Simple Baked Italian Meatballs (Grain/Dairy/Egg-free): The Healthy $1 Menu

Simple Baked Mini Meatballs that are paleo, and frugal too!

These meatballs are everything you need them to be. They stay together, but are moist. They are flavorful and delicious straight off the pan, or added to a wide variety of dishes (like pasta dishes, served over mashed potatoes, or made into a meatball sub. You name it, these work for it).

I love baking meatballs as I find it a reliable, worry-free method to cook them. In this recipe, it’s breadcrumb-free, so you don’t even have to drag out the food processor, but simply mix, shape, and bake!

Oh, and did I mention they are grain -, dairy- and egg-free and that they are super-frugal to make? Meatballs are one of those humble foods that should be getting more attention, but often don’t. I love that they are a fun way to get my girls to enjoy their protein – they seem to especially enjoy eating them plain or dipping them into organic fruit sweetened jam.

They would fit well into a daydream that I have. In it, I step up to a counter and say, “Yes, I’d like to order off your Healthy $1 menu. I’d like two grassfed, grain-free meatballs plates, and a side of organic mashed potatoes and carrot salad.” I receive the gratifying answer, “Your order will be right out, ma’am.”

And then I wake up.

And then I decide to make my own dollar menu at home.

Because you know what? Homemade, healthy food doesn’t have to be expensive. Not to pick on McDonalds, but because it IS one of the most known and biggest fast food restaurants out there, have you ever thought about how expensive fast food can be? The average cost for a big mac (as it varies across states) is $4.56. Add to that fries and a soda pop, and you have, in my opinion, a not-very-frugal meal.

While on the one hand I acknowledge that eating well can be expensive, and sometimes eating an ideal diet is out of reach. On the other hand, often, eating well is much more frugal than you think, and that is why I, along with my contributing writers, are reviving The Healthy $1 Menu series!  Some of us use all organic, some use ingredients from the farmers market, and some use ingredients from the local supermarket, so you will see a variety of “purity” standards. But what is consistent is using “real food”, and the dishes being about $1 a serving.

Some of the dishes will be main dishes, some, like the following recipe, can be a “side order” side dish, or a “add to meal” item. The point of the series is not simply to offer frugal and practical recipes (though I sure hope it does!), but to help us all think about our budget in a new way. When seeing how much our dollar can buy when cooking at home, it can be really encouraging!

Take these meatballs. Now, I am not saying that one serving is all you need for a meal, just like buying a $1 taco out may not be your whole meal. But really, isn’t it a great deal to be able to get a side order of meatballs made with superior ingredients for this price? See, eating well isn’t always terribly expensive. You can serve these over frugal dishes, like mashed potatoes, or on butter toast, or add to marinara pasta, or eat plain, like we like them. Plus, meatballs freeze really well, so you can make up several batches, and have them on hand!

Because even my costs for this dish vary, depending on where I buy the meat, if it was on sale, or whether I was buying it as part of the meat co-op, I decided to use both the lower price and the higher to give you a sliding scale. Other ingredients are priced from my affiliate,

Cost Analysis:

  • $3.25 to $6 for a pound of grassfed beef
  • $.25 for herbs and salt (priced according to buying in bulk)
  • $.19 for coconut flour
  • Liquid -$.25 to .0

Total for meatballs: $3.94 to $6.94

With 30 mini meatballs, 6 per serving, it will cost you between .78 per serving to $1.38 per serving.  If you are feeling really extravagant, serving with a small spoonful of raspberry jam costs about $.20-.40 per serving, when buying store-bought, sugar-free, organic.

Not too shabby for just one dollar, is it!

Ground beef is actually a great food item to use for a frugal main dish, by the way. Here are a couple other recipes that use it: Quinoa Mexican Bowl, Sloppy Joes in a BowlGround Beef and Cabbage, Kelly’s Easy Shepherd Pie, Diane’s Sloppy Joes and Beef Chili

Recipe type: Italian/Main Dish
Serves: 4-6
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Sometimes I add a minced garlic clove to the meatballs, but more often then not, I actually keep it out, as it doesn’t become cooked as soft as I like when cooking mini meatballs. Sometimes I make medium sized meatballs too, and just cook them longer (it makes about 18 medium sized).
  • 1 pound grassfed beef
  • 2 tablespoons coconut flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons Italian seasoning or ½ teaspoon each dried thyme, basil, and oregano
  • 3 tablespoons dairy-free milk of choice, or water
  • ¾ teaspoon unrefined salt
  1. Preheat oven to 400F degrees
  2. In a medium sized bowl, dump all of the above ingredients, and mix them thoroughly with your hands.
  3. Using a tablespoon, melon scoop, or hands scoop out small balls of the mixture and quickly roll into small balls. I make about 30 mini meatballs, or 18 medium with this amount.
  4. Line up on a parchment lined sheet pan, and cook for about 12-15 minutes (for mini meatballs) or until cooked through. Serve right away.





Creamy Oolong Chai Iced Tea (the cheater’s way!)

Creamy Oolong Chai Iced Tea (super easy and fast)Famous oolong tea is flavored with health- and flavor- promoting spices and sweetened and drizzled with a dairy-free milk of choice (or cream or half and half) for a delicious and refreshing pick-me-up.  I call this “cheater’s brew” because you use ground spices instead of brewing whole spices with the tea.

I have shared how to make a chai tea concentrate, which is a wonderful thing to have on hand. But sometimes you just want to be able to whip a chai up on the spur of the moment. This method works well for that.

