Simple Last Minute Lentil Chili

Raise your hand if you’re busy this week. (Unless, of course, your hands are in the middle of de-boning a turkey. You can just give me a nod.)

Our oldest son is home from college right now, so we are a family of six again. So what if he’s been “away,” living in his college dorm only 8 blocks from home? We don’t see him much and we miss him. Having him home for longer than five minutes has been a joy.

I would say that we’re taking life easy while we prepare for Thanksgiving, but would you believe our son #2 has two huge projects due for his online college history class on Thanksgiving day? What? And yes, he would have had them done ahead of time except that it wasn’t possible because of all the other projects he had due before these.

I’m telling you, these online classes my kids take are threatening to kill us all with a long slow death. (The on-campus classes are much more managable.) Well, anyway.

We’re hosting Thanksgiving this year for 15-20 people from town. Then we’ll head to Kansas to celebrate “Thanksmas” with my side of the family. I baked the turkeys over the weekend. The green bean casserole is in the freezer. Slowly but surely I’m pulling the meal together so that come Thursday, I can actually enjoy the day instead of cooking and cleaning for hours!

In the meantime, the six of us still need to eat regular meals. (They didn’t like the idea of fasting in preparation for Thanksgiving. Whatever.)

Meals like this Simple Last Minute Lentil Chili are amazing for weeks like this! Thaw no meat. Soak no beans. Just go to the stove and put this soup together.

Truth: I didn’t think I would like chili that didn’t have meat in it.

I am such a meat loving girl! We are a meat loving family.

But in fact: My family didn’t even notice this didn’t have meat in it until I told them an hour after they ate it. “Really?” they said, “It tasted like it did!”



Simple Last Minute Lentil ChiliYum

Simple Lentil Chili
Serves: 4-6
  • 3 Tablespoons minced onion
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried red pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 tsp. chili powder
  • 16 ounces dry lentils
  • 32 ounces tomato sauce
  • 32 ounces vegetable or chicken broth*
  • sea salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a large pot, heat and stir olive oil with minced onion, garlic, and red pepper.
  2. Add chili powder, lentils, tomato sauce, and broth.
  3. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Bring mixture to a boil, then turn heat down to simmer for about 30 minutes or until lentils are tender.
  5. Serve with cheese and/or sour cream if desired.


Let this chili recipe save you some evening this week while you’re busy preparing to host or travel!

More Simple Recipes

Don’t do all the work yourself! Let Simple Meals save your family time!


Do you have big plans for Thanksgiving?

5 {Easy!} Real Food Dinners for About $1.00 Each

Remember our $1.00 Real Food Breakfast ideas? I promised then that I would share some lunches and dinners too.

Undoubtedly, lunches and dinners are trickier than breakfasts if you want to eat on the cheap. And just to be clear – I’m not into cheap. I’m into nourishing. But it’s always great when cheap and nourishing collide, don’t you think? (I actually prefer the word inexpensive. Cheap sounds so…cheap.)

As I stated in my $1.00 Breakfast post, the following dinner servings are my size, not my teenage boys’ size. They usually eat what I eat multiplied times four or five. Technically, these dinners still cost about $1.00 per plate. It’s just that my kids eat 3-5 plates. Each. But who’s counting?

Ooh, good news not entirely related to food but about the cost of teenage boys! We just learned how to lower our 18-year old son’s car insurance bill. So now we shall proceed with allowing our 15-year old son to pursue his license. Hey, it was “you can either eat or you can drive, which do you want?” I’m kidding. Mostly.

5 Real Food Dinner Plates for About $1.00

5 Real Food Dinners for $1.00Yum

Each of the following meals can be made for approximately $1.00 per plate. They are all made with real food ingredients. They are all served with 2-4 fruits or veggies (which ups the bill, but it’s worth it by a million).

1. Chili or Chili Mac

The trick to this one is to go easy on the hamburger meat. Let the beans offer the protein. Stretch it with a little whole grain pasta. And if you happen to have home-grown, home-canned tomato sauce all the better on the money savings.


2. Chicken Pot Pie

The best thing about this recipe is that it is a one-pot meal. It comes with veggies baked right in. Serve a salad on the side. Maybe a fruit. It is so good.


