Real Food on a Budget?

When we are traveling, one of our favorite things to do is find local restaurants and try them out.  Although we are all very adventurous eaters, we do try to eat as healthy as possible, even while on the road.  You’ll often find us enjoying vegetarian dishes, beans & rice, salads and fresh fruit.  Not to say that we don’t tend to indulge a little more when away from home, we just try to keep what we eat as close to real food (food that isn’t heavily processed, has simple, whole food ingredients, and isn’t high in sugar) as possible.

Because we aren’t as strict when traveling, when we are at home, it’s super important for me to create meals that are as healthy as possible.  That way I can ensure we are following my 80/20 rule of 80% healthy eating and 20% not quite as healthy.  I do love to cook, but with a full-time job, kids in two different schools, and year-round sports it can be challenging to get a real food meal on the table.

One of my favorite tricks is to find cookbooks I love that have pages full of delicious real food recipes.  Then I’ll plan the weekly menu using just that one cookbook – it’s fun for me, easy as I’m not looking up recipes all over the place, and if I like the author, I find I’m happy with the meals.

Lisa Leake’s cookbooks are some of my favorites.  I’ve been using 100 Days of Real Food: Fast & Fabulous: The Easy and Delicious Way to Cut Out Processed Food and 100 Days of Real Food: How We Did It, What We Learned, and 100 Easy, Wholesome Recipes Your Family Will Love for a while now and so when I found out there would be a new cookbook from her called 100 Days of Real Food on a Budget, I couldn’t wait to get it!

100 Days of Real Food: On a Budget: Simple Tips and Tasty Recipes to Help You Cut Out Processed Food Without Breaking the Bank was recently released today and is available everywhere you’d normally purchase books – Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, etc.

I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to test out this cookbook before it’s release and it is fantastic!  In addition to terrific recipes (more on that below), there is a ton of information in the book on how to cut your budget while still consuming real foods.  There is a whole section with ways to lower your grocery bill – some great tips in there!  She also includes an example of a one-week meal plan for each season with a shopping list and pricing included.  Each of the four meal plans comes to less than $115/wk for a family of four.

One thing that I found unique is that each recipe has a cost breakdown attached to it with a total recipe cost as well as a cost per serving.  Lisa prices her recipes a bit more logically than most cookbook authors.  An example – instead of giving you the price of 3 T of sour cream (because who can buy just 3 T?) she gives the average price for an entire container.  Then, at the end of the cost breakdown is a list of leftover ingredients – great for meal planning in that you could incorporate those ingredients in another recipe for the week.

I also love that this cookbook showcases which recipes are (or could be with a few substitutions) nut-free; freezer-friendly; gluten-free; vegetarian and/or dairy-free.

Now, on to my recipe testing …

I decided that I would try a variety of recipes for this review, so I used it first with my weekly Sunday prep time.  I spent about an hour and made the following:  Lemon-Poppyseed muffins; Dill Pickle Dip (fabulous with carrots) and Oatmeal Cookie Energy Bites.  All the recipes were simple and delicious.  Plus we are set for a few breakfasts and afterschool snacks this week.  Love meal prep time.

I also wanted to try a main dish, so for dinner last night we enjoyed the Rainbow Salad with Salmon.  Mine cost even less than Lisa’s price since salmon was on sale at the grocery.  Score! Everyone in the family loved it as a new way to enjoy salmon.

There is a section in the cookbook with slow cooker recipes, and since Thursday is our busy night, I’ll be trying those out the next few weeks.  It’s so nice to have dinner ready to go on the days we are running from practice to practice!

Do yourself and your family a favor and order a copy of this cookbook for yourself.


*This post may contain affiliate links.  I was given a copy of 100 Days of Real Food on a Budget to test out the recipes, but the opinions in this post are all my own.*

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  1. I like the idea of the cost of the actual ingredients and then suggestions for other recipes in which you coukd use the leftovers. That is a smart cookbook.

  2. I love the idea of a cost breakdown in the cookbook. I’ve also found meal prepping to be the best way to ensure my family gets healthy affordable daily meals.

  3. I’ve been looking for a new cookbook and I love the idea of this one with the cost breakdown and even simple substitutions. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Pam
    Great post. My life revolves around the 80/20 rule. Last year I lost 30 pounds in 5 months following that. I pretty much stick to it all the time now and it really has made a difference in not only my weight, but health in general. And I still get to eat “bad” food once in a while!

    1. Good for you Nikki! I really don’t believe in all or nothing – you are much more likely to fail. That being said, limiting the “not quite as healthy” foods just makes sense.

    1. It’s so much simpler. I used to make my meal plan using a variety of books and it was a real pain. One book is simpler and I just rotate between my favorites!

  5. Pricing on meal prep items is so important – so often in recipes you end up having to buy a ton of an obscure ingredient that you never use again. This seems like an amazing resource for meal prep. And those energy bites look delicious!!

    1. Exactly – and since the recipes are all whole foods, the ingredients are simple and easy to find. The energy bites were tasty. I actually made half the batch with raisins and cinnamon per the recipe and then did half with chocolate chips for my non-raisin eaters. Both were delicious!

  6. We like to indulge on vacation, then eat healthy when at home, too! I love the idea of this cookbook and will be checking it out further. Thanks for the recommendation!

  7. I love finding new cookbooks! I haven’t read any of these yet. Having a cookbook that takes into account a food budget is very helpful.

  8. We eat clean and I cook most of the time. One technique I’ve learned is to plan the week’s meals around a core theme. So if I’m purchasing or making cashew cream (we don’t do most dairy) for a recipe, I try to incorporate the leftover cream into the next week’s worth of meals so I can justify purchasing a more higher ticket ingredient.

    1. Tina, such a good idea! I try to do something similar by starting out with what I have on hand and building the menu around that.

  9. I love the idea of the book having pricing info as well! I am always both health and financial health conscious.

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