$75 Meal Plan #5 – Sugar Free Edition

A meal plan, if it’s going to work, isn’t broken down into weekly measured portions and their associated costs. It’s a mix of this week’s purchases, what’s in your pantry, gifts and ground-scores.

So, following this format, I’m pitching in my budget. I spend $50-$75 a week on me and my husband. I’m currently breastfeeding so I eat twice as much as I previously did.

But we have no other sources of food beyond our budget. No garden, herbs in the window sill – nothing. I use coupons sparingly – the store ad for wherever I’m shopping, the occasional newspaper and coupons.com. When I get the mood I also use Ibotta, Grocery 51 and MobiSave. But these aren’t included in my grocery budget; they pay for date night.

THIS WEEK WE BOUGHT:

 Bananas, eggs, russet potatoes, sweet potatoes, 1 romaine head, milk, sugar free salad dressing, 3lbs. apples, honey, angel hair pasta, 8oz salad shrimp, 1 cabbage head, red onion, celery, 2 lbs. Bag of carrots, 1 corned beef roast, 8oz. saltwater salmon, asparagus, cilantro, 2 tomatoes.

BREAKFAST OPTIONS:

Fruit

Oatmeal with honey

Banana Peanut Butter Smoothies

Scrambled eggs and hashbrowns

Baked sweet potato

LUNCH OPTIONS:

Burritos

Tuna salad

Leftovers

SNACK OPTIONS:

Popcorn

Fresh fruit

Vegetables

Boiled eggs

Pickles

Tea

Coffee

DINNER MENU:

Thursday  – creamy garlic chicken with rice.

Friday – shrimp pasta.

Saturday – chicken stir fry.

Sunday – corned beef with cabbage and potatoes.

Monday – southwest chicken salad.

Tuesday – grilled salmon with asparagus and quinoa.

Wednesday – corned beef hash (using leftover corned beef).

MEAL PREPPING I DID THIS WEEK:

These foods were prepared over the course of the weekend. Some was stashed away for later and some was consumed this week.

  • Crockpot beans
  • Boiled eggs
  • Baked sweet potatoes
  • Chopped cabbage in thin slices.
  • Shredded 2 carrots; roughly chopped 1; sliced 4 into sticks.
  • Diced small red onion.
  • Diced 5 sweet onions.
  • Quartered 1 yellow onion.
  • Cubed 2 lbs. Chicken breasts
  • Shredded lettuce
  • Celery sticks
  • Minced cilantro
  • Diced tomato

THIS WEEK’S TOTAL SPENT: 

How do you spend your grocery budget?

Bachelorette Party – Clean, Sober and Cheap

I recently helped plan the bachelorette party for my sister in law. We were faced with a challenge though – our party had to be kid-friendly, dairy free, low budget, and sober. The bride to be didn’t drink alcohol or consume dairy products, we were all broke and there was going to be about 6 kids under the age of 5 present. 

Our party started at 5, lasting about 3 hours. We had awesome music playing on the laptop as guests arrived. We picked three games, and one back up in case something went wrong. If its a long party, you might do more. There’s a list of my favorite games below.

Our party was at dinner time so we served pizza and drinks (soda and juice), getting a dairy free pizza from Papa Murphy’s. Surprisingly delicious and soooo convenient. Other good options would be BBQ chicken sandwiches in the crockpot, spaghetti or a burrito bar.

We couldnt afford decorations. Spending about $10 at the dollar store we put together party favors with candy and cute bows. Looking to go zero waste? Get cute coffee mugs and buy bulk candy to put inside – or bulk coffee.

All you other party planners might flinch at the idea of no decorations. But they weren’t necessary – they produce waste and cost money. And none of the guests even notoced. You dont need much for a kickass party!

Games

  • Flower arrangement contest /scavenger hunt in teams (fake or real flowers) – race to see which team finds all the flowers and puts them in the vase first.
  • Cold feet – fill a bowl with ice water and some costume jewelry rings. Tournament style – first person to fish out all the rings with their feet wins the round. Continue until you have a champion.
  • Pop! The Question – two teams. Attach two inflated balloons to everyones butt. No hands, no feet. The first team to pop everyone elses balloons wins.
  • Chocolate Unicorn – tournament style. Whoever stacks the most oreos on their forehead wins the round. No help, and you can’t hold the stack with your hands. Repeat until you have a champion.
  • Kiss the Bride – team pictionary, except the artist holds a tube of lipstick in their mouth to draw. No hands.
  • Junk in the trunk – teams or individual. Fill an empty tissue box with ping pong balls. Attach the box to your butt. First person to shake out all the balls wins. No hands!
  • Blind Love – blindfold one person. Have them do someone else’s makeup. Best makeup artist wins.

