I’m hiding. I admit it. I’m hiding from Meal planning.
I sit here at my laptop and do anything and everything but meal plan, including watching hamsters spin each other around in a wheel, while Top Chef plays in the background. I know if I go out to the kitchen I will be confronted with the same old Food, the same limited pantry. The cupboards stare at me as I walk past. I’m sorry, cupboards, I wish I could feed you more tasty foods.
The challenge of meal planning for me has been maximizing my grocery budget, but what do you do when there is no budget, when you eat what the food pantry gives you and by golly, you like it no matter what it tastes like. My aim for the More With Less Meal Plans has been to cost about $100 for a week of dinners, and if you shop your pantry it is much less. But what if you have neither the $100 nor the pantry? Heat is freaking expensive. Come on, spring, if I can’t have snow I don’t need the cold!
I’m going to suck it up and do the dang meal plan. I’m going to make more of an effort to trim down the costs of the meal plan, and take advantage of seasonal produce to snip the bottom line down. I’m going to save money in other places so I can feed my poor cupboards tasty foods. Sometimes it’s hard to be a one income family, but more often it’s nice to be able to spend time with my kids. Here’s to more tasty foods!
This is not your everyday, average meal plan. Learn how to cook like your great-grandma did, with little waste, and stretching what you have (including your dollars).
The point of this meal plan is to help you be smart with your money. If you are living with a food stamp budget, or less, this will help teach you how to make it work.
Feed your family of four a week of dinners with a shopping cart maximum of $89.02. Eat more – spend less!
In this post: Shopping Cart ~ Recipes ~ Printable List ~ Pinterest Boards
*Just gimme the PDF*
I went with the theory that you had a limited amount of dollars to feed your family for a week, after that you will still have groceries from this trip to work with the schtuff in your pantry. It is cheaper in the long run to buy a five pound bag of flour, but if you have not-enough-stupid-dollars you may have to buy the two pound bag so you can get tomatoes as well.
If you want to be really frugal you have to shop for a longer time frame, or be really good about buying ingredients you need when there are sales so you don’t have to pay the on-demand price when you run out.
In this post I have many tips for pinching your pennies and stretching your food budget. I focus a lot on avoiding waste, since wasted food is wasted money (you bought the ingredients for that science experiment you’re tossing from the depths of the fridge). The goal is to get more food with less money.
Shopping List (as pulled from the recipes)
*Please see the PDF for a Shopping List with prices
If you want to be able to make decisions on the fly you should print out the whole post (or at least the list section) and bring it with, since I had to simplify the list a lot for the printable. This list includes all of the ingredients. The PDF just includes the item to buy with prices.
Baking & Staples:
7 Tbl olive oil (don’t buy at dollar store, I would use butter if you have nothing else)
1 Tbl coconut oil (sub olive oil)
2 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sugar
1 Tbl maple syrup (you can get maple-syrup-style-food-product at the dollar store but this is one of those thing you should stock up on)
1 Tbl rice wine vinegar (for sauce, any light, white-flavored vinegar can be subbed but not regular white vinegar)
3/4 c frozen corn kernels, thawed
1/4 c tahini (we keep this in the house to make hummus)
1 Tbl sesame oil (for sauce)
1/4 c Tamari/soy sauce (for sauce)
grated Parmesan cheese for garnish (optional)
1/2 c buttermilk (put 1/2 Tbl vinegar in 1/2 c measure, add milk to fill, let sit 5 min)
1/2 c butter
1/2 c milk
2 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
10 carrots (5 lb bag, save scraps for stock, save tops to regrow greens for stock)
6 ribs of celery (1 bunch)
5 large yellow or white onion, (save scraps for stock, but I don’t like skins in stock)
1/2 red onion (save scraps for stock, but I don’t like skins in stock)
16 c kale, chopped (8 bunches)
2 large sweet potatoes
2 heads broccoli
1 lemon (you need juice and peel)
1 1/2 lb Yukon Gold or white potatoes (5 lb bag white potatoes)
1 lb parsnip
8 oz sliced mushrooms (10 cremini)
6 garlic cloves (1 head)
6-8 oz small dried pasta (diy orecchiette)
1 1/2 c cooked lentils (rinse 3/4 c lentils, remove tiny rocks, simmer in 3 c water 17 min)
8 oz whole wheat spaghetti (use whatever is in your pantry, wheat isn’t that much more if you want to try it, diy wheat spaghetti)
8 oz uncooked penne pasta (diy garganelli)
Wine & Beer:
15 c broth (sub homemade stock for all wine, stock)
Meat & Seafood:
3 1/2 lb whole chicken (you need 1 lb raw, plus 2 c cooked, break down a whole chicken)
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can cannellini beans (or 2 c homemade, diy it)
16 oz chickpeas
Total shopping cart: $89.02
If it is optional I did not include it in the total. If you have it, great. If not, save your dollars.
