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Frugal Meal Planning 101 - Page 2

post #21 of 31

Also... sorry, I don't mean to hog the thread, I'm just excited about this since it's been a huge focus for us lately!... buying pastas and sauces that are on sale are also easy and cheap to "spice up" and make more healthy.  It's another place to add in veggies, and I'll chop and saute onions, fresh garlic, peppers, mushrooms, etc. and throw them in the sauce.  We also eat a lot of salads and I usually add in leftover beans, tempeh, tofu, etc., and sometimes I'll chop in hard boiled eggs for protein.  For my ten year old, who's super picky, I'll buy boneless breasts when they are on sale and keep them frozen, which makes for a relatively healthy and simple meal for him.  I'll usually provide carrots and broccoli with dip to round out the meal. 

post #22 of 31
Originally Posted by colsxjack View Post

*make french toast and/or pancakes ahead of time and freeze them for quick cheap breakfasts


Nice! How do you freeze the pancakes?


Here we love burritos! Chicken, beef, beans or eggs with a little cheese and salsa in a flour tortilla and we're good to go! With cornbread or soup or salad or cut-up veggies (love my mom's dip : container of plain yogourt, teaspoon of mayo and teaspoon of salted herbs), it makes a great, quick and cheap lunch!

post #23 of 31
Thread Starter 

Love the ideas! 


I have the same question about freezing pancakes. Do they really freeze well? I generally don;t find the frozen grocery store offerings to taste that good. So s homemade frozen close to the freshly made thing?

post #24 of 31

Don't mean to hijack but here's my 2 cents about it: we freeze them, pancakes/waffles/french toast in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with wax/parchment paper. Then throw those into a ziploc freezer bag and toss them in the toaster to reheat. Only a few times, and this is a personal freezer issue I think, did I notice a 'freezer' taste to them. 

post #25 of 31

Oh hijack as much as you want! thx for the tip!

post #26 of 31

Great idea for a thread!


My best trick is to make your own pasta sauce from cans. I use one part diced tomatoes, and one part tomato sauce. Simmer onions and garlic until soft (use as much or as little as you like), add diced tomatoes and simmer until tomatoes are soft, add tomato sauce, season to taste with Italian spices (my DH likes to add additional oregano to the Italian spice mix), cayenne powder, salt, pepper, a touch of sweetener (we use agave syrup), and red wine if you have some handy (not necessary). Sometimes I start seasoning when the diced tomatoes are simmering. 


Simmer the whole concoction until the consistency and spices are to your liking! It works with fresh diced tomatoes, too, but you'll next extra time to simmer some of the water away. 


You can make as much or as little as you want, and freeze the excess. Add a variety of color of veggies for more nutrition! 

post #27 of 31
Thread Starter 

These are great ideas! Very motivational and making me feel like doing this is totally possible for just about any family. smile.gif I guess the biggest hurdle is planning and preparing. 


Okay, so what about family favorite meals? pohaha - I love the suggestions you offered. thumb.gif


Some of our family favorites:


A hearty vegetable stew with beans and garlic bread

Burritos made with an assortment of chopped vegetables and a nice salsa topping

Quick stir-fry whatever we have on hand and throw in some rice noodles or chinese noodles with a spicy peanut butter soy sauce

Squash or pumpkin soup and home-baked tortilla chips with a hummus dip 

post #28 of 31

My latest trick is to shop at the Asian foods warehouse store. The prices are incredible on meat, many vegetables, and Asian ingredients. They also carry other ethnic foods like Mexican crumbling cheese at a fraction of the price for my normal big grocery store. I buy in small quantities, NOT bulk (except for some dry goods staples like our 40 lb. bag of rice from the Asian food store and bulk rice flour, tapioca flour, etc), because I know that if I buy bulk I will end up wasting food. I plan menus week by week and don't let myself get sucked into buying something on sale just because it is on sale. I also use cash at the grocery store because it forces me to be more disciplined about spontaneous purchases. We eat vegetarian at least 2 nights per week and on the other nights the meat is not the star. I make the vegetables the star of the meal. Cooking beans from dry versus canned saves. My DH is gluten free so I buy the individual ingredients for baking gluten-free and make everything from scratch. We do not buy prepackaged foods except in rare circumstances. We rarely have dessert.


