Whenever I post one of our weekly menus, I seem to get an onslaught of questions. Rather than try and answer all the questions left on this week’s menu post in the comments section of the post, I’m answering some of them here:
Do you ever have to mix up your menus? Like when you forget to take the
meat out of the freezer? Do you just substitute another meal that you
planned for later in the week? I guess what I am asking is: is this a
*plan* or a *guide* for your meals?
Do I ever mix up the menus? Um, actually, I don’t think I’ve ever followed a menu completely accurately. That would be boring, you know. Just as I rarely ever follow a recipe to a tee and cannot–for the life of me–stick on a strict schedule, I also love to mix things up when it comes to menus.
The menu serves as my guide, not a rigid, must-follow-exactly taskmaster. I know that I have a plan in place for the week and enough food to carry out this plan but if another idea strikes my fancy, I can always change course in the middle of the week and make substitutions where needed.
I know that this method would drive some people batty, but it works well for highly-distracted "creative" people like me.
Your menus sound really yummy and healthy- do your kids eat the same as
you and your husband? I don’t see very much meat at all- what else are
you counting as a protein besides eggs?
We pretty much all eat the same; I’m not into making four different kinds of dinners–too much work for a simple person like me! I cook to please my husband primarily so I’ve tried to encourage my girls to learn to "eat what’s set before them". They don’t always eat everything but I do have them try everything and most of the time, require them to eat at least a bite or two of those items they aren’t very fond of.
I know that our menu might look shockingly protein-bare to the average American who has been raised that protein is only found in meat and eggs. In actuality, there is protein in a wide variety of food groups–even in fruit, believe it or not!
Since meat is expensive and many of the types out there are not that healthy anyway (hormone-laden, MSG-laden, etc.), we’ve opted to derive our protein from a variety of sources including cheese and dairy products, eggs, legumes, and vegetables.
We have at least one meat-heavy meal per week: hamburgers, beef hot dogs, barbecue meatballs, etc. We normally have one or two meatless meals per week (often lasagna, spaghetti casserole, or a Mexican dish–we just omit the meat and no one notices!). The rest of our dinners have some meat in them but it’s usually not in large quantities.
When we were first married, we were living on so little (less than $1000/month many months!) that we couldn’t afford much meat at all. We bought a bag of chicken from Aldi for $6.99 and this had to last us for two weeks. We didn’t buy beef at all for two years unless I could get it on some incredible mark-down price. We were willing to make these sacrifices because we wanted to stay out of debt through law school.
Now that our income has increased, we’ve been able to afford more meat, but we still have limited it as this helps keep our grocery bill lower. However, we are planning to purchase a freezer and a fourth of a cow from a local farm whenever our tax stimulus check decides to mosey it’s way to our mailbox. Since we’ll have a freezer full of hormone-free, organic beef, I’m guessing meat might make its way into more of our meals. We’ll see!
I am curious, how do you afford to eat dinner out once per week on your budget??
Our eating out budget is separate from our grocery budget. I know this really throws some people off, but it’s just the way we roll.
We like to go out to eat and since we’re currently living on almost less than half of our income, it’s a splurge we’ve decided to allow ourselves.
That said, when we go out to eat, we do it the frugal way: we use coupons, we go to inexpensive restaurants, we hit the free birthday dinners and other free restaurant deals, we order water, we split entrees, and so forth.
For some, going out to eat is a $40 or more affair. For us, we can often get in and out for less than $20 (or less than $10 if it’s fast food).
We don’t always go out to eat once per week, but I would say that we usually go out at least once a week–sometimes for dinner, sometimes for lunch or breakfast on the weekends, or sometimes for dessert if our eating out budget is almost maxed out for the month!
Where is the meat from your menu plan coming from? (BBQ Beef Pizza,
hamburgers, taco salad, etc.). Are you pulling that from previous
stock-ups? How much of your 2-week menu plan is leveraged from stock
vs. this 2-week trip?
When there is a good deal on meat, I usually try to buy enough to last for at least two weeks (provided I can wing it in our $40/week budget). Since not every kind of meat is on sale every week, this ensures more variety and it usually means that we have at least some beef and some chicken to work with each week.
You can see what we bought at the store for this two-week trip here. I already had 2 pounds of ground beef in the freezer, taco salad meat made up and frozen, plus some lunch meat on hand. In addition, I bought two packages of chicken and a package of beef hot dogs. At the rate we’re going, we’ll still have some of this left to use for next week since we’ve ended up with more leftovers this week than I was counting on (better to be over-prepared than under-prepared, right?).
As suggestions for you how about making casseroles, soups, stews, salads with some meat. There’s also pasta and rice dishes (spaghetti & meatballs, fettucini alfredo with chicken or shrimp, paella, spanish rice, etc.) Of course it’s hotter right now, so you may need to adjust some of the suggestions. These are all dishes you can adjust the amount of meat you use. Many of the above meals can be made lower-carb too if needed.
If you have a basic cookbook, try looking through that for ideas. I always get inspiration that way.
Your post was very practical and shows how you can have meat in your diet but still cut back.
I do everything you are doing as well. My budget is lower because I purchase less meat and feel we are healthier for it.
Thanks for sharing your ideas.
