Frugal Family Dinners – Beans

You can’t not think of beans when you think of frugal family dinners. Dry beans are very economical, even organic ones. It’s a great way to save money on feeding your family.

The PROBLEM with beans, for me anyways, is that I can never think of how to actually fix them. I’m sort of on a mission to whittle down our food costs and I want to take advantage of the economical protein that is beans.

So I took to the internet to find some options.

Frugal Family Dinners - Beans - 40+ recipes to help stretch your food budget.

Frugal Family Dinners – Beans

I’m going to do my best to organize these, but there is some overlap.

Meatless Bean Recipes

Or mostly meatless.

Beans as Meal Stretchers

Or recipes with meat and beans.

Chilies with Beans

Slow Cooker Bean Recipes

Bean Side Dishes

Beans for Breakfast

Yes, seriously. (And yes, I realize this post is called frugal family dinners…)

There you go. Over 40 frugal family dinner ideas for beans. I have added a few to my list to try, which ones do you think you would try?

Super Simple Meal Planning Method

Super simple meal planning method. Get more vegetables in your day.

Meal planning is one of those classic tips for those looking to be more intentional with either their food choices and/or budget. Taking the time to plan out your meals ahead of time wards off things like last minute drive-thru stops and takeout orders. Both are hard on the wallet and can be hard on the waistline, too.

I have used a variety of meal planning methods over the years. I’ve planned out every meal and snack, created lists of options to pick from each day, planned out two week’s worth of meals, and worked week by week. I haven’t tried the monthly meal planning method as of yet, but I know some swear by it. I can see how it works, but I’m not ready to commit to that right now.

I recently switched to a super simple meal planning method designed to put more of a focus on vegetables. I’ve mulled this format over in my head for a while now, but couldn’t quite make it work until recently. We decided to take some time off from eating meat so that we can be more intentional about getting more veggies in our diet.

This can very easily work with eating meat, too. In fact, I will probably continue with this method for a while. It really is simple.

I do this with a pencil and a piece of paper, but I typed it up so I could give you a clearer look at my plan. (After seeing it all typed up, I will likely do this moving forward.)

Super simple meal planning method to get more veggies in your day.

Simple Meal Planning Method

This is basically fill in the blank. I fill it in with what we have on hand and what I’m picking up from grocery shopping.

Here’s more detail:

  • Breakfast – We are moving away from cereals because they are loaded with sugar and are not very filling. We rotate between oatmeal with different fixings and eggs. For the eggs, I will either sautee the veggies and pour scrambled eggs over it or serve them alongside fried eggs.
  • Lunch – I’ve organized the veggies by how I cook them. Then for lunch, I simply pick two plus a grain/carb or do three different vegetables. My kids also love to do a veggie tray with ranch dip or hummus, we often have more than three vegetable options on that.
  • Dinner – This is where I’ve struggled to find what works best. I will be focusing on more protein, less/no carb meals. I’ve kept this simple specifically to motivate me to use more veggies than anything. I use the list from the lunch section to pick my veggies.
  • Snacks – Again, trying to focus on higher protein items. I also use my breakfast shake when I’m needing something sweet because I struggle with that.

Why This Simple Method Works For Me

I have found that I can always find a way to get carbs in my diet. What I struggle to get in are lots of vegetables and protein. I am finding that being intentional about these by writing them out helps me make better choices. I’m hoping this has a positive impact on my weight, too.

I find this method to be the perfect blend of needing to plan ahead and needing the freedom of choosing what to eat. I have never stuck with a “eat this at this time” regimen for more than a day or two. I find it to be suffocating and I tend to rebel when we have those. In other words, it has the opposite of a positive effect on me.

There are no recipes. I love to cook with recipes, collect them on Pinterest, and use my cookbook collection. But I have found that when my focus is on using recipes, I don’t actually cook as much because it ALWAYS takes me 2x’s the time listed on the recipe, but I never plan for that.

Going forward, I will probably have some recipe based items added because I don’t want to get bored with the options and my husband enjoys variety. For now, no recipes is working for me.

This simple meal planning method works for me. If you are struggling with getting enough vegetables in your diet or need to shake up your meal planning efforts, give this a try and see what you think!

