See my healthy budget meal planning process in action! Week 1’s meal plan includes lots of colorful veggies and quick, easy dinners.
This post is the second in a six-part series devoted to healthy, sustainable meal planning on a budget. Find the other posts here:
This week was a rough one for us financially. We’ve been going through the ringer with both of our jobs, and while I’m applying for higher-paying options around the clock, nothing has worked out yet. SO, here we are, with an even lower grocery budget than usual. I typically spend about $70 a week on groceries, but this week I had to get everything for $50 or less.
Fortunately, I’m a ~valued Kroger customer~, so they mailed me a ton of great coupons for products I usually buy! After coupons, I was able to get out the door for a grand total of $48.32. That’s including breakfast, dinner, and snacks, because we typically just eat leftovers for lunch.
Here’s how this week shook out in more detail.
The Meal Planning Process
Don’t forget to download my free printable meal planning worksheets so you can follow along with meal plans of your own!
My cabinets were fairly well-stocked this week, which made planning and shopping a whole lot easier. I already had nearly all the ingredients on hand to make my Thai Curry Noodle Soup, along with most of the things I needed to make my Instant Pot Red Lentil Dal. I also had plenty of rice to make a rice-centered version of my Veggie Fried Quinoa. My pantry is always stocked with a variety of Asian sauces, oils, and vinegars for quick meals like this one!
So, a lot of this week’s meal planning was done for me based on what I already had in my cabinets; I just had to fill in the gaps. I knew I wanted a make-ahead breakfast for Kyle to reheat during the work week, so I chose Budget Bytes’ Veggie Packed Freezer Breakfast Sandwiches. Since this week was pretty light on evening plans, I needed one more dinner recipe, too. I decided on my Crispy Avocado Tacos, because they’re AMAZING and avocados were on sale.
Add to that a couple staples, like butter and panko bread crumbs. Throw in some snacky items, like hummus and Larabars. The garbanzo beans were for another recipe I’m testing, plus I like to keep extra cans on hand just in case.
What I Bought
A block of firm tofu, roasted red pepper hummus, butter, frozen spinach, frozen peas, 18 eggs (we eat a lot of eggs!), English muffins, and a pack of sharp white cheddar slices.
Red cabbage, broccoli, cilantro, ginger, Roma tomatoes, red onion, avocados, red bell pepper, oranges, button mushrooms, one lonely sweet potato, a bunch of bananas, and some organic baby spinach.
Vegetable broth, ground turmeric to replace my old, empty jar, panko bread crumbs, chickpeas, full-fat coconut milk, and blueberry muffin Larabars (our favorite quick snack).
What We Ate
I’d tested this recipe a few times before, but this week I was finally ready to put on the finishing touches and photograph it! The broth is jammed with tons of flavor from Thai curry paste, coconut milk, and fresh ginger. This time I made it with thin rice noodles because I had them on hand, but I’ve also made it with flat, wide rice noodles and it was delicious that way too! It’s a perfect canvas for all sorts of veggies, but this time I added sweet potato, baby spinach, and red onion. Top with some cilantro and a squeeze of lime to really bring it home.
An oldie but goodie from the Feelin’ Whisky archives, and one that I desperately need to re-shoot. I actually made it with regular white rice this time, but it’s delicious with just about any grain! The beauty of this recipe is that it’s so customizable. Skip the oyster sauce if you’d like, and sub in any veggies that tickle your fancy. If you’re really pinched for cash, you could even throw in some frozen mixed veg for just a few cents per serving!
Ooh baby. These tacos are DA BOMB. They’re crispy and creamy and spicy and tangy, and they really just hit all the right spots. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT, skip out on the paprika aioli or the pickled cabbage slaw. When you pair ’em together, all the flavors just sing.
The ultimate budget recipe. I always keep red lentils on hand because they’re one of the cheapest protein sources out there; my local Fresh Thyme sells them in bulk for between $3 and $4 a pound. That’s about 15 servings, which works out to about $0.25 a serving. This recipe does have a lot of spices, so if you don’t have a well-stocked spice cabinet and you’re short on funds, save this one for another week. My best advice is to stock up on spices when you have a few extra bucks, and then you’ll have way more options when rent week rolls around.
Veggie Packed Freezer Ready Breakfast Sandwiches by Budget Bytes
Kyle is, and I cannot stress this enough, NOT a morning person. Not. At all. He loathes mornings and even the early afternoon, so on busy weekday mornings, he literally just won’t eat unless there’s something readily available. I’ve taken to prepping a simple, microwaveable breakfast recipe early in the week so he’ll have something to fumble for when he’s bleary-eyed and staggering around the kitchen. These breakfast sandwiches are a staple in our freezer!
I was really proud of how well I stuck to my budget this week! There are things I would love to add, like some extra snack items and fruit, but I’ve been buying the bare minimum until I can land a more lucrative job. Overall, we were able to eat well this week. We had an excellent balance of health food and comfort food, so there were plenty of options.
I saved a significant amount of money this week by seeking out marked-down items. Kroger is an outstanding option for this, as are others like Meijer, Publix, and H-E-B. If you’re able to use coupons, definitely take the time to do so!