Quickly after moving into my first apartment, I realized that money doesn't go far and eating out can, sadly, break the bank. (I also realized I might have taken meal plans for granted.) Nonetheless, I've found tasty recipes that have helped me save money without cutting things out of my diet that I enjoy like granola.
I've watched youtube videos and read countless articles on budgeting, meal prep, and once a month grocery hauls. The majority of people documenting their budgeting experience had two things in common that they believe saves them the biggest chunk of change.
The first is staying out of the grocery store. "Once a month grocery hauls" or even bi-weekly stops are a common thing when trying to save money. Less shopping = less spending. Stacey Flowers has a very simple break down of how she keeps her grocery budget as low as $50 a month!
The second strategy that seemed to save many of the bloggers money was meal prepping and convenience. I get that not everyone is a great cook, but if you learn to cook just a few of your favorite meals well enough and keep them ready to eat in your fridge, it's hard not to eat from home. Just taking that extra time to make things convenient for yourself eliminates the excuse of eating out because you were in a hurry. I mean, you're practically paying yourself.
1. Homemade Granola
This may be one of my favorites and I ALWAYS make sure it's in my cabinet.
3 Cups Old Fashioned Oat Meal
1 Cup of Whole or Sliced Almonds
Mix the Oats and almonds in a bowl, then place on a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minuets.
While the oats are baking, in a large bowl, mix:
3/4 Cups of honey
2 tsp of Coconut oil (I've used 4 Tbs of melted peanut butter when I didn't have coconut oil an it worked great!)
1 Tbs vanilla
1 Tbs of cinnamon
Remove Oats from the oven and blend all ingredients in one bowl. Stir like crazy!! (It should be thick and bulky)
Then, spread the granola back onto the cookie sheet and return to the oven but turn the oven off at this time. Let the granola finish cooking as the oven cools down.
**Optional** You can also add any dried fruits, seeds, or other nuts to make it into your favorite combo!
2. Ready-to-Go Baked Chicken
***Budget Hack*** If you want to make the extra effort to save a few dollars, grocery stores put out their 'reduced products' out early in the morning. Head to Walmart around 8 a.m. for the best prices and look for the yellow stickers in the refrigerated meat (poultry, pork, and beef) section. Nothing is wrong with the reduced chicken, it is just getting close to it's "sell by" date. Stick it in your freezer as soon as you get home and it'll be good for a few months!
What you'll need:
Chicken breast or chicken tenders
Your favorite seasoning or marinade
A cookie baking sheet
What to do:
Coat your thawed chicken with your favorite seasoning. Even something as simple as salt and pepper will work.
If you choose a liquid marinade, place the chicken in a zip-lock bag with the marinade and let it sit for up to 24 hours in the fridge.
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F.
Put as many on a baking sheet as you think you will eat for the week.
Place in oven at for 10 minutes. Then flip over and cook for about 15 minutes, but most importantly until it isn't pink anymore and the juices running out of it are clear.
After it is done cooking and cooled, you're left with a few different options so you're not stuck eating the same meal every day. You can dice it to keep for a salad. If you marinaded it in Teriyaki sauce, you can pair it with brown rice. If you put marinara and cheese on your chicken, you can pair this with whole wheat noodles or homemade whole-wheat garlic bread which is so simple to make.
Healthy, budget-friendly garlic bread: Whole wheat bread slices cut in halves. Coat each side with olive oil, sprinkle with garlic salt. Bake at 350 for 8 minutes, flip each piece over. Continue to bake for 8 minutes or until golden brown.
3. Peanut butter Power balls
One word. Addictive. These are great for a quick breakfast and/or snack. They are full of GOOD things for your body too!! Like good carbs and fats, and you can add protein powder for that extra power punch!
What you need:
3 cups of Old Fashioned Oats
1/3 Cup of Honey
1/2 Cup of your favorite peanut butter (I like crunchy because of the added texture in these)
And past that you can add what any extras you think you'd like! A few great options: mini chocolate chips, chia seeds, flax seeds, dried fruit, cinnamon, nuts, or protein powder (maybe ad a little extra honey for consistency with this one).
Make into balls, refrigerate and that's it, you're done. :)
4. Roasted Vegetables
There's a great store named Aldi's that has different fresh produce each week. It depends on the season, but during the summer, zucchini is a little as 99 cents for a three pack. Whether it's zucchini, broccoli, sweet potatoes, etc.
Slice or cut the vegetables and spread them on a baking sheet.
Preheat the oven to 375.
Coat the vegetables in olive oil and sprinkle them with salt and pepper.
Place them in the oven for 35 minuets. DONE!
5. Banana pancakes
Literally 4 ingredients. 1 egg (or 2 egg whites), 1 banana, vanilla, and baking powder. Mix all of these together and cook in a skillet like you would a pancake. You can top them with honey, cinnamon, or even peanut butter to keep them healthy.
*Optional* You can also add a scoop of protein powder into the mix for an added boost in the morning.
6. Burrito Bowls
These can be made so cheap and so so good. Layer your bowl with cooked brown rice, cooked black beans and then heat in the microwave. Then, add salsa, lettuce, guacamole, or just whatever you want as toppings.
This seems like such a basic meal but I had never thought about it until I watched Stacey Flowers YouTube videos. I have started cooking my rice in chicken or beef broth instead of water to give it a little extra flavor.
7. My Ultimate Favorite: Banana Ice Cream!
This recipe blew my mind when I first made it. When I tried it, I couldn't believe that it tasted exactly like ice cream and it's very contradictory to real ice cream, as it's pretty darn healthy.
All you need is 1 banana, sliced, then frozen. 2-3 Tbs of Honey, 1 tsp cinnamon and anything else you think you may like in it or on top of it.
Options: Peanut butter, vanilla, chocolate chips, nuts, or you can also add protein powder.
Place the sliced, frozen banana, honey, and cinnamon in a food processor. Blend until smooth and enjoy.