Ways to Save More Money

  • Have guests bring food and drinks.
  • Don’t provide prizes or party favors.

What’s your favorite party game?

Winter Root Beef Stew (in the Crockpot)

If you’ve been reading for long you know I have a passion for teaching sustainability – be that on the farm or a city apartment, every system should be sustainable if not self sufficient.

I did not grow up with that lifestyle. I’ve had to learn the hard way, one lesson at a time. One of my more recent adventures has been learning to cook seasonally – and with local ingredients.

This is my new favorite winter recipe. You can even get locally brewed (or homemade) hard cider.

Shopping locally and in season is more work. So to make it easier on you I’ve got a good recipe for you in winter and it’s super easy to make. And if you want it in the summer? Well it makes a good freezer meal too!

Feeds 4- 6 people

You Will Need:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 lbs. Beef roast, cubed
  • 4 medium yellow potatoes
  • 2 parsnips, chopped
  • 1 turnip, chopped
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 4 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 ribs of celery, chopped
  • 2 tbsp worcestershire
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 can hard cider (I used Angry Orchard)
  • 4 – 6 cups beef broth (enough to cover)

Prepare

Put olive oil in the bottom of the crockpot. Then add garlic cloves and worcestershire. Place beef on top. Then add paprika, salt and pepper. Next the vegetables – potatoes, parsnips, turnips, carrots, celery and onions.

Pour the cider in. Then add broth until all the vegetables are covered.

Cook

Cover the crockpot with lid. Set to cook on high for 6 to 8 hours. All the alcohol will have cooked out.

Serve

Serve hot, with crusty peasant bread and a leafy green salad for best deliciousness.

Freeze It

Put all ingredients except cider and broth in a 2 gallon freezer bag. Freeze for up to 3 months. When ready to prepare, dump still frozen in crockpot, top with cider and broth and cook high 8- 10 hours. It will be slightly mushier.

Budget Version

Omit cider. Replace broth with water. Double onion, carrot and celery. Omit parsnips and turnip. Add 1/2 cup applesauce.

I hope you e joy this recipe. Don’t be afraid to experiment!

What We Actually Needed for Baby: Zero Waste Style

*This post contains affiliate links, where I recieve a portion of your purchase at no extra cost to you. All affiliate links are to products I have actually used. 

Raising a baby requires a lot of crap. And if you go mainstream it requires an absurd amount of crap. Every child is different; every lifestyle, climate and laundry schedule are different too. But it is helpful as a new parent to see what other moms did.

Whether you’re a new mom or not, if you want to raise your child with a minimalist and zero waste attitude, this checklist is for you. Below you will find all the things we actually needed for our little Pudge’s first year, as we pursued a zero waste and minimalist lifestyle.

Keep in mind lifestyle differences as you read – I have full access to a washer and dryer, I breastfeed, Pudge comes to work with me so my pumping needs are limited, and I live in a spastic climate with extreme cold and hot weather.

Items in green were absolute necessities – everything else just made life easier.

Diapering

  • Cloth wipes. We have enough to fill 4 quart size mason jars because I’m paranoid about running out. This lasts 2- 3 days.
  • 30 reuseable cloth diaper liners/inserts.
  • 25 cloth diaper covers. Our Pudge had bad diahrea from antibiotics so we would go through up to 12 a day.
  • Spritzer bottle with DIY wipes solution.
  • Mason jar.
  • Small jar with DIY diaper rash cream.
  • Diaper changing pad/waterproof blanket.
  • 2 small portable wet bags.
  • 2 large wet bags that fit diaper pail.
  • Diaper pail.

Bathing

  • Two towels
  • 3 soft washcloths
  • Baby castille soap
  • Baby lotion
  • Water pitcher

Feeding

I breastfeed. If your planning on formula feeding or doing a combination of the two this list will need alterations. If you have the choice, always breastfeed exclusively. Its better for you, your baby and the planet. And your wallet!

