Walk it off

This past winter, I got a great deal on a watch. This was no ordinary watch, but one of those sporty heart rate monitor exercise watches. The only problem with these watches is that the battery doesn’t last nearly as long as a regular watch as they are working so much harder and tracking so much more. So, the battery died about 2 months ago. Last week, Brian was trying to change the battery and accidentally broke the LCD screen on it. He very kindly bought me a new watch, which might actually be an upgrade to my old watch. This one also had a pedometer, calculates the calories you burn throughout the day based on your heart rate and you can set daily goals on it. I really like. It’s also very motivating to move more.

I had a lot of errands to run this weekend and by run, I mean walk. Since we don’t have a car, I do a lot of walking, especially on the weekend. Motivated by my watch to walk a little more than usual, I logged about 20 miles this weekend. How did I fuel all of this walking?

Big breakfasts! And lots of coffee.

Saturday morning, I was very indecisive about what I wanted for breakfast, so I had a little bit of everything. Strawberries and watermelon, an egg with sriracha, and a piece of cinnamon toast. Half with pumpkin butter and the other half with mashed banana and a little cookie butter.

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After a morning trip to the store and an exciting sale on homemade guacamole, I had a lunch of lots of fruits, veggies and an open-faced chicken and guacamole sandwich.  I love homemade guac, but when they sell the good stuff for less than I can make it, I’ll take it!

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A dinner of more chicken and guac, veggies, hummus and chips. I’m really trying to take advantage of the last of the fresh veggies while I can.

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Saturday night, I made some falafel with an extra helping of greens.

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Then I spent a night in with a glass of wine and my sewing machine doing some mending for Brian.

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Sunday’s breakfast was a helping of toast, guac, bacon and eggs with a pumpkin pie muffin.

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That was a very finger-licking and runny yolk! Mmm!

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Brian had a banana and chocolate chip muffin reheated with a smear of cookie butter on top.

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After running errands, a long shoe shopping trip for Brian, lunch at Native Foods(salads for both of us), and buying fabric for me, I did some more sewing. I sewed a yoga mat bag for myself. I have lululemon’s big mat. It is no longer available on the website, but is wider and longer than the average yoga mat and great if you are taller than average and struggle to stay on your mat during classes. Hence it being bigger than average, it doesn’t fit in most yoga bags. So, I loosely followed Kick Stand Fitness’s directions to make a bag. It took me about and hour, start to finish. I even added an interior pocket. Super easy and functional. Definitely work the 1 yard of fabric and one hour of work.

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Sunday’s dinner was fruit, salad and veggie lasagna. I bought the lasagna pre-made and thought it was great. Packed with flavor and protein, I’d definitely buy it again.

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With falafel and leftover veggie lasagna, it looks to be another veggie filled week! And what is great is that during this week’s heat wave, we can live on leftovers and I won’t have to heat up the kitchen!

Easy pumpkin soup

The temperatures are starting to drop and my love for all things pumpkin are back in full force.

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Last weekend I made some pumpkin muffins with a pumpkin pie filling on top that are wonderful(recipe to come soon). With the leftover pumpkin, I decided to make us a pumpkin soup. This soup is thick, warm and delicious and was ready in less than 30 minutes.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 inch of fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • dash of cinnamon
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 1/2 cups pure pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup of milk(can use cow, almond, coconut)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil or butter
  • pumpkin seeds and dried cranberries(optional)

Heat oil over medium heat. When hot, saute onion and garlic until onion is translucent.

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Stir in fresh ginger. Cook until fragrant, about one minute.

Stir in curry powder and cinnamon. Cook until fragrant, about another minute.

Add in vegetable broth and pumpkin. Stir well until combined.

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Bring mixture to a simmer and let cook for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, stir in milk. Let heat for about 5 minutes.

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At this point, it is ready to serve. Or for a smoother and creamier consistency, blend or immersion blend. I used my immersion blender to make sure there weren’t any little pieces of onion.

Serve.  Top with dried cranberries, sunflower and pumpkin seeds if you so desire.

