The costs of summer are starting to add up over here and I thought this was a good time to share a very inexpensive menu that will get you through the week. For example, we had vacation costs (yes, this was a choice, but still), new glasses for the oldest, dentist for everyone (gotta get in those appointments before school starts), semi-annual haircut for oldest, which is costly because her hair is curly and most people don’t know how to cut it, passport for oldest for traveling, clothes and soon back to school stuff.
Phew! I’m broke. One way that I start to replace all those funds we’ve spent is by cutting way back on my weekly grocery budget. I can easily spend $150/week at the store without really trying, so that is also a simple place to gain a $200 bucks over 14 days. Here is my tactic.
Use What You Have
If you’re like me, you stockpile when you find a great deal. If you aren’t stockpiling, why aren’t you? I also have been on a decluttering frenzy lately. We’ve been in this house 11 years and things just collect. So, I’m going through, getting rid of things and organizing what I have better.
I was shocked at how many canned foods and freezer foods I had allowed to expire. That is just plain wasteful and they had to be thrown out. Now, I know some people will say you can still eat expired canned foods, but I’m not willing to take the chance, so I pitched them.
First, when your budget is so tight that you only have $35 for the week, you need to figure out what you have on hand that you can use. Some things that I had in my pantry when I made up this menu for the week were:
- Pasta sauce (I had a can of spaghetti sauce and a jar of alfredo)
- Seasonings (taco, etc., which I buy on sale or at dollar store and stock up on)
- Oatmeal (had tons of this for some reason)
- A collection of different cereals (more on this in a minute)
- Can of olives
- 1/2 loaf bread
- Vanilla instant pudding
In my freezer was:
- Frozen veggies, lots of them
- Frozen pizza
So, my first task for my $35 week is going to be to empty out the pantry and freezer. These items need to be used and replinished from time to time anyway. I will also cut up any leftover fruit and veggies that are still good that first day or two.
You can certainly shop loss leaders or coupon if you feel you can do better, but Aldi has some very inexpensive foods that you can turn into an okay menu and get you through the week. Understand that for $35, you aren’t going to be eating steaks and expensive sides. It’s just one week, though, or two at the most, so you will survive it.
$35 in groceries from Aldi (note that prices can vary by area – this is for my local Aldi in southern Indiana). Note that you aren’t going to be able to add in sodas or a lot of junk food for $35. You’ll be drinking water, using up those packets of Kool Aid in your cabinet, making tea, etc.
Also, I keep an ongoing price list of items. Some of these may be a few months to a year old, so prices might be a bit more or less, but should be very close. Many of the items, I just chose from the upcoming sale list on the Aldi site. This is a great way to stretch your money farther by choosing their specials.
- Season’s Choice seasoned French fries – $1.69 for 32 oz.
- 2 Clancy’s corn chips – $0.79 per 9.25 oz bag ($1.58 total)
- L’oven Fresh Long Rolls (pack of 8) – $1.39
- Benton’s Honey Graham Crackers – $1.35 for 14.4 oz
- Meat special Fresh Family Pack Chicken Thighs – $0.89 per pound (buy 4 pounds = $3.56) these deals can vary, so choose whatever the special for your area is that is under $1/pound. You can almost always buy a whole chicken for around $1.00 a pound and can even use the bones to make stock.
- 1 Chef’s Cupboard canned chicken broth $0.69 each
- 1 Chef’s Cupboard canned cream of chicken soup $0.69 each (may be cheaper, depending on version)
- 2 Bake House Creations Crescent Rolls – $0.99 each ($1.98)
- Peanut Delight natural creamy peanut butter – $1.49
- Tuscan Garden Salad Dressing of choice – $1.19
- 1 dozen eggs – $1.69
- Happy Farms 8 oz. block cheese (sharp cheddar) – $1.59
- 1 Gallon milk – $2.69 (sometimes it is on special for less)
- 1 – 32 ounce yogurt – $1.69
- 2 lbs carrots – $1.19
- Iceberg lettuce – $1.29
- Fit & Active Lite whipped topping – $0.79
- Lunch Mate premium lunch meat – $3.29
- Parkview Never Any! hot dogs – $2.49
- Loaf of bread – you can often find it for $0.50 on sale. Manager’s specials are frequent. If not, then expect to pay about $0.89. If it is more, purchase elsewhere.
With the $3 left, purchase ground beef. You only need 1/2 pound, so you may want to go to a butcher counter at your local grocery and ask what they have that would be about $3. Even at Kroger, you can usually get a pound of 80/20 or about $5. Check the freezer section at Aldi as well, as they sometimes have the rolled hamburger for around $3. Even though you’ll only use 1/2 pound, you can save the rest for another time.
Day # 1
- Breakfast: Cut up leftover fresh fruit in your fridge, use up leftover loaf of bread for toast (you can also toast buns).
- Lunch:Grill or bake four pounds of chicken (keep it fairly plain at this point, perhaps just a bit of salt and pepper)
Frozen veggies (you should already have some in your freezer if you are stockpiling when on sale). Eat one pound and set the other three aside for dishes throughout the week.
- Dinner: Chicken crescent bake. Serve 2/3, set aside 1/3 for lunch tomorrow.
- 2 can crescent rolls
- 1 cup chicken diced
- 1 can cream of chicken soup
- 1/8 cup milk
- Diced veggies from fridge and pantry such as carrots, peas, etc. (you can also use leftover or frozen veggies) Think pot pie style veggies. You aren't throwing away leftover veggies are you? You should always keep a plastic container in the freezer with leftover veggies.
