If you know you have a rough week ahead take an afternoon to prepare all of your meals, including breakfast, lunch, dinner AND snacks
Cheap Meals to Prepare ahead
(the 1 week plan)
For a printable version of Grocery List click HERE For a printable version of the Menu click HERE For Recipies in EXCEL format click HERE For Instruction in WORD format click HERE
This post was inspired while paying my bills last month. Summers are crazy busy as we never seem to be home long enough to actually prepare and cook a meal. I realized I was spending WAY too much money on convenience foods because I simply couldn’t find the time to prepare 3 meals for each day. Knowing I needed to avoid completely emptying my wallet on food each month I wrote the following menu to be used in times of financial stress, busy nights, or simply weeks when you are thinking ahead and wanting to be prepared.
In an effort to minimize the bottom line at the grocery store this menu was written in hopes to use a lot of food storage items like rice, flour, canned beans, etc. If you don’t already have a lot of these things I recommend spending an additional 50 – 100 dollars stocking up.
Of course the shopping list comes first. I have separated the food list into two categories; the first contains items I will find in my food storage (I have included a few prices to give you an idea of what your total cost will be if you need to include these items in your shopping), the second section is the actual shopping list. The total was about $104. This amount includes everything for 5 breakfasts, 5 lunches, 5 dinners and 5 snacks for 4-6 people (depending on how little your people are). That works out to be about $1.73 per meal per person or $20.78 for the whole family each day. If you are looking to save even more money you could eliminate the popcorn, M&M’s, Bagels, Cream Cheese, and bacon. These 5 items alone cost over $16. Also, keep in mind you will likely have leftovers. The frozen burrito recipe will make over 20 burritos to help stock your freezer for dirt cheap. You may also want to keep in mind that I do not shop at the cheapest grocery store. I am an avid Wal-Mart Hater so I do my best to avoid shopping there, even though many times I can get more for less $.
Now that the shopping is all done this is where the fun begins. Not only does this menu provide a relatively low cost week to soften the impact on your budget but it can also be a MAJOR time saving device! If you have an entire 3-4 hours to devote to cooking a weeks’ worth of meals you will have very little to prepare each day and almost nothing to clean up (except the dishes you eat off). However, even if you only have an hour you can still make a HUGE dent in your cooking time and the number of preparation dishes you have to clean. I recommend enlisting the help of your husband on a weekend.
Step one is to do all of the 'cooking' (meat, rice and potatoes). Even if time does not permit you to completely finish everything on the week long menu, you will save a great deal of time if your meat is cooked and waiting in the refrigerator. You will need 1 large frying pan, 1 small sauce pan, 1 medium sauce pan, 1 large sauce pan and a crock pot. This is a multi-tasking project, don't wait until you finish one step before moving to the next! Plan on being done in an hour and a half.
- About 3 hours before you actually ‘begin’ your cooking spree place a 2lb pork roast in a crock pot with 1 cup water and 1 cup BBQ sauce.
- In a small sauce pan bring 3 cups water to a boil, add 2 cups rice (1 cup for frozen burritos 1 cup for Sweet and Sour Meatballs). Cover, reduce heat to low and allow to cook for 15 minutes or until water is absorbed and rice is tender. Set aside. When cool divide in half, place half in a sandwich bag and store with meatballs, reserve the other half for frozen burritos.
- Place 10 eggs in a medium sauce pan and cover with water. Bring water to a boil and set the timer for 11 minutes. Rinse eggs under cold water to stop cooking. Mark as ‘boiled’ and return to the refrigerator. (5 for egg salad sandwiches, 5 for creamed eggs on toast).
- Cook bacon in frying pan over medium heat until desired crispiness. Allow to bacon to cool, place in a ziplock bag and refrigerate. (6 slices for breakfast, 6 slices for creamed corn with bacon).
- In the same pan you cooked the bacon in quickly brown the pork chops (the bacon drippings will add great flavor). Allow to cool, place in a ziplock bag with 1 cup of uncooked rice and refrigerate. (to serve you will simply place pork chops and rice in a large casserole dish, cover with 2 cans Beef Consommé and cook at 350 for 1 hour. Dinner prep for this night literally only takes 60 seconds.)
- In a medium sauce pan (the same one used for the eggs) bring water to a boil . While the water is boiling peel sweet potatoes (or regular potatoes if your family prefers) and cut into 1 inch slices. Add to boiling water and cook for 15 minutes or until tender. Drain and run under cold water. Place in a ziplock bag or a plastic container and refrigerate.
- In a large sauce pan bring water to a boil. Add a nickel size circle of spaghetti and cook al dente (not too soft).
- While potatoes and spaghetti are cooking wipe the bacon grease out of the frying pan and brown 1lb ground beef. Chop an onion and a green pepper, add 1/2 cup each to beef (save remaining veggies for other meals).
