Saturday, January 15, 2011

What's For Dinner?

We have a pretty tight food budget (about $100 every 2 weeks including diapers) and I'm always looking for inexpensive meal ideas. I've put together a list of the meals we rotate. I make a menu about every 7-10 days and grocery shop based on my menu. I also shop using coupons and price-matching.

Wal-Mart will price match everything except buy one get one free offers. Some cashiers require you to have the ads in hand, but I never do and it always works. I use a web-site called mygrocerydeals that categorizes each item and gives you the best prices. I make my shopping list and write down where things are the cheapest. When I get to the register, I tell the cashier which items I want to price match and that's it!

Several people have asked for my weekly menu, so here it is:

Sunday: Roast (purchased a few weeks ago for $2.99/lb - price match)
Red Potatoes ($ .99/5lbs - price match)
Baby Carrots ($ .99/lb - price match)
*I put it all in the crock-pot with some sliced yellow onion, garlic salt, and salt and pepper in about 2 inches of water. Cook on Low for 6-8hrs or High for 4 or until meat is cooked through.

Monday: Tortellini (Frozen Cheese Tortellini about $2.99/bag and I use half the bag)
Sliced Sausage ($1.49 price match)
Frozen Peas
Sliced Red Pepper (price match this week for $ .20ea)
*Boil tortellini as instructed, saute sausage frozen peas and red pepper. Combine cooked tortellini to sausage mixture and toss in Italian dressing. Can be served cold or warm.

Tuesday: BBQ Chicken Mini Pizzas on Biscuits
*Put 6 or 7 frozen chicken breasts in crockpot. Cover with can of Coke or Dr. Pepper, 1/4 cup brown sugar, garlic salt and onion salt or diced onion. Cook on high for 4-5 hrs or until chicken is fully cooked. Drain fluid. Separate half the chicken to a Ziploc bag and refrigerate. Put other half back in crockpot. Add 1/4 cup brown sugar, BBQ sauce, and half can of Coke or Dr. Pepper (the other half is left to drink. YES!) Cook on low for 1 hr. Bake Pillsbury biscuits (I buy the store brand unless I have a coupon). Cut biscuits in half. Top with BBQ Chicken, cheddar cheese and purple or green onion.

Wednesday: Chicken Tacos (I buy Wal-Mart brand tortillas which are very inexpensive)
Refried or Pinto beans (Usually around $ .80/can)
Cilantro Lime Rice (Limes and Cilantro are price matched)
*Cook white rice as directed. Once cooked, add chopped white onion and cilantro and mix together. Heat left over shredded chicken from yesterday, but add a little taco seasoning and water first. Cut red/yellow pepper and chop lettuce for tacos. Heat refried or pinto beans and serve over rice.

Thursday: Hot Dogs (Hebrew National price matched around $2/6)
Steamed Veggies (Price match cauliflower and broccoli for $ .99)
*I like Hebrew National Hot Dogs the best, but they can be pricey. Bar S Beef Franks go on sale every now and then too. I usually buy a few when they are on sale and freeze them. Buns I buy from the bakery on the 'day old' shelf for a discount. I freeze them until the day I need them.

Friday/Saturday: Shepards Pie (My favorite thing!)
*Brown Meat w/ diced onion while boiling potatoes. (93% Lean Ground Beef price matched $1.99/lb and yellow potatoes price matched 3lbs for $ .99) Once meat is browned, add can of tomato soup. Once potatoes are soft - drain and mash. Add butter and milk to taste. Put ground beef mixture in casserole dish, top with mashed potatoes and cheddar cheese. Put in microwave for a few minutes to melt the cheese.

Sunday: Tortilla Soup w/ or w/o Meat
Black Beans (store brand is about $ .69/can)
Canned Corn (price match for $ .49/can)
Diced Tomatoes (store brand is about $ .99/can)
Chicken Stock ($ .49/can price match at Thanksgiving, so I bought a few)
*If you are using meat, cook as desired. In pot, put in all cans undrained. Add taco seasoning and 1 cup chicken stock. Heat until warm. Serve over tortilla chips w/cheese.

A few things I've learned along the way:
-Stocking up can be great, but if you're already on a tight monthly budget, it may not allow for it. So plan your menu according to what you already have or what is on sale.

-Salad is always a great thing to add to a meal, but buying all the ingredients and making it from scratch can get expensive. Costco sells ready to go salads in a bag including toppings and dressing for $3.49. This salad will last us at least 2 meals.

- Just about anything meat can be cooked and then frozen, so having cooked chicken breasts or left over shredded chicken can be a great way to save time.

- I am a big snacker, so I try to snack on inexpensive things like produce or crackers and cheese that have all been price matched.

- Some people can plan meals farther in advance, but when I have to run to the grocery store for milk or bread, I feel like I might as well get what I need for the week. I prefer to do my menu in 7-10 day increments.

-I am no expert, so any ideas or suggestions you have would be greatly appreciated!!


Ellingson's said...

one meal that we love at our house is orange koolaid chicken. 2 TBS orange kool aid & 1/2 c. BBQ sauce. I cook the chicken, then ad the kool aid & the BBQ sauce already mixed & heat it up on the stove, you can also grill or bake it. It's a hit with the kids.

Micah and Emily said...

Great ideas Karen! I am totally stealing your Cilantro/lime rice..yum!


Elise said...

Thank you for posting your recipes! I'm always looking for a good, inexpensive recipe to steal.

twizlstick said...

Wow - you are awesome! Does your food budget include breakfast & lunches too? What kind of food do you make for those meals? I'm always looking for new lunch ideas w/ a 2 year old.