Delectable Dime

meal planning on a budget

Life in Color

Delectable Dime

by Faith Escher

There is nothing quite like color that inspires me to eat healthfully! I remember one of my mentors suggesting that if I was struggling to know what to eat I could eat my way through the rainbow in fruits and veggies. She told me that often times, color is a good indicator of the vitamins which are present in a fruit, and that if I varied my fruits and veggies by color, I would have a good foundation for moving towards a healthy lifestyle.

While it is very important to have grains and protein in your diet (things that are not always exciting colors) and while eating greens is something we should always strive for, I love adding a myriad of colors to my diet because it makes me feel…

1.     Creative…preparing and shopping for a colorful plate can be very fun! I love imagining the different colors I could fuse together to create a gorgeous dish. The concept of using an orange, green, and red bell pepper in the same fajita dish is much more exciting to me than choosing only one color. In a kale salad that I love to make, I rotate ingredients by season. I always use something green (kale), something yellow (yellow bell pepper), and something red! The red is my transformational piece…sometimes I use red bell pepper, other times I add strawberries, and in the winter I love to use dried cranberries or cherries! Preparing and eating fresh and colorful food challenges me to have fun and be artistic.

2.     Intentional…considering the color of my food makes me conscience about what I am eating, not just color-conscience, but truly aware of how I am fueling my body. Taking the time to really think and plan out what I am eating makes me enjoy the process and think through my purchases. Being aware and intentional means that I meal prep more, I anticipate my schedule ahead of time, stop and sit down to eat instead of eating on the run, and make very purposeful purchases. All of this helps me save money because I end up eating out less and shopping more effectively.

3.     Informed… when I eat by color, I discover new fruits and veggies that are not apart of my normal shopping list, and this allows me to explore seasonings and flavors and test out new recipes! When I find a new fruit, I love to learn about it! One of my favorite ways to learn about food is to go to the local farmer’s market and ask the vendor or farmer questions. What is your favorite way to prepare this produce? How long does it take to grow? What season and climate does this grow best in? What kind of vitamins and health benefits does it contain? Can you help me select a ripe one? I have learned so much from these farmers who have their hands on everything from the planting to the distributing!

4.     Alive… Eating by color encourages me to eat more fruits and veggies and eat more raw and whole foods! By eating raw or eating whole foods I provide my body with nutrient dense food that gives me lots of energy! When I eat healthfully, I feel lighter and brighter and balanced. Fueling my body with naturally colorful foods allows me to have the focus I need in class, the clarity to do well on a test, and the vibrancy I need to get into the gym.

Total Budget: $100 or less
All recipes serve 4

NOTE: Garlic (2) = how many recipes the ingredient garlic is used in. For example, “Garlic (2)” means we will be using garlic in two of our recipes for this week.

The Shopping List For All 5 Dinners

  • 1 Can of coconut milk – $1.00 – 1.49 per 14 oz. can (1)
  • 1 Large or 2 small garlic bulbs – $1 at $0.50 cents each (1)
  • Small stub of ginger root – $0.50 cents worth at $3.99/lb (1)
  • 1 Lime – $0.39 cents each (1)
  • 1 Lemon – $0.39 cents each (1)
  • 1 Bunch of Fresh Cilantro – $1 per bunch (2-3)
  • Sesame oil – $4.99 (1)
  • 1 can black beans – $0.99 (1)
  • 1 Container of red Thai curry paste – $2.50 (1)
  • 1 Purple onion – $1 each (1)
  • 1 yellow onion – $1 each (1)
  • 1 Bunch fresh baby spinach – $2.50 (1)
  • 1 Bag of quinoa – $6.99 – $7.99 (3-4)
  • Can of corn – $0.89 (or 2 fresh corn cobs $1 or less) (2)
  • Green onion or scallions – $1 per bunch (2)
  • 1 Medium yellow spaghetti squash  – $3.29 to $5 (1)
  • 4 Bell peppers (your favorite) – $3.99 -S4.50(2)
  • 1 Jalapeño pepper – $0.39 – $0.99 (1)
  • 2 Sweet potatoes – $2 at $1 each (1)
  • 1 Carton of vegetable broth – $2.99 each (1)
  • 1 Bag of cashews – $4.00 (2)
  • 1 bunch kale – $2.50 (1)
  • Black bean sauce with garlic – $3.39 (1)
  • Chile-garlic sauce, such as Huy Fong – $2.04 (1)
  • 1 bag of green beans – $3.49 – $5 (1)
  • 3 Baby egg plants or 2 medium – $5.98 at $2.99 each (1)
  • 2 large shallots – $1 – 2.99 (1)1/2 cup salsa, plus more for serving – $2.50 (1)

$61.21 – $78.50  *Prices may fluctuate depending on tax, store, sale and season. I paid $56.90 this week.

If you followed us last week you already have the following; however, if this is your first week you will need to make these additional purchases (appx $23.43) or substitute with ingredients you have in your cupboard.

