Breakfast: Cinnamon Oatmeal

There is no need to skip breakfast or spend excessive money on drive through. While not as fast as a pouring milk and cereal into a bowl, preparing oatmeal does not take very long. If you are willing to rise 5-6 minutes earlier, you will have enough time to make a satisfying breakfast meal that is tasty, healthy, and very inexpensive. The best thing about oatmeal is that you can come up with many different combinations of recipes, as it adapts to a wide array of ingredients. Oatmeal is also an excellent source of Fiber, Thiamin, Phosphorus, and Magnesium, and has been labeled as a “Heart Healthy Food” by the American Heart Association. Cinnamon is also good for heart health and lowering blood sugar. A few things about my methods: I use Quick 1 minute oats instead of whole oats and I use a stove top instead of a microwave. Alternatively, you may can the ingredients in a glass container and let sit overnight. Oats will be of the “oatmeal” consistency. However, if you’re like me, you prefer warm oatmeal.

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Ingredients:

1 cup Quaker Oats Oatmeal, quick 1 minute–This is not instant; the oats have been chopped finer in order to expedite cook time. Retails for $4.18, Serving cost is $0.28

1 3/4 cups water

2 tbsp honey $0.38

1 tsp cinnamon $0.04

10 blueberries–or any other chopped fruit. If, for example, you use apple, you do not need more than a fourth of the fruit. Serving cost estimate: $.75

Total Estimated Cost: $1.45

  1. The back of the oatmeal container says to boil water first and then add oats. No doubt, this is the best method for making grits or cream of wheat. However, because we are adding blueberries–and want them to cook–add the oats and blueberries to the water before setting on the stove.
  2. On medium heat, let the oats simmer until all of the oats are soft and mealy and the blueberries are cooked as well. You will know that they are cooked when they ooze purple upon pricking with a fork!
  3. Add cinnamon and honey, stir, and serve!

 

Other yummy recipe ideas:

Oatmeal with diced peaches

Oatmeal with greek yogurt

Oatmeal with apples and sliced almonds

Oatmeal with avocado and honey

Oatmeal with banana

 

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Scrambled Tofu!

As a substitute for meat, I have been using scrambled or diced tofu. Eaten with other sides and/or bread, it’s a great source of protein and calcium. My ingredients for an awesome scrambled dish:

  • One container of tofu, firm (not super firm) 20161205_230935
  • 1 tbsp oil (preferably olive)
  • 1/2 cup onions
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tbsp salt, or however much to taste
  • 1/2 tbsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp chipotle peppers

Instructions:

  1. Drain the container of water. Once drained, place tofu block in a Ziploc bag. If there is any excess water in the ziploc, go ahead and continue to drain. Once completely drained, begin to squish the tofu together in a close Ziploc. This may take a minute, as you will need to make sure the consistency is like lumpy meal, almost like oatmeal.
  2. On medium heat, place oil, diced onions and minced garlic on a frying pan to “open” the flavors for about 60 seconds. Pour the scrambled tofu in the pan and mix in with onions and garlic. Mix continuously. Tofu takes has a bland flavor that must be overcome by the onions and garlic.
  3. Add salt and pepper and continue to stir. The addition of seasoning is done in steps to ensure that the flavors are fully absorbed by the tofu.
  4. Stir in curry powder. Stir in enough to make the tofu gain a golden hue.
  5. Serve on toast or as a side dish.

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I love this dish because it is a solid sub for scrambled eggs and fits well as a breakfast, lunch, or dinner dish. The key is to season it to your personal preference. The thing about tofu is that it adapts taste well. If you’ve ever eaten plain firm tofu, you might find it wildly bland. Because of this, you will need to overpower the bland taste and make sure that the tofu is properly scrambled before cooking. Also, Chipotle peppers give the eggs a nice meaty flavor. Careful though, they can be spicy! Also, careful not to eat more than 4 servings of tofu a day due to high levels of a chemical that acts as estrogen in your body.

Cost per serving (2-3 servings)

Cost of Tofu: $1.97

Est. cost of seasonings, minced garlic and onions: $0.15

$1.97 + $0.15 = $2.12/ 2 = $1.06; $2.12/3 = $0.71

If eaten with a slice of bread: $0.31 (If avg loaf cost $4 and there are 13 slices)

Est cost for this dish: $1.02 – $1.37. Cost varies due to seasonings, bread, if eaten as a single or side dish.

 

 

Ode to the Dry Bean!

Since deciding to eat healthy and frugally, I have come to depend on the trusted dry bean to cut costs and make up for the elimination of meat. If you are seeking to cut costs radically, you also may decide to become a vegetarian eater for this reason alone. Be sure to do your research, however, on how to ensure getting the proper nutrients in legumes, grains, vegetables, etc.

But the dry bean!

The dry bean is economical. Not only are the costs low, but dry beans have a loooong shelf life, so stock up! Personally, I find that I am spending around $12 on beans a month, to eat everyday, and beans usually make up 25%-50% of my larger meals. Why wouldn’t I invest in food security and buy a 3 month stash for under $40?

The dry bean is healthy. I would say that the only things you should think hard about are to make sure that the beans are thoroughly rinsed to removes foreign materials or lingering unwanted chemicals, and that you can cook them well. Crock pots are great investments to save you time ad energy. Pop them in, turn the pot on, and leave them alone for the whole day, only to come home to tender, tasty beans! There are so many different types of beans, but most have such high levels of protein and fiber. They fill you up for the entire day and make you feel so good!