- When spaghetti is done, drain and return to a warm saucepan. Stir in 1 tbsp butter, 1 egg and ¼ cup parmesan cheese. Stir well until egg is evenly distributed and butter and cheese are melted. Spray a 9inch pie plate with pam. Press spaghetti mixture onto the bottom and up the sides of the pie plate forming a crust. Spread cottage cheese and beef mixture (from #8) over crust. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Allow to cool, wrap with tinfoil and refrigerate or freeze.
- In a medium mixing bowl combine 1lb ground beef, ½ tsp salt, ¼ tsp pepper, 1 egg, 2 tbsp milk, 2 tbsp flour. Mix well by hand and roll into 1” meatballs. Cook in frying pan (the same one you browned the 1st lb of beef in) until all sides are brown and cooked through. Allow to cool, place in a ziplock bag, refrigerate (or freeze) next to 1 ½ cups cooked rice from step #1.
- Wipe out frying pan. Cut chicken breasts into 1 inch cubes. Melt butter frying pan. Cook chicken in butter over medium heat until cooked through. Remove chicken. Stir 2 tbsp flour into drippings. Add 1 cup chicken broth and ½ cup half-and-half to the skillet. Stir and cook until the sauce bubbles and thickens. Add 2 tbsp mustard. Allow sauce and chicken to cool then place in a ziplock bag. Refrigerate or freeze. (Option 2 - prepare sauce just before serving, it only takes a minute if the chicken is already cooked!)
- Remove pork from slow cooker. Shred and divide in half. Place one half in the refrigerator or freezer for Grilled Cheese and Pork sandwiches. To the remaining half (for lettuce wraps) add; 3 tbsp soy sauce, 2 tsp olive oil, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp onion powder, 1 tsp ground ginger and a dash of pepper. Store in refrigerator near sweet potatoes or freeze.
You have now successfully prepared 5 meals and paved the way to quickly assembling 10 more. If you are out of time or are simply tired of being in the kitchen go ahead and be done. Follow the menu plan for the remainder of the week and you will be surprised how quickly your meals come together. Or, if you are feeling ambitious continue to the next set of instructions.
The LUNCH assembly process:
- In a large strainer empty the contents of 2 cans black beans, 1 can pinto beans, 1 can chicken, 1 can corn, 1 can diced tomato with onion and 1 ½ cups cooked rice (from step 2 of the cooking section). Mix contents well. In each flour tortilla place ¼ cup shredded cheese and a large spoonful of bean mixture. Fold into a burrito and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Continue with remaining tortillas, freeze.
- Dice ½ bunch of celery, romaine lettuce and any other veggies you might have in your crisper that you would like in your salad. Place 1/3 cup celery in a sandwich bag for egg salad sandwiches. Place other salad ingredients in a large mason jar to go with spaghetti pie and sweet and sour meatballs.
- In a small sandwich bag combine 2 tbsp of chopped onion and 2 tbsp chopped green pepper to add to tuna salad.
The BREAKFAST assembly process:
- Pulse 3 cups of quick oats in a blender until the consistency of flour. Fill a 8 sandwich bags each with the following:
a. 1/3 Cup Quick Oats
b. 3 Tbsp Powdered oats
c. 1 Tbsp Brown Sugar
d. 1 tsp Sugar
e. ¼ tsp Cinnamon
f. 1 pinch salt
* To prepare oatmeal in the Microwave: Empty packet into a microwave safe bowl. Add 2/3 cup water or milk. Microwave on HIGH for 1 1/2 minutes, stir.
* To prepare oatmeal on the stove: Empty packet into a pan. Add 1/2 cup boiling water; cook and stir over medium heat until thickened.
2. Pancakes: In a medium mixing bowl combine the following ingredients. Place pancake batter in a gallon size zip lock bag and refrigerate or freeze.
a. 4 tbsp Powdered Buttermilk
b. 1 Cup Flour
c. 1 Tbsp sugar
d. 1 tsp Baking Powder
e. ½ tsp Baking Soda
f. ¼ tsp Salt
g. 1 Egg
h. 1 Cup Water
i. 2 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
3. Repeat step 2 with the waffle ingredients:
a. 2 Cups Flour
b. 1 Tbsp Sugar
c. 4 tsp Baking Powder
d. ¼ tsp Salt
e. 2 eggs
f. 1 ¾ cup Milk
g. ½ Cup Vegetable Oil
h. ½ tsp Vanilla
The TREATS assembly process:
- Make Fantasy Bars: Allow to cool, cut into squares and refrigerate (or freeze) until the day assigned.
- Make Oatmeal Muffins: Allow to cool, refrigerate (or freeze) until the day assigned.
- Make Oh Henry Bars: Allow to cool, refrigerate (or freeze) until the day assigned.
WooHoo! You now have a completely ‘food-stress’ free week. If you feel so inclined go ahead and throw in a "YOYO" (You’re on your own) night and a few "leftovers" nights and you could be well stocked for more than a week.(Most of the meals are freezable so you could even spread the meals out over a month or so for those extra busy nights when you just don't have time to cook and clean!