On Monday I described how I meal-plan and grocery shop once a week. Meal-Planning on a budget also requires making inexpensive choices for your meals. Here are some examples of what I have been cooking recently:
- Oatmeal: I make oatmeal with cinnamon and raisins almost every day of the week. I haven’t found anything else as cost-effective, filling, and healthy for breakfast.
- Other: We occasionally eat pancakes, fried eggs, or omelets for breakfast, but it’s rare these days since we’ve been eating all of our eggs for lunch. Sometimes we have fresh fruit with our oatmeal.
- Sandwich: We eat egg salad or peanut butter and jelly almost every day of the month. Naomi is an expert at making egg salad, and Brad loves PB&J sandwiches. I boil the eggs on the first day of the week, and we can get 4 days of egg salad out of a carton of eggs.
- Fruit: A sliced watermelon or cantaloupe can be a side dish for lunch for most of the week. Depending on the season and sales, I may serve a half banana, grapes, raisins, apple slices, peaches, strawberries, or other fresh fruit on the side. Someone gave us a large container of fruit cocktail once, and we ate that with our lunches for a long time.
- Vegetable: Carrot slices (with ranch dressing) are the most popular with my kids, followed closely by “Ants on a Log” (celery with peanut butter and raisins). I have experimented with cucumbers and zucchini (with ranch dressing) but the kids were not big fans. Carrots and celery can be sliced once at the beginning of the week to save on prep time.
- Dairy: I usually buy a block of sharp cheddar cheese, and then cut it into chunks each day to eat with our lunch. Recently we had yogurt instead of cheese for a couple of weeks.
- Meat: We don’t usually eat a lot of meat. It’s expensive, and Americans in general tend to depend too much on meat for their diet. When we lived in China Brad chose to eat vegetarian for a year, and then the following year he drastically limited his meat-intake. So I have learned to cook many dishes with little or no meat. These days we eat meat more as a garnish than as a main course.
- Vegetables: Our dinners tend to emphasize vegetables, and I’ve been trying to keep introducing new vegetables that are in season.
- Rice, Pasta, Breads: We often fill out our meals with rice, pasta, breads, or other starches. This week we’ll have Bean Soup and Fresh Tomato Soup with Bread on the side, and we’ll have Chicken & Broccoli Alfredo and Spaghetti over pasta.
- Beans: We don’t always eat beans, but I occasionally make my parents’ Bean Soup, Chili, or Taco Recipes.
- Variety: Sometimes we get in a dinner rut, but dinner is the meal that I am most likely to experiment with and vary from week to week.
- Keep It Simple: We usually drink water, milk, or orange juice (made from concentrate). Brad and I drink generic coffee from the coffee pot. We like to drop lemons or limes (sliced and frozen) into our water pitcher. Occasionally I will make iced tea from tea bags.
- Use Your Blender: Brad likes to make Homemade Frappuccinos or Fruit Smoothies for our family as a special treat.
- Homemade: I intentionally don’t purchase sweets because our family has very little self-control! (If it’s in the house, it will be gone within 24 hours). When we want a snack, I’ll bake up a batch of cookies, find a recipe on-line, or pop a bag of popcorn. Brad likes to eat PB&J as a snack. The kids and I usually eat a small bowl of cereal with milk or a graham cracker with peanut butter after nap-time.
- Date Night: Brad and I rarely go out for a “Date Night,” so on special occasions he will go out and buy us both a pint of ice cream.
How do you save money on groceries and grocery shopping?