I talk often about the Thrifty Meal Plans and here they are. I'm working on getting all of the recipes in one place and this is that place.
Chicken and dumplings
Chicken pot pie (9x13 pan)
Tomato and bean pasta
Chicken alfredo pasta
Potato salsa chicken
Diced potato with chk alfredo
Baked potato with chili
Scrambled eggs and pancakes
Vegetable bean pasta
Chicken and veg pasta
White bean chili (with or without chicken)
Beans and Rice
White bean curry
Big batch cooking is a tremendous time saver. I usually make enough food for at least half of the week at once plus extra to put in the freezer all at once so everyone can eat when they are home and hungry by just microwaving single servings. I wish we were all together every meal time, but that just isn't practical with our crazy schedules.
Today I made white bean chicken chili (10-12 servings), pot pie (6-8 servings), chicken stock (about 100 ounces divided into 6 jars), cooked chicken for freezer (3 meal portions), biscuits (one pan/8 biscuits).
Recipes for the chili, pot pie, biscuits, and seasoning mixes can be found here: Menu and Recipes
I use the chicken stock to cook pasta or rice in, start soup with, or use for pot pie.
Normally, I would chop carrots, onions, celery, and peppers during the process and put them in meal size bags in the freezer to use in rice or pasta dishes or soup, but I did that earlier this week. It would only add, maybe 15 minutes since I do it while things are cooking and don't need attention. You should employ a helper to wash dishes while you do this cooking, otherwise you end up with a sinkful.
This is what a my cooking day looked like today. Note that it is only about two hours of work!
Last night I covered two pounds of dry beans with water in a large pot to soak. Then I put a whole chicken in the crockpot with some celery and onion ends (I have a jar in the freezer that I put celery, carrot, and onion scraps in for this purpose) two chicken bouillon cubes, and some poultry seasoning. I covered it with water, turned it to low, and went to bed.
*from Blessed but Overwhelmed
How to spend $100 for your family of four for a month
What if you have to REALLY cut back? This is what I would do. Notice that I don't cut out all the meat, or all the snacks, even cookies! Just because things aren't going your way doesn't mean you should have to do without all the good stuff. As a matter of fact, if things aren't going well, you might need more cookies! There is no reason to feel deprived the whole month (or months), you can still eat delicious food, the only difference is that it might not be as varied as when you have more money. That being said, remember, changing up the spices can make two dishes with the same ingredients seem way different! Whole chicken is by far the most economical meat, especially considering the stock you can easily make that will make the bean dishes feel more "meaty". Ideally, you have been slowly building up your pantry and freezer so that you could absorb a grocery budget cut without much changing at least for a month or so.
Could you spend less? Yes, but if you are in a situation where you have less than $100 to use for groceries for your family for more than a month or two, then you could, and should seek assistance, that's what it is for.
Read more: $100 Month