Eating On A Budget: Not Quite Bare Cupboard Menu Plan

In my scenario, I am on week two of a very tight budget month.  We survived week one with food enough to eat three meals a day and have a few snacks.  There were even a few things leftover:

Grape Jelly
about 1 quart homemade yogurt
1 cup of dried black beans

The following items were either purchased, priced at the store or priced via online ads.   I'm assuming I got smart during that terribly tight week and signed up for the FREE Friday downloads at Kroger, because desperation should lead one to look for food at all possible sources, right?

Here are my purchases listed by store:
10 pound roaster chicken that cost $6.00
5 lbs self-rising flour $1.59
4 lbs sugar $1.59
1 lb margarine .89
15 oz. peanut butter $1.59
celery .99
milk $1.95
1 doz. eggs .89
1 6 ounce can tomato paste .33
$16.45 with tax

3 pack yeast $1.18

Food Depot
8 oz. cheese $1.79
2 cans green beans $1.16
1 can green peas .58

5 pounds russet potatoes $1.68
3 pounds onions $1.48

Piggly Wiggly
8 oz blueberries $1
Navel Oranges 1 pound .79

1pound Carrots $.69

canister of oatmeal $1.59
box of mac and cheese FREE
1 can refried beans FREE

Dollar General
1 garlic powder .89

Total $29.83

So that's the foodstuffs I have to work with.  I expect to have more leftovers than I had last time naturally.  You might note the blueberries.  Strawberries were also on sale and you could have a full pound of them for $1 which is a most excellent price.  However, John doesn't care for strawberries unless they are in strawberry jam.  Hence I opted to purchase the smaller portion of blueberries.  Also note that this time I've opted to buy garlic powder.  I can't quite manage the cost of pepper yet though I might if I cut a couple of items out.  Pepper is $2.29 a can no matter where I shop.  It is the one item that is consistently priced all across the stores.

I chose to purchase flour and yeast after long thought.  I'd planned at first to buy baking soda which, combined with the yogurt and eggs would 'raise' the plain flour I usually purchase at Aldi, but I decided to go with self rising flour and yeast and make my own bread.  So in addition to having made yogurt last week, this 2nd week I will make bread. The recipe is another tried and true that I have truly made and truly enjoyed.  It is Rhonda's Grandpa's Bread.  The recipe calls for 1 envelope of yeast and oil but I will use margarine just as Rhonda used butter in hers. I confess I've never used self-rising flour to make bread but I have used it to make pizza dough with yeast and it's always done just fine.  The bread I make will be used for sandwiches and for toast but I'll make other breads as well.  I can make biscuits or muffins, pancakes, etc.  

Now John loves homemade bread.  He's less keen on having it as a sandwich bread because of the tendency to tear and crumble (it is tender bread).  I will follow Rhonda's habit of making buns which seem to hold up better than sliced bread.  I'll make one loaf of bread and I think I should get 8-10 buns.

By purchasing flour I can also make a snack cake or cookie...but I'm getting ahead of myself.  I do have to ration out my margarine.  Making bread is the primary thing.  I'll need two sticks if I make four loaves, but we're going to start with just two loaves and see how that goes. 

You'd think, given I am starting with a huge chicken I'd find this challenge a great deal easier and on the one hand it was and on the other I can tell you honestly that I juggled figures and scratched out things I thought I might buy and substituted other things.  I do expect to come to the end of this week with foods to carry over but I'm not sure exactly how much.  I might add as well that I'm not quite at the 'balanced meal' level budget but it's a heck of a lot nearer than we were on the $20/week budget.

First meal of the week is a company meal.  You can consider it a Sabbath dinner if you'd like.  I will make a cake.

Breakfasts will be simple enough: Oatmeal (I'll make our favorite Oatmeal using plain white sugar, an egg and milk three mornings) or Peanut Butter Toasts 3 mornings and 1 morning Eggs with Toast and Orange Wedges.  The breakfasts will use up 7 eggs.

Remember we prefer our dinner midday and then we eat lighter fare for supper.

