Sunday, July 22, 2012

Meal Plans - 40 Dollar Weeks

Since living back in my home town I've been realizing how much freedom I have with my food choices. I have the ability to buy local, farm fresh, and organic. I consider what I'm buying, and avoid wasting anything if possible, but still having this freedom is amazing. I love being able to buy nourishing food, and I have to remember that this is a privilege, not all people get to buy the food they wish they could. Just yesterday after having a heartfelt discussion with a good friend of mine, I realized how quickly things have changed for me in regards to this topic.

Just a few months ago, we were struggling to pull meals together that would meet our forty dollar a week food budget. (That is definitely not getting to include organic!) After uttering the numbers yesterday to my friend, the words seemed false as they came out of my mouth. How could it be possible that I lived on forty dollars a week to supply meals for me and my husband? In a quick second though, I knew I couldn't deny the reality of scraping by. I had gone through it... and tried hard to conquer it.

Every week there was a lot of prayer for wisdom. In our pitiful moments, we felt God closest. We were squirmy, wishing for better circumstances in some regard, but now looking back, we know we wouldn't give up those experiences. We learned so much in spiritual and practical senses, and we were honestly happy. I think that is the difference. In a not-so-fabulous situation you can either be miserable or take it as it's given you; see what you can learn from it, and have fun doing it!

Week after week, checking out at the grocer's with 5 - 7 meals planned in under $40 (plus or minus a bit of course) I was realizing this budgeting thing was a success. I think I was more excited about not having to live on ramen noodles, baked beans, and quesadillas, but saving money was pretty cool too.

I am so blessed now that I don't have to manage the food budget so tightly anymore and that I get to include food choices that I believe are most nutritional. But, I have to remember where I've come from. Budgeting is hard. And budgeting to feed your family is even harder when you're scraping by. It was a weird realization to remember those days, and how instead of a burden, it felt more like a challenge. I just have to remember to keep an attitude that is understanding towards people when they make these hard decisions at the grocery store. Yeah I believe organic food is awesome, but when you are able to combine ingredients to create a meal for your family, organic or not, that is way awesome. We are all at different places when it comes to learning about nutrition. I definitely want to remember that so food doesn't become a separating factor for me or for you. People are way more important than personal philosophies or food preferences. What do you think?

I know I have a couple other posts on this topic (one, two and three), but I guess this was my first hand experience that I wanted to share with you. These meals were always compiled based on what I had on hand, and having a great grocery store that offered low prices, and on top of that, a bulk section. Check out your area for those options, it will save you a ton.

Quick list of things that help: bulk section, what's on sale, things I had on hand already in the pantry or fridge, reusing the same ingredient in a few meals over the span of the week, using canned tomatoes, comparing costs of fresh vs frozen vegetables, using dried beans and soaking them overnight for the next day, making crusts, doughs, and pastas from scratch, making sauces from scratch, making chicken stock from scratch, eating vegetarian more often than not.

{Open images to see my meal-planning notebook details}

Week 1
Ham served with yams
Pasta e Fagioli a bean and pasta soup
Quiche with ham, potatoes, and broccoli
Sour cream and chicken enchiladas

Week 2
Madras Lentils, in crock pot
Orange Chicken
Sloppy Joes, with homemade bbq sauce
Twice baked potatoes with cheddar, carrots, peas, and chives
Pan fried tofu, with three flavor sauce

Week 3
Orecchiette with italian sausage, basil, and tomatoes
Pizza bagels with italian sausage, tomato sauce, basil, and cheese
Turkey enchiladas, serve with rice
Thai BBQ with chicken, Thaifoon style

Week 4
Sweet maple chicken, serve with baked potatoes
Rigate with peas and ham
Chili, in crock pot

Week 5
Chicken parmigiana, serve with broccoli
Carrot soup
Green curry with carrots and chicken

Week 6
Reheat cannelloni, add fresh tomato sauce and parmesan
Cheese sauce with shells and asparagus
Springtime roast chicken, serve with roasted potatoes and carrots

Week 7
Lemon chicken, serve with jasmine rice
Rigatoni with ground turkey, tomato, and basil
Steak with caramelized onions, serve with beet greens
Trader Joe's indian meal packets

Week 8
Chicken picatta, serve with asparagus
Ribollita, an italian soup

Notes: Other cheap food options, try quiche, fritata, polenta, pasta, potato dishes, soups...


  1. I really love these posts….the ones with ideas of ideas on how to do it cheaper. Thank you!

  2. Rachel, your menu on a budget is quite impressive. You have some wonderful meals on the list, which sound delicious and do not have to break the bank.


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