    • Aloe leaves carry a yellow sap, also called aloe latex, inside them that does need to be drained out before you can move forward. Aloe latex smells like bad corn starch and can potentially be really bad for you when used on the skin or ingested.
  • Once the sap has been drained, you can begin cutting the leaf.
    • Start by cutting the sides off to remove the barbs on the edge of the leaf.
    • Then try and get the knife as close to the skin as you can and slice that off. This might be easier if you pre-cut the aloe leaf into smaller portions.
  • From there scoop out and scrape off all the pulp and sap you can from the leaf and put that in a blender.
  • Add one fourth part water to how ever much aloe you have. (1:4 ratio)
  • Blend until there are no large chunks of pulp left.
  • Stretch netting over your container and pour in the gel.
    • Panty hose or cheese cloth work
    • This strains out any remaining pulpy bits.
  • Voilà!

Here’s what I learned:

Yes, this method does work! You get a really great light aloe gel product that soaks into the skin easily and is safe for any part of your skin. HOWEVER, doing this alone will result in your aloe gel turning hot pink within three days or less.

I freaked out when I went to grab the jar from the closet and found what once was a nice clear liquid, hot pink. But, as I’ve learned, aloe gel naturally goes through an oxidization process once removed from the plant which can result in it turning the color of a fresh strawberry. Some people have even reported thinking that their aloe plants were bleeding due to the reddish innards.

Now, this doesn’t mean it became unusable, it just became less potent. It was on a fast track to becoming unusable and nasty though.

Here are the three best things you can do to make sure your aloe doesn’t turn this fast:

  • Use less of the leaf at a time.
    • Cut a chunk off the end of your aloe leaf and use that in your recipe. Then wrap up the remaining leaf and place it in the fridge to preserve it until you’re ready to make more.
  • Refrigerate the aloe gel once you’ve made it.
    • I left mine in the closet upstairs because I didn’t feel like running up and down the stairs every time I needed it, but that laziness came at a cost.
    • Better yet, freeze what you won’t be using immediately, and refrigerate what you want to have on hand.
  • Add citric acid to your recipe.
    • Now this one I wasn’t too willing to do, but it turns out to be the best way to preserve your homemade aloe gel and make it last.
    • All you need is citric acid powder, lemon juice, or an equivalent substitute. Just add a very small amount if you’re using the powder (like 1/8 of a teaspoon) or a few drops of lemon juice (like 1 teaspoon).

I hope you find this helpful, and that you don’t make the same mistakes I did. It’s never fun when you spend so much time trying to make something at home just to have it go sour.

Let me know: Has this recipe worked for you? What would you do differently? What’s your favorite way to preserve aloe vera gel?

Rosemary Hair Rinse

Rosemary hair rinses are the perfect DIY goody for anyone with a scalp in need of some love.

For months now due to fad hair product usage (Function of Beauty…), anxiety, stress and irregular washings, my scalp has been as irritated as the day is long. I have been desperate to try just about anything to soothe my burning, itchy scalp. My first shot was an apple cider vinegar rinse, which is great and all, it just wasn’t enough to last between washes. Each time I’d wash my hair, I had about two hours of relief before the itchy came back, and I was scratching so hard my hair was falling out. It HURT! I had red patches that felt like fire, dandruff everywhere, and, for some reason, oily roots (which was just adding insult to injury if you ask me).

Disgusting right? I’m sorry you had to read that, but also not sorry. I want you to understand just how bad my scalp health was, so you’ll know just how incredible this rosemary rinse is.

The recipe is incredibly simple, and it doesn’t take a lot of prep.

All you need is about 3 sprigs of fresh rosemary and some water.

I start by cutting 3 sprigs of fresh rosemary from my garden and washing them. I often find that there’s a bit of dirt and sometimes little bugs hiding in-between the leaves, and I don’t want either of those things in my hair (bugs? No Thank You!).

Once they’ve been washed, I toss them in a pot and pour in around 32 ounces of water which is enough to make two bottles of the rinse. I often reuse old GT’s kombucha bottles which are 16 ounces a piece (I’m a kombucha addict, so I reuse those bottles for everything). You can use however much you want, or however much your pots can handle. Just make sure you have the proper containers to store the rinse in after.

Bring the water to a boil, then turn it down a bit and let it simmer for about 20 minutes. As the rosemary simmers the water will turn an olive green color. Once the color is dark and the leaves look a bit limp, it’s time to let the rinse cool.

Once it’s cool enough, you can pour your rinse into whatever bottles you have. I personally prefer to store these bottles in the fridge before using them even though that’s not entirely necessary. I find that using them is more effective for scalp relief when they are chilled before use.

When you’re ready to use one just take it out of the fridge, take a normal shower, and then pour the rinse over your head making sure to thoroughly coat the scalp. Let this stay in your hair for about 5-10 minutes (usually I’ll wash my body and face while I let it set in), and then rinse it out with nice cold water. While it sits in your hair and as you rinse it out, it’s also good to massage the scalp to really make sure you work this product in and purify the scalp. I use inversion here and flip my hair upside down while I massage my scalp to encourage hair growth and healthy blood flow to the scalp. It also doesn’t need to be rinsed out for long, you only really need to give it a quick once-over since you want to retain as many of the benefits as possible.

It’s really the simplest thing you can do to help your scalp maintain a healthy pH and remove impurities that cause irritation.

Bonus: I often add about a tbsp of apple cider vinegar once I take a bottle out of the fridge for a bit of added purification. Apple cider vinegar can increase hair’s natural shine, and can also be incredibly beneficial for maintaining a healthy pH, removing product build-up, and soothing an itchy scalp since it’s anti-fungal and anti-bacterial.

Thanks for reading!

Once you try this Rosemary Hair Rinse let me know, how did it work for you?