As many people know, I am quite a budget shopper. And with my recent job loss, I need to be even more so. I think I do fairly well, spending under $300 per month to feed a family of 5. But, I am trying to do even better. I have been making double meals when I prepare them and freezing half. This is not only more economical, it's way easier on a busy evening to pull a lasagna out of the freezer than to make a meal from scratch. Colby got me a great Pyrex set for Christmas (complete with covers) that is great for freezing. I also recently purchased a bunch of 8 & 16 ounce bell jars which are great for freezing of leftovers in the fridge. With these, I am able to freeze single servings of meals for Colby to take to work, rather than the premade microwavable lunches.
But, just to counter any arguments that inexpensive food must be all mac & cheese or pb&j... it's just not true. (Not that we don't love our mac & cheese or pb&j.) I have actually really researched healthy eating habits. One big thing I learned was that America has one of the only cultures that sits down to a large, multi-course meal every evening. It is common in other countries to have a few light appetizers and maybe a hearty sandwich at dinnertime. In other words, we do not need to sit down to meat, potatoes, veggies and a roll every single night. This one idea helped me change the way we eat a lot. And, I do believe, for the better.
Just to give you an idea, here is what we ate this week... on a budget.
Sunday afternoon I had spare time so I prepared 2 different soups for the week. (A large batch of each.) The first was an awesome spinach/lentil soup. I used the $2 Kielbasa and the $0.50 bag of spinach that I had bought on sale the previous week. Add the lentil and a few other ingredients and I had a huge pot of soup for under five dollars. The second soup was one of Colby's favorites... taco soup. I used the ground beef that was also on sale last week, some taco seasoning, corn, black beans, kidney beans, chicken stock (Of which I had tons from a sale months ago)... and viola! Another large batch.
So, Monday night we had the spinach lentil soup with some rolls. Soup works great for us since our girls don't eat too much and it is a healthy choice for Colby & I. The girls loved it and they got protein from the beans and lots of vitamins from the spinach. I took the leftovers from the soup and froze a few servings in the aforementioned bell jars for Colb's lunch or a later dinner.
Tuesday was the taco soup (I normally wouldn't do soup 2 days in a row, but the day got hectic and it was right there, all made!) I served a few tortilla chips and some sour cream with this soup and it was a hit. We actually didn't even have enough left to freeze, so I just ate the remainder for lunch the next day. That whole meal was $5-$6.
Wednesday was an anomaly for us since we had steak. I never have steak outside of the summer and grilling season. It seems as though I either always pick a bad cut of steak or I simply can't cook it. But I thought I'd try... and it was about as good as usual. However, I cooked a new dish of mashed potatoes mixed with sour cream (really good sale last week) spinach (ah, the endless bags of cheap spinach) sprinkled with a little cheese on top and baked for a few minutes. That came out really well. I also made a great new sage carrot recipe. (Gave in and bought the $0.89/lb carrots instead of the more expensive baby carrots.)
Thursday was pasta day. I made a great spinach lasagna. I used moms good ol' recipe that Colby and I love, but used spinach instead of ground beef. (Used $3.79 ricotta that I stocked up on last week, $1 pasta sauce that I stocked up on months ago, $1 lasagna noodles from stock, $0.50 spinach, $0.75 parmasean, half of my $2 hot sausage, couple of eggs and few more negligible ingredients) So, for under $10, we had a delicious meal and I froze two more casseroles dishes of it for 2 dinners later on.
Tonight, we will have chicken ceasar wraps. The girls really love these and they cost under $3 for the whole meal. We will most likely have some carrot sticks as an appetizer (cut from the $0.89 bag)
So, I think we eat pretty healthy, well rounded meals. My girls are exposed to all different types of food and we don't have to go bankrupt doing so.