P.S. I just figured out a Hamburger Pot Pie recipe that I’ll be sharing tomorrow!

3. Pasta Alfredo

This is so delicious and tastes even better than a restaurant version (which you get for about twelve bucks a plate). Serve this with salad and steamed veggies. Adding some chicken will add to the cost, but it sure does taste delicious. If you have a little leftover chicken, stir it in, and you’ll still be keeping this low in cost.


4. Creamy Chicken and Rice Casserole

This casserole is super nourishing because you’re cooking your rice in veggie-rich broth. Plus there are carrots in the casserole. Plus you can serve a salad on the side. Plus you can make extra and freeze it for another time. So convenient!


5. Garden Veggie Chicken Skillet

I love this recipe because you can use whatever veggies are on sale or that you have on hand. The potatoes help stretch this dish. Everything is flavorful.

Garden Veggie Chicken Skillet 2

I’ve got more $1.00 Breakfasts coming soon (here’s the first one I posted). Plus I’m working on some $1.00 Lunch ideas too!

I love all this proof that healthy eating doesn’t have to be expensive. :)

Easy Ham and Egg Breakfast Bowls – a Quick and Filling Breakfast To-Go!

Oh man (lady – whatever).  You are going to love this idea!  Unless you don’t like eggs.  But for those of you who love eggs, and for everyone who wants an easy, real food meal that will pack a punch with nutrition and keep you full until the next meal…

Please allow me to introduce you to these delightful little Ham and Egg Breakfast Bowls:

ham and egg cups1

See that?  The ham is the bowl.  Isn’t that clever?  I didn’t think of this myself, but was enlightened by my friend who was excited to tell me about her fun breakfast of the day.  She knew I’d need to know about this idea.  She knows me (and my hungry crew) well, don’t you think?

Everyone get out your muffin tins and get ready to have some fun.

How to make Ham and Egg Breakfast BowlsYum

You will need:

Muffin Tins
Thin Slices of Ham
Shredded Cheese
Sea Salt
Garnish like Fresh Spinach, Green Chilies, Mushrooms, Peppers, Onion, Broccoli, or Salsa

Push a piece of thinly sliced ham down into each muffin cup.

ham and egg bowls 4

Crack an egg into each “ham bowl.”  Poke each egg yolk with a fork and carefully scrambled it around inside the bowl.  Sprinkle with salt, top with cheese, and garnish however you like.  Bake in a 350° oven  for 10-20 minutes or until the eggs are cooked through.

You can make these ahead of time, then rewarm them for a quick, ready-made breakfast or lunch!  (That’s my favorite part, of course.)

You can also scrambled up your eggs in a dish, and then scoop some out into each ham bowl if you prefer.  My kids like the texture of these better if I do it that way.

Easy Ham and Egg Breakfast Bowls - a Quick and Filling Breakfast To-Go!
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
  • Muffin Tins
  • Thin Slices of Ham
  • Eggs
  • Shredded Cheese
  • Sea Salt
  • Garnish like Fresh Spinach, Green Chilies, Mushrooms, Peppers, Onion, Broccoli, or Salsa
  1. Push a piece of thinly sliced ham down into each muffin cup.
  2. Crack an egg into each "ham bowl."
  3. Poke each egg yolk with a fork and carefully scrambled it around inside the bowl.
  4. Sprinkle with salt, top with cheese, and garnish however you like.
  5. Bake in a 350° oven for 10-20 minutes or until the eggs are cooked through.


Easy Ham and Egg Breakfast Bowls

Is this idea genius, or what?  You must try this! :)

10 Easy Real Food Meals for Less Than $1 Per Plate

You’re excited to hit the restart button this fall. You’re making healthy changes in your kitchen and you’re likely finding the sticker shock to be a bit painful. (By the way, what is up with the price of butter lately?)

I feel ya. Healthy food costs more than processed “food.”  That’s because real food is…real. It’s whole and it’s good, and it is the result of hard work and careful practices. (Go farmers!)  Chemicals and fillers in processed foods are cheap to make in factories. You get what you pay for. But ugh, must feeding our families eat up (literally) so much of the pay check?

