All right. Good question. (The question, that is, of HOW ARE YOU GOING TO FEED YOUR FAMILY ON $60 A WEEK PLUS ONE MONTHLY TRIP TO COSTCO? Yes. That question.)
I have a few disclaimers, first.
1. I am a cooker. So, I can cook things. From ingredients. Which, you know, is cheaper (by a lot) than the alternative.
2. My Kids are big. They don’t need hourly snacks. They’re gone all day at school. They can wait till dinner. Like that.
3. I am a firm believer in the Food Storage. I have shelves of food, and I know how to use it. (Did that sound like a threat? It wasn’t meant to. More like a back-up to my #1, above.)
4. Moderation. That’s a ticket for us. We try to not overdo any one thing. A bit of meat, a bunch of vegetables, some rice or pasta, and maybe a whole lot of smoothies. But have you seen the replacement for the food guide pyramid? It’s a plate. Of food. Sort of.
Sorry, Kid 4. That so doesn’t resemble your dinner of choice (a huge steak, some sauteed mushrooms, and a pile of fried potatoes). But it’s not that far off from what we usually eat. So, you know, it’s spread around.
So, here is my meal plan for the week. Starting today. Ready?
Wednesday Breakfast: Waffles and Blueberry Syrup
Need to buy: Nothing. All on hand.
Waffles: I keep a mix in the freezer, but I had to refill it this morning. Here’s what’s in it.
7 cups wheat flour
2 and 1/4 cups cornmeal
3 cups “quick oats”
1/2 cup baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
Mix all that together and put in a gallon-sized ziplock. Write this on the label part: “Waffle Mix — 2 cups mix, 2 cups milk, 2 eggs, 1/2 cup oil.” That feeds my family of 6 waffles for breakfast, occasionally with a bit leftover for birdies.
The blueberry syrup recipe is HERE, and I had all those ingredients on hand this morning, too. If I didn’t have oranges, I could have used lemon juice or pineapple juice or probably something else. But I have oranges. So that’s what we (they) had for breakfast.
Wednesday Lunch: Kids and Husband packed sandwiches last night, I’ll have some manner of Green Smoothie, hopefully way tastier than the seriously yucky concoction that was my breakfast. *Shudder*.
After School Snack: Crackers (leftovers from New Year’s Eve) and cheese (always on hand, bought when ON SALE, don’t you know).
Wednesday Dinner: Cheese and Onion Enchiladas (Red) and Corn/Black Bean Salad
Enchiladas: All ingredients on hand. Here’s the Great Big Secret Recipe.
2 Large onions, chopped
1 or 2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (2 for us. We LOVE cheese)
1 can (14 ounce-ish) red enchilada sauce
12 corn tortillas
Simmer the onions in a lidded pan with about 3 tablespoons of water until soft. Pour enchilada sauce into a small pie plate or something. Spray a medium casserole dish (I like the round one for this) with pan spray. Dip a tortilla in the enchilada sauce, both sides. Put it in the sprayed dish. Do it again, and again, so you have 3 now-red tortillas in the bottom of the pan. Scoop in 1/3 of the onions and sprinkle with 1/3 of the cheese. Repeat layers. Pour any remaining sauce over the top. Put a lid or some foil on it and heat until it’s hot. The onions are already cooked, so you can do it fast. Even in the microwave, if you’re into that.
(I need to buy cilantro, because I used too much in last night’s salad.)
1 can (14 ounce-ish) black beans
1 cup frozen corn (I like the Costco kind)
1 tomato, chopped
2 Tablespoons red onion, diced
2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro
2 Tablespoons Italian or Vinegar-based salad dressing (I like that Brianna’s one with the artichoke on the front. Very peppery and delicious)
Stir it up. Inhale. Can use avocado to make it perfect, but I’m on a budget. Tell you what. I will buy an avocado if it’s less than a dollar.
(So, to get up to speed, today’s meals will cost me about $1.30 including the possible avocado, because I stored everything else.) After dinner, Kids will clean up, thank me, and, smiling, start making tomorrow’s lunches. Which will include a protein, a veg, a fruit, and a treat. For which everything is in the fridge and pantry.)