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Goodbye, summer

Friday seems like so long ago that I can hardly remember what we  did.  We had plans to go out to eat, but with some torrential down pours right after I got home from work, we decided to order in. We ordered in some chicken shawarma from a new restaurant. It was so-so. So far, I haven’t found a place that competes with a a restaurant by my work. Then we set up an assembly line and put together our wedding invitations. After that was done, we rewarded ourselves with some couch time and started watching Orange is the New Black. Is everyone else watching this show? You should be! It’s great.

Saturday morning, I got up and made a veggie loaded breakfast with homemade tomato sauce, spinach, and eggplant. It was so delicious.

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Then I headed out for a busy day of going to the post office, hair cut and eye exam. The lovely lady at the post office gave me multiple kinds of misinformation including that we needed more postage for our invitations and that they don’t sell the stamps we need at that post office. Being that I needed to get to my hair cut, I delegated the other post office run to Brian. He had a pleasant post office experience, unlike mine, and the man at the other post office said we didn’t need extra postage, hand stamped our invites and mailed them for Brian. After having several unpleasant experiences with the post office closest to us, I will never be going there again. I will happily go out of my way and take extra time to go to a different office. Before my haircut, I stopped at a burger place by our wedding venue and tried out the Hurt Burger. It was supposed to be incredible spicy, but I didn’t think it had much of a kick, despite having jalapenos on it. The fries were really good though. My excuse for eating a burger and fries for lunch is that I need to be able to give wedding guests accurate information about eating establishments around our hotel. Ha!

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Sunday morning, I experimented with a new pancake recipe for Brian. They were incredibly dense and not the proper color, but he said they tasted great. Maybe it was all the cookie butter I slathered on them.

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Frustrated by his wonky pancakes, I didn’t pay much attention to my breakfast cooking and botched my eggs. I spent a good while at my garden then went to my last class of aquatic exercise of the summer. IO am saddened that I will have no more opportunities to be in the pool.  We had a quick “clean out the fridge” lunch before going to buy groceries and run errands. We stopped at Target and goofed around in the toy aisle. I spent the rest of my evening planning Monday’s cook-a-thon and watching more episodes of Orange is the New Black.

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Monday started off with a bang and an open-face egg sandwich. I headed into the kitchen to make black bean brownies, pumpkin muffins with pumpkin pie filling tops(they taste much better than they look), homemade, bbq sauce, curried ginger pumpkin soup, sunbutter and ended the day by grilling steak, burgers, chicken and veggies. We should be eating well all week!

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My long weekend was wonderful and productive with plenty of fresh air and exercise. Can’t ask for much more than that.

Honey almond roasted carrots

These carrots are a fall delight.

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I was ready to hunker down, make soup, watch football and eat my fair share of roasted root vegetables then we got a spike to hot temperatures again. That didn’t stop me from making these carrots!

I may have also been motivated to make these carrots as I was desperate wanting to use my new Le Creust dish that I received forma  dear friend as an early wedding gift. I named her Camille, because she’s French. Enough about the why and a little more about the how:

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 pounds fresh carrots
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-3 tablespoons honey
  • 1/4 cup silvered or chopped almonds
  • a few sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 400F.

Thoroughly wash your carrots and cut green end off. If you feel so inclined to peel your carrots, you can do that, too.

Pour about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the bottom of a thick bottomed pan. Place carrots in bottom of pan and toss to coat with carrots.

Salt and pepper your carrots to your liking. Drizzle with honey. Top with almonds. Place rosemary sprigs on top.

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Cover pan tightly with aluminum foil, or simply place lid on pan if it has one. Cook for 20-25 minutes. Cook closer to 20 minutes if you are using closer to 1 pound of carrots or if your carrots are on the thinner side. If using closer to 2 pounds of carrots and/or your carrots are on the thicker side, cook closer to 25 minutes.

After your 20-25 minutes is up, remove lid and cook another 20-25 minutes(follow the same guidelines). The carrots will start to brown and be nicely caramelized when done.

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Serve as a tasty side dish. I love the slight sweetness that the honey gives with the crunch of the almond. It’s really a great flavor combination. Upon eating them, my immediate thought was that I couldn’t wait to make them for Thanksgiving!