Roasted Chicken (seasoned with a half onion, 1 stalk celery in cavity and sprinkled with salt and garlic powder on the skin)
Mashed potatoes
Green Beans
Orange Cake*
The cake is a simple one egg, one bowl cake.  It calls for 1/3 cup shortening.  I'll sub in margarine and will also zest an orange to add flavor.  I'll sprinkle the baked cake with sugar and run quickly under a broiler to add texture but watch carefully to keep it from burning. Baked in a 7x11 pan, there will be leftovers which we'll call have for snacks.  I can slice into 14 pieces

I think 1 pound of potatoes will make plenty of mashed potatoes.  I don't mind having a few leftovers.  I can always use leftover potatoes to make potato pancakes to go with the egg and toast breakfast but I'd need an extra egg to make them. 

I think this will be a very fit dinner for company don't you?  And that blessed chicken is so big and so meaty that I can easily stand two or three dinner guests at the table.

Chicken Legs and Wings, Baked Potatoes, Steamed Carrots, Broiled Orange Halves
There's enough chicken to use for at least one meal and to make a couple of more meals.  I typically try to choose a potato that is about the size of a tennis ball to bake.  It is just about the right portion size for me.

Chicken Pot Pie, Oranges with Blueberries over a slice of the cake
I always get two meals from a pot pie.  I'll use a pourable crust this time instead of trying to make a pie crust.  The recipe calls for 1/2 cup butter but I'm sure I can do it with what's left of the stick from the cake and 1/2 of another stick.  That will leave me 1 1/2 sticks of margarine.
I'll use 1 1/2 cups chicken, about 1 cup of potatoes, 2 carrots,  1/2 onion and sliced celery in the pot pie.  I'll open the peas and put in about a quarter cup of those as well. 
Roasting the chicken produced a lot of liquid which I'll use as base for gravy to moisten the pot pie.  I also saved the onion and celery which I used to season the chicken.
I'll use the orange I zested for the cake.  I'll section and dice and toss with a couple of tbsps. of blueberries.
Again note that I expect to have this particular meal twice.

Cheese Pizza, Celery and Carrot Sticks with Refried Bean Dip
I will likely use 1 cup cheese to top the pizza.   I can make a yogurt pizza dough.  It will involve straining a cup of yogurt overnight to make it a Greek yogurt and then mixing with 1 1/2 cups flour.  I will spread a little tomato paste on the pizza dough, sprinkle with garlic powder and shred cheese over top.  I'll save the rest of the tomato paste.
I'll warm the refried beans and we'll use that as dip for the vegetables.

I will go ahead at this point and make yogurt.  That will take roughly half gallon of milk and about 1/3 cup of the yogurt I will open to make the Greek yogurt. This will net me about 6 cups of yogurt.

Mac and Cheese, Peas and Carrots, Yogurt with Blueberries
I don't normally eat mac and cheese from a box but it's FREE and for a once in a blue moon sort of thing, I can do it.

I'll cook the rest of the chicken and some of the chopped carrots, onions, celery.  I will also make noodles and dry them. I'll pick over the bones and make a proper chicken noodle soup.  Typically I get 1-2 cups of meat from a well used chicken when the carcass is boiled.  This one is so big it's bound to have a little more meat on it I think.  I'm counting on about 3 cups.  I'll use 1 1/2 cups in soup.  I'll put the remaining 1 1/2 cups in the freezer for next week.  I'll put one quart of broth up in the fridge or freezer. 

For my soup, I'm going to use any leftover smidges of green peas or beans, carrots, onion, celery.

Suppers for the week will be Chicken Noodle Soup x 2
Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches x 3
Cheese Omelet with caramelized onions,  Refried Beans, Toast (use 3 eggs and 2 ounces cheese for the omelet.  That leaves 2 ounces of cheese and 2 eggs.)
Leftovers   We almost always have leftover pizza, or a bit of leftover soup or even of an entrée from the week. 

Snacks: Carrot and Celery Sticks, Yogurt (sweetened with sugar or with melted grape jelly), slices of cake, cheese toast or a toasted bun.  There should be celery sticks which John likes to eat with peanut butter. I don't think we'd be missing nearly as much of the nutrients and believe we would be overall more satisfied and would need fewer snacks, but it's nice to know there's extra food in the house. 