Always remember that the food you buy is an investment in good health.  It helps to keep this in mind when you’re tempted to save money by filling your cart with cheap processed foods that won’t nourish.

Be encouraged! There are so many great meals you can make that are real, completely nourishing, and still very inexpensive. Phew! You’re not going to go broke. You just have to learn a few tricks to making this work.

I’m here to help. I am feeding teenage boys, after all. I really would go broke if I didn’t work to keep our real food costs down. After all, some of the darling children can eat half a casserole each. (And you wonder why I have so much Pyrex.)

Here are ten real food meals that cost less than $1.00 per person. Not only are they super inexpensive, these are some of our favorite meals. Score!!!

10 Easy Real Food Meals for Less Than $1 Per Plate

Sure, several of my boys eat 3-4 plates full of these meals. But that’s still only $3-$4 for each of them. I’ll take it.

10 Easy Real Food Meals for Less Than $1 Per Plate

What are your favorite, inexpensive real food meals? Share your best tips for saving money while eating real food!

7-Minute Strawberry Ice Cream ~ Dairy Free Option

Healthy food always takes a long time to make, right?  Not at my house.  Healthy food always tastes like “health food,” right? Oh, for real.  Healthy food always costs a lot of money, right?  Not if I can help it. 

Most of the guests I feed at my house don’t even suspect that I’m serving them healthy food. In fact, I fed this simple Strawberry Ice Cream to someone last week, and all he knew was that I was handing him a dish full of homemade ice cream. All he knew was that it tasted delicious, he loved it, and he asked for seconds. He was impressed that I had “taken the time” to actually make homemade ice cream. He had no idea it was made in 7 little minutes. He had no idea the dessert didn’t have any added sugar (I used stevia). He had no idea the health benefits of what he was eating. He just thought he was eating really good ice cream. Boom.  Score one for healthy food that doesn’t appear to be health food.

Yes, from start to finish, this ice cream just takes about seven minutes to make. No ice cream freezer necessary – all you need is a strong blender or food processor.  By the way – those seven minutes it takes to make this treat? Well, it’s not like it takes 7 minutes of work on my part. I just put the ingredients into the food processor and walk away. God bless the person who invented food processors so that I can check email while I’m making ice cream.

7-Minute Strawberry Ice CreamYum

4 cups (give or take) frozen strawberries
1 can (13.5 ounces) chilled coconut milk or 1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
10 drops liquid stevia or 1 Tablespoon real maple syrup or 1 Tablespoon honey

Blend all ingredients together in a food processor or blender until smooth and creamy. Serve right away. Makes 4-8 servings.

7-Minute Dairy Free Strawberry Ice Cream

Have you tried the Cool Pineapple Cream Dessert recipe yet? This is pretty much the same recipe, except for the obvious switch from pineapple to strawberries. I found that when using pineapple, I didn’t need to add anything else to sweeten the treat. Strawberries are a little more tart, so adding a tiny bit of stevia made this perfect.

Next I plan to make this treat using frozen peaches. Then maybe frozen blueberries. Then frozen raspberries.

Health food? You can keep your rice cakes. I’m having ice cream.

What’s your favorite “healthy food” to serve that doesn’t appear to be health food?

Pasta Salad Bar – Easy, Inexpensive, Nutritious, and Cool

pasta salad bar 3

Here you will find one of the coolest (literally) meal ideas for summer. Here you will see a great way to feed your whole family – even the picky ones. Here you will experience deliciousness that isn’t expensive, offers lots of nourishment, and is super easy to put together. Yes, here is a great idea given to me by several readers last summer that I finally tried last week. Again, I must ask:  Why did I wait so long to try this?

Welcome to our lives, oh lovely Pasta Salad Bar. We’re sorry we never met before now. You’ll be a regular visitor at our house this summer. We will load our bowls full of your goodness, based on what sounds good to each of us at that moment.  You are deliciously fun.

