Meal planning is hard, y’all. These tips and tricks will give you a frugal meal plan.
Planning what the family needs to eat, and what they want to eat, and what will give enough nutrition each. and. every. week.
It gets monotonous.
Even with my methods of feeding the kin I oftentimes find our ‘regular’ meals stale and need to find new recipes to liven the party. I do, however, try to keep a few basic principles in place.
- Themed Days
I try to make frugal meals as much as possible. We try to stay within a weekly grocery budget. When I first started doing this – I would shop as many coupon sales as possible, but that led to purchasing ‘middle aisle’ products instead of all the good stuff that typically surrounds the aisles – meat, dairy, produce. Now we try to shop the outside aisles and purchase what is in season and oftentimes on sale. First step in a frugal meal plan: make each meal frugal.
It is important to me for the family to consume enough fiber. Fiber keeps blood sugar levels stable, hunger at-bay, and the digestive track healthy. Fiber feeds the good bacteria in your gut. I am not going to go into the details of it, because that is a whole other topic. I touched a little on it in my gut health post.
It is important to consume fiber to be healthy.
Plus, adding fiber means veggies and fruit (and beans and whole grains). So basically fiber=plants.
This is another thing we need to remain healthy. Protein builds muscles, keeps us full and is an essential nutrient. Considering we eat vegetarian a few times a week, this is important to keep track of. Plus it helps to keep our meals green and rich in vegetables.
How does this all tie into ‘homesteading’?
Being as self-sufficient as possible is a main goal for our homestead. We like to provide ourselves with healthy options that may take more patience, but provide long-term benefits and do not break the bank. Getting down to basic recipes that take a little bit more effort really do make a huge difference in nutrients.
We are learning to grow and preserve as much as we can.
It is an old tradition to use ‘every part of the animal’ as possible. It is a respect for the animal, but also it provides many nutrients to our body and then as we process it, we can also throw it back into the earth to feed the plants we plan to grow. Extracting nutrients from bones to bone broth provides bone meal, the leftover water from rice or beans can be nutritious for plants. Using all parts of plants and animals are grounds for a frugal meal.
Every. Step. Has. A. Purpose.
Getting the Family on Board.
Being as we have young kids in the house – I have to touch on how I get my kids on board to eat the foods I present them.
Now, my kids have always grown up seeing me eat healthy. I do not keep secret food from them. If I want a treat, I eat a treat, and let them as well. If I make them macaroni and I choose to eat a bunch of vegetables for lunch, they ask for some of my lunch. I think leading by example is important to help kids eat better.
That is not to say I have never had an issue with getting the kids to eat. Kids have times where they will choose not to eat anything – and I am under the belief that they will eat when they are hungry.
Another way I get the kids to eat is by letting them put whatever condiments they want onto their food. If you want ketchup or sour cream on something, by all means, be my guest.
What is the frugal basic meal plan?
Sunday a whole chicken is cooked, allowing for meals on Sunday + one other day of the week. The bones are processed down to bone broth.
Eating vegetarian at least one dinner a week and eating red meat one dinner a week is also a goal.
These are paired along with themed days of the week make a frugal meal plan not only cheap, but also healthy and easy.
Let’s break this down to ‘bite-size’ pieces (see what I did?).
I like creative alliteration, it helps me to remember things – some of these names are pressing the limit, but maybe it will help you to remember beyond my post. Give me some grace and have a chuckle.
A whole chicken is cooked every Sunday.
This meal gets monotonous for the family, and I try to mix it up from time to time, but the truth is, this meal is the glue to the whole week.
To help freshen this meal up, I will grill the chicken or break down sections and add different seasonings. If the family is REALLY getting tired of our chicken Sundays, I will make chicken and gravy or a chicken salad.
Cooking a whole chicken was really intimidating to me once upon a time. I considered myself a decent cook, but such a large piece of meat gave me the sweats. I had to bite the bullet and just tell myself that if I messed it up, I would let myself off easy and order pizza.
Three years later and I am still cooking a whole chicken every week.
The bones from this chicken will provide us soup on Monday, the leftover meat is the grounds for a meal another day. Like I said, this meal is the glue for the frugal meal plan.
A whole chicken costs about $1/lb. right now, and we get about 5-6lb bird every week. Someday we plan to raise our own meat birds, but for now, this is what works for us. If your family is larger, or your children are bigger, then it might be best to buy two birds – still not expensive.
Slow Sunday is a meal of whole chicken + 2 plants (1 green, 1 starchy) and possibly homemade bread. Green veggies are usually a salad, green beans or peas. Starchy plants we use are potatoes, legumes, or corn. Broccoli falls on either side of the fence for us. Sometimes we have it alongside a salad, sometimes alongside potatoes.
