AsylumMom

Life on the inside. I've been sentenced 18 years to life and The Wardens are doing their best to drive me even crazier.

Menu, Shopping List, and Some Information – One Month of Food Under $300

The way I start my plan for the coming month is I sit down and make a list of meals that my family often likes or that anyone requests. After I have my list, I go through and weed out any that may require some special or random ingredient that could be more expensive, unless I have a reason for that certain meal (like company). I end up with list of meals that looks something like this: (P.S. this is my actual menu for the month of February)

1) Texas Goulash – x2&Freeze (4)

4lb ground beef, 4 cans of corn, 4 cans ranch style beans, 4 boxes mac-n-cheese, 2 cans rotel.

2) Chicken Spaghetti – x2&Freeze (4)

1 whole chicken(or 6-8 chicken breasts), 2 can cream of chicken, 1 small box velveeta, 2 cans rotel, spaghetti noodles shredded cheese

3) Stew – Freezer Bag (2)

1 green bell pepper, 2 onions, 2 cans corn, 1 bag baby carrots, minced garlic, 3 lbs beef stew meat, 2 6oz can tomato paste, paprika (noodles)

4) Teriyaki Chicken – Freezer Bag (2)

1 bag baby carrots, 1 red onion, minced garlic, 4 chicken breasts, 1 1/2 cup teriyaki sauce (served with rice)

5) Spanish Chicken –x2 Freezer Bag (4)

6-8 chicken breasts, 2 cans enchilada sauce, 1 bag taco seasoning, shredded cheese (served with tortillas and Spanish rice)

6) Shepherd’s Pie – x2&Freeze (4)

2lb ground beef, 2 cans green beans, 2 cans corn, 1lb potatoes, 2 cans ranch style beans, shredded cheese

7) Swedish Meatballs – Pre-prep Meat (2)

1lb ground beef, 2 cans mushroom soup, 1/2lb potatoes

8) Spaghetti – x2 for lunch (2)

2lb ground beef, spaghetti noodles, 2 jars spaghetti sauce

9) Quesadillas – x2&Pre-prep Meat (2)

6 chicken breasts, 1 can rotel, 1 can cream of chicken, shredded cheese, tortillas

10) Chicken Alfredo – Pre-prep Meat (2)

4 chicken breasts, noodles, 1 jar alfredo sauce

11) CrockPot Corn Chowder – x2&Freeze (4)

6-8 potatoes ,1 Can cream corn, 1 Can whole kernel corn, 2 Cups chicken broth, 4 chicken breasts, 1 onion, 1/4 Cups butter, 2 cups half and half

12) Frozen Pizza – 2 (2)

13) Chicken Strips – David’s (10)

I know that looks a little daunting but I will decode it in a moment. First, I need to give you some links! A few of these recipes have come from other blogs.

The Stew and Teriyaki Chicken come from the Melissa Fallis Test Kitchen where I tried all 5 of the recipes last month. The only one I personally didn’t like was the BBQ chicken. I’m only using two this month but they were really good and she gives amazingly detailed instructions!

The Spanish Chicken was something I stumbled upon on pinterest and I have hopes of adapting it to a freeze and dump meal just like the Stew and Teriyaki Chicken. The link is from a blog called “Healthy Food”. It doesn’t really show a recipe, but like I said, I’m just going to wing this one. I cook with chicken a lot so I’m sure this will be pretty easy to pull off.

Finally, the Crock Pot Corn Chowder was another I found on pinterest (most of my newer recipes are) and I haven’t tried it yet. This one is entirely new to me so be prepared for updated comments after I make it! The recipe comes from a website called “CrockinGirls” and since it’s something new, I haven’t yet explored their site, but the food looks great so I have high hopes!

Now, to decode my list (that is, if you haven’t figured it out already). I’ll use an example below:

2) Chicken Spaghetti – x2&Freeze (4)

1 whole chicken(or 6-8 chicken breasts), 2 can cream of chicken, 1 small box velveeta, 2 cans rotel, spaghetti noodles shredded cheese

On top, where it says “x2&freeze”- that’s where what I mentioned yesterday comes in. This simply means that I double the recipe and freeze half. Simple enough right? Now the number out to the side means how many meals this will last my family total. Therefor, My chicken spaghetti will have half in the oven and half in the freezer. When I pull the one out of the oven, Dad, myself, and B will all eat it for supper(and Row will share with me because he doesn’t eat very much). Then, it will get covered, and reheated as lunch the next day. Totaling 2 meals (Supper and Lunch) from 1/2 of the recipe. The second half will be the same way when I decide to use it again. Am I making sense? Ok. After that is pretty self explanatory  It’s how I compile my shopping list! I write out what I need to make the meal below each one so that when I’m ready to make my list I don’t have to try and remember everything, I just count it up!

