Need frugal meal planning help? Check out my menus showing what our family of 5 eats on a $200/mo. grocery budget. Lots of great cheap meal ideas.
You probably noticed that I often mention getting something “from the freezer” in these menu plans. For example, twice in this menu post we ate Breakfast Burritos from the freezer. If you are serious about frugal meal planning and eating most of your meals at home, this little trick is one of your best friends!
One of the ways that I save both time and money on meals is to cook once and eat twice (or more!). I often double a recipe and freeze the second batch for a later meal. Or I’ll make a pan of brownies and freeze part of them. This keeps us from eating them all at once ;), helps them stay fresher and bails me out when I need a quick dessert for a meal or I need a snack when we have friends over last minute. Try it! It’s such a great way to make meal prep less stressful!
If you are new to these menu plans of mine, it’s probably helpful to know a couple of things first:
- Our family of six consists of two adults with fairly big appetites, an 8 year-old boy, a 5 year-old girl, a 2 ½ year-old girl and an exclusively breastfed baby boy.
- 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. (Why should I when this yummy chocolate cake takes all of 5 minutes to mix up?) I make my own bread totally from scratch. I almost never use pre-packaged sauces. I make my own cream soups and pie crusts and lots and lots of other things. Making your own food is almost always less expensive and healthier too!
- We rarely snack. By eating “heavy” food like granola at breakfast we don’t get hungry until lunchtime. 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 Homemade Granola, Chocolate Granola or Baked Oatmeal, the occasional bought cereal that I was able to get for $0.50/box thanks to coupons 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 latte, homemade frappe or some other fun beverage every morning. It’s just one of the little things that I do to make my morning routine a bit easier and more fun!
Below you will find our lunches and dinners. (If we ate something other than our usual breakfast, I’ll note that too.) Monday through Friday, the lunches are just for the three children and me. My husband takes a packed lunch with him to work and it typically consists of sandwiches, fruit, homemade yogurt and sometimes random leftovers too.
Frugal Meal Planning Ideas
- One Pan Balsamic Sausage & Veggies; Lettuce Salad with Mexican Dressing; Turkey Hill All Natural Ice Cream
- Homemade Tuna Salad on 100% Whole Wheat Bread; Easy Fruit Smoothie
- Eggs in a Nest made with 100% Whole Wheat Bread (basically an egg fried in bread); Easy Homemade Yogurt; Grapes; Frozen Blueberries
- Ham Loaf (comes pre-made- I just make a glaze for it); Homemade Mashed Potatoes; Green Beans; Homemade Applesauce; Fresh Apple Coffee Cake (the recipe that I use is similar to this one)
- Meat and Cheese Sandwiches using 100% Whole Wheat Bread; Easy Homemade Yogurt; Grapes; Frozen Blueberries
- Speedy Spanish Rice and Beef Skillet; Homemade Applesauce; Leftover Fresh Apple Cake
- Various Leftovers; Easy Homemade Yogurt; Grapes; Home Canned Peaches
- Chicken with Mustard Cream Sauce; Baked Potatoes/Sweet Potatoes; Green Beans; Leftover Fresh Apple Cake with Turkey Hill All Natural Ice Cream
- Eggs in a Nest made with 100% Whole Wheat Bread (basically an egg fried in bread); Easy Homemade Yogurt; Clementines; Bananas
- Homemade Chicken Alfredo Pizza (used homemade Alfredo sauce and homemade pizza crust and topped with chicken and caramelized onions); Lettuce Salad with Mexican Dressing; Homemade Applesauce; Chocolate Chip Shortbread
– This homemade pizza crust recipe is awesome! Not only does it need no time to rise, but you can also have it ready to go in the oven in 30 minutes! And it’s really tasty too. The only thing I do differently is pre-bake the crust a bit before putting on the toppings.
- Breakfast Burritos (made these earlier and froze them); Easy Homemade Yogurt; Clementines; Grapes
- Amish Turkey Stuffing; Lettuce Salad; Homemade Applesauce; Leftover Chocolate Chip Shortbread
- Refried Bean and Cheese Quesadillas; Easy Homemade Yogurt; Grapes; Frozen Blueberries
- Kidfresh Chicken Nuggets; Store-Bought Fries; Lettuce Salad with Mexican Dressing; Turkey Hill Ice Cream
– I got the Kidfresh nuggets and the fries for free with coupons recently. I don’t often buy that kind of thing, even if I can get it for free simply because we prefer homemade meals. But sometimes we moms need to relax a little and do what it takes to keep our sanity. It was a busy day and having a quick meal like this at home was way cheaper (and probably healthier) than eating out!
