Having 3 teenagers, 1 pre-teen, the kids’ friends, and random people that stay for dinner requires creativity with budgeting. Knowing that my kids eat everything in sight stretches my cooking abilities and menu planning. Granted, our food budget may seem high, but I have a bunch of kids that like to eat. We also eat healthy foods, which cost a bit more than the junk foods that are crowding our grocery stores. I have some tips that I have used over the years that allow me to save money and time!
- Plan ahead! When making a menu, I know ahead of time what I am going to fix. The kids no longer ask “what’s for dinner?” since they can look on the refrigerator and answer their own question.
- Take a shopping list! Since I tend to have ADHD, I will often write things down and then promptly forget the list. Since I have a menu planned, it allows me to make a shopping list, and I know exactly how long things should last and when I need to get some fresh produce.
- Make “Plan Aheads!” Plan aheads involve cooking things ahead of time, and using them in the near future. This saves time and money!
- Use freezer meals! When I place meals in the freezer, I can pull them out on busy days when I need a break, or I can save it for a night when I will be gone all day and not home cooking. Saving money by not eating out and instead using the food in the freezer allows me to spend a bit more in the food budget.
Sample Menu: CHICKEN WEEK! (Chicken was on sale, so I planned my dinner menu around affordable items) I use leg quarters when I can get them on sale for $.59 pound, and I can buy 2 packages for about $12. This will feed our family of 6 for the week!
To get started, bake at least 1-10 pound package, and simmer the other one with herbs and salt to shred later in the week, and to make a broth for soup.
Monday: Baked Chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans
Tuesday: Chicken with pasta. Take baked chicken, sautéed vegetables, and mix it with cooked pasta. Either add a red sauce or an alfredo sauce to make it a meal. Add salad or fresh fruit, and it is dinner in a few minutes!
Wednesday: Chicken Enchiladas. Using the shredded chicken, add enchilada sauce and let set for a few minutes. You can add all kinds of vegetables, or just leave it plain. I add cream cheese in mine to make it yummy and creamy, but just make sure that the chicken mixture is not too runny, but yet still moist. Using corn or flour tortilla shells, spoon chicken mixture onto one end of the tortilla shell, sprinkle with cheese, and roll. Place the seam side down in a baking dish. After filling the dish, spread more sauce over the enchiladas and sprinkle with cheese. Bake until warm and bubbly. Serve with rice or beans.
Thursday: BBQ chicken sandwiches. Using the baked chicken, shred the chicken, add barbeque sauce and warm through. Place onto buns and serve with baked beans and possibly slaw.
Friday: Chicken Tostados. This is a very inexpensive meal! Using either the baked or simmered chicken, cut chicken into small pieces, and mix with refried beans. Spread them onto a corn tortilla shell, add cheese, and bake until the shell is crisp. (tostado shells are available and it saves time) When baking is done, sprinkle with shredded lettuce and diced fresh tomatoes.
Saturday: Chicken Salad and Soup. Make a salad and add chicken pieces for added protein. Use the chicken broth to make a soup with chicken and mixed vegetables.
Sunday: Chicken and Rice Casserole. Cook 1 ½ cups of rice; when rice is finished, add cooked chicken, and your favorite cream of _______ soup, with a little milk. Add broccoli or other vegetables for a complete meal. Bake with cheese until warmed through.
This was an easy, inexpensive, but yet healthy way to use up 20 pounds of chicken. Be creative and figure out what your family likes to eat and see how you can plan ahead to save money. I do not use preservatives or convenience foods, but this menu can be altered to meet your family’s needs.
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