After I have completed that step, I take a break. Ha! Seriously though, it makes your hand hurt! When I’m done with my break, I count everything up and make my shopping list. It’s really long but don’t let it scare you, remember, it is going to last me the entire month. And to make it as clear as possible, I mean I don’t ever go back for “something fresh” or whatever. I will have everything I need for every recipe. I don’t put spices down in my list unless I know for sure that I don’t have it and if the recipe calls for a lot or if it’s vital. Many spices I just fake with what I have because the recipe is still good if I use “Italian Season Blend” instead of “fresh cilantro” and “fresh basil”. I promise. It’s fine. In my grocery list below, I actually have quite a few of the ingredients on hand and therefor they won’t be on my receipt tomorrow, but I’m putting them on this list for you anyway.

Item #
ground beef 9lb
canned corn 10
ranch style beans 6
mac-n-cheese 4
rotel 5
whole chicken 1
cream of chicken 3
velveeta 1
shredded cheese 3
green bell pepper 1
onions 5
bags baby carrots 3
minced garlic 1
beef stew meat 3lb
6oz tomato paste 2
paprika 1
chicken breasts 26-28
teriyaki sauce 1
rice 2
canned enchilada sauce 2
bag taco seasoning 1
large soft tortillas 20
spanish rice 2
frozen green beans 1
potatoes 3lb
cream of mushroom 2
spaghetti noodles 2
spaghetti sauce 2
penne noodles 1
alfredo sauce 2
cream corn 2
chicken broth box 1
stick butter 1
half and half 4
Digorno frozen pizza 2
box of frozen chicken strips 1

I am cheating a little with the last two items. Those are for lunches on days when things are busy or Sunday dinners because we are often not home until late on Sundays. But I promise, it’s not going to hurt my budget! Also, I need to add that there are more things on my actual shopping list but they aren’t relevant to this segment about the cooking. They are just household items everyone needs. I will be “editing” my receipt to exclude those items from my total tomorrow, however, I will be including my cost in gas, just to prove that this one trip is well worth it.

Also, yes, you saw that correctly, I’m buying 9 lbs of ground beef and nearly 30 individual chicken breasts. These are things I often buy in bulk at Sam’s and I separate and freeze them at home. Because I like to do a lot of my meat prep before I freeze it, this works just fine for me. For instance, in my menu you will see next to “Chicken Alfredo” that it says “pre-prep meat”. This simply means that I will take the chicken breasts, clean and trim them, then dice them to size for the recipe and put them in a bag or container, then I will season them with a few things before I freeze them. This means that when I am ready to cook, I can thaw it out in the fridge over night and dump it right into the pan without ever having to actually touch the meat more than once. I hate handling chicken so I like cooking like this much better.

 

Okay. Now for the shopping trip.

As I mentioned yesterday, I get a babysitter for this, and yes, it is absolutely necessary. I have two kids under the age of two and I’m going shopping for a month’s worth of food. I’ve tried to take them before. It was a disaster. It took me nearly five hours and by the end of it Row was screaming at me and B was trying to eat all the packaged food. There was not enough room for both of them in the cart so I had to carry Row with one arm while using to other to simultaneously push the cart, grab items, and keep B out of the products. So, I repeat, Babysitter. After I drop The Wardens off with their grandparents, I load my cooler up in the back of my suburban (we have a really large cooler and I still don’t have enough room sometimes), fill up with gas and off I go! Once I get where I’m going I make two stops. I usually shop at Walmart and Sam’s. (Please don’t judge me for this! They are my best options where I am.) I go to Walmart first, since the majority of my Sam’s purchase is usually cold or frozen. I use a shopping list app on my phone (ShopListFree for iPhone) that sorts my grocery list into categories. This makes it easier once I’m in the store to know where I need to go and to get everything in one trip without walking around like a chicken with its head cut off. All of this is very important so that the trip takes a minimal amount of time and I don’t miss anything. Remember, I won’t be going back. Getting everything is important. If you are doing this because of your schedule and not your location, then it may not be as big of a deal, but I know there are many people that live in rural areas like I do and have to shop this way. Lists are important.

It usually takes me about and an hour and a half to two hours just for my Walmart run. And after I check out, I take everything back to my car and arrange it so that none of it can slide or break, putting the cold or frozen goods in the cooler with a bag of ice. Don’t forget the cooler if you have to drive as far as I do. Trust me. After you finish your second run for the bulk items, then you can finally go home! I usually stop and get myself a reward from a fast-food place, because we don’t have any at home, and enjoy it on my trip back.

 

I hope that this wasn’t entirely too confusing for any of you! I know it’s a lot of information to take in, but I promise it will be easier to understand once I start posting the recipes as I make them instead of all at once. You will see just how truly easy it is!

I can’t wait to post tomorrow with the proof that this really works!

P.S. I almost always have food left over at the end of the month just because of those random meals out with my parents or Dad’s family that come around! Yay!

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