This Week’s Dinners for $70 or Less

crockpot chili

A few month’s ago, my friend Amy from Mom’s Toolbox and VineSleuth Uncorked emailed asking whether or not I had any easy meal plans here at Life as MOM. I’ve been trying to get her on the freezer cooking band wagon for awhile now. I can’t remember her exact objection, but she said something like it intimidated her and what about cooking a week of food at a time?

After kicking around some different ideas with my sister Janel, we decided to revamp the weekly menu plans so that they build on one another and include a list of prep-ahead tasks. After all, one of the biggest time-saving strategies about freezer cooking is that the recipes share common ingredients and that you do all your chopping, dicing, and slicing at one time.

Why not apply these same techniques to a weekly meal plan? You can shop once, prep once, and then throughout the week do the assembly. I tested the first one out a month or two ago and was thrilled with how easy it was! Meal plans that build on one another are the way to go. Janel, ever the frugal law school wife, insisted that the meals average $10 or less. With a little tweaking, that’s the plan for

This Week’s Dinners for $70 or Less.

I’m really excited about how these plans work together. They are meant to feed 4, but I stretched each one just a bit to feed 8, so when push comes to shove, you can make it happen.

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With “This Week’s Dinners for $70 or Less”, you’ll get…

7 meals plus side dishes

In our previous plans, they included only five main dishes per week figuring that families may eat out once a week and use up leftovers on one night. For some families, eating out is not an option and for others there just aren’t any leftovers to be had. So, we decided to increase the number of meals included in each plan.

If you don’t need the 6th and 7th suppers, you can carry them over to another week, prep and freeze, or serve them for lunches, which is what I did.

Our older plans also included only one or two side dishes so that you could add your own to flesh out the rest of your meals. With these plans, we’ve added in some side dishes for each meal so it really makes it easy for you. No adding to the list needed. Just print the list and shop. Of course, if your family doesn’t dig what’s on the plan, feel free to swap it out for something different. Be sure to read the plans and grocery lists carefully so that you can make necessary tweaks.

Meals that build on each other

One great way to save time and money is to plan meals that build on one another. The roast chicken from one night contributes to the chicken pot pie another night. By creating these “Werewolf Meals” — they turn into something else the next night — you effectively use up leftovers and save time in the following evening’s meal prep.

It’s a bit tricky to plan meals that are different enough to stay interesting, but still make a cohesive plan. We’ll do the work for you.

A suggested order of preparation

Since the meals do build on one another, we’ll offer a basic suggestion for meal order. Feel free to move things around, but know you might have to do some extra work to make it all jive together.

A week’s worth of meals on a $70 budget

Obviously, we can’t guarantee that the meal plan will only cost $70 because food prices fluctuate across the country. Where you live and where you shop can make a huge difference in your bottom line. But, we’ve done our best to test out the plans to make sure that you can fill your cart for approximately $70.

Janel and I live on opposite coasts but shop at two common venues: Trader Joe’s and Walmart. We’ve done some price comparisons and feel comfortable with the price tags we’re putting on things. Your mileage may vary based on food costs in your community and/or what you’ve already got in your pantry and freezer. (Remember, you save money using what you have instead of letting it go to waste.)

We’re eager to share the new plans with you. We’re tweaking and testing to make sure they are just as helpful as can be. In the meantime, check out the meal planning archives and the 40+ FREE printable meal plans, and take the week off meal planning!

And if you’ve got a request, well, speak now or forever hold your peace. ;)

What’s in YOUR dream meal plan?

Meal Plan #1 – Chicken Tenders – The first meal plan is here! Grab this Chicken Plan that can be shopped at Trader Joe’s for extra ease. There won’t be any special ingredients that you can’t buy elsewhere, but if you love TJ’s, you’ll love this plan.

Meal Plan #2 – Mostly Meatless

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Comments

  1. Ooooo Exciting!! :) I can’t wait!

  2. This sounds just perfect! I especially love the budget friendly part and the building on each other will be perfect. Can’t wait to see what’s in store!

  3. Jennifer Hoffman says:

    I looove this idea! I’ve seen it on other meal plans and it really saves so much time/money! Do you add in a dessert/snack each week? Would you consider adding in cheap lunch/bkfst/snack ideas each week? A similar plan I’ve seen is at thebettermom.com if you’re looking for some inspiration :-) will these post each monday?
    By the way, THANK YOU!!! :-) you probably dont hear that enough!

  4. What a blessing this will be for overworked moms and dads!

    Good ideas – no requests – but great work

  5. Bethany Broughton says:

    I can’t wait till you post this! I have been trying to do this for some time and i can not do it! I have 4 adults to feed and I just can’t seem to get me food bill under 150 a week and usually more. I hope you can help us out. I am desperate I became disabled a couple of years ago and the a year later my husband lost his job he had had for 34 years and now he can not find a job anywhere! IMy daughter and her husband graduated college and they can not find a job either so we are packed in here like sardines haha. I can’t wait till you post! I hope it is not much longer. I really need some help. I mean I know the common sense of it all but it never equals up at the end

  6. I have mixed feelings about the new plan. EXCITED because I have gotten lots of good ideas from you in the past that I have used and still use. WARY because I’ve wanted to use your meal plans in the past, but found lots of them used recipes from cookbooks I don’t have. I understand you want me to buy your cookbook (and I’d want me to do that too, if I were you), but I haven’t, so that limits the usefulness of your meal plans. So, there, I’ve said my bit and having said that, I look forward to seeing what you have for us.

