Trying to decide what to make for dinner? Here’s some inspiration from my real life frugal menu plan!
I started posting these menu plans because I frequently had people comment wondering what in the world we eat on our $200/mo. grocery budget. In fact, sometimes they would even get snarky and say things like they’d rather eat prison food than what our family must eat or they felt sorry for our kids having to eat hot dogs all the time. 🙂 I figured that if I posted our actual menu plans and what we ate, it would clear the air so to speak and also hopefully give you all some meal planning inspiration, too!
I want to be clear though- I realize that even if you follow these menu plans exactly, you’ll likely spend more than $200 a month. Because unless you shop like I do and already have a decent sized stockpile, it’s pretty much impossible. Plus, prices and deals obviously vary by region too, which of course changes things for many of you. But I think in general you’ll still find that my menu plans are inexpensive. Plus, the recipes are typically easy to make too, which is always nice!
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, an 8 year-old boy, a 4 ½ 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. 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 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.) Monday through Friday, the lunches are just for the three children and I. My husband takes a packed lunch with him to work and it typically consists of sandwiches, fruit, homemade yogurt and sometimes random leftovers too.
Ideas for What to Make for Dinner
- Creamy Crockpot Mexican Chicken; 5 Minute Mandarin Orange Jello Salad; Homemade Caramel Pudding; Strawberries
- Homemade Chicken Salad Sandwiches made with 100% Whole Wheat Bread;Easy Fruit Smoothies
- Baked Potatoes with Sour Cream; Homemade Yogurt; Grapes; Frozen Blueberries (I preserved)
- Cheesy Chicken and Rice Casserole; Green Beans; Homemade Pickles; Leftover Homemade Chocolate Cake with Quick Caramel Icing
- Meat & Cheese Sandwiches made with Homemade Bread; Potato Chips; Homemade Yogurt; Peaches (I preserved); Grapes
- Oven Ready Lasagna; Lettuce Salad with Mexican Dressing; Homemade Applesauce; Turkey Hill All Natural Ice Cream
- Homemade Cream of Tomato Soup; Homemade Yogurt; Grapes; Peaches (I preserved)
- Domino’s Pizza; Frozen Fruit Slush; Fresh Strawberry Yogurt Cake
– My husband and son were invited to join some guy friends for the evening and my husband told me to take the night off and order in pizza for the girls and I. Such a nice break!
- Various Leftovers; Homemade Yogurt; Frozen Blueberries (I preserved); Canned Peaches (I preserved)
- Leftover Oven Ready Lasagna; Lettuce Salad; Leftover Fresh Strawberry Yogurt Cake
- Egg in a Nest made with 100% Whole Wheat Bread (basically an egg fried in bread); Cheese; Frozen Blueberries; Canned Peaches (I preserved)
- Enjoyed a dinner invite at a friend’s house
- Bean and Cheese Quesadillas (used refried beans); Homemade Yogurt; Bananas; Frozen Blueberries
- Hebrew National Hot Dogs; Lettuce Salad with Mexican Dressing; Homemade Applesauce; Leftover Fresh Strawberry Yogurt Cake
- Ham; Baked Potatoes/Sweet Potatoes; 100% Whole Wheat Bread with Butter & Homemade Jelly; Lettuce Salad; Homemade Chocolate Cake with Quick Caramel Icing
- Homemade Toasted Tuna Salad Sandwiches made with 100% Whole Wheat Bread;Easy Fruit Smoothies
- Various Leftovers; Homemade Yogurt; Bananas; Canned Peaches (I preserved)
- John Wayne Casserole; Lettuce Salad with Mexican Dressing; Classic Blueberry Buckle
- Egg in a Nest made with 100% Whole Wheat Bread (basically an egg fried in bread); Cheese; Fresh Blueberries; Canned Peaches (I preserved)
- Herb Roasted Chicken and Potatoes; Parmesan Crusted Carrots; Homemade Applesauce; Blueberry Oatmeal Crumble Bars
- Various Leftovers; Homemade Yogurt; Fresh Blueberries; Canned Peaches (I preserved)
- Breakfast Sandwiches (eggs/bacon/cheese/bagels); Frozen Fruit Slush; Leftover Blueberry Oatmeal Crumble Bar
- Bean & Cheese Quesadillas (used refried beans); Homemade Yogurt; Bananas; Frozen Blueberries (I preserved)
- One Pan Spanish Chicken & Rice; Green Beans; Homemade Applesauce; Turkey Hill All Natural Ice Cream
- Various Leftovers; Homemade Yogurt; Bananas; Canned Peaches (I preserved)
- Chicken Alfredo Lasagna Roll-ups; Lettuce Salad; Homemade Applesauce; Best Basic Brownies
- Eggs; Toast; Homemade Yogurt; Frozen Blueberries (I preserved); Canned Peaches (I preserved)
- Homemade Vegetable Soup; Cheese; Leftover Best Basic Brownies
Amber from Red Two Green
Thanks for sharing! This is seriously so impressive. We budget $400 for just myself, husband, and toddler AND i think you are eating more delicious things than we are. haha. I’m going to have to go rethink our budget 🙂
🙂 Well, a $200 budget definitely isn’t for everyone, Amber!
You are now a party of 6! Just five eaters! Snarky people can shut it.. you eat MUCH healthier and a wider variety of foods than most people!
I made your chocolate chip baked oatmeal tonight. It is delicious! I can’t wait to try some of your other recipes. Thank you so much for sharing with us.
So glad you enjoyed, Miki! I just ate a bowl myself for breakfast- topped with some frozen peaches, yogurt and a bit of milk. So yummy! 🙂
I make the Colombian Chicken and Rice quite frequently. Definitely a family favorite! I have replaced the chicken with ground beef. Also in place of the tomatoes, peppers and onions I just use a pint of home canned salsa. It really makes it a quick recipe!
Yes, the first time I made the Colombian Chicken and Rice, it was simply because it looked so quick and easy. I was a little worried that it would be a bit bland, but the whole family ended up loved it! Thanks for the ground beef and salsa tips. They sound great! I love figuring out ways to make recipes work for me like that.
Mark @ Frugal Income
You’re doing pretty good if you can manage to only spend $200 a month for a family of 5! Thanks for sharing your menus. I might have to try some of the recipes you mentioned (especially the taco squares!).
Thanks, Mark! And hope you enjoy the recipes. We do love those Deep Dish Taco Squares!