Tag Archives: meal plan

A Budget Friendly Meal Plan for Busy Seasons

There are usually two scenarios that find people diving head first into the world of meal planning — they need to save time or they need to save money. But at this point in the year, it often seems those two go hand and hand. We’re in the heart of the fall semester, activities are ramping up, and something about the waning evening sunlight makes it feel like a mad rush between the end of work hours and climbing into bed at night. There’s no time for planning and executing a healthy dinner on the fly!

Then you’ve got money saving. Ah yes, I feel you there. Maybe you spent a little too extravagantly on summer travel or plan to spend extravagantly on the upcoming holidays. Either way, there’s no room for extravagance in this in-between!

Enter the power of the stupidly simple meal plan…

Shopping List

Breakfast

  • Oatmeal
  • Yogurt
  • Bananas

Lunch

  • Bread
  • Lunch meat
  • Cheese
  • Salad
  • Salad Dressing

Extras (Snacks, desserts, and lunch add-ons)

  • Granola bars
  • Fruit (apples, oranges, berries on sale)
  • Crackers
  • Hummus
  • Peanut butter
  • Cookies

Dinner

  • Chicken
  • Rice
  • Stir-fry vegetables
  • Bulk frozen veggie
  • Pasta noodles
  • Ground turkey or meatballs
  • Pasta sauce
  • Tortillas 
  • Shredded cheese
  • Avocados
  • Refried beans or black beans
  • Green peppers
  • BBQ sauce
  • Hamburger buns
  • Chips

Meal Plan

Breakfast – Oatmeal or yogurt topped w/ bananas

Lunch – Sandwich or salad w/ 2 sides of choice (and/or any dinner leftovers)

Dinners – 

Monday/#1: Chicken stir fry w/ frozen veggie

Tuesday/#2: Spaghetti w/ fruit salad

Wednesday/#3: Quesadilla w/ beans and guac

Thursday/#4: Stuffed peppers w/ frozen veggie

Friday/#5: Panini and chips

Saturday/#6: BBQ chicken sandwiches w/ frozen veggie/fruit salad/chips (whatever is left)

Sunday/#6: Eat out

What meals are on YOUR stupidly simple meal plan? Here’s to a stress-free and money-saving AUTUMN!! 🍂 🍁 🍂

Minimalist Dinner Plan (w/ freezer meals)

One really simple approach to creating your monthly dinner plan is batch cooking. Which, with all the overly complicated meal prep YouTube videos out there, can seem incredibly daunting. However, just a little bit goes a long way when cooking ahead for the month. (Especially if you’re just cooking for one or two and you’re ok with repeating foods!) “Feed your freezer today, feed yourself all month”… is that a saying? It should be.

Here are four things you can make for the month ahead to make dinners a little easier…

Baked Beans

A big pot of baked beans is kind of obnoxious to make on the regular. But it freezes incredibly well. This is a great side item, but I like it as the main dish. I got the idea from one of my favorite books, My Berlin Kitchen by Luisa Weiss, which talks about having baked beans for dinner with steamed broccoli and corn bread. Yum!

Alternative – Any other type of beans or grains

Twice-Baked Potatoes

These are more of the side item situation. You can make them the cheesy way or as more of a loaded baked potato with sour cream and bacon and chives. Then, add one half to round out a meat and veg meal. Or have both halves with a salad or some soup.

Alternative – Any other starchy side item

Starbucks Copycat Wraps

These have been my obsession lately. You basically cook some quinoa, corn, and black beans and throw them in a wrap with some jalapeno Havarti shredded cheese. Wrap ’em in aluminum foil and stick in your freezer for the quickest dinners. (Great if you have to take dinner on the go!) With some chips and a pickle spear you’ll feel like you grabbed fast food.

