Y’all, I. Waste. So. Much. Food. Anyone with me? I see a cool recipe, buy all new ingredients to make it, and then I’m left with all the random ingredients that didn’t get used up in the recipe. Or I run to the grocery store and hangrily impulse buy. Or I make a ton of one thing to save time in meal prepping and then get so tired of eating the same thing over and over. Guess where those extras end up far too often? You guessed it. The trash.
In light of that (and really hoping I’m not the only one who does this) I want to share a food-planning series on the blog. I know this is so different than anything I’ve done before. But the way I see it, it’s just another way to live life thriftily without sacrificing trend…or taste in this case. Taste without waste.
Once a month you’ll see a budget-friendly, meal planning guide that provides my family of four (me, hubby, toddler, and almost 1 year old) five days of relatively whole-food meals and snacks with little to no waste. You know if your family will need more or less food so feel free to adjust or make substitutions accordingly.
This week was busy. I needed a realistically time-efficient yet relatively healthy and budget friendly meal plan in place before we found ourselves eating junk food and spending way too much money eating out. I grabbed $150 and had time for one grocery stop…so off to Costco I went.
- Rotisserie Chicken ($4.99),
- 2-2 1/2 lbs Pollo Asada ($3.49 a lb),
- Organic Ground Beef ($19.99 for a pack of 3 but you’ll only need one or two packs this week. Freeze the rest)
- Organic Chicken Meatballs ($13.89 and these are amazing! Simple ingredients, super easy, and delicious!)
- 60 count carton of eggs ($3.89)
- 2 lbs Organic Strawberries ($5.99),
- 2 lbs blueberries ($6.99),
- 3.5 lbs of dates ($7.99),
- 8 bananas ($1.39)
- 3 lb Broccoli ($4.49),
- 2.25 lb Asparagus ($5.99),
- 12 Bell Peppers (2 packs of 6 counts at $6.99 each),
- Squash and Zuchinni Organic Pack (4 of each in one pack for $5.99),
- Organic Cauliflower Rice (2 pack for $3.89)
- 2.2 lbs Organic Quinoa Pasta ($7.99 and you won’t use it all),
- 2.5 lb Bag of Organic Tortilla Chips ($4.39),
- 32 Oz Mango Salsa ($5.99),
- 2 lbs Sharp Cheddar Cheese ($4.99 & likely won’t use it all)
- Organic String Cheese ($7.89 for 24 count and we have leftovers after the week)
- 22 oz Pesto ($7.99 & likely won’t use it all)
TOTAL: $145.68 pre-tax (and that includes food you can use in later weeks).
It’s important for me to note:
- You can definitely meal prep cheaper or healthier. But remember my focus was a balance of budget-friendly, healthier, AND easy to make with little to no waste.
- This is just what I came up with mixing and matching flavors but the options are endless. See these more as suggestions rather than hard and fast combos. Don’t like mango salsa? Pick up tomato salsa. Don’t like a ton of chicken? Try pork. Don’t like pesto? Try marinara. The options are truly endless.
- Make food in bulk to save time. My hope is to provide you with some ideas on how to use the same ingredient in easy yet different ways. You’ll find you don’t need almost any recipes to make these meals. Most of them are reheating leftovers!
- 2-3 eggs however you like your eggs (perhaps an omelette with optional cheddar cheese and/or leftover veggies?) AND side of fruit
- Bowl of mixed fruit (for those day as you aren’t super hungry). TIP: Dates are super awesome because they’re delicious and filling!
- Lunch: Leftovers from dinner are always easy to plan on. I’m including ideas below to mix up the leftovers and keep the flavors interesting. These all use leftovers from dinner meals and involve little or no additional cooking other than warming up.
- Chicken meatballs (I do 2-3 per person) over leftover veggies, warmed, topped with pesto or mango salsa, side of fruit,and a cheese stick. Here is a packed lunch shot of what this could look like:
- Leftover veggies and pollo asada, chopped and warmed up, over chips, and topped with cheddar cheese and/or mango salsa.
- Veggie Frittata(eggs (I do 2 a person) and leftover veggies cooked together as an open faced omelette) side of fruit, cheese stick.
- Leftover veggies over cauliflower rice, warmed, and topped with mango salsa (a veggie “rice” bowl)
- Quinoa Pasta, leftover veggies, mixed with pesto, and side of fruit.
- Rotisserie chicken leg or breast per person, served over roasted peppers, broccoli and asparagus, freshly roasted or warmed up, topped with mango salsa. NOTE: This first night is when I roast half of all the veggies so I can get them done in one shot.
- 2 cups Quinoa Pasta, 2 fresh and cubed Zuchinni, and 12 fresh and chopped Asparagus, all boiled together in water for 4 mins, drained, then mixed with 1/2 cup Pesto and topped with warmed chicken meatballs. Feel free to add more or less pesto to your liking. Slivered almonds or crushed walnuts make a nice addition if you have them on hand.
- Sliced Rotisserie chicken breasts (makes 2 sliced up breasts) and leftover roasted veggies, warmed, and topped with pesto or mango salsa. TIP: If you’re tired of veggies then sub fruit instead for a lighter, sweeter alternative. NOTE: This is a great time to try to empty the fridge of leftover veggies and the rotisserie chicken before they go bad (2-3 days refrigerated) and also to make room for the freshly roasted veggies you’ll roast for dinner 4 below.
- Hamburger patties (season with salt, pepper, garlic, and chili powder and cook to your preference, each pack of meat makes 6-8 patties), topped with roasted bell peppers, served over roasted squash and broccoli. (Feel free to add cheese, asparagus, and any condiments you may have on hand to the meat if that’s your preference). NOTE: this is when I roast all the remaining veggies.
- Pollo Asada, leftover roasted veggies, warmed, over optional roasted cauliflower rice. I love roasted cauliflower rice but skipped it this time due to time.
- Snacks: fruit, cheese, chips and salsa are all great snacks.
All uncooked meat is cooked on the grill or stovetop until cooked all the way through.
All veggies were washed and roasted (bell peppers and squash were sliced before roasting). Heat oven to 425 degrees, drizzle veggies with oil (I used avocado oil), and roast for 12-15 minutes or until they reach your desired doneness (I like to cook my bell peppers for a lot longer…25 mins or so). Salt to your liking (I tend to like more). It’s that easy! You can make veggies in bulk for a few days this way. They basically cook themselves!
TIP: Roast half of all the veggies with dinner 1 and roast the rest of the veggies with dinner 3 or 4 to cut down on prep and cook time. Then you just have to warm up leftover veggies for the meals in between.
TIP: The grill is another great way to cook veggies and meat to add delicious flavor and avoid heating up the house on hot, summer days.
Any tips or takeaways after the first week? I’m glad you asked. I did find a few thoughts helped me stay on track.
1. Do all these flavors compliment each other? Basically, can I use every ingredient in different ways to ensure I use everything up but don’t get bored? I found sauces were a great way to add variety to the flavor profiles. Keeping the rest of the food in complimenting profiles.
2. Is it in season? This helps the budget tremendously when shopping veggies and fruits.
3. Can I easily prep and cook it in bulk? Because this week if it was going to take more than nominal time I realistically was not going to make it.
What meals can you come up with that use these same ingredients? What substitutions did you come up with to add a whole new flavor? Let me know in comment below. I’d love some new ideas!
And, as always, if you like what you read then I’d love to have you follow me! You’ll get notices of all the latest blog posts on how you can save money without sacrificing trend.