Update – August 2017 – Since this post was originally created as a menu plan for a specific month (which is now past), I’ve gone through and edited the actual menu into categories (no fast, fish day, etc.) that can be used as menu planning ideas (especially for Eastern Orthodox Christians). That way, if you are looking for inspiration, the info is still there for you, but in an easier format…
How did January go for your family? In our home, we tried to cut back on our grocery budget, and we did it. Our grand total for January: $600.81. I know that’s not great, but it is a saving of $200-$300 compared to the last couple months.
There were lots of reasons why our fall 2016 grocery budget got a little out of control. The biggest being that we had a baby and bought lots of convenience foods (hello Costco) to make the last month of pregnancy and the transition to having a new baby easier. It was really worth it though…I was feeling pretty crummy that last month and obviously needed help after baby came. Having easy, heat and go food was soooo helpful! If you don’t have family close by to help out, you’ve got to make it work somehow! But now it’s back to “normal” life and time to get control of the grocery budget.
Food is definitely our biggest variable spending category. I swear, trying to eat “healthy” is the best way to spend lots of money on food! But I know it doesn’t have to be that way. We can eat well and not spend a small fortune. January if proof!
This month I’ll have to work harder to save since we used up lots of food we already had on hand in January. But I’m up for the challenge.
This month’s goal? Keep the grocery budget to under $550. FYI – I’m eventually aiming to spend $400 per month (for a family of 4 – well 5 with baby). But I’m giving us grace, and working toward this goal slowly…
So, the February Plan: $550, for a family of 5 (plus 1 – family coming to visit – yeah!), clean eating, and dairy free and gluten free (or with those options).
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- Shop proteins at warehouse store – I’ve finally figured out that I need to purchase meat in large quantities and divide it up/freeze it in smaller quantities at home. For instance last month I bought pork loin roast and chicken tenderloins at Costco. We got five meals worth of chicken out of that package and we even have one pork loin roast leftover yet to use in February. Buying bulk meat saves a ton of money while still giving us descent quality.
- Shop smash and dent first – I don’t always like to do this one because it means an extra stop, but if I save $10-$20, I think it’s worth it. If you’ve never shopped smash and dent, ask around and see if your area has one. I’ve lived in four different states (east, west, south and mid-west) and they have all had a smash and dent store! These stores typically have products that something went wrong with at some point. The cans are dented, sticky or close to the expiration date, but it’s a great way to save and well worth the effort.
- Lessen the creativity – I love new recipes, but they take more time and often more ingredients which equals more money… So, I am trying to reign in the creativity and stick to basics. That means more repeat meals from recent months, but it’s worth it to save money. Don’t worry though, there’ll be at least a couple – or a few new recipe’s because we have to keep it a little fun!
- Finally, I’m going to be trying to shop for basics at our local mega-chain. Don’t love shopping there, but I know I’ll save. ‘Nuf said.
Well, that’s the plan in our home. I hope some of these ideas will help you save this month too. Ok, let’s get into the real fun…the menu!
And yep, if you are an Orthodox Christian, the menu is “fast friendly.” Lent is coming early this year – enjoy the meat now…beans are coming our way! We’ll have lots of meat and cheese this month and delve into the fast wholeheartedly in March. I’ll be posting a Lenten Menu plan as March get closer…
Here’s my disclaimer: I am not a medical expert by any means! I do not add up calories, fat, or nutritional content. You should consult with your health care provider for any and all health, nutrition, and food advice. My menu plans are just that: a meal plan I make for my family. Here, I get to share it with you in hopes it can help ease your burdens and save you some time!
If you would like to read about why we share our menu plans (and why they are “Orthodox”) then check out the beginning of this post.
A few things worth noting:
- First, this menu contains only dinners. If you are looking for breakfast and lunch help, check out A Menu Method for Families on a Tight Budget. This is the system we use to save us time and money – this will be changing soon! Breakfast and lunch ideas can be found there.
- Second, Sundays for us are very full, so I never plan a meal for Sunday evening. It is my day off from cooking, so we scavenge for food: leftovers, popcorn, snacks – anything we can find!
- And finally, some of the members of our family have very specific diet restriction (including low carb, low dairy, low/no sugar). Hence, our menu selections tend to be homemade, from scratch, and generally healthy meals. Most can easily be made gluten free as well by substituting out the bread/pasta selections (that’s what we do!).
- Oh, many fasting recipe’s I include will contain olive oil. We just substitute an oil like canola etc. in its place if it is a fast day.
(to help with Eastern Orthodox Christian Menu planning – including fasting)
Black Beans and Rice w/Fresh Lime and Onions on the side (we just cook rice, top with black beans and squeeze fresh lime on top…add onions if you want more pizzazz).
Spaghetti Squash w/marinara sauce and fresh fruit
Vegan Mongolian Noodles and Veggies Stir Fry in Spicy Soy Ginger Sauce We don’t put in the spicy part so that it is kid friendly…
Mejadra – (cook time is a bit long, but so much flavor in such a simple dish!) w/Raw Veggies
Copycat Panera Butternut Apple Soup w/crackers
Fish Day Fasting Ideas
Baked Cod, Baked Sweet Potatoes, Coleslaw
Cheesefare Fasting Ideas
Twice Baked Potatoes and Broccoli
Mac ‘n Cheese with Peas (for the kids and young at heart)
Mixed Greens Salad (w/ dried cranberries, pecans, and goat cheese) Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing (I’m use store bought) and cheesy, garlic bread.
Breakfast Casserole w/ fresh berries (I substitute broccoli and onions for the meat (or any veggie you want)) This dish is so yummy! Let it get golden and crispy on top for extra flavor.
Non-Fasting Menu Ideas
Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes, Peas
Slow Cooker Italian Chicken and Potatoes* and Fresh Salad
Red Grape with Chicken Pesto Pasta Salad (I toss canned chicken, red grapes, a jar of pesto and cooked pasta…supper in minutes with tons of flavor!)
Lasagna and Salad
Easy One-Skillet Sausage and Peppers with Rice This is a super easy yet very flavorful one pot meal that our family really enjoys.
Balsamic Pork Loin Roast, Boiled Baby Potatoes, and Salad
Roast Chicken, Wild Rice Mix, and Carrots
Cheeseburgers, Cheesy Potatoes and Veggies with Dip
Hope this helps with your meal planning!