I love making simple and tasty recipes that everyone can enjoy.
Sometimes we need to live on a bare-bones budget. Life happens and sometimes we have to scrimp a little bit. Groceries are one of the most negotiable lines on our budget. Unlike rent, we can purposely make this budget line go up or down. So, if something comes up that makes you have to use a little extra money, or if you are just trying to save because you need to pay off debt or you had a bad month monetarily, this would be the menu to help you through it.
It provides three square meals a day for four people. The only part of this menu that is not interchangeable is dinner. Breakfast and lunch will have multiple options to pick each day, and the dinners are all doubled. You will notice that there are actually 14 dinners, which are then used twice through the month.
The idea of the menu is to use basic foods in diverse ways.
- Eggs and toast
- Biscuits and gravy
- Soup and bread
- Soup choices: French onion, chicken noodle, hamburger soup, potato soup, vegetable soup
- Turkey and bean burritos
- Turkey and bean quesadillas
- Spaghetti bolognese
- Baked pasta
- Baked potato bar and vegetable
- Poorman’s feast and vegetable
- Black beans and rice with cornbread
- Pinto beans and rice with cornbread
- Tuna cakes made with bread crumbs and vegetable
- Tuna cakes made with mashed potatoes and vegetable
- Tater tot casserole
- Shepherd’s pie
- Grilled chicken and vegetable
- Chicken fried rice
Each choice will be doubled for 2 nights of each month.
The Shopping List
- 2 pounds of margarine: $2
- 5 gallons of milk : $5
- 1 pound of mozzarella cheese : $3
- 1 pound of cheddar cheese: $3
- Grated parmesan: $3
- American cheese : $2
Vegetables and fruit
- 20 pounds of potatoes : $6
- 6 pounds of onions: $4
- 4 bags of frozen broccoli : $4
- 4 cans of mixed vegetable: $2
- 2 bags of frozen California medley: $2
- 2 bags of tater tots: $3
- 4 cans of peas: $2
- 4 cans of green beans: $2
- 1 pound of corn: $1
- 4 pounds of carrots : $3
- one bag of frozen mixed vegetable: $1
- 3 pack of tricolor peppers: $3
- cherry tomatoes call and $1
- Iceberg lettuce: $1
- 4 pounds of bananas: $2
- 6 pounds of gala apples : $3
- 1 pound of breakfast sausage: $2
- 3 dozen eggs: $3
- 2 pounds of ground Turkey: $3
- 1 pound of Pinto beans dried: $1
- 1 pound of black beans dried: $1
- 8 cans of tuna: $6
- 3 pounds of split cut chicken breast :$6
- 2.5 pounds of hamburger: $6
- 2 and a half pounds of oatmeal: $3
- one box of baking mix: $3
- small bag of flour: $1
- 2 pounds of rice: $2
- 1 pound of popcorn: $1
- 2 pounds of spaghetti: $2
- 2 pounds of penne pasta: $2
- 4 boxes of cornbread mix: $2
- egg noodles : $1
- tortillas 20 pack: $2
- Honey : $2
- Maple syrup: $2
- Salt: $1
- Pepper : $2
- 4 spaghetti sauce: $4
- Relish: $1
- Mayo: $1
- 2 cans of cream of mushroom soup $1
- 3 packs of brown gravy mix: $1
- tea bags : $1
- Small bag of sugar: $1
Total: $122, which leaves $28 ($7/week) for fresh and misc.
Assembling the Meals
This is how it all comes together.
I make a very large pan of breakfast gravy, which I then bag up into 4 or 5 servings and freeze for when I want to pull it out and use it. I use the baking mix to make fresh biscuits whenever I am ready for them. Biscuits can also be made up ahead of time and frozen for easier mornings. I make the sausage gravy by browning the pound of breakfast sausage, adding multiple tablespoons of flour into the pan, browning that, and then adding milk, a cup at a time, until I get the thickness that you are desire.
The turkey-bean mixture is for the burritos and quesadillas. I make up all of it at one time, using the two pounds of ground turkey and 2-3 cups of black beans or pinto beans, it's your choice. I also use half of the peppers, a couple of onions, some cherry tomatoes, and some seasonings. I drain the mixture and bag it up into 4 different servings. When it is time to make dinner, you just take out the mixture, reheat, and serve with tortillas and one cup of the cheddar cheese. Sometimes it is easier to separate the cheese into bags and freeze as well, so that you don't use it up before it’s needed.
Spaghetti sauce can be done in the same way, using the 1 pound of ground meat, a couple of onions, and four jars of sauce. Bag up four equal servings and freeze. Then all you have to do is make some pasta, and either serve it as spaghetti, or put it into a baking pan, add a cup of mozzarella cheese, and bake for a few minutes.
Baked potato bar is what it sounds like. You bake up some potatoes and find whatever toppings you get in the refrigerator. There will a be small weekly budget of $7 that you can use to buy fresh produce that you're lacking for salads, condiments, or extras like sour cream or just whatever you have a hankering for.
Poorman’s feast is grilled cubed potatoes, an onion and a carrot.
I usually soak both kinds of beans overnight and then cook them in 2 separate batches. Halve each batch and freeze. When it comes time for dinner, all you need to do is make some rice, or use what might possibly be in your refrigerator already, and make some cornbread.
Fishcakes with bread crumbs are made of an egg, a couple of cans of tuna, mayonnaise, and relish: basically tuna salad with a little breadcrumb and egg. Those are then pan fried until they have a crispy texture on the outside. These can be made up as a full batch using the four cans of tuna, but it is better to freeze them before they are grilled or fried to keep texture.
