I’m including a complete list of dishes, a detailed table of our receipts showing what we actually bought and how much we actually spent, and a complete grocery list ordered by dish, allowing you to check off what you have or build your list around what you are or are not going to make.
You may have read my article a while back on how to use technology to help you budget and plan for a week’s worth of killer meals. If you missed it, check it out here! I recently slashed our budget from over $400 – $500 a month, down to about $250 a month, without much thought or effort. It turns out, too, that we’re eating better food, more gourmet dishes, and simply more meals.
You can use this meal plan to help your family plan and prepare for a gourmet meal plan that will save you money.. but won’t feel like it. I’ve never been one for those “budget” blogs, where they want me to eat Crockpot dishes seven nights a week. Quite frankly, we have expensive tastes, and there’s no point to me in eating ho-hum food, just to save money. With practice, though, I’ve developed meal plans that allow us to eat totally delicious dishes, few of which are made in the Crockpot or from a gallon Ziploc freezer bag!
A few of the things on the meal plan we already had, like a whole chicken. I came across natural chickens on sale for $4.25 at Target a few weeks ago, and most of them had “take $2.00 off this produce” stickers on them. They were basically still frozen and far from their sell-by date, so I stocked up big-time! However, a natural whole chicken (organic will cost ya) runs about $4, so I’ll factor that in. Pantry items are often replenished in our weekly grocery shopping, but a lot of them aren’t considered in the financial calculation. They’ll be replenished soon enough, and we’ll factor the cost in then. Pantry items are things like dried penne pasta, soy sauce, canola oil.. etc. It’s too much work for me to calculate the cost of every ingredient each week, so I just figure we’ll go about it in a balanced way. Rule #1 of meal planning: don’t make it too hard on yourself; have fun with it!
I abide by that rule.
Every week we eat
- six dinners for two,
- at least one weekend lunch together,
- four lunches for me by myself during the week, and
- breakfasts for both of us each day.
I tend to eat just a little fruit for breakfast, but O eats a much heartier first meal. I try to make a loaf of bread and send him to work with various fillings or leftovers. I’d say he eats
- about three lunches from home during the week.
Every week we buy
- coffee creamer of some sort (I’ve recently started making this from scratch, saving us a chunk of change!)
- milk (organic)
- eggs (cage-free)
- cereal (this week we bought five boxes because this organic variety we like was on sale 2 for $5.00 at Kroger.. and then I found a coupon on Kroger’s app that took $2.00 off per box! I stocked up)
Just so you know, anything that looks like this means we already had it, so it’s a recipe ingredient but wasn’t factored into our budget.
This week we spent a little more than I typically like, because we absolutely loaded up on cereal (5 boxes!) and it was my first trip to the Asian market in a looong time.. so I ended up with a few items I didn’t absolutely need . We also had to stock back up on oil, white flour, and bread flour. If you shaved off the shrimp paste, nori, chopsticks, and four boxes of cereal, our total would be around $60.09. Not bad!
1. Moroccan Chicken Thighs with Couscous
Moroccan braised chicken thighs with dates and shallots recipe / couscous plain, or with lemon juice or chicken bouillon
- 1 pound shallots
- 2 lemons
- sliced almonds, skin on, for garnish
- chicken broth Used the stock I made last week from the chicken backs–this is a lifesaver! Learn to butcher a chicken, and make stock from the back every week. Saves you a ton on chicken and broth/stock!
- dates Still working away at the huge tub we keep in the fridge from Costco
2. Chicken pot pie, served with garlic kale and fresh tomato salad
Chicken pot pie recipe – use this pie crust recipe / in deep-sided skillet with lid, sauté a few cloves of minced garlic in butter over medium heat until fragrant, throw in kale, add a little bit of wine to steam, cover, and serve when bright green / slice tomatoes, drizzle with good balsamic vinegar, a few drops of good olive oil, some flake sea salt (Maldon!) and fresh-ground pepper
- 2 cups chicken stock or broth Defrosted some frozen homemade stock
- 2 cups chopped roasted chicken Roasted the breasts from a whole chicken we had in the freezer
- About 3 cups veggies (bought a few potatoes and onions, used last week’s bag of carrots, and some frozen peas)
- 1 giant bag of kale
- 2 Roma tomatoes
3. Chicken pot pie leftovers, served with green salad and authentic French dijon vinaigrette
French dijon vinaigrette: combine about 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard and 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar and mix until smooth. Slowly add in canola oil, or any other neutral-flavored oil, drop by drop, mixing well until emulsified. Add about 1/4 cup oil, then taste. Add more oil to your liking. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Optional: Add in one clove minced garlic to the mustard/vinegar mixture for a garlicky, spicy variation.
- 1 head lettuce
- 1 Roma tomato
- Dijon mustard
- white wine vinegar
- canola oil
4. Homemade ramen noodles with bacon dashi, fully loaded
Momofuku bacon dashi recipe and homemade ramen noodle recipe, topped with blanched kale and mushrooms, a soft-boiled egg, marinated lotus root, naruto maki (steamed fish cake with that lovely pink swirl in the middle), and some braised meat that was lingering in the freezer.. that I wanted to get rid of. Delicious!
- 1 piece kombu Bought a package a couple weeks ago for use in another ramen recipe
- 1/2 pound bacon Bacon should be considered a pantry staple, just for instances like this! I used half a pack from last week.
- meat, various Totally not necessary–you could go meatless, serve tofu, or just naruto maki..
- kale Purchased for pot pie
- eggs Pantry staple that we buy every week–non-meal specific
- bread flour ($$$!, but so much better for ramen, supposedly)
- kansui (sodium bicarbonate solution)
- naruto maki, steamed fish cake
- various mushrooms, bought in bulk at the Asian market
5. Wonton soup with caramelized onions and steamed edamame
Wonton soup recipe here / caramelized onions over low heat in tallow (rendered beef fat from some prime rib we had!) for an hour or so / steamed edamame from frozen, microwaved, a squeeze of lime, sprinkle of kosher salt
- wonton wrappers (cheap at the Asian market – and will be used for many more future meals)
- ground meat (Got chicken instead of pork, as was on sale)
- ginger (Bulk at the Asian market)
- shiitakes, handful to make 1/2 cup
- water chestnuts Called for bamboo shoots, but I had a can of water chestnuts, so I figured, why not?
- kale Instead of bok choy, since we’re already buying it this week
- chicken broth More defrosted stock–we hardly use this much at all, so this week was special!
- sesame oil, spices, garlic, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce
6. Braised top round beef with gravy over polenta and roasted carrots
Note: I didn’t actually end up making this recipe, as I left the meat out way, way too long. I ended up whipping together a pasta recipe from what was leftover in the house, but this is what we shopped for! It happens.
- top round steak Bought on a tremendous sale and frozen, while I figured out what to do with it!
- 1 bag corn meal Always on hand for a quick polenta side-dish.. or corn muffins!
- 1 cup red wine Uh, yeah, always have that on hand.
- carrots Used up last week’s bag
- 1 can beef consommé Planned to use homemade beef stock instead
- 2 large onions
Click here to view a table showing exactly what we bought, what we really spent and what we saved.
Click here to download an interactive grocery list for every dish on the meal plan.16