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Monday, back at it

It’s already Monday again? My weekend was so full of fun activities that it feels like I haven’t been to work in a week!

Thursday night, I was incredibly happy to eat a very summery meal of a half of a BLT with fruit, veggies and a few chips. See that sweet corn? It was my last ear from a batch I received from Iowa. Possibly the best sweet corn of my life. So sweet and tender it made my heart sing.

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Friday night we picked up our wedding invitations and envelopes. Eeek! It’s coming so soon. I’m so excited! Brian and I grabbed dinner at Native Foods. He had a curry bowl and I had the indo salad. Both were amazing. We loved our own choices and each other’s so much that we switched bowls half way through. Sharing is caring. After running some more errands, I got home and collapsed on the couch for the night.

Saturday I got up early, did laundry, worked out and watered the garden before heading to a bridal shower in the burbs.  I had a surprise strawberry waiting for me when I got there to water:

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Brian and I had a nice breakfast together before I left for the day. I made him cinnamon streusel French toast with caramelized bananas for breakfast. I had eggs and toast.

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I got to hang out with some fun Hawkeyes at Sarah’s beautiful shower:

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The rest of the day was full of bachelorette fun.

Sunday morning I slept in and headed to water aerobics. Only one more weekend left of getting to be in an outdoor pool and get exercise. Booo! I wish I could have this weather and schedule all year round. The rest of Sunday was filled with making food for the week and folding and putting away laundry. As much as I hate laundry, I love starting out the week with a full and clean closet.

I made another round of macro bowls(spinach, kale, zucchini, quinoa, lentils, beans and sweet potato) for us to have for lunches this week:

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Took a break to have a lunch of leftover pizza, salad, tomatoes and chips.

 

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I felt like I haven’t made us a proper dinner in a few weeks. When I said this, Brian gave me a strange look like I was a crazy person. I just felt like I hadn’t put a lot of time or effort into a meal lately. Which is the direct result of it being summer and using a lot more fresh food that doesn’t need as much preparation. Anyway, I having a strong yearning to do a little more cooking and use our early wedding gift. Look at her. She’s a beauty. I named her Camille, because she’s French, you know. And she can make honey, almond, rosemary roasted carrots with the best of them.

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I also made a simple and quick tomato sauce, which had tons of great flavor:

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With some seasoned green beans, the meal came together kind of like this:

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Brian gave the carrots two thumbs up. I really like the almond carrot combo. Delightful. It would probably be a recipe better reserved for cooler temperatures, but those are probably right around the corner. And the tomato sauce on the chicken really jazzed it up.

 

Cauliflower and yellow lentil curry

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I love cauliflower. I love curry. I’ve made a delightful red lentil soup before and curried lentils with cauliflower, but never yellow lentil curry with cauliflower. This one takes the prize! It’s the mango chutney for the win at the end! Recipe adapted from Pinch of Yum

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-2 tablespoons fresh grated ginger
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • ¼ cup red curry paste 
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon curry powder
  • 3 cups vegetable broth + 3 cups water
  • 2 cups dry yellow lentils 
  • 1 head cauliflower, chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 1 ripe banana, mashed
  • mango chutney
  • cilantro
  • salt to taste
Prep your ingredients to make life easier:
 
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Saute the onion, garlic, and ginger with the oil until soft.
 
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Add the curry paste, turmeric, and curry powder and cook  for another 1 minute, until fragrant.
 
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Then, add the broth and water and whisk until incorporated. Bring to a boil.
 
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Add the lentils and simmer for 20-40 minutes. Stir occasionally. 
 
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When the lentils are almost done, add the cauliflower and mashed banana. Stir to incorporate the banana. There should be enough liquid left in the pan to boil/steam the cauliflower. If there isn’t enough water left in the pan, add about 1/4 cup. Cover and simmer for 5-10 minutes or until cauliflower is tender-crisp. The banana adds a nice creaminess to the dish. 
 
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Stir to combine and season with salt.  When serving(on top of rice or not),  top with a tablespoon of mango chutney and a nice amount of cilantro. 
 