  • 2 glass bottles
  • Electric pump
  • Pumping bra
  • Bottle brush
  • Dishwasher bottle basket
  • Castille soap for washing bottles
  • 304 steel pot for sterilizing pumping supplies, bottles and pacifiers.
  • Reuseable milk storage
  • Insulated cooler and ice packs for transporting milk.
  • Nursing pillow and washable cover
  • Lasinoh cream for your nipplies
  • Reuseable WATERPROOF nursing pads (if theyre not lined with waterproof material on the back you’ll leak right through them).
  • 2 nursing bras
  • Clothes you can nurse in public in – stretchy T-shirts, loose sweaters and low tank tops work great and are cheap. Or get the amaaaazing nursing sweater I have.
  • Nursing cover (if you’re uncomfortable in public).
  • Prenatal vitamins for mom.

Moving on to solids between 4- 6 months, you will also need:

  • Whole foods – bananas, squash, etc.
  • Small mason jars for prepped food – these will also freeze.
  • Lunchbox for on the go.
  • Potato masher.
  • Teething bags (stuff it with frozen berries. Seriously, no orajel needed).
  • 4 Bibs

Bedtime

  • 3 Velcro swaddles (these saved my life – seriously. I wasn’t going to buy any but one was given to me and I loved them so much I bought two backups)
  • Two heavy blankets
  • Two medium blankets
  • Two light blankets
  • 6 recieving blankets (these double as burp rags)

Clothes (year one)

In the spirit of zero waste, buy as much of these used as possible. For when you can’t, I’ve provided links to organic cotton clothing that can be passed down until it’s ready to be composted.

  • 10 newborn onesies – 5 long sleeve, 5 short sleeve.
  • 2 newborn hats.
  • 10 newborn pairs of pants.
  • 2 newborn light zip up footie pajamas.
  • 2 newborn heavy zip up footie pajamas.
  • 20-40 pairs of 0-3 month socks (Dont waste money on newborn ones).
  • 2 pairs of 0-3 month booties (only if it’s really cold).
  • 0-3 month snowsuit (only if it’s really cold).
  • 10 0-3 month onesies – 5 long sleeve, 5 short sleeve.
  • 2 0-3 month hats.
  • 10 0-3 month pairs of pants.
  • 2 0-3 month light zip up footie pajamas.
  • 2 0-3 month heavy zip up footie pajamas.
  • 20-40 pairs of 3-6 month socks.
  • 2 pairs of 3-6 month booties (only if it’s really cold).
  • 3-6 month snowsuit (only if it’s really cold).
  • 8 3-6 month onesies – 4 long sleeve, 4 short sleeve.
  • 2 3-6 month hats.
  • 8 3-6 month pairs of pants.
  • 2 3-6 month light zip up footie pajamas.
  • 2 3-6 month heavy zip up footie pajamas.
  • 20-40 pairs of 6- 18 month socks.
  • 2 pairs of 6-18 month booties (only if it’s really cold).
  • 1 6- 9 month snowsuit (only if it’s really cold).
  • 8 6- 9 month onesies – 4 long sleeve, 4 short sleeve.
  • 2 6- 9 month hats.
  • 8 6- 9 month pairs of pants.
  • 2 6- 9 month light zip up footie pajamas.
  • 2 6- 9 month heavy zip up footie pajamas
  • 20-40 pairs of 18- 24 month socks.
  • 2 pairs of 18- 24 month booties (only if it’s really cold).
  • 1 9- 12 month snowsuit (only if it’s really cold).
  • 8 9- 12 month onesies – 4 long sleeve, 4 short sleeve.
  • 2 9- 12 month hats.
  • 8 9- 12 month pairs of pants.
  • 2 9- 12 month light zip up footie pajamas.
  • 2 9- 12 month heavy zip up footie pajamas
  • Dirty clothes basket
  • Baby safe stain remover
  • Baby/cloth diaper safe laundry soap
  • Net bag for washing socks in (so your machine doesn’t eat them)

Gear

  • Convertible car seat
  • Stroller and rain shield
  • Car mirror (so you can see baby)
  • Car window covers
  • Diaper bag (if you’re not using your purse)
  • Convertible crib. In the United States you are legally required to provide your baby an age aplropriate bed with a frame.
  • Highchair or other seating while eating device.
  • Somewhere to keep clothes off the floor; Baskets, bookshelves and dressers all work.
  • Boba wrap or baby carrier

Playtime/Learning

  • Hand-held rattle
  • Two stuffed toys (ours sing)
  • Foot rattles
  • Rings
  • Books to read (As many as you feel is apropriate)

Misc.

