Simple and Healthy Meals for the Freezer

Bowls of rice and vegetables
Make healthy meals that you can freeze and eat later in the month when you need something quickly

I have mentioned several times that in a bid to save money, we often eat out of the freezer. For Mr Simple and I this means making healthy meals for the freezer and keeping them for those evenings when you are short on time. As a rule, we tend to eat these in the second half of the month. They are particularly useful if I am going to be home late or if Mr Simple has to cook. This often happens on a Tuesday when I have a Pilates class. It isn’t that he can’t cook, in fact he is a better cook than I am, but he is reluctant to spend too much time on meal preparation when he’s got a lot of DIY to do.

I find that there are many benefits to eating this way and it takes a lot of the stress out of meal planning and preparation. I believe that there are several benefits to eating this way.

Cheap

Many of our healthy meals for the freezer are made with inexpensive ingredients such as vegetables and beans. We mainly used tinned beans e.g. chick peas, kidneys beans, but you can use dried as well. The dried versions are cheaper, but they take more preparation. You need to soak them overnight and boil them for over an hour. Another frugal ingredient is lentils, which sometimes need soaking, but a lot less than the dried beans. I find pouring on boiling water instead of cold water when soaking speeds up the process. Red split lentils don’t need any soaking at all and are especially good at thickening stews and curries. During autumn and winter you can use root vegetables which are very cheap, such as carrots and potatoes.

Carrots – cheap, good for you and they last in the fridge for ages

Easy to make

You don’t need to possess amazing culinary skills to make many of these meals. It just takes a bit of peeling and chopping and opening a tin or a packet. Food such as curry or vegetable stew can be made in one pot. Then you can make some rice on the side. You can make it even easier and have some crusty bread with it instead. Keeping it simple means that there won’t be a lot of washing up afterwards.

Healthy

It’s easy to get in your five a day as the meals are heavy on vegetables. The beans provide that much-needed protein. To make it even healthier stick to accompaniments of brown rice, quinoa or mashed sweet potato.

Time saving

Once you’ve cooked, and eaten what you want, the rest can go in the freezer. The next time you want to eat it you just have to remember to take your dinner out of the freezer in the morning or the night before. Then you can have your evening meal ready quickly. Just heat up your defrosted food and add a grain or other carb of your choice.

Make courgette and feta cakes – they freeze really well and are delicious

Below are some examples of the healthy meals for the freezer that we eat regularly, along with where to go for examples of recipes. Hopefully they will give you some ideas if you want to save time and money on what you eat.

Veggie chilli

This is a staple in our household. Usually it is made by Mr Simple. He would say that I am too tame with the chilli and he likes it a bit hotter than I do. We have several of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s books and the recipe comes from one of those. . Instead of the usual kidney beans he uses pinto beans, but I am sure you can use whatever you have in stock.

Black bean curry

I currently have the ‘Curry Guy Veg’ out of the library and he has a recipe for black-eyed bean curry. I used black beans instead. He doesn’t appear to have a website, but here is a similar recipe for you to try.

Courgette and feta cakes

These are something slightly different as they are a bit fiddly to make, but delicious and they freeze really well. It is a Delia Smith recipe and they are a good way to use up a glut of courgettes.

Veggie burgers

I find that most, if not all, vegetarian burger recipes freeze well. This month I found we had four different types in the freezer so got them all out and Mr Simple and I had them with polenta chips and a salad.

So there we go, I hope you feel inspired to start filling your freezer with healthy and delicious meals which will save you time and money. After a long day driving to work and back, sometimes in the dark, it is good to come home to something warm and comforting which you haven’t had to spend a lot of time cooking.

How do you use your freezer? I’d love to me know about any meals you regularly make for the freezer.

Rich Habit Number Four

I will devote 30 minutes to exercise every day. I will eat healthy food every day.

In the week that the Lancet published a study saying that in 2017 there were 11 million deaths attributable to dietary risk factors it seems pertinent to focus on this habit for my series on Tom Corley’s book ‘Rich Habits Poor Habits’.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away

According to Tom Corley successful people have a system or routine for weight management i.e. they monitor the amount of food that they eat every day and they engage in a daily exercise regime. In contrast, unsuccessful people have no consistent day to day control over their health. They are always in search of the latest quick fix diet.

Tom Corley found that rich people have an internal motivation to be able to manage their weight and eating, whereas unsuccessful people required an external motivator and when this disappeared they fell back into bad habits.

Be Well Enough to Enjoy ‘Retirement’

Avoid too many of these and use nature’s larder to keep you healthy

If, by the time you reach FIRE, you aren’t well enough to enjoy it, then one has to ask what was the point of all that hard work getting there. The Lancet study found that cardiovascular disease was the leading cause of diet-related deaths, followed by cancers deaths and type 2 diabetes. The findings showed that a suboptimal diet is responsible for more deaths than any other risks globally, including tobacco smoking, highlighting the urgent need for improving the human diet. Their assessment showed that the leading dietary risk factors for mortality are diets high in sodium, low in whole grains, low in fruit, low in nuts and seeds, low in vegetables, and low in omega-3 fatty acids.