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The chutney and cilantro really add a nice dimension of flavor to the dish. And I nearly licked my bowl clean. I couldn’t wait to eat this for leftovers all week! 

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Tarragon chicken salad sandwiches

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This is an easy and flavorful recipe that I lightened up. Perfect for a quick lunch for unexpected guests or as smaller sandwiches/roll-ups for a party.

I lightened up the recipe by substituting plain Greek yogurt for the mayonnaise and Brian didn’t even notice.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise(regular or low-fat)
  • 2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 teaspoons tarragon
  • dash of salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries(I used strawberries)
  • 1/4 cup chopped nuts of choice(I used almonds sunflower seeds and cashews)
  • 6 oz of shredded chicken

Mix everything except the nuts, dried fruit, and shredded chicken in a bowl.

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Taste and adjust flavors as necessary.

Stir in nuts and dried fruit.

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Toss with chicken. Let refrigerate for about an hour(if you have the time) to let the flavors mingle.

Serve on delicious bread or in pieces of lettuce for lighter fare.

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Holiday weekend

Maybe it wasn’t technically a holiday weekend, but with the 4th falling so close to the weekend, it seemed like one. Thursday we had a few people over to grill out and enjoy the back yard. There was a ton of food and festivities(maybe a little too much for some of us).

We now have oodles of left overs that I have been trying to recreate into other dishes so that we aren’t eating burger after brat after burger.

Saturday I woke up at 5:15am and couldn’t go back to sleep. So, I headed up and did some work in the garden and headed to water aerobics, only to learn that it started at 11am, not 10am. I didn’t want to wait around so I headed home and started creating some calzone dough. I made two different fillings, one being ground taco meat, corn and black beans with cheddar cheese and the other of chicken, pesto, tomatoes and swiss. I thought they turned out pretty tasty.

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Saturday afternoon I spend relaxing and watching a Law and Order: SVU marathon. Delightful. It’s amazing how crimes can be wrapped up neatly in a one hour TV segment. Saturday night I headed to Michael’s craft store and browsed their clearance. I got some fun glitter paint and goods to make some bracelets. A wonderful little night at home.

I had recently heard in a podcast that if you want really fluffy eggs for omelettes to put them in the blender. It will also make your eggs go farther, needing you to use less. So, after making a batch of almond milk, I cleaned out the blender and threw in one egg and 3 egg whites. I also threw in a few handfuls of spinach(who not???). It made my eggs super fluffy and green! I had a 12 inch skillet full of eggs. I topped them with marinara. Delicious and colorful.

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Once my food settled, I headed to meet some friends for an aquatic exercise class. Get a tan and exercise? Yes, please! Lunch consisted of BBQ chicken salads and fruit. I topped the salad with grilled corn, black beans, carrots, cucumber and some crushed tortilla chips.

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After realizing that yesterday was National Chocolate Day and being a little tired of eating meat at every meal, I decided that we would have chocolate chunk waffles for dinner. Well, Brian would. I had half of a waffle, veggie patty and some fruit. I don’t care for sweet breakfast foods all that much and I would have been really cranky later if I didn’t eat some protein.

Brian:

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Me:

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I hope everyone had an enjoyable weekend as I did. So happy it finally felt like summer!

Fun and fantastic

This past weekend was awesome. The weather was great and Brian and I ended up doing some spontaneous things and really taking advantage of the city. Something I need to do more often. That’s why I live here, right?

Brian took me out to dinner on Friday night because our fridge was bare! We hadn’t really gone grocery shopping in 2 weeks and we had been squeaking by on pantry staples and freezer meals all week. The upside to this was that, our fridge was bare. How is that an upside? It was the perfect opportunity to pull everything out and wipe down the shelves. A task that was long over due! Look at its glowing beauty afterwards:

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After my speed cleaning fridge session, I headed out the door to walk to meet Brian for dinner. The weather was perfect for eating dinner outside and this place had a patio(no coincidence). We started off our meal with the bone marrow appetizer which came with a great arugula salad and pickled cherry. It was the perfect flavor combination.