  • Salt and Pepper shakers – $3.49 (2)
  • Ground Cumin spice – $4.99 (2)
  • Agave $3.99 for small bottle
  • Soy sauce or Tamari – $1.99 *GF version is usually more expensive (3)
  • Crushed red pepper flakes – $2.99 for spice container (2)
  • Olive oil – $3.99 for 12 oz container (4)
  • Rice vinegar – $1.99 per bottle (2)

Recipe No. 1

YELLOW: Spicy Spaghetti Squash with Black Beans | Cook Time: 45 Minutes

Source: Whole Foods Market | Link to Instructions

  • 1 Medium spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ Cup chopped red onion
  • 1 Jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
  • 1/2 Cup red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 Cup cooked black beans
  • 1/2 Cup sweet corn, frozen or fresh
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/3 Cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea sal

Note: Spaghetti squash is one of my favorite vegetables because it is comfort food without a lot of extra carbs. You can also use other vegetables such as zucchini and carrots to make noodle type dishes as well, but the nice thing about spaghetti squash is that it is already noodle-like when you cook it, so you don’t need to spend a lot of time with a peeler or purchase a mandolin or spiralizer.

Recipe No. 2

RED: Spanish Quinoa Stuffed Peppers | Cook Time: 1 hour and 15 Minutes

Source: The Minimalist Baker | Link to instructions 

  • 1 cup quinoa or rice, thoroughly rinsed and drained
  • Scant 2 cups vegetable stock (sub water, but it will be less flavorful)
  • 4 large red, yellow or orange bell peppers, halved, seeds removed
  • 1/2 cup salsa, plus more for serving
  • 1 Tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)
  • 2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 15-ounce can black beans, drained (if unsalted, add 1/4 tsp sea salt)
  • 1 cup whole kernel corn, drained

Note: This recipe calls for nutritional yeast, but as it is optional to the recipe I have not included it in your shopping list. A local chain grocery store may not always carry nutritional yeast, but there are several health food stores that I know of which keep it in stock. If you choose to purchase nutritional yeast, you can use it for a savory addition to many recipes! I even sprinkle it over popcorn as a dairy free option to add some seasoning to my movie-night snack!

Recipe No. 3

PURPLE: Eggplant Stir-fry with green beans and cashews | Cook Time: Approximately 30 Minutes

Source: The Vegetarian Times | ink to instructions


  • 1 Tbs. tamari (*Original soy sauce calls for low-sodium soy sauce, but tamari is GF)
  • 2 tsp. Agave (*Original recipe calls for light brown sugar)
  • 1 ½ tsp. black bean sauce with garlic
  • 1 ½ tsp. unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp. chile-garlic sauce


  • 8 oz. green beans, cut diagonally in thirds
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 2 tsp. minced fresh ginger
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (1 tsp.)
  • 2 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. Olive oil (*original recipe calls for canola, peanut, or grapeseed oil)
  • 3 Chinese, Japanese, or Filipino eggplants, unpeeled, cut into ¾-inch pieces (4 cups)
  • 1 tsp. dark sesame oil
  • ¼ cup toasted cashew

Recipe No. 4

GREEN: Sautéed Kale with Toasted Cashews | Cook Time: 15-30 minutes

Source: Simply Recipes by Elise Bauer | Link to instructions

  • 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup unsalted, roasted cashews, roughly chopped
  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 bunch kale, rinsed, tough midrib removed, roughly chopped
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice, plus more to taste
  • Salt

Note: This is the lightest and simplest dish to prepare during this week. I ate my kale on brown rice, but you can eat it on quinoa, brown rice, or any other grain. I used the quinoa from the shopping list and put the kale on top. I recommend making this dish on a night that you are on the run, or looking for a smaller lighter meal.

Recipe No. 5

ORANGE: Creamy Thai Sweet Potato Curry | Cook Time: 30-45 minutes

Source: Pinch of Yum | Link to instructions

  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 3-4 cups fresh baby spinach
  • 2-3 tablespoons thai red curry paste
  • 1 14-ounce can regular coconut milk
  • ½ to 1 cup broth or water
  • ½ cup chopped peanuts and cilantro

Note: The original recipe calls for fish sauce, but if you are a vegan, you can substitute the fish sauce for a little bit of soy and a splash small splash of vinegar. This dish is delicious with quinoa. The nutty flavor of the quinoa really rounds out the sweetness of the potato. You can use the quinoa from the shopping list for this dish. 

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Eating in color not only makes me feel creative, intentional, informed and alive, but it also makes me feel Inspired. After eating a colorful and healthy meal, I feel full in more than just my belly—I feel like my spirit is full too! After a vibrant and healthy meal, I feel that all of my senses have feasted, and it brings me to a feeling of wellness. If I know that I have taken the time to create something beautiful, healthy and delicious, and that I have been good to my body, I feel grounded. This gives me the inspiration to pursue wellness in all things!


Bauer, E. (2003). Sautéed Kale with Toasted Cashews. Retrieved February 16, 2017, from

SimplyRecipes.com website:


Ostrom, L. (2016, January 11). Sweet Potato Curry. Retrieved February 16, 2017, from

PinchOfYum.com website: http://pinchofyum.com/creamy-thai-sweet-potato-curry

Schulz, D. (N/A). Spanish Quinoa Stuffed Peppers. Retrieved February 16, 2017, from

TheMinimalistBaker.com website: http://minimalistbaker.com/spanish-quinoa-stuffed-


The Vegetarian Times, & Levy, F. (2013, July/August). Eggplant Stir-fry with green beans

and cashews. The Vegetarian Times Magazine, 68. Retrieved from



Whole Foods Market. (N/A). Spicy Spaghetti Squash with Black Beans. Retrieved February

16, 2017, from WholeFoodsMarket.com website:





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