Alternative – Any other freezable sandwich or wrap

Buttermilk Pancakes

If there’s one thing I’m committed to on a deep and spiritual level, it’s breakfast for dinner. But I’m also way too lazy to make pancakes on a weeknight. Sunday around noon while listening to some tunes? Sure. When I’m starving after working all day? Not so much. Good thing you can throw a batch of these in your freezer then whip a few out as needed, scramble some eggs, fry up some sausage, and bingo-bango you’re eating like a brekky-for-dinner CHAMPION.

Alternative – Waffles, french toast, sourdough bread, etc.

How it all comes together…

If you’re cooking for a household of 2 and you make 6 potatoes, 2 lbs of beans, 18 pancakes, and 10 wraps…

That’s 6 meals with potato halves (3 if you’re doing the whole potato), 6 meals with beans, 3 meals with pancakes, and 5 meals with wraps. 20 meals that are partially complete before dinnertime even rolls around!

What do you think? Would you try this monthly dinner plan approach? Do you feed your freezer? Comment below! xoxo 

P.S. Quick + Easy Meal Plan for One on a Budget.

mid-week round-up

What’s new this Wednesday? My husband was out of town last week and I’m so happy to have him back in my clutches! Can folks who live with one other person relate to this? The first night I have the house to myself I’m like “Wahooo, the TV remote is mine, ALL MINE!” and then by the third night it’s “Will someone…ANYONE pay attention TO ME!” Anywho, links for your reading pleasure are right this way…

What did you do before the internet?

The forgotten wolf children of World War II.

Great way to keep track of your keys.

How to rotate a six-week meal plan.

I need this shirt for the upcoming winter. #HyggeLife

Songbirds are being snatched from Miami’s forests.

He’d been kept alive with tubes for nearly 17 years. Who is he? 

Victims, families, and America’s thirst for true-crime stories.

The rich history and complicated future of pen spinning.

An amazing clay mask.

The story behind the ice cream sandwich.

That’s a lot of hot air balloons! 

P.S. A few Finding Delight posts you may have missed — Top 10 Yard Sale Advertising Tips and Our Mini Vacay to Delray Beach.

Quick + Easy Meal Plan for One on a Budget (Vegan)

If you didn’t already know, my sister Katie wrote a musical! I know, right?! *Badass alert* She recently found out that Full the Musical was accepted to The New York City International Fringe Festival this August. So, on top of her full time job she’s also running around like a mad woman doing all the million and one things that need to happen to get a production ready for the bright lights of the big city. (Including, but not limited to; rehearsing, costuming, hustling, and coordinating travel from FL->NYC.) I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

full the musical

She mentioned to me that in the midst of all that madness she felt it was still important to throw down on some food prepared in her own kitchen. And I totally agree. Healthy fuel and a happy wallet are key components to this season of her life. But the perfect meal plan needed to be easy and non-brain-draining. (As well as reserve a few meals for eating out. Ya gotta be realistic, people!)

I told Katie, “Leave it to me, sistah!” You see, I LOVE creating meal plans. It feels like putting together a really satisfying puzzle. In case you have a similarly hectic week coming up, I thought I’d share what I put together for her.

And if you don’t? Thank your lucky stars. Cook elaborate meals. Revel in your free time. And then dig in your pockets to help out this amazing show. (Please and thanks!) 

Shopping List –

Oats

2 containers of coconut (or any non-dairy) yogurt

Almond milk

Bananas

Fruit of choice that is on sale/in season

1 onion

1 potato

1 sweet potato

1 (14 oz) can of coconut milk

1 loaf of bakery bread (freeze whatever you won’t be using this week)

Earth Balance

Red lentils

Basmati rice

Garlic

Avocados

Peanut butter

Hummus

Pita Chips (and/or crunchy dipping veg like bell peppers or baby carrots)

Tofu

A couple of on sale/in season veggie choices for sauteeing (think: peppers, zucchini, etc)

1 frozen meal option (think: pizza, Indian food, gnocchi, etc)

1 dessert option (like Joe Joe’s from Trader Joe’s!!!)