Veggies are a great source of fiber. Choosing two sources of veggies instead of flour-based options ensures a good fiber count for this meal.
Chicken is a great source of lean protein. A serving of chicken is about the size of a deck of cards.
This is one where alliteration might confuse you more than it helps.
Medley Monday is Bone Broth Monday, but that is not ‘cute’.
Essentially we eat soup every Monday. Soup is EXTREMELY versatile and has potential to be healthy and satisfying. Many of the soups I make are like stews – just a bunch of vegetables with a small amount of broth, because I love me some hearty soups. Plus – the kids don’t drink the broth, so I need to bulk them up.
After dinner on Sunday, all of the bones and skin and fat from the chicken are thrown into a slow cooker on low. Vegetable scraps are added along with herbs and veggies from the fridge. Then they are covered with water and a splash of ACV. This mixture will stay in the crock pot on low for ~24hrs.
Most soup recipes call for 4-8 cups of broth/stock.
Sometimes broth ends up TOO flavorful or heavy – in this case, I will add water to the soup base when I make it.
The remaining broth is cooled, and frozen in glass jars. These can be used later to cook noodles, beans, or a last-minute soup. A jar of frozen broth + dehydrated veggies + noodles/rice makes for a filling soup in a pinch.
If you include the full cost of the chicken into Sunday’s meal, bone broth is next to free. The soup can be as expensive or cheap as you would like – depending on the ingredients.
There really is no need to find a recipe for soup – just a few key ingredients:
- Vegetables – include aromatics like onion, garlic, carrot, celery
- Fiber – whole wheat noodles, rice or legumes
- Meat (optional)
Some of our favorite soups to make are:
- Chicken Noodle – have fun with this. All you need are chicken, noodles, vegetables and seasonings. No recipe needed.
- Spinach Artichoke Soup
- Broccoli Cheese Soup
- Enchilada Soup
- Beef + Mushroom – literally, add some beef, some mushrooms, onions and cream if you are feeling adventurous.
- Clam Chowder
- Tomato Soup
We use whole grain rice, beans, or chickpea-based noodles. All of these options combined with the variety of vegetables included make soup night full of fiber, which in turn will keep the body satisfied longer and help stabilize blood sugar levels.
Many soups do not even utilize all of these. Often times I make our soup night a vegetarian night. It is easy to jam pack plant-based protein into a soup and nobody will notice. The broth has some protein, beans and dark green veggies also add protein.
Follow us on Pinterest to see what we are saving to the ‘soup’ section of our Food & Drink board.
Follow us on Facebook and check the stories to see what soup we make each Monday.
Tortilla Tuesday is a more lenient version of ‘Taco Tuesday’.
Normally tacos or some type of Mexican food is prepared. Some of our favorite Mexican or Tex-Mex dishes are: tacos (chicken or beef), enchiladas, chimichangas, tacquitos, fajitas, or burritos/burrito bowls.
When the garden is in full-force in the summertime, or we have lettuce to use up, lettuce or pepper wraps are a huge hit. Greek lettuce wraps, chicken lettuce wraps, tuna lettuce wraps, etc… Bell pepper nachos are actually a fan favorite as well.
Other times our Tuesday nights need a refresh – tortillas can be wrapped around caesar salad, clubs, blt wrap, eggs and bacon, again, the possibilities are endless.
Tortilla Tuesday is easily made vegetarian by subbing in your favorite beans in place of meat. The other night we had black bean fajitas and the kids gobbled them up. Whenever I do this, I be sure to up the vegetables as well, and add sour cream and/or cheese.
Leftover chicken from Sunday’s meal is another option to help this meal be frugal. Shred chicken and add according seasonings/sauces to help it take on the flavor of the cuisine you are looking for.
If you choose to grow your own vegetables, this meal can be extremely cheap. Canning tomatoes from the garden is extremely easy and does not need a pressure canning system. Bell peppers can be chopped and frozen along with some onions for a ‘fajita blend’. Onions will also keep for most of the winter if they are stored properly.
This meal along with Medley Monday is probably the easiest to add fiber to. These dishes naturally have tons of vegetables and beans. Whole wheat tortillas also add a little bit of fiber to the meal.
Corn, tomatoes, peppers, beans, onions, avocados are all great ways to sneak in some fiber on Tuesdays.
Fiber can be easy to add to this meal, but protein can be tricky if this is a vegetarian meal. If this meal is vegetarian this week, I always be sure to use tortillas instead of veggies as wraps – whole wheat tortillas can add about 4g of protein to the meal. Sour cream and cheese can bump up the protein a little bit as well. Remember – beans and dark green veggies contain both protein and fiber.
