Yesterday I approached meal-planning like a project with limited resources. My goal is to keep things interesting but realistic (I used to get funny looks from ‘mom’ types because I spent too much on food for one person). I am a bachelor and back at the beginning of my single-hood I used to spend an inordinate amount of money on weekly groceries. I’m also sick of eating like an infantry-man from canned rations that’s cheap, hearty and repetitive.
I carried out my ‘monthly’ meal plan and it came to a comfortable $100 for the entire month, just this evening. This plan is based on my personal experience with eating at home on a budget. I have managed to make it gourmet, game-day and healthy. The secret of this meal plan is taking advantage of ‘left overs’. Here is my meal-plan explained here for the sake of ‘share or die’.
Take an average month and there are about 31 days. Based on my cooking routine, I will say I have a need for about 4 ‘big sit down dinners at home’ (like a pot roast or a big pizza), that translates to 1 big sit down dinner a week while the rest of the time I eat quick meals that can be made in the microwave. These 4 big dinners have left-overs, so they are really 2 days worth of food. Those 4 big meals are like 8 days worth of food. With each meal, I not only have that main (such as the pot roast or the pizza), I also have a ‘grain’ (such as bread – more on this later because it’s important), a side (such as a vegetable or a salad dish). You can buy 4 big dinners at the grocery store ‘any which way’, like a frozen 1 kg. lasagna (which is really for a family of four) for $8. If you buy 4 comparable dinners like that your total is $32 (for 8 days).
That leaves a remainder of 23 days. Reviewing my eating habits, I found I eat three types of things repeatedly (such as instant-noodle, ‘Steamers’ and burgers). My approach to filling in the remaining 23 days is like this .. 23 days for 3 types of quickie-meals is about 8 days of instant-noodle, 8 days of steamers and 8 days of burgers. With each serving of which I also include a ‘grain’ (or soup) and a side (such as french fries, salad or coleslaw). Adding these things up comes to somewhere between $68 or less. Did you ‘get’ how I am able to do that? Well, in actuality, what was on sale at the three food emporium within walking distance comes to a list like this (for $100):
$9.99 (1 kg.) Pulled Pork Flatbread
$9.99 (1 kg.) Butter Chicken and white rice
$6.99 3 Meat Lasagna
$6.99 Beef Lasagna
$2.99 each Two kinds of ‘Steamer’ dinners
$9.99 box of 10 seasoned burgers
1 box / $6.99 Buffalo Chicken Wings
1 box / $5.00 Crispy Chicken Wings
$3.99 NY Cheesecake
2 bags / $5 Spicy French Fries
Vegetable Campbell’s Soup
3 / $1 Canned corn kernels
..and more (such as eggs, juice and coffee) that all came under $100 for the entire month, leaving me with plenty for take-out and things for the coming holiday season.
Oh, about the grain. If you eat out, they always put down the bread first. There is something about it that signals the body to eat. Therefore, it is important to put down a grain (or substitute a soup) to give the body that signal about eating time.