(Note: I didn’t include spices or cooking oil on this list so check the recipes to make sure you have all items on hand.)

Meal Plan –

Monday

Breakfast –

Overnight oats (prepare 4 jars on Sunday night. In each jar goes ½ cup of oats, ½ cup of almond milk, and ½ of one yogurt container + whatever extras you want to add – cinnamon, cocoa powder, mashed banana, nuts. In the morning you can top with fruit and a spoonful of nut butter, if you like.)

Lunch –

Out.

Dinner –

Sweet Potato Curry Soup

(Saute chopped onions in a little cooking spray in a large pot over high heat. Add a pinch of salt. Once onions are translucent, add chopped potato, chopped sweet potato, 1 Tbsp curry powder, 1 cup water, and 1 can coconut milk. • Bring mixture to a boil, turn down heat to low, and simmer for about 20 minutes, until potatoes are tender. • Blend or mash mixture to desired consistency.)

Serve with a slice of toasted bakery bread with lots of Earth Balance!

Tuesday

Breakfast –

Overnight oats

Lunch –

Leftover sweet potato curry soup with another slice of bread and a serving of fruit.

vegan meal plan 2

Dinner –

Lentils and Rice

(Ingredients:

1 ½ cups red lentils, 7 cups water, 4 garlic cloves, 1 tsp cumin, ½ tsp cinnamon, 2 cups basmati rice , 1 tsp salt + avocado on top per serving

Recipe:

Add lentils, water, garlic and spices to a pot over medium high heat. Cook for 25 minutes, until lentils are soft. Add rice and salt. • Return to a boil, turn heat to low, and simmer for about 20 minutes. • Top with avocado!)

Wednesday

Breakfast –

Overnight oats

Lunch –

Leftover Lentils and Rice w/ a serving of fruit.

Dinner –

Out.

Thursday

Breakfast –

Overnight oats

vegan meal plan 1.0

Lunch –

Peanut butter and banana sandwich with pita chips and fruit.

Dinner –

Leftover Lentils and Rice

vegan meal plan 3

Friday

Breakfast –

Avocado toast

avotoast

Lunch –

Out.

Dinner –

Brekky for dinner: Tofu scramble, toast w/ nut butter, and fruit salad (your fruit selection for the week and banana…drizzle with honey if you like!)

Saturday

Breakfast –

Pancakes

(Ingredients:

1 cup rolled oats, 1 ripe banana, 2/3 cup non-dairy milk, + peanut butter for topping

Recipe:

Blend together oats, banana and water. • Add batter to a skillet preheated to medium high heat. • Cook as you would normal pancakes, flipping when bubbles start to form on the side. • Top with peanut butter!)

Lunch –

Out.

Dinner –

Saute vegetables and tofu in a pan with soy sauce. Serve with rice and sriracha.

Sunday

Breakfast –

Pancakes

Lunch –

Leftover stir-fry.

Dinner –

Frozen meal.

SNACKS FOR THE WEEK:

Pita chips and crunchy veggie of choice with hummus.

DESSERTS FOR THE WEEK:

Dessert option and banana soft serve.

And there you have it! What do you think? Would this meal plan work for you? Do you have any tips + tricks for eating well when you’re balls deep in busy? Ya girl is all ears. 

P.S. No but for real, you should DONATE to Katie’s show. Those set pieces aren’t gonna haul THEMSELVES to The Fringe Festival. Thank you!

P.P.S. Love meal plans? Here’s another one that’s super budget friendly and here are 7 easy steps for beginner meal planners!

