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Help me plan for a week's worth of meals for $100!

post #1 of 32
Thread Starter 

I don't even know where to start, because I am horrible at meal planning and I'm definitely not good at eating inexpensively (my raw milk alone costs $10/gallon!).   We are very low on cash until the end of the month, so I'm trying to see if we can eat for the next week on just $100 without completely sacrificing nutritious/fresh.   Anyone have a healthy, low-cost recipe or meal plan they would be willing to share?  There are four of us - two adults and two kids, though the kids eat a ton; sometimes as much as DH.  Would love any advice from the wise people here!


Edited by Contented73 - 8/20/11 at 5:14am
post #2 of 32

Fried rice is a great, really cheap meal.  I usually make it out of leftovers and odds and ends.  Whatever veggie bits you have (onion, carrot, celery, peppers, peas, etc) pretty much all work.  Often times I'll make a large batch of brown rice as a side dish one night, saving half of it for the fried rice the next day.  If you have leftover meat, you can throw that it too.  If not, a few eggs are a great, cheap protein addition to it.  

 

Also, quiche can be inexpensive too and a fine way to get plenty of protein and veggies into a meal.  I usually use fresh veggies but in quiche I find that frozen spinach works as well as fresh and is usually much cheaper.  

post #3 of 32
Bean burritos are a cheap meal that is filling.
I would consider making a big pot of soup or chili that you can eat as lunches for days. If you have flour in the house you can make bread to go with it.
When I run short, I try to meal plan around whatever we have in the house-pantry or freezer, so check and see what you have you can build a meal around.
post #4 of 32

If you can do a couple of meals with beans it really saves money.  One of the easiest meals I do is to saute an onion in EVOO, pour in beans (either canned or dried and cooked-any type will work) and two cans of tomatoes I add salt and a few spices, it makes a great soup. I serve it with homemade bread and/or rice, add a veggie or salad and it's a really good meal.  If you get a whole chicken you can stretch it over several meals.  If you make chicken stock that can be used to make soup for several meals.  Also for breakfast if you have oatmeal, polenta, or grits that really saves the budget.  Oh and this recipe is cheap and delicious.  Good luck!

post #5 of 32

Can you post what you have in your freezer, pantry and refrigerator right now as a starting point?

 

Some cheap meals off the top of my head. . .

 

for dinner. . .

vegetarian chili with cornbread 

spaghetti 

bean burritos

lentil soup with bread

lentils and rice (we like indian spices)

pancakes/waffles

rice and eggs (scrambled together with salt and pepper, or fried rice with veggies and soy sauce

 

for lunches. . .

egg sandwiches

pb and j

homemade hummus and tortillas, pitas or crackers

simple pasta with olive oil and parmesan

leftovers from dinner

 

breakfast. . .

oatmeal (cheapest, easiest option)

pancakes/waffles

muffins from scratch

hard boiled eggs

pb toast

 

 

 

 

post #6 of 32

Eggs and beans are great cheap sources of protein -- and I find that it's easier to afford high-quality eggs than meat of equal quality.

 

I like to do Huevos Rancheros:   Start by sauteeing some garlic/onion in oil or fat (I save bacon fat for this kind of thing).  Add a can of beans (or equivalent cooked from dry).   Heat up, mash with potato masher (I do this in the skillet because its cast iron and can take it - a nonstick skillet would require pouring them into a bowl, mashing, and returning to heat through).  

 

Scramble some eggs.

 

Spread beans on tortillas, top with scrambled egg, a bit of cheese (it doesn't take much, its just for flavor) and some salsa.

 

Other egg dishes:   Frittattas are a great way to eat eggs and use up leftovers.   I save leftover pasta and veggies, even small amounts, for this:

Heat some oil/fat in a skillet (cast iron or ovenproof is best).   Toss in assorted leftovers -- pasta, potatoes, veggies, meat.  (You should cut it all relatively small if it's in big chunks).   Cook until heated, then pour 3-4 beaten eggs over it all (number of eggs depends on size of skillet).   Cover and cook over low heat until eggs are mostly set.    You can just cook covered until set enough, or you can sprinkle some cheese over the top and put it under the broiler to finish off.     If you include potatoes or pasta, it's pretty much a one-dish meal.

post #7 of 32
Thread Starter 

Thank you so much for all of your great suggestions!  I think the thing that gets me is .....well, the overall planning; so that if I buy a specialty ingredient (say, a bunch of cilantro or sour cream for the burritos) I wind up wasting the other half because I don't have a good way to use it the next day.  The end result is that I buy lots of sauces/toppings/garnishes/sides/spices which get used once, and then rot.  I think what I'd like to do, is just find some meals that are simple enough as they are, or use things that work in a variety of meals.  In general, it would be good for me to get better at meal planning (well, and the cooking, too.....I'm not a good cook), particularly because our income is about to go down (and as I said in my op, things are especially tight until the end of this month).

