Cheap Meals: Greek Inspired Chicken and Rice

Like a good kid of a mum that loves to feed people, I tell my mum what I’m eating pretty much every day. I’m just joking around really, this is a bit of a family tradition. When we were kids my dad traveled for business quite a lot but every night he would call and each of us would get a chance to talk to him and mum would always ask us questions about what we learned from him that day. We would always ask if he saw any animals while he was driving and what he ate for lunch and dinner. Now, it’s just a habit to tell my mum. (She asks too, I swear!)

Anyhow. Lately, about 80% of the time when we talk about what I’m eating, it’s this! To be honest, I got 4 pounds of ground chicken for 10$ which is about 15 meals of meat for me so that pretty much explains it, right? It’s the easiest meal to make, because I just brown my chicken up in my electric frying pan while my rice cooks, and I cool it all and put it in containers to freeze! Then when I want to eat it, I make my home made Greek yogurt dip (I’m not about to offend a Greek by calling it tatziki, it’ll be in an upcoming post), cut up a mini cucumber and wash some cherry tomatoes.

One of the nice things about this affordable meal is how healthy it is as well. Done in the proportions I used (.75 cups of cooked rice and half a cup of meat, with a quarter cup of sauce) it’s approximately 386 calories. This is just an estimation because a scale will tell you the truth on how much chicken and rice you’re really eating (if you pack the cup measure vs. loose fill).

20160317_173314

Greek Inspired Chicken

$2.88 per serving

Mini Cucumber – $0.50

10 grape tomatoes- $0.97

Chicken- $0.71

Rice- $0.21

Greek yogurt- $0.49

Pantry items: garlic, oregano, salt and pepper

Steps:

  1. Get your ground chicken into an electric frying pan. I love mine because it is big enough to do large freezer batches of meat.20160309_182042
  2. Assemble your spices. In this recipe I kept it simple with just salt, pepper and oregano for my meat.20160309_182103
  3. While my meat gets going, I put my rice on to boil. I use basmati but it’s really not important what kind you make!
  4. I like to get my ground meat nice and crispy, breaking it apart into relatively small hunks. Ground meat like this should really not be ‘juicy’ by my mind, for fear of nasty stomach bugs. If we were adding a ton of oil or something, yeah, I could see it being less dry, but we’re not, so this meat should be dry and darker than you’d think for chicken- you want nice dark brown crispy bits to give it good texture.
  5. Once your meat is cooked, assemble your containers because your rice should also be done by now and it’s time to get your meals cooling to go into the freezer. I use a 3/4 cup measure for my rice and a half cup measure for my meat.20160309_183253

Once my measured out amounts have cooled, I pop them in the fridge to get good and cold, and then the freezer to be the perfect quick and healthy meal.

20160309_184059

How to Cheer Yourself Up… On a Budget!

I find sometimes that when you get down and you’re broke… you just kind of stay down. All of the things that I usually associate with cheering up (going out for dinner with a friend, getting a pedicure, making myself a nice meal, going to a movie, taking an exercise class…) tend to cost a decent amount of money. Especially if you’re like me, where you haven’t taken a “holiday” (Europe 2009!) in years and tend to work a lot of your days off from work… having some ways to cheer yourself up on the cheap is really nice.

  1. Go for a run- I have to confess, I actually don’t like running. At. All. I do love that all I need is my running shoes and some tunes and I can rage run out whatever I’m feeling. There’s science behind this, as Elle Woods famously told us… exercising creates an endorphin response in our body that makes us happier humans. Ok, she may not have said it like that but you know what I mean. I love this trail by my parents house because it’s so beautiful, but to be honest I never made good enough use of it when I lived there. Now, I just run the neighborhood by my house.20140616_190938
  2. Go visit family, or friends- This one is my favorite! My family means a lot to me and they never fail to cheer me up. Just having some time with them, doing normal things, puts my life back in perspective. I also have some friends that cheer me up instantly, that I’ve had by my side in some cases for over a decade. Be with people who make you feel like the best you. In college, when I was sad, I would go up to the top floor of the parkade and look out over the city with friends and we would talk for hours. 20140924_185436
  3. Clean something! This seems ridiculous but cleaning makes me feel like I’ve completed something. Frustration goes away because you have that feeling of accomplishment. Next time you’re down in the dumps… clean your kitchen.
  4. Pamper yourself- this seems so simple but spend some time just loving on yourself. I love to have a good old pamper night in where I put on a face mask, a hair mask, do my nails and paint my toes and just do a little me-me-me time.
  5. Go somewhere you haven’t gone before (or just love)! I love to walk downtown by my work on my lunches if I’m having a bummer day. There’s so many coffee shops, specialty stores, beautiful views of downtown and places to see. I also love to walk 124th Street when I have more time, there are some truly awesome shops to see and great places to stop in for a quick (and affordable, I promise) coffee or drink. If you go on a Thursday evening, there’s a farmers market and usually a local restaurant called Smokehouse BBQ has someone playing music, so you can grab a pint of Alley Kat Main Squeeze and enjoy.

