Classy Frugality

Making the most of life while living on a budget

Category: Recommendations

My Five Favourite Meat Substitutes

We all know meat is expensive.

Yet somehow, most of us just keep buying it and complaining about it. I know I do sometimes.

Today’s blog is about hope. About doing something about the thing we complain about. Here is the solution: do something different. Don’t just keep buying something you hate paying for. Make a change!

Fred and I have been on a tight grocery budget for years as we have been paying down our enormous pile of debt. We only spend $60 a week on food. That means we need to be creative with our protein, especially here in the Great White North where things are more expensive!

We try to do at least one meatless meal per week to cut down on grocery costs. We don’t really like tofu, so we’ve learned to use some things that are a bit tastier for us but still pack a protein kick. Here are some of our favourite meat substitutes so we still have enough protein in our diet to get out of bed in the morning.

Cheese

Photo 2016-04-11, 5 08 40 PM[We aren’t fancy cheese people. Judge our No Name marble cheese all you want, but we like it.]

It seems simple, but cheese is a great protein source, and so good! You can use it to make your own healthier version of Kraft Dinner (Mac and Cheese) or put a pile of it on a baked potato. We also like to put cheese in potato soup, cream cheese in certain chili recipes, and sometimes just eat cheese and crackers. It’s fantastic.

Lentils

Photo 2016-04-11, 5 07 52 PMLentils seem kind of weird, like something hippies would eat. They probably do…they know how to get protein on a budget! Lentils are a great source of protein (25g per 1/2 cup – that is three times more than a cup of whole milk!), and they don’t have much flavour, which means they pick up on the flavour of things around them. The easiest way to get lentils in your diet is in soup or stew – make a big pot of lentil veggie soup and cook up some biscuits to go alongside – cheap and hearty!

Chickpeas

Photo 2016-04-11, 5 10 55 PMI devoted an entire blog to chickpeas where I teach you how I buy chickpeas in a giant bag (for $5), cook them in batches in my crockpot, and use them all the time. Each cup of chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans) packs 12g of protein. Our favourite ways to use chickpeas are instead of chicken in stir-fry, and to replace some meat in our crockpot chili recipes. You can barely taste them, and they keep you full for hours!

Beans  

Photo 2016-04-11, 5 09 15 PMSimilar to chickpeas, I also buy bags of uncooked beans, cook them in the crockpot, and keep them in freezer for when I need them (this picture is a jar of frozen black beans). Beans have endless possibilities – you can use them on salads, in quesadillas, in chili recipes, or to make a tasty dip for chips or tortillas. If you want to get really creative and unconventional, I’ve heard good reviews of using black beans to make gluten-free brownies or to make your own burger patties. Choose your level of comfort with this magical fruit.

Eggplant

Photo 2016-04-11, 5 10 20 PMThis isn’t my go-to meat substitute, but one I have used before. I bought the eggplant in this picture for $1 and used it in a batch of spaghetti sauce instead of beef. Eggplant has the feeling of being more substantial, and like lentils and chickpeas, soaks up the flavour of whatever is around it. Easiest way to incorporate eggplant in your meal plan is Italian food – spaghetti, lasagna, and other pasta dishes.

These are a just a few of my simple suggestions for meat substitutes. I’d love to hear from you – you’re welcome to leave a comment below to share your own meatless ideas!

The One Cookbook You Need to Have

Photo 2014-07-30, 4 16 35 PMToday I’m going to recommend the one book that you NEED to have in your kitchen.

I have quite a few cookbooks, some that I use more than others, but this one surpasses them all in my mind.

My mom got me this cookbook shortly after I graduated from university and needed to start paying back my student loans. She knew I needed to learn how to cook good food on a budget. I’ve been in love with this cookbook ever since! 

This cookbook is called Healthy Meals for Less: Great-Tasting Simple Recipes Under $1 a Serving. It has tons of amazing recipes in it, and the thing I love most about it is that the ingredients are things that I actually keep in my cabinet.

I wish that I could buy you all a copy and send it to you, but alas, I cannot. So what I am going to do is recommend that you pick yourself up a copy. On Amazon, the Kindle version is just $8, and the cheapest used copy is only $4. Talk about a bargain!

I seriously use this cookbook all the time. Here are some of my favourite recipes:

  • Honey chicken (crockpot meal – I add sweet potatoes to the chicken and honey sauce – yum!)
  • Oven-roasted vegetables (the most tasty way to spice up carrots, potatoes and peppers)
  • Hot chocolate mix (that’s right – just 3 ingredients to make your own – saves a bundle on this tasty drink!)
  • Sweet potato soup (tasty, healthy, and inexpensive)
  • Biscuit mix (so helpful to have on hand to throw together for a complete meal)

This cookbook gives nutritional information along with average price to make the item. (It does use U.S. pricing, so it’s a bit different for those of us who live in the Great White North, but still a helpful pricing guide.) This helps me see the health and dollar benefits of each recipe. In addition, all of the recipes are very simple to make.

So if you get a chance or have a few dollars in your budget to get a copy, please do! You won’t be sorry.

Now it’s your turn! What cookbooks/kitchen books have changed your cooking style?

*Disclaimer: This post contains an Amazon Affiliate link. That means that if you use this link to buy this book through this link, I’ll get a little something to support the blog and our journey to becoming debt-free. No pressure to use it,  I just wanted to warn you! I was not compensated in any way to discuss this product.* 

Keep it Simple(Tax)

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This month, I was begging my husband to do our taxes because for the last few years, we’ve gotten significant returns due to our carry forward credits from our large private university tuition payments. Last year, we discovered a great tool for doing our taxes and I want to share it with you today!

SimpleTax is a Canadian tax program (sorry, American friends and family) that is honestly so fast and easy! After using the paper forms for years, this was so refreshing and simple.

When you sign up with SimpleTax (click here to get started), you create an account that saves your information, so when you use it multiple years in a row, it remembers your information and helps make the subsequent years of filing taxes even easier!

Here are my favourite aspects of this software:

1. It’s free (love this!)

2. It creates a profile that remembers information for future filings

3. It calculates your return on the side as you’re filling out your information, so it keeps you motivated

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4. It allows you to fill out direct deposit information so your return gets deposited right into your account instead of waiting weeks to get a cheque back

5. It’s funny – there are little jokes throughout the instructions, which is great

6. It’s honestly so simple – it took us about 30 minutes to do our taxes

So, for those of you who are Canadian and need a way to do your taxes – I recommend SimpleTax!

Happy filing!

Do any of you have other tax programs you have discovered? Share your findings with me by leaving a comment below!

*This company did not compensate or pay me in any way – I’m just recommending a product that I use and believe in*

Also, feel free to connect with me on Twitter! (@classyfrugality

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