Let's talk about budget meal planning today. Admittedly, wallet-conscious dinner ideas and strategies aren't the most exciting subject, but grocery budgets are real and mastering them does make dinner less stressful — and that's the whole point of meal planning.
Don't think that you need to cook dried beans or shop at the discount grocery store to save money, though. To keep my budget in check every week, I shop my fridge, freezer, and pantry first; I keep meat-heavy meals to once or twice a week; and I rely on in-season produce because it's cheaper. With those strategies in mind, here are the five budget- and family-friendly meals I'm cooking this week.
Welcome to This Week's Meal Plan
I believe meal planning is the secret to stress-free weeknight dinners. Since I'm frequently asked by friends and family what I'm cooking for dinner each week, I share my weekly meal plan here. Whether you're just learning to meal plan and looking for a real-life example of how this works or you're an old pro on the hunt for inspiration, here's a peek at how I'm feeding my family this week.
New to meal planning? Start here.
Whether you call it pasta Monday or Meatless Monday, starting the week with a comforting dish and a family favorite sets the week up for success. Buy two butternut squashes (or one large one) and save a handful of the cubes for Friday's pizza. You can make this pasta sauce with half-and-half or whole milk instead of the heavy cream to cut down on ingredient costs.
Tuesday: Crunchy Black Bean Tacos
These tacos are a no-brainer budget buster. They cost about $6 for a whole batch and everyone loves them. Partner these with some roasted broccoli or a simple romaine salad to get those veggies in. Plan on using whatever cheese you buy for this dinner on Friday's pizza too.
Wednesday: Chicken Thighs with Bell Peppers & Onions
Chicken thighs are an incredibly overlooked budget saver. They are always cheaper than breasts and more flavorful. I love this recipe for using up other cheap produce, namely peppers and onions. We're having this over quinoa, because I have some in the pantry and am skipping buying rice this week.
I'm betting that, like me, you have 90% of this soup's ingredients in your kitchen right now. You can skip the broccoli rabe and buy any inexpensive hearty green — kale, Swiss chard, or even broccoli will work. Grab extra for Friday's pizza, too!
We've been working towards this pizza all week. Monday's squash, Tuesday's cheese, and Thursday's greens are all coming together on this thin-crust pizza. You can save some dough (pun intended) by making your own pizza dough. If you want to buy dough, the bakery dough is the best bang for your buck.