When it comes to cooking consistently, I’m lazy and often at a loss for what to make for dinner. The easy choice is to stop by a restaurant or fast food joint which is a waste of money and leads to poor food choices. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to cook at home which will be better for my health and my budget.
I’ve done my research and set up a healthy and money-saving system. The first step is to set a budget and then plan my meals for two weeks at a time.
I created a health and fitness planner to help with this. Here’s the link from a previous post Make Your Own Health & Fitness Planner. I plan my meals, grocery lists, and track my workouts. I customized the planner to fit my needs and it was easy to do.
*I don’t plan what I’m going to eat each day because that’s too restrictive for me. I select my meals from the established menu, so I have variety in my diet.
*Before I plan, I check the refrigerator and freezer to see what I have. I begin planning my meals with any items that could expire or go bad soon such as produce. I search Pinterest, online, and my cookbooks for recipes. Since I’m limited to this menu, I want tasty meals.
*I put together a meal plan for breakfast, lunch, dinners, and snacks. Then I buy all the ingredients I’ll need, sticking to the menu and my budget. Another trip to the store might be needed during the second week to pick up fresh produce.
*The game plan is to precook at least three meals every weekend. Nothing too complicated. The key is not to feel overwhelmed and trapped in the kitchen all weekend.
*Keep in mind, I still cook quick easy meals during the week, but I want to have three dishes already prepped and ready to use for lunch or dinner. If you have a busy weekend, you can prep the ingredients for the meals so they’re easy to put together during the week. For example, if you’re making spaghetti, brown the meat and veggies ahead of time. When you’re ready to make the meal, boil the spaghetti and put the meat and veggies in a pot with spaghetti sauce and you’re done.
This week’s prepped meals are: red & black bean chili, Italian chicken thighs with brown rice, and cabbage & potatoes with sweet turkey sausage.
Red & Black Bean Chili
Lean ground turkey
1 can of red kidney beans
1 can of black beans
3 chopped garlic cloves
Onion, green pepper, and fresh mushrooms
1 can of stewed tomatoes
Half a small can of tomato sauce
Chili mix or cumin, chili powder and garlic powder
Sea salt and ground black pepper
Toppings: Tortilla chips and Colby or pepper Jack cheese
Saute onion, green pepper, and fresh mushrooms in a large pot. Remove the veggies and add the ground turkey. Once turkey has browned, add veggies back to pot with the meat. Pour in the stewed tomatoes, kidney and black beans with their juices. Add chili mix and about half of cup of vegetable broth or water. Let the pot simmer for twenty minutes. Serve with tortilla chips and shredded cheese on top.
I cooked the chili on a Saturday night for dinner, and there was plenty leftover to eat during the week. While I was in the kitchen, I prepped for the two meals that I would cook on Sunday. It works best for me to spread the cooking out over the weekend.
Italian Chicken Thighs with Brown Rice (Crockpot)
Celery, mushrooms, onion, and garlic
One package of chicken thighs or chicken breasts
Wishbone Italian dressing
Jamaican all spice (optional)
Salt & Pepper
I chopped celery, mushrooms, onion, and garlic and stored them in the refrigerator. I pulled out the slow cooker and prepped my chicken thighs by removing the skin, seasoning with salt, pepper, and Italian dressing, preferably Wishbone. *Season to your taste.
I added a bay leaf, Jamaican all spice, and garlic powder to the meat and let the chicken marinate overnight in the refrigerator. The next day, I added the prepped veggies, some broth, and a cup of Italian dressing to the marinated chicken. Let it slow cook on low for four to five hours.
Once it was done, the chicken thighs were so tender that they fell off the bone. I served it over a bed of brown rice. Deelish.
Cabbage, Potatoes & Sweet Turkey Sausage
Cabbage, green pepper, onion, garlic, Yukon potatoes, and sweet turkey sausage links.
Steam cabbage and quartered potatoes in water, vegetable broth, salt, pepper, basil, oregano, and garlic powder. If you want the veggies firm don’t cover them with water just add enough to steam them. I did this for the first time and loved it.
Saute green pepper sliced in strips, onion, and garlic in olive oil and remove from the pan once their done.
Brown the sweet turkey sausage links. These babies were so good.
Once cabbage and potatoes are steamed, add a little red wine vinegar and a teaspoon of butter. Take the time to make sure the cabbage is seasoned well and then add the sautéed vegetables.
*Sidenote: I like my food to have texture so that’s why I cooked the veggies separate from the cabbage. You can certainly put them all in a pot and steam them together.
You could cut the sausage into bite-size pieces and add it to the cabbage and potatoes or you could have the sausage on the side. I chose not to add the sausage to the cabbage so that I could eat them with other dishes during the week.
This meals worked perfectly for me, and I had leftovers spilling over into week two. I’ll share those dishes with you soon.