Ha. Wingding Wednesday.
If I told you I did not have to use a Thesaurus for this title, I would be lying.
Wednesday in our house is ‘Family Night.’ All of my siblings (and sometimes other family members) gather at someones house and we have a huge dinner. This rotates weekly between three houses, so I only have to cook like one Wednesday a month.
The dictionary definition of Wingding, according to dictionary.com is: a lively event or party.
Considering my family – I would say this is accurate, plus it provides aesthetic alliteration.
Typically I go for frugality on the night it is my turn to cook. Nutrition can usually kick rocks. It is like the triangle theory – where you can only have two points of the triangle and not all three.
Cooking protein for a full crowd will usually toss frugality right out the window. Adding in a ton of vegetables also can lessen the frugal portion.
For the record – 10/10 would recommend ‘Wingding Wednesday’. It is great to get together with family or friends over a weekday dinner. Since it is a weekday, it is not long. People show up after work (around 5) and leave before bedtime (7:30/8). We eat a good meal together and catch up.
A few ‘crowd pleasers’ that feed a crowd that can also remain in budget are:
- Taco Bar. Lettuce and tomatoes are cheap, tortillas are cheap (or freeish if you make them yourself). The other ingredients like beef, cheese and sour cream are minimal. Serve with a side of rice or beans to help fill up guests.
- Spaghetti. Again, the amount of beef is minimal per serving, homemade tomato sauce is cheap to make (especially if you can your own ingredients), and noodles are cheap. Garlic bread and salad as a side.
- Breakfast. We have our own chickens, so eggs are abundant and when we are drowning in eggs, I make a huge batch for family night. Accompanied by some pancakes and if they’re lucky sausage and fruit. Haha. But really – any way you dish it, breakfast is pretty cheap.
- Meatball Subs. Hoagies are cheap (especially if you make them yourself!), a bag of meatballs is fairly cheap (I have yet to venture into making them, but this would make them cheaper), and sauce is cheap (especially if you can your own). With a side of salad for SOME type of fiber, this meal is overall cheap and easy and delicious.
- Vegetarian Chili. Chili is probably the only meal that you can get all three points of the triangle – it is cheap, has loads of fiber and some protein. A few varieties of beans, tomatoes, and bone broth (the leftovers in your freezer) and corn. Serve with homemade bread, sour cream and cheese.
Those are about what I make for our ‘wingding’. Sometimes I will try a new recipe or throw the whole ‘frugality’ out the window.
I serve most meals with a side salad, or at least SOME type of side vegetable. In the summer I go to the garden and cook/cut up whatever we are in season for. I have tried to sneak fiber into our dessert with ‘chickpea’ or ‘black bean’ brownies, but my siblings have too much of a sweet tooth for that business.
As I stated before – protein is usually not FULL-fledged in these meals as that gets expensive. Usually if the meal is protein-dense, then it lacks fiber, and vise versa. We also grew up in a ‘meat-and-potatoes’ household, so holding back on protein seems rude. Typically in summer months we grill some type of meat, add veggies and potatoes or corn and a salad. Since the veggies are basically free, we can splurge on chicken legs for everyone.
This is where you get to have some fun.
It IS different from ‘Freebie Friday’ and you’ll see why.
This meal you get to literally cook ANYTHING you want.
Dig into your archives or find a new recipe (I know that is not ‘Throwback’ but… oh well).
This meal is typically our ‘splurge’ of the week, but can also very easily be a ‘saver’ (like when it is my turn for family night).
To keep this a frugal meal – I try to use what we have on-hand. When I make a meal that is WAY too big for our family (lasagna, spaghetti, soup, pie, etc…) I freeze half. I can break out this meal from the freezer and nix the budget for this day altogether.
Other weeks I search my recipe box for something that sounds appealing to me. I am a recipe-junkie of sorts and write down all my favorite recipes onto index cards and save them in a box my dad gave me. Recipes from family/friends, the internet, library books, cook books – they are all organized.
Again – this is up to you. Sneak fiber into otherwise low-fiber foods by adding dark greens, broccoli, artichokes, peas, beans, or whole wheat grains. I sneak some corn into many meals because it adds a sweetness to the meal and a touch of fiber. Sometimes we add a side salad.
Do I sound like a broken record? This is up to you. Use up some leftover chicken from Sunday, if you haven’t already. Buy your favorite cut of meat for this meal, or whatever is on sale at the grocery store. Maybe you got some free venison in your freezer from hunting season?
This started out as “I don’t cook” Friday.
We used to eat frozen pizza, if we are being honest.