  • Pacifiers and clips
  • Nail clippers
  • Hairbrush
  • Missing persons kit
  • Waterproof file for important documents

Baby Health

  • Forehead thermometer.
  • Lavendar vaporub for colds.
  • Nasal aspirator (there are different sizes – get all of them).
  • Syringe for medications/vitamins.
  • Infant tylenol.
  • Peppermint tea (for belly aches).

What did your baby need?

This is part two of a series on raising a zero waste family.

Part One

Part Two

Chicken Pot Pie

I had serious doubts about this recipe at first. I was just throwing things together, trying to come up with something edible and packed full of veggies. And while this definitely isn’t a traditional pot pie, trust me – you’ll never go back to Marie Calendars again.

Makes 6 servings; 1 13×9 casserole dish

You Will Need:

  • 1 tbsp + Bacon grease (or butter)
  • 1 large onion
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1.25 lbs chicken meat, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 tbsp + Poultry seasoning blend
  • Handful of celery leaves (or 2 ribs)
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 3 cups  1/2 inch diced potatoes
  • 1 ear of corn kernels (or half a can)
  • 1 20oz can condensed cream of chicken
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 pie crust boxes (4 crusts)
  • Garlic salt

In a large pot melt 1 tbsp bacon grease over medium high heat. Add onions and garlic, stirring often, until translucent.

Add cubed chicken, poultry seasoning, celery innards, carrots and potatoes. Stir occassionally, until chicken is cooked all the way through.

Reduce to low heat. Add corn, cream of chicken, and salt and pepper to taste. Thoroughly combine.

Preheat oven to 400.

Grease 13×9 glass pan with bacon grease.

Use two crusts for the bottom – prick with a fork and bake for 10 minutes.

Reduce oven to 350.

Pour filling over baked crust. Top with remaining two crusts. Poke with a fork.

Sprinkle garlic salt and poultry seasoning over crust. Cover with tinfoil.

Bake for 30 minutes.

Remove tinfoil. Bake 10-15 minutes until crust is golden.

Serve warm and enjoy 🙂

Top 20 Dairy Free Recipes

Disclaimer: All off-site recipes linked to may not be mine, but I have personally tested and enjoyed the recipes myself. Some my husband even likes. 
After a month of “maternity leave” from the website, I’m back and with all sorts of new content for you guys. Keep an eye out for baby DIY projects, more freezer meals and breastfeeding-friendly recipes.
Speaking of breastfeeding recipes – we discovered in the first two weeks that my little Pudge is highly allergic to dairy. So I have had to remove dairy from my diet for the foreseeable future so that I can continue to provide him with the best nutrition.
And while I have a history of this lifestyle – I was actually vegan for four years – the transition to just dairy free is extremely easy. You probably already eat quite a few foods that meet the requirement and others that can be converted with little to no effort.
For a little inspiration and community support to all ya’ll lacto-avoiders out there, here’s my top 20 favorite dairy free recipes.

Dinner Recipes

Lunch Recipes

Breakfast Recipes

Dessert and Snack Recipes

What are your favorite dairy free recipes? Comment below!

Vegan Spiced Strawberry Oatmeal

I’m a huge morning person if you haven’t noticed yet. Which for me includes eating a gigantic, filling breakfast. As a result of my budget, oatmeal has become my crutch. Not only is it healthy, convenient, easy and packed with protein (11 grams in each cup) – but it’s also sweet, luxurious and pretty! Everyone else thinks oatmeal is pretty, too, right?

I discovered this particularly awesome combination while scrounging for food in our under-stocked pantry. It’s crazy how much I procrastinate shopping when I work at the grocery store! Anyways, I was impressed enough to share this with you all. This recipe provides two servings of about 1 1/2 cups very thick cooked oatmeal. I could eat the whole batch to be honest ._.

But for normal people – it will feed two hugry adults.

