Wednesday, June 23, 2010

My *almost* $50 meal plan!

I usually love a good challenge and I'm always looking for ways to cut our household budget. I was toying with the idea of creating a $50 meal plan for our family of six and decided just to go for it one day. I didn't meet my goal (spent $68.29) and here's what I learned:

1. You CAN feed a family of six for 50 bucks a week if you need to.
2. You MUST plan! I did not consult our local grocer's sale papers and that was a big mistake. I thought I could just plan out inexpensive dinners and that would be it, it's not the way to go. You have to see what's on sale and plan around that.
3. This plan includes only food for the week. No household or toiletry items were on my shopping list.
4. I couldn't have done as well as I did without my garden supplementing my meal plan. If you don't have a garden or belong to a CSA, you can still make substitutions to this plan for about $10.

Here's the meal plan:

Homemade muffins
Generic Cheerios
Hard boiled eggs and toast
Homemade yogurt and granola
Breakfast plan: I bought the super huge old fashioned oats to eat during the week. I will also use it in our muffins and combine it with pantry items to make granola (even just the toasted oats and honey would be delicious!) I threw in prepared cereal because some mornings there is just no time for a "homemade" breakfast.
Breakfast prep: Make LARGE batch of muffins and freeze. Will use for breakfasts and snacks. Make homemade yogurt overnight and store in fridge. Cook granola when making the muffins and store in airtight container.

PB & J with fruit
Grilled cheese with fruit
Refried bean burritos
Chicken salad with fruit
Quesadillas with cucumber salad
Lunch plan: Doug and the kids have a thing with leftovers, they just won't eat them! But I've found ways to use the leftovers to fool them! I plan on cooking a large pot of pinto beans on taco night. The next day I'll mash them and season them to eat as burritos. Roasted chicken leftovers will become chicken salad and various veggies will go into quesadillas.
Lunch prep: Make a large batch of tortillas and store in fridge. Cook pinto beans in crock pot. Can also roast chickens ahead of time. Reserve half of one chicken for chicken salad and mix with mayo and whatever fruit you have: apple chunks, red grapes, shredded carrot, walnuts,and a little curry powder from the pantry!

Homemade yogurt and granola (yogurt can be flavored with honey or maple syrup from the pantry)
Homemade bread and honey
Zucchini bread
Cucumbers from the garden and dip

Spaghetti with pesto sauce
Tacos and pinto beans (possibly with pico de gallo if I have any tomatoes from the garden)
Roasted chicken with squash and zucchini from the garden
Easy quiche (sub swiss chard for broccoli and no meat) and cucumber salad
Spaghetti squash with tomato sauce and artisan bread
Homemade Pizza Margerhita
Mac & cheese

Dinner plan and prep:
Pesto sauce will substitute walnuts instead of the pricey pine nuts. Will use half the bag of walnuts in our granola and chicken salad. Basil from the garden. If you don't have fresh basil, you can substitute frozen chopped spinach for less than a dollar!

Will cook a large pot of pinto beans to use in burritos and quesadillas for lunches.

Roasted chicken leftovers will go into chicken salad for lunch the next day. You can sub. garden veggies for a salad. Lettuce is pretty inexpensive or you could roast a bag of baby carrots for less than two dollars.

My "easy quiche" only has four eggs so the rest will be used hardboiled for breakfast and snacks. We can get free range eggs around here at a steal for $2.50 a dozen! Frozen chopped spinach in the recipe can be substituted for chard and a fruit salad of banana/red grape/peach can be served for under four dollars.

We have lots of spaghetti squash from the garden but you can get them at the market for about two-three dollars. Real pasta is even less, but I already have two pasta dishes this week! You should really try spaghetti squash if you haven't. A simple dressing of butter and parmesean cheese is all you need! Will make a batch of artisan bread early in the week and pull off what I need to bake as we go. The kids love snacking on fresh bread from the oven (and I usually add ground flax and wheat germ to the mix to make it more nutritional!)

Use artisan dough for your pizza crust and spread on leftover pesto sauce and thinly sliced tomato for a wonderful pizza Margerhita!

Mac and cheese is very inexpensive to make and I usually make a double batch for the freezer. You could use the second batch as a lunch meal for one of your days.

You'll note that nothing here is processed except the breakfast cereal. That's one of the keys in doing this cheaply ~ MAKE IT YOURSELF! You control the ingredients which benefits your health and your pocketbook!
We drink only water. Sweet tea is my vice, thankfully it's cheap or I can grow my own. We'll drink it for dinner but otherwise we'll stick to water. It flushes out toxins, is good for your body, and you're not pumping your family full of HFCS!
Go meatless! By cutting out meat for one to three meals a week you'll substantially cut your budget!
Buy generic/store brands to save money.

I didn't meet my goal of $50 this time but I plan to keep at this until I do! I'll plan my meals around what is on sale and keep the pantry stocked of necessary items.
I'm attaching my plan and shopping list in case anyone is interested in trying this out.
Let me know what you think!

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