I have often wondered what other people are eating for dinner. Just like everyone else, we get stuck in a food rut while trying to maintain a budget for our meals. Fortunately, we often have all the basic ingredients. What I am lacking is the inspiration while planning meals. But, give me a good sale and I’m off and running. I’m hoping that by looking at our week, you can get some of that same inspiration and maybe save a little money too.
Food is our largest expense outside of our mortgage. We are a single income family and need to save money, in whatever way we can. I cook at home almost every day because of a family member’s medical condition. We try to keep the 80/20 rule. 80% good stuff and 20% stuff that I don’t worry about. Eating out is rare, but it happens. We try to buy economical, healthy, and delicious ingredients. We are nowhere close to perfect. Thank goodness we live in a place where food is plentiful and the options are endless.
I tried to be honest and not edit our choices because I knew I was going “public.” This is a real week in our house. We are a family of 6 (mom, dad, 8, 6, 2, 1) and I like to have leftover food for sharing with others. I plan my menu based on what I can purchase from Aldi or find on sale at Publix and Winn-Dixie. Our goal is to spend no more than $125 each week on groceries and paper goods (including diapers). We usually spend a little more, but this rule keeps us within a $600 monthly budget.
If you look at the approximate prices and are surprised at how inexpensive my ingredients are, please go to Aldi! This is a European-style grocery store. You need a quarter for a cart and you bag your own groceries, but it is absolutely worth it for the high-quality food and low prices.
Here is our week with brief explanations and an approximate cost for each meal:
Day 1:: Sunday
This was a special occasion, so we broke the budget with our protein choice. I got really lucky at Winn-Dixie. I purchased the meat when it was on sale with an additional $5 clearance markdown, plus a $2 off coupon from the baby club. I had them frozen in the freezer. We defrosted them for our special day. We slept in, so we ate brunch and an earlier than normal dinner.
Brunch: Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes – approximately $4 ($2 buttermilk, $2 blueberries, $0 Pantry staples left over from other meals (flour, sugar, baking powder, eggs, baking soda, coconut oil, etc.)
Dinner: Grilled Steak, Asparagus, Smashed Potatoes with bacon, chives, and butter – approximately $28 ($23 steak, $2 potatoes (with half the bag left over for later), $3 asparagus)
Day 2:: Monday
We try to eat quickly in the morning on school days. My boys hate cereal, but I force them to eat it sometimes because they can do it themselves. My breakfast is always coffee and anything left over from the kids. My husband worked the late shift, so I made a dinner that the kids love.
Breakfast: Cereal – approximately $5 ($2 Cereal, $3.50 Milk )
Lunch: Leftover Grilled Steak with Asparagus. The kids took hotdogs, chips, and fruit for lunch – approximately $0 for mom and dad (leftovers), kids $8 ($4 hot dog with half a package left over, $1 bakery clearance bread buns with 4 buns left over, $2 fruit with leftovers, $1.50 chips with 6 remaining servings. I create 1 oz bags as soon as we open the chips to avoid them being consumed in one sitting.)
Dinner: Salami and Cheese Pita Pizzas. These are just pitas with seasoned tomato sauce, cheese, and salami, baked at 450 on a pizza stone for 12 minutes. Approximate cost – $11 ($3 for 2 packages of pitas, $1 for 2 cans of tomato sauce, $4 for 1 lb mozzarella cheese, $2 pepperoni, $0 remaining toppings were leftovers)
Day 3:: Tuesday
This was another busy school day. Bagels can be eaten on the go, and my boys love them. They especially like them with smoked salmon (only $3.50 at Aldi when they have it). They ate their bagels in the car. For dinner, we ate the leftover steak. Salads always take me an unbelievable amount of time to prepare because I’m like a short-order cook, preparing each member of our family a salad with their favorite ingredients. The two littlest ones get deconstructed salads because they have trouble chewing the lettuce and spinach.
