As I mentioned yesterday, I’m a huge fan of Leanne Brown’s cookbook Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4 a Day. I’ve been trying out some of Brown’s recipes and I have to say my tastebuds are pleased! The Spicy Green Bean dish satisfied my craving for Chinese take-out…spicy and gingery, I served it over brown rice with a poached egg on top and it transformed from a side dish into a hearty meal (an idea Brown suggests). I repurposed the leftovers into lunch by mixing with scrambled eggs. The Creamy Zucchini Fettucine was off the charts! I batch cooked this to have several servings on hand for take-to-work meals and it was the perfect way to use up some garden bounty. And of course I love pretty much anything on toast.
While my food budget isn’t as stringent as those receiving food stamps, it’s nice to have a resource for eating REAL foods on the cheap. And perhaps some of y’all would agree! For some added help, I’ve devised a really simple meal plan utilizing recipes found with in Good and Cheap. I created it with a few things in mind:
– This meal plan is perfect if you’re cooking for a household of 1-2. The meals have been chosen with simplicity and speed in mind so as to be suitable for individuals who work full-time or are in school.
– This meal plan is by no means the CHEAPEST way to eat for a week using Brown’s cookbook and would not be a good resource if you’re “emergency eating”.
– I have included 3 meals to be eaten “out” because that is feasible for my budget. Setting limits is key! Total restriction will just set yourself up for failure. If eating out is important to your social life and you ENJOY it, find a way to make it work for you. For example, grabbing a scone and a mocha with a friend for breakfast instead of dinner and drinks at a downtown restaurant.
– I’m working under the assumption that shopping would occur once, at the beginning of the week (perhaps Sunday right after brunch). This is why the fresher ingredients are incorporated earlier, like salads and yogurt, while things like canned tomatoes and dried chickpeas can wait until the end.
– The recipes I chose reflect what’s in season for me (early August in Kentucky) and therefore, I know I can get cheaply (summer squash, green beans, peaches). I also chose recipes based on what I have built up in my own pantry (noodles and oatmeal). Other ingredients I either know I can get from bulk bins, meaning I can get the exact amount the recipe calls for (chickpeas and shredded coconut), OR are just always cheap options (eggs, bread, onions, bananas and sweet potatoes).
– This meal plan doesn’t include snacks. If you’re especially active (ie. bike or walk to commute, work out frequently or play a sport) you might need a little extra fuel. I would purchase a big bunch of bananas to have on hand and freeze half. Snack on the bananas and mix the frozen ones with almond milk and protein powder (add other frozen fruit, cocoa powder, greens, etc. if you’ve got ‘em) for a smoothie. Hard-boil a few of your eggs and keep them in the fridge for a quick shot of protein. Or, like me, you could just shove a spoonful of peanut butter in your mouth. No judgement.
– This meal plan is vegetarian. If you have a freezer full of meat I would say throw some chicken in the pasta or quesadillas, some sausage with the green beans, have bacon when you scramble eggs…it’s really up to you.
So, here ya go…
How to eat Good and Cheap for a week:
B- Brunch out- Who doesn’t love brunch on Sunday morning? Make it an AFFAIR–read the Sunday New York Times or a few chapters of your current novel, order a fancy coffee drink, invite your friends–and it will be well worth using up one of your allotted 3 trips to eat out. Personally, I would go for a bagel sandwich and iced coffee from somewhere local or a GIANT pastry and espresso from my trusty Starbucks.
L- Taco Salad- I call these Haystacks and they’re the perfect way to use up stuff you have from the week before (leftover black beans, the bottom bits in a bag of tortilla chips, salsa) OR if you don’t have leftovers add some toppings to your grocery list and then use them again tomorrow to dress your sweet potatoes.
D- Creamy Zucchini Fettucine- Go ahead and make plenty so you’ll have leftovers for lunches! I can say from experience that this dish reheats quite nicely, just reserve some of the cheese to sprinkle on top with a few cracks of black pepper.