20150629_161237

 

What are your favorite things to do when you’re down? Are they affordable?

Entertaining – Veggie Noodle Soup

img_20160204_185837.jpg

Now that I live on my own, I love having friends over for a meal and company. Recently, I wanted to have a dinner for some girlfriends on Valentines Day, but since it was supposed to snow that day, I wanted to make sure that it was a warming and cozy meal. Also, since we live in Edmonton, I wanted to do in such a way that if a small amount of snow became impassable snow/ice/terribleness mix, that I could freeze the soup for later uses since we all live in different areas of the city and sometimes winter driving is just a no-go here. It ended up being a good idea since for varying reasons, our party of five became a party of three.

What I came up with was a slightly spicy, veggie filled soup that everyone loved.

Veggie Noodle Soup

$7.31 for a party of 5, or $1.46 per serving

Broccoli Slaw – $1.78

Mushrooms- $1.24

Brussel Sprouts- $1.80

3 Packets of Instan Ramen Noodles- $0.75

Mushroom Stock- $1.74

Pantry staples- grated ginger, garlic, chili flakes, sriracha, soy sauce, sliced celery (this is down here because I actually don’t think it added much so leave it out if you’re trying to save your veggies)

Start by trimming your brussel sprouts, cutting them in half, and tossing them into the over at 375 degrees celcius with some salt, pepper and slight drizzle of olive oil. These will need pulled out in 15-20 minutes, just make sure they’re soft.

Next, grate ginger and garlic into a large pot where you’d like to make your soup and turn on the heat. Add some chili flakes and let this get a bit toasty, then add in your broccoli slaw and mushrooms and start cooking those up.

At this point I add 1 to 1.5 of the flavoring packets from your ramen noodles. I stir it around and coat the veggies in it just as they are getting soft, then add some sriracha, then some soy sauce and really just try to infuse all of those vegetables with the yumminess. Just watch how much soy you add because those flavoring packets can be reeeallly salty, you can always add a touch later.

Then, I add an entire container of mushroom stock and 3 cups of water to make up the liquidy portion of the soup. In a separate pot I make the noodles, so that if you have extra stock you can just freeze it or save it for the next day. If you cook the noodles in there, it’s just not good.

 

To assemble, put noodles in the bowl and then ladle as much stock (and veggies!) as you like into the bowl. Top with roasted brussel sprouts and enjoy!

 

img_20160204_191244.jpg

Butternut Squash, Brussel Sprouts Hash

20160301_165459

This past Christmas my sister gifted me with some gorgeous Le Creuset bakeware that I’ll pretty much take any excuse to bust out. It’s perfect for roasting vegetables in, and I’m planning on making a queso cheese dip in the individual sized ones she got me soon. I’ve been trying to limit my extreme bread love to make room for my extreme pasta and ramen love (priorities, right?), so I’ve been trying to find accompaniments for my eggs that don’t involve toast. This was one such experiment that turned out super well.

Butternut Squash and Brussel Sprout Hash with Fried Eggs

$3.91 for 3-4 servings, $1.30 per meal

Butternut Squash- $1.47 (1/2 a squash at 2.93)

Brussel Sprouts- $1.24

Eggs-  $1.20 for 3 servings

20151220_163734

Method:

Peel and rough cube up your butternut squash, and place in a baking dish. Bake your squash at 375 degrees celcius until is is fork tender. I don’t bake this as long as I would for a sauce using butternut squash- I still want it to have a nice meaty-ness, not mushiness. I drizzled mine with olive oil and put some cracked black pepper and thyme leaves on it.20151220_163730

In another baking dish, cut your brussel sprouts in half, drizzle with olive oil and pop in the oven with your butternut squash for about 20-25 minutes depending on the size of your brussel sprouts.

While that cooks up, I have to admit that my mother taught me the secret to a great sunny-side up fried egg. It’s twofold, really: butter in the hot pan, and a drizzle of water to create steam in the pan when you’re nearing fully-cooked status (if you put a lid on, the top of your egg will solidify nicely while remaining runny because of the steam). Don’t forget to crack some black pepper on top of your eggs as well as a pinch of salt!

To assemble, it’s really easy. Put your brussel sprouts into your butternut squash pan, mix together and take a couple spoonfuls of that mixture and place it on a plate. Then, slide your perfectly cooked eggs on top and dig in!

 

Pretty delicious and nutritious for a meal that will cost you around $1.30.

My Cleaning Schedule & Money Saving Tips

image

Recently I was so bored that I told my mom that I was going to clean my baseboards.

Yes.

