I don’t have anything too exciting or interesting to share with you all this week, but… it was the first weekend of actual warm sunshine (and I mean shorts and a tshirt kind of warm!) so we got to eat our dinner out on the balcony. Finally. I’ve been suffering a mad case of cabin fever recently. Every morning that I wake up and have to don my winter coat (again) I little part of me dies. I kid of course, sort of. After six months of crappy cold all you want is to walk outside in a tshirt and feel the warmth of the sun. We’re hoping now that another cold snap doesn’t hit, as if to say; “ha! just kidding!”. Let’s hope.
I’ve been putting a lot more effort into meal planning and grocery buying over the past few weeks, to see if I can’t make even healthier meals and spend even less money in the process. And alas! It’s possible! I’ve managed to reduce my grocery spending by between 30% to 50% depending on the week. What is the key, you ask? Know your fridge and cupboard contents. That is rule number one. My cupboards were recently gutted, meaning I’ve swapped bags and boxes for shelving lined with mason jars. SEE EVERYTHING. Know what’s in your crisper so you don’t needlessly waste produce, and organize everything (and I mean everything) in your cupboards into clear containers so you can see exactly what you have. Not only is it much easier to get inspiration for a meal when you can see what’s available – but you’ll also be sure not to purchase any items you already have. This was one of the biggest time and money wasters I’ve found for us: the produce we forgot we already had sitting in the bottom of the crisper, and the random dry goods items we’d pick up on the way home because we really weren’t sure if we had any. Planning our meals around what we already have rather than what you ‘feel like making tonight’ will really change the way you spend, and the amount of time you spend wandering aimlessly in the store deciding what to make.
Buy dry goods and spices in bulk, purchase meats (if you’re into that) when they’re on sale and then portion and freeze, and plan your meals around what veggies you already have.
Tonight’s dinner is a vegetarian brown rice bowl with roasted sweet potato, shredded red cabbage, spiced chickpeas, and greens, topped off with homemade guacamole and lime-harissa yogurt.
What are your favorite healthy and budget conscious meals?
Vegetarian Brown Rice Bowl with Spicy Chickpeas
1 cup short grain brown rice
1 can chickpeas
2 large cloves garlic
2 handfuls shredded red cabbage
2 handfuls greens (I used gai lan, my favourite)
1 large sweet potato, diced
to taste: harissa, cumin, sesame seeds, oregano, salt, pepper, chili flakes
1/4 to 2/3 cup yogurt
to taste: olive oil
-Begin by cooking the brown rice, because this variety takes far longer to cook than your average long grain white rice. Leave yourself one hour to get the rice cooked and properly cooled/rested. I cooked mine earlier in the day, but you can also cool several portions and keep in the fridge for the week.
-Place the 1 cup of brown rice in a medium saucepot and add 1 + 1/2 cup of water. Bring to a boil, stir well with a fork, and then cover and cook over the lowest heat setting on your stovetop for about 45-50 minutes. Remove from the heat but keep covered, and allow to rest another 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork and set aside.
-A few minutes before the rice is ready preheat your oven to 500 F, toss the diced sweet potatoes in some olive oil with salt and pepper and a little harissa, and toss in the oven until tender. I like to turn my oven to broil for the last few minutes to get a little char.
-Steam or saute your greens lightly until just cooked, season with salt, pepper, and a little squeeze of lime juice.
-Place a little olive oil in another saute pan and heat over medium-high heat, mince the garlic and toss into the pan until fragrant. Add the chickpeas to the hot oil and garlic, and season with salt, pepper, harissa, cumin, oregano, and some additional chili flakes (or really just whatever spices you love most) and saute until hot all the way through and a little charred.
-Check the sweet potatoes in the oven and if they’re ready pull them out to cool off.
-Smash up the avocado in a bowl with a fork until smooth but with a few little chunks, and add a little olive oil and lime juice.
-Shake together in a sealed jar or container the yogurt, another squeeze or two of lime, some olive oil (I used some homemade chili oil), and some more salt and harissa.
-When all the components are ready: scoop a full handful of each into a large bowl, place a big spoonful of guacamole in the center, and drizzle the yogurt dressing over all.