Schedule Exercise and Make it Easy

In our busy lives fitting in 30 minutes of exercise every day can be hard and I must say I struggle with this. For me it is probably just three times a week. I find that doing exercise shortly after I get up is the best time. By the end of the day I am just too tired to feel like jogging.

I used the NHS ‘Couch to 5K’ programme in order to start jogging. It is a great and free resource which trains you to run 5k even if, at the moment, you feel that you couldn’t run to the end of your garden. If you have ever wanted to start jogging I would strongly encourage you to check it out.

Now, going out for a jog on a bright summer’s morning, with the sun warming your skin and the birds singing in the trees is a wonderful thing. It may not be so great in January when it is cold, wet and dark. During the first winter after I learnt to jog I have to admit that I gave up. I just wasn’t determined enough to drag myself out of bed when it was miserable.

My Tesco treadmill – cheap, but it does the job

When spring came around I had to go back to the beginning of the programme and build up my fitness again. In the autumn as the mornings started getting dark and cold I decided that I wasn’t going to make the same mistake. I know myself well enough to realise that I didn’t have the determination to go out on those awful mornings and so I bought a treadmill. I didn’t spend a fortune, as I was worried that it may just collect dust, but it didn’t and I now use it several times a week. When the weather is better I will go outside, but the great thing about jogging on the treadmill is that I can watch all those finance YouTube videos whilst I am jogging – getting exercise and educating myself at the same time.

Apart from a good pair of trainers, jogging is a fairly frugal pursuit. You don’t have to join an expensive gym and wherever you live I am sure that there is somewhere nice to run. If you don’t fancy jogging maybe try walking. Download an interesting FIRE podcast to your phone and take a stroll a few times a week.

Eat Well and Cheaply

Roast veggies ready for weekday lunches

I have written about diet before in my series about ‘The Longevity Plan’ by Dr John Day. Therefore I thought that I would just suggest a way of getting more of those much-needed vegetables and omega-3 fatty acids into your diet. An oft-quoted frugal activity is to take your lunch to work every day instead of buying it. As a believer in reducing the amount of carbohydrates I eat, instead of a sandwich, I take some vegetables and fish in my lunch box. Every Sunday I roast and steam some veggies. Simple and cheap things like carrots and broccoli, are great and at the moment I also include courgettes and peppers. Obviously it takes time to do this; chopping the veg is the most time-consuming thing and then shove them in the oven with some olive oil and herbs.

A good source of omega – 3

In the morning I fill my lunchbox with a few of the veg, adding some lettuce, avocado and a tin of fish – mackerel is my favourite. So cheap – 70p a tin in Tesco’s at the moment. Tomorrow I will also be taking some butterbeans that I have soaked and cooked and mixed with nettle pesto. I found a recipe in a book by Dan Stevens of River Cottage fame. It was a bit fiddly washing the leaves with rubber gloves on and then blanching them, but after that it was fairly easy. When you’re out on that walk of an evening maybe you could pick some nettles and make yourself a tasty and cheap pesto sauce to go with some pasta.

So do you have rich habits or poor habits when it comes to eating and exercise? What poor habits would you like to change? Have you tried walking or jogging as exercise? How did you get on?

How Ten Minutes Quiet a Day Could Make You Richer

Find ten minutes in your day to sit quietly

You may remember that last month I had some money left over and I bought four books, with the promise that I may review some of them. One of the books was Rich Habits Poor Habits by Tom Corley and Michael Yardney. I first came across Tom Corley on the Afford Anything podcast. He undertook a study looking at the differences between rich people and poor people. This involved observing and documenting the daily activities of 233 wealthy people and 128 poor people. The book, which summarises his findings, outlines 30 habits of successful people.

Tom Corley’s tenth habit of rich people says that successful people are masters of their words and emotions. They do not fall prey to anger, jealousy, excitability, sadness or other petty emotions. They understand that negative emotions cause them to make bad decisions that result in bad consequences. They replace these bad emotions with positive emotions. When faced with a difficult situation they think, evaluate the situation and then react. On the other hand, unsuccessful people let their emotions rule their behaviour. They easily become depressed and feel as if they have no control over their lives. They react before thinking. 