Getting away from ‘processed’ foods, so this has turned into build-your-own-pizza Friday. Preparing the pizza ahead of time will still allow for a ‘Freebie Friday’. I have to say – not much is better than not having to cook. Put a pizza into the oven, have a glass of wine and watch movies with the family. The end of the week and we get to let the kids stay up a little late, and we all can sleep in the next day.
Somethin’ ’bout Fridays, man.
Well, considering a Jack’s pizza can still feed my family of 4 – I would say $2.50 for a pretty frugal meal. HAHA!
Keep this meal frugal as we make our own pizzas by making our own crust, and eventually our own sauce. Cheese is minimal and we always have veggies on hand that can be added to pizza. Even if we don’t – throughout the week I can just scoop a bit of whatever veggies I am preparing for the meal and stash it away for Friday’s pizza.
One batch of our pizza crust makes two medium pizzas – our family currently only eats ONE plus leftovers. The other half of the dough goes into the freezer for the following week.
This is where it can get tricky.
Recently I have added spinach, kale, tomatoes, and even broccoli to my pizza. All of the little bits really do count. Artichokes are another good source of fiber acceptable to pizza.
Another thing to help fiber content this day is serve it with a side salad AND fruit. For whatever reason my mother always served pizza with oranges – and for some other strange reason I keep the tradition alive.
Clementines have a little less than 4g of fiber, which is a good amount for such a small fruit!
Add some veggies to the ‘za, add some salad and fruit on the side and your ‘trash dinner’ night just got a little healthier!
Another tricky thing to incorporate on pizza night. Pepperoni is not all that full of protein. Cheese has a decent amount of protein, but also – add some sausage or chicken breasts to up the ante.
Again, I am drinking wine this night – I am not fully worried about protein content. 🙂
My weekend mood is still strong on Saturday – although I cannot NOT cook two days in a row. Ha.
Usually Saturdays we run errands as a family or spend the day doing chores around the house/yard. Sometimes I even forget I need to feed the family until it is dinner time and everyone is losing their mind with how hungry they are.
Cue the creation of Starchy Saturday. Easy and frugal meal that is fast to make.
Get your favorite noodles, some sauce, veg and protein. BOOM. Easy Saturday meal, Italian Style.
Some bread, some meat, some veg. BOOM. Starchy Saturday or even Sandwich Saturday.
Rice, creamy soup, meat, veg. BOOM. Super Quick Saturday Creamy Rice.
Frugal Meal Plan Day 7: easy as pie. Literally. You could make chicken pot pie. 🙂
Starches typically are pretty cheap. Liven them up with herbs, garlic, and/or onions – all of which we typically have on hand and are cheap/free depending on if you grow your own (FYI – garlic is SUPER easy to grow).
Pair them with veggies you have saved from the garden, frozen veggies, or whatever you have on-hand.
Whip up a sauce.
Add some meat – if you so choose.
Have you gotten the hang of this yet? Add veggies, or beans.
Great veggies mixed with noodles are: peas, corn, spinach, tomatoes, artichokes, broccoli. Also – we try to use chickpea noodles – this adds protein and fiber.
Ramp up fiber with a sandwich: add tomatoes, spinach, leftover side soup from Monday, or a side salad.
Fiber options with rice: first of all, start with brown rice, quinoa, or half white rice + half brown rice/quinoa. Beans also go great with rice.
Fiber content is easy to forget on the weekends, so making sure to have a solid dinner will help balance it out. Just because you may have eaten trash all day does not mean the trend should continue into dinner.
Chicken, sausage, beef – starches are pretty versatile for what they pair with. However, if you do not have time to prepare meat for this dish – opt for cheese filled noodles like ravioli or tortellini. Choosing chickpea noodles is also a great option for added protein.
We like to keep frozen sausage on hand that will cook up in a jif, and pairs greatly with noodles or rice.
That seems like a lot of information.
I promise you I can put together a frugal meal plan for the week in minutes.
I just try to make sure we have vegetables and some type of protein in each meal and make sure to utilize any leftovers I may have by carrying them over to a different meal. For example – maybe I can make extra meat Thursday so that we have prepared meat for last minute Saturday’s meal. Maybe you only need half of the peas or green beans you purchased for one meal, so use them in another meal.
Having a Rolodex of recipes really helps the planning process.
Begin your own collection by getting ideas from others.
Follow us on Pinterest to see what we are saving to each section of our Food & Drink board. I try to keep them nicely organized – for you AND myself.
Follow us on Facebook and check the stories to see what we are cooking each night.
If you ever have any questions, or ideas for future blogs, comment below or shoot me an email!
From the farm,