Ingredients

1 cup rolled oats

1 cup water

1 cup rice/almond milk (or more if you like thin oatmeal)

1 pinch of salt

2-4 tbsp pumpkin pie spice (to taste)

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1 tbsp honey

2 cups chopped fresh or frozen strawberries (the riper the better; feel free to experiment with other berries)

1 tsp vanilla extract

 

The Oatmeal

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan, except rolled oats. Cook until boiling, stirring occasionally.

When water is at a rolling boil add oats. Cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly.

Remove from heat and serve warm for best taste.

 

As I always say in my recipes, I encourage you to play around with the spices and maybe try some cool toppings. Whipped cashew cream would be phenomenal on this. So would an extra kick of grated fresh ginger with sliced almonds. Ooh. Or walnuts!

Experiment on!

50% Project: November Review and December Planning

I’m doing the 50% Project. It starts today, with my most recent paycheck. And the goal is simple – save 50% of every penny that enters my wallet. Don’t let my expenses exceed my means.

So how will the project work? If you want to join in, here’s what I’m doing:

  1. Put away 50% of all income, whether it’s from work, gifts or tax returns.
  2. Make it as difficult as possible to spend the money you’re saving, so you’re less likely to spend it. This can be putting it in a locked savings account, or just giving it to a more responsible spouse to keep safe. Safety deposit boxes work well, and old fashioned piggy banks are good too.
  3. Keep track of how much money is coming in, how much is going out, and where it’s going.
  4. Every once in awhile I’ll post an update here on the blog of what I’ve managed to save, a glance at where my money went, and any suggestions I have or lessons I’ve learned.
  5. Doing Christmas for as little money as I can possibly manage. This year we didn’t have time to make gifts, so we set very low budgets and will be doing birth announcements for our Christmas cards. We will spend less than $300 for the entire holiday.
  6. Staying accountable – I promised my husband that I’m going to stick to this, and now I’m promising you.
  7. Stay positive – if I mess up, I’m not going to beat myself up. I’m going to keep moving forward, and so should you. Reflecting on mistakes helps me make better choices but ruminating on regrets is unproductive.

What do I hope to accomplish with this project?

  1. Move into our own apartment.
  2. Credit scores over 600.
  3. Trade in our current car for a safer one.
  4. Have an emergency savings of $1000
  5. Pay off our debt.
  6. Develop self-discipline and better money-managing skills.
  7. Learn to live minimally.
  8. Be financially independent of others (not needing to rely on help from family or welfare).

But it’s Christmas.

I am very aware that it’s December, the hardest month for almost anyone to save. But I also believe that it’s the perfect time to test this, to try and stretch the limits of our self-control and practice delayed-gratification. For more information on a minimalist Christmas, I highly suggest this post over at Zen Habits. Christmas doesn’t have to cost you.

I wish all of you luck with your own financial journeys; thanks for sticking around to read about mine.

I’m going to be straight up here, partially to help dispel a lot of the misperceptions and stigma surrounding poverty, but also because I believe by being honest about my husband and I’s journey I can help you and learn myself.

We’re poor. Like, we would have starved to death years ago without public assistance, poor. So while other bloggers might do the “SNAP Project” – that’s been our life. And it’s actually how we both grew up, too. But we have no intentions of staying this way – we’ve bounced on and off the system as our life circumstances have changed. But the goal has always been stability. Self-sufficiency. We could definitely be in worse situations, too.

So whether you’re trying to escape poverty, survive a family disaster such as job loss or illness, or just want to save money so you can do awesome shit with your life, this project might help you. Please feel free to share any suggestions you might have.

We are starting out fresh again this month, just in time for Christmas. My husband just landed a new job after being unemployed for almost two months. I’m 39 weeks pregnant. We have an older, high-needs dog. We don’t use our credit card – we’re trying to pay it off. We currently stay for free in the bedroom of my husband’s uncle’s house, with their family of four people and four fur babies. We’ve been homeless for over a year, off and on unemployed for various reasons for 18 months, and our credit reports look pretty bad.

Every family’s needs are different. Every lifestyle is different. The transparency here is meant to serve as inspiration and encouragement.

