How to Make Seriously Good Food with Limited Time and Money

By Vince Del Monte, WBFF Pro Fitness Model, Certified Fitness Trainer and Nutritionist and author of No Nonsense Muscle Building.

Skinny Guy Savior Vince Del Monte explains how you can eat very well – even organic meats – on a tight budget and a tight schedule.

When my baby daughter was born last year, my nutrition and overall health went into a serious decline. Because my wife and I were running successful businesses and taking care of a newborn, we found ourselves eating out much more often than usual or just slapping anything together at home. I quickly became fatigued, my hormone levels went nuts and I felt horrible.

I knew I needed to act quickly if I didn’t want to find myself in a state that would take months to recover from. One of the solutions I came up with was taking private cooking classes with one of my favorite professional chefs, Amy Stoddard from www.SaySheAte.com.

It was life-changing. I learned how to cook real, whole, fresh foods of high quality. I learned how to cook in bulk and can now spend an hour or less a day preparing all three meals for the day. I can spend a few hours on a weekend and have incredible meals for a week or more.

 

This accomplished a few really important things. I learned how to:

  • Stretch the more expensive ingredients like organic, grass-fed meats so that they are truly affordable, even on a really limited budget.
  • Create meals that taste amazing and are incredibly nutrient-dense in as little as 15 minutes.
  • Prepare several meals at once, combining prepping and cooking time so I had as much as a week’s worth of food in the time it usually took to cook one meal.
  • Make food that tasted better than most restaurant food, was much more nutritious and cost less.

The Impact of What I Learned Was Incredible

Once I learned how to cook, and to do it with maximum efficiency, I started feeling fantastic. I slept better and awoke well-rested, got much less stressed, had tons of energy, was never hungry, didn’t have to struggle with cravings, experienced faster recovery times and saved a ton of money in the meantime. I was also able to bulk up to my most muscular physique, 230 lbs on the nail.

This had such a profound impact on how I felt, ate and lived that I asked Amy if we could film the “how to” cooking lessons and turn them into the main features for Season 5 of Live Large TV so we could share everything she’d taught me with my viewers, while saving you the $3,000 I invested into working with Chef Amy.

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One of the most asked-about topics on my blog, website and YouTube channel is how to eat a healthy diet when the schedule is tight and money even tighter. The second most asked-about topic is how to prepare your food in bulk and Chef Amy showed me how to prepare 30-minute, 15-minute and 5-minute breakfasts, lunches and dinners.  Apparently it’s a hot topic on Bodybuilding.com, too, because I was asked to share some of my best tips on this subject here.

The guys I coach and my regular readers know that I place a huge importance on eating organic as much as possible, especially organic, grass-fed, pasture-raised meats and poultry. The health benefits (over commercially raised meats) are so significant that I stress this a great deal on my blog and in my nutritional coaching. But one thing I hear a lot is that this type of meat is too expensive for guys on a tight budget. That can be true, but there are ways to find more money for quality groceries and ways to maximize every dollar you spend on these foods so that you can afford to feed your body the best possible food, even on a really limited grocery budget.

Finding Money for Eating Well

One of the first things you need to do if you don’t think you can afford high-quality meats is to evaluate your budget. Start with your grocery budget. If you’re still buying processed foods, stop it. Frozen “healthy” meals, prepared fish and chicken and anything else that’s premade needs to go. The packaged snacks, bars and wraps need to go. That alone could free up enough money to pay for a week’s worth of grass-fed meats and organic vegetables. I promise you that you can cook those meals yourself for a fraction of the cost, with much more nutrient content and without a lot of the added garbage you don’t need.

If your grocery budget is already pared to the bone and you’re not wasting any of it on processed foods, then look at the rest of your budget. Are you prioritizing your money according to your health goals? Maximum health and fitness requires some investment. If you’re spending $50 a week on lattes or $100 a week on entertainment, you need to consider your priorities. How much are your bodybuilding and fat loss goals really worth to you? You can take half of the money you’re spending on these things and buy a great deal of wholesome food.

Making the Most of Your Time and Money

The key to making healthy home cooking both affordable and feasible is to make it as efficient as possible. By this I mean making the most of your time in the kitchen and making the most of every single ingredient. You can do both at the same time, and you’d be amazed at how much you can eat, how well you can eat and for how little time and money.

I’m going to share with you some of my best tips for saving time and money and then give you my favorite trick as an example of how you can eat incredibly well for very little.

Some of my best tips for saving time and money in the kitchen:

  • Never buy parts.

A package of four chicken breasts can cost as much as $10-11 and you might get two to four servings out of it. Unfortunately, they’ll probably all be some variation of grilled chicken breast. On the other hand, you can by a 4-5 pound whole organic roasting chicken for the same price and get several different meals out of it. Not only that, you can make all of those meals in less than two hours. See below!

