Friday, March 23, 2012

Budget Meal Planning

Ed Jackson
Amber S. is a stay-at-home mother of three. With only her husband's income to count on, budget meal planning has become an art form, as well as a necessity.

Amber was happy to share one of her weekly menus with us, which we've reproduced below. The first meal listed for each day is what she served her family for breakfast, the second is lunch, and the third is dinner.

Pancakes from a box mix
Grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup
A roast with potatoes and a canned vegetable

Amber makes a full box of pancake mix every Sunday. She freezes the extra pancakes in bags of 3. This way her children can choose pancakes or cereal every day of the week. It costs Amber less than a dollar a day for each breakfast, whether it's leftover pancakes or cereal.

Leftover pancakes from the freezer, or cereal
Mac & Cheese (3 boxes) and hot dogs with fruit
Cheesy Ham and Potatoes

For Cheesy Ham and Potatoes, Amber cooks 2 family size boxes of scalloped potatoes, according to the package directions, and then adds 1 can of canned ham, diced up. The recipe is super easy and only costs about $5.00.

Pancakes or cereal
Leftover Cheesy ham and potatoes
Spaghetti with garlic toast

Spaghetti is just a can of Hunts pasta sauce (because it's usually only $1 a can), a can of diced tomatoes, 1 pound of cooked ground beef, and 1 pound of spaghetti noodles. This meal cost Amber about $3.56.

Pancakes or cereal
Leftover spaghetti
Chicken and Rice

Click here for Amber's Chicken and Rice recipe. 

Pancakes or cereal
Leftover Chicken and rice
Beef Stroganoff

Click here for Amber's Beef Stroganoff recipe.

Pancakes or cereal
Canned soup and grilled cheese sandwiches
Three Bean Chili

Click here for Amber's Three Bean Chili recipe.

French Toast
Leftovers (clean out the fridge day)
Spanish Rice

For Spanish Rice, Amber combines 6 cups cooked rice, diced tomatoes, canned corn, and 1 pound cooked ground beef.

Amber also shared her grocery list and prices with us.

1 box Pancake mix -- $1.27
2 loaves bread -- $2.50
1 (5 lb) roast -- $4.97
3 boxes of Mac & Cheese -- $1.79
1 package of hot dogs -- $0.99
2 family boxes of scalloped potatoes -- $2.50
1 can of canned ham -- $2.49
2 lb. box spaghetti noodles -- $1.39
1 can Hunts spaghetti sauce -- $1.00
4 cans diced tomatoes -- $0.86 ea
1 pound ground chicken -- $1.00
2 family cans cream of mushroom soup -- $1.92
1 family can cream of chicken soup -- $.96
5 pounds ground beef -- $4.95
1 bag of egg noodles -- $1.06
1 family can baked beans -- $.96
1 family can chilli beans -- $1.05
1 family can kidney beans -- $1.05
1 box of instant rice -- $1.74
10 cans of various vegetables -- $3.00
2 gallons milk -- $5.00
2 bags cereal -- $4.50

for a total of $49.53

Prices may vary depending on your location's cost of living and the types of stores available to you. But here are Amber's tips for always getting a bargain:

 Don't do your shopping all at the same store.
Amber shops at three different stores to get the best bargains: Cub Foods (which is a wholesale store like Costco or Sam's Club) for meats and canned goods (canned vegetables are on sale twice a month at Cub Foods -- 10 for $3.00!), Super Walmart for pasta, potatoes, pancake mix, cereal, family size cream of mushroom and chicken soups, and a budget store like Rainbow, Roundy's, Aldi, etc. for the rest of her necessities like bread and eggs.

 Do your research.
Amber says she always talks to the butcher in the meat section to find out when meats are going to be marked down. At Cub Foods, they knock the price of ground beef down from $1.97/lb to just $.99/lb. on Sunday mornings. Amber keeps out a pound or two of beef that she will use right away, then freezes the rest in 1.5 pound bags.

 Don't be afraid of store brands.
"There are some store brand foods that my family just won't eat," says Amber, "like Mac N Cheese--it has to be Kraft. They don't like the flavor of the other brands. But cereal and pasta, beans, canned or frozen veggies--they're all made by the same few manufacturing companies so the flavor is the same."

 Stick to your list.
Amber checks out the ads, and sets her menu based on the items that are on sale that week. She makes a list according to that menu and does not deviate from it. Adding extra impulse items will put you over your budget within seconds.

 Plan your trips.
"We do shop at three different stores," says Amber, "but we try to combine the trips so we aren't wasting a bunch of time and gas. We hit Cub Foods and Walmart on Sundays after church, because all three are within a couple miles of each other. We hit Rainbow on Monday because it's on the way to our son's preschool. Some weeks we get lucky and one store will have all the items we need for what we are willing to pay. Thats always a bonus."

 Always make enough for leftovers.
Each of Amber's recipes yield 12-14 servings. By making larger quantities, you'll have enough to feed your family at least two times, maybe three. This saves on the budget, as well as multiple trips to the store.

Check out all of Amber's recipes here: Budget Meal Recipes
Ed has a business degree and years of experience in management and marketing in both the mortgage and automotive industry. He is currently a marketing and financial consultant, and shares his financial advice with parents via He is a seasoned world traveler and loves good food.

No comments:

Post a Comment