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I had a delicious and dark beer made with 3 different types of coffee beans:

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And was only able to eat half of my Legend’s of the Daal wrap(very tasty):

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The place is mostly known for their burgers. Brian got Elvis’ Last Supper with house made peanut butter and bacon. Surprisingly delicious.

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On the way home, we decided to walk through Ribfest, which was happening right down the block. There was this sign:

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To which, Brian reacted like this to the thought of a deep fried Snickers:

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We continued walking, until we saw this sign:

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To which the possibility of deep-fried Oreos was too much for Brian to resist. We headed over to the ticket line and within 10 minutes had a tub of fried Oreos. To which, the man next to us in line got a deep-fried Snickers and insisted I take his picture.

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Because deep-frying candy and cookies isn’t enough, they top them off with chocolate sauce and powdered sugar:

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I tried one of the Oreos. It was actually pretty tasty. Like a funnel cake married and Oreo and made tiny funnel cake Oreo babies. Brian was in heaven.

A Friday night of indulgence meant a healthy breakfast and exercise Saturday morning.

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Followed by a trip to the garden. A very exciting trip where I would learn that all of my radishes had matured and were ready to be picked. I also got a few handfuls of kale and spinach and a lone strawberry. I think I’ve gotten more produce from my community garden plot in one month this year than I did all last summer!

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After lots of errand running we grabbed lunch and then hit up Margie’s for a scoop of ice cream. They were switching out containers on Brian’s chocolate peanut butter and he got a mega scoop. That got all over his beard and mustache, but loos at those abundant ribbons of peanut butter. I had some serious ice cream envy and Brian happily shared with me.

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Saturday we ate mostly vegetable for dinner. I grilled a ton of them for us to devour and a little chicken. I also made a delicious salad with the kale and spinach from the garden with a vinaigrette, hemp and sunflower seeds and blueberries.

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Sunday was to be filled with rain, but we were surprised by a sunny day instead.

I had a breakfast taco to start the day. The eggs ended up overwhelming the tortilla, but it was delicious!

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I slow cooked brisket in a marinade all day to make some delicious barbacoa for our tostadas for dinner.

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While that was cooking and making the house smell wonderful, I got to work on a big batch of pumpkin and chocolate chip waffles to use as breakfasts in the upcoming days:

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Made a tasty batch of tarragon chicken salad(can’t wait to share the recipe) that was the perfect meal of protein to sustain us on our 12 mile bike ride by the lake.

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I don’t think we could have packed much more into our weekend. It was a great one! Hope everyone had as much fun as I did.

Meal Planning 101

I’ve had a few people ask me lately about meal plans. I’ll give you a run down about how I plan our meals.

Brian and I pack and take our lunches to work most days of the week. It’s way cheaper and healthier. Even if you are getting an inexpensive meal out, just keep in mind that restaurants charge you at least 3x or more what it costs them to make it. Meaning: You can make it sooo much cheaper at home. Let’s do the math. If you spend $5 on lunch everyday eating out(which if you live in Chicago you spend more), that means that it’s costs that restaurant at most $1.66 to make your meal.

So $5 x 5 days per week is $25 per week on lunches.

If you made that same thing at home for $1.66 x 5 days a week, you would have spent $8.33.

$25-$8.33= a savings of $16.67 per week. Times 52 weeks per year = A savings of…

$866.84 per year

Wow. It really adds up, doesn’t it? Save almost $1000 per year just by packing your lunch instead of eating out. I bet you’d like an extra $1000 per year.

And really, it’s not that hard. It just takes a little planning.

I really like using paper and pen. Notice there is hardly any processed food on the list.

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First, break it down. How many meals do you need for the week? Check your fridge and pantry. What do you already have that you can use?

We both eat our breakfasts at work. So those need to be packed, too. Do you stop and buy donuts and coffee everyday? Don’t even get me started on how money wasteful that is. Make your own donuts/breakfast sandwiches/oatmeal and coffee for PENNIES. Seriously people. I bet it would take less time to make your coffee at home in a Keurig(yes, you can afford a Keurig if you stop buying your coffee everyday) than to stop, stand in line, order and buy it. So what do we eat for breakfasts? Cold oats, oatmeal bakes, tofu scrambles, egg bakes, donuts, muffins and waffles. Yep, make extra donuts, waffles, pancakes ahead of time and reheat. Just as good as the first time.