While this is a totally productive way to channel boredom, I truly try to clean on a schedule now that I live alone. I have a roommate/renter, but she won’t really tell me, “Hey, the vents need cleaned”. Little things that you don’t conscientiously notice end up compounding into a gross “My guests must think I’m a heathen!” moments.

When I moved into this house, my mum and I spent a lot of time talking about what cleaners were necessary and which were merely ‘nice to haves’. Have you ever noticed how ridiculously expensive cleaners are!? Thankfully, the most often used cleaner in my house is now vinegar, which is good because I’m an overzealous weirdo with sanitizing things and vinegarabottom of this post is my cleaners shopping list- you may be surprised to see how many of these are already lurking in your house!

I clean on a schedule because cleaning everything at once seems like an onerous task to me. I live in a small townhouse so it’s really not, it’s all in my head, but breaking it up into little worknight tasks lets me feel like it’s no big deal.

Sunday:

  • Vacuum house, move all easily moved furniture for better access
  • Wash towels, kitchen towels, sweatpants, PJ’s (swap out hand towels and kitchen towels)
  • Clean kitchen (this is mostly a function of me doing meal prep Sunday nights- I get my groceries, cook, and then give the kitchen a full clean- stainless steel appliances are windexed too)

Tuesday:

  • Clean the bathroom
  • Wash work clothes (usually one load of darks and one load of lights, all hung to dry)

Thursday:

  • Dust (shelves etc, but also windows and vents because I live in a new house and dust grows here)
  • Wash athletic wear & run cleansing wash (this is new, because my eczema is flipping out)
  • Tidy bedroom & desk

Bi-Weekly cleaning:

  • Bedding
  • Clean floor
  • Hand-mop entry way
  • Sanitize switches, handles, cupboard fronts and railings
  • Spot clean walls and carpet

Like I said, I use only a few types of cleaners to keep my costs down and the process simple. They are:

Bathroom:

  • Vinegar for cleaning toilets, sinks and counters
  • Windex for mirrors, glass shower doors and chrome
  • Vinegar for shower

Kitchen:

  • Vinegar for counters (if you have granite like me, make sure you dilute it and then use a wet rag of just water to cleanse it off, then dry)
  • Palmolive for dishes
  • “Scrunges” for glass cooktop
  • Windex for appliances after disinfecting with vinegar

Cleaning floors etc:

  • Vinegar dilution for hand mopping tile
  • Vinegar for spot cleaning laminate flooring, railings, handles and light covers
  • Swiffer dusters (you just can’t beat them)

Every now and again, if I’m feeling flush I’ll buy magic erasers, toilet bowl cleaner and a Pine Sol bottle. Those are great ‘nice to haves’ that keep the house looking great as well.

Make-Ahead Breakfast Sandwiches

20160104_210204

Recently I was inspired to make some make-ahead breakfast sandwiches to be able to grab a quick breakfast on the go, whether that was on my way to work or anywhere else. To be honest, I was inspired by my new deep freeze, which I can now do these kinds of things with.

Eggs are one of my favorite things in the world. Not only are they cheap, but they can be presented in so many different ways and used in so many different things. This application may not be the fanciest, but it certainly is tasty and versatile. This recipe is about 30-35 minutes to make, and about 15 minutes to cool and you have eight meals to show for it.

Make-Ahead Breakfast Sandwiches

Makes 8 for $11.72  (1.47 a serving)

Frozen Spinach -$0.68

Buns- $3.79 (I use these)

Monterey Jack slices – $2.89

Ham – $1.60

12 eggs- $2.76

hot sauce (if desired)

Method:

Step 1: Defrost your frozen spinach. If it’s in a block, you want roughly 1/4 of the block. If you’re lucky enough to have the frozen nob kind, you want 2 nobs. Start your oven on bake at 350 degrees.

20160104_193904

Step 2: Crack your eggs into a bowl (or pyrex measuring cup if you’re me), add your frozen spinach and hot sauce, and vigorously mix it all together with a fork. Don’t try a whisk, that spinach will just wrap itself into it.

 

20160104_194928

Step 3: Line a cupcake/muffin tin with liners and pour your mixture in. Pop them in the oven which should by now be preheated, and set a timer for 20 minutes.

20160104_195507 (1)

Step 4: This is where I’d recommend you do as I say, not what I did… I packaged the sandwiches up all together, but in reality I would use two baggies- one for the bun and cheese, and one for the eggs and ham. This way, there’s no moisture on the bun and while you heat up the eggs, you can toast your bun. So this step is really to put together the bun and cheese packages while the eggs bake.

20160104_200154

Step 5: When the twenty minute timer goes off, check your eggs- if they’re fully set, then pull them out. If they’re not, pop them back in for another 3-5 minutes. Once your eggs are done cooking, pull them out and once cooled pop them in baggies. You may find that your eggs are tall and not really the same size as your bun. Don’t worry! Just score an X into the top and when you smush your sandwich, it will collapse outward.

20160104_202539

20160104_205314