If you need some other meal planning ideas, check out my Pinterest board just for that!

Follow Vicki Arnold’s board Food :: Menu Planning on Pinterest.
If you would prefer recipes to follow, you can check out these cookbooks for some plant-based meal ideas to get more veggies in your day:

Happy Eating!

New Sides to Try This Thanksgiving

New Sides to Try this Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is all about the food. You may have tried-and-true recipes that you rely on each year or you may be more adventurous and like to try new recipes each year. Today I have a list of sides for your Thanksgiving dinner planning consideration.

Salad Sides

Slow Cooker Sides

Traditional With a Twist Sides

Tell me, are you a more traditional dinner fan or do you like to mix it up and try new things?

How to Save Money Feeding Your Family

How to Save Money Feeding Your Family from Vicki-Arnold.com

And no, this is not another gardening post. I will take the moment to say that growing your own food is the best money saving tip I have, but I’ve already covered that. So today we are talking strategies to feeding your family for $25 per person for a full week.

That equates to $3.57 per person, per day. To break it down even further, $1 per meal and $.57 for two snacks per person.

I’m just gonna tell you right now that this post is going to be long because I’m going to share a some general money saving strategies, a detailed menu plan with cost breakdown, a free meal planning packet, AND there is going to be a collection of resources known as a linky at the bottom. This linky will have other posts linked up because this post is part of the $100 Grocery Budget Challenge that was created in a blogging group I belong to called Inspired Bloggers Network.

$100 Grocery Budget Challenge Details

The challenge is to show that it is possible to feed a family on $25 per person per week. So $100 for a family of 4, $200 for a family of 8, etc. In our family, we have 6 to feed: 2 adults, 3 kids, and 1 toddler. My almost 10 year old son eats like an adult and we regularly have an extra preschooler.

Our typical grocery budget is actually $125/week, which is less than this challenge already for us ($150), BUT. Big but here. I usually go over that budget because we also have a Miscellaneous fund that I pull drive thru stops and meals out from. As well as any other dietary “splurge” purchases (think sweet treats). The challenge for me this pay period is to stick with the $150.

For reference sake, I’m supposed to tell you that we are in Indiana. And now, let’s get started.

How I Save Money While Grocery Shopping

Coupons are not a regular part of my grocery shopping, I just don’t have the time for them. I do use them when I come across them, I just don’t spend a lot of time hunting them down and clipping them.

And we don’t stockpile items for the most part. I do stock up when I visit certain stores, but we do not have large reserves of toothpaste, shampoo, and tooth brushes in our house.

  • Eat before I shop. I almost didn’t include this because it’s so basic, but I don’t do it approximately half the time so I apparently need the reminder. Grocery shopping while hungry = shopping with your stomach. And you want to shop with your brain. Your brain wants to save money, your stomach wants to eat.
  • Shop prepared. I am one of those people who dreads putting a meal plan together because I tend to dislike being told what to do…even if it’s my own plan telling me what to do. I would much rather prefer eating whatever I feel like it, when I feel like it. The problem with this is that is makes grocery shopping ridiculously expensive because you have to keep more things on hand to cook impulsively. However, taking the time to make a meal plan and a shopping list saves me time (and money) in the long run. I’ll share my meal planning strategy in the next section.
  • Bulk stores. We have a little specialty store in town. Folks around here call it a bulk store, but it’s not a REAL bulk store because the food comes pre-packaged (by the store workers), you don’t choose the amount you buy, but I digress. I buy things like oats (steel cut and old fashioned), specialty flours, and some spices here.
  • Independent discount stores. We have a little discount store run by the local Amish community that is about 45 minutes from my house. I usually make a trip once a month there. I buy things like granola bars, cereals, organic baby food pouches, and any other regular grocery items they happen to have. The items at this store are discounted because of dented boxes, torn labels, discontinuation, and past sale dates. We have occasionally picked up something that was stale (taco shells that cost me $.49) and something that just smelled off (a $1.20 bag of dried fruit) that we ended up pitching, but that has been a rare occurrence for us. I regularly buy outdated boxes of cereal for $1, boxes of organic granola bars for $1.25, and organic baby food pouches for $.39. The last trip I made, I bought a 12 roll pack of Scott 1,000 sheet toilet paper for $5. This is one store that I do stock up on whatever I can get when I do make the trek out.
  • Chain discount stores. There are two Ollie’s Bargain Outlets within 30 minutes of us. I recently discovered that I could also get organic granola bards for $1/box there, too! I already like to stop in here to check out their book selection so it’s not out of my way to walk across the store to see what grocery deals they have. My favorite score so far has been a $7.99 box of Larabar Alt protein bars, 15 bars! Big Lots also has grocery deals sometimes, but I am not in that store regularly.
  • Costco. I big puffy pink heart love Costco. We buy all sorts of things at Costco, like books, movies, clothes, batteries, printer paper, and the random awesome deals that show up. I drive almost 45 minutes every other week to go to Costco. That’s how much I love it. As far as groceries go, we buy organic broccoli florets, packages of bell peppers ($6 for 6), bags of frozen organic fruit for smoothies, butter, cheese, and much much more.
  • Manager’s Special & Clearance. I always look for these when I grocery shop. I know where they are in the local Krogers and can spot them in Meijer’s, too. It’s not dependable what you can find, but when you do find something, it’s usually quite the score. We like Larabars here. They are regularly on sale for $1, I found some on manager’s special once for $.75. Those quarters really do add up! I especially love when I find them on manager’s special and have a Swagbucks coupon to use on top of it. Score!

