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?

Beginning the Sustainability Journey in the Pandemic

We’re all taking on this season as best we can. Some of us are working from home, some have lost their jobs, some have family to take care of, and some are spending more time with themselves than they ever wanted to. One thing, though, that I’ve seen a lot of people learning in the pandemic is how to love the planet in better ways, and therefor love each other better.

Before any of this, so many people would be out each day purchasing food to-go in toss away containers, driving everywhere all the time, and pretty much just barely acknowledging their role in contributing to pollution. But now, the pandemic has forced people all over the world to step back and pause. To breathe and notice the low air quality. To open their eyes and notice the lack of wildlife. To consume with greater consciousness of what and how we are using the resources at our disposal that we often take for granted.

The biggest excuse I have heard for the roots of sustainability not to take hold in people’s lives, and one I’ve even used myself in the past, is that it’s just not accessible to be sustainable. It’s hard to see where you can make lasting changes in your daily habits when you’re constantly busy, running from class to class, or are barely home due to long, hectic hours at work. I used to feel like there was just no way I could do more to avoid all of the single use plastic I was using. That I couldn’t swap driving my car for riding my bike to get to nearby places because I just didn’t have time. Or, that I couldn’t cut down on water usage because I was too active to maintain a short and sweet shower routine. 

I would pack my lunch in reusable bags, drink from a reusable water bottle, use dry shampoo to cut down on shower time, and bring reusable bags with me when I went to the store. All of this was fine and good, and I still do all of them today, but it wasn’t enough. I used to think, “I’m doing enough. Even a small amount is something,” and, yes, doing whatever you can to create a more sustainable life it fine and good as well. However, it’s important to really ask yourself, “is this actually enough?” 

Actionable Steps for Everyday Sustainability:

  • In the shower switch to all natural shampoos and cut down on the number of days per week you wash your hair.
    • I used to wash my hair every day, and that was non-negotiable. But out of necessity for time and having heard about how much water I could save simply be skipping that step a few times a week, I decided to try it. It took about 3 weeks of greasy roots for my hair to adjust, but now I can go 3-4 days between hair washings without my hair looking unkept. 
    • Tips: 
      • When you shower use a natural shampoo without sulphates, parabens, and phalates. These ingredients can strip your hair of natural oils causing your scalp to over produce oils to compensate, leaving hair greasier quicker. They also will not cause chemicals and other harmful ingredients to go down your shower drain and out into the world. My favorite natural haircare products are from Calia Natural.
      • You can help your hair maintain volume between washes by putting it in a high ponytail over night to lift the roots. And there are plenty of hairstyles that will help hide greasy roots or use them to your advantage during the day like a slicked back ponytail or simple french braid. 
Calia shampoo and conditioner- I use their purifying set for dry hair.
  • In the kitchen
    • Meal Prep
      • Cook a weeks worth of meals on Sunday to save.
        • This can be a weeks worth of fresh cut fruit for breakfast, or a big pot of soup with rice for dinner. Whatever you can grab an go when your busy.
        • This will help you cut down on food waste if too much is made for a single meal, as well as encourage you not to use excess electricity or gas to cook every single day.
        • I am hoping to post some of these extended recipes soon!
    • Use reusable cooking accessories
      • Instead of using plastic wrap, try beeswax paper or reusable rubber and metal containers.
        • This will cut down on the day to day waste of products simply used to store things in the fridge.
      • Trade parchment paper and aluminum foil for reusable cook mats.
        • My roommate and I switched to these a year ago, and have been using the same ones ever since. They last forever and are really easy to clean.
          • These are the one’s we purchased!
  • If you have to leave the house (wear your mask, please stay home if you can and refer to the other sustainable practices to learn from in the mean time.)
    • Keep a recycling bag in your car
      • When you’re out during your day and find yourself snacking in your car or grabbing a to-go meal, keep a recycling bag handy along side your regular trash bag. This will give you the opportunity to be a conscious consumer, and recycle what you can when you get home.
    • Cut down on the use of your car when you can
      • It’s not always possible if your destination is far away or you need to get there fast. But if you can plan for a little extra time to get where you need to go, or you live close to your destination, consider riding your bike to get there. This will give you exercise and help reduce carbon emissions that are harmful to the planet. Being stuck inside so much, our minds and bodies could both use a little more movement and fresh air.

This is a good time to take advantage of your time in quarantine. Use this time to take care of yourself, and when you’re ready learn to take better care of the planet and your fellow humans. There are so many little things we can do every day to shift and be more eco-friendly, and there’s no better time to start then now.

Let me know: What have you started doing during quarantine to be more eco-friendly? Are there any sustainable practices you’ve found difficult to maintain during the pandemic?