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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Food Budget Plan Under Seventy Five Dollars

After the first ever post I did for a weekly meal plan that included a shopping list with approximate costs, I failed to add the recipe links. Anything you see underlined will link you to my recipes right here on this blog. It is my hope that it simplifies your life.

Print the recipes out and save in a booklet. You may want to print out this actual menu plan post along with the first three I did and save this as well. Then when I have posted enough of them, you will be able to revert back to them time and time again.

Basically I look at 6 days worth of dinners and shopping all over on the 7th day. This particular menu plan is based on feeding 2 adults and 2 children.
This meal plan is different from the first one in that it provides 7 complete dinner ideas to take you from Sunday to Saturday with full meals.

The pricing is based on my local grocery store. You may spend less or more depending on where you shop and I urge you to use your coupons where applicable and take advantage of the store's discounts for the week. Feel free to adapt this basic plan to suit your family. This post is really to give you a solid base for menu planning. I have made all of the dinners listed here and have provided my cost for each dinner. ***EXCEPTION***
***This week I have a guest blog recipe. "Egg and Vegetable Muffins" by Diane of Vintage Zest***
The highlights to this budget meal plan:
  1. Diane's recipe makes a lot of the muffins, but you can adjust the amount to suit your family and play with the vegetable combinations to suit your particular budget.
  2. The pot roast and gravy are used in two meals: the actual dinner and in the beef, peppers and onion steak supper.
  3. The peppers you purchase get used in three dinners: the egg and vegetable muffins, the beef peppers and onion steak and in the beef fajitas.
  4. Boil a full box of pasta for the tuna macaroni salad and use 4 small cans of tuna (mine were 1.00 per can) to have for dinner and to pack as a lunch for during the week. Or, use 1/2 box pasta and 2 cans in the salad and have tuna fish sandwiches for lunches.
  5. If you can't get the tomato soup on sale - consider making my simple home made version.
  6. The tomatoes you purchase are used in two meals.
  7. I was lucky to get the $1.00 a bag ravioli's.
  8. What ever my costs were in this budget I actually added $1.00 more to each meal - because where I got super duper deals - you may not have.
  9. The only major cost for Thursday's dinner is the rice and the peppers as you are using up left over pot roast and the gravy.
Now onto the major components needed in the dishes:
  • 3 1/2 lb. bottom round roast
  • 1 lb. beef strips
  • kielbasa
  • frozen cheese ravioli's
  • 4 cans tuna fish
  • 1 box elbow or cellentani pasta
  • potatoes
  • celery
  • carrots
  • onions (you'll use some in 6 meals)
  • peppers (you'll use peppers in 3 meals)
  • tomatoes (you'll use in 2 meals and the salad)
  • salad makings - or bag of pre-mixed salad
  • beef broth - get one 28 oz. box or 2 cans
  • crushed tomatoes
  • tomato soup
  • BBQ sauce
  • bread
  • fajita wraps
  • cheese slices
You may have some of these ingredients on hand already. If I have left any major component out of this, please excuse me if I made an error.  This dinner plan came out to $74.09. Remember I also padded this this week. $25.91 is left for other groceries. 
I have to tell you what I spent this week in total which included 4 taxable products (paper products and dish washing soap). My total was $105.50. However, I purchased a chuck roast that was gorgeous and we'll get two meals from that. A package of 3 large bone-in chicken breasts that I'll split in half giving us 2-3 meals. Steak strips to make fajitas, a package of ground pork and ground beef (both close to a pound) for a small meatloaf and more for meatballs for spaghetti dinner. Also a boneless pork loin roast that we will get a pork roast dinner out of and a pork chop/cutlet dinner. All in all for the two of us I will get nine dinners from the proteins which means I've stretched this to nine days worth of meals. My vegetable purchases included, potatoes, carrots, cauliflower, mushrooms, peppers based on what I already had "in stock".

