Lentils are a cheap, user-friendly, nutritional powerhouse packed with tons of protein and fiber. They lend themselves to easily soak up delicious flavors and make a great base to soup or stand alone as a side dish. They are grouped into the same legume family as peanuts, beans, and peas. Dried lentils make for quicker preparation than other bean family relatives as they don’t need the extended soaking time, making them much easier to whip up in a hurry.
Their nutritional profile is excellent as a one cup serving provides 18g protein and 16g fiber. Fiber is a nutritional super-power as it helps lower cholesterol, improve blood sugar, and digestive functions. Lentils are pound for pound one of the most fiber rich whole food options, and is very economical as a one pound bag can usually be purchased for around $1.
My favorite lentil preparation is a soup I’ve been making over the past several years. This soup is very healthy, budget-friendly, makes a large batch and best of all leaves only one pot to clean up afterwards. This soup is a staple in my cooking, especially in the fall-winter months. I like to make it on a Sunday night leaving me ample leftovers for lunches the next week at work to provide me with a quick, healthy, tasty, and cheap alternative than the greasy takeout options used by my peers.
- 1 lb lentils
- (optional) 1.5 lb sausage (I usually use wild game deer or elk sausage)
- 2 onions (I typically use sweet onions)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic
- 5 carrots
- 5 stalks celery
- 32 oz chicken broth
- 32 oz water
- 28 oz diced tomato
- 1 tbsp dried basil
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp pepper
- Salt to taste
- 2 tbsp vinegar (I use balsamic)
- Optional Tapatio or Cholula Chipotle hot sauce topping
- Brown the meat in a large pot on medium-medium high heat. Add onions and sauté in olive oil until they become translucent.
- Add in the carrot, celery, and garlic and cook until they soften for about five minutes
- Add the spices and diced tomato. Mix well and let simmer for a couple minutes
- Add in chicken broth and water. Cover and let the pot heat up until it boils. After this, turn heat down to medium-low and let the delicious mixture simmer for 1 hour
- Add in balsamic vinegar and let the soup simmer for another ten minutes
- Let the soup cool and enjoy
Cost-wise, this meal yields over 10 pounds of food which makes at least a dozen normal sized servings. The batch I made most recently came in at less than $10 for all the ingredients, providing delicious, hearty fare for less than $1 per serving. Nutritionally, the soup provides ample protein at around 30 g per serving. Additionally, the soup packs a wallop in the fiber department, containing over 25g of fiber per serving which approaches the daily recommended amount in a single bowl.
The end result is a soup that will fill your kitchen with rich aroma, fill your belly with a thick and hearty soup, keep your belly flat with its great nutritional profile, and keep your wallet fat with cash.