I thought I'd start doing some regular posts, not every week but often, on how I prepare meals for my family and stretch not only our food dollars but our food as well to maximize our budget. With a little creativity I am always amazed at how much I can do with our meals and keep it tasty as well as interesting.
I like to start out the week by preparing a really nice meal for the family and I will usually include a dessert.
Chocolate Ice Cream
I bought the sausages on sale for $2.99, the pepper was 99¢ and the canned tomatoes were on sale for 48¢. I already had the onion (15¢) and it was big so I only used half of it. The pasta was on sale and also I used a coupon which made it only 70¢. Total spent = $4.61.
I used half a large bag of lettuce mix ($1.69), a half can of olives (50¢) and tomatoes from our garden to make the salad. Total spent = $1.35.
The ice cream was leftover but originally only $1.79.
After we ate I chopped up the two leftover sausages from our Sunday dinner. I took the leftover veggies and chopped sausage, added a can of pasta sauce I bought on sale (68¢) and mixed it all together. I did this when I cleaned up that evening after dinner.
Monday - Chicken Quesadillas & Garden Salad
I made our Monday night chicken quesadillas using up some cooked chicken I had left over in the refrigerator. I absolutely hate when meat gets wasted so I was happy to see it get used up. Cheese ($1) from the freezer stash and 8 tortillas from a 10 ct. package bought on sale ($1.10). We finished the leftover salad from the night before. Total spent = $2.20.
Tuesday - Pasta & Meat Sauce, Spinach Salad
On Tuesday all I had to do when I got home from work was reheat the sauce (.68) and boil up some new pasta (70¢). I used 1/3 of a bag of spinach I had bought on sale for $1.38, two mushrooms (35¢), the other half a can of olives (99¢) and some leftover dried cranberries (25¢). Total spent = $2.93.
Wednesday - Chinese Chicken & Cabbage
I used the other half of the onion (15¢) from Sunday and some condiments I already had on hand along with a bag of coleslaw mix ($1.29). Total spent = $3.47.
Thursday - Egg Scramble, Toasted Bagels & Fruit
I like to toss in a really frugal meal about once a week or so to make things stretch a bit more. Plus we happen to really love eggs or some kind of breakfast for supper. Since our chickens are completely self-sufficient right now our eggs are pretty much free.
I prepared two eggs for each of us with some bell pepper from our garden and a thick slice of onion I chopped and sautéed with some of our rendered bacon fat.
I prepared two eggs for each of us with some bell pepper from our garden and a thick slice of onion I chopped and sautéed with some of our rendered bacon fat. I topped the eggs with a small handful of cheddar cheese (25¢) I toasted three large bagel halves (25¢) to go with the eggs and also served 2/3 of a jumbo can of peaches (75¢) I had bought on sale. Total spent = $1.25.
Friday - Leftover Chinese Chicken & Cabbage
We reheated our leftovers for a quick supper. We also had some leftover pasta to finish up as well as some salad. A mini buffet. Total spent = $0.00.
Saturday - Minestrone Soup, Bread Sticks, Garden Salad
I made the soup using leftover veggies and kidney beans (25¢) I pulled from the freezer a can of tomato sauce (50¢) and diced tomatoes (48¢) I purchased on sale, a small package of pasta (33¢) and spices from the cabinet. I used my pizza dough recipe to make homemade breadsticks to go with (50¢) and a salad using up the last of the spinach (46¢), tomatoes from our garden, and two mushrooms (35¢). Total spent = $2.37.
This is just one week of meals, dinners only, and admittedly these are pretty inexpensive. Some of our meals cost more and some cost less, but it all evens out over the course of the month and we manage to enjoy some delicious and healthy meals while staying within budget. I did not include the cost of condiments, spices or beverages as it would've been tedious and overwhelming to try and track every penny on those items. Other than milk we usually just drink water with dinner.
It is also important to note that we had plenty of leftovers to make several lunches throughout the week. The soup was served again on Monday with a fresh salad and leftover breadsticks and there was also enough for one lunch.
Meal planning around what is already on hand in the pantry and freezer as well as managing leftovers so we don't waste food helps us immensely to reduce our overall expense. I try to buy almost all of our groceries on sale or from the markdown bins and use coupons whenever possible to save that much more.