Make Your Own Dinner

Hey, Bitches! This is the next in a continuing series I’m calling “Make Your Own.” I figure it’s particularly relevant this week since we just kicked off the October Money Challenge in which we’re trying to save money by not eating out!

Sometimes, life gets in the way or things get too busy and stressful for us to do everything on our own. It’s easier to stop for coffee in the morning, buy lunch out, or order a pizza for dinner.

But, with a little careful planning we can make sure that we are prepared for life’s stressful moments and even save a little money doing it.

Some nights I’m too tired to cook. I’ll work late, or I’ll to run errands after work and by the time I get home I just want whatever is fastest and easiest.

I probably don’t have to tell you all, that whatever is fastest and easiest is usually not the healthiest.

So, I try to rely on fast and healthy dinners, which can sometimes be an oxymoron.

One thing I’ve found that seems to work, though, is using my crock-pot to make things a bit easier on myself.

I’m a big fan of crockpot meals because you can set them and forget them. Start one up in the morning and then by the time you get home from work, dinner is ready and you don’t have to do anything but chuck the bra, put on your yoga pants, and open the wine.

Sold.

Now… you’ve read about my morning routine, so you might not believe that I can actually get my shit together enough to even start the crockpot in the morning. But I can.

Because I set it up the night before. LMAO

The night before, the crockpot goes on the counter so I can see it when I stumble blearily into the kitchen at 5:30am.

The night before, all ingredients get chopped and put into the crockpot’s crock and that goes in the fridge until I need them. If I’m using something in a can, I’ll even open all the cans and put that stuff right into the crock too. No use making more work for me when I can barely function.

Then when I wake up, I literally just pull the crock out of the fridge, put it in the heating unit, plug it in and go. Easy Peasy.

If I’m really on the ball, I’ll make a BUNCH of these crockpot soups by dumping all the ingredients (except the broth) into a freezer bag and then freezing them ahead of time. I’ll use a sharpie to note if there is anything I need to add (4 c. broth/finish with fresh cilantro/8 hours low) or otherwise do beyond just dumping it into the pot.

I’ve found that the trick to crock-pot meals is to have one “fresh” item to go with them. So if I’m making soup in the crockpot, I’ll have a green salad or some crescent rolls to go with it. Both of these things take minimal work when I do get home and make the meal come together nicely.

Yeah, yeah, Bitch. Get to the recipe already.

FINE!

 

Crockpot Minestrone

4 cups (32 oz) veggie broth

1 15 oz can diced tomatoes (with juice)

1 tbs tomato paste

2 big celery stalks chopped

2 big carrots chopped

1 small onion chopped

1 heaping tsp minced garlic

1 can white beans (drained and rinsed)

1 tsp Italian seasoning blend

¼ tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

½ bunch of spinach or kale

¼ cup of orzo or small pasta

Directions

Put everything but the orzo and spinach into the crock. Cook on low for 8 hours or until you get home for the day.

When you get home (or about 25 minutes before eating), give it a stir and check the seasonings. You may need a touch of salt. Season to taste and then put the orzo and spinach into the crock and give it another stir.

When the orzo is tender, the soup is done!

Serve with a green salad or some crusty bread.

So how does this breakdown, cost wise?

Well, this recipe gives you about 6 servings of soup. Not bad, right? If we look at each ingredient, and break it out, this is what we get.

 

Ingredient Cost Cost Per Serving
4 cups (32 oz) veggie broth $2.00 $2.00
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes (with juice) $0.99 $0.99
1 tbs tomato paste $0.67 $0.04
2 big celery stalks chopped $1.69 $0.56
2 big carrots chopped $0.99 $0.33
1 small onion chopped $0.99 $0.99
1 heaping tsp minced garlic $1.99 $0.20
1 can white beans (drained and rinsed) $0.99 $0.99
1 sp Italian seasoning blend $2.69 $0.27
¼ tsp red pepper flakes (optional) $2.39 $0.12
½ bunch of spinach or kale $1.79 $1.79
¼ cup of orzo or small pasta $1.00 $0.25
Total:   $8.53
Per Serving:   $1.42

 

What do you think? Not bad, right? Could you give it a shot for dinner? If you went out to Panera for soup, you’d spend $8 easy for a bowl of soup and a drink. Here you’re getting at least 6 servings for that cost.

Couple notes – I’m assuming you’ll buy a whole bunch of carrots and celery and that you’ll only use two of each for this soup – so you are getting some extra for snacking throughout the week and I’m not really factoring in their cost.

If you had to buy every single ingredient on this list just for this soup, it might not seem that good a deal. In fact, it would come out to about $18! But once you start cooking more you’ll see that the spices and things like the tomato paste or orzo are pantry staples that you can uses for much more than one meal.
Now some folks will complain about eating the same thing for dinner multiple nights a week or talk about how they HATE leftovers.

First of all, dude you’re a weirdo.

Second of all, look at this as meal prep.

If you wanted to, you could keep the orzo on the side (cook it off separately and DON’T dump the entire thing into the crock). Then you could package up single servings of soup into tupperwares and have them ready to go for lunches or dinners when you’re too tired or too busy to cook.

(BB note: The pasta bloats in the soup and gets mushy, so that’s the only reason I say not to put the pasta in if you’re going to freeze for later. If you don’t mind mushy pasta, you animal, then go ahead and add it in).

Either way, to get 6 meals out of $9 is pretty darn good! I definitely think it’s worth a shot!

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