Healthy Budget Friendly Meals - A Week of Meals for Under $50

Healthy Meals on a Budget Can Happen for Less than $50

About a year ago, I really got fed up with food waste at our house.  Much of it had to do with shopping without a list and household inventory.  The other culprit was cooking more food than we could eat.

Over the past few months, I feel like I have gotten this problem pretty much under control.  First, I am cooking less each week and eating more left overs.  I am also freezing more food and using what I have frozen in the meal rotation for the next week.

But the big thing that I have done is cooking up what we have at the end of each week and month.  This helps to rotate out my pantry while being creative with our meals.  I love the challenge of looking through my pantry, fridge and freezer and coming up with a combination of meals.  I build a shopping list around what I have and fill in the gaps.

This week, I had:
  • Wasa crackers
  • Olive tapenade
  • Canned Beans
  • Enchilada Sauce
  • Green Chiles
  • Polenta
  • Canned Cherries
  • Coconut Milk
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Frozen Ham
  • Frozen cooked chicken
  • Soup
  • Tuna
  • Hot Dog Buns
  • Cabbage
  • Pizza Sauce
  • Assorted Cheeses
  • Sweet Potato Tortilla Chips

Based on this assortment of items and the standard pantry items that I have and common items like eggs, milk, and butter, I was able to come up with a pretty good menu.
  • Quinoa Enchilada Bake
  • Eggs in Purgatory with Polenta and Arugula
  • Mushroom Pizza with roasted Broccoli*
  • Ham, Cornbread Muffins and Cabbage
  • Tuna Rolls, Fruit and Chips
  • Bake Sweet Potatoes with Firecracker Chicken and Blue Cheese Topping
*And remember that meal plans are just that.  Plans.  They can be changed or altered based on your schedule.  This is my original plan.  Before the end of the week, I altered this meal item.  Keep reading to see how this changed.  

In addition to this, I have items for lunch, snacks and breakfasts by having:
  • leftovers
  • Wasa Crackers with Assorted Toppings
  • Breakfast Rice Pudding with Coconut Milk and Cherries
  • Breakfast Smoothies
  • Soup and Sandwiches
To make my meals work, I made a list that added up to less than $45 groceries for the week.  This included:
  • Milk - Both Nut Milk and Whole Milk (we use both)
  • Eggs - We already had some, but we eat a lot of eggs for both meals and snacks.
  • Cream Corn
  • Chick Peas
  • Crushed Tomatoes
  • Feta
  • Blue Cheese
  • Sour Cream
  • Kale
  • Mushrooms
  • Onion
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Bananas
  • Apples
  • Avocados
  • Soup

If you don't know where to start, then get in your pantry and start pulling things out and grouping them together.  For example, artichoke hearts, pasta and chick peas (or other beans) are the start to a great pasta salad that can be made and eaten for an evening meal or for lunches during the week.  Most every home has the ingredients for a breakfast meal at any time.  Pull out all of the cheeses from the fridge and see if it is enough to make a homemade mac and cheese.  It is easy to put things together.  And if you are stuck, group things you think that go together and look for recipes based on groups or singular items you have online.  I do this often!  Pinterest and other online recipe sources are your friends.

Don't forget about staple items like dried beans or frozen vegetables that can easily be made into a soup or stew.  The fun in the challenge of stretching what you have into something yummy.  

When I first started doing this, my husband asked if we were broke.  I told him no that I wanted to use what we had before we bought anything else.  Now, he never even notices this process.  

One thing that really helps with this process is freezing food.  Small amounts of meat from a cooked chicken, ham or roast can really add a lot to a casserole or soup.

The first meal that we had from this week's menu was the Eggs in Purgatory.  It is a recipe that I found on Pinterest from another blogger.  This is actually Poached Eggs in Spicy Tomato Sauce with Chick Peas and Feta.  I didn't use the jalapenos and substituted red chilli flakes in its place.  The dish has a great spice to it with sweet paprika, cumin and chilli powder to complement the onion and garlic.  Complete with the chick peas and eggs, this is a hearty dish and perfect for cold winter nights.  I sliced the polenta roll from my pantry and warmed on a skillet topping with the egg dish and adding a little arugula garnish.  This could also be served with crusty bread.  There is no wrong way to do this.

Since we normally have breakfast shakes during the week, I enjoy having something different on the weekend.  A breakfast pudding is perfect.  Using the coconut milk and canned cherries, I added some farro, brown rice, spices and honey to create a nice Saturday morning breakfast.  Toasted nuts or coconut could be added to this.  I don't really have a recipe, I just prepare rice to make a creamy pudding and season with cinnamon and honey to taste.  It is easy and everyone at my house loves it.  Top it with a little plain Greek yogurt, and this is the perfect breakfast treat for the weekend.  Every ingredient for this breakfast I had on hand either in my pantry or fridge.

Weekend meals are sometimes hard when we are busy working on projects.  Since we are trying to finish our pop up camper remodel, I decided to take the easy way out on Saturday night.  I roasted some sweet potatoes then filled them with left over spicy chicken from my freezer.  I topped with a little smoked blue cheese and broiled.  These were served with a size of broccoli.  Easy, healthy and delicious!

My weekends are time when I normally cook and prep food for when I'm out of town.  This weekend was no exception.  I made a quinoa enchilada bake and some tuna salad for tuna rolls.  Both of these could be used for dinner and enjoyed as left overs.

Finally, I cooked a dinner of ham, cabbage and cornbread muffins.  The muffins make a lot and can be stored in the fridge and reheated over the week to have with soup, or other left overs from the weekend.

Toward the end of this week, I decided that I didn't want to make pizza, and I've been on a polenta kick.  So, we had polenta with kale and mushrooms.  It is an Epicurious recipe that is delicious!  It was nice to have something besides pizza since we have that often.  And the left over polenta will make nice breakfast bowls during the week with poached eggs and avocados.

And that is a week of meals with only $45 of groceries and my pantry items. Yes.  This is actually more than $45 worth of groceries to make all of these meals.  But it shows how taking what you have stretch your budget and make creative use items from the pantry and freezer.

If you are looking for more inspiration on how to make healthy and budget friendly meals, follow a foodie on pinterest or instagram that inspires you.  One thing that I hear from others trying to cook at home is how uninspired they are, short on time or just bored with the same thing.  Social media is a great way to get out of that rut.  There are so many healthy ways that you can spice us your diet that you and your family will never be bored with week night or weekend meals.

Do you create meals using what you have on hand?  How do you creatively use leftovers to feed yourself or family?  Feel free to comment about how you manage meals at home.  I hope that this inspired you to be more creative in the kitchen.  I'm always looking for new ways to use fresh ingredients.  I hope that you will share your ideas!  Have a great week!