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Brian and I combined need 12 lunches. I only put 10 because I don’t usually plan the weekend out as strictly as the weekdays. The weekend is when we will eat 1 to 2 meals out. And if we are out running errands or have other obligations, we sometimes eat separately or we just have the leftovers from the week. I try to do one crock pot meal on the weekends. It saves time and makes a lot all at once. I don’t care if you are cooking for one or four, most recipes freeze well. Utilize your freezer, people. So, what are some of my favorite crock pot meals to make? Buffalo chicken, chicken curry, pulled pork, pork tinga, soups…or anything on pinterest. Start it in the morning. When it is done cooking, eat it for dinner. Then portion the rest out. Put a few containers in the fridge and the rest in the freezer.

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I have also made a very conscious effort for us to eat meat less. A lot less. I make veggie burgers often. They are simple, fast and incredibly inexpensive to make. They are also filling, low in fat, high in fiber and protein. Win, win, win, win.

Another thing that Brian and I love are macro bowls. I steam kale, cook black beans, roast sweet potatoes, cook quinoa and bake tofu. Then I divide it out evenly between bowls. These bowls pack a punch in the flavor department, are super healthy and filling. They are really easy to customize, too. You don’t like tofu, substitute meat of your choice. You hate black beans? Throw in any other bean or lentil. Don’t have quinoa, use rice. Kale grosses you out? Use broccoli. You get protein, fiber, veg, and antioxidants. Yes these take a little while to make since you cooking everything separately, but they come in at less than $2 per bowl, using all organic ingredients.

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Two other dishes that we love are rama chicken and orange chicken. Healthier versions of take out food, made at home. Both pack great for lunches, too. Substitute tofu for the chicken and they are vegetarian. Most things you order at restaurant can be made fairly simply at home.

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Are these too healthy of options? Make a pizza. Make your own crust. That’s an option that takes less than 10 minutes to make. Spread on some sauce, cheese and toppings. This makes a very large pizza or two, so you will have a few days of left over pizza, too. Another fast option. Kraft whole grain macaroni and cheese… add a source of protein and vegetables(a lot) to it when it’s done cooking. It saves you from eating the whole box, makes it much more nutritious and gives you 1-2 meals worth of leftovers. Win, win.

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Need a fast weeknight meal? Well, that pizza and mac and cheese come together in about a half an hour. Do you know what else cooks really fast? Fish! Seriously, it takes less than 10 minutes to cook most fish. While that is cooking, saute or steam some of your favorite vegetable(s). Tired of your same old, same old tuna sandwich? Make a tuna melt. Leave the sandwich open-faced, throw on a slice of cheese and broil it for a few minutes.

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Another thing I do that saves me a ton of time during the week is to prepare a lot of vegetables a head of time. It’s easy to cut root vegetables, potatoes, or brussies up and roast them while doing other things around the house. Then I have a quick side to go with any meal throughout the week. Or put some potatoes or sweet potatoes in your crock pot. I also peel and cut up the entire bag of carrots at one time to snack on throughout the week.

I also take full advantage of my weekends and get most of my cooking done then. Take 4 hours one day and see what all you can get accomplished. I bet you will be eating well for days. This weekend, I am going to try to make about 10 days worth of food so there are things in the house through next weekend.

What’s on the list? Crockpot buffalo chicken(some will go in the freezer), a batch of veggie burgers, macrobiotic bowls, pizza, grilled burgers, tilapia and asparagus packets and some sort of breakfast(donuts or waffles) to pack for Brian. There you go. Six recipes that will feed 2 people for 10 days, plus some fresh fruit and vegetables. Getting some done ahead of time sure beats scrambling to make dinner every night.

I can make all of that with less than $70 worth of groceries for about one week of food. That’s $10 per day for 3 meals for 2 people. That makes each meal average out to $1.66. Way cheaper than eating out. And much healthier.

You’ve asked. I’ve answered. A weekly meal plan to save your waistline and pocket-book!