In terms of specific meals...well I love variety so I save the cooking magazine from work and plan my menus out of those. Cooking Light and Real Simple are my favorites. We never get bored, I stick to the recipes with fewer ingredients and substitute if they have an ingredient that is too pricey. Some favorites last week included a crockpot meal Asian Pork with Noodles and Broccoli. I got a 2.5 lb pork shoulder at the Asian food store for $5 and it made a huge amount of food. It fed us for 2 dinners and 2 lunches (we bring our lunch to work). Also LOVED a recipe for Swiss Chard and Chickpea Fritters with yogurt. Oh my so, so tasty (even my picky, picky son ate it), easy, and cheap. I'm going to experiment with the recipe next time to add more flour (gluten-free mix I make), roll them out thinner and try to make them like a tortilla chip. Lastly, we enjoyed a big pot of Lentil Stew (with mustard greens, sweet potatoes, and a little bit of Italian sausage). Again, it made enough to feed us for 4 meals and only needed 1 lb of meat.


Whenever I feel like leftover greens and vegies are building up in the fridge, I make stir fry using tofu for the protein. Or make fried rice from the leftover rice of another meal.


The biggest budget killers:


prepackaged meals

junk food and drinks (we only drink water and milk and every couple weeks buy a big jug of fresh mango juice...a definite luxury)


post #29 of 31

I have always been a careful shopper, but recently my husband has taken a pay cut, so now I am really trying to cut down our food budget by 20%.  With 9 people to feed, this is not easy!  Some of my favorite ways to stretch the dollars are:

Costco rotisserie chickens.  I buy 2 and we get one dinner, plus homemade soup for 2 lunches...that's 27 servings for only $10.00, or 37 cents each.

Oatmeal or cream of wheat for breakfast...much cheaper than boxed cereal.

Hot lunches...we homeschool, and my husband's office is next to our house, so I don't need to pack lunches for anyone.  We love scrambled eggs or pancakes for lunch, or grilled cheese on whatever bread was on sale that week.

Bulk meat, also from Costco, especially when they are having a good coupon deal.  Last week I bought pork chops for $10.00, and we had breaded pork chops one night, and pork fried rice tonight.  That's 18 servings for only $10.00, or 55 cents per serving.

Many stores will have big sales at certain times a year when you can stock up on the things you use often, like canned beans and tomato sauce.  If you have the space, this is a great way to save.

I also save money (i know it's not food, but it is still money spent at the grocery store) by using cloth diapers and cloth baby wipes.  With 7 kids, and only 4 months out of 15 years with no one in diapers, I have literally saved thousands this way.

post #30 of 31

I've found that buying in bulk and buying local are the best ways to save $ and still feel good about what we eat. Sometimes it takes more time, but I would rather bake bread or go blackberry picking as a fun family project than watch TV or whatever.  Planning ahead is key (weekly with menus and seasonally with what foods we store). We don't have very much room for a garden, so I help with a family members garden in exchange for veggies, then go to Farmer's market for the veggies that we don't grow. I go berry and apple picking in the summer, some at pick-your-own places and also just at some berry patches I know about. We spend about $60 on pick your own a summer and have a ton of fresh fruit all summer and enough saved up to eat a lot of fruit all winter. Also freeze  tomatoes, chopped green and red peppers, corn, and green beans, zucchini, and other veggies too. When we plan well we can spend about $45 a week on food, with a $100ish shopping trip every 5 or so weeks for all the bulk foods like beans, lentils, various kinds of grain , flour, spices and so on. We only eat animal products that are local and organic so that is probably what we spend the most on each week. I often get a whole chicken (costs around $20 for one here), and then have baked chicken, chicken fajitas, and chicken pot pie or chicken soup. We only get one meat product each week. I highly recommend the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. It has really helped me save a ton of money while eating much more high quality and environmentally friendly food. 


We also just got a Costco membership for things that we want that we can't buy local for or that are too expensive, but I'm not sure how I feel about it yet. We did just get 24 boxes of Annie's mac & cheese for $24, I'm pretty psyched about that.  


Some meals we eat a lot are:

Homemade pancakes with blueberry sauce (so quick and easy, and so cheap!)

Pizza (I make 20 or so crusts at a time and freeze them, I get cheese when it is on sale and freeze it)

Quesadillas or burritos with beans and veggies

Soup or stew (veggie, chicken, black bean, or whatever else, it's a great way to clean out the fridge). 


Edited by RStelle - 1/21/13 at 12:23pm
post #31 of 31

I also make extra pancakes and french toast, but I don't freeze them.  I put them in a ziploc bag in the fridge and the kids eat them the next day, so freezing isn't necessary in our house :)  I also like to make the pancakes with a scoop of protein powder or a few extra eggs for protein.

The past 2 weeks I am trying something new with meal planning.  I have made a one-month meal plan, using a blank calendar page.  I planned out breakfast and lunch to be the same each week (Monday is pancake day, Tuesady is eggs, etc).  Then dinner I alternated weeks, so weeks one and three are the same, and weeks two and four are the same.  THat way I can buy some food in bulk and use it up over the month.  This has made my shopping and planning much easier so far.

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