There's always a week at the end of the month where I try to be frugal with our meal plan. Yes, this is driven by me using up my food budget too quickly (no regrets — it's usually on fun stuff like farmers market strawberries or really good cheese), but it's also incredibly practical to make one week of the month a "use it up, make do, or do without" meal plan.
Here's why: Restraining my budget forces me to tap into my pantry and freezer and use up things that are otherwise forgotten and might go to waste, which helps declutter my pantry and keeps me from wasting food.
Here are the five simple budget dinners I'm cooking this week for my family.
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.
Skip the Broccolini here in favor of broccoli and use your favorite bulk sausage — ours often goes on sale so I've got some frozen to use up. You can also use any small pasta you might have on hand rather than buying orzo specifically for this recipe.
I know Parmesan (a key ingredient here) can be pricey, but most cheese counters sell Parmesan rind "ends" that still have plenty of cheese on them. Grate away that extra cheese and then save the rinds for their intended purpose: soups, stocks, and broths.
Tuesday: Spinach and Refried Bean Quesadillas
One of the reasons I love Taco Tuesday is that almost anything can be turned into dinner with a tortilla. My kiddos really love this recipe — yes, even with the spinach — because of the creamy beans. I'll make a quick side of sautéed frozen corn to go along with this. Double up on salsa (for serving) for tomorrow night's dinner too.
Wednesday: One-Skillet Salsa Pork Chops
I often forget what a wonderful budget meal pork chops can be. This recipe braises them in a mixture of zucchini and squash with canned salsa. I'm serving these over simple brown rice. Buy a bunch of zucchini and squash (they're cheap anyway) because we are using them tomorrow too.
I recently discovered this Basque dish at one of our local restaurants and I'm totally hooked. While I can imagine how tasty this will be with ripe in-season tomatoes, I'm going to make the most of the hot-house tomatoes my market is getting right now and roast them alongside the peppers. Put an egg on it and serve with a slice of hearty bread on the side and dinner is done.
I have a couple of these frozen pizzas to pull and cook this week. Frozen pizza can be the perfect budget-friendly balance if you don't have time for homemade and delivery is too expensive where you live. Here are some of our favorites: The Frozen Pizza Taste Test.