Cinch on a Budget

Wow!  What a busy week, and this one is not going to be any better.  So I’d better get in my blogs while I can!

We had a very nice, relaxing weekend, as is appropriate on Easter weekend.  And no, I did not have a single piece of candy!  About the only thing I actually accomplished was to plant this year’s veggie and herb garden on Saturday.  Think you don’t have space for a garden?  If you have any outdoor space whatsoever, you do.  For very small spaces, you can try a container garden, and plant veggies that are specifically labeled for containers.  With a little more space, you can carve out a little space in your yard, like me!  We have a small 1/4-acre yard, and also have 2 curious dogs, but I discovered that my fence-row makes an ideal spot for my little garden.  This year, I planted a variety of peppers, tomatoescucumbers, squash, and zucchini.  Then, I also planted a container garden with basil, thyme, cilantro, dill, and mint.  Some were grown from seeds and then re-planted outside, and others I picked up at my local Home Depot, but all in all, the plants themselves did not cost me more than $15.  I could easily spend that much in one trip to the farmer’s market!  In addition to the plants, I bought some black-plastic border to help create a sort of raised-garden, and also 3 bags of garden soil.  Total cost – $51.   I could easily spend that much in a few trips to our farmer’s market or grocery-store produce section!  So not only does growing your own veggies save money, it also gives you a great sense of pride when they are ready to harvest, and you’ll actually be excited to eat them!

As promised, I’d like to talk about following the Cinch plan on a budget.  Below are some meal ideas that I’ve been using recently, along with the breakdown of the Cinch puzzle pieces and approximate cost per serving.  Each meal is quick and easy to make, and all ingredients are readily available and inexpensive.


First up, breakfast: French Toast and a Fruit Smoothie.  For the french toast, I used 2 slices of whole wheat bread dipped in a mixture of 1/4 cup milk, 1 egg, tsp of vanilla, and a cinnamon-Truvia blend.  Cook on a skillet or griddle until lightly brown on each side.  For the smoothie, I blended some frozen berries with low-fat, no-sugar-added vanilla yogurt, light orange juice, and ice. 

Puzzle Pieces, Time, & Cost:

  • Produce: strawberries, orange juice
  • Whole Grain: whole wheat bread
  • Lean Protein:  milk, yogurt
  • Plant-based Fat:  egg
  • Time:  < 10 minutes
  • Cost:  < $2


Next up, lunch: Veggie Pizza with Fruit Salad.  For the pizza, I used a pre-made whole wheat crust lightly brushed with olive oil, a pre-made pizza sauce, a variety of veggies, and light mozzarella.  (For my husband’s half, I subbed the veggies with turkey pepperoni.)  Pineapple and strawberries with a little bit of whipped cream made a very tasty dessert.

Puzzle Pieces, Time, & Cost:

  • Produce: tomato sauce, spinach, mushrooms, peppers, onion
  • Whole Grain: whole wheat crust
  • Lean Protein:  cheese
  • Plant-based Fat:  olive oil
  • Time:  < 20 minutes
  • Cost:  < $4


Now for dinner, plus 3 more to-go for lunches this week:  Grilled Tilapia over Brown Rice with Cooked Carrots and Spinach.  Tilapia is one of my favorite proteins because it’s super cheap (about $1.50 for a fresh 2-pack at Kroger), and has a very mild flavor, which makes it very versatile.  My husband grilled the tilapia, but you can also pan-fry it or bake it.  Then I cooked 2 servings of brown rice (which I’ll divide into 4 servings), steamed the carrots in the microwave, and cooked the spinach in a little olive oil in a skillet on the stove.  This one took a little longer to make than most simply due to the rice (30 minutes), but if you used minute-rice, it would be much faster.  However keep in mind that minute rice will be processed and thus spike your blood sugar.  I bought a huge bag of this brown rice at Kroger, which makes 38 servings (half-size) for about 8 cents each!

Puzzle Pieces, Time, & Cost:

  • Produce: spinach, carrots
  • Whole Grain: brown rice
  • Lean Protein:  tilapia
  • Plant-based Fat:  olive oil
  • Time:  30 minutes
  • Cost:  < $1.50


Saving the best for last, snack / dessert:  Light Vanilla Ice Cream with Granola and Berries.  Long ago, my husband and I discovered Kroger-brand no-sugar-added ice cream, but only recently did I discover the vanilla flavor.  Although technically, I guess you should steer clear of ice cream, and Cynthia Sass (Cinch author) is not a fan of artificial sweeteners, sometimes you really need something sweet and this really fits the bill without guilt.  The ice cream is low fat (3g per 1/2 cup) and does not have any added sugars, and yet tastes great!  I added a few berries and 1/4 cup of granola for the perfect snack!

Puzzle Pieces, Time, & Cost:

  • Produce: berries
  • Whole Grain: granola
  • Lean Protein:  dairy
  • Plant-based Fat:  dairy
  • Time:  < 2 minutes
  • Cost:  < $1.00

We also made another batch of Fruit & Nut Bars, something that has become a staple in our house (see previous blogs for recipe).   They probably don’t cost much less than the store-bought variety piece for piece, but they’re much tastier, have more healthy-calories (and thus cheaper per calorie), and have a lot of un-processed vitamins and minerals.  I like to use these as pre-workout or afternoon snacks.

That’s it for today.  I’m bracing for a very busy week, but at least I’ve got lots of good meals already prepared.  =)

HUGE strawberries!


I completed 2 days of detox and feel de-bloated from my bad weekend.  Now I’m prepping for a weekend with my family and hoping to resist the feeding frenzy that usually ensues.  I’m hosting them at my house however, and rather than stock up on bad food that I know they’ll like, I’m determined to eat like we normally would and show them that eating healthy can taste good! 

On the menu for tonight – bbq burgers (I’ll skip), roasted red potatoes, broccoli, and strawberry shortcake made with sugar-free angel food cake.  That may not sound like the healthiest food, but it’s well rounded and no fattening butters or sugars will be used in preparation.  Breakfast will be veggie omelets, whole wheat toast, and fruit smoothies.  The rest of the meals will likely be eaten out, so I’ll try and stick to healthy options!

I found this on my car when I left work yesterday.  It’s nice to know that after nearly 13 years together, it’s still possible to show these simple little signs of affection.  What have you done (or gotten) for your partner lately?  Show them they are loved!

Next week I will start posting about “Cinch on a Budget” and start tracking what I’m eating to stay on the Cinch plan while also sticking to a tight budget!