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Oriental Pork and Pineapple



Still using up what I have available between the freezer, refrigerator and pantry, tonight's luscious dinner will be Oriental Pork and Pineapple. A combination of Asian ingredients blend together for a sweet and spicy mouthwatering bite. Your taste buds are going to dance with sheer delight. Please note that the standard for good stir fry is using peanut oil; however that is one of the most expensive oils on the market and in its place I usually use either regular olive oil or canola oil. So to get the party started you will need:
  • 3 boneless pork chops - about 3/4 inch thick - cut into bite size pieces or strips
  • 2 cups fresh pineapple chunks - medium dice (or use canned and reserve the juice)
  • 2 small heads of broccoli - cut into florets
  • 3 carrots - peeled and either sliced thin or grated
  • 1 cup onion diced - medium dice
  • 2-3 cloves garlic - minced = 1 tsp.
  • 1/4 tsp. to 1/2 tsp. fresh chopped ginger (depends on your taste)
  • 3-4 dried chillies (or use cayenne pepper instead, approximately 1/2 tsp.)
  • 1-2 tbsp. canola, vegetable or olive oil
For the marinade:
  • 2 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp. pineapple juice
In a baggie or a bowl combine the pork, the two tablespoons of cornstarch and the one tablespoon of pineapple juice. Give a good stir to coat and let it rest in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes.

For the sauce:
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup pineapple juice
  • 3 tbsp. light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1 tsp. granulated garlic
In a bowl combine all of the ingredients for the sauce to be used after you have stir-fried the pork and vegetables.
  1. Heat your wok up to 350° (I have an electric wok so it's easy to get it to temperature.) If you are using a conventional wok just get that baby smoking hot. Add in the oil and stir fry the marinated pork quickly in batches as necessary to get a good quick sear on the outside and then place the pork in a waiting bowl or on a plate. It only takes about 20-30 seconds to do this.
  2. Next, add in the onion, garlic and ginger and quickly stir fry for about 10-15 seconds. Turn the heat down if need be so you don't scorch anything.
  3. Add in your thinly sliced carrots or shredded carrots and keep stirring. Then add in the broccoli and quickly stir fry those ingredients around for a minute or two.
  4. Add the sauce to the pan along with the pork and the dried chillies. Mix well and stir fry until the sauce thickens a touch as it comes to a boil.
  5. Should your veggies not be cooked enough for you, lid the wok, turn the heat down and simmer until you achieve the tenderness you desire.
  6. At the last few minutes, add in the fresh pineapple and simmer for a couple more minutes to get that flavor fully developed.
  7. If you taste and it's too sweet, sprinkle in some cayenne pepper to get that perfect balance of sweet and heat.


Serve this beautiful dish over some nice white rice. You have a beautiful, delicious and healthy all around meal that is enough to feed 4-6 portions - adjust the amount of rice to feed more than four. I cost this dinner complete with the rice for 4 persons at $11.85, feeding four for $2.96, five for $2.37.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Pasta and Sausage Bake




Today I am talking use it or loose it. Now that I am cooking for just my husband and me coupled with a crippled income toward the latter part of this winter, it has become more necessary than ever to come up with great dinners using what I have on hand. There was a night where we cooked more spaghetti than we could consume, some pasta sauce and 2 large Italian sausages along with a partially used ball of fresh mozzarella cheese that came together in this individual gratin pasta bake.
Instead of just the spaghetti sauce and sausage over re-heated pasta, I baked it all together in individual gratins topping with the fresh mozzarella and some dried herbs. It turned out splendid and the creaminess of that fresh mozzarella was so delicious.
When you are cooking for one or two it is sometimes hard not to dummy down portion sizes especially when you are so used to cooking for other family members for so many years. The empty nest syndrome seems to follow you in the kitchen, doesn't it? And, it seems difficult at times not to cook large dinners because that is what you did for years and years.
Finding yourself in a similar situation because of family down sizing (kids have left the nest) and budget constraints we all must do the "use it" or "loose it" in the kitchen. Meaning - use up what ever you have left over and put together a palatable dinner foregoing another trip out to the grocery store. Although it may be frustrating for some, look at it as a creative challenge for finding ways to jazz up dinner time.
This is so simple to throw together and all you need is the following:
  • left over red sauce
  • left over sausage or meatballs
  • left over pasta
  • left over mozzarella cheese - fresh or shredded (Monterey Jack cheese would work also.)
  • dried herbs: parsley, basil
  1. If you don't have a lot of sauce for two gratins, use a bit of water to stretch it and thin the sauce out - not much is needed, just add a little at a time.
  2. In individual gratins or oven proof dishes, add a thin layer of sauce on the bottom.
  3. Place your left over pasta over that bottom layer of sauce.
  4. Slice your sausages lengthwise as thin as possible and layer over the pasta. Top with more sauce, the cheese and a sprinkling of your favorite dried Italian herbs.
  5. Bake loosely tented with foil in a preheated 350° oven for about 25 - 30 minutes until the cheese is melted.

And there you have another make over meal using up what you have available.