To Carry Over:  Tomato paste (about 3 ounces), 2 eggs, 1 1/2 cups chicken, probably about 1 quart of broth, and I think about half the noodles I make which should be enough for another meal. 6 cups of yogurt will be leftover and of the five pounds of flour and four pounds of sugar I should have 2.5 pounds of flour left, and about 7 cups of sugar.  I think we'll have about 1/4 jar of peanut butter left but jelly should be nearing the end of the jar.  There may be a potato or two and certainly I will have some celery, carrots and onions left.  Remember that I've made fresh yogurt before I served yogurt and berries, so I should have about 8 cups of yogurt to start this next week with.  I'll continue to have salt/garlic powder and I still have 1/2 pound black beans, too.  Life isn't looking nearly so bleak when you can cook a meal and have foods left in the cupboard and fridge and even put a few things away in the freezer.  If this keeps up I'll have to do a pantry/freezer  challenge!

Now this is all theory at this point but it's a plan and I'm going to try to actually make meals as planned with the exception that I'm making John a special meal for his birthday.  My birthday dinner will be Chicken Pot Pie, which is one of my top favorite meals and is a happy bonus to finding this chicken on such a good sale.  And by the way,  this big chicken, which I truly expected to be a little tough is as tender as can be.  I'll be looking for another roaster chicken at Aldi!

I'll follow up as these meals are eaten and let you know how the menus go.  Now in real life, John works one day and Mama wants to take us out one day for our birthdays, so this menu will serve 7 days but be stretched out over 10 or so. 

Now...What can YOU do with $30? 


Lana said...

Wow! Great planning! The roaster chickens were .89 a pound at my Aldi. I never understand the great price differences there. I wondered how they would be and so I am glad to hear it is tender. Not much worse than a rubber chicken that must be eaten again and again.

beckyathome said...

That looks like a good plan! I hope it works out when you cook it. Isn't it nice that you can do some experimenting and still have a break for a birthday meal? In real life, the person might have to use the cake as birthday cake and use one of the other meals for the birthday. Still, it would be very hard to not feel like you could cook a special meal for the loved one that they specially wanted. The chicken meal would definitely be the one for me, although pot pie sounds amazing, too. So, the person would have to set their mind that they were meeting a goal of some kind, like staying out of debt, paying a bill, saving, or otherwise to keep from feeing down in the dumps. It's all in the mindset. It would have to be looked at like a challenge, not a deprivation!

Very interesting! I love reading it.

Anonymous said...

Terri, in one of your recent posts you mentioned having oatmeal more for breakfast. We have had oatmeal every morning now for several years. We put the allotted amount of raisins or dried cherries or whatever in it. And chia seeds , hemp hearts or flax seed sprinkled on top. Then after cooking in the micro wave we add milk, and walnuts added with cinnamon. Hubby adds a bit of almond butter.. Sometimes we have 7 or 9 grain mix or part oatmeal and part that as the base. It keeps us full till lunch and his numbers are staying good. The only time they have jumped is when he has been sick.
Hubby is our bread maker. I will give him Rhonda's recipe. We need a recipe for buns and such.Thank you. Sarah

sparky136 said...

Do you have a Dollar Tree in your area? They carry spices and you could get your pepper there. Everything is a dollar. I buy a lot of their food items.

Anonymous said...

Have you checked Aldi for pepper? I get quite a few of my spices there. Gramma D

Debbie said...

I'm impressed! Do you have a store with a bulk food and spice section? You could get some pepper there for very little money.

Kathy said...

Sounds like a delicious menu! We love roasted chicken, and I'm sure that your company enjoyed it. Hope that you have a wonderful birthday week.

I'll see what the sales are at kroger tomorrow, to see if I can put together a $30 menu. I always try to pick up the free item if it is in stock, and I browse the online coupons too. There is another free kraft dressing in the coupon list.

Rhonda said...

I'm so happy to see you are using my grandpas bread recipe. Yes, you can use margarine in it just fine.
I like margarine, but don't tell the food police.
I even saw a pie crust recipe that used margarine. The blogger said it was really good too.
Yes, the sandwich buns are much nicer after a day or two than sliced homemade bread. I do keep them in the freezer and try not to take out more than we will eat in 2 days.
So far, I have spent much less in February on groceries and should stay under our budget, which even though I lowered it, I think it is still too high.

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