Budget

(In order of priority)

$400 – Groceries/Food

$100 – Work uniform for new job PAID

$85 – Storage Shed (This has all our belongings and all of my husband’s mother’s belongings) PAID

$196 – Phone bill

$160 – Gasoline

$289 – Car Payment PAID

$100 – Auto Insurance Premium PAID

$31 – Credit Card Minimum

$15 – Web Hosting Service

$100 – Household expenses/Personal Care/Baby needs

$40 – Oil Change (Required by our loan agreement)

$150 – Christmas

$50 – My birthday

$25 – Date night

$400 – Brakes

$7 – Crunchyroll subscription

$35 – Birth certificate (the hospital no longer provides these – we have to order it from the state)

Expected Income

$588 – Cash Assistance for November and December RECEIVED

$357 – SNAP (Can only be spent on food) RECEIVED

$275 – Daycare Wages for November

$250 – Toys R Us Wages for December (Joseph’s new job – we don’t actually know how much to expect so we’ll see)

Account Remainders

$87.99 – Checking Account

$682 – Fall Term FAFSA

$120 – Cash

Frugal Accomplishments for November

  • My husband finally quit smoking!! This was something he promised me he would do before our son was born, and I’m so grateful he was able to do it. He started smoking when he was 10 and he didn’t want our son to go down the same path.
  • Pre-Baby Meal Prepping: Stocked our freezer with 11 dinners, which is enough to feed us for a month (we share cooking duties with the house) and stocked our cupboards with a week of easy foods for after baby. And saved $50!!
  • Ibotta rebates earned – $23.50
  • Started couponing again.
  • Packed lunches from home for the majority of the school days.
  • Under spent gas budget – saved $30 by the end of the month.
  • We budgeted $13 for most of the people on our Christmas list – and only spent about $8 on most of them but still got awesome gifts.
  • Took the city bus or carpooled multiple times.
  • Bought Halloween candy the first of November, on discount, with coupons. Over $100 worth of candy for less than $40.
  • Switched to making my coffee at home.
  • Moved in with family – this saved us $800+ a month in camping fees from staying in our trailer.
  • Almost all the baby things we needed were either acquired for free or as gifts. We spent less than $150 on baby items – and most of that was on the Co-Sleeper Pack n Play and the diaper pail.

Lessons Learned

  • Went back to the cash envelope system because the debit cards were getting overdrawn too easily and the credit card that we aren’t supposed to be using got taken out a few too many times.
  • Black Friday is a giant scam. I’m glad I didn’t actually do any in-store shopping – I did it all on online and it saved me from impulse purchases and overspending on the items I was intending to purchase.

Savings Account Balance:

$5.00

The Pre-Baby Dinner Stock Up Event

Taco mix, Frito casserole mix and onions for Swedish meatballs.

Taco mix, Frito casserole mix and onions for Swedish meatballs.

As we prepare to have our baby (He’s due in just 5 days!!) I realized that to save my housemates from shouldering all the cooking, to protect our health and wallets from the late night taco bell runs, and to satisfy my insane nesting urges it was time to do my first major freezer meal prep session. I’ve done it here and there before but this is my first time doing 6 week’s worth of dinners at once. If you are responsible for cooking every night I recommend doubling up on several of these recipes/plans. All recipes and meal plans here are for feeding a family of 6 twice a week, which works out to 12 servings a week plus some leftovers. Yum leftovers…

I’ll be going shopping later this week to finalize everything we need for Christmas and for the newborn to be, Mr. Sora Papineau. I’ll update this post with my actual costs and shopping and such when I do that, as well as what I did to save even more money. Ideally everything would be organic, local and homemade from scratch but realistically as two full time, working students preparing to have a baby on an extremely limited budget- we compromised on the things where the savings were minute. Frozen lasagna is my perfect example – It costs me just a tiny bit more to buy it ready made than to make it and it saves me a crap ton of time to just buy it. Yes we could eat something cheaper – but we love lasagna and enjoying your food is something that’s important to us. Plus it will help us keep our sanity with the new baby.

Anyways, here’s the plan for dinners. Next week, after shopping, I’ll post the entire month’s meal plan, budget, and how shopping went. Because we live with another family we don’t have the space to stock up for the entire month. But planning ahead and creating a very specific, easy to follow list means I can send someone else to the store part way through the month without risking blowing the budget or starving to death.