Another way to make tuna cakes is to make up a batch of mashed potatoes and then mix it in with the four cans of tuna. You're looking for a texture that you can work with as far as making them into small patties. sprinkle them with flour and pan-fry in margarine. Serve with vegetable, potatoes, rice, etc.
The tater tot casserole and shepherd’s pie are made by browning 1 pound of ground beef with a couple of onions and a few carrots. When veggies are soft, halve the mixture into two bowls. Make the shepherd’s pie with 2 brown gravy packs and then add in two cans of drained mixed vegetables into the meat and onion mixture. You can then halve that into 2 bags, and when it comes time to make it, you make up some mashed potatoes, heat up the filling, put the mashed potatoes on top and then bake it for a few minutes. For tater tot casserole you take a half-sized bag of meat and onion mixture, and mix it with two cans of cream of mushroom soup, one cup of milk, two cans of drained mixed vegetable. From there you halve that and freeze it. When it comes time to make it, put it into a baking dish, add American cheese on top , and top the cheese with a bag of tater tots. Bake for 20 or 30 minutes.
Grilled chicken and the chicken fried rice are made with fillets cut from your split cut chicken breast. Take two-thirds, slice it thinly, and separate into two bags; cube the other third and split it into two bags. I find it easier to add flavoring when freezing, it can be whatever condiments and seasonings you have on hand.
Chicken fried rice is made by pulling out one of the cube chicken bags in the freezer, and cooking that with an onion, peppers that you have left-over from that taco meat, or whatever else is in your fridge. Add a couple of eggs and then add some cooked rice and you're done.
Chicken noodle soup is made with the bones from your split-cut chicken breast. Add a few carrots and onions and let it simmer for a while, and then add some noodles at the end. This soup can be quartered or halved, however you want to do it and, just make sure that you freeze a portion of it for later in the month. It is harder to get through a whole pot of the same thing, so when you put it up in the freezer, you can pull it out in a couple of weeks and it won't feel so dull.
French onion soup is made with three pounds of onions plus margarine. You caramelize the onions and butter, add water, and leave it at a slow boil, uncovered, until all the water is gone. Then you add more water and do it again a few times, until you get a nice rich brown color. Make sure the heat is not high enough to burn. Same scenario: portion it out and freeze for later.
Tater soup is made with several pounds of potatoes, butter, salt, pepper, milk and a little bit of American cheese. Cube potatoes, add hot water and cook till the cubes are rounded on the edges and soft. Add salt pepper and milk, as well as a little butter and cheese. Separate and freeze.
Hamburger soup is made with half a pound of ground beef, a couple of onions, couple of carrots. Brown and soften veg in a pan. Drain grease, fill up with water and get to a rolling boil. Add a packet of brown gravy and the bag of frozen mixed vegetable. Get back up to a boil mix, and then add half the egg noodles at the end. Pull off heat when soft or almost cooked.
The rest is pretty much self-explanatory. I will say, though, that it is easier to freeze 3 gallons of milk, and the 3 extra loaves French bread, and just pull it out as you need it. But if you don't have a big enough freezer, especially with all of the bags of food you're going put into it, it may be easier just to hold on to that money and use it with your weekly $7 allotment for a fresh.
Also, I will add that none of it really has to be made ahead of time, if you want to cook every night. I am busy with a couple of kids, home schooling, and running a writing/publishing business, so having something ready in under 15 minutes is pretty important to me. In this way, I can take care of that, and I know that they're going have a good meal.
It is also crucial to make up some of these all in one batch. Some items will not last the month, like peppers and cheese if your house is anything like mine. If you choose not to pre-cook and then turn it into a freezer meal, the meat will have to be quartered for the appropriate amount, so you can just pull it out and start cooking each night. If it is all separated, you will most likely not overuse, and then run out of the end of the month.
The bulk of my shopping is done at Aldi's, in one monthly haul. Fresh meat is found locally and all price points are current as of today (10/25/2018).
This menu is for $150 for 4 people. That equates to $37.50 per person, per month. Or a little over a dollar a head, per day.
Lisa Jane from Washington on October 27, 2018:
Thanks for the advice.
kaiyan717 (author) from West Virginia on October 26, 2018:
Your comment got me thinking about the quantity of food in menu. This is literally my November menu. The quantities that are listed usually gives us leftovers, however if by the first week, you see it is not enough, I would suggest using the extra 7 a week to get a couple of pounds of extra grain or bean. They are cheap and will stretch it further. There is a pound of popcorn added for snacks, but we aren't really snack people. My husband does like to get up in the middle of the night though, so he can wreak havoc on my groceries. It is the main reason I started freezing portions. He won't bother it that way :) I also portion out plates, but like I said, there is almost always extra for leftovers and seconds if needed. Hope this helps. I know it can be made to work, with just a little creativity. There should be extra rice and potatoes to use up from the menu. If you do try it, I would love to know how it goes for you.
Lisa Jane from Washington on October 26, 2018:
Yes, it does help. Thanks for posting this article. You did a great job.
kaiyan717 (author) from West Virginia on October 26, 2018:
I think so. Food is filling and I have two garbage disposal kids if that helps. :)
Lisa Jane from Washington on October 26, 2018:
I love this article. Can you do this when you have a husband that constantly likes to eat all day and has an appetite for two people?