At the Table

Another month of menu planning

1 month $100 meal plan

Well, we made it to the end of another $100 food month!  We tried some new recipes (shredded chicken tacos, anyone?), came in a few dollars under budget, and also ate almost exclusively gluten free the entire month.  I thought that this month I would just share a list of the dinners we ate, plus a few tips on how we stretched our budget.  If you need proof that we really did come in at $96 and some odd cents, I’ll add my shopping list to the post!  Keep in mind that Jeth and I both get free lunch at work twice each week, and one free dinner at our weekly International Student Ministry meetings.  If we didn’t, though, I’d just make sure we had some extra leftovers to eat for lunch.

As is usual in our household, the only meals that I really plan are dinners:  There are just two of us, but I will often make something that serves 4 or 6, so that we have enough for lunch and possibly dinner the next day.  There is no way that we could eat this inexpensively if we weren’t okay with seeing the same meal repeated a couple of times each week.  For breakfast, I have been making a big jar of pre-mixed instant oatmeal over the weekend, which we work off of during the week.  There are usually a couple of more fun, cheap breakfasts, (like eggs and fried potatoes or waffles) thrown in there to keep mornings interesting.  I stocked up on cranberries after Thanksgiving when they were under $1 a bag, and have been pulling them out of the freezer to make baked cranberry oatmeal every once in a while, too.  It’s always a good idea to keep an eye out for discounted food after holidays, especially if it’s freezable or shelf stable.

Since we are in the middle of winter (and a cold, snowy one at that…ugh), most of our vegetables have been of the frozen variety, plus potatoes, cabbage, kale, and carrots.  Things like tomatoes, peppers, zucchini are so expensive since they’re out of season.  If we had space to store food, I would freeze or can our own produce over the summer, but alas…little house problems.  To me, getting enough fruit and veggies in our meals has always been the hardest thing to do on a budget, but I’m getting better.  If the main dish doesn’t already have a couple kinds of vegetables in it, I’ll just saute up some kale or frozen veggies (a little butter and some herbs or spices go a long way in “classing up” a bag of frozen vegetables).

I mentioned in a previous post that spending a little more time in the kitchen can save a lot of money.  Whenever I roast a chicken, we eat the meat off of it for a few meals, and then I cook it down and pick scraps off the carcass. This will usually provide a couple mason jars full of broth with bits of meat, perfect for soup.  Cooking dry beans instead of canned saves us money, too – in fact, we don’t buy any food that’s “ready to eat” (like instant rice, preshredded carrots, breakfast cereal, etc.).

Any time I buy an ingredient that’s doesn’t have long lifespan (like most veggies and meats), I will plan a couple of dinners that week that call for it, so it gets all used up.  Less food waste = less money waste around here.  We also save money by buying meat in bulk from Sam’s Club.  Chicken is usually $.20-.80 cheaper per pound there, so we buy several pounds worth, portion it into 1-lb servings, and then freeze it to last the whole month or more.  This isn’t by any means an inclusive list of money-saving tips, but it’s a few ideas to get you started!

And now, our meal plan for the past month:

Week 1:
Roast chicken with potatoes and carrots
Pancit (This is the closest recipe to mine, which I have yet to post.  We used rice vermicelli in ours.)
Chicken soup (with homemade stock from Monday’s chicken)
Kielbasa and Cabbage Soup
Sausage, Rice, and Beans (we use a pound of Jimmy Dean hot sausage, half a bag of black beans, and a bag of Vigos seasoned yellow rice)
Leftover sausage, rice, and beans

Week 2:
White Bean/Kale Soup with Kielbasa (the Kielbasa was leftover from last week’s soup)
Date night!
Black bean & quinoa salad
Mexican chicken soup (with white beans, chicken stock from last week, and leftover black bean salad thrown in…that whole “not wasting” thing)
Chicken picatta (We made a gluten-free version with GF pasta and rice flour to dredge the chicken.)
Shredded chicken tacos

Week 3:
Chicken fried rice, made with peas and carrots
Lentil soup and naan (only half of this duo is gluten free)
Chicken curry
Leftover chicken curry
Almond flour-buckwheat waffles with chipped beef gravy (using corn/potato starch for a GF version) and braised kale
Split pea and carrot soup, made with a ham hock (ours came in a two-pack, so I’m saving the other one for a dinner next month)

Week 4:
Roast chicken with mashed potatoes/gravy and kale
Date night!
Pancit
Chicken tacos
Black bean & quinoa salad
Chicken and veggie soup

Happy planning!

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9 thoughts on “Another month of menu planning

  1. This was lovely to see, well written. I also want to add that living in a small house (800 sq ft) with 4 adults, 3 cats, 1 rabbit, and 5 chickens has been challenging as well, but I have found lots of areas to store our canned and dehydrated goods. My food dehydrator is my best friend (rivals with my slow cooker) We were able to find ours at Cablea”s outdoor store on sale for only $39. 50 bags of dried tomatoes is a lot smaller than 50 cans of tomatoes. Storing places include adding extra shelves in closets up high, under beds in rubbermaids, pretty hat boxes above cabinets or on shelves, the water heater closet (where I hang my dry herbs as well), I even store my years worth of sugar in mylar bags in my dryer (we hang dry). Our home is a rental so all of our additions had to be non-permanent, but we did it. Start looking you will find the space.

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    • Thanks for the comment! My food dehydrator gets a work out, especially in the summer when we’re trying to preserve produce from our garden. I’m impressed with how much you’ve fit into your home!

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  2. You must live in an inexpensive area of the country? I want to see your grocery shopping receipt. Mind blown. I love the inspiration. Especially the gluten free part.

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    • I think we live in somewhere that’s on the lower end of average in terms of food prices. I will say that prices on some things (especially dairy and meat) have gone up a good bit since I did this meal plan last year, so we’ve had to raise our budget recently to compensate – now it’s in the $130-$150/month range. I’m getting ready to post a new month-long meal plan with shopping list and prices, etc., that’s more up to date with what we’re eating and paying now – hopefully sometime next week I’ll have it up!

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  3. This has been helpful. We live in a mobile/manufactured home with three adukts and three kids. Since we have no real room for food storage, we buy groceries on a weekly or biweekly basis. Because everyone has different schedules, i have to do some funky meal planning to feed everyone.

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  4. I know this post is a couple of years old, but I was wondering where the shopping list might be? I don’t see it anywhere in this post and I am just dying to see how you did this.

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