How I Meal Plan

Over the years, it’s changed. I’ve done the following:

  • Fly by the seat of my pants. We eat a lot of spaghetti and breakfast for dinners during these times. It gets old.
  • Detailed breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snacks, and treats for one week and two week intervals. I never stick to this.

Now, I do this. I come up with 7 dinners, 3-4 lunches, 3-4 breakfasts, and a handful of fruits, veggies, and other snacks. I put them on a piece of paper and then check them off as I use them. I make sure to mark if the meal is something special like a crockpot meal so that I don’t wait too long to start those. This seems to give me the balance of structure and flexibility that I need.

$100 Weekly Meal Plan

This is a sample of a $100 weekly meal plan for our home.

Breakfasts

  • Cereal – I buy these for $1-$2 per box. We will use 2-3 boxes per week plus a gallon of milk ($3 regularly priced, but regularly on sale for$2-$2.50 or free with other purchase promotions). We’ll overestimate to $9.
  • Eggs and toast – We have chickens that lay our eggs, which are not free because we do buy feed. However, it doesn’t come out of my grocery money and we don’t calculate the per egg cost. We are also often given day old bread from a bakery, which I freeze and we use as needed. The eggs I buy in the winter when our hens aren’t laying cost $2.50 per dozen. My husband eats 2 eggs for breakfast every morning and we will eat a batch of 6-8 scrambled eggs once or twice a week. So I will figure the cost for this at $7.50 for the eggs (3 dozen) and $2 for two loaves of store brand bread, for a total of $9.50 for the week.
  • Oatmeal – I buy this for $.79/lb. at the local bulk food store. A $3 bag lasts us well beyond a week because we don’t eat it frequently. I like to add cinnamon, a little sugar, and raisins. I buy our raisins from Costco, 2 – 36 oz bags for approximately $8. For a week’s worth of oatmeal we might use 1/4 of a bag, roughly $1. Sugar is bought from Costco as well, a 10 pound bag of organic evaporated cane sugar is $10. I use 1/4 cup for 6 cups of cooked oatmeal. I’m going to overestimate the sugar cost to $1 for the week. Total weekly+ cost $5.

Lunches

  • Leftovers – We eat a lot of leftovers for lunch. My husband takes them every day to work and we often have them at home. Cost = $0.
  • Pancakes – Sometimes we do bigger, more time consuming breakfast recipes for lunch. Pancakes and french toast are popular choices. I’ll use the 6 eggs left from the 3 dozen accounted for in our breakfasts for this. That gives me two lunches with a triple batch of pancakes. We often add chocolate chips to ours, but plain are just as yummy if I don’t have chocolate chips on hand (like now). I buy syrup from Costco, $6 for 2 huge bottles that last us months (obviously not real maple syrup). Flour and olive oil also bought at Costco. Baking powder is $2 for a can at Kroger. I buy Redmond Real Salt from Azure Standard. I used this article to help me estimate the cost, we make standard pancakes. Cost = $3.60 to have them twice in a week.
  • Sandwiches – Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches make an appearance in our diet roughly once a week. The peanut butter we use is $6/jar because it is SO worth it. Jelly is either home canned, $1 jars from the discount store, or $4 quart jars from Costco. We never use a whole jar of either peanut butter or jelly, I’ll call it 1/3 because sometimes we do put jelly on our toast in the morning. Cost: $3.

