Chicken Tortilla Soup

30 Minute Chicken Tortilla SoupEven though I live in San Diego, and we never actually get cold weather, I love making soups this time of year to warm up (even if that means turning the AC down to 68 so it feels like winter!)

One of our favorite soup recipes is this Chicken Tortilla Soup. It comes together in half an hour, uses leftover shredded chicken, and the lime and cilantro make it fresh and bright, despite being hearty enough to serve on even the coldest winter evening. You could even substitute leftover shredded turkey from your Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner for the chicken!

Chicken Tortilla Soup
serves 4-6

  • 2 TBS extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed, chopped
  • 6 C chicken stock or broth
  • 1  (14.5 oz) can tomato sauce
  • 2 C black beans (either from scratch or one 14.5 oz can)
  • 2 C cooked shredded chicken
  • 3 limes (2 limes juiced, one lime cut into wedges)
  • 3/4 C fresh cilantro
  • 1 avocado, pitted and sliced for serving
  • Monterey Jack cheese for serving
  • Crushed tortilla chips for serving
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a stockpot over medium heat, heat the EVOO and add onions. Cook until softened, 3–5 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic and jalapenos, and cook for 1-2 minutes.
  3. Add the chicken stock, tomato sauce, and black beans.
  4. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to simmer for 20 minutes.
  5. Add cooked shredded chicken to soup.
  6. Add the juice of 2 limes and 3/4 C cilantro.
  7. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed
  8. Serve with crushed tortilla chips, sliced avocado, Monterey Jack cheese, and lime wedges.
  9. Try not to eat the entire batch yourself!

10 Things I Always Keep in My Freezer for Quick Meals


It’s been hot and humid this week. And, of course, my air conditioner chose now to conk out. So, while we’re waiting for the AC repairman to fit us in, the last thing on EARTH I want to do is heat up my kitchen. Thank goodness for my stocked freezer of ready to eat and low prep meals! Here are 10 things I always have in my freezer.

1. Chicken Soup
Of course everyone loves chicken noodle or chicken and rice soup when they’re under the weather. So, instead of waiting until someone gets sick, I make a big batch of chicken soup and freeze it in 6 C increments. (2 adult servings plus two little kid servings)

Do not freeze noodles or rice in the soup. Cook these up as you’re reheating the soup.


2. Chili
Whenever I buy ground beef, I plan to make at least one batch of chili. Often, I double the recipe so I can have some to freeze. It’s perfect to reheat for a quick but hearty meal.
Read my post: <<5 Things to Do With Leftover Chili>>


3. Black Beans
Surprisingly, cooked beans freeze really well! I freeze in 2 C increments if using as a side or in soup, and 4 C increments if using for a main dish.
Read my post: <<5 Ideas for Leftover Black Beans>>


4. Pizza
Homemade pizza dough actually freezes quite well. Simply pull it out to thaw and let it rest before rolling out. Although, I have to admit that I typically store a few Trader Joes Organic Cheese Pizzas for a quick meal.


5. Frozen Fruit
When it’s 102 and humid out, frozen fruit is my lifesaver. Smoothies are one of our favorite light suppers (serve with PBJ sandwiches, soft pretzels, or French bread.)


6. Frozen Veggies
I always have organic broccoli, organic corn, and organic peas on hand to throw in soups or cook up as a quick side dish.


7. Organic Chicken Breasts
I love throwing chicken into my crock pot for a simple meal shortcut that doesn’t heat up the kitchen. Since we choose to spend money on organic meat, we have to make it go a little further. So shredded meat for soups, stir fries, salads, and pasta dishes allows us to enjoy quality meat with the most bang for our buck.
Read my post: <<Kitchen Hack: Slow Cooker Shredded Chicken>>


8. Organic Ground Beef
I usually buy the 4 lb. packs (three individually wrapped packs of 1.3 lbs) of organic ground beef from Costco, and keep at least two sections in my freezer at all times. I make tacos, meatballs, burgers, and chili.


9.  Wild Salmon
My kids love salmon, and I always keep some wild salmon in the freezer for a quick grilled meal with rice and veggies. It’s super healthy and super quick to prepare.


10. Meatballs
I cook up 4 lbs of meatballs at a time (makes about 40), and freeze them in increments of 8, which is perfect for one meal plus leftovers.
See my post: <<10 Ideas for Leftover or Frozen Meatballs>>

Saving Money on School Lunches


Saving Money on School Lunches

Back in the “old days” when I was a kid, every morning my mom would fill up my Ghostbusters lunch box with a peanut butter and jelly or baloney sandwich, an obligatory piece of fruit that usually ended up squished and uneaten, a cookie, and a juice box. It was pretty boring basic. But, it was inexpensive and easy. Now, times have changed, peanut butter isn’t allowed in classrooms, and lunch foods are becoming much more expensive. A pound of good lunch meat will set you back at least $10, a loaf of bread another $5, and that doesn’t even include sides. You could easily spend $100 a month just on school lunches for a couple kids! So, how can you save money on school lunches, while keeping them healthy and fun?

1. Give Leftovers a Chance
As a kid, “leftovers” were my least favorite food group. It wasn’t until I got married and had to start paying for my own groceries that I realized leftovers weren’t that bad if done right. Leftover soup or chili can be brought to boiling in the morning and placed in a quality Thermos (leakproof!) in an insulated lunch bag and should still be warm by lunchtime. Leftover chicken can be turned into chicken salad, and leftover homemade pizza is really good eaten cold.

