Tips like these helped us pay off $127K in debt. You can read our story in Slaying the Debt Dragon: How One Family Conquered Their Money Monster and Found an Inspired Happily Ever After.
This post was sponsored by the Indiana’s Family of Farmers. You get to learn about affordable ways to prepare food. I get a few extra bucks in the Royal coffers. The post and opinions are 100% mine. No editing was done by anyone. I’m sure you could find some grammatical errors if you read it again. Read more on my disclosure policy.
Hooray! It’s May and that means I’m challenging myself to yet another $50 Meal Plan. I simply could not get over the response I got to April’s post: ALDI Meal Plan: 7 Dinners for Less than $50. While there were plenty of naysayers (WOW-whee did I get some weird e-mails and comments), there were so many of you who joined the Court of the Queen of Free because of the post.
For May, I chose again to keep my meal plan limited to ALDI but this time focus on light and easy meals for the summer because that’s where I’m living, yo. By the way, be sure to read my post The Best Ways to Save Money at ALDI & 15 Items to Always Buy There if you’ve never shopped at ALDI before. No coupons were required. Most items were regularly priced, although a few were on sale. I wanted you to easily be able to recreate the meal plan without spending more than $50. Once again, I will disclaim that in the price I’m not including seasonings, oils, dressings or condiments. I’m also not including the price of rice (I buy 25 lb. bags a couple of times of year so the price for the two meals where it’s included is minimal).
Here’s what I bought:
While a picture is worth a thousand words, you can’t see everything smashed into this photo, so let me break down what I bought and why. Print out a full shopping list here.
1 Quarter Boneless Ham $6.95: Coming in at 2 pounds, this lovely meat will feature in 3 meals, easily. I purchase these small hams instead of lunch meat and use them on sandwiches for the Princess Eldest’s lunchbox but they are great for salads, eggs, and in grilled cheese, too. I typically split the ham into thirds and freeze 2 of the 3 for use later. That way, it doesn’t spoil before we eat all of it.
Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts $6.69: This three pound bag ($2.23/lb.) of frozen chicken will also stretch to 3 meals, especially when paired with filling veggies and rice. Since the chicken is plain, it’s incredibly versatile and can be thrown in the crockpot, grilled, or baked. Typically, I slow cook ours and then shred or marinade and grill. From salads, to pasta dishes, to sandwiches or tacos, you can feed your flock numerous times with one bag and I can’t seem to find a commensurate price in other stores.
Fresh Chicken Breasts $3.74: Summer is such an on-the-go season and oftentimes I forget to thaw meat. One of the meals includes veggie and chicken kabobs so I decided to opt for the slightly pricier fresh cousin which was $2.49 per pound.
Dozen Large Eggs $1.29: The eggs will be split three directions this month – for French toast one night, in a Chef’s salad another, and in a ham and egg casserole on the third.
Wide Pan Wheat Bread $1.79: I know the brake lights just went on for my gluten free friends. We rarely eat bread (and in fact two of us don’t at all), so if you’re in the same boat, the price is going to be slightly higher at $3.99 for ALDI’s Live Gluten Free White or Whole Grain bread. It’s the only brand of gluten free bread the Princess Youngest will eat (and we have tried them ALL). The bread is for two meals in particular – French toast and grilled cheese night.
Gala Apples $3.99: Anyone else notice that apples have increased in price lately? Even still, they’re incredibly economic for a side dish and can be eaten fresh, cooked all day in the crockpot or in an Apple Crumble. We’ll use them as a side dish at least three times since this is a 3 lb. bag.
Fresh Spinach $1.79: Spinach is such a versatile vegetable. You can put it in eggs. You can make a salad. You can whip up a smoothie. This week, the spinach will be front and center for the Chef’s Salad. Obviously, if you prefer a different leaf, you can feel free to swap it out.
Sweet Onion $0.69: We use onions on a regular basis. Typically I keep a chopped one in my fridge at all times to use for stir fry, fajitas, chili, kabobs, or in omelets. Even though you might already have such an item in your pantry, I went ahead and bought one to use for a couple of the meals.
Carrots $1.29: We eat carrots daily here. They go in lunch boxes and serve as an easy, no thinking side dish. You can obviously make a sweet treat or even put them in smoothies, too. I’ve found that you can really save a bundle to buy larger carrots and peel them yourself. You get double the amount of carrots for almost the same price
Avocado $0.87: These were on sale this week at ALDI for $0.29 (WHAT?!) so I had to go ahead and pick up three. They were mid-sized, too not little dinky avocados. We’ll have them with fajitas and on the Chef Salad. Since they’re filled with good fat, avocados keep your belly fuller for longer. Score.
