Dinner Menu & Meal Planning & BUDGET

meal planning on a budget This is about as creative as we get for a week's dinner menu:

this weeks menu, gluten free this weeks menu, gluten free this weeks menu, gluten free

We encourage art in our family. I would bend over backwards for the little girl that drew those beautiful pieces of art. Can you see the transformation in her drawing? They are almost in the shape of a real human! Getting there, people. Marks of a true artist.

weekly dinner menu

Our allotted weekly budget for meals is $100. We usually spend around $80 but once in awhile a girl needs some cider and ice cream. And dairy free ice cream is $5 for a tiny little scoop.

Now that we are getting back into a routine, we are able to eat our weekly dose of fish. Because Mondays are usually a day off, we use them to make dinner together. We have this recipe engrained into our brains because, well, its delicious. The chicken chili and quinoa with zucchini and chicken sausage can be found here. The chicken chili was amazing, though I added some cayenne pepper. Neither Loren nor I were a huge fan of the slow cooked quinoa; it tasted a little bland.

I eat gluten free. I skip milk and cheese. I most definitely add half and half to my coffee, but that's about all this body can handle before it stops up like a dam. I find it a lot easier on my life and my wallet and my hopes and dreams to simply omit things. I have stopped trying to find substitutes for cheese and bread. To me, it isn't worth it. Cheese that is everything-delicious-free isn't good. Bread that isn't made with wheat is not fluffy and soft and like heaven in your mouth.

How Do We Eat On A Budget?

The answer: Meal plans.

They are wonderful whether you want to admit it or not. They organize your brain and your food, they provide a structure for grocery shopping, and guess what? If you don't get to the meal you had planned, hopefully you have eggs and bacon you can eat. Or cereal. Every Monday, as the start of our week, I make our dinner meal plans. Our lunches and breakfasts aren't so creative or exciting, as they remain the same quite often. >Breakfast Groceries for the week: -1 box cereal, Loren's choosing -5 dozen eggs (its only $7 for 5 dozen at winco) -1 pack bacon -Potatoes -1 gallon whole milk or almond milk

>Lunches Groceries for the week: -1 loaf bread -1 package sliced cheese (we do this because it normally lasts two weeks and the only time we use cheese is for Loren's sandwiches; it's easy and cheaper than a block. I recognize you get more per capita when you buy the block, but we don't need that much) -romaine lettuce (used for his sandwiches and my salad) -1 pack of sandwich meat, which also lasts about 2 weeks worth -2 cans of shredded chicken for my salads will last me a week

>Snacks for the week: -4 cliff bars for Loren -4 kind or lara bars for Nat -1 bag of chips, Loren's choosing -dried banana chips -applesauce squeezes from Trader Joes (4 for $2) -bananas -apples or pears -hard boiled eggs

>Dinners When we shop for dinners, I simply add to my list what I don't already have. If dinner is from a Pinterest recipe, I look it up and write down any ingredients needed. With our budget, we eat a lot of chicken and ground turkey, with 1-2 nights of red meat. So far this has worked really well! The way I plan our dinner menu is by sitting down, looking at the calendar each day, and discerning about how much time I will have to make dinner. Tuesdays need quick dinners- they are usually something easy like breakfast-for-dinner (brenner) or croc pot. Wednesdays are the same. Thursdays and Fridays I can usually alot a bit more time.

Eat out? Right. We use the jar system (see our budgeting here). We put $20/week to go eat out on a date or with friends. What usually happens is every other week, creating a $40 eat-out night. Really, eating out isn't a top priority for us. It may be different in your home!

There you have it, friends. That is how we budget and meal plan and stick to the menu. It takes about 15 minutes of planning every Monday + the normal grocery shopping. Totally worth it!

How do you meal plan and budget? Give us your tips!