Sunday, May 18, 2014

{Family Dinners} Weekly Meal Plan

Healthy and Affordable Meals for Your Family

This week I'm sharing healthy and budget-friendly meals with tips on how I make ingredients stretch so that one purchase (like a can of beans or one head of lettuce) gets used for more than one meal -- making the most of your money. All of the recipes are pinned to my Meal Planning Pinboard (and marked by day). There's also lots of other meal ideas on that board, and I have several other recipe pinboards, so I hope you're following me on Pinterest! (I only loosely follow recipes so I'll be sharing my adjustments to the recipes as well). Bon App├ętit! 

I've decided to start sharing my meal plans with you based on what we ate last week, since I realized that I rarely stick to my original meal plans and end up creating meals around what we have, since this is more budget-friendly. So, now all the recipes are tested and you'll be able to see how I spread ingredients across different meals to save shopping time and money. 

Last Monday, my mother was still in town from her Mother's Day visit, and she used to love the Taco Bell Mexican Pizzas, which are not very healthy, so I tried to make a healthier version for her -- and it was a big hit. 

I loosely followed this Good Housekeeping recipe and made my own pizza dough using this great 2 ingredient pizza dough/bread recipe that Lessons Learnt Journal shared.

Monday's Mexican Pizza: I topped half of the pizza with black beans (from a can) and some corn and a small amount of shredded cheese (that we already had), and 1 diced grilled chicken breast (something we had left over from the week before). The other half was the same, except that I left off the beans.

Confession: the boys ate mini cheese pizzas. 

Cooking Tip: I cooked the crust through during the day, so that I could just toss the ingredients on top and warm through when we got home from the gym that evening. I also chopped up a little romaine lettuce to add to the top of the pizza as well and half of an avocado, diced. I served the pizza with salsa and hot sauce on the side so everyone could add as much as they wanted.

(Note: I only used about 1/3 of the beans and 1/4 of the corn so the rest I emptied into a glass container with some more of the chopped romaine and the rest of the avocado so that I could throw together quick taco salads for myself for lunch all week. Thus, the $3.50 I spent on a can of black beans, corn, a head of romaine and avocado became dinner and lunch for a week. All of the other items I used for the pizza were ingredients we already had at home). 

As for Tuesday, it was a bit more ambitious as we're trying to eat more fish, and I'm still learning how to cook fish. We purchased a family pack of frozen salmon the week before (primarily for the Mother's Day dinner my husband made myself and my mom). I decided to try out a very snazzy sounding recipe. 

Tuesday Night: Molasses Stout Glaze on Salmonpaired with quinoa. 

Confession #1: This dinner was inspired by my goal of using up the last of some Unsulphered Molasses we had (which, by the way, is very good for you) -- it's also a great way to use up the last of a dark beer, not that any ever really has dark beer "leftover," but in case you do.... 

This was also the priciest meal we had all week because of the salmon. However, buying the salmon in the family size bag and frozen does help make it more affordable, and the quinoa I got at a great price on a major clearance sale at my local grocery store. 

Confession #2: The boys had peanut butter sandwiches, carrots and apple slices. 

Wednesday's dinner drew completely from ingredients we had on hand and wanted to use up: the romaine from the Mexican pizza (and my taco salads), some pasta noodles cooked up but not eaten yet and the rest of the grilled chicken breast we had left from the previous week -- I pulled it all together to make this:

Wednesday Night: Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad (Instead of Caesar Salad Dressing, I drizzled the pasta and romaine with olive oil drizzle and sprinkled in some dried herbs and black pepper -- I also skipped the cucumbers and tomatoes the recipe suggests because we were using up ingredients we already had). I still had some romaine left -- which, you'll see, we used up on Friday night.

The Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad is great for kids because it can be deconstructed so easily with pasta on one part of the plate, chicken on another and then their veggie of choice (usually carrots or cauliflower at our house). This is also a perfect meal for a night when you want to cook everything a head of time and just pull it out and eat. 

Thursday was super simple -- Make Your Own Sandwich Night, which we seem to do weekly as the boys love it. I grabbed a veggie tray at the grocery store that was marked down for a quick sale, so I got it for $2.00 (organic veggies already chopped up and dip -- it was quite a steal!) 

Friday Night Skewer Fun: Chicken Sausage and Veggie Skewers. Ours featured chicken-apple sausage, zucchini and mushrooms. (Money saving tip: I only bought those sausages because they were on sale and chose zucchini because it is in season and cheap right now. For the mushrooms, I just selected a handful and bagged them myself rather than buying pre-packaged. This saved me some money as well). 

I paired these skewers with another salad using up the last of the romaine (yep -- I stretched one head of romaine lettuce across about 4-5 meals through some creative cooking -- this also gets my guys to eat the lettuce, since it is mixed in with other items). 

The salad we had is our new favorite. I call it the Awesome Triple A Salad, since we top lettuce or spinach with apples, avocado and almonds. It pairs well with a fruity dressing, but I love it topped simply with a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. 

Oh - I also noticed that we had some broccoli left in our veggie tray, so I steamed it as another side for dinner. Pairing a main meat dish with veggies (on the skewer) and then adding the salad and broccoli helps stretch the meat, which was the highest priced of everything I bought all week ($5 for the pack of 4 sausages). 

I used two sausages for the skewers and roasted some slices of sausages and veggies on a tray without skewers -- those I saved and tossed with pasta on Saturday for an easy lunch for myself. 

I did some quick math and discovered that I made all of these dinners for under $35 (for all four of us to eat). Plus, many items (such as the ham and bread for sandwich night, some of the veggies and the beans and corn) were used in several other meals during the week -- breakfasts and lunches. 

(That $35 includes adding in the estimated cost of the 3 grilled chicken breasts I had left from the previous week and used in these meals). 

What's your best tip for eating well on a budget? 

Please share in the comments or over at The Good Long Road on Facebook -- and check out where I'm sharing this post: Good Tips Tuesday, Mom's Library and Thrifty Thursday.

You might also like:

Eating Well On A Budget
Edible Food Play + Healthy Recipes
Breakfast Changes Lives

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