I have learned to compromise on this. I never really felt like I had to have meat with every meal before I was married. My husband, on the other hand, grew up in a farmer’s family and he is a huge meat eater. He doesn’t feel like dinner is dinner without some meat at least. It’s probably psychological more than a need. He grew up that way. But I have learned how to please him and still stretch the meat out so that we aren’t getting too expensive or unhealthy. For example, I will make a 9×13 casserole of rice and broccoli, add one breast of chicken, and that meal will feed us and our toddler for two dinners and a lunch. Chicken can be put in lots of soups too. My husband likes meatballs, so I make them very small and ration them out in our spaghetti or whatever. Ground beef can be browned and mixed with just about any casserole or italian meal. If the recipe calls for a pound, I use half that and substitute veggies. I rarely buy a roast. If I see one for really cheap, I will buy it and we splurge on that meal. Leftovers from a roast make a great stew, and the stew can be stretched with more veggies than meat as well as noodles or rice. I buy a ham maybe three times a year. On top of that I get two or three hams for free with grocery store promos in our area. I watch deals and buy the biggest bone-in ham I can get. We have one big meal with it and I freeze the rest in small chunks for casseroles. One ham will usually give us five to eight meals. Pork chops are a rarety since I haven’t found a good way to make them stretch.
Also, I keep a price book on our meats. That way, I recognize a good meat deal when I see it. In general, ground beef is usually a good deal in our area if it is less than $2 per pound. Bone-in chicken is always cheaper than boneless, and I stock up when I see it cheaper than $.70 per pound. I actually saw it go as cheap as $.49 cents/# a while back. I grabbed up a bunch of it and we ate chicken for a good long time. I would love to do the 1/4 cow thing, but will need a bigger freezer for that. I’m not even sure where to go for them in our area since ranchers seem few and far between in my state.
So, it is possible to please your hubby with a meaty diet and still be conscious about the amount of meat you are eating or how much money you are spending on it.
We’re trying to cut down on the meat but I’m at a loss for recipes that are somewhat close to “normal” food, if you get my drift. I have a vegitarian cookbook that’s full of odd stuff no one around here would eat! If anyone has recipes to share that would be great!
good post. It’s funny but i find the only time i feel like we NEED to have meat is when we have company 🙂
also if my hubby wants wants a steask.. ummm. i dont trust my skills and we go to Longhorn 🙂
Lori – it’s not true that you have to eat a lot of beans to get the same amount of iron as in meat sources. 3 ounces of pork loin has 0.8 mg of iron, 1 cup of lentils has 6.6 mg of iron. They’re different forms, and the animal heme is absorbed around 10% better than the non-heme (plant based), but beans can be MUCH higher sources than meat, making the absorption differences a wash. Eating citrus with plant iron can increase absorption.
My husband and I eat a tomato based lentil casserole that is fantastic. We also eat spicy pinto bean burgers that are great (and we don’t even miss the meat!).
Vegetarians don’t eat meat, yet they’re not anemic. It’s a matter of paying attention to what you eat, and a good daily multivitamin can’t hurt, either!
Hi! i know on your old money making mom blog you did a series on blogging. can u repost this series or do a new one? thanks!
Instead of rewtiting this tip I will give you the link to the way we saved money while eating out.
Plus we do have tons of coupons.
We love your site and I hope this is of some help.
Okay, so now I am going to ask a question from your question-answering post. 😉
My main concern about meat is not the protein, but the iron. My husband is a runner. (He runs a LOT) When he doesn’t get enough iron, he can tell. But I haven’t been buying much meat lately because there haven’t any good deals. I usually spend about $4 for a pound of good, lean ground beef, then try to stretch it by adding TVP, beans, barley, etc.
So, he’s been feeling sluggish lately, and he thinks it’s because we haven’t been eating much meat. I am trying to sneak in spinach where I can, but that is actually expensive too, and even with beans you have to eat A LOT of them to make up for the iron you’d normally get from red meat.
So, my question is two-part. What price do you consider a “good deal” on something simple like ground beef? And, do you have any tips for finding good deals on beef?
I really applaud your efforts (especially in this area). We shop and plan similarly (healthy foods, scratch cooking, using less meat), except that prices are a little higher here in New England.
Right now I am trying to purchase only what is needed. Thanks to your site I’ve been able to stock up a little bit on some pantry items, so I really only need to buy basics right now.
Considering the economy, I love it when I don’t even have to purchase much to get by, or when I can leave the store with free or almost free items. I’m especially grateful for some of the natural items you’ve posted about lately, thank you.
Wow thank you for answering all those great questions so thoroughly!
This is a great post. I often wonder about the ‘practical application’ of all this planning and buying (or not buying because the items are free). It’s great to see how it’s actually done.
Free lunchmeat! Details on my blog…feel free to pass along.
I guess you’re lucky that your husband is willing to skip meat. Not mine or any of the other husbands of my friends. Must have meat and potatoes at every meal- we’re talking either steak or chicken or pork chops. He would never eat a vegetarian meal! I feel I should please hime since he works.
Susan Godfrey says
I would love to know how everyone organizes their coupons. I use a coupon binder and a coupon spread sheet. You can see how I create my coupon spread sheet and why I do it at my blog…
for me this works REALLY well, so I thought I’d share. Maybe it might help some of your readers 🙂
I’m really enjoying this blog of yours and I’m hoping it will help me save some money on groceries and sundries. I use to be a “coupon queen” back before we moved out here. But, I gave up doing it because there just weren’t any good stores here. Thankfully, I recently found a Kroger in another town about 30-45 minutes away. It also has a CVS, Walgreens and Wal-mart, so…I’m back to collecting coupons again!