 

Homemademom (your name makes me think you are good at this, LOL) I actually have a lot in the house right now, but not sure how to make the best of it.  In the freezer I have a pound of chicken breast, a pound of ground beef, a pound of ground lamb and a pound of tilapia, oh and a pound of ground spicy pork sausage.  For grains I have lots of quinoa, some brown rice, some buckwheat (no idea what to do with it!), three boxes of pasta, steel cut oats and lots of wheat flour.  I also have a box of kidney beans and a box of lentils, a can of garbanzo beans and two cans of french cut green beans.  I don't really have any fresh food right now, except some wilting celery, a sweet potato and tons of mint growing outside. We also have a great variety of spices.

post #8 of 32
Thread Starter 

How do you make a good vegetarian chili?  Does anyone have a good, simple bread recipe?

 

 

 

post #9 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Contented73 View Post

Thank you so much for all of your great suggestions!  I think the thing that gets me is .....well, the overall planning; so that if I buy a specialty ingredient (say, a bunch of cilantro or sour cream for the burritos) I wind up wasting the other half because I don't have a good way to use it the next day.  The end result is that I buy lots of sauces/toppings/garnishes/sides/spices which get used once, and then rot.  I think what I'd like to do, is just find some meals that are simple enough as they are, or use things that work in a variety of meals.  In general, it would be good for me to get better at meal planning (well, and the cooking, too.....I'm not a good cook), particularly because our income is about to go down (and as I said in my op, things are especially tight until the end of this month).

 

 

Meal planning is one important key to eating healthy and inexpensive meals.


Meal planning *can* make things more expensive, though, if you're not careful and don't think of it as planning a week or more at a time.  It's easy to start out saying "Oh! I'll make this on Monday and this on Tuesday...." and then buy all kinds of little things for a list of specific recipes.

 

When I meal plan, I do it across the week,  spreading out the meat meals we're going to eat, spacing them out with bean or egg meals, planning for leftovers (cook a few extra pieces of chicken to use the next day in salad or burritos, for example).   And I'll pick something I want to cook, and then write down what I need to buy for it -- and then I'll think about ways to use up the rest of something that I only need a bit of.  So if I want to buy that cilantro for my Pad Thai, I'll plan on making a Mexican dish with cilantro, or making a cilantro pesto or sauce, or doing an indian curry spiked with it...

 

Meal planning lets you know what you've got and what you can make with what you've got, which really helps make your food and money come out even at the end of each week.
 

 

post #10 of 32

We used the site Fresh 20 before we found out I have issues with gluten...wonderful meal planning site. Now I plan out our week myself. Breakfast, lunch, dinners (inludes DH's lunches for work that he packs) all for about 80-100. Its about finding CHEAP recipes. Ones that dont use alot of ingredients, or expensive ones. I like cooking with a lot of what is in my pantry,,,which is alot of bulk grains and beans. I buy everything organic and local. Fruits and veggies (in season) I get from our local organic farm and everything else comes from Wegmans natural store.

 

My meals for the week are:

 

Quiche night w/ soup and salad

Veggie Burrito night  (the sour cream used in this nights meal was also used the night before in top of the soup! same with the green onions. Dress up your soups with extras!)

Pizza & Family Game night (pizza is a simple gluten free crust, mozz cheese, sauce and basil...mushrooms if I have extra from the quiche night) w/salad

Fish, mashed pot with Boursin cheese (AMAZING!), and wild rice w/salad

Vegetarian chili with gluten free corn bread muffins

Pasta carbonara (w/ crushed almonds instead of bacon) w/ salad

homemade mac and cheese (w/ gluten free noodles)

 

lunches are always easy breezy...soups, sandwiches, annies mac and cheese, pitas, fruit

 

Breakfasts are from the following: eggs, toast and jelly, muffins, pancakes

 

Once a month I stock up on staple items from Trader Joes (its about 45 minutes away) and bulk items at out local organic market.

 

 

post #11 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by ThreeLittleBirds View Post

Fish, mashed pot with Boursin cheese (AMAZING!), and wild rice w/salad

 

 

THis sounds really, really good.