- salt and pepper to taste
Grease flat baking sheet or use parchment paper if you have some on hand.
Roll out one can of crescent rolls and flatten with heel of hand.
Mix cream of chicken soup with milk, salt and pepper.
Add diced chicken and vegetables and fold together.
Pour mixture into the middle of the flattened sheet of crescent rolls, leaving about an inch open around the sides.
Open the second can of crescent rolls, lay on top of mixture, pull to side and then pull up the bottom sheet and pinch together.
Cut three to four slits in the top of the pocket and bake at 350 for about 25 minutes or until golden brown and crust fully baked.
*Note: I think the crust crisps up better on parchment paper. You can buy parchment paper for $1 at the Dollar Tree and while a small package it will last you for several uses.
Day # 2
- Breakfast: Yogurt with any other leftover fruit. Oatmeal.
- Lunch: Leftover chicken crescent bake, sliced carrots
- Dinner: Salad with 1 cup diced chicken, buttered leftover bread (this should use up all my bread that I had left from week before)
Day # 3
- Breakfast: Oatmeal, canned fruit (I had this on hand, or you can purchase a can for around $0.89)
- Lunch: Canned chicken broth, diced carrots and pasta (I had this on hand, remember). Boil pasta and carrots, drain and add to broth. Add chicken.
- Dinner: Hots dogs on buns and French fries (set aside about 1/3 of fries)
Day # 4
- Breakfast: Scrambled casserole (recipe below). Eat half, save half for dinner.
- Lunch: Sandwiches made with bread and the type of lunch meat you purchased. Sliced carrots.
- Dinner: Rest of breakfast casserole, rest of yogurt.
Recipe for Breakfast Casserole
- Dozen eggs
- 1/2 cheese block (you’ll need to shred the cheese or dice it fine)
- Leftover veggies
- Few slices of lunch meat (you can also use a bit of the chicken if you have any left)
- 1/4 cup milk
- Salt and pepper
- Break eggs into bowl (yolks and whites both).
- Pour in milk.
- Whisk until eggs are smooth and solid yellow.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Grease a baking dish.
- Dice up leftover French fries and layer into the bottom of greased baking dish. You can also use bread pieces.
- Add veggies and any meats you’d like to the egg mixture. Some good combinations include chicken and carrots, ham lunch meat and green peppers, onions and turkey lunch meat.
- Pour egg mixture over diced fries.
- Shred or dice 1/2 block of cheddar cheese into mixture.
- Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 40 minutes. Cook until the eggs are cooked through and no longer runny. You should be able to stick a toothpick in the center and have it come out dry.
Day # 5
Today, I’m using up pantry items, so your choice here might vary from mine.
- Breakfast: Cereal and milk
- Lunch: Mixup of cereal bars, oatmeal, fruit snacks and other items sitting in my pantry (a few nuts and seeds mixed with dried fruit)
- Dinner: Pasta with alfredo, rest of chicken, bread slices buttered and baked in oven with a dash of garlic powder on top
Day # 6
- Breakfast: Toast with peanut butter and any fruit in house (fresh leftovers or canned or frozen)
- Lunch: Sandwiches with 1/2 bag of corn chips on side
- Dinner: Taco bake (recipe below)
Recipe for Taco Bake
- 1/2 pound ground beef
- Taco seasoning
- 1 1/2 bag of corn chips
- 1/2 block cheddar cheese
- Brown 1/2 pound ground beef.
- Add taco seasoning and a couple tablespoons of water, bring to boil, and reduce to simmer for 15 minutes.
- Layer 1 bag of corn chips into a large baking pan.
- Spoon taco meat on top of corn chips.
- Shred cheese on top.
- Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until cheese is melted and bubbly.
- If you have any leftover salad, some salsa or other items that make sense, place on top of the taco bake.
Day # 7
The last day of the week, I use up any items I’ve not used. For example, you may have some yogurt left. Add a can of peaches or breakfast.
For lunch, I’d use up any lunch meat and bread, any frozen veggies, etc. You should also still have 1/2 bag of corn chips for snacks or with lunch.
Dinner, use up any leftover meat, cheese, bread. You could even just make some simple grilled cheeses and have leftover soup.
- Graham crackers with peanut butter
- Carrots (you have 2 lbs.)
- Milk & cereal
I’m trying to cut back on dessert, but with what I bought above and what is left in my pantry/freezer, I could make:
- Peanut butter fudge (should be plenty of pb left for this and I had sugar already). See my recipe for old fashioned peanut butter fudge from yesterday.
- No chocolate eclair pie (recipe below)
Recipe for No Chocolate Eclair Pie
- Graham crackers
- Box of vanilla pudding (I had this in my pantry, but they are like .50 at the dollar store)
- Frozen whipped topping
- Layer graham crackers in glass baking dish.
- Mix vanilla pudding with 2 cups cold milk (or according to package directions). I like to mix in a blender.
- Add 1/2 whipped topping to pudding mixture and blend again.
- Pour half into baking dish. Add another layer of graham crackers.
- Pour other half on top of those crackers.
- Add another layer of graham crackers and finish with whipped topping.
- Refrigerate overnight.
When you’re trying to survive the week on $35, you’ll definitely need to get creative. What ingredients are in your pantry and what did you do with them? Did you make appetizers out of olives and lunch meat? Amaze us with your cooking creativity.