Thursday, January 30, 2014

$50 Weekly Menu...No Beans or Rice Version!

It's almost inevitable...try to find recipes for budget friendly meals, and you're immediately bombarded with more bean and rice recipes than you can stomach. Now, don't get me wrong, my slow cooker black beans and slow cooker refried beans are family favorites, but there's only so much you can take. Luckily, you can make low cost meals with ingredients you'd normally just need a plan to stretch your ingredients! I made all these meals...with enough leftovers for a few days of lunches...for only $50.

Here's what's on the menu at our house this week:
*Chicken Noodle Soup
*BBQ Chicken English Muffin Pizzas with Fruit Salad
*Omelet Bar with Fruit Salad (fillings include bell pepper, mushrooms, cheese, onion, and bacon)
*Spaghetti topped with Bell Peppers and Mushrooms, and Broccoli
*Baked Potato Bar with Broccoli (toppings include cheese, sour cream, onion, and bacon)

Strategy #1-Remember How to Stretch Your Meat
-For this week I only needed 3 chicken breasts and one package of bacon. Two of the chicken breasts were cooked and chopped for chicken soup, and the other chicken breast was shredded for our BBQ Chicken English Muffin Pizzas. Two chicken breasts in the soup spread enough for about 8-10 servings of soup (we had plenty of leftovers), and one shredded chicken breast made 12 BBQ Chicken English Muffin Pizzas.

One package of bacon also lasted all week. Since I cooked up the bacon and then crumbled it for the omelets and baked potato bar, I get the flavor and heartiness of the smoky and delicious bacon without spending a ton or using a lot.

Strategy #2-Simple Side Dishes
-The side dishes for the pizza and omelet bar are just simple, in season cut up fruit. Right now we're getting good deals on apples, pineapple, and bananas. (Even organic fruit is inexpensive when on sale!) 
-The other days I'm just steaming up broccoli. I like to buy the frozen bags from Trader Joes, but fresh is fine too. I think the frozen is a better price for more consistent quality, though.

Strategy #3-Make Dishes Where a Little Goes a Long Way
-As I mentioned above with the bacon, omelets and baked potatoes are great conduits for quality ingredients, but not having to use too much to get a ton of flavor. I only purchased one bag of cheese--none of the meals too much cheese--and only purchased one bag of mushrooms and one bell pepper. By cutting up the veggies I was able to add some to the omelets, and the rest I sauteed in butter and olive oil with salt and pepper as a delicious topping to our basic spaghetti with red sauce.

What are your favorite low cost meals--that don't involve beans and rice? I'd love to have you share your recipe or link in the comments!

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