2. Rethink Protein
Many schools have banned nut products from classrooms, which means the standby protein source of peanut butter is out. But lunch meat is so expensive! Cheese, beans, and eggs are all inexpensive proteins that can be used. Think pita chips and hummus, hard boiled eggs or deviled eggs, and cheese sticks.

3. Homemade Lunchables
You can make your own homemade Lunchable Pizzas by packing separately one or two sliced English muffins, a small container of pizza or pasta sauce, and a handful of cheese, to be assembled by your child at lunch. You could make 10 pizzas for the cost of 1 purchased Pizza Lunchable. You can also make your own Lunchable Nachos by serving tortilla chips with separate containers of salsa, sour cream, guacamole, and homemade black beans.

4. Pack Better, Not More
Things like chips and cookies fill space in the lunch box, but they are empty calories that will keep your child from getting full. Pack intentional side items that contain protein and fiber. You will save money by packing less, and your child will be full quicker. Some ideas include: Fruit with Cottage Cheese, Oatmeal Cookies, or Apple Slices with caramel sauce (there is a lot of fiber in apple peels.)

5. Make it Fun
You’re probably thinking, “My kid won’t eat that!” But, if you change the presentation and make it fun, he can’t help but want to eat it! Turn cheese and fruit into kabobs. Cut fruit or vegetables into fun shapes with Veggie Cutters. Make foods DIY (like the homemade Lunchables or veggies with several dipping sauces), or serve everything in a Bento Lunchbox.
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What are your favorite ways to save money on lunches? Join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter, and find more ideas on Pinterest!

7 Ideas for One Pound of Ground Beef

 7 Recipes for 1 Lb Ground Beef

Ahhhh, yes. It’s Thursday at 4pm, you need to make dinner, but all you have left in the fridge is a single, measly pound of ground beef. How could that possibly feed a family? Here are 7 delicious, quick recipes that stretch your ground beef while still satisfying that meat craving.

1. Fajita Burritos
A pound of ground beef probably won’t feed a hungry family on Burrito Night if it’s the only filling. In these Chipotle-esque burritos, fill a tortilla with 1/4 lb of seasoned Ground Beef, Beans (check out my recipes for Slow Cooker Black Beans, Slow Cooker Refried Beans, and 10 Minute Black Beans) Rice, Sauteed Bell Peppers, and whatever Salsas, Guacamole or Cheese you have on hand.

2. Hobo Packets
Check out this delicious and simple Baked Hobo recipe from The Stay At Home Mom Survival Guide, using a pound of ground beef with potatoes and veggies cooked in foil. An all-in-one meal that requires little prep, and even less clean up! 

3Organic Lime and Cilantro Chili
I love the bright and fresh flavors from this Organic Lime and Cilantro Chili from Mommy’s Slice of the Pie (it uses 1.33 lbs of ground beef, but you can use 1 lb if that’s all you have.) Added bonus: instructions to make this a freezer meal so you can prep ahead and eat later!  (See 5 Recipes for Leftover Chili )

4. Spaghetti with Meat Sauce
This meal couldn’t be easier! Simply brown a pound of ground beef with a half diced onion, 3 cloves of chopped garlic, and salt and pepper, and stir into your favorite spaghetti sauce. This stretches the meat further than making meatballs, but you still get that extra heartiness.

5. Sloppy Joes
My favorite Sloppy Joe recipe is a definite crowd pleaser and it fills at least 4 happy tummies! Serve with Baked Fries and a Salad.

6. Quick Enchiladas
I brown up a pound of meat with taco seasoning, stuff about 1/4 C of meat into a large flour tortilla, sprinkle 2 tablespoon of cheese, and roll them up. I top with Enchilada sauce (jarred or homemade), more cheese, and olives, and bake at 375* for about 20 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Delish!

7. Burger Sliders
There’s something about mini food that makes me eat less, even when I think I’m eating more. Form 1 pound ground beef into 8 mini patties, sprinkle with seasoning salt, and cook on a grill pan. Serve 2 sliders per person, along with Onion Rings and a Fresh Fruit Salad.

Recipe: 10 Minute Black Beans

Black Beans done in 10 Minutes! So simple and perfect for a side dish or main dish with rice.The most popular recipe ever on my site has been my Frugal Black Beans. Slow cooked with seasonings, peppers, and an onion, these beans are a perfect addition to soups or chilis, make a wonderful side dish to slow cooked chicken burritos, or can be eaten with a simple bowl of white rice for a cheap and filling meal.

But, sometimes I forget to plan ahead, and at 5:15pm, I look at the taco meat that’s simmering and realize I don’t have a side dish! Obviously too late to cook beans from scratch, I turn to canned beans. But, they always leave something to be desired…but, after many trials and error, I think I’ve finally found a way to jazz up canned black beans to where they’re loved even by my picky kids who are used to the delicious slow cooked variety :)

When I was first experimenting with this recipe, I used actual onion, but my family likes the flavor without the texture of onion, so I turned to dried onion. If you prefer to use an actual onion, use 1/4 C and chop it finely.

10 Minute Black Beans
recipe from Sara at Save Money, Live Joyfully
serves 4 as a side dish, 2 as a main dish

  • 1 (15 oz) can Black Beans
  • 1/2 tsp dried onion
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 TBS fresh cilantro, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Drain black beans, and pour into a small saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Mix in onion and garlic and bring to a boil.
  3. Turn beans down to simmer, and allow to simmer for 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in cilantro and allow to simmer for 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Serve hot and enjoy!

Check out my ideas for Leftover Black Beans!