It’s the beginning of February, and for most people like me, we’re waiting on that tax refund to hit our bank account. Whether the credit card is still pinched from Christmas or you’re planning your next Disney adventure (or both), saving a few bucks can be difficult in today’s world of living paycheck to paycheck. On top of pinching your wallet, you’re also still pinching the waistline that’s leftover from the 2018 holiday season (or the 2015 holiday season for that matter). For me, I decided not to make that bi-weekly grocery run and looked in my pantry and freezer to save some money for my Meal Prep Sunday.
In my freezer, I had a couple of hamburger patties that I had previously ordered from Omaha Steaks, and in the pantry, I had a can of black beans, rice, taco seasoning, and an onion. All that together could only mean one thing …
My number one rule about budgeting is to eat what’s in your pantry. It might not be what you want to eat, but sometimes you have to eat to live, not live to eat. That’s healthy living advice right there. Another trick is to somewhat train yourself to eat the same thing everyday, or at least, a few times a week. To help with the monotony, you can make the same basic base but add different variations, which I’ll get to in a few.
Here are the ingredients for five portions for one person. Somedays, there’s leftover food from a meeting at work that I’ll eat for lunch, or somedays, I just want a salad or Subway. I typically make five portions a week where I’ll eat one for dinner and have the other four for my work day lunch. You could always make more and freeze them for a quick dinner later on during the month.
- 8 oz. lean ground beef (or ground turkey)
- 1 – 15 oz. can of Black Beans (or any kind of bean)
- 1 – cup of white rice (or brown rice, or omit if you’re low carbing)
- 1 – taco seasoning packet
- 1/2 onion
- Garlic Powder
- Olive Oil
So, what if you have all of these ingredients except for the onion or the taco seasoning packet? Improvise. You don’t need an onion. It’s just for added flavor. If you have a decently stocked spice rack, you could make your own concoction with salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and cumin.
Start out with making the rice and watch it, because we all know that rice can go from simmering in a bunch of water to burnt at the bottom of your pot. If you have a rice cooker, have at it. You can definitely cook more rice if you want a hardier bowl. I just use a cup divided up for me. When the rice has absorbed all the water and your pot was spared of the burn, add some of the taco seasoning to the rice for added flavor. Put the lid on the pot and set it aside off the heat.
Chop half of the onion, take a quarter of that, and put it into a small saucepan. Pour a drop of olive oil and let the onion cook down. Take the remaining chopped onion and put it into a sauté pan with about a tablespoon of olive oil. (I don’t usually measure when it comes to cooking. Baking is a different story.)
When the onions become soft in the smaller pot, adjust the heat to medium-low, add the beans, and add some taco seasoning. I usually add a pinch more salt and pepper with a dash of garlic as well. Let it simmer. And don’t forget to rinse out your can and place it in the recycling bin.
Add the ground beef to the softened onions in the sauté pan. Break it up so it’s crumbly. Add salt, pepper, and garlic powder if you have it. Once it’s beginning to brown, add the majority of the remaining taco seasoning and stir while it continues to cook. For this recipe, I don’t use the entire taco seasoning packet. Add to your own taste, though. There are packets available for purchase that are low in sodium if you’re watching the blood pressure.
When the ground beef has browned, I grab a mesh colander and drain the grease off. If the meat is lean, you probably could skip that part. If you do drain though, I recommend adding another dash of taco seasoning to make up for any seasoning the grease was holding.
Here comes the fun part: Bowl Building
Rice. Beans. Beef. And then top it with whatever you have. I only had salsa in my fridge, so that’s what I went with. Obviously, add cheese, sour cream, guacamole, tomatoes, lettuce … whatever you want. But for food prepping purposes, maybe just add the cheese since this will be heated up later.
The best thing about meal prepping is that you can be accountable for limiting your caloric intake. Personally, I believe portion control is just as important as the kind of food your digesting. I think if you only had grilled chicken and broccoli every day, you’re more likely to order that pizza come Friday. Find healthier for you food and make your meals colorful. Color makes your eyes and belly happy. If I had went to the grocery, I would have added lettuce, tomato, avocado, and black olives, but since I didn’t, I have some protein, fiber, a little carbs to keep my sugar level up (non-diabetic hypoglycemia isn’t fun), and some salsa (which consists of vegetables, so that’s healthier, right?) I unfortunately cannot eat dairy anymore, so I use minimal cheese on a regular basis (or I take the pills from Lactaid if I need my cheese fix).
Split up the rice, beans, and beef into the amount of containers you choose. I ate one portion for dinner and split the rest up into four. After reheating, add it to a bed of lettuce and dress it up into a salad. Use a couple tortillas for mini burritos. Add a few chips for nachos. Or just eat it as a bowl. This is a versatile staple for your daily lunch. Not only is it belly friendly, it’s budget friendly. Even shopping at Whole Foods, the total cost for a half pound of lean ground beef, a can of black beans, one sweet onion, a packet of taco seasoning, and a 32 oz bag of long grain rice is $11.17. That’s less than $2.24 a meal if separated into five servings. And you’d still have rice left over for other recipes. Let’s say you add a head of lettuce, a tomato, an avocado, and a can of black olives. That comes out to $18.63 or $3.73 per meal. And that’s at Whole Foods. Wal-Mart would be about $2.00 cheaper in total with still buying organic at Wal-Mart for the items possible. All this math just means you’re one step closer to having those Mickey shaped waffles in the most magical place on earth.
The whole point of my first ever step-by-step meal prep is that it is very possible to have budget friendly, healthier meals. Make positive choices and make every day (even a Monday) an adventure.
Come back next week for another freezer/pantry concoction, and in the meantime, I’ll pull out the Crock-Pot. 😉
For your reading pleasure, check out my cowboys and cops available on all ebook platforms. #DoYouHearTheBuzz