$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?

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!

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!

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 😉

$50 Meal Plan #2

*UPDATE: This was originally posted in January on the old blog*

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 (plus the weekly family dinner of 6 people, my younger siblings’ weekly visit, and all of the friends that come and devour my muffins. Every. Freaking. Day.)

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 and coupons.com. Nothing complex. About 10 minutes a week and I save about $5 each shopping trip.

This hasn’t been the healthiest week for us. I’ve been working late nights so when I come home dinner is the last thing I want to do, and I can’t prep it in the morning because I’m doing homework in the mornings.

 

This week we bought:

Boneless skinless chicken breast (4 lbs.), ground turkey (2lbs.), mushroom-chicken sausage (1lbs.), beef ramen, coffee creamer, kale, lettuce, green onions, asparagus, bananas, 3lbs. bag of onions, yogurt, 2 boxes of cereal, and 1 jar of pasta sauce.

Meal-share Benefits with Family: 1 whole turkey and 3 goose eggs. My husband’s boss cleaned out his freezer.

From the Garden (and some Foraging): Morel mushrooms(!!) and dandelion greens from our yard (because I know they weren’t sprayed).

 

Breakfast Options:

Yogurt and granola

Frogs in a Hole

Oatmeal

 

Lunch Options:

Vegan Chili Verde

Cornbread

Turkey wraps

Sausage pasta with spinach (sausage+pasta+spinach+milk)

Leftovers

 

Snack Options:

Crackers

Granola bars

Fresh fruit

Crunchy roasted chickpeas

Quesadillas

Green salad

Pickled eggs (just throw boiled eggs in an empty pickle jar with leftover juice. One batch per pickle jar – refrigerate please)

French bread (homemade) and butter

Peanut butter edible cookie dough

Tea

Hot Cocoa

 

Dinner Menu:

Thursday  – Chicken curry with brown rice

Friday – Enchiladas

Saturday – Turkey and kale soup

Sunday – Ground beef ramen (ground beef+ramen+green onions) and salad

Monday – Turkey gravy over potatoes

Tuesday – Steak, garlic creamed pasta and asparagus

Wednesday – Turkey meatballs with marinara and fresh bread

 

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.

  • 3 loaves of french bread
  • Turkey meatballs
  • 2 cups brown rice

This week’s total spent: $46.00 

 

How do you spend your grocery budget?

Meal Prep: Breakfast Jars 2 Ways

Not everyone has the time for a serious meal prep session. A great alternative I’ve found is when I make the time to cook a real breakfast I just make doubles – I set the uneaten portion aside for tomorrow or later in the week. Some things, like pancakes, can be frozen. If you don’t mind eating the same thing a lot you could make a whole week of breakfasts with just one morning and one recipe.

Below are two of my favorite breakfast prep recipes, husband approved!

Peaches and cream oatmeal

Makes 4 jars:

1 29oz can peaches (I used canned in syrup; if you don’t you might need to add more sweetener) – save the juices

2 cups of heavy cream or cashew milk/coconut cream

2 cups of rolled oats

1 tbsp cinnamon

2 tsp ginger (ground)

1 tbsp vanilla extract

1/4 cup honey or 1/2 cup brown sugar

1 tbsp butter or coconut oil

Preparation:

You’ll notice there’s a lot of choices on the ingredients. You can make these clean and vegan or cheap and wholesome. Or just make use of what you have on hand. I like to keep my food flexible because my cupboards never quite look the same.

In a saucepan bring milk and a pinch of salt to a quick boil. Toss in oats immediately and remove from heat.

In a small saucepan pour whole can of peaches, juices and all, sugar, cinnamon, ginger and butter. Cook on medium high until it starts to form a sweet, thick syrup. Taste – it should be a little bit too sweet and strong. Remove from heat. Stir in cooked oats and vanilla extract.

Eat and Store:

Separate into four jars while still hot. Refrigerate immediately until ready to eat – or eat it hot.

 

Blueberry Banana Parfaits

Makes 4:

24oz blueberry greek yogurt

1 cup cranberry-almond granola (or your favorite)

1 cup blueberries, fresh

2 bananas, cut into cubes

Preparation:

Layer ingredients equally among 4 jars. I suggest starting with a granola layer but that’s just because I like my granola soft.

