Meal Planning 101

Creating frugal meals begins
with meal planning.  Meal
planning simply involves
deciding ahead of time what
you will be eating for the week
or month.  In addition to the
reduced cost of meals, meal
planning offers the benefit of
stress reduction.  How many
times have you come home
after a long day and wondered
what in the world you were going to cook that night for dinner?  How many times
have you simply given up and ordered an expensive pizza instead of tackling
your oven?  Meal planning takes the stress and the guesswork out of the kitchen
and allows you to enjoy homemade, healthy options most nights of the week.  
Spend less money, have less stress and eat healthier meals - meal planning is
pretty powerful!

Menu Planning works hand in hand with couponing and store promotions to help
you make the most of your budget.  All three aspects are important and using
each effectively will save you the most money and allow you to provide the
healthiest frugal meals.

Meal Planning Tips:

  • Plan your meals based on what you already have in your pantry, fridge and
    freezer (using items that were purchased frugally using sales, coupons or
    store promotions - or all 3!) and items on sale for that week.
  • Plan your dinners weekly and take advantage of weekly great deals to
    use in your meal plans.  
  • Use your crock pot, batch cook, and reference the recommended
    websites below to get great recipes for frugal meals.
  • Plan your meals for 5-6 nights per week. Leave one or two nights open for
    leftovers, going out to eat (with a restaurant coupon), going to friends, etc.
  • Strive to bring your per meal cost down to $1.25 per person - $5 per meal
    for a family of 4.  That's not $5 per person, it's $5 per meal. By using
    frugally purchased ingredients, you will be amazed at what fabulous meals
    you can provide for $5 or less!
  • Use the Weekly Menu Planner below to plan your meals each week.

Click below to print out a Smart Spending Weekly Menu Planner that you can
use to plan your meals each week.
Weekly Menu Planner

September 23, 2009: Click HERE to see my
recipe for Tofu Stuffed Peppers in the
Raleigh News and Observer Blog: Mouthful.
Here is a picture of the stuffed red peppers I
made recently:

Creamy Spinach Enchiladas

This is a recipe I created using some great buys I
had on hand. It's so tasty and can easily be doubled
or tripled. Freeze the extra batches for another night.

Serves 4

4 large tortillas (burrito size)
1 box Spanish Rice or Mexican Rice
1 box frozen creamed spinach
4 oz. shredded cheddar or 4-cheese Mexican cheese
1 can enchilada sauce
1 small can sliced black olives

Prepare rice as directed on package (I make it in the
microwave and then use the bowl with the cooked
rice to combine all the ingredients). Prepare frozen
spinach as directed on package (also heated in the
microwave). Combine cooked rice, cooked spinach,
1/3 jar enchilada sauce, 2 oz cheese, 1/2 can of
sliced olives in bowl.  Spread 1/3 can of enchilada
sauce on bottom of 8 x 8 glass or metal pan.  Spoon
1/4 of rice-spinach mixture into each tortilla and roll
up. Place seam side down in pan. Pour remaining
enchilada sauce on enchiladas. Spread remaining
olives on sauce. Top with remaining shredded
cheese. Bake in 350 degree oven for 20-25

Pierogie Casserole Recipe

This recipe is actually on the back of the Mrs. T's
Pierogies box so I didn't come up with this one
myself. I did change a couple things though.

1 box frozen pierogies
1 jar pasta sauce
4 oz. shredded cheese (I usually use 4-cheese
Mexican or Italian cheese blend)
1 green pepper diced, 1/2 onion diced
garlic powder, Italian seasonings

Put frozen pierogies on bottom of 9 x 13' pan.
Sprinkle veggies on top of pierogies. Pour sauce on
top. Sprinkle cheese evenly over sauce. Finally,
spice to taste with garlic powder and Italian

Sometimes I add diced chicken, shredded beef or
tofu cubes for extra protein. You can pretty much add
any cooked meat.  I also love fresh spinach in this
recipe. The recipe on the box suggests adding

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes uncovered
until bubbling. Serve with garlic bread and a salad for
a delicious and frugal meal. Enjoy!

Sometimes it's nice to see the meals in the weekly plan so I'll include some meal
pictures and recipes every once in a while.

    Hawaiian chicken breasts, saffron rice, almond green beans

    Salmon burgers, noodle casserole and broccoli

    Herb and Garlic Crockpot Beef

    Creamy Garlic Chicken, Homemade Mac and Cheese, Broccoli

Recommended Resources:

  • “Miserly Meals” by Joni McCoy, 2002, Bethany House Publishers

  • “Frozen Assets: How to Cook for a Day and Eat For a Month” by Deborah
    Taylor-Hough, 1999

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Meal Planning