I have "decided" to cut our food budget to almost nothing, which really means that finances have gotten super tight & I have decided not to get deeper into debt, kill myself or neglect my son trying to wok a second job, or any number of other less-than-happy things that I might do if I were someone else or in different circumstances. I have no desire to buy mac-n-cheese, Ramen noodles, or other junk foods (made with harmful ingredients & severely lacking in nutrition) just to fill our bellies. So...
If you make a list of foods that you can buy for $1, you'll find that lentils are a killer deal! I know, because I made just such a list. ;)
At current retail prices in my area, $1 will buy approximately:
2 cups of raw milk
OR 3 ounces of grass-fed ground beef
OR one organic apple
OR 1/3 cup of hormone-free/grass-fed whipping cream
It was looking pretty dismal, considering I have VERY few dollars to spend feeding two voracious real-food appetites. I don't know EXACTLY how few, but probably about 1/10 of the amount I've been spending on food until recently, so $1 needs to cover a lot more than a little snack, to say the least. The garden is pretty well done for the year except for some kale & a couple of things that will store for a while in the cold. My colony of honeybees died or moved away, and their honey was taken by other bees, wasps, etc. I have some more squash to sell, and a small amount of food in storage "for emergencies," but it's not much. I still felt that there must be a way to make things work without doing crazy or drastic things that will harm us in the long run, but I didn't really know what I would do yet. Then I figured out that a whole pot of cooked lentils costs a dollar or less. Those things are CHEAP! Being diabetic, I don't do well eating a lot of starches, so I haven't used the 50 pounds of lentils I bought several years ago, but I decided to add plenty of good fats & see if I could make good use of the lentils I've had in storage.
I made lentil soup today.
It is fabulous! The taste is wonderful, and it had enough fat & protein that I didn't get loopy eating all the lentils. It is as perfect as I think I'll get on this crazy budget, which is just perfect. :)
As usual, I didn't measure ingredients, but here is a rough estimate that will give you a place to start:
2 1/2 cups dry lentils - soak overnight, drain & rinse
Cook lentils (in a huge pot) in 2 quarts of chicken stock (aka bone broth) - with 1/4 cup Italian Seasoning and 2 crushed cloves of fresh garlic - over medium heat until tender, adding water if needed to keep the lentils just barely covered. Reduce the heat to medium-low as you add the remaining ingredients.
In a blender, combine 1 quart of chicken stock with 1 cup of fat & blend well. I used drippings from roasted chickens, but you could also use bacon grease, coconut oil, ghee, etc. Add this mixture to the soup, then add:
1 pound ground mild sausage, browned first (you can brown the sausage while the lentils are cooking)
1 can pizza sauce
3 Tbsp. Real Season Salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
Real Salt to taste
Let it simmer a few minutes longer to blend all the flavors. Add cream to each bowl just before serving, and enjoy!
A sad update: A couple of hours after eating the soup, I have elevated blood sugar & no energy, which is a typical effect of my eating cooked starches. I thought that adding the good fats & a little meat would help prevent that. I guess I'm learning...