Looking for meal planning ideas? Here are the frugal meals that our family of 5 have been enjoying!
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We were recently talking with some friends of ours that grow a lot of their own food when the husband made a comment that jumped out at me. He said something to the effect that growing their own food saves them a significant amount money because rather than going out and buying a lot of food, they simply eat whatever fruits and veggies are ripe and ready to eat. Sometimes that might mean that they eat sweet corn 4 days in a row, other times they’ll enjoy green beans for multiple meals. Now obviously, they are eating some other food along with what they grow, but I really think their philosophy of eating whatever you have on hand, is an excellent one. It’s often healthier (no processed junk!) and of course, as he said, helps save a lot of money too!
Right now we are doing some of that with our meals, although on a much smaller scale. I recently got 40 lbs. of chicken, so we’ve been eating more chicken than other meat. Thanks to various friends, we’ve been blessed with several zucchini and as a result, zucchini recipes have been on the menu a lot. And obviously I’m always planning our meals around whatever items I happen to have in my stockpile too.
I don’t know how doing this might look for you, but it’s definitely something to consider because planning your menus around whatever you have in your cupboards, fridge and freezer is definitely a great way to save significantly!
Now….on to the menu!
If you are new to these menu plans of mine, it’s probably helpful to know a couple of things first:
- Our family of five consists of two adults with fairly big appetites, a 6 ½ year-old boy, a 3 ½ year-old girl and a 17 month-old girl.
- I buy lots of fruits and veggies in bulk from local farmers/orchards in the summer and then freeze or can them. This is not only much cheaper it is also healthier too. But that is why if you look at my Weekly Spending Summaries you won’t always see lots of produce.
- I have a stockpile. My cupboards are full from previous shopping and here’s why. When I can get pasta for free with coupons, I buy as much as I have coupons for. If I’m able to get flour for $0.50/bag like I did last fall, I’ll buy half a dozen and put them in the freezer to use as needed. I do this as much as my budget allows, on as many items as I can and as a result save lots of money. Then when I go to plan menus, I simply plan our meals around what I already have in my cupboards and freezer, as much as possible. Obviously I still might have to buy a few things at regular price here and there, but by stocking up when the price is at rock bottom I save a lot.
- I cook almost totally from scratch. That means when I make a cake, I rarely use a cake mix. I make my own bread totally from scratch. I rarely use pre-packaged sauces. I make my own cream soups and pie crusts. Making your own food is typically less expensive and healthier too.
- We rarely snack. By eating “heavy” food like granola at breakfast we don’t get hungry until lunch time. And the same goes for the afternoon. Our lunches are big enough that we usually are fine until dinner time. When we do need a snack, I try to keep it mostly healthy by offering fruit, nuts or maybe No Bake Energy Bites. We don’t always do it perfectly though, and sometimes end up having chips or cookies instead.
- Our breakfasts consist of Easy Homemade Granola or Baked Oatmeal, the occasional bought cereal that I was able to get for $0.50/box and sometimes some fruit too. I know that might seem awfully boring to some of you, but we actually all really enjoy it and prefer it over other breakfast food. I also have a homemade iced coffee, homemade frappe or some other fun beverage every morning. It’s just one of the little things that I do to add a bit sunshine to my days!
Below you will find our lunches and dinners. (If we ate something other than our usual breakfast, I’ll note that too.) Since it’s summer vacation, all three children are home for lunches right now and since my husband is currently only working 1 to 2 days a week, he joins us most of the time too. The days that he goes to work, he takes a packed lunch with him that typically consists of sandwiches, fruit, homemade yogurt and sometimes random leftovers too.
Meal Planning Ideas
- One Pan Chicken & Rice; Lettuce Salad with Mexican Dressing; Homemade Whole Wheat Bread with Butter; Homemade Applesauce; Chocolate Chip Zucchini Cake (similar to this) with Crushed Strawberries (I preserved)
– My husband’s parents and 3 siblings ate with us.
- Random Leftovers; Easy Fruit Smoothie (light supper)
Homemade Garlic Bean Dip with Corn Chips and Pita Chips (snack later with friends- they brought gelato and bars)
- Various Leftover; Easy Homemade Yogurt; Canned Peaches and Frozen Blueberries
- Breakfast Sandwiches (English muffins/eggs/cheese/sausage); Lettuce Salad; Homemade Applesauce; Leftover Chocolate Chip Zucchini Cake
- Sandwiches (used homemade bread); Easy Homemade Yogurt; Frozen Peaches (I preserved) and Frozen Blueberries
- Hamburger Zucchini Quiche; Fresh Green Beans; Homemade Applesauce; Gingerbread Cake with Caramel Icing (from freezer)
- Sandwiches (used homemade bread); Easy Homemade Yogurt; Canned Peaches and Frozen Blueberries
(The rest of the family ate this. I got my free birthday meal from Noodles & Company! :))
- Various Leftovers; Homemade Applesauce; Fresh Blueberries; Leftover Homemade Icing on Graham Crackers
- Lettuce Salad with Mexican Dressing; Easy Homemade Yogurt; Frozen Peaches (I preserved); Fresh Blueberries
- Ate at my parent’s
(We spent the weekend with my husband’s brother’s family.)
- Took Herb Roasted Chicken for one of the meals.
- Various Leftovers/Sandwiches; Easy Homemade Yogurt; Canned Peaches; Bananas
- Chicken Tacos; Lettuce Salad with Mexican Dressing; Homemade Applesauce
- Various Leftovers; Easy Homemade Yogurt; Frozen Peaches (I preserved) and Frozen Blueberries
- Zucchini Crust Pizza (I tweaked this recipe); Fresh Green Beans; Homemade Applesauce; Leftover Chocolate Chip Zucchini Cake
- Various Leftovers; Easy Homemade Yogurt; Frozen Peaches (I preserved); Frozen Blueberries
- Salsa Ranch Chicken Wraps; Lettuce Salad with Mexican Dressing; Homemade Applesauce
- Eggs in Nest (an egg fried in bread); Easy Homemade Yogurt; Frozen Peaches (I preserved); Frozen Blueberries
- Crockpot Tamale Pie; Homemade Whole Wheat Bread with Butter; Homemade Applesauce; Chocolate Chip Zucchini Cake (similar to this)
– My in-law’s and a couple of my husband’s siblings were working on the house that they bought, so we took dinner over to them and ate there.
(My husband and I went to a meeting and then had a date afterwards. Some friends kindly babysat the kids for the day.)
- Leftover Salsa Ranch Chicken Wrap
– We planned to eat out for dinner and because of that, wanted to eat a light lunch, so I packed this and took it along.
- Ate out
- Leftover Garlic Bean Dip; Easy Homemade Yogurt; Frozen Blueberries and Canned Peaches
– We ate a really late breakfast and ended up just having a really light lunch and then an early dinner. Made things a lot easier!
- Breakfast Sandwiches (eggs/cheese/bacon/bagels); Homemade Applesauce; Frozen Fruit Slush