 

What proportion of cheese to potatoes do you use?    The whole package  of cheese with how many potatoes?   

post #12 of 32

I just add a tablespoon full to the kitchen aid mixer and do a taste test. Its amazing. We get the bulk pack from costco. My husband is from France and uses Boursin in many dishes. My fav is simply fiing large mushrooms with the Boursin and baking the. OMG...heaven.

post #13 of 32

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by savithny View Post



 

Meal planning is one important key to eating healthy and inexpensive meals.


Meal planning *can* make things more expensive, though, if you're not careful and don't think of it as planning a week or more at a time.  It's easy to start out saying "Oh! I'll make this on Monday and this on Tuesday...." and then buy all kinds of little things for a list of specific recipes.

 

When I meal plan, I do it across the week,  spreading out the meat meals we're going to eat, spacing them out with bean or egg meals, planning for leftovers (cook a few extra pieces of chicken to use the next day in salad or burritos, for example).   And I'll pick something I want to cook, and then write down what I need to buy for it -- and then I'll think about ways to use up the rest of something that I only need a bit of.  So if I want to buy that cilantro for my Pad Thai, I'll plan on making a Mexican dish with cilantro, or making a cilantro pesto or sauce, or doing an indian curry spiked with it...

 

Meal planning lets you know what you've got and what you can make with what you've got, which really helps make your food and money come out even at the end of each week.
 

 



Along the lines of what savithny is saying. . . going back to my sample menu, you could make a big pot of beans on say, Sunday.  Then, have bean burritos (mash 'em in a frying pan with some oil or broth and Mexican spices) on Monday.  Eat burritos again for lunch on Tuesday and/or use the leftover beans in some Veg Chili (I always check www.allrecipes.com for easy recipes).  Make some cornbread to go with that. The next day, same thing--eat chili for lunch and/or use some part of it for dinner (maybe baked potatoes with chili on top?).  You have to get used to cooking bigger meals or at least some of the ingredients so they can transfer to the next day. If you make baked potatoes one night, use the left overs for breakfast--chop them up and fry them with some eggs, onions, etc.  It might even make a good hash for dinner--toss in your pound of ground pork, if you want.  If you have a waffle night, make twice as many and eat them for breakfast on another day (just pop them in the freezer until you're ready).


Quote:
Originally Posted by Contented73 View Post

 

Homemademom (your name makes me think you are good at this, LOL) I actually have a lot in the house right now, but not sure how to make the best of it.  In the freezer I have a pound of chicken breast, a pound of ground beef, a pound of ground lamb and a pound of tilapia, oh and a pound of ground spicy pork sausage.  For grains I have lots of quinoa, some brown rice, some buckwheat (no idea what to do with it!), three boxes of pasta, steel cut oats and lots of wheat flour.  I also have a box of kidney beans and a box of lentils, a can of garbanzo beans and two cans of french cut green beans.  I don't really have any fresh food right now, except some wilting celery, a sweet potato and tons of mint growing outside. We also have a great variety of spices.


Okay, you have a good amount of stuff!  If you use it right, you may not have to spend much at all.  You could make flatbread with your flour (this recipe is seriously easy: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/indian-chapati-bread/detail.aspx) and make some hummus with those garbanzo beans (olive oil, lemon juice, salt and beans in the food processor or blender) to eat with it.  Lentils and quinoa, kidneys and rice, tilapia and pasta, sweet potato-oat muffins for breakfast (http://allrecipes.com/recipe/whole-wheat-sweet-potato-muffins/detail.aspx -- google for other recipes), lentil soup with the celery and green beans (buy some onions, carrots and garlic, add some sage or other spices), etc.  

 

You can add meat to your chili, soup, beans or whatever to stretch it the second day.  HTH. I've been terrible at menu planning since i had my baby, but writing this out has inspired me :D 

 

 


 

 
post #14 of 32

I recommend visiting supercook.com. Type in the food you have on hand to find recipes you can make with what you have already. Start your meal planning with the food you already have.

Soup in a good dollar saver.

Bean dishes are cheap and filling- falafel, vegetarian shepard's pie, chili, bean burritoes, soup

Cut up any meat items- have them in a casserole, salad, stir fry, tacos, sloppy joes, meatballs and pasta, soup, etc- it goes much farther than serving a whole piece of meat.

Think of multiple uses for ingredients at the time of purchase if you can not buy just what you need for one meal. If you can't think of more than one meal to use it in and can't store it then don't buy it.

