When you make your meal plan, try to create as many meals around an ingredient as you can. This way, you buy less food and then less food will go to waste. Like crockpot salsa chicken for my enchiladas (see pic below) can be mixed into refried bean burritos or top nachos with cheese, sour cream or guac, and salsa. All of those are delicious options that go together and can use up leftover ingredients.
Make a grocery list and stick with it, taking into consideration what you have in the pantry (#4 on the basics post – must add link) when making your list and meal plan. I look on Pinterest all the time for meal ideas when I’m bored of our staples. We usually stick with easy and filling meals that produce leftovers for the next day to give mama a break from cooking. 😉
Keeping your pantry stocked with staples will also help when funds are low or deals aren’t what you normally eat. It’s also helpful on a last minute trip out or to the park. Fix some sandwiches, fill up some water bottles and throw some sides into a lunchbox with the sandwiches. When we do this, we like to take applesauce pouches (not just for the baby. 😉 ) and something like cheese crackers or veggie straws. Non-perishable snacks like these keep in the pantry for a long time and help fill everyone up.
Some of our dinner staples are: my chicken enchiladas, tacos (made with ground turkey or beef depending on which is on sale/cheaper at that time), homemade pepperoni pizza, egg fried rice (with and without orange or teryaki chicken), chili, lentil quesadillas, potato soup with corn and spinach (still working on tweaking this recipe just right), refried bean burritos and hot dogs. Some of the sides we use a lot are mashed potatoes, various fruits or veggies, mac n cheese and tater tots or fries.
My hubby usually takes lemon pepper chicken or BBQ chicken sandwiches for lunch. PB&J, grilled cheese, ham & cheese-grilled and regular are easy, quick, and cheap lunches. He’ll take a couple of sandwiches sometimes as well. Lentil quesadillas, bean burritos and hot dogs double as lunch some days as well.
A great way to stretch food is to add in rice. Rice will go with the tacos, in the enchiladas and burritos, with the lentils if we run out of tortillas and hubby takes rice with his lemon pepper chicken. I add in refried beans to the taco meat as well to help stretch it. Doing this I can get several meals out of the taco meat instead of just a few.
Our breakfast meals are usually frozen sandwiches for him to eat on his way to work, oatmeal, cereal, toast, yogurt, and homemade pancakes. Breakfast tends to be quick and easy.
Snacks are usually peanut butter and apples, carrots and hummus, cheese sticks, and fruit. One of the best ways to save money on produce is to buy frozen if you don’t need fresh (like with hummus). You can mix frozen fruit into smoothies for a snack or to go with sandwiches for lunch.
When we have a little extra money, we like to try a couple of new recipes so if you have any favorite recipes, share them in the comments below!