B- Yogurt Smash- This is an example of one of Brown’s “ideas” sections. She encourages you to buy a big container of plain yogurt and mix-in whatever you like with each serving you scoop out. The skies the limit! I usually do half a banana and some nuts or granola. Maybe a spoonful of jam. If i’m feeling really crazy, I mix in peanut butter and chocolate chips. : )
L- leftover fettuccine and side salad
D- Jacket Sweet Potatoes- Remember, you can use the sour cream and cheese from your taco salad or whatever else you have on hand–corn, salsa, beans, etc.
B- Yogurt Smash
L- leftover fettuccine and baby carrots- I’m addicted to baby carrots. Nary a week goes by without me purchasing them.
D- caramelized onions and cheddar on toast w/ a simple green salad (chickpeas on top)- This is a fool-proof fast-food meal without the drive through. You’ll literally be in and out of the kitchen in minutes. Perfect for those nights when you have extra things to do in the evening after you’ve ALREADY put in an 8-hour day at work.
B- Yogurt Smash
L- lunch out- Middle of the week, didn’t feel like packing your lunch, don’t worry you’re covered.
D- Spicy green beans over brown rice with a poached or fried egg on top- Like I said before, this meal will definitely satisfy any take-out craving you may be harboring. Slather on the sriracha and get those sinuses all cleared out.
B- Yogurt Smash
L- last of the fettuccine with a peach- Hopefully with the break on Wednesday you’re ready to give this fettuccine one last spin. The juicy peach is a great lunchbox treat. I prefer to eat my peaches in private so it can be a full on, juice-slurping, dripping down my arm EXPERIENCE.
D- Spicy green beans in a 3 egg scramble with whole wheat toast- I’m a big believer in eating breakfast for dinner one night a week. Here’s a great way to do it while also utilizing leftovers. Win-win.
B- Lime and Coconut oatmeal- The yogurt is gone and it’s time to hit up the pantry stock. I always have oats on hand and Brown offers 6 ways to dress them up. This one seemed the most summery to me! You could get a tiny bag of shredded coconut from the bulk bin and use one of the limes you have on hand because gin and tonics. ; )
L- Chana Masala- Because dinner came together so quickly last night (scramble some eggs, throw in leftovers, toast the toast, DONE), I would prepare this the night before. Dishes like these always taste better the next day anyways, after the spices have had ample time to soak in.
D- Green Chili and Cheddar Quesadillas- While I’m partial to pizza for my Friday nights, I think the idea here is similar–something you can eat with your hands (cut into triangles lol) while sitting on the couch marathoning a new show on Netflix and basking in newly acquired weekend laziness.
Movie Night Snack- POPCORN- And if you REALLY wanted to get comfortable on that couch, Brown gives you 8 different suggestions for creative toppings to kick stovetop popcorn up a notch! Dare I say, even a bit gourmet.
B- Tomato scramble and fruit salad (peach and banana w/ shredded coconut)- If you still have some bread left throw the scramble on top of a thick slice of toast. Slice the rest of your bananas, chop up a peach into bite-size pieces and throw the rest of your coconut on top for a fruit salad with a tropical flair. Perfect for a lazy weekend breakfast at home. If you are lucky enough to have a porch, eat outside. Have a second cup of coffee. No rush.
L- Chana Masala wrap w/ baby carrots- I love that Brown discusses cool ways to repurpose leftovers. This is one of her ideas! Use the tortillas that you got for the quesadillas, spread with some spiced mayo and throw the rest of your chana masala in and wrap it up.
D- Dinner out- You’ve cooked a LOT this week. You deserve it.
Dessert- Peach Coffee Cake and hot tea- You can make this beforehand but eating it at the end of the day will feel like such a treat! Eat one slice now as your dessert and save the rest for next week as lunch box treats or to crumble on top of your Yogurt Smash. Isn’t repurposing fun? : )
For further reading on Leanne Brown’s cookbook click here and here.
And for the cookbook itself CLICK HERE.
I highly recommend it. xoxo