Snacks

  • Granola bars – These are the $1-$1.25 boxes from discount stores. With the average of 6 in a box, the cost per bar is $.21. The kids are allowed 1-2 per day, depending on the day’s activities and other factors (some days they are simply more hungry). I will figure 5 boxes at $1.25 each. Cost = $6.25.
  • Apples and bananas – A bag of apples and 3 bunches of bananas. Cost = $6.
  • Chips and salsa – Cost is counted with a dinner below because we have about half of what I buy for the meal left. Cost = $0.

Dinners

  • Beef and Bean Dip – This has beans ($2 for dry), diced tomatoes ($1), ground beef ($4), onions ($1), and spices (nominal). We buy a big bag of tortilla chips from Costco for $5 and will use it for this meal, as a side with tacos, and as a snack. This makes lots of leftovers, I’ll share a detailed breakdown with a recipe in the future. Cost = $13.
  • Spaghetti – My marinara sauce costs less than $7 for an 8-quart stock pot full. And it smells delicious as it simmers, too. We use 1/4 of that for a meal (freeze the extra), plus 2 boxes of spaghetti ($2). Cost = $4.
  • Pizza – I’ll use another 1/4 of the marinara sauce here (less than $2). I buy mozzarella cheese pre-shredded from Costco, $12 for a 5 pound bag. I don’t think we use 1/4 of the package, but I’ve never actually measured how much we do use ($3). We top our pizza with pepperoni ($3/package that we don’t fully use in one week), pineapple tidbits ($1), bell peppers ($2), and any variety of items we have left from other meals like onions, mushrooms, etc. I home make our pizza dough in my Kitchenaid mixer (estimating based on this to $1). This makes us 2 large pizzas, usually enough for leftovers. We pair this with home canned green beans ($0). Cost = $12.
  • Loaded Baked Potatoes – We actually successfully grew potatoes in our garden this year! But for the sake of this, I’ll estimate the cost of a 5 pound bag ($2 on sale regularly). We top our baked potatoes with sour cream ($1 on sale), cheddar cheese (bought at Costco, shredded at home for $8 for a two pound block of Tillamook medium cheddar, cost for this meal’s worth is $3), sauteed broccoli ($2), and bacon (Coleman’s uncured, $12 for 3 packages at Costco, $4). Cost = $12.
  • Tacos – We brown up 2 pounds of ground beef with an onion ($6). Other parts to this meal – taco shells ($1), tortilla shells ($1), salsa ($5 from Costco, see snacks), lettuce ($1), cheese ($3), sour cream ($1), and jalapenos ($3 for a jar that lasts us a few meals). Total cost = $21.
  • Veggie Stew – This is a pretty cheap meal to put together. I home make our chicken broth (so super easy) and will pair that with a can of tomato juice ($3) for the base. Then I add in a bunch of celery ($1), carrots ($1’s worth), a couple potatoes ($1), a turnip or two ($1), and an onion ($1). Then, voila! I have an 8-quart pot of stew. I’ll even toss in leftover corn, frozen green beans, and other veggies that I have leftover from other meals into the pot for a different soup each time. Total cost = $8.
  • White Chili – This is from one of the Fix It and Forget It cookbooks. It costs $10 for a large crockpot full.

And there you have it, a meal plan that will feed my family of 6 for a full 7 days for a total of $122.35.

Free Meal Planning Pages

I made a set of meal planning pages for you. There are two weekly meal plan pages, a page for shopping lists, and coordinating recipe cards.

Free Meal Planning Pages from Vicki-Arnold.com

Download yours today!

$100 Grocery Challenge Links

$100 Grocery Challenge

Below you will find more tips, tricks, and helps for saving money feeding your family.

Share your tips in the comments!

May 28, 2012 Menu Plan {GAPS, grain-free, gluten-free}

So last week we tried some new things. I’ve been trying to make notes on my Pinterest boards regarding the recipes I try, changes I made, what we liked, etc. However I made a “substitution” this week that was horrid and worth sharing here so you do not make the same mistake.

The low-carb pizza crust calls for baking powder, which is not GAPS legal. In most GAPS baking recipes, baking soda is used. Baking soda is NOT interchangeable for baking powder. I repeat, do NOT do it! It leaves you with this nasty burnt flavor in the back of your throat. Grody.

The muffins we tried last week? Those were all great! So great, in fact, that I gained .8lb last week. Um, yeah. I like muffins.

Alrighty, onto this week’s menu.

Dinners (side dishes)

  1. Italian chicken lettuce wraps (cucumber tomato salad)
  2. Slow-cooked cajun-spiced beef roast (roasted brussel sprouts with bacon & carmelized onions, sauteed mushrooms)
  3. GAPS legal grilled cheese & tomato soup
  4. Butternut squash pizza (green beans, applesauce)
  5. Cheesy cauliflower pancakes & zucchini pizza bites
  6. Bacon, lettuce, tomato salad (parmesan drumsticks)
  7. chilled red pepper soup (carrot muffins)

Lunches

  1. Carrot & fresh ginger soup (GAPS legal banana bread muffins)
  2. Chicken noodle-less soup
  3. Steamed cabbage & chicken legs
  4. Roasted chicken (broccoli)

Breakfast is always yogurt, fruit and eggs.

Snacks & Treats

  1. muffins
  2. Larabars
  3. kiwi, apples, grapefruit

Meal Plan MondayVisit this week’s Menu Plan Monday for more menus.

If you are interested in GAPS legal recipes (or those easily adapted), please check out my Pinterest board – GAPS Legal Recipes. GAPS legal recipes are gluten free, grain free and many are dairy free.

Meal Planning – A New Thing

Meal Plan MondayI have a love-hate relationship with meal planning. I love to know what I have on hand to make, that it makes shopping easier and keeps me on track nutritionally (well, most of the time). The only thing I dislike is how long it takes me to get a meal plan together most of the time. You would think that after 10+ years of cooking, I would have it down, but nope. Then you throw in a little thing like a major diet change and BAM!, an all day affair.

We are smack in the middle of our six week GAPS experiment. It is one of the things on my 2012 To Do List for various reasons. After a year of researching, praying and talking with my hubby, we began on May 1st.

Meal planning for me is not new. The new part is sharing my weekly plans here. I will also be sharing some recipes I’ve come up with to fit in our new eating habits. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be on GAPS to use them.

One thing you will notice about my meal planning is that I do not assign certain days for my meals. I have come to notice that the root of all my problems is that I do not like to be told what to do, even if it is by a list that I made myself. So, this gives me structured freedom. 😉

Dinners (side dishes in parentheses)

  1. Cheese & veggie cakes with sour cream (side salads)
  2. Bacon, lettuce, tomato salad (sauteed mushrooms)
  3. Healthy hamburger helper (steamed broccoli & cauliflower)
  4. Banana pancakes with homemade strawberry syrup (sausage, carrot muffins)
  5. beef stew (steamed cabbage, coconut flour pumpkin muffins)
  6. pizza made with low carb pizza dough (green beans, applesauce)
  7. dinner salads topped with boiled eggs, raisins, bell pepper, onion, mushrooms (parmesan drumsticks)

butternut-squash-lakes

Lunches

  1. chicken noodle-less soup
  2. butternut squash latkes with applesauce or apple slices (pictured above)
  3. salads
  4. monkey platter
  5. leftovers

eggshells
Breakfast is always yogurt with fruit (usually strawberries) and eggs (scrambled, fried, boiled).

Snacks & Treats

  1. Flourless zucchini brownies (these are not GAPS legal because of the chocolate chips, but we have made a personal exception in our experiment for dark chocolate so they work for us) (Oh, and they are FABULOUS!)
  2. Trail mix (almonds, raisins, walnuts)
  3. Cheese cubes
  4. Apples, grapefruits and bananas

If you would like to find more Meal Plans and recipes, be sure to visit this week’s link round-up at Organizing Junkie.