Multi-Colored Peppers $1.89: Along with onions and mushrooms, I find peppers to be the most versatile veggies for the summer time. You can eat them as a side dish or “veg up” (I was going to say beef up but that just felt wrong) entrees like pasta, pizza, fajitas, soups, salads, and sandwiches with peppers. We’ll kabob ours, saving some smaller amounts for an egg casserole and Chef Salad.
Green Peppers $1.49: All of the same could be said about green peppers, the red and orange pepper’s more common cousin. You get more green peppers for less money so if your family digs them, swap out the multiple-colored peppers for the plain ones. If not, grab them in addition to stretch your menu plan a bit further.
Black Beans $0.59: We love the extra oomph that black beans provide. We’ll make our own naked burritos with these, some chicken, and of course avocado for an incredibly filling meal.
Organic Salsa $1.89: You could certainly buy a more economic salsa. My husband prefers the organic ALDI brand so that’s what I buy. 🙂
Sweet Potatoes $2.49: Sweet potatoes are another filling and versatile food. We’ll split this 3 pound bag between two meals and probably still have a potato leftover for another day.
Strawberries $1.49: We have plenty of our own strawberries on the vine right now but they’re not quite ready. So I picked up a quart for us to use as a side dish. They’ll get devoured in one meal here but you might have a few leftover for breakfast the next morning.
Seedless Cucumber $0.99: It’s hard to satisfy everyone’s veggie preferences but can I admit that I completely purchased this cucumber just for me? It will go on the Chef’s Salad for those who will eat it but primarily I will eat half of it while I am chopping things for dinner because I can’t resist. Just being honest.
Shredded Cheddar Cheese $2.79: Everything is better with cheese, right? For this meal plan, we need shredded cheese for the naked burrito fajitas and the egg casserole.
Sliced Colby Jack Cheese $1.99: We probably won’t use the entire package with this meal plan (yay for leftovers for you!). But the sliced cheese will be front in center for our grilled cheese bar.
Mushrooms $0.69: What’s a kabob without a yummy grilled mushroom? You will also need to set 2-3 aside to use for the Chef’s Salad and egg casserole.
Fit and Active Light Italian Dressing $1.29: Usually I make my own marinades from a base of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, a sweetener (honey, maple syrup, or brown sugar) and a seasoning like garlic salt or mesquite. But during the summer I am too busy mowing the yard. So one of my favorite grilling recipes involves dumping a bottle of salad dressing into a bag of chicken and letting it thaw in the marinade for a couple of days (2-3 is the best if you plan ahead). You could also use a poppy seed or even French dressing and get the same yummy result.
The Grand Total: $47.09
I left a little wiggle room kind of accidentally. I meant to pick up a package of asparagus for $2.89 (which could be used for 3 meals at least because the package is HUGE). But I already had half of one at home and didn’t want to duplicate. If you don’t like asparagus, pick another veggie or some pasta up to help round out the final $2.91 of your budget. 😉
The Meal Plan
Chicken and Veggie Kabobs
I chose to use the fresh chicken for kabobs since it would be easier to cut and marinade quickly on the first night home. Years ago, I purchased some metal skewers that are reusable and dishwasher safe. If you use wooden kabob sticks, you’ll want to soak it in water before you put the meat and veggies on them so that they don’t catch fire on the grill. Also, a food safety word to the wise – always put your meats and veggies on separate sticks to avoid possible contamination. I know it’s confusing because at the grocery store they put both together but I’d rather be safe than
throwing up all night long sorry. Make a quick marinade using ~ 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar, 1/2 cup of olive oil, 1 T of brown sugar, and a 1 t of garlic salt. Add 1-2 cups of hot water and stir. Then pour it over veggies (all but 2-3 mushrooms, half of the onion, and half of the peppers) in a large bowl and allow them to sit all day in the refrigerator. Place the chicken in a separate bowl and do the same. Grill the chicken on a covered grill for ~ 20 minutes or until no longer pink in the center. Add the veggies to the grill at about the 10 minute mark so they finish at the same time. I love Jasmine rice for a slightly sweet taste with the kabobs. And you’ll want to use the strawberries early in the week so that they don’t go yuck before you get to gobble them up
with Spinach, Carrots, Peppers, Cucumbers, Cheese, Avocado, Egg, Ham, Mushroom
Veggie it up with this quick salad solution. If you can, as soon as you get home from ALDI, take 30 minutes to chop all of your veggies and even hard boil a couple of eggs. That way when meals come later in the week, you’ll already be prepared and will be less pressed for time.