If you don’t have that in cash you can remove the maple syrup, or even just buy the cheap processed stuff. Tahini is like soy sauce, if you omit either you will lose a ton of flavor. But the sesame oil and rice wine vinegar are just for flavor, you’ll have to taste that Lo Mein and rescue it with garlic or something. That is a ton of money for cheese, and I would look forward to that pasta, but you can leave it out. This will save you $18.46, making your shopping cart total $70.56, before your pantry items, sales, coupons, or diy efforts. I always keep track in my head of what I might want to take out if I come up short. If I shop my pantry right now, without couponing or DIYing, my cart would cost me $65.19.
Keep in mind this total is for the whole Shopping cart for EVERYTHING but the spices, even the olive oil. This is not the price per unit, but the total cost if you have no food in the house.
You could go buy all of this and deliver it to someone in need, and know they had everything they needed for 7 days of dinners for 4 people, and leftover ingredients.
I did include oil but did not include any spices on my list/in my total. Hopefully you have some spices and can wing it.
Spices you can get at the dollar store:
$6 if you have to buy them all; dollar store spices are not high quality, you need to use more to get enough flavor
As always, I sort my recipes by how perishable the ingredients are. I have found I can’t stick to a rigid day-by-day meal plan. I like to stay flexible, and don’t like to waste food.
Tier 1/Most Perishable
*Do ahead vegetable stock with extra carrots, celery, and onions, or better yet the chicken carcass and veg scraps you saved for just such a project. You need a ton (15 cups) of stock with all these soups, which is saving you a boatload of money ($9.95 or enough to buy the tahini).
Easy Winter Vegetable Lo Mein from Making Thyme for Health broccoli, mushroom, carrot
Sweet Potato Chickpea Buddha Bowl from Minimalist Baker sub broccoli, kale, sweet potato
Tier 2/Less Perishable
Chicken and Kale Soup from In Sonnet’s Kitchen kale, carrot, onion
Hearty Minestrone Soup from Don’t Waste the Crumbs kale, carrot, onion
Pasta with Black Kale, Caramelized Onions, and Parsnips from Cooking Light sub regular kale, parsnip, onion
Tier 3/Pantry or Make It Whenever
Chicken with Lemon Thyme Dumplings from Midwest Living celery, carrot, potato
Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie From EatingWell carrot, onion, potato
Save this meal plan PDF to your desktop to refer to your recipes, then print it for the shopping list, then stick it on the fridge so your lovely family can keep on track.
Shopping List PDF Download
These meals are for approximately four servings. You might have leftovers, or you might need to double the recipe, depending on your family. Sometimes I triple the recipe, my family of six eats double (hello starving teen boy) and I freeze the third portion. Then I can pull that from the freezer and add a salad another time without cooking.
I searched for what it would cost me to go get these groceries right this minute at the mid-range store in my area (Hannaford which has online prices, or Wegmans also has aisles which is helpful for your shopping list). I already have a lot of these ingredients in the house, and I shop at the “value” store (Market Basket). If I find coupons for what I am already buying online I save even more.
How do I get my shopping cart total lower?
Besides selecting foods to leave out, there are several things you can do:
- Shop your pantry. Why spend more money on food when you already have some? The best way to save money is to not spend it. Work with the food you already have in your garden, fridge, freezer, and pantry and you can minimize what you have to buy.
- Use sales and shop seasonally. The produce that is plentiful tends to be less expensive, so to eat seasonally just means to buy tomatoes when they’re in everybody’s garden everywhere, and often loss leaders in the sales flyers. Avoid recipes with tomatoes in December when they’re just not the same, and you don’t have to pay somebody to store that tomato from summer to December.
- Use coupons and be smart about it. I found that couponing from the paper was taking me more time than the money I saved was worth, since it was all for food I didn’t want to buy and cleaning products I didn’t need. However, you can do a quick search online, since your real food shopping list is short, and find a few coupons that will save you a few dollars with minimal time invested.
- It pays to DIY it. If you buy a processed food you are paying everyone who was involved in making that product, and they include their expenses in the markup. It is cheaper to invest your own time, learn a new skill, and know what is in your food. Whether it is worth it to diy for you will depend on your lifestyle. If you have very little time maybe it’s better for you to buy the packaged tortillas, but it won’t hurt you to try making them once and see how it goes, then you can make an informed decision.
Search My Grocery Deals for coupons and the best local deals
Check Money Saving Mom for your local flyers
Some of my favorites for DIYing processed foods are Simple Bites and Good Life Eats
If you are curious you can check the cost of living rating for your area at Sperling’s Best Places. My grocery costs are rated at 103.5, which is really close to the average for the US.
February Meal Plan Pinterest Boards:
Meal Plan February (just look at all that tastiness!)
Recipes to Try Winter
In this post: Shopping Cart ~ Recipes ~ Printable List ~ Pinterest Boards
Share with me: What do you do to stretch your grocery budget?
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*Also see our
Frugal Flexible Monthly Meal Planning OR
Free Retro Mid-Century Weekly Meal Plan Printable Template
We hope you enjoyed our More With Less 7 Day Meal Plan for Winter post
Photo credits: Vintage floral wallpaper background from Karen Arnold
Each recipe photo is the property of the original site as linked
© Written by Melissa French, The More With Less Mom
The post More With Less 7 Day Meal Plan #5 – Winter appeared first on More With Less Mom.