“Good and Cheap”-How to eat on a shoestring budget. Pt. 2!

goodandcheap

As I mentioned yesterday, I’m a huge fan of Leanne Brown’s cookbook Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4 a Day. I’ve been trying out some of Brown’s recipes and I have to say my tastebuds are pleased! The Spicy Green Bean dish satisfied my craving for Chinese take-out…spicy and gingery, I served it over brown rice with a poached egg on top and it transformed from a side dish into a hearty meal (an idea Brown suggests). I repurposed the leftovers into lunch by mixing with scrambled eggs. The Creamy Zucchini Fettucine was off the charts! I batch cooked this to have several servings on hand for take-to-work meals and it was the perfect way to use up some garden bounty. And of course I love pretty much anything on toast.

greenbeans

fettuccine

peasontoast

While my food budget isn’t as stringent as those receiving food stamps, it’s nice to have a resource for eating REAL foods on the cheap. And perhaps some of y’all would agree! For some added help, I’ve devised a really simple meal plan utilizing recipes found with in Good and Cheap. I created it with a few things in mind:

– This meal plan is perfect if you’re cooking for a household of 1-2. The meals have been chosen with simplicity and speed in mind so as to be suitable for individuals who work full-time or are in school.

– This meal plan is by no means the CHEAPEST way to eat for a week using Brown’s cookbook and would not be a good resource if you’re “emergency eating”.

– I have included 3 meals to be eaten “out” because that is feasible for my budget. Setting limits is key! Total restriction will just set yourself up for failure. If eating out is important to your social life and you ENJOY it, find a way to make it work for you. For example, grabbing a scone and a mocha with a friend for breakfast instead of dinner and drinks at a downtown restaurant.

– I’m working under the assumption that shopping would occur once, at the beginning of the week (perhaps Sunday right after brunch). This is why the fresher ingredients are incorporated earlier, like salads and yogurt, while things like canned tomatoes and dried chickpeas can wait until the end.

– The recipes I chose reflect what’s in season for me (early August in Kentucky) and therefore, I know I can get cheaply (summer squash, green beans, peaches). I also chose recipes based on what I have built up in my own pantry (noodles and oatmeal). Other ingredients I either know I can get from bulk bins, meaning I can get the exact amount the recipe calls for (chickpeas and shredded coconut), OR are just always cheap options (eggs, bread, onions, bananas and sweet potatoes).

– This meal plan doesn’t include snacks. If you’re especially active (ie. bike or walk to commute, work out frequently or play a sport) you might need a little extra fuel. I would purchase a big bunch of bananas to have on hand and freeze half. Snack on the bananas and mix the frozen ones with almond milk and protein powder (add other frozen fruit, cocoa powder, greens, etc. if you’ve got ‘em) for a smoothie. Hard-boil a few of your eggs and keep them in the fridge for a quick shot of protein. Or, like me, you could just shove a spoonful of peanut butter in your mouth. No judgement.

– This meal plan is vegetarian. If you have a freezer full of meat I would say throw some chicken in the pasta or quesadillas, some sausage with the green beans, have bacon when you scramble eggs…it’s really up to you.

So, here ya go…

How to eat Good and Cheap for a week:


Sunday

B- Brunch out- Who doesn’t love brunch on Sunday morning? Make it an AFFAIR–read the Sunday New York Times or a few chapters of your current novel, order a fancy coffee drink, invite your friends–and it will be well worth using up one of your allotted 3 trips to eat out. Personally, I would go for a bagel sandwich and iced coffee from somewhere local or a GIANT pastry and espresso from my trusty Starbucks.

L- Taco Salad- I call these Haystacks and they’re the perfect way to use up stuff you have from the week before (leftover black beans, the bottom bits in a bag of tortilla chips, salsa) OR if you don’t have leftovers add some toppings to your grocery list and then use them again tomorrow to dress your sweet potatoes.

D- Creamy Zucchini Fettucine- Go ahead and make plenty so you’ll have leftovers for lunches! I can say from experience that this dish reheats quite nicely, just reserve some of the cheese to sprinkle on top with a few cracks of black pepper.

