GUEST BLOGGER: MELANIE JEWKES
One of my favorite things to do is prove to myself that healthy food is not expensive. It’s true! Many good, whole-some, whole foods don’t break your budget—in fact, many of them help streeeetch your budget. I’m excited to bring you a whole series of posts to prove that to you, too, and help you to save money and eat better.
Let’s start with lentils. Yep, that’s right. Those tiny little gems of protein and fiber. Maybe you are familiar with them, maybe you aren’t. Let me introduce you.
Lentils are superstars when it comes to the most nutrition packed into a tiny little round pebble-like legume. They are considered pulse, which is a grain legume; the pulse plants are harvested for their seeds. They are a great source of plant-based protein, high in fiber and complex carbohydrates, and are low in fat and calories. They also have a great source of minerals and other nutrients like potassium, folate, iron and more!
If you’re like me, I didn’t grow up with lentils at all. I had no idea what these were for many years after I was married. And now that I eat them often and wonder how I ever lived without them.
Lentils are part of the larger legume family – along with peas and beans. They come in multiple colors, and are cheapest to buy dried. Dried lentils do NOT need to be soaked like dry beans, and cook about as long as brown rice, or about the time of roasting vegetables. Click here for tips on how to cook lentils. If you have an instant pot, they will cook for about 8-11 minutes, depending on how soft you want them.
Some stores carry frozen pre-cooked lentils, but that’s not without an added cost for the packaging and convenience. Lentils in their dry form are cheap! They can be purchased in grocery stores in a small one-pound bag near dried beans. Usually the price for a pound of dried lentils is $1 – 1.60. The pound of dried lentils will cook to be about 5 ¾ cups. I did the math for you --that’s about $.28 a cup at most, or $.14 a serving (1/2 cup)! It can be even less if you purchase the lentils from scoop-it-out-yourself bulk sections available at some grocery stores. What a huge bargain!
Lentils alone are mild in flavor. Definitely consider dressing them up with onions, garlic, seasoning or sauce. They can be used as the base in salads or the protein in soups. They are yummy with curries, and can replace or stretch meat in recipes like meatloaf or chili. I’ve never seen meat for $.14 a serving—and there is no such thing as meat packed with fiber!
Below are my favorite lentil recipes lately, but don’t let these limit your exploration of lentils. Do you have a favorite lentil recipe? Please share in the comments below!
Happy grocery saving!
Vegetable Soup with Kale and Lentils
Instant Pot Lentil Curry*
*IF you don't have an instant pot, make the same way, but simmer on stove for 15-20 minutes until lentils are cooked through.
Lentil Sloppy Joes
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