After dinner pull 1 large chicken breast out of the bag of frozen boneless, skinless chicken. Place it in an air tight container and allow to thaw in the refrigerator overnight.
Naked Chicken Fajita Burritos with
with Black Beans, Salsa, Spinach, Cheese, and Avocado
We really like dining out at Qdoba but the same can be easily made at home. You can choose to make the chicken fajitas on the stove top or on the grill. Cut the chicken into long thin strips. Use about 1/2 of the remaining peppers and onions. Toss together in a large frying pan with a small amount of oil and any taco seasoning you might have on hand. If you don’t have any, use salt and pepper and you’ll be fine. The black beans simply need rinsed and heated (add about 1/4 cup of water to them so they don’t burn. Fix the rice as directed and top with the salsa, shredded cheese (keep at least 1/2 of it though), avocado, and spinach to make a super filling meal.
After dinner, pull the remaining bagged chicken out and pour the entire bottle of salad dressing into the bag. More than likely you’ll want to set the bag on a large dish or 9×13 pan so it doesn’t become a sticky mess in your fridge as it thaws. With that being said, place it in the fridge for 2 days.
Ham, Veggie, Egg, & Cheese Casserole
Sweet Potato Hashbrowns
We have a basic egg casserole recipe (stay tuned, I’m blogging it next week!) that has been in our family for years. The best thing about it is that can be varied to suit all sorts of flavors. I’ve added mango salsa to it before for a sweet and spicy kick. You can use bacon, ham, or sausage as a meat or no meat at all. This week, I’m using some of the ham along with our chopped veggies (If you have them sun dried tomatoes, asparagus, onions, and spinach are mwah! Or you can used a mushroom or two along with onions and peppers for a Denver omelet feel). Cut the sweet potatoes into small square shapes, toss with olive oil, brown sugar, and a seasoning of your choice (seasoned salt is delish but again regular ‘ole salt and pepper work, too). Bake them at 350 degrees on a nonstick cookie sheet in the oven until they’re toasty and browned. You may want to occasionally stir them so they brown on both sides.
Marinaded Grilled Chicken
Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Grilled Asparagus (or whatever you chose for your other veggie)
I swear you will never grill chicken the same way again if you haven’t done a salad dressing marinade and let it sit for 24-48 hours before. For the asparagus, it’s simple to wash it, place on a large sheet of foil, and then drizzle with some olive oil and balsamic then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Wrap it up and throw it on the grill to cook in a packet of its own. It will come out steamy and tender.
Grilled Cheese Bar
Carrot Sticks and Sliced Cucumbers
This meal is ridiculously basic. But our family loves Grilled Cheese nights. We pull out any and every item we think might be yummy on the sandwich – different cheeses (there always seems to be a leftover variety), meat (for this meal, use 4-5 slices of the ham), veggies (be adventuresome or don’t use any), and even fruit (apple slices on grilled cheese = to die for). Everyone gets to stylize their own sandwich and some of the possible toppings can even be side dishes. For the applesauce, you simply chop up ~ 3 apples and put them in your crockpot all day long on low. They’re marvelous plain but if you’re feeling fancy, add cinnamon or brown sugar or honey for a little extra yum. By the end of the day, they’ll be a perfect side dish with every little work. Pears also make a great sauce, too. It’s super simple and not haute cuisine but it gets the job done quickly on nights when you don’t have the time to prepare a four course meal.
For the final meal of the week, we’re having breakfast for dinner again. Use the remaining bread and a couple of eggs to make simple french toast on the griddle. You can use some of the remaining ham and quickly heat it up on the griddle, too. You can even get the remainder of the apples in on the action. Add 1 T of butter or coconut oil to the griddle and once melted add the apples (a little cinnamon and/or sugar is yummy, too). It will be a bit messy but the result is super yum.
Once again, the greatest keys to stretching your grocery budget lay in flexibility and willingness to use ingredients that play well with multiple meals. Meats, veggies, and fruits that can “get along” with multiple recipes can help you use all of the items that you’ve purchased instead of your ingredients expiring before you have a chance to use them.
You’ll notice that every meal features a meat. We’re a protein happy family and I wanted to be sure fix foods that would fill us up. While we were paying off debt, we went without meat for a stretch of a few months. It was a challenge but gave us the leverage we needed. However, you don’t have to do that if you don’t want to. This plan has plenty of meat each night.
So are you up to the challenge? How many meals can you make with $50? Share your plan with me in the comments!
My book is now available: Slaying the Debt Dragon: How One Family Conquered Their Money Monster and Found an Inspired Happily Ever After. You can also check out Inspiration to Pay Off Debt: 30 Days of Encouragement from the Queen of Free on Kindle.
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