REAL, FRUGAL, HEALTHY, and FUN!!!
Sometimes money is tight. It can make healthy eating seem impossible. Believe me, I know. My family happens to be one of those military families who bought a house right before the market crashed almost 10 years ago. Then, right after the crash, we came down on orders to move. Talk about stress! Because of the devastating drop in value, we’ve been renting it out. Our latest tenant decided to stop paying rent several months ago. We had to cover our rent, the mortgage on that house, hire an attorney, and well… it’s not entirely over yet. She’s been evicted, but she made the place a storage unit, and her stuff is all still inside.
So, you may be wondering, ‘Have we been forced to live on Ramen noodles?’ Not yet. Thank goodness, too. My tummy would not be happy on a Ramen noodle diet. However, we have been much more financially aware while grocery shopping. I’ve done a post on saving money while eating healthy before, but today I want to share with you an example of what a week looks like for my family and I in this situation. I’m going to share with you the meal plan I’ve come up with for this week. Obviously, it is merely an example that may give you some ideas. We all like different things and have different dietary restrictions.
So, for my grocery, I planned meals for 5 days. Technically, I’m planning on this lasting 6 or 7, but I tend to “over shop.” Then, I have too much, and things go to waste. For that reason, I always meal plan for 1 or 2 days less than I need to. On that last day or 2, sometimes dinner is very creative, and sometimes it is better than anything I could have planned. It all depends on what is left.
For the breakfasts this week, I am making a very large batch of chia pudding. I basically follow the ratio of 1 part chia seeds to 4 parts liquid, lately. I’m using almond milk for my liquid. My boys and I will probably top our chia pudding with fruit.
For the lunches, I have boiled a ton of eggs. I also have a lot of fresh fruits and veggies.
Snacks are going to be fruit and homemade rice pudding. I have a hard time with rice, but my boys like it when I put cooked rice in the crock pot with some type of non-dairy milk (this week it’ll be coconut) and maple syrup. It’s very inexpensive, and it keeps their tummies full. We happen to have a huge bag of rice. I can only eat small amounts, and my boys only care to eat it with their dinner occasionally, but they love this simplified rice pudding, anytime.
Alright, dinners! This is where I think it gets fun. Let me share with you the 5 dinners I planned.
1. Southwest Salad, I bought a salad bag (the kind that have a mix of vegetables) and some lettuce. The salad bag allows me to have more color, and the lettuce stretches it a little further. I threw in 3/4 lb of ground beef. It’s just enough, which is the goal for a frugal menu plan. We had salsa and greek yogurt, so I used those for toppings/dressings. I don’t do a lot of dairy, but I tolerate yogurt, and the occasional hard cheese. I thru in a light sprinkling of cheddar cheese.
2. Zucchini Boats. This recipe comes from The Fit Housewife. I’m using ground beef rather than turkey because it was cheaper, and I’m able to use it in all of this weeks dinners. Also, I’m only using 3/4 lb.
3. Basic Quiche. This recipe comes from Paleo Leap. It’s so basic and easy! I love the idea of a meatless dinner. It really helps keep costs down. Still, with all of the eggs in this recipe, it still packs a ton of protein.
4. Sweet Potato Pizza Casserole. For this dinner, I just chop up onion, green pepper, mushrooms, tomato, and garlic. I mix the chopped veggies with 3/4 lb cooked ground beef. I spread the veggies and meat in the bottom of a greased 9″x13″ pan. I pour a jar of pizza sauce (pick one that fits your dietary parameters) over the veggies and meat. In a separate bowl, I mix 2 mashed sweet potato’s with a little butter and garlic, and plop it on top of the pizza sauce. I bake the whole thing at 350′ for about 30-40 minutes. I’ll post the recipe in better detail with a picture later this week. I don’t have a picture at the moment. It’s just a dish I make from time to time. It’s very forgiving. You can really vary measurements and even swap out ingredients.
5. Spaghetti. Just about everyone loves spaghetti, and it is so inexpensive to make. Unfortunately, I can’t eat the noodles without stomach problems. They make really good gluten-free noodles, but I’m going with zoodles (zucchini noodles). They are even cheaper – usually. I’m using a jar of sauce that I am comfortable with (fits my dietary parameters). I’m going to add 3/4 lb ground beef to beef it up.
Now, I’m not sharing this, expecting any of you to run to the store and mimic my meal plan. If you want to, you are more than welcome to. I’m actually just sharing it so that you can see what can be done. A tight budget doesn’t have to mean the end to healthy eating. I can’t stress eggs enough. They’re such an inexpensive, versatile source of protein.
If you have any other tips or recipes that help you stick to healthy eating on a budget, please share them in the comments.