Building a Frugal Menu
Well, this week is a frugal one for us around here as we pinch pennies to pay some bills. That means you get a peek at my uber frugal menu for week 3 of my fall menu challenge. Building a frugal menu is one of the easiest ways for me to save money!
The beautiful thing about God’s abundant creation is that we don’t have to sacrifice flavor and enjoyment just because we need to be frugal. I’m utilizing all kinds of autumn goodness this week, even while I’m stewarding over our resources.
Let’s chat for a moment about frugality. Frugal isn’t a bad thing; I love being frugal! Don’t hang your head if you have to pinch pennies…and don’t be embarrassed to pinch them even when you don’t have to (often, being careful with them even when you don’t need to be is what keeps you from needing to in the future!).
I believe that God calls us to live in frugal excess. Along those thoughts, I’m going back to my super frugal menu plan and sprucing it just a bit (I’ve learned a lot of new recipes since I first wrote that plan).
Homemade Broth: A Key Component This Week
One of the things I lean on in a frugal menu plan is bone broth. Whenever we buy chicken, I save the bones in the freezer if I can’t use them immediately to make broth. I’ll drop them in my crock pot, cover them with water, and add some celery tops, a roughly chopped carrot or two, a bay leaf if I have them handy, some mineral salt, and some peppercorns.
In 24 hours, you have a nice broth. In 72 hours or so, you have a very richly flavored broth that you can use as is, or think of as a concentrate. Pick your time based on the intensity of flavor you prefer (my kids like 24 hours). I tend to crock my broth for a week, pulling out a gallon or so every other day and adding more water. I can make 3 batches of soup this way for ten people and it costs me $2 tops. So…you’re going to see me using broth this week!
Shop Your Pantry First
We have a lot of dried beans, rice, and quinoa in our dry storage area…so I will be eating a lot of THM meals that fall into the “E” category. I’ll add healthy fats to them for my kiddos and even some off plan sides for my kids and hubby because they don’t need to trim down (potatoes are a budget buddy!). So if you need to tweak this plan to fit your pantry, you go right ahead and do that, you fabulously frugal mama, you!
I currently feed 9 people: a very hard working husband, an incredibly active teenage son, two junior teens, 2 kids, 2 toddlers…and a trim healthy mama in a pear tree! This menu plan is for us all, so you may be able to (1) scale back and be even more frugal than me this week or (2) enjoy some great leftovers or have enough for company!
Prices are based on what I pay in the Birmingham, Alabama metro area with most of my shopping done either at Aldi or Walmart. If you live elsewhere, this will still be a frugal option for you, but prices may vary. This would cost me around $125 if I had to buy everything, but it’s going to cost me less than 1/2 of that because I shopped my pantry before making my plan. On to the frugal menu plan…
Breakfasts for the Frugal Menu: Total Cost $18
- EGGS: (for the THM, these will be “S” meals)
- I’ll make fried eggs sammies one day (2 pieces of bread with 1 fried egg in the middle and a banana on the side). For my THM adaptation, I’ll make Bread in a Mug for myself. Instead of fruit on the side, I’ll have a few tomato wedges and some jalapeno slices. This will be a solid “S” meal for me. This meal will cost me approx $3.50 to feed 9 of us, with my egg price being $1.89/dozen, the cheap bread at walmart for the rest of the family costing $1/loaf, and bananas running $0.56/lb.
- I’ll make scrambled omelettes another morning. I’ll scramble up 18 eggs, pour in some water and heavy cream, add spices (I like pink salt, fresh cracked pepper, a pinch of garlic, and some dill personally), and some diced bell peppers (they were 3/$1 at Aldi this past week). The kids and hubby will have break on the side. This will cost me $3.50 for 9 of us. **If you’ve already got things like pepperoni laying around, you can make a pizza omelette!
- Another simple egg meal around here is a hard boiled egg with 1/2 a smoothie on the side. My kids like this when we’re on the run. For the smoothie I’ll use cottage cheese, almond milk, some coconut oil, pumpkin, pumpkin pie spices, 2 frozen bananas spread across all of our smoothies, and ice. This will be a crossover meal, which I do still partake of a few times a week for simplicity’s sake, but this can easily be adapted if you just make yourself an S smoothie to go with the egg. Again, I’ll come in around $3.50 for the lot of us.
- OATMEAL: (for the THM, these will be “E” meals)
- We’ll have steel cut oats with diced pears cooked in. I dice up the pears and toss them in right away so they soften. I will use 3 pears for the whole family. I’ll sprinkle in cloves, cinnamon, and stevia extract for flavoring. I got organic steel cut oats on clearance at Aldi not that long ago, so this won’t cost me much at all. If I were shopping for the ingredients though, I’d spend about $2 for the meal.
- Peanut Butter Oatmeal is a huge hit around here. I make the oats on the stove top and stir in defatted peanut flour, which I already have on hand. I add about three good pinches of salt to the pot with 4 doonks of stevia. The kids may opt to add some chopped banana to theirs, but I just stick with the basic oats and a cup of tea for breakfast. This will run me about $1.50 for the meal, since I already have the defatted peanut flour.
- Last but not least is my Apple Pie Oatmeal. This is my favorite fall breakfast. I boil the water, steel cut oats, and three diced apples until the oats are tender. I sprink in pumpkin pie spice and 2 pinches of salt along with 3-4 doonks of stevia. It’s the perfect fall breakfast. And with apples less than $1/lb, it’s also super budget friendly. This will run me about $2 each breakfast.