The tenth habit reminded me of Brooke Castillo’s teaching. If you have been reading my blog from the beginning you will know that one of the things that I enjoy doing is listening to podcasts. As well as those about financial independence I have also started listening to personal development podcasts, including Brooke Castillo’s ‘The Life Coach School’. One of the very first episodes talked about the impact of our thoughts on our feelings. Her theory, which is not her creation apparently, but which she has taken from elsewhere, is the following:

  • Circumstances are neutral
  • Your thoughts about the circumstances create your:
  • Feelings, which determine your:
  • Actions, which influence your:
  • Results

A somewhat silly example, which shows how reacting before thinking can cost you money, is that one of my colleagues told me that when a bolt on his wheel snapped as he was trying to change the tyre he threw the spanner in anger and smashed one of the car windows. Obviously this meant that he had to pay to get it mended. His inability to control his frustration caused him to act rashly which led to even more expense than a snapped bolt.

I was then reminded of some of the teachings of the late Stephen Covey who wrote ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’. This was one of the first self-help books that I read. It is a book that requires in-depth consideration and repeated reading. There is so much to learn from his teachings.

His first ‘habit’ is to ‘Be Proactive’. He says that between stimulus and response is our greatest power – the freedom to choose. According to Covey, it’s not what happens to us that matters most, but it is how we respond to what we experience in life. He believes that highly proactive people do not blame circumstances, conditions or conditioning for their behaviour. Their behaviour is a product of their own conscious choice based on values, rather than a product of their conditions, based on feelings.

Each of these authors leads me to the same conclusion, which is that in order to be more successful and happy in life we need to gain control of our emotions rather than just have a ‘stimulus-response’ reaction.

One of the ways in which you could achieve this is, I believe, through the practice of meditation. In my experience it is not the act of meditation itself, but the impact that it has upon the rest of your life. I believe that it creates a calmness and increases your ability not to follow your gut reaction in circumstances which face you each day. This can help on a financial level as you don’t automatically resort to buying yourself something when you have a bad day.

By reframing what has happened and controlling your emotions you can take charge of your life instead of being pulled this way and that by whatever happens to you. When I started meditating I used ‘Headspace’, but it eventually just became paying a subscription to listen to silence for ten minutes. I then read ‘Bliss More’ by Light Watkins, who I had heard interviewed by Dr Chatterjee and now I just set my phone timer and sit quietly for ten minutes. I don’t chant or do anything special. I try to take some deep breaths and concentrate on different parts of my body, attempting to relax. Often my mind wanders and thoughts about the day ahead interrupt my concentration, but according to Light Watkins that is completely normal.

It may feel a bit weird at first, just sitting with your eyes closed for ten minutes trying to focus on nothing, but what have you got to lose? It’s free and you might just feel the benefit. Maybe start with five minutes, or even two and then gradually increase the time.

So how about giving it a try? I would love to know how you get on and if you feel any benefit from it.

And if you enjoyed reading this post I would love you to subscribe.

Exercise the Simple Way

It has been an absolutely glorious weekend, particularly considering that it is February. I love the sunshine and through dark and miserable January I can’t wait for the lighter evenings and warmer weather. This year it has arrived early. When it is warm and dry there is no excuse for not getting outside and enjoying the fresh air. And, it can save you money.

Leave the car at home when you can

Mr Money Mustache advocates cycling or walking and that’s all very well if you live near work, but for me it’s just not possible, particularly as I not only have to travel to the office, but during the working day as well. I have realised that despite this difficulty, I do live close enough to the local town to be able to walk there. We didn’t think about this when we bought the house, but now I realise what a bonus this is. We use the town for little bits of shopping, the library, GP, dentist, etc and it’s all on our doorstep.

Although it is only a mile away, when it is tipping with rain I must admit that I do take the car. Yesterday, as the sun was shining, I walked there and back, carrying library books and shopping on the return journey. Despite the good weather I had chores to do in the house in the afteernoon and so by about 5 o’clock I was desperate to get outside again so we went for a short walk. Until recently my step count has been abysmal, but yesterday it was 17, 455!

Free horse manure

Today, as it is beginning to feel like spring (I am slightly worried that we are going to get frost and snow at some point though – this weather is too good to be true or a confirmation of global warming) we decided to go and get some horse manure for the garden. A friend of a friend has horses and allows us to take as much as we want. It’s just a short drive, but then involves filling old compost bags with the manure, loading them in the car and then wheelbarrowing them down the garden back at the house. Two trips took us two hours in total. Lugging heavy bags of rotted manure certainly got my heart rate up – almost a workout I am sure.

Oh, and I forgot to mention that I had already been for a short jog this morning. At this time of year I usually fire up the treadmill and watch YouTube whilst doing a short jog, but this morning I decided to hit the lanes in the sunshine. It was lovely, but jogging outside is much more difficult and the slightest uphill section kills me. It does feel good though when you get home and can relax over a breakfast knowing that you’ve already done your exercise for the day.

This afternoon we have been out in the garden just tidying things up. We are very lucky to have a large garden – 200ft long in fact – but this does mean that it you are at the bottom of the garden and have left something in the house it is a long way to go back for it – hence my step count today – 15,427!

