Pinch me? I could get used to this.
Besides being pampered for a few hours, reading three back issues of Sunset Magazine, and returning home to find two happy boys, perhaps the best part of my day was seeing the delicious meal plan my husband put together while I was out. Not only that, but his shopping trip totaled only $48 which, when added to the $15 spent at the farmer's market/grocery the previous day, kept us below our $75 a week grocery budget. (Note: Our total $75 grocery budget does include breakfasts, lunches, snacks and kid-friendly staples. As far as planning goes, we focus on dinner as that is the main meal we prepare each day, and our lunches are nearly always leftovers.)
As with each of our weekly meal plans, he took into account what we already had in the fridge, garden and freezer, substituted (or omitted) ingredients in recipes, stayed away from processed foods, and stuck to his list when he went to the store. While your family may not be able to match our exact spending given what you already have on hand, the meal plan below is budget-friendly, reuses ingredients, and takes advantage of fruits/veggies that are in season (and thus less expensive). To help you see how we cut corners and saved money, I inserted notes on how we prepared each meal.
Have your own meal plan tips? Please share them in the comments!
Matt's Awesome Meal Plan
Saturday: Burgers with Kale Chips
- The grass-fed ground beef for the burgers came from my husband's winery. Don't have your own free beef from work? (Really, who does?) Buy it on sale and stock your freezer. We get the kale from our garden, but you can find a bunch of it at the grocery store for $1.50 or less. If you have kids, I bet you can get them to try these delicious and crunchy kale chips. Our toddler loves them.
- This recipe is for white fish tacos, but we like to spice it up with salmon. We buy 1/2 lb of fish for our family of three and make it work by having plenty of veggie toppings. Other ways we keep this recipe cheap: skip the jicima and red cabbage (just do green), and if you don't have all of the spices for the fish rub, no biggie. We often just do chili powder.
- We stock up on chickens when they are on sale (like this week) and put them in the freezer. Tomatoes and cucumbers are in season so if you don't have them in your garden like we do, you can find good deals at your grocer or farmer's market.
- Use leftover dark meat from the grilled chicken for these yummy toastadas. Also plan to reuse a lot of ingredients from the salmon tacos: tortillas, chilies in Adobo sauce, sour cream, limes, and cabbage. We also save by not including the radishes, and keeping our pantry stocked with black beans we bought on sale.
- Use the leftover white meat for these yummy BLTs and whatever bread you have on hand. Save any remaining bacon for a leisurely weekend breakfast. For the side salad, be creative with whatever you have on hand. For us this week? Let me guess...tomatoes and cucumbers...
- This has become our go-to recipe this summer - it's delicious, easy and healthy. You will need to invest in Tahini paste the first time you make this, but it keeps well and can be used to make other great frugal dishes like homemade hummus. I've also found that I can use half the amount of Tahini called for in this recipe and the result is even - if not more - delicious. Zucchini is in season and if you ask around, you may find a friend who would beg you to take some off their hands. We serve our Baba Ganoush with Mediterranean flatbread from Trader Joe's (or leftover tortillas), sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions. Notice a veggie theme this week?
- I love pizza nights because I can almost do the cooking with my eyes closed. We buy pizza dough and a huge hunk of mozzerella (you always save when you buy ungrated cheese) from Trader Joe's, and use tomato sauce that we canned last year. If we have leftover veggies or meat from the week, onto the pizza they go.
1. Meal Planning: How we eat well on a $75 weekly budget
2. Eating Well on the Cheap: Keeping a stocked freezer
3. How we spend $50 or less a month at restaurants