Lunches for the Frugal Menu: Total Cost $27
- SALADS & MORE: I like to buy a big bag of romaine lettuce hearts for the week, which runs me about $3. Add in some cucumbers and tomatoes for another $3-$4 and I’m pretty much set for lunches for the week. I just use dinner leftovers with a side salad every day on a super frugal week. Total for salads (leftover prices included in dinner estimate): $7. **Hubby will take leftovers most days this week, although sometimes he just enjoys grabbing a sandwich.
- 1 day of Salsa Chicken & Black Bean casserole
- 1 day of Lentil Soup for the Soul
- 2 days of leftover Quinoa Lentil Chili
- 1 day of brown rice and chicken
- 1 day with leftover eggplant pizza
- The kids will eat PB&J twice, Rice and Beans twice, and baked potatoes with leftovers twice. This will cost me about $2/day for a total of $12.
- On Sunday we’ll have chili and sweet potatoes. Of course, I’m making a big pot of the quinoa lentil chili, so I can have it twice with a side salad for lunches! This will cost me nothing as I’ve got everything on hand that I need to make it, but the last time I bought everything for it I made a double batch for around $7.50 so that I could have some leftovers…which didn’t happen, because the kids liked it so much they had seconds and thirds. I now take my lunch portions out before serving, so that doesn’t happen (wink, wink).
Dinners for the Frugal Menu: Total Cost $59
- Zesty Salsa Chicken and Black Bean Casserole I’ll make a double batch, setting aside enough for 1 lunch for me and 1 lunch for hubby to take to work with him. This will run approx $8 (give or take, depending on what you have on hand. My actual cost was $3.50 because I have things here and I’m shopping my pantry!). (THM E)
- Lentil Soup for the Soul Again, this will get doubled so we have leftovers for lunches. This is a deliciously frugal soup option. Total cost for a double pot is $8, if you have the spices on hand but have to buy everything else. (THM E)
- Black Bean Dump Soup I’ll double this and we won’t have any leftovers. I’ll leave out the cauliflower and actually use some leftover chicken breast I have in the freezer. Again, this one won’t cost me anything because of what I have on hand, but we’ll estimate $8 because that’s about right from what I priced out. (THM E)
- Burgers. Yup, super simple. I buy a box of 40 burger patties at Sam’s for $20 about once every month or two. You can’t beat it…we get 5 dinners out of that box! I’ll add some cheese to them. The kids will have them on toasted bread while I eat mine in a lettuce wrap. On the side they’ll have potato wedges that I roast in the oven and for myself I’ll roast some squash the same way. $9 for the whole shebang! (THM S)
- Rotisserie Chicken and Brown Rice. $5 at Sam’s for the chicken, $1 for a lb of rice (which I’ll cook in my homemade bone broth). I’ll make sure I get only lean white meat so that I can be in E territory as a THM. I’ll saute some onion, garlic, celery, and bell pepper (or you could use seasoning mix from Walmart) in a skillet and then mix into the rice before serving (this adds $2). Again, leftovers for lunches. Total cost: $8.
- Eggplant pizzas. This is a new recipe for us, technically. We’ve had eggplant parm before and liked it, so I’m thinking calling it pizza will make it even more popular! I’ll probably give the kids some black olives, onions, ground sausage, etc to top their own so it’s even more fun. This will add to the cost, but I found sausage for $2/lb recently and have the veggies on hand already. I’m learning to grate my own cheese from a brick to save money, and have learned it tastes even better this way, too. We’ll use 3 eggplants for us all, so this will run $11 for us once I buy cheese and sausage.
- Black Bean Chicken Salad This would normally be more of a lunch, but we like a light dinner on Sundays because we eat a heartier midday meal. The kids will have a baked potato on the side with it. Again, I’m making enough for the whole fam, plus extras for both hubby and I for lunches. He’ll have his on bread; I’ll eat mine in a bowl with some blue corn chips on the side. Total cost for us all will be $7. (THM E)
Snacks: Total Cost $20
I’m using what I have on hand, for the most part. I don’t think snacks should be costly at all. Eat leftovers, eat what’s on sale. Don’t overeat. But kids like to snack, too, so I’m sharing what we’re doing this week to stay on track, frugal wise.
- Fresh pop popped corn – I buy the kernels maybe 3 times a year at Sam’s. The kids can pop it as much as they want. They usually melt some coconut oil and add pink salt and nutritional yeast, which makes this momma proud. Sometimes I’ll indulge in this crossover treat, because it’s super yummmmm.
- Carrots & Celery – at $1/lb, you can beat this as a snack! Sometimes I’ll make dip out of ranch seasoning and Greek yogurt, other times we just eat them plain. I buy 3 lbs a week.
- Apples – also only $1/lb right now. We’ll go through 6-9 lbs this week. Often they are eaten with peanut butter (I add water to the defatted peanut flour and enjoy them tremendously)
- Wasa Crackers and Light Laughing Cow Cheese (or Neufschatel cream cheese) with a thinly sliced tomato on top (and maybe some lunch meat if we have any)
- Blue corn chips and salsa
- Pinwheels – on plan wrap spread with 1/3 less fat cream cheese and topped with any leftover meat and diced veggies and then rolled up and sliced