    • I’m glad you were honest! And just to speak to at least one concern: these weekly meal plans ONLY contain recipes that are available online. We’ve actually NEVER used “cookbook only” recipes in the meal plans, just in the freezer cooking plans.

      The freezer cooking plans occasionally have a recipe or two from my freezer cookbook because so many of those recipes I’m not allowed to post, but they are great recipes that I want folks to give a shot. Many many libraries have my freezer cookbook, so a purchase is not required, though it is appreciated.

      Hope that helps, at least on the meal planning front.

      • I just wanted to chime in on the cookbook thing. If there is a book that you want to use but can’t buy for whatever reason, see if your local library will purchase it. My local library has a super easy form to fill out to request specific books for purchase. When I made a request, they purchased the book very quickly. It was awesome, and now others in the community get to check it out as well.

        • I live in a small town which has a small library. But it has two resources which extend their reach: books that you can borrow online and books that you can borrow through inter-library loan. So if your library doesn’t have it and has a small budget, then you might be able to borrow it via another method.

      • You know what? You are right and I was wrong. It was the fill-your-freezer cooking day menus that included recipes from your cookbook. Thanks for also explaining that you’re not allowed to post those online after they go into a cookbook. That makes sense. I’m really looking forward to the $70 menus now!

        • Honestly, I’m currently allowed to post less than 20% of the recipes that go into the books. That’s part of why I push the books — I’m so excited for people to see the recipes that I can’t share on the blogs. Some of my favorite recipes are in the freezer book and the upcoming fall dinner book, but I won’t be able to share them. So, y’all have to get your library to buy them or something. :)

        • Chiming in here. We have limited resources, but I wanted the freezer cookbook because I think it will help me save $. Here is what I did. I put the book in my Amazon cart and then checked the price periodically. This way was a good way to watch price fluctuations, and then purchased when I thought it wouldn’t go lower (but who knows). I did get it for less though! Now I just need time to read it! :)

  7. Exciting! I can’t wait! =)

  8. Wow! Amazed! And so looking forward to it!

  9. Love your site(s)! Just wanted to add I’m looking forward to these plans and thank you!

  10. I love this idea! I use your meal plans as inspiration to plan mine out (I do a month at a time) but this will really help me stock my freezer. Hubby surprised me with a chest freezer and now I have to fill it!

  11. Great idea! I’m in one of those phases of life where there’s just tons of expenses so keeping costs down is pretty critical. Thanks for spending the time to help people out. :)

  12. Lee Anne says:

    Yay!

  13. Jessica B says:

    I am looking forward to this! Back in a more stressful time of my life, I was working full time, out of the house at a stressful job with a baby and toddler. My husband had a commute that was over an hour. I would walk in the door each evening at 5:50, and need to put dinner on the table by 6:15 (when my husband walked in) so kids wouldn’t melt down and we could have some time to play. The meal plan, almost every week, started like this. Sunday: marinate enormous amounts of chicken breasts and grilled veggies. Grill and eat for dinner. Dice all the leftover chicken. Monday: Chicken stir fry with Frozen veggies. Tuesday: Chicken quesadillas with Mexican rice, salsa & diced grilled veggies. Wed: Crock pot. (with a non chicken item) Then new plans started from there. It wasn’t exciting but I could get a homemade meal on the table in 20 minutes at least 3 work nights a week.

  14. Stacey K says:

    I LOVE this idea! I’m so excited! Is there an estimate about how long this will be before the meal plans are available? I can’t wait! I always need help in the meal planning department.

  15. This sounds great! I made your salsa verde beef this week. It’s a fave at our house!

  16. Michaelene says:

    I love to build some of meals on each other like this. I’d ideally like to see at least one slow cooker meal in the plan. I usually use my slow cooker 2-3 times in a week.

  17. Will there be a variety of cooking methods? For example: oven, slow cooker, rice cooker, stove top, etc.

  18. I love the idea of weekly meals already planned with shopping lists. One thing that would improve the usability of meal plans is if the grocery lists were more smartphone friendly. I typically use the grocery iq app for lists, but even a list that was formatted with checkboxes for use the the Evernote app would make this a lot more user friendly (at least for this user). :)

    • Have you ever made that kind of list yourself? What format does Evernote use? I’m not familiar with it, so you’ll have to help me out. :)

      • I looked around online and I am not sure how you would post an Evernote list in an html page. But, you could make an Evernote account (they are free, but if you want premium features and more disk space they have a subscription), create a grocery list note and then share the note.

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