The dry bean is versatile. You don’t have to eat beans in the same old way. Research ways to create bean burgers, bean paste, gravy, and/or stuffing.

Black Beans

Ingredients

6-8 cups of water

16 oz dry black beans

Salt or seasoning salt

Ground pepper

Garlic cloves

1/4 cup olive oil

 

The black bean is something special. I am not using a slow cooker, although this may be a preferred method for you if you want to spend less time cooking and have made the investment in the appliance. I begin by soaking overnight, or for at least 8 hours. I use less water than what the instructions indicate, because I want a thicker soup (5 or 6 cups of water instead of 8). Later, more olive oil will be added to make up.  I put a little bit of baking soda in the soak water to cut the acid which produces flatulence! Note: I rinse the beans before soaking. I do this to retain a higher nutrient level. I recommend following the instructions of the bean manufacturer, but I take the risk in order to maintain higher nutritional value in the beans. After soaking,  I place on low heat for 1-1.5 hours or whenever beans are tender. When tender, I chop garlic cloves in halves or thirds, add plain salt or seasoning salt, pepper to taste, and 1/4 cup of olive oil.  As a vegetarian eater, I usually eat with steamed vegetables. I may end of soaking up the bean gravy with a slice of bread. Also pairs well with rice or as a breakfast bowl. The Google listing of black bean nutritional facts indicates high levels of iron, magnesium, calcium, protein and potassium.

A target listing for 16 oz black beans lists the price at $1.52 I find that I can get up to 6 servings of beans. $1.52/6 = $0.25. Paired with garlic/seasoning $0.20 + Bread $0.30 the cost of this dish could cost you around $0.75.

 

The Food Frugalista Basics

There is more than enough to go around, and taste good. Any other doctrine is nonsense. I eat well, and for no more than $.70 per meal. I don’t know if I’ve ever been healthier in my adult life.

Recently, a change of heart challenged me to eat well for health and for my wallet. I grew up in this kind of household, but vowed that when I got out on my own, I’d eat as much fast food, sweets, and chain restaurant meals as my heart desired. I soon discovered that cooking at home and eating healthier can actually be cheaper and just all around more satisfying. Because of my budget, I began to cut out various items from my diet, including meat. As a result, so many–if not all–of the dishes on this blog will be vegetarian! When you challenge yourself to eat both healthy and frugally, you’ll begin to develop some very useful skills that will benefit you down the road. This blog is designed to help you develop a regimen that will cost you between $.65 and $1.50 per meal. I invite you to join me in this journey 🙂

A Food Frugalist(a) depends on a number of basic ingredients that they will always have inside of their pantry and refrigerator. Most of these flavorings and foods are very inexpensive themselves, often adding an almost negligible expense to your dishes. They tend to last for months at a time, if you are cooking everyday for one person.

Food Frugalista’s Indispensable 10

1. Garlic Cloves–It is not recommended that you store garlic in your refrigerator, so a dry spot on your counter top on hanging from a wire basket will do. Learn more here. I typically use garlic cloves during a slow cook, usually in beans, because the cooking process allows for the garlic pieces to open up and slowly contribute to the over all flavor. One box of two will last for about 2-3 weeks.

2. Minced garlic–For those days when you do not feel like chopping garlic or you are incorporating garlic in a mixture, minced garlic is very easy to use because the flavor has already been released. I use this for sauteed or steamed vegetables. One 8 oz container should last for at least 2 weeks.

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3. Salt. I have been using the same container of Morton’s salt for almost two and a half years now. While I haven’t used it nor cooked for myself every single day, 2 years to have any condiment is still a very long time! I prefer regular salt over seasoning salt because I find myself using seasoning salt at a much higher rate and consequently spending more money in the long run. Use regular salt.

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4. Spices. Pepper is a great spice to liven up a dish, be it tofu or eggs. The black stuff in the tin tends to last a while. I also use dry and crushed chipotle peppers, adding them to pretty much any and every dish! Though spicier than pepper, they will not make your tongue feel like its burning (or maybe I’ve just gotten used to them!). I also use thyme for a celery flavor and curry (ground turmeric powder) regularly.

5. Olive oil. If you are like me, you have become an olive oil connoisseur. The flavor is so robust, earthy, and the benefits are plenty. I do not fry with olive oil (though I rarely fry at all).  I go for the more expensive, extra-virgin oils because the flavors and scent have so much more of a punch. I use olive oil in soups, beans, tofu, vegetables. The salt and oil combination create my personal substitute for butter.

6. Apple Cider (or white) Vinegar. Though primarily used in my kitchen for soups (think cabbage), apple cider vinegar can be used to flavor just about anything, and can be used as a substitute for cooking wine.

7. Baking soda. This household must have is ridiculously useful for cooking and cleaning. I use it to remove the “gas” out of beans during soaking (or during the actual cooking if I forget to add beforehand). Because the Food Frugalista diet consists of so many beans, you’re gonna need this one.

8. Dry Beans. Dry beans are an indispensable part of the “eating healthy on a budget” program. They are cheap and full of protein, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients like fiber, which help you digest food.Dry beans can be the basis of soups, burgers, or even desserts. The possibilities are endless with the dry bean. For reasons of convenience and feasibility, I prefer the lentil, which cooks in under 20 minutes.

10. Honey. There are so many health benefits of honey. Check them out here. Though my honey habit it expensive compared to sugar, honey is, in my opinion, the best natural sweetener around.

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