Want to hear tomorrow? All-righty.
Breakfast: Smoothie and Scrambled Eggs
Smoothies are our favorites. My Kids much prefer them orange, pink, or purple to green. Whatever. I can do that.
One Good Smoothie (feeds 6)
1 can pineapple (the 20-ounce size)
6-8 ounces vanilla yogurt (I’m a huge fan of the Mountain High – it feels like food)
1 cup frozen strawberries
1 can peaches (the 14-ounce size)
2 peeled oranges
(Then I splash in some rice milk, because I like it better than the cow kind.)
Blend it all up. Serve with straws, because everything tastes better when you drink it from a straw.
I don’t really need to tell you how to scramble eggs, right? Right?
Lunches were packed last night, remember?
After school snack shall be popcorn. Usually reserved for Sundays, because I tend to WAY overdo it, but I’m willing to celebrate. I’m a pushover that way.
Dinner is Aunt Abbi’s Tomato-Basil soup, food storage style, which means I have everything on hand (hers is classier than mine, using cream and stuff but either way, it tastes awful darn good):
1 onion, diced
3 cups chicken broth (made from water and bullion)
4 cans crushed tomatoes (the 14-ounce size, or use a big can if you have one)
1 can evaporated milk
1 cup basil pesto (I have some fresh-ish stuff from Costco in my fridge, and I have some bottled stuff in my pantry. Obviously, I’m going to use the fresh. Because… well, I am.)
Boil the onions in the broth till soft. Add tomatoes. Simmer for however long you have. 20 minutes? That’ll do. When you’re ready to eat, add evaporated milk and pesto, heat through and serve. It’s really good. We all like it, even Husband the Non-Soup Man.
Then I’ll probably make some bread to go with it, because who doesn’t like homemade bread with their soup? I have all the ingredients on hand to make all manner of wonderful breads, but that’s another post entirely.
So, Thursday’s meals cost a total of ($0) –nothing. I have it all on the shelves. Yea, me! Here’s what else I can make without going to the store:
Pizza, Chicken Scaloppine, Tacos, Tuna Sandwich Pitas, Sloppy Joes, Potato Salad, Egg Salad Sandwiches [ick], Fried Rice, Granola, Chicken Parmesan, French Toast, or Spagetti. Plus all manner of breads, cookies, pastries, and, always, popcorn.
So, Friday? Breakfast is German Pancakes and Orange Juice. Lunches? Made. Dinner? Pizzas. Two. One cheese, one cheese and pepperoni. That leaves enough leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch. Also a big fat green salad for which I think I have plenty on hand.
Saturday? Usually my day off. Cold cereal and an apple or toast. This week is different, because we’re having a party. I’ll tell you about it soon. Lunch is leftover pizza, remember? And fried rice and perhaps frozen potstickers for dinner. All on hand.
Sunday? I’ll beg Husband to grill his famous Dad-burgers. I’ll need to buy meat for that. I’ll do some baked “fries” and a bunch of veg-ish toppings for the burgers (tomatoes, grilled onion, lettuce, mushrooms) and I’ll need to buy the mushrooms.
So the list for today: Cilantro. Avocado, if it’s a good price. Hamburger meat. Mushrooms. (Plus Party Food, but I’m not taking that from the normal grocery budget.) And that will take us through Sunday. For something like $16. So I’ll add on some fruits for school lunches and snacking purposes, and smile to myself. $30 easy.
(Grocery-shopping/budgeting disclaimer: I know it’s not an easy thing. I do. And the simple secret is this: Shop the perimeter. Go to produce, meat, dairy and then go home. I am lucky to live in a town that believes in Case Lot Sales, which is the time I buy almost everything I may need that lives on inside-the-maze grocery shelves, like canned veg and beans, tuna, flour/sugar and canned fruit [for smoothies]. I make a menu. I make a list of what I need. I go to the store and I buy ONLY WHAT’S ON THE LIST. <– that’s the hard part. And that’s me, taking back the budget.)