Freezer Meal Prep: Dinner

Store-bought items in the Freezer:

  • Pot pies x2 meals ($
  • Frozen lasagna x2
  • Frozen broccoli x2
  • Shredded cheddar (8oz) x3
  • Sliced provolone (8oz)
  • Sliced Swiss cheese (8oz)
  • Tortillas x24
  • Sliced olives
  • Frozen green beans
Philly Cheese Steak Freezer Meal

Philly Cheese Steak Freezer Meal

Home-Prepped Items:

BBQ Chicken Ingredients

BBQ Chicken Ingredients

Pantry Items to Accompany the Plan:

  • Cornbread mix x2
  • Egg noodles
  • Frito’s
  • Hoagie rolls (8 pack)
  • Red potatoes (2.5 lbs)
  • Hamburger buns (8 pack)

In Summary:

This plan provides for 12 meals for my family of 6 (not including baby-to-be), which since my husband and I only cook 2 nights a week, is actually over an entire month of dinners for us. All of these are foods I can easily cook, I can easily instruct the husband on (he’s a great cook he just likes clear instructions) or we can easily do together.

Cranberry-Orange Chicken Freezer Meal

Cranberry-Orange Chicken Freezer Meal

Here’s what the month will look like…

Week 1 – Chicken chili with cornbread; chicken burritos with cheddar cheese.

Week 2 – Frozen lasagna with broccoli; BBQ chicken sandwiches with provolone.

Week 3 – Cranberry-orange chicken with green beans and red potatoes; beef pot pies.

Week 4 – Frozen lasagna with broccoli; crock pot tacos with olives and cheddar cheese.

Week 5 – Swedish meatballs over egg noodles; Frito casserole.

Week 6 – Philly cheese steak hoagies with Swiss cheese; chicken pot pies.

The Shopping

I had very few ingredients in my pantry already for this, but there were a few like basic seasonings, olive oil, salt, pepper, brown sugar and balsamic vinegar. I spent $62.13 at the grocery store on items for these 12 meals. I got $7.50 in cashback from iBotta to be cashed out later this month, saved $3 with coupons from the paper, and saved $4.35 with WIC. Before these savings the grand total was $76.98.

That means, after savings, I spent $5.18 per meal and $0.87 per serving. That’s amazing!!

Potato Leek Stoup

This is probably my most requested recipe. It’s my husband’s favorite, my brother-in-law’s favorite, my mom’s favorite… pretty much everyone who eats my food always wants this recipe.

I’ve done different variations over the last three years but this is by far the best way to do it. Perfect for a rainy day dinner, this recipe is particularly filling for a “soup” and is very affordable to make.

Potato Leek Stoup

Comfortably served 7 people (2 teenage boys and two large men included)

 

You Will Need:

1 tbsp butter

1 bundle leeks, white parts, thinly sliced (about 3 cups sliced)

1 rib of celery

1 tbsp salt + more to taste

1 lbs thick cut smoked bacon, sliced width-wise (pork jowl is a good substitute, and ends and pieces bacon is a budget friendly change that still tastes damn good)

Pepper to taste

3 lbs potatoes, un-peeled and cubed

4 cups water

2 beef bouillon cubes (or sub 2 cups of water for 2 cups of beef broth)

2 cups whole milk

 

Note: if you like crispy bacon cook the bacon in the pot first, scoop it out with a slotted spoon and let crisp on a paper towel. DO NOT drain the grease – add the butter and leeks straight to it and follow instructions from there.

 

To Prepare:

  1. In a soup pot melt butter over medium heat. Add sliced leeks, celery and salt generously (about 1 tbsp). Stir until coated in butter.
  2. Toss in bacon and a pinch of pepper. cook until leeks are translucent, stirring frequently. The bacon should also be cooked thoroughly at this point but not necessarily crispy.
  3. Add potatoes, bouillon and water to pot. Mix. Bring to a boil.
  4. Cover and reduce to a low heat. Let simmer for 10-30 minutes (depends on how small your potatoes are cut – 20 minutes is usually perfect).
  5. Remove from heat. Add milk, salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot with crusty baguettes for an authentic French dish. If you reserved the bacon for crispness, sprinkle it on top before serving.

 

This would taste very good with a German beer if you don’t mind disgracing the French history of the recipe 😉