If you want your granola crunchy, layer the yogurt on the bottom, the banana chunks, the blueberries, then the granola.

Eat and Store:

Refrigerate until ready to eat.

For a lower calorie/carbohydrate version:

To save on calories, use plain yogurt and replace the granola with a muesli blend.

I hope you enjoy these recipes. What’s your favorite breakfast on the go?

Preparing for Parenthood: The Zero Waste Baby

Zero Waste Baby NeedsI’m having a baby in December, and as our lifestyle has transitioned to zero waste and minimalist living, it’s just as important for that lifestyle to continue with us as our family changes. This is my first child, but I cared for my younger siblings for years as well as did daycare for a variety of families.

There are lots of cool gadgets out there for babies and young children. But very little of it is necessary, and some of it is straight up ridiculous.

Given my family’s tight budget and our commitment to reduce consumption in all areas of our lives, we’re sticking with the minimum. Lots of this has been gifted to us by family and upon our baby shower we’re probably going to receive more. I’ve also perused Facebook classifieds, craigslist and Freecycle for many free items. I encourage you to do this if you have the time or if you’re on a tight budget.

Household Changes

  • Water filter for sink
  • Filtering shower head and bath faucet
  • Waterproof mattress cover (for my mattress)
  • Cotton sheets (for my mattress)
  • Outlet covers
  • Dog bed (because we’re co-sleeping in the beginning and the dog can’t sleep on the bed anymore…)
  • CO and radon detector
  • Fabric shower curtain
  • If you haven’t already switched, get all the plastic out of your kitchen and switch to:
    • Bamboo cutting boards
    • Cast iron or 304 Steel cookware
    • Ceramic or cast iron bakeware

Baby Bedding

  • Crib or convertible bassinet (Convertible is better!!) with matress
  • Cotton sheets for crib (x2)
  • Homemade crib quilt
  • Light receiving blankets (x4)

Bathtime

  • Cotton undyed towels (x2)
  • Cotton undyed wash cloths (x8)
  • Baby grooming kit
    • Soft hair brush
    • Infant nail clippers
    • Snot sucker
  • Baby mild castille soap
  • Gentle baby lotion (you can make your own if you’re ambitious)

Diaper Changing

  • 20 cloth diapers
  • Homemade diaper rash balm
  • Diaper pins (steel; x4 sets)
  • Reuseable wipes, in a homemade solution, in a reuseable container
  • Waterproof diaper covers (x8)
  • Dirty diaper container and reusable liner (x2)

Clothes

  • Onesies (x16)
  • Socks or booties (x8)
  • Coming home outfit <3
  • Swimsuit
  • Scratch-proof mittens
  • A hat
  • leggings/pants (x16)
  • Pajamas (Light; x8)
  • Pajamas (Heavy; x8)
  • Swaddle wrap (x2)
  • Dirty clothes hamper

Feeding

  • Burp clothes (x8)
  • Glass bottles (x3)
  • Bottle brush
  • Breast pump
  • Freezer storage for pumped milk
  • Bibs (x3)
  • Highchair or seat with support

Misc. Needs

  • Moby wrap carrier (make this myself)
  • Stroller
  • Car seat
  • “Diaper Bag” (A bag that accommodates my normal purse items and baby needs when travelling)
  • Baby thermometer (I suggest the pacifier ones)
  • Baby book (if you’re nerdy like that…)
  • Developmentally appropriate toys (not very many are necessary – my niece’s favorite toy is a red rubber spatula)
  • Books (because even infants enjoy stories)
  • Baby monitor (for when you’re getting it on in the living room while the baby snoozes 😉 )

Parent Needs

  • Nursing bras (x8)
  • Nursing cover (make this myself)
  • Reuseable nursing pads (x16)
  • Scheduled dates (and gift cards if you can afford it) for after baby

I hope this was helpful! If I’ve left anything out, please let me know. Also it’s worth mentioning that I won’t be stocking up ahead of time on clothing and we have a washer and dryer. If you don’t have access to a washer and dryer and aren’t planning on hand-washing poopy diapers this list might be very different for you.

What did you need for your first baby?