Freeze stuff (sauces, leftovers, cut up veggies, cooked meat, etc) for future use.  Label with the date and contents.

http://frugalliving.about.com/od/foodsavings/tp/I_Can_Freeze_That.htm

http://www.fsis.usda.gov/factsheets/focus_on_freezing/index.asp

post #15 of 32

Roast a whole chicken, part it out. Place all the bones and extras in a pot and cover with water. Simmer for 24 hours, adding water as needed.
Use crockpot if you prefer.
Split the meat into two portions.
Place 3 cups of rice in a 9x13 pan, add water to nearly the top. Bake till done.
Add salt, butter and chicken and any frozen veges you have.

Use the bone broth for a large pot of chicken, rice and vege soup.

post #16 of 32

There is nothing wrong with making something that you would like to have some cilantro or sour cream with as long as you think ahead to other things you could use them for. If you want to have cilantro with your burritos, plan on making some chili the same week and sprinkle fresh cilantro on top or make dahl or some other Indian dish where you will need the cilantro. It will all be used that way. If you really want sour cream with your burritos, think of something else you like to eat with sour cream and make it that week too. If you eat sweets and like to bake you could make a cake with the sour cream for a treat.

 

Meal planning is the key to keeping within a budget and it helps to include breakfast, lunches and snacks in there too! We generally have toast with peanut butter or steel cut oats for breakfast. I make our bread and we get the oats in bulk so it is an inexpensive meal. Leftovers are popular for lunch or dips with pita or tortilla chips and veggies (hummus and black bean dip are staples with my kids) - we often have cheese at lunch time too. Before my kids got braces popcorn was the staple snack in our house. Now they are old enough to bake so they often bake muffins or brownies for their snacks. 

 

I have a big freezer and that helps. I buy things when they are on sale and not just what I need as I need it. When chicken goes on sale I buy several of them for the freezer. When canned tomatoes are on sale I buy at least a dozen cans. I buy dried chick peas and black beans in bulk and then soak, cook and freeze them in amounts equivalent to a can. I buy dried herbs and spices at a bulk store for pennies instead of several dollars for a jar. I buy flour honey and sugar in large bags so that I always have some on hand and baking is more affordable. I have teenagers in the house and they go through a lot of food very quickly and every little bit helps! I use powdered milk for baking and cooking.

 

It takes more planning and organization to cook well within a tight budget but it is not difficult.

 

allrecipes.com is another good site for recipes.

post #17 of 32



 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Contented73 View Post

Thank you so much for all of your great suggestions!  I think the thing that gets me is .....well, the overall planning; so that if I buy a specialty ingredient (say, a bunch of cilantro or sour cream for the burritos) I wind up wasting the other half because I don't have a good way to use it the next day.  The end result is that I buy lots of sauces/toppings/garnishes/sides/spices which get used once, and then rot.  I think what I'd like to do, is just find some meals that are simple enough as they are, or use things that work in a variety of meals.  In general, it would be good for me to get better at meal planning (well, and the cooking, too.....I'm not a good cook), particularly because our income is about to go down (and as I said in my op, things are especially tight until the end of this month).

 

Homemademom (your name makes me think you are good at this, LOL) I actually have a lot in the house right now, but not sure how to make the best of it.  In the freezer I have a pound of chicken breast, a pound of ground beef, a pound of ground lamb and a pound of tilapia, oh and a pound of ground spicy pork sausage.  For grains I have lots of quinoa, some brown rice, some buckwheat (no idea what to do with it!), three boxes of pasta, steel cut oats and lots of wheat flour.  I also have a box of kidney beans and a box of lentils, a can of garbanzo beans and two cans of french cut green beans.  I don't really have any fresh food right now, except some wilting celery, a sweet potato and tons of mint growing outside. We also have a great variety of spices.

Is it safe to assume you have some basic pantry items for baking and things like oils, vinegar, spices etc? Do you have enough rice for 2 or 3 meals meals? Are you feeding your husband lunches each day? Are your kids needing to take packed lunches to school yet?


