Menu Planning And A Frugal Recipe!

11 Jul

Before my family and I found ourselves living on less, we ate out A LOT. I’d say we ate out at least 3-4 nights a week. For our family of four back then, that was about $70 a night! About $280 a week! Crazy, insane. That’s my monthly grocery budget now. Depending on how much I coupon, I do a pretty good job sticking to that number.  So obviously, the first thing we had to do was STOP eating out. That included drive-thru’s for a quick snack. It wasn’t easy, but we learned it is if you’re prepared. If we knew we were going to be gone from home for a while, we packed a snack cooler filled with drinks, sandwhiches, granola bars, anything really to keep us from going to a drive-thru.

I also started planning dinners and making a grocery list. Here’s how I do it now.

 I start out by taking out my recipe binder and going through the recipes to see what looks good for the month. Like my coupon binder, I use the dividers with pockets. I love these! I can store recipes I want to try in the pockets and let’s face it, pockets are just super handy. I also place all my recipes in page protectors so they are safe when I’m cooking and if they happen to get a little mess on it, I can just wipe it clean.

My recipe binder contains hand written recipes, printed recipes, and pages of magazines with the recipes on them. Sometimes it drives me crazy that they all do not match, but then I remember going through my mother-in-laws recipe box, and loving all the recipes that were handed down and were hand written. Those just seemed so much more special. I actually write a little something on all the recipes. Usually it’s what I did different or who liked the dinner, any little notes to help the recipe.

I also check my freezer inventory list, which I’ve laminated so that I could reuse. It also stays in my recipe binder.

Now time to decide what to eat and a list to make. I found a really awesome meal planning sheet online.

You can head here to print out your own copy. I like to plan a month’s worth of meals and it took me a while to find a meal planner that I liked so if a month is too much, start out with a week or even every two weeks. I also have a board that I transfer all the meals onto. That way the family knows what’s on the menu and I can see what I need to prepare for.

I usually plan just the main course and the sides are whatever is in the pantry. Most of our food budget is for fresh meat, dairy, and the fresh produce that we usually buy weekly to go along with our meals. So that’s how I do it. For fun, here’s a really inexpensive, fast, and easy recipe that you can make and most of the ingredients are probably already in your pantry.

Peanut Noodles With Stir Fry Veggies and Chicken

1 lb. box spaghetti

1 bag frozen stir fry veggies

Teriyaki Sauce

Ginger, about a 1 inch piece, or substitute 1 tsp ground ginger

about 1/2 cup peanut butter

about 2 cups shredded chicken or boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into pieces

Cilantro to garnish, *optional but I think this is what makes the dish

Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box. When cooked, drain.  In the pot the noodles were cooked in, add about a tablespoon or two of oil and cook the veggies. While veggies are cooking you can warm up the peanut butter in the microwave for about 30 seconds. Grate the ginger into the pot. Add the cooked chicken, peanut butter, teriyaki, and noodles back into the pot. Mix well. Garnish with the cilantro when ready to eat.

This recipe is supper yummy! It’s also super adaptable. I actually found it on the eat at HOME site. This is my version. If you’d like to check out her version, or find other great menu ideas head to eat at HOME. She has some wonderful ideas on how to plan ahead and the recipes are easy to follow.

So how do you save money on food? Anyone do freezer meals or dinner swaps? Please feel free to share on how you save!

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2 Responses to “Menu Planning And A Frugal Recipe!”

  1. Andrea Swanson July 20, 2011 at 6:56 pm #

    Love your blog- and I love this topic! I have been doing this type of budgeting for years, but just recently found the love of coupons. The only problem with coupons is that it is hard to find coupons for meats and produce. I have always stuck to a $300 monthly budget for our meals- I try to buy ingredients for 10-12 meals every 2 weeks.Buying bulk on things such as chicken and ground turkey etc. can really stretch the dollar! I also have a calendar like yours listing the meals for everynight! Don’t get me wrong we do budget one meal out 2 times a month, but that is our treat! Would love to share recipes cause sometimes it get hard to think of new things- funny thing is I just made the same recipe last night for the “Thai” chicken with peanut butter, it was great and I just thought of it one day! Can’t wait to read more from this! 🙂

    • living on less in the northwest July 21, 2011 at 8:29 am #

      Thanks Andrea! Although not many, there are coupon’s out there for meats and produce. I’ve found most of the meat and produce coupons in the store. There’s peelies on the product’s themselves and there are tear pad coupons that you can find. The last meat coupon I found was actually with the Coca-Cola products. Save $1 on meat when you purchase (2) 2 liter’s cola, which my husband uses for a special drink anyway;-) Also with the coupon’s I do get, it save’s me money with those certain product’s so that I can spend more on meats and produce. As for the budget, I started out high, and have lowered it as my stock grew.
      I would also LOVE for you to share your recipes! I plan on doing more about recipe’s and menu planning in the future so please share anything you would like! I was going to share your delicious tea recipe, but didn’t find time to squeeze that in. lol. Well thanks for stopping by!

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