Monday, January 23, 2012

Menu Planning Mondays

For the past several years, we have tried and tried to eat out less.  It is not that we do so very often... but when  we can easily drop $35.00 on a trip through the Golden Arches, every time matters.  With careful meal planning, I can make a complete family dinner for around $10.00.  With this in mind, I am overwhelmed by how wasteful it is for me to spend the equivalent of 3.5 dinners at home on food that is not even good for us!  Since we have started meal planning, we have eaten out one time... and it was planned and budgeted for as a special event.  I am thrilled that my planning is making a difference!

Maybe you are stuck on that $10.00 amount above.  How can we feed our family of 6 for $10.00 or less?  A lot of things come into play when I am trying to figure out what we will eat this week.  It is important for you to know that I also love to use coupons.  A couple of years ago, we began couponing in a way that really impacted our family budget.  We planned meals around those things that I could buy with coupons, at a greatly reduced cost.  When those items came around, I bought a bunch and stored them up to be used over time.  Unfortunately, the way coupons work seems to have been impacted by recent TV shows that depict people (often, though not always) abusing coupons and store policies.  Because of this, my couponing has been somewhat curtailed.  If you are interested in learning more about how to make the most of your grocery shopping, I recommend Jill Cataldo's Coupon blog.  I have learned so much from this site and hope it will be useful to you, too.

Now, onto my menu for the week!  I will be posting only dinners, as our breakfast and lunches are basically the same.  My children carry a lunch to school and they pack them with things I have on hand.  There is always a healthy snack in their lunches so I keep these things available.  Looking for an easy, inexpensive, healthy lunch item?  Pick up a bag of clementines!  Kids usually love them and they are easy to peel!  Our breakfasts rotate between eggs and toast, cereal, whole wheat waffles and oatmeal.  I assign each of these items a day of the week and most often my kids can help with the preparation.

Dinners this week:

Monday:  Meatballs, mashed potatoes and corn from our packing last summer.  I will be making the easy meatballs using chili sauce and grape jelly tossed with meatballs in the crock pot.  I always love these when we have them elsewhere but rarely remember to make them!

Tuesday:  Ham and potato casserole with veggies.  I still have cooked, diced ham in my freezer from Christmas which I will add to the recipe for Party Potatoes.  My kids love this meal and it makes use of things I have on hand.

Wednesday:  Sloppy Joes with carrots and french fries.  I was able to find ground beef on sale last week so I have this on hand in my freezer.  I found Sloppy Joe mix on sale and had a coupon for it a while back so this will be a very inexpensive meal!  Love that.  I have been slowly cutting back on chips and french fries for my family  so I know they will love this treat.

Thursday:  Meatloaf with spinach and noodles.  I have a great recipe for Pizza meatloaf and since I have the meat from last week's sale, this will make good use of that!  To make spinach, I buy a large container of baby spinach and rinse it very well.  I drain it out, shaking away any extra water and then add it to a very hot pan with a bit of heated olive oil.  It wilts quickly.  I add two cloves of chopped, fresh garlic and stir it around.  Once the wilting begins, I am almost done!  I put a lid on the pan, turn off the heat and let it steam away for a few.  Sometimes, I will drain it before serving.  All of kids love spinach made this way and it is quick, easy and healthy, too!

Friday:  Bubble pizza, again?  I am thinking so!  This is a great option when my kids have friends over for dinner... inexpensive and feeds a crowd!

Saturday:  Beef and barley soup.  I have a dear friend who makes this for our Supper Swap and I love this easy recipe.  I can use a lot of ingredients I have on hand and will, once again, use the beef I bought on sale and froze.  The recipe I use is similar to one I found on 

Sunday:  Roast, mashed potatoes, bread, gravy, corn casserole and applesauce.  :)  I love Sundays.

So, this week is heavy on beef... which I wish was not so.  But, here is what I am beginning to learn:  I have a great responsibility to feed my family each day.  And, in the grand scheme of things, we are overwhelmingly blessed with an abundant table.  I want to make the most of the things we have and the things we can afford... and this week, that plan was effected by a great sale on ground beef.  We have taken to browning and rinsing our ground beef to remove as much fat as possible.  While I know these meals are far from gourmet, I also know that gourmet is not the standard to live by today.  Today, I have four kiddos with grumbly tummies and palates that prefer mac and cheese to most other foods.  So... this menu is realistic.  Realistic to my family.  Realistic to my finances.  Realistic to me.  My days for gourmet dinners is yet to come... and when that happens, I will be thrilled.  But this week?  Simple and affordable will guide our  meals.

What are you making this week?  What guides your meal planning?  I would love to hear from you!

Blessings on your day!

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