Some of you have asked about my blossoming menu plan, so I figured I’d go ahead and share what I’ve got so far.
Like I’ve said before, I’ve had a really hard time planning meals and budgeting for food. I have no problem putting together lovely, gourmet recipes and I’d do so every night if I could afford it! I’m grateful for the culinary interest I seem to have gleaned from my parents, but at this stage in our life, we can’t afford to eat something new and exotic very often! I try to take my love for beautiful, delicious food and translate it into making simple meals a little more exciting. That’s a big goal of mine.
I have felt especially passionate about finding a way to eat healthy on a tight budget as of late. I don’t want to compromise our health, which is probably the most challenging part about all of this. I do believe, however, that it can be done…with a bit of planning and resourcefulness.
My biggest realization was that I have a dependence on packaged food. Not awful, unhealthy stuff, but things like Trader Joe’s organic white cheddar mac-n-cheese (for Jack), whole grain crackers, cute little individually packaged yogurts, store-bought cans and jars of foods, some pre-cut/cooked/steamed veggies (like beets for salads, pre-cut “Southern Greens” in a bag, pre-cut broccoli on occasion, and “baby” carrots), and store-bought breads and granolas, to name a few.
My next realization was that I can easily make things from scratch. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve made homemade tortillas, whole wheat bread, granola, banana muffins, cornbread, pizza crust, tomato sauce, and chili with dried pinto beans! Whereas before, I’d buy things for the sake of convenience (a jar of marinara, unbaked pizza dough ready to be rolled out, “homemade” Trader Joe’s tortillas, a tiny box of granola for $4, a Jiffy box of cornbread mix, canned beans), I’m realizing that I can save a lot of money by putting in just a tiny bit of extra time.
As a result of the above understandings, I have made a 10-day menu plan reflecting many of the items I’ve discovered I can make by hand. I’ve made a list of fresh items to purchase every 10 days, as well as a list of items (dry goods, a few canned items, and meat) to restock each month (assuming I will run out occasionally).
Here’s the menu plan (keep in mind that all meals include either a steamed/roasted vegetable or green salad):
Spaghetti with homemade meat sauce
Pizza with homemade sauce and dough
Baked potatoes with cheese and veggies
Tacos with homemade tortillas
Chili with homemade cornbread
Pasta with sauteed sun-dried tomatoes, broccoli, and garlic
Turkey meatball and rice soup
Chicken sausage with brown rice medley
Homemade tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches
Red beans and rice
That’s my plan so far. I may alter a few of the meals, depending on how satisfied we are with repeating them three times a month, but this is what I will build off of. I haven’t ordered them specifically, either, so they’re not necessarily going to be eaten in that order.
As far as breakfasts are concerned, I’m no longer buying packaged cereals. I’ve decided to keep ingredients on hand to be able to make things like waffles, pancakes, biscuits, muffins, and granola, and we will also keep stock of turkey bacon, eggs, and yogurt along with fruit.
For lunch, I’ve decided something along the same lines: I’ll have ingredients available for different kinds of sandwiches (PB&J, egg salad, grilled cheese), salads, hummus with veggies, and also try to keep up with making homemade applesauce and buying nuts in bulk for something extra. Any snacks can be comprised of our breakfast and lunch options.
I plan to buy meat once a month, using what I need that week and freezing the rest, separated into the amounts I need for each meal, to use later on. I’ve begun to buy my baking supplies, beans, rice, and anything else I can find in bulk, which significantly lowers costs. I will no longer buy pre-cut salad greens or vegetables, but instead will opt to do that work myself. I’ll still buy canned tomatoes and such until I learn to can my own, but I am going to try to make all bean recipes with dried beans. We don’t really drink anything besides water, coffee, and orange juice, so that’s all taken care of.
I have yet to fully implement this plan, and I have a feeling it might need a bit of tweaking, but I know it will help us to keep within our budget because it’s so different from what we’ve always done. I will keep you all updated on how it goes, what I learn, and what I change as a result of what I learn. 🙂
And, of course I’ll post recipes. 😉 Look for some in the next few days!