You have lots of meat, beans and grains to plan meals around and should be able to get away with just buying mostly veggies and dairy.  ( this list would cost me about $50 here so hopefully it works with your budget) Here are some suggestions:


Dinner 1  apple-sausage salad (recipe below) and homemade bagettes  (I use all purpose flour w some ww and it works fine)

Dinner 2  tilapia, brown rice and sauted veggies

Dinner 3  ground lamb burgers, corn on the cob (if seasonal)

Dinner 4  chili w ground meat (stretch by adding an extra can of tomatoes and beans)  small side salad

Dinner 5  veggie stirfry with brown rice

Dinner 6  chicken kebobs with quinoa

Dinner 7  pasta dish (do you have a favourite?) and small side salad

 

3 meals should give you leftovers for lunches - chili, stirfry, pasta

Remaining lunches

humus, veggies and flatbread, cheese, fruit

lentil tacos

pasta salad (mixed fresh veggies w simple dressing)

tomato and cheese sandwiches, veggies on the side

 

Breakfasts: oats, scrambled eggs, muffins with fruit and cheese, toast, yogurt

 

Snacks: veggies w humus, pb on celery, muffins, popcorn, fruit slices, cheese

To bake - muffins, bagettes, bread, cookies/treat for dessert; flatbread

To make from scratch - salad dressings, pasta dressing (do you know how to make yogurt?), humus

 

Grocery list: (buy what veggies are seasonal where you live that will work, and ones that will keep well and give you the most bang for your buck - ie romaine rather than buttercrunch lettuce - and ones that your kids will like) These are just suggestions:

 

3 heads of lettuce (1-1/2 to do sausage salad dinner, remaining for small side salads. tacos)

bag of big carrots (for stir fry, snacks, veggie lunch, sauted veggies, grated for pasta salad)

celery (stirfry, pasta salad, snacks, sauted veggies)

4 peppers (use for sausage salad, stirfry, veggie lunch, kebobs, pasta salad)

zuchini (for sauted veggies, stir fry, kebobs)

broccoli (half for veggie lunch, half for stirfry- peel and use the stalks in stirfry)

snow peas or sugar snaps (for veggie lunch, stirfry, and sauted veggies) 

some fruit for snacks and breakfast (buy what is in season - peaches? grapes?)

apples for sausage salad and snacks

cherry tomatoes for pasta salad, veggie lunch, tacos

field tomatoes for sandwiches

4 cobs of corn

onions,

green onions

garlic

cans of tomatoes for chili and maybe pasta

 

2 dozen eggs

cheese to go with breakfasts and lunch and tacos

plain yogurt (use in place of sour cream for tacos, and for breakfasts)

yeast, sugar/honey for baking if you don't already have it.

 

tacos

hamburger buns (use left overs for tomato and cheese sandwhiches

 

 

Recipe for sausage salad

Red and green leaf lettuce or other hearty lettuce greens
1/2 head large raddichio
2 medium sized tart, cruchy apples - I used Empires
1 large yellow pepper
2 stalks celery
2 green onions
6 sausages, cooked and cubed into small chunks
Walnuts (you can skip these)

Chop vegetables, mix with sausage, serve over prepared lettuce and raddichio. Top with chopped walnuts.
Dress with Maple Vinaigrette.

Maple Vinaigrette:
Ingredients
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 cup balsamic or good quality wine, or cider vinegar
1/2 cup Maple Syrup (you can substitute honey if you don't have maple syrup)
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup olive oil 1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

Preparation:
Combine mustard and basil in a small bowl. With a whisk, add vinegar, maple syrup, lemon juice and garlic. Add olive oil and continue whisking until ingredients are well combined. Season with salt and pepper.

 

hope that helps

Karen

 

 

 


Edited by Callimom - 8/23/11 at 8:44am
post #18 of 32

Coming back to add - if you need to stretch more than 7 days I would:

make a vegetarian chili and use the ground meat to make meatballs which can be used in a pasta dish or to make meatball sandwiches (great on the bagette recipe with a side salad),

reserve some of the sausage to spice up a pasta dish if you don't need them all of the apple sausage salad,

buy a bag of potatoes and make a meal of baked potatoes with toppings: (chilil, cheese, broccoli, sour cream/yogurt)

use the potatoes and an extra zuchini to make this torte and serve with a side salad and sliced tomatoes

make a breakfast for dinner with eggs, hashbrowns and a side salad

use your lentils to make a meal of dal and use that for a lunch and a dinner.

 

You could conceivably get another weeks worth of meals with just a few adjustments and a couple of extra items in your cart (potatoes, pasta, more eggs, some more veggies)

hth

Karen

post #19 of 32
Thread Starter 

Karen, I think I'm going to reach right through the internet and kiss you!  Oh my goodness, this is fantastic.  Thank you everyone for all your great ideas, you are all very inspiring.  I feel like we can eat like Kings now...

 

post #20 of 32

Karen, that is incredible! How did you do that? Off the top of your head? do you mind sharing your thought process?

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