Meal planning

A week of delicious RD-approved dinners on a shoestring budget: Week 1

I’ve been getting more and more questions about how to put together family-friendly healthy dinners on a budget. Processed foods and fast food meals take care of the budget part, but the healthy part, not so much.

 Living above a grocery store has it’s advantages. I grabbed a store circular and found some great deals on healthy foods that can be combined to make tasty meals that stretch each dollar.

Building healthy meals is easy once you learn the formula- one part protein, one part starch, and 2 parts vegetables. Ta-da!

 I’ll break down the meal plans below.

Looking through the sale circular, I found 5 proteins:

  • Chicken Light Tuna

  • Eggs

  • Boneless Pork Loin Roast

  • Tilapia

  • Split chicken breasts

 Now I can use these 5 ingredients to make 6 meals plus a leftover meal for 4 people. I have some usual combinations that I like to use- chicken with onions and peppers, pork with roasted vegetables, fish with rice and vegetables, eggs with onions and cheese. You can use your own favorite combos or find some delicious recipes that you want to try out.

 With my favorite combinations in mind, I searched for my favorite vegetables. I found 5 options. The number of vegetables can vary depending on preference and availability.

  • Brussels sprouts

  • Green Peppers

  • Onions

  • Frozen vegetable medley

  • Organic baby carrots

 Then I look for a few starches:

  • Sweet potatoes- These are actually vegetables, but can be starches too!

  • Whole wheat bread

  • Brown rice

  • Pasta noodles

Now is when you need to start putting meals together to see if you need any other ingredients. So here’s where I will show you how my brain works.

Dinner #1: How about tuna salad sandwiches? That requires light mayonnaise and whole wheat bread…I said healthy, right?? We just need a vegetable to round out the meal. When I think about a simple sandwich for dinner, I want a light, easy vegetable like carrot sticks. You could also use celery and/or pepper slices. Any combination of fresh, raw vegetables will work.

Dinner #2: I am a huge breakfast-for-dinner fan. Really, I’m a breakfast anytime kinda girl. I like to make a frittata with sautéed vegetables and low-fat cheese for an easy, nutritious meal. Onions and peppers are great with eggs. You could also use spinach, kale, tomatoes, and/or mushrooms- whatever is on sale works for this dish! The best part is that once you can make this dish, you can let it cool, cut it into portions, wrap it up and freeze it for leftovers- or just make it ahead of time for a super-quick dinner. Just thaw it in the fridge overnight and heat up just before serving. You can serve this dish with a sweet potato hash for a healthy vegetable that doubles as your starch!

Dinner #3: Split chicken breasts are my favorites! They stay moist and you can find them at rock-bottom prices! Cook up some brown rice and mix with chopped up onions and peppers (leftover from Dinner #2).

Dinner #4: Pork tenderloin is one of my favorite dinners. You get a lot of protein for your dollar, plus you can marinate the tenderloin overnight and cook it in no time the next night. The leftovers are perfect for sandwiches, stir-fries and more. I love roasted vegetables with pork tenderloin, so I looked for Brussels sprouts and carrots. You can add a starch here, but it doesn’t really need it.

Dinner #5: Shred up leftover chicken from Dinner #3 for chicken noodle soup! Boil some pasta with chopped up carrots leftover from Dinner #1, drain, add chicken broth, shredded chicken, and sautéed onions for a hearty soup.

Dinner #6: Fish and vegetables: this is the priciest of the meals. I recommend finding frozen fish on sale when you can to keep for future meals to make them even cheaper. Tilapia is great with brown rice and frozen vegetables like peas, corn, and carrots.

Dinner #7: LEFTOVERS! This dinner can be buffet style with anything you have left in the fridge or everyone can have their own meal. It’s a win-win, especially since no one has to cook- voila!

You may be thinking, “So that’s all well and good, but how much is this gonna cost me?” Let’s do the math. These are real numbers from the circular at my local national-chain grocery store. These numbers are feeding a family of 4.

So, for $55.96, you can have dinner for 4 for an entire week! That breaks down to $13.99 per person for 7 nights of meals or $1.99 per meal per person. Boom! If you have smaller kiddos that don’t eat as much as adults you could even have additional leftovers for lunches.

The circulars come out mid-week for my grocery store. I’m thinking about making this a weekly post to help with saving time with meal planning, saving money, and eating healthy. I feel like that is three New Year’s resolutions in one! You’re welcome LOL 🙂

What do you think? Would that be helpful?

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