This rule holds true for just about every meat. Pork chops will cost you $3-4 a pound even on sale. Four decent-sized chops to make 1-2 meals will easily cost you $10-12. A whole pork shoulder will usually run you about $1.19 a pound. At an average of about 10 pounds, it will also cost you about $12. But you can roast that shoulder once and have enough meat to last you a week when you turn it into stir-fry, stew, wraps, bean-less chili and a ton of other meals.

  • Never cook one thing when you can cook three.

iStock_000006464061XSmallIf your time is tight, you need to cook as efficiently as possible. We get the idea of combining errands and multitasking in other areas of our lives, but we seem to be stuck on the idea that you cook one meal at a time, period. That’s so untrue.

There are basically two great ways to cook once and eat several times. The first is to simply double or triple whatever recipe you’re making. Instead of making one pork loin, make three. Rather than making one batch of chicken soup, make two. While you’re eating dinner, your extra portions can cool and then you just pack them into the fridge and/or freezer for later.

The second way to save time is to cook two or more different meals at once, using some of the same ingredients. Let’s say you’re roasting that pork shoulder. You can throw it in the oven with some carrots, parsnips, onions, turnips and other root vegetables and let them cook as well. When you pull the roast out, cut off a few slices and chop them up. Also chop up half of the roasted veggies. Take half that chopped meat, combine it with some of the veggies and add it to some beef stock to make a great soup. Put the other half of the chopped meat and veggies in the fridge to spoon into split baked sweet potatoes for a quick dinner another night. You’ve just made three meals in the time it took to make one.

  • Save time and money by using a slow cooker

The crock pot or slow cooker is a busy guy’s best kitchen tool. There are hundreds of great recipes that you can cook up in 15 minutes or less (like those I featured in Episode 8 of Season Five on LiveLargeTV.com). But you can also spend 15 minutes or less prepping food, then toss it into the slow cooker and let it cook while you’re at work, at the gym or otherwise getting on with your day.

Aside from saving you time, the slow cooker can also save you money. Cheaper cuts of meat come in handy when you’re trying to save money and slow cooking is always the way to go with the cheaper cuts. The slow cooker turns them into incredibly delicious and very tender meals.

This is especially great when you’re struggling to afford organic grass-fed meats. The cheaper cuts of those might cost you half as much (like buying chuck roasts instead of rib-eye steaks) but they’ll be just as good if cooked in the slow cooker and may even go farther.

Vince’s One Chicken – Three Meals Plan

Remember that whole, organic, pasture-raised chicken I encouraged you to buy instead of a few chicken breasts? You might pick one up at the butcher or organic market and think, “Holy cow, this thing costs $10!” It’s true, you can buy a conventional whole roasting chicken for about $6, but you’ll probably roast it for one meal, then snack on the rest while you’re standing in front of the fridge. So you roasted for an hour and a half, spent $6 and got one meal and a couple snacks out of it (or you may even have tossed the leftovers in the trash because you forgot about them). But what if you made four different meals out of that one organic chicken iStock_000013523520XSmalland spent the same 90 minutes and only four dollars more

Buy a 5-6 pound organic, pasture-raised roasting chicken, season it with salt and pepper, some herbs like thyme and rosemary and toss it in the oven for 90 minutes or so. About halfway through, add some chunks of carrots, sweet potato, celery and onion.

When the chicken is done, let it rest for about ten minutes, then carve off the breasts and put them to the side. Then carve off the thighs and do the same. For the last pile, pull off the drumsticks.

First, chop up the thigh meat and put it into a large plastic container with a lid. Now take 1/3 of the veggies and chop them roughly.
Put half into a blender and blend until smooth. Add one cup of chicken broth to the blender and blend again. Pour the chopped veggies and pureed veggies into the container with the chicken and stir. You have at least two servings of thick, creamy soup for tomorrow.

Next, slice up the chicken breast and wrap half of it to be used in salads during the week.

Take the other half of the chicken breast and another 1/3 of the veggies and portion them out into two lunches to take to work (or dinners to heat up after the gym).

Last, pull the drumstick meat off and shred it with your fingers. Now divide it between some large Romaine leaves, add the remaining veggies, top with some good salsa and fresh spinach leaves and roll into wraps. You should get two good-sized wraps out of two drumsticks, but a lot more bulk than with the drumsticks alone. Now go eat.

You just turned that $10 chicken into four different meals, with about 6-8 total servings (that’s about $2.00 per serving, including all of the other ingredients), in less than two hours. You also don’t have to cook for a few days.

This is just one example of what I mean by cooking efficiently to save time and using ingredients efficiently so that you can afford to eat really well. I promise you that once you get the hang of cooking and once you get into the mindset of always looking for ways to cook more food at once  you’ll save a huge amount of money and you’ll look and feel a thousand times better.

While working with Chef Amy I also learned about 3 scandalous “healthy eating tricks” sabotaging your nutrition and your workouts and I made a short video for you to watch right here.

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