Sunday, March 4, 2012

Lunch - Fast and Frugal

Lazy Sundays are great. Lazy Sundays with a tiny bit of productivity that saves time and money? Awesome.

I made a giant pot of chili in the crock pot for Gary and I to eat for lunch this week.

I love chili. It's fast, cheap, tasty, filling, cheap, easy, and cheap. You can make it with meat or without, and there's not much of a difference. It's easy to make a big batch and feed a crowd.

I make my chili without a recipe, but basically if I'm including meat, I brown it with onion and garlic. I open a bunch of cans - a few cans of beans, a can of corn or mushrooms or both, a can of tomato paste, a can of diced tomatoes and a can of stewed tomatoes. Then I add chili powder, cayenne and because we like it spicy, some dried chili pepper flakes.

I've made it with salsa and taco seasoning and chicken breasts; with more beans, barbecue sauce and left over shredded roast beef, with extra veggies and no meat, with ground beef, turkey, chicken and sausage (but not all at once). Basically, throw it in the pot or slow cooker and let it go as long as you can. It's good after 4 hours, or even just as soon as it's heated through, but I think that it's better after a longer cook time. Once I even cooked it for 10 hours, turned the pot off, put it in the fridge overnight and then cooked it again.

In total, the ingredients, not counting one onion, two cloves of garlic and spices cost us $13.13. This will make at least 8 lunches; That's $1.64 a lunch. Pretty good for our budget, which has been hurtin' lately due to all the fresh vegetables, greek yogurt and expensive lean meats (fish and chicken, chicken and fish...) we've been eating. This recipe works for Cycle 2 of the diet, on 'starch' days.

This time, I saved even more money by buying a tube of frozen ground chicken instead of the fresh. It's ALWAYS on sale at the Coop; this week it was $1.99. I've used it before to make meatballs. The texture doesn't matter as much for meatballs, patties and loaf, so it works perfectly. I was a bit hesitant about how this tube o' meat was going to fry up - but turns out, it was perfect. Crumbly, moist - exactly like the fresh stuff for 1/5 the cost. Now, I'm sure it's not the same quality as organic ground chicken, or grinding it yourself, but that's not what I'm talking about here - this is a recipe that's perfect for the week before you get paid, if you know what I mean.

Do you make a big batch of something for lunches? Do you make your lunch in the morning? Take leftovers? Or are you a buying-my-lunch kinda person?


Bre Lee O'Reilly said...

This is a great idea. Now I feel like chili... we make a lot of taco salads because they're pretty inexpensive & easy to reheat. :)

Remember when I tried to make chili without a recipe & it smelt like sweet & sout meatballs? Lesson learned, chili sauce does NOT belong in chili... despite the name. :)

Alice said...

I love my lunches. I pack mine and my hubby's and I'm not afraid to be inventive and sometimes we have leftovers but I love sandwiches so I usually have that. Mmmmmm, lunch!

Heather said...

I love making chili with whatever you have in your pantry/freezer. A can of this, a package of that. It all boils up and you have food for a week. Awesome way to use veggies that are about to go bad. I don't really miss the meat if I don't have any but if I do add meat, it's usually ground turkey or chicken. And's cheap!