pinching pennies and eating Extravagantly. 1 comment

When I was working full-time I was not the best cook. I knew a few meals (many of which came out of a box) and rotated those quite frequently. I’d go grocery shopping and pick up some staples, but I’d usually be back at the store a few days later because I didn’t have enough ingredients for a recipe I would want to try.

Once I quit my job, we had to reign in our budget. I love a good challenge, so I set a much lower grocery budget for ourselves and had to stick to it. In order to avoid nearly daily trips to the grocery store, I had to meal plan in advance so that I knew exactly what I’d need. I started out by planning one week in advance at a time. One week became two, and two became a month.

Now, at the end of each month, I look forward to planning out next month’s meals. I sit down with my white board calendar and the Pinterest app ready to go and plot out our meals. I’m learning what ingredients I need and how to spread them out over different recipes. For example, one recipe calls for a tablespoon of tomato paste. Since that requires me to open an entire can of tomato paste, I usually follow that recipe up with another recipe that calls for tomato paste so the can isn’t going to waste.

As the months have gone on, I’ve challenged myself to try at least one new recipe a week. There are certainly some favorites around here, but I’m really enjoying trying new recipes and learning how to cook different things – things I never thought (as a self-proclaimed picky eater) I’d like, much less make for my family. In essence, its a win-win: saving money by making less trips to the grocery store since I’m planning in advance, and I’m able to make yummy food for my family to enjoy for our nightly meal.

I’ve got plenty of cookbooks, but I rarely use them. Pinterest is my cookbook. Maybe it is the need to see something look delicious before I’ll try making it, but I love being able to pin things and come back to them later. Also, I’d be sunk without my crock pot – I use it at least twice a week. (Side note: I didn’t discover how much I loved our crock pot until our oven broke the November before last. We probably would have starved without it. Or eaten a lot of frozen dinners.)

In case you need a little inspiration in the meal planning department, here are some links for a few of our family favorites. Enjoy!

Baked Garlic Parmesan Chicken – so flavorful and delicious. Also great as leftovers (if there are any!)

Crazy Good Casserole  – easy to make and yummy!

Chicken Parmesan Casserole – the recipe is written a little oddly and I usually put the pasta on top of the tomato sauce, but its still wonderful. However, because of the croutons, it isn’t as good as leftovers. I also leave out the zucchini.

Creamy White Chicken Enchiladas – I first made these when Anthony was headed out of town and he ate them as we drove to the airport. He was SO sad not to have more and asks for them frequently!


Bacon Ranch Chicken Pasta – Probably my new favorite. I use more pasta than they recommend 🙂

Cream Cheese Chicken Chili – I make this at least twice a month. It is also great for parties and can easily be doubled. Tasty over rice, tortillas, or taco shells.

Enchilada Pasta – BONUS! This is a meatless meal! It has a different texture and is full of flavor.

Buffalo Chicken – This one definitely packs a kick, but when I was pregnant with Monkey I craved these sandwiches. My palette doesn’t handle them as well now unless I’ve got a full Nalgene of water, but they are still quite tasty!

Caesar Chicken – I love how The Frugal Girls cook chicken in the crock pot. Definitely more flavor, and healthier too 🙂

We use a LOT of chicken because it is (1) cheap (I buy it in bulk at Costco) and (2) very versatile.

What are your go-to recipes?

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One thought on “pinching pennies and eating Extravagantly.

  • AnneMarie

    That enchilada pasta looks awesome! I’m definitely thinking that in the near future, my husband and I need to buy a bigger crock pot (the one that we own holds about a quart, I think. It works, but some dishes are impossible to make in it). When our car got totaled a couple years ago and we had to shell out money for a new (used) car, we chopped away at our budget, and meal planning has also been very, very helpful for me. I try to plan a month at a time, which works most of the time. We don’t have any particular go-to meals that we eat all the time, but each week I have certain types of meals that I usually make: a noodle dish, a dish based around rice and/or beans, a soup, and a couple dishes that have meat (we eat a lot of meatless to save money).