Are you looking to spread your money out better while still being able to eat? I’m going to tell you how I prepare two specific types of meals that cost around $20 a week that allows me to use the rest of my money in other ways.
I’m going to preface this by saying these aren’t the only foods I’ll eat during the week, but they are the bulk of what I’ll eat. After all, I like to buy dessert and some other snacks here and there.
I’m also making an assumption that you’ll already have some things like oil or butter and spices. If not, you’ll have to purchase those items, but they’ll last you for a long time so they won’t put a significant crimp in your food budget. One last thing is that I’m assuming food costs for you will be similar to mine, since I basically shop at a store where locally the prices are higher. Makes sense though, since we share a backyard.
Let’s start with my combination of either hamburger or chicken along with rice and mixed vegetables. If I only used chicken I would economize a lot better, but I do like my hamburger.
First, the cost details.
I bought a 4-pound package of boneless chicken thighs for $8. I prefer chicken thighs to breasts because they stay more moist, even though healthy eating experts will say that they’d prefer us to eat breasts because they have less fat. We all have to pick our poison right? In any case, the package came with 16 thighs; for my purposes, I only had to use 8 for the week, which means I could either freeze the rest of them before or after cooking them; I usually prefer to cook them later and then store in the freezer so the next time all I have to do is thaw them out.
The package of hamburger was $4 for a pound; I could have gone with the 4-pound package of hamburger, which would save money long term, but initially it takes me over my $20 for the week. That plus it’s a lot harder storing all that extra hamburger in the freezer, whether I cook it ahead or not. If you have the capacity then it’s a good way to go; I don’t.
I like to add frozen mixed vegetables instead of items from the produce section, since it’s already got an array of things I’ll actually eat. Once cooked, it comes to just over 4 cups, and the package will say that’s 5 servings. I used two bags, which were a dollar each. If you want, you can add onions, which I did. I bought chopped onions, which were $2 per container but I only needed the one.
Finally, the rice. I bought a brand name brown rice with the boil-in-bag, which makes it easier to measure. I used 4 bags, as that’s what comes in the box. It supposedly creates 8 full cups of cooked rice, and a serving is considered 1/2 a cup. This means you’re getting 16 servings if you’re strict with your measurements.
The total amount for all of this was $18; not bad right? I’m not going to get into how I cook things, but I will mention that I chop up the chicken into smaller pieces just before it’s totally cooked, and I do the same with the hamburger. I’m now going to jump to the measuring part; yup, you have to measure to get the cost benefit of it all.
Because I also had hamburger, my meal took longer to prepare. That’s because in both instances I cooked the meat first, then when it was almost done I added a full package of mixed vegetables to each one of them while still in the skillet, along with 1/2 the onions into each batch. No boiling, so that should keep any of the nutrients that we’re told boiling removes.
Now, the measurements; oh yeah, this also presupposes you have containers to put it all into. If not, then hopefully you’ll have large bowls to put everything into so you can portion it out at your leisure later on.
I have tons of containers because for a long while I bought a lot of Chinese take out, and I always kept the plastic containers; isn’t that a shame? lol First, I used measuring cups to put 1/2 cup of rice into each container. For some reason, this ended up being in 12 containers instead of just 10; hey, I’ll take what I can get.
Next, using a food scale, I measured out 6oz of my meat/vegetable mixes and put them into each container along with the rice. When I was done, I had 12 full meals that I could put into the refrigerator, and still had some chicken and vegetables left over that I put into a bowl and ate as an extra treat.
Thus, 12 meals that all I had to do was take them out of the fridge, put them in the microwave for 3 minutes, and I’m good to go. If I wanted I could use them for 2 meals a day and eat something else later if I need to. The thing is that the main meals of the day have been taken care of for little cost.
My second meal… well, I can’t see a single nutritionist supporting it, but it works for me. This is how I create my version of spaghetti sauce that I can eat off of for at least a week. My measurements here will be a bit imprecise, but it works for me.
Once again, I start with a package of hamburger for $4, but I add a package of sweet sausage, which comes to $6.
I’m not one of those people who makes sauces from scratch; ain’t got that kind of time grandma! Instead, I have my favorite jar of spaghetti sauce that I start with. I buy one 45oz jar of that. Then I buy two jars of alfredo sauce; I mix up the brands when I’m in the mood but you can use anything you want to. In this case I buy two 16oz jars. The cost of that usually comes to around $9.
The last thing is the spaghetti. I like thin spaghetti, and it costs a dollar a box. However, in this case I end up buying the larger box of spaghetti, which gives you 4 packages of spaghetti for $2.50. That’s because I’m going to get at least 10 meals out of my concoction, and it brings the overall price closer to $20, although I doubt you’ll beat me up if I went the other route and got to $21.
Just to add this, sometimes I’ll add an onion to the mixture, but in this case I buy a vidalia onion and cut it up on my own; the flavor seems to work out better. If I do that, then I have to add another dollar to my total.
Once again, with the meats everything gets chopped up before adding to the sauce. I mix all the sauces together early on and let them simmer on a low heat while preparing the meat. You obviously have to use a very large pot because once you add the meat the level of the sauce will be much higher.
When you’ve mixed everything together and you’re satisfied with what you have, you can now start cooking your pasta, whether it’s spaghetti or something else.
How many meals you’ll get out of it depends on how much pasta you eat at a time. I’ve gotten used to knowing how much uncooked spaghetti will give me the amount of cooked spaghetti I’ll get. When the spaghetti is cooked I go into the pot, which the first day is obviously already hot but later on will be cold, and put in the amount of