Thursday, September 9, 2010

Thrifty Thursday - Menus

I must admit that I have strayed from menu planning in the last few weeks, and MUST get back to it. I know it saves time and money. I also know that it helps me plan more balanced and healthy meals for the week. It doesn't take that long - and the time saved at the grocery store more than makes up for it. Another advantage - I usually take the time to seek out and try at least one new idea or recipe.

Some people I know are really good and plan all three meals - here, not so much. I plan one meal a day, and maybe one breakfast for the weekend. A sample week might look something like this:

Sunday - Chili, cheese bread, fresh fruit
Monday - Chicken and Dumplings, fresh fruit
Tuesday - Baked fish, brown rice, green beans
Wednesday - Bbq pork sandwiches, jello/fruit, cottage cheese, carrot sticks
Thursday - Spaghetti with ground turkey/veggie sauce, salad, bread
Friday - Pizza, salad, fresh fruit
Saturday - Grilled chicken sandwiches, baked beans, cole slaw

Breakfasts I try to have about 3 options available for the week. This week there is Oatmeal with apples and cinnamon (I cooked up a bunch of apples w/cinnamon and have them frozen in 1/2 cup containers), Apple Zucchini Bread, and "Toasty O's" cereal.

Lunches are generally leftovers but I also try to have a couple of other options around like meat for sandwiches, boiled eggs, cheese/crackers, and a couple of emergency cans of soup or single serve soups in the freezer. And, if you know me, there is always peanut butter!

My one addendum is that there is almost always a couple of "back-ups" in the freezer, cupboard for a quick substitution if something comes up and there isn't time to prep ahead or if we suddenly have the opportunity to be hospitable and need to increase the amount of food. Examples are fixin's for grilled cheese to go with soup, ingredients for mac and cheese, turning meat for sandwiches or grilling into a casserole, etc.

There are a lot of great frugal menu sites available, including this great booklet from the USDA including food plans and recipes for thrifty family meals.

Do you plan ahead? Are you willing to share a sample menu?


  1. Yup. Almost always do a weekly menu. Because we both work it is usually weekday suppers and then all three meals for the weekend. So it looks similar to yours. Makes it much easier (and cheaper) when I go to the store. Plus cheaper in the long run since we aren't sitting around looking at each other sayin "what do you want to eat?" and then going out to dinner. Not that it doesn't happen still, but it is more rare these days.

    I have mine posted normally on my blog, sometimes with links to the recipes, so I can go back and get ideas for the seasons.
    This week, I really didn't do anything since Brian has a test and has to be on restricted and then liquid diet. Nobody wants to deal with that.

  2. I menu plan one month at a time. I plan only dinners during the weekdays and lunch and dinner on the weekends. Michael and the kids are cereal eaters for breakfast, so that's easy! And I don't usually eat breakfast (does coffee count?). I used to plan 3 months at a time with no repeats, but Michael thought that was too much variety! Now it's one month at a time with no repeats!

    Our menu this week:
    Monday - grilled chicken thighs, party potatoes, fruit, cucumber salad
    Tuesday - cheeseburgers, tots, peas and nectarines
    Wednesday - machacha burritos, mexican rice, black beans and bananas
    Thursday - deep dish pizza
    Friday - no meal planned, as the kids are gone and Michael and I are going out for dinner. :-)

  3. I used to do a weekly menu, but Casey would usually veto something the night I was going to make it, so now I keep a stock of things and usually throw something together last minute. It's a very bad habit!

    Lunch for Casey is leftovers at work, and the girls and I usually end up with mac and cheese or sandwiches, and sometimes leftovers. Then when day care kids come (Wednesday to Friday) we usually have mac and cheese, sandwiches, spaghetti, tuna and noodles, or leftovers if I have a lot.

    Friday night is usually frozen pizza night, and I try to do a taco dish one night (either tacos or taco skillet, or a taco casserole), chicken one night, and we usually go out to eat one night. So I do have guidelines, but don't plan a complete menu. I am ALWAYS in search of yummy, easy ideas because I feel like I make the same things all the time. Spaghetti is definitely my "go-to" meal if I don't have any meat defrosted.

    Breakfast most days is cereal, but occasionally I will make oatmeal or pancakes. Usually one weekend morning we have pancakes or waffles. Lunches on the weekends are either sandwiches or leftovers from the week.

    Allison - 3 months at a time with no repeats?!! Please, do share your menu ideas!!! :)

  4. Another thing I forgot to add is that we don't have a deep freeze, or extra fridge, so we can only fit so much. And we usually end up at the store at least 2 times a week because we drink so much milk. Between Casey and I, we drink 4 gallons, and the girls drink 1 to 1 1/2, so we have to make a special trip for milk because we don't have enough room to hold 5-6 gallons at one time.
    Hopefully with a third baby on the way, we will be getting a deep freeze, because the extra space would make life so much easier! :)

  5. We too operate with just the one fridge/freezer. Although, it's amazing what you can fit sometimes! - that is a crazy amount of milk - I can't even imagine! Allison, you are so organized - I'm in awe - and Carma - love seeing your menus too! Does anyone else plan around store sales?

  6. Ok, just back from the store and should be set for almost two weeks - next 7 days menu...

    Friday - Frozen pizza - salad, watermelon
    Saturday - Brunch - baked apple pancake, turkey sausage, Supper - grilled chicken sandwiches, cottage cheese, watermelon, home baked chips
    Sunday - Breakfast - Oatmeal - lunch - leftover celebration, Supper - Sausage/lentil soup - biscuits
    Monday - Spaghetti, salad, bread
    Tuesday - Stuffed Squash, fruit
    Wednesday - Chicken and Noodles (take to church life group - others will bring sides/dessert)
    Thursday - baked fish (w.sour cream mustard sauce), brown rice, mixed veggies