Pasta Salad Bar

How do you put together a Pasta Salad Bar? Simple. Just set out everything you have on hand that might taste good in a pasta salad. This is a great way to eat up leftovers or odds and ends from your fridge. Here are some Pasta Salad Bar food suggestions:

  • Cooked and cooled whole wheat or brown rice pasta – any shape
  • Chopped sweet peppers
  • Chopped carrots
  • Chopped tomatoes
  • Cooked chicken, tuna, steak, roast beef, or other meat that sounds good
  • Chickpeas or other cooked beans
  • Corn
  • Olives
  • Shredded cheese
  • Favorite salad dressings – we prefer homemade Italian Salad Dressing and Ranch Salad Dressing

Once your food items are set out, simply let everyone fill their bowls with whatever they like. Stir in favorite salad dressings to make a creamy pasta salad, a tangy pasta salad – or a mixture of both! (Yep, I like both Italian and Ranch in my pasta salad.)

This meal is extremely filling and hearty. Oh, and a side of fresh pineapple or chilled watermelon goes great with this.

Ever done something like this before? What other ingredients do you think you would add to this Pasta Salad Bar?

Quick and Easy Crepes (and 8-Piece Pyrex Bowl Set With Lids Only $13.49!!)

Welcome to a typical crepe conversation with my children:

Boy: What’s for breakfast?
Mom: Crepes.
Boy:  Is that it?
Mom:  Isn’t that enough?
Boy:  I’m gonna still be hungry.
Mom:  What’s new?
Boy:  Can’t we have something else too? I just don’t get full on grapes.

Every time.  You’d think I’d recognize the difficulty by now in hearing the difference between the words grape and crepe, but they rhyme and confuse the children. Then they confuse the mother. And then the entire conversation is confusing.

Crepes.  They are very different than grapes. They are easy, filling, and very tasty. My recipe has three simple, whole food ingredients.  Crepes make a great breakfast, lunch, snack, or light dinner. We love crepes! (And grapes. But as I said before, we’re talking about crepes, not grapes. Okedokee.)

Quick and Easy Crepes

Quick and Easy CrepesYum

Quick and Easy Crepes (and 8-Piece Pyrex Bowl Set With Lids Only $13.49!!)
  • 6 eggs
  • 3 Tablespoons heavy whipping cream
  • 100% fruit jelly
  1. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs and cream until well combined.
  2. Pour about ¼ cup of mixture into a well greased, hot skillet.
  3. I find that medium/high heat works best.
  4. Cook the crepe until it begins to bubble and thicken, then flip it to cook the reverse side until lightly browned.
  5. Remove from heat.
  6. Spread a little jelly on one flat side of the crepe, roll it up, and serve.
  7. Repeat process until all crepes have been cooked.
  8. Makes about 10 small crepes.

I usually double or triple this recipe to fill my family. Yes, sometimes we actually go through 18 eggs in one sitting. And sometimes we also eat grapes. But not usually at the same time as crepes. Although I should totally do that sometime – just to throw everyone off. Hmmm….

What’s your favorite kind of crepe filling?

P.S. I shared a recipe for our favorite Cream Cheese Crepe Filling here!


Look what I just found this morning! This super useful 8-piece Pyrex Bowl Set With Lids is only $13.49. That’s an amazing price and I’m snatching it up. I posted about it last time it was on sale but it got bought out before I got mine. No guarantees on how long this price will last so grab it now! This set is super useful for prepping and storing tossed salads, cole slaw, potato salad, fresh fruits and veggies – so many great ways to use these.

pyrex bowls 2


Cheeseburger Soup – for $1 per person {31 Days of Real Food Reality ~ Day 10}

How about some Cheeseburger Soup for less than $1.00 per person?

31 Days 300

It’s a real food recipe that most everyone will love. It’s full of nourishing goodness. After all, there’s chicken broth and carrots in it, not to mention delicious beef, cheese, milk, and sour cream. It’s a full meal all on its own. Just like all of the recipes I share, this one won’t appear to anyone as “health food.”  It’s simply delicious food. Comfort food. And yep, it just so happens to be healthy.

I found that this recipe yielded six hearty servings. I did the math on it, and can declare it to be a Dollar Menu Dish. Technically, it cost me just over a dollar per person to feed this to my family. I decided, eh, it counts. :)  So what does it mean that this meal costs about a dollar per person? It means that healthy eating doesn’t have to be expensive! I love it that there are so many economical ways to feed a family well.