- Easy Mexican Rice Bowls; Homemade Applesauce; Homemade Chocolate Chip Cookies (from the freezer)
- Homemade Tuna Salad on 100% Whole Wheat Bread; Easy Fruit Smoothie
- Various Leftovers; Easy Homemade Yogurt; Bananas; Apples
- Eggs; Toast with Homemade 100% Whole Wheat Bread; Bacon; Lettuce Salad with Mexican Dressing; Turkey Hill All Natural Ice Cream
- Various Leftovers; Easy Homemade Yogurt; Apples; Frozen Blueberries
- One Pan Spanish Chicken and Rice; Lettuce Salad; Homemade Applesauce; Homemade Vanilla Pudding
- Breakfast Burritos (made these earlier and froze them); Easy Homemade Yogurt; Apples; Clementines
- Chicken Pesto Pizza (used homemade pesto and homemade pizza crust and topped with chicken and caramelized onions); Lettuce Salad with Mexican Dressing; Homemade Applesauce; Leftover Vanilla Pudding
- Meat and Cheese Sandwiches using 100% Whole Wheat Bread; Easy Homemade Yogurt; Bananas; Apples
- Creamy Italian Sausage and Pasta Soup; Lettuce Salad with Mexican Dressing; Easy Apple Dumpling Dessert
- Meat and Cheese Sandwiches using 100% Whole Wheat Bread; Easy Homemade Yogurt; Apples; Frozen Blueberries
- Salmon Soup (sort of like oyster soup, but uses canned salmon instead); Lettuce Salad; Leftover Easy Apple Dumpling Dessert
- Various Leftovers; Easy Homemade Yogurt; Home Canned Peaches; Frozen Applesauce
- Salsa Chicken Soup; Lettuce Salad; Leftover Easy Apple Dumpling Dessert
Get my FREE $50 Aldi Meal Plan here! It has 7 easy dinners for a family of 5.
Thanks for this post. I found it in May 2022 looking for frugal meal ideas to present to a non-profit. Very curious how much this meal plan would be this year, with inflation and “supply chain issues.” Based on how I shop, like you, sales, etc., I think I could still do it for $200. But it’s just us two now, and we eat a little differently as we age, so that’s not a viable experiment.
Hmmm…not sure what it would cost now. Our family has grown and there are now six of us. We still eat very similar meals to this and currently spend $400/mo., however, I may end up increasing our budget a bit as prices continue to rise. I could still make it work spending a bit less, but our situation has changed a bit and time is now a more significant concern than money, so it’s worth spending a bit more to free up a bit of time if that makes sense.
This is frugality to the extreme. Wow. Very healthy, simply meals that are yummy!! You are an inspiration!! I love that you are combining key strategies like couponing and meal prepping. I have coworkers that spend more per month on themselves than your whole family does per month!!
Thanks for your kind words, Sam! We all have our skills and on of mine just happens to be eating well on a tight budget. 😉
What is ham loaf and where do you buy it? Thanks!
It is a mixture of ground ham and ground pork that I can buy at a few family owned grocery stores in the Lancaster, Pa. area. It’s meant to be shaped into a loaf like meatloaf, then topped with a glaze like you can do with meat loaf and then eaten that way. I did a quick Google search and it looks like you can make your own pretty easily too!
This was so helpful! Stretching meat out in a meal definitely helps the budget!
It really is amazing how much that one simple thing save!
This is awesome. Getting our monthly budget under control is something I really struggle with, with a husband, two teenaged boys, and a toddler. I will definitely be implementing some of your ideas in the upcoming months! Thank you!
Hope they help, Amy! I’m sure that the teenaged boys don’t help the grocery budget at all. I already am amazed at how much food our small family goes through. Granted, our kids have big appetites…but still! I have no doubt that in a several years I’ll feel like we’re being eaten out of house and home. 😉
When you say lettuce salad, what is that? Just chopped lettuce and dressing, without other veggies?
Linsey, thanks for asking! It’s any kind of lettuce salad that I make. Sometimes it is full of other veggies, sometimes it’s lettuce, almonds and cheese, sometimes it’s lettuce, black beans, corn and tomatoes etc. Unless I specify the dressing, we just use whatever bought dressing we have on hand right then.
I used to type out what ingredients I used each time, but it got cumbersome and as life got busier I found it harder to take the time to jot down every single salad ingredient in my planner. So, unless I follow a specific recipe, to simplify things I now just say lettuce salad. But maybe that’s too simplified! 🙂