Breakfast: Bagels and Cream Cheese – approximately $3 ($1.50 for 6 Bagels with 4 bagels left over, $1.50 cream cheese)
Lunch: Leftover Pita Pizzas – cost $0
Dinner: Steak Salads with spinach, corn, eggs, onions, croutons, bacon, and mozzarella cheese – approximately $11 ($2.50 spinach, $2 romaine hearts, $2 tomatoes, $1.50 bacon bits, $1 croutons, $2 mozzarella cheese, remaining ingredients were leftovers from the previous week).
Day 4:: Wednesday
The kids like tortillas right now. During the next few days, I used that to my advantage. Anything can be wrapped in a tortilla. And dips go with anything that can be dipped! They are the magic that allows any food to be consumed by little ones.
Breakfast: Leftover Blueberry Pancakes – cost $0
Lunch: Bean burritos – approximately $6 ($2 tortillas with 4 left over, $1 beans, $2 cheddar cheese, $1 sour cream, $0 salsa leftover from a previous meal). I smash black beans from a can with cheddar cheese and heat it up in the microwave for a few seconds to melt the cheese. Then I roll the tortilla and the kids get salsa and sour cream to go along with it.
Dinner: Pan-seared chicken breast with sliced avocado, green beans, and seasoned rice with the last bits of leftover steak and asparagus – approximately $11 ($8 chicken breast, $2 – 2 avocados, $1 frozen green beans; rice, steak, asparagus were leftovers)
Day 5:: Thursday
Our air conditioner decided to stop working. It was HOT. I barely got myself to cook at all. I used the stove top to quickly cook quesadillas. I love to add seared onions, peppers, and other veggies, but that wasn’t going to happen because of the added heat. I just browned the outside of the tortillas and finished them in the microwave. I usually broil them on a pizza stone, but that wasn’t an option when the house was 87 degrees.
Breakfast: Egg, Cheddar Cheese, and Bacon Burritos – approximately $4.50 ($1 Dozen Eggs, $2 Cheddar Cheese, $1.50 Bacon bits, $0 left over tortillas)
Lunch: Chicken Salads for mom and dad. The kids had salami and cheese sandwiches, chips and fruit. Approximate cost $7.50 ($2.50 salami, $3.50 Bread, $2 Cheese Slices). We had a lot of leftovers for more sandwiches!
Dinner: Chicken Quesadillas with Avocado and Salsa – approximately $8 ($2 Tortillas, $4- 1 lb Monterey Jack cheese, $2 – 2 avocado, $0 Salsa left over from previous meal)
Day 6:: Friday
We spent the night dining with friends. Take-out is easy and makes everyone happy without a lot of effort. It costs a little extra for the convenience and it isn’t always the healthiest choice, but it is certainly nice to eat without being the cook.
Breakfast: Bagel with Sliced Strawberries – approximately $1.50 ($1.50 strawberries, leftover bagels, and cream cheese)
Lunch: Hot dog, black beans, and green beans – cost $0 (Leftovers)
Dinner: Chinese Takeout from Green Tea in the Cobblestone Plaza. Approximate Cost $35 (Honey Chicken, Beef Lo Mein, Egg Fu Yung, Wonton Soup, Fried Wontons, White Rice)
Day 7:: Saturday
I needed time to work today. We ate leftovers, relaxed and did homework. Daddy worked the night shift, so the kids and I selected comfort food for dinner.
Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs and Sausage – approximately $3.50 ($1 dozen eggs, $2.50 Sausage)
Lunch: Leftover Chinese Food. Cost $0
Dinner: Tuna Melts with Spinach, Green Beans, and Roma Tomatoes – approximately $1.50 ($1.50 2 cans of tuna, leftover bread, cheddar cheese, spinach, green beans, and grape tomatoes.)
That’s it! Our grand total, including a special occasion and a night out feeding friends, was approximately $150.00. We still have a lot of food left over for the coming week to help us get our budget back on track. I would love to know what you are eating for dinner. Please let us know your secrets to saving time and money!