If you don’t mind adding a little extra expense to this soup, and you really want to make it appealing to those among you who just might be afraid of anything healthy – try adding 1/4 – 1/2 pound of chopped, cooked bacon. Then it becomes Bacon Cheeseburger Soup, and who wouldn’t want to eat that? By the way: Bacon is real food.  Hallelujah!

Cheeseburger SoupYum

Cheeseburger Soup - for $1 per person {31 Days of Real Food Reality ~ Day 10}
Serves: 6
  • ½ pound ground beef
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • ¾ cup shredded carrots
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1½ cups milk
  • 5 cups potatoes cut into chunks
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  1. In a large pot, brown hamburger meat with onions, carrots, basil, and parsley.
  2. Once thoroughly cooked, add chicken broth and potatoes.
  3. Salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium while potatoes cook, about ten minutes.
  5. Once the potatoes are tender, add milk, stirring and cooking until bubbly - about two minutes. Remove from heat.
  6. Add cheese and sour cream, stirring until melted. Serve.

Cheeseburger Soup

Looking for more meal ideas that use healthy, real food ingredients and cost less than one dollar per plate? Here’s what I’ve shared so far:

Have you found ways to keep real food eating within a reasonable budget for your family?

Easy and Delicious – Black Bean Salsa

You’ve likely seen this recipe on my site before, but I wanted to highlight it as a delicious meal that costs less than a dollar per plate!

Black Bean Salsa is easy to make and has only five healthy ingredients. It tastes so fresh, and the cilantro makes it so flavorful. I serve it with Organic Corn Chips.  The total cost for the salsa and the chips costs less than $6 and will feed my entire family. This is also a great, inexpensive snack to share with guests at a party.


You’ll find the recipe here.

Looking for more meal ideas that use healthy, real food ingredients and cost less than one dollar per plate? Here’s what I’ve shared so far:


Dark Chocolate Almond Granola Recipe {Real Food Dollar Menu}

Ever paid over $6 for a tiny box of cereal, and then witnessed that the contents in the tiny box only fed three people one small serving? As delicious and convenient as the box of Dark Chocolate Almond Granola was from Cascadian Farm – that is one pricey breakfast.

I actually got a box of this cereal with some Vitacost credit I had – just to try it. It was a huge hit in our family. That’s what made me decide that surely I could figure out a similar recipe and make my own. Besides, I like the idea of eating chocolate for breakfast. What a way to start the day. :)

The result of my experimenting turned out delicious! I did a little rough math to determine how much money I saved. These aren’t the cheapest of ingredients, but they are hearty and can stick to the ribs. I found that I cut the cost from over $2 per serving to around 75¢ per serving – even using mostly organic ingredients.

What I love best is that this is a recipe that can be made ahead of time for a quick meal or snack. (It’s a perfect recipe to work into your Getting Ahead in the Kitchen routine.)


Dark Chocolate Almond GranolaYum

Dark Chocolate Almond Granola Recipe {Real Food Dollar Menu}
  • 4 cups rolled oats
  • ¾ cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
  • 1 cup slivered almonds
  • ¾ cup honey
  • ¾ cup coconut oil
  • ½ cup dark chocolate chips or chunks
  1. In a small saucepan, melt coconut oil and honey together.
  2. Stir oats, shredded coconut, and slivered almonds together in a large bowl.
  3. Drizzle on the honey/coconut oil mixture and stir well.
  4. Pour mixture onto a large, parchment paper-lined baking sheet (or two 9x13 inch dishes).
  5. Bake at 300° for 35-45 minutes, stirring after the first 20 minutes.
  6. Allow mixture to cool.
  7. Stir in dark chocolate chunks.
  8. Store granola in an air-tight container.
  9. Makes 12-14 servings.

You may have noticed that this recipe is in the Healthy Breakfast Made Simple eBook. Haven’t downloaded that yet? Get it here for free!

Just a couple of days left in our Getting Ahead for Breakfast Challenge. How’s it going for you? Have you made some breakfast foods ahead to save you the effort in the morning?

Looking for more meals on our Real Food Dollar Menu? Here are the recipes I’ve shared so far: