Old MacDonald…Forgot to Meal Plan

There is no doubt about it. Here in the U.S.A., we love to eat out. And we are not alone! Whether it is the fact that we do not have to prepare the meal, do the dishes, all of the amazing flavors and options, or the social aspect of eating out, we love it!!!!

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A buck, buck, here, and a buck, buck there….

With nearly a million different restaurants in the U.S. alone, there is something for everyone. I, like you, love to go to one of my favorite restaurants, kick back, and enjoy a great meal. And we all have moments when we need to grab something quick as we go from one event to another.

So, what is the harm in supporting your local business and dropping a couple of dollars on some good food? That all depends on how often it is happening and how much you can afford to eat out and money is not the only concern.

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here a buck, there a buck, everywhere a buck, buck…

Let’s take a look at our family’s monthly food budget as an example of what happens when we do not stick to our meal plan and budget.
(Remember, we are not normal!) 🙂

This month, we spent just over $200 on our entire month’s food. Most likely, by the end of the month, we will add another $40-$50 as we pick up additional produce or go through items quicker than planned. This includes all of our food for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. Again, we are much more cheap 😉 frugal than your average bear. We do not buy junk food, soda, coffee, other drinks or other expensive snacks. Don’t worry, every once in a while we will splurge and get some comfort foods. Yes, we are still human.

Now, let’s look at another approach with a little more wiggle room.

What if I spent one additional dollar a day on food or snacks. That would be another $20 a month, excluding weekends, added to our food budget. No biggie, Right? Now, let’s say Elizabeth does the same. Now we are up to $40. Still, most budgets could even handle this 15% increase to the budget.

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What if we were more typical in our spending?

What if I spent an average of $5 on lunches plus another $2 on snacks or drinks per day? I could easily spend up to $140 a month on my daytime food alone. If we paid to have our son eat at school instead of using the food we already have, we would add around $40 a month to our budget. For this example, let’s just say that Elizabeth’s extra food stayed at $20 a month. Now our family is spending an additional $200 a month a month! Wait, that is almost what our entire month’s food budget is and we just doubled it with our lunches and snacks alone! Have you noticed I have not even added in eating out as a family, date nights, breakfast meals or buying beverages?

For the final example, let’s look at an even more common approach to food.

What if I spent $7 on lunches, another $3 on snacks, and $7 on drinks (soda/coffee)? If I do that only 5 times a week, that is at least $340 every month. That is 136% of my family’s entire food budget. Also, let’s go ahead and add in our family eating out twice a week at $20 each time. Now we have reached $500 in additional food for the month.  This is a 200% increase from what our family actually needs and we still have not looked at dinner every night.

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How Does Meal Planning Help?

The reason that meal planning is so effective is that you are not buying food on the fly. You have a plan. Once you go shopping, you commit to not buying more food, even when it is what you really want to do.

Now, if your budget is larger, you have your finances in order, and your health is good, can you afford to eat out a little more? Of course. But, the purpose of this blog is to help families save time and money. To do this, you have to be willing to get focused and stay focused and not let up, even when it is the sixth time that month you have eaten peanut butter and Jelly sandwiches for lunch.

The more you stay out of the stores, the more you save! It really is that simple. Notice I did not say easy, because it is not, but it is that simple.

Another way meal planning helps is that you already have all of your food for the month. Just knowing that will give you a huge sense of relief and most of the time it keeps you from having to run to the store again and grab some last minute items.

When following our meal plan, this is what our meals look like on a regular basis. It might not look exciting, but it is better than beans and rice 🙂

A typical menu for our family:
Breakfast: Eggs with ham and a slice of toast, oatmeal with add-ins and almond milk, or occasionally waffles or pancakes.
Lunch: Sandwiches or leftovers
Dinner: Our planned meal
Beverage for all meals: Water
Snacks: Gram Crackers, pretzels, raisins, wheat thins, almonds, or peanuts

Know the answer to “What’s for dinner?”

The area where you will see the most savings is when the answer to “What’s for dinner/lunch?” is not, “Let’s just go pick something up.” As you start cutting out take-out and buying prepared food, you will be amazed how much money you will save. We have known couples that have spent over $800 a month in eating out alone(that’s a house payment!). At the time, our entire families grocery budget was $100 a month! Let’s just say we were shocked but have learned that many people are struggling in this area.

 

So, can you do it? Of course! Just hop on over to the meal plan you would like to use, print out the shopping list, buy what you need, and then STAY OUT OF THE STORE!

May 2018 be a year of huge savings and great food for you and your family!

 

One-Dish Italian Chicken with Potatoes

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 2-3 boneless chicken breasts, sliced into tenders
  • 2 Cans of Green Beans – (Note: NEVER purchase unsalted, canned green beans. They are nasty!)
  • 5 -6 Small Red Potatoes – Diced up into quarters
  • 1 Package of Italian Dressing Mix
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup of Butter

 

Instructions:

  • Preheat Oven to 350 degrees
  • All of the ingredients go in the a 9×13 dish. You’re going to make 3 rows: 1 row of potatoes, 1 row of chicken in the center, and 1 row of green beans.
  • Sprinkle your packet of Italian Dressing mix over the entire dish.
  • Then melt your butter in the microwave and pour it over everything.
  • Cover with aluminum foil and cook for 1 hour.

I found several versions of this recipe but this one mainly came from this blog here!

 

Chips and Cheese Chili Casserole

Yeilds 1 9×9 dish – Serves 4-6 people depending on how hungry everyone is!

Ingredients:

  • 5 to 6 cups whole corn chips, crushed (about 2 1/2 cups crushed)
  • 1 – 10-ounce can chili (Use meatless chili for a meatless dish or use chili with meat for a hearty meal)
  • 1 – 10-ounce can black beans, red beans, refried beans, bean medleys
  • 1 – 10-ounce jar salsa or tomato sauce
  • 2 cups shredded cheese
  • 1 1/4 cups sour cream
  • An additional 2 to 3 cups whole corn chips, crushed (1 – 1 1/2 cups crushed)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375F. Line a 9-by-9-inch baking pan with aluminum foil, spray with cooking spray, and set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, add 5 to 6 cups chips (about 5 big handful of chips from the bag) and with a wooden spoon or similar, poke and crush the chips to the size of a dime.
  3. Add the chili, beans, salsa, 1 1/2 cups cheese, and stir to combine.
  4. Pour mixture into prepared pan and bake for 20 minutes.
  5. After 20 minutes, remove pan from oven and spread sour cream in a layer over the casserole.
  6. Sprinkle 1/2 cup cheese evenly over the top of the sour cream. Sprinkle 1 – 1 1/4 cups crushed corn chips over the top and bake for 9 to 12 minutes, or until top is browned to desired level.
  7. Serve immediately. Optional Toppings: sour cream, cheese, or chopped cilantro or onion.

Thanks Averie Cooks for a great recipe!

 

Grilled Lemon Chicken Kabobs

Pair these kabobs with a salad and rice for the perfect dinner!

Ingredients

  • 2 boneless chicken breasts
  • 3 lemons (washed)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 7-8 green onions (we actually leave this out and add onion powder to the marinade)

Instructions

  1. Slice the chicken breasts lengthwise into thirds, and then slice again into about 1-inch chunks. Place chicken chunks in a ziploc bag and set aside.
  2. Zest* one of the lemons and add to a medium size bowl. Juice that lemon plus one more, add to the lemon zest and then add the minced garlic and oregano and stir. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil and whisk to combine. Add kosher salt and pepper. Pour the marinade into the bag with the chicken chunks.
  3. Marinate the chicken in the fridge for 30 minutes- 3 hours.
  4. When you’re ready to grill, prepare the grill by lightly greasing the grate with cooking spray and set to medium high heat.
  5. If using wooden skewers, you have to prep them by soaking them in water for 10 minutes. Metal ones don’t need to be prepped at all.
  6. Slice the remaining lemon in thin rounds and then slice the rounds in half. Trim the bottoms of the green onions off and cut into 1-inch lengths.
  7. Thread one piece of the chicken onto a skewer then two slices of green onion, and then another piece of chicken. Fold a slice of lemon in half and thread next to the chicken, grouping closely on the skewer. Add another piece of chicken, then green onions and repeat the pattern until you’ve reached the end of the skewer, ending with chicken. Discard any of the remaining marinade.
  8. Grill chicken, turning often so each side browns and has light grill marks, until cooked through, about 10-15 minutes or until chicken juices run clear.

Thanks FoodieCrush for the delicious recipe

* I don’t have a zester so I use mine fine cheese grater and it works great.

Loaded Chicken and Potato Skillet

This recipe is similar to the Loaded Baked Potato Casserole recipe we’ve already made but it doesn’t require you to turn on your oven. Always a plus in the hot summer months!

Loaded Chicken and Potato Skillet

Ingredients

  • 3 medium potatoes, peeled & cubed
  • 4 strips of bacon, cooked & crumbled
  • 2 chicken breasts, cubed
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • Season Salt
  • salt & pepper
  • 2 cups cheddar, shredded
  • Optional Toppings
    • sour cream
    • green onions

Directions

  1. While bacon cooks, peel and cube potatoes. Boil on stove and remove from heat when cooked {soft & mushy}.
  2. In a large skillet, cook chicken until brown on both sides and no more pink inside.  Remove from heat & cut into cubes.
  3. In the same skillet, heat olive oil and add peppers.
  4. Add potatoes to the pepper mix, sprinkle with season salt and onion powder and cook for another 3-5 minutes.
  5. Add chicken, salt and pepper, bacon, and cheese.
  6. Cover the skillet with a lid and remove when cheese is melted.
  7. Top with optional sour cream and green onions and enjoy!

Thanks to Pearls, Handcuffs, and Happy Hour for this great recipe!

Pot Roast – Slow Cooker

Serves 4-6

  • 2.5 lb chuck roast
  • flour (start with 1/4 cup)
  • garlic salt
  • dried rosemary
  • butter (start with 2-3 TBS)
  • 1 lb package of baby carrots
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 6 red potatoes
  • 2 celery ribs
  • 2 cans Cream of Mushroom Soup
  • 1/2 packet onion soup mix
  • 1 TBS Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 can beef broth

Combine some flour, garlic salt, and dried rosemary and lightly cover the roast.

In a skillet on the stove, melt the butter and then sear all sides of the meat

Place meat in slow cooker and add baby carrots, onion powder, small red potatoes and celery.

Combined 2 cans of cream of mushroom soup, ½ a packet of onion soup mix, 1 tbs of Worcestershire sauce, and 1 can of beef broth. Pour over the meat in the slow cooker.

Cook on high for 4 hours and the turn it down to low for 2 hours.

Serving suggestions: Cheese Risotto and French Bread

I originally was going to use this recipe but I saw someone posted a comment a different version of it and I LOVED it. So I’m not sure how to reference a comment of a recipe but sdgirl who posted back in 2006. haha.

BBQ Chicken French Bread Pizza

Ingredients

  • 1 loaf of french bread
  • 1/2 cup bbq sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup chicken, cooked and shredded
  • 1/4 cup red onion, chopped
  • 1-2 TBS cilantro, chopped

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees
  2. Cut your french bread loaf in half length-wise
  3. Spread bbq sauce evenly over the top of each bread
  4. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of mozzarella over the top of each loaf
  5. Spread chicken, red onion and cilantro evenly over both loaves.
  6. Top with remaining cheese.
  7. Bake in oven for about 10 minutes or until cheese is melted and starts to turn golden.

 

Source: Like Mother Like Daughter