a week of healthy, delicious & affordable dinner ideas

i am always working to feed my family well while sticking to a budget. this week we had our usual $75 to feed the family. throw counting calories & a "diet" or "lifestyle change" into the mix & i am tempted to overspend. 

this week happens to be a busy one, too. the farmers' market is opening up so i plan to support our farmers. i am also hosting a girls' night at our home tonight. that means a bottle of wine & some fun snacks. considering the events of the week, i decided to set aside $30 from our budget for those two expenses. that left me $45 for the entire week. 

i am excited to share some dinner ideas that i incorporated into our meal plan this week that are calorie-friendly, budget-friendly & delicious!

monday: i made pesto pasta with frozen pesto from last summer. every summer i always freeze bell peppers, can tomatoes & freeze pesto. those are my three staples (do these three things if you aren't already, trust me.). pulling out pesto in a financial pinch is the most delicious & cheapest gourmet trick in the book. if you don't have basil pesto, you can make spinach pesto. spinach is in season right now & can be found for an inexpensive price.

tuesday: i served up a baked sweet potato bar. paired with roasted asparagus (also in season right now & so inexpensive), this was a delicious meal. i usually add a little bit of fresh avocado on the side & plenty of toppings, including coconut oil & nuts.

 wednesday: my meal plan for wednesday included a vegetable frittata. having chickens in our backyard makes egg-based meals affordable. i love skinnytaste's low calorie frittata recipe.  

thursday: last night's dinner was a delicious crockpot vegetable soup i made from ingredients we already had on hand. i used a bag of frozen veggies (peas, carrots & corn), one potato, homemade chicken broth & stewed tomatoes from last year's garden. it was delicious served with a side of crackers, roasted broccoli (also in season & affordable) & avocado. 

friday: tonight's dinner is rice and beans. i make this an exciting meal with toppings such as cilantro, avocado, sour cream, salsa & a side of homemade tortilla chips. also, setting the table with a fiesta theme makes eating rice & beans a little more special.

bonus meal: last week i made skinnytaste's calorie-friendly tuna noodle casserole, which was delicious & affordable. i am not a huge casserole fan, but i will definitely make this recipe again.

some tips:
- make your dollar stretch by purchasing fresh foods that are in season.
- lean more toward vegetable-based meals rather than meat-focused meals. they're often healthier & always more affordable. if your family loves meat, try one night a week, like "meatless mondays."
- if you're serving a light main dish, always provide a hearty side such as roasted asparagus, avocado or a large salad. 
- sunday is the day we eat all of the leftovers. this works for our family because it prevents us from wasting food & it gives me a break from cooking.

i love making our dollar stretch while feeding my family well. i hope you found these recipe ideas useful & the tips helpful. let me know if you use any of these meal ideas!

do you have any recipes that are healthy & inexpensive? please share!


Alissa @ Not Just Apples said...

love these ideas! i ate chickpea-base pizza with my husband last night, and that's really cheap to make and quick too :)

Lauren Casper said...

YUM!! I have never frozen pesto before but I will start doing that this summer! Our local farmer's market is opening up soon, too and I'm just sooooo excited to start spending every Wednesday morning there with my kids! :)

Anna @ A Good Home said...

I'm so impressed with and inspired by your meal planning, Natalie. I never got into a habit of meal planning before we had kids (our first was born just 2 months after our 1st anniversary), and now I'm finding it incredibly hard to start. My kids are annoyingly picky about veggie eating, but I think they'd probably like almost all the things you've made this week! Do you have links to any of those recipes? Any that you have would be MASSIVELY appreciated! You can use the email address connected to this comment if you'd like send me any links.

You're several years younger than me (I'm fairly sure about that ;) ), but you're totally my food prep/buying inspiration :)

Caitlin said...

I also like to come up with creative ideas for using up what is leftover. This past week I had leftover pita pockets, so I am going to make mini pizzas, with leftover pasta sauce and leftover veggies that I'll saute in olive oil first. The only thing I had to buy was mozzarella.

Erin said...

Did that $45 for one week of food include breakfast and lunch too? That would be just barely over $2/meal!

I've calculated our food budget to be roughly $24/day (there are six of us) which brings us to approximately $8/meal. Breakfast is usually eggs with something and lunch is often leftovers or something snacky like grapefruit and cheese. If we have a hearty breakfast (bacon, eggs & veggies) we can usually be skimpy on lunch and then I have more money for dinner which is again focused on meat + fat + veggies.

I always base our meals around meat and fat and veggies because I find that we're all hungry very quickly again if we don't get enough meat + fat.

I often find that a pack of (organic, sprouted) corn tortillas is something of a luxury for us because I need to focus on the super nutrient-dense foods first and foremost. At $3.29 for a pack of 12, it IS a luxury here. :)

I have many jars of frozen pesto from homegrown basil and many jars of homemade tomato sauce (also homegrown) and every time I open one of those jars, it's like I'm standing in the kitchen sweating in August all over again; I love it!

Every year I think of blanching and freezing the surplus of asparagus but that's one I never get around to; do you? I freeze about 40 lbs of bell peppers in quart sized amounts each summer and they last well into early summer.

Danielle said...

Funny, we're having rice and beans with all the toppings tonight too. Burrito bowls, we call them!

I also freeze peppers and pesto. Pesto is so delicious and can be put on pizza in place of tomato sauce too! You can make pesto out of kale too, for even more nutritional punch. Can you tell how much I love it?? ;)

alison mellin said...

You're kind of a kitchen rock star!
I have been meal planning and following the Paleo lifestyle.. it's much easier to cook dinner and budget friendly with a plan!
The problem for me though is I have a 16 month old and really no time to meal prep like that. We walk to go get my husband from work and by the time we're home I am rushing to get her dinner going so she can eat on time and then when she's eating I'm making my husband and I dinner so we can eat when she goes to bed.
when life gives you mellin's

alison mellin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Melissa said...

How I wish all the vegetables you said are cheap because they are in season were true by me! Maybe it's regional, but asapragus, spinach, and brocolli are the same prices they were in November or December! Even green bell peppers have done up about $0.90 a pound!

Jac said...

Can you share how you freeze peppers? Love all the tips!

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