Monday-

B- Yogurt Smash- This is an example of one of Brown’s “ideas” sections. She encourages you to buy a big container of plain yogurt and mix-in whatever you like with each serving you scoop out. The skies the limit! I usually do half a banana and some nuts or granola. Maybe a spoonful of jam. If i’m feeling really crazy, I mix in peanut butter and chocolate chips. : )

L- leftover fettuccine and side salad

D- Jacket Sweet Potatoes- Remember, you can use the sour cream and cheese from your taco salad or whatever else you have on hand–corn, salsa, beans, etc.

Tuesday-

B- Yogurt Smash

L- leftover fettuccine and baby carrots- I’m addicted to baby carrots. Nary a week goes by without me purchasing them.

D- caramelized onions and cheddar on toast w/ a simple green salad (chickpeas on top)- This is a fool-proof fast-food meal without the drive through. You’ll literally be in and out of the kitchen in minutes. Perfect for those nights when you have extra things to do in the evening after you’ve ALREADY put in an 8-hour day at work.

Wednesday-

B- Yogurt Smash

L- lunch out- Middle of the week, didn’t feel like packing your lunch, don’t worry you’re covered.

D- Spicy green beans over brown rice with a poached or fried egg on top- Like I said before, this meal will definitely satisfy any take-out craving you may be harboring. Slather on the sriracha and get those sinuses all cleared out.

Thursday-

B- Yogurt Smash

L- last of the fettuccine with a peach- Hopefully with the break on Wednesday you’re ready to give this fettuccine one last spin. The juicy peach is a great lunchbox treat. I prefer to eat my peaches in private so it can be a full on, juice-slurping, dripping down my arm EXPERIENCE.

D- Spicy green beans in a 3 egg scramble with whole wheat toast- I’m a big believer in eating breakfast for dinner one night a week. Here’s a great way to do it while also utilizing leftovers. Win-win.

Friday-

B- Lime and Coconut oatmeal- The yogurt is gone and it’s time to hit up the pantry stock. I always have oats on hand and Brown offers 6 ways to dress them up. This one seemed the most summery to me! You could get a tiny bag of shredded coconut from the bulk bin and use one of the limes you have on hand because gin and tonics. ; ) 

L- Chana Masala- Because dinner came together so quickly last night (scramble some eggs, throw in leftovers, toast the toast, DONE), I would prepare this the night before. Dishes like these always taste better the next day anyways, after the spices have had ample time to soak in.

D- Green Chili and Cheddar Quesadillas- While I’m partial to pizza for my Friday nights, I think the idea here is similar–something you can eat with your hands (cut into triangles lol) while sitting on the couch marathoning a new show on Netflix and basking in newly acquired weekend laziness.

Movie Night Snack- POPCORN- And if you REALLY wanted to get comfortable on that couch, Brown gives you 8 different suggestions for creative toppings to kick stovetop popcorn up a notch! Dare I say, even a bit gourmet.

Saturday-

B- Tomato scramble and fruit salad (peach and banana w/ shredded coconut)- If you still have some bread left throw the scramble on top of a thick slice of toast. Slice the rest of your bananas, chop up a peach into bite-size pieces and throw the rest of your coconut on top for a fruit salad with a tropical flair. Perfect for a lazy weekend breakfast at home. If you are lucky enough to have a porch, eat outside. Have a second cup of coffee. No rush.

L- Chana Masala wrap w/ baby carrots- I love that Brown discusses cool ways to repurpose leftovers. This is one of her ideas! Use the tortillas that you got for the quesadillas, spread with some spiced mayo and throw the rest of your chana masala in and wrap it up.

D- Dinner out- You’ve cooked a LOT this week. You deserve it.

Dessert- Peach Coffee Cake and hot tea- You can make this beforehand but eating it at the end of the day will feel like such a treat! Eat one slice now as your dessert and save the rest for next week as lunch box treats or to crumble on top of your Yogurt Smash. Isn’t repurposing fun? : )

For further reading on Leanne Brown’s cookbook click here and here.

And for the cookbook itself CLICK HERE.

I highly recommend it. xoxo