Take the stairs when you can

Tomorrow it’s back to work and on some days my step count is less than 1000, but this evening I am feeling pretty good. I think the message is that even if you can’t be MMM and cycle everywhere every day, there are probably some days when you could incorporate exercise into your routine, even if it’s just taking the stairs rather than the lift, throwing yourself into the housework or pottering around in the garden.

I think that the sunshine is set to continue for a few days, so get out and enjoy it while you can.

The Longevity Plan Chapter Five – Find Your Rhythm

For me this means having a routine. I am a creature of habit and love routine maybe more than most. I find it comforting. Some people seem to enjoy living chaotically and stumbling through the day from one crisis to the next, but I like to know what to expect. I don’t find it boring; I find it calming. From the moment that I wake up I know what is going to happen, as I have a morning routine and I look forward to each part of it. Every evening I plan the routine for the next day. I can’t do the same each morning as my work pattern varies. Sometimes I leave the house at 8am and other days I can log on to my computer at home at 9.30am.

Waking Up Slowly

Photo by Free Photos.cc on Pexels.com

My day starts when my sunrise lamp gradually lightens the room. Sometimes this wakes me up, other days it takes the alarm to do that, which is actually the radio coming on. The dulcet tones of Mr Humphrys arguing with a politician on the Today programme is my choice of listening in the morning.

Every day starts with a cup of tea in bed – you may be able to guess that I don’t have children! This used to be a weekend treat, but now it happens every day. Monday to Friday I make the tea, but on the weekends I get to stay in bed and my other half makes it.

Whilst drinking my tea I read a non-fiction book; at the moment it is A Life Less Throwaway by Tara Button, founder of the website, Buy Me Once.

If I have time I exercise. This is usually a short jog on the treadmill. If I don’t have time I just shower. Before I leave the bedroom I turn back the duvet to let the bed air. I don’t agree with the recommendation that you should start your day by making your bed, because my understanding is that you sweat in the night and you need to let the bedding and mattress dry out. I would say that it is actually unhygienic to make your bed straightaway.

Quiet Time

I always have ten minutes sitting in silence. I am not sure whether I would call it meditation, as I don’t think that I have mastered that art. I sit with my eyes closed and try to concentrate on my breathing. Thoughts come and go and sometimes things that I had forgotten come into my head or solutions to problems dawn on me. Other times I can’t focus and I give up before the timer goes off on my phone to say the ten minutes are up. Then it’s breakfast time before I start work for the day. Whilst eating my breakfast I read emails on my phone.

Sunlight

Dr John Day recommends getting outside into natural light, especially in the morning, but at some times of year it isn’t light in the morning! He believes that it is incredibly effective at adjusting our circadian rhythms. Sometimes I think so many of these things would be easier if I lived somewhere warmer and sunnier, rather than in Wales where we’re more likely to have torrential rain or fog than sunshine! Maybe I need to try to incorporate this into my routine once the warmer weather comes or just move to the South of France – one day maybe!

Making the transition from work to home

As you may guess I have an evening routine as well. When I come home I get changed out of my work clothes and straighten the duvet now that the bed has had the day to air. Even if I work at home for the day or am there for the afternoon, I don’t get changed into my evening clothes until after I have logged off for the day. It is a psychological thing. Once I am in my tracksuit bottoms I am off-duty. I cook dinner, listening to iplayer, usually a comedy from Radio 4 Extra; some light-heartened entertainment helps to pass the time.

We are very unsophisticated and dinner is usually taken on our laps watching TV. We rarely have puddings and so we treat ourselves to a square of dark chocolate after dinner. I usually spend time on my computer, reading emails, catching up on social media and working on my blog. I also review the day and plan the next morning.

Bedtime

Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

Dr Day states that fundamental to establishing a good rhythm is to get plenty of sleep i.e. seven to nine hours. Me, I like to be in bed with my head on the pillow by 10.30pm. After computer time I may watch a little bit more tele if it’s not too late, but about 9.30/9.45pm I’m upstairs, doing my ablutions – as my other half calls them i.e. brushing my teeth, washing my face, etc. Then I spend 30 minutes reading fiction. By this time of day I am too tired to read a non-fiction book and immersing myself in a story about other peoples’ lives helps me to wind down before sleep.

Obviously there are days when this doesn’t all happen. At weekends I don’t always have my quiet time. Breakfast can be a very leisurely affair drinking coffee and doing a crossword. If I am going out for the evening there is no routine, but on the whole this is how life is and l love it.

Your Routine?

So what are your daily routines? Do you even have a routine? If not, have you thought about starting one? What would be your ideal routine? I would love to know.

If you are thinking about starting a morning routine I would suggest checking out the recent post by Radical Fire in which she tells you about ‘The Miracle Morning’ by Hal Elrod and how she has used that to shape her routine. It might give you some ideas.