This recipe, inspired by a recipe from the authors of Trim Healthy Mama, is super easy and make a whole a whole quart of chai tea. Plus, it contains several ingredients that could help level out blood sugar (cinnamon) and speed the metabolic rate (tea and cayenne)! The original recipe uses almond milk (read about making your own nut milks here). I used canned coconut milk for an ultra-creamy drink. (If you were using their eating plan, you would use almond milk for a fuel-pull and with an energizing meal. The coconut milk works for satisfying meals, but you’d always have to use the stevia choice).

Because I don’t like making claims without some proof, check out the following studies:

  •  This study found that giving cinnamon to those with type II diabetes reduced their serum glucose, triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, and could reduce the risk factors associated with diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
  •  And at this page you will see a study supporting the idea that oolong tea does indeed help control weight (an ancient idea), but scroll down for many more links to other studies.

But really, I just drink it because it’s good!

Creamy Oolong Chai Iced Tea (the cheater's way!)
Serves: 1
Remember that one of the reasons I love this recipe, is that it is so easy to adapt! So adapt away!
  • 4 tea bags or loose tea equivalent (or 2 tea bags for frugal choice option)
  • ¼-1/2 cup of canned whole fat coconut milk, almond milk, or milk or dairy-free “milk” of choice
  • ½-1 teaspoon high quality vanilla (use gluten-free, if needed)
  • ½-1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch of Cayenne (or substitute black pepper)
  • 2 teaspoons to 2 tablespoons of raw honey, simple syrup made with honey, or stevia to taste (6-10 drop of liquid)
  • Optional: A pinch of dried ginger, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg (a pinch of all of them, or which ever ones you’d like)
  1. Brew hot tea in a typical coffee cup (all four) for about 4 minutes.**
  2. Pour brew into blender and blend with the rest of the ingredients until smooth. (It just takes a couple of pulses.)
  3. Fill with ice a quart size mason jar (or a heat safe extra large cup) and pour tea over. Adjust flavors as needed and enjoy!
  4. **Frugal Choice: Brew two teabags in half a cup of water and pour into blender. Then brew the same teabags in another half cup of water, and pour into blender. Proceed with step two.

How to Make Kombucha Vinegar and Kombucha Salad Dressing

how to make kombucha vinegar and a homemade salad dressing with it!
Did you know that you can make kombucha vinegar cheaply and easily? This kombucha vinegar is a gentle vinegar that can easily be used as an addition to soaking grains, a “detox bath” ingredient, or used in a homemade salad dressing! The below recipe for a Homemade Kombucha Dressing, is a super simple, very frugal, probiotic salad dressing.

If you are already making kombucha on a regular basis, brewing up a batch of kombucha vinegar here and there can definitely help you save money considering the price of organic vinegars. (This post is part of the 52 ways to save money on a healthy diet series).

As many of you will remember, I have become a real fan of continuous kombucha brewing. I LOVE this method. But I did kind of lose track of it this summer, and I literally have a kombucha scoby that has grown to become a massive couple inch thick scoby. This is exciting to see, but it has also made my brew, brew too quickly, making it vinegar instead of kombucha tea! I need to take the scoby out and thin it down, but meanwhile I have this beautiful kombucha vinegar to use!

So how to make kombucha vinegar? It’s simple; you just allow it to continue brewing until it is quite sour. I find that I can get it to taste pretty similarly to raw apple cider vinegar. If you are doing single batches, this could take 30-60 days. With the continuous brew, it will be much shorter. Just keep tasting it until it has consumed all of the sugar, and converted it to vinegar. That’s it!

How to make kombucha vinegar

Kombucha Salad Dressing
Prep time:
Total time:
This simple and frugal salad dressing is very simple to make with soured kombucha.
  • ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup homemade kombucha vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon style mustard
  • ¾ teaspoon unrefined salt
  • 1-3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced
  • Pinch of dried basil, thyme, or oregano (or minced fresh herbs)
  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a mason jar. Lid and shake vigorously. Toss with a green salad, legume or grain based salads, or even pasta salads!






Simple Baked Apples

Tender apples are stuffed with crunchy nuts and sweet raisins, and spiked with cinnamon. This old fashioned treat is not only a frugal dessert, but it is delicious too. I am putting this into the category of “The Healthy $1 Menu”, because each serving cost less than one dollar to make!

This is the type of dessert that Dr. Price would have served to the school children in his programs, by the way. While I don’t think that fruit always needs to be on the menu, fruit can help provide needed vitamins and nutrients not always found elsewhere.

I served this with a side of homemade ice cream. For a dairy-free version you could use my coconut milk vanilla ice cream. We tried a goat milk version, since we just recently found out that goat’s milk may be okay for us. Next time I may try a combination of coconut milk and goat’s milk to up the creaminess of the ice cream. We tried 3 cups of whole goat’s milk (raw and fresh, so that it wouldn’t taste “goaty”), ¼ cup honey, 2 teaspoons of vanilla. Very yummy and light.

When we think of baked apples, we generally think of whole apples, baked. But you don’t necessarily have to leave the apple whole. Traditionally, sometimes they were halved or even sliced before baking. I got tired of coring my apple, so here; I cut them in half and then stuff each half. You could easily make this with any amount of apples you want. I use about ½ tablespoon each of nuts, dried fruit per half of apple, and butter (or coconut oil). Then add as much sweetener and cinnamon as you’d like and you have your stuffing mixture!

I have been making a small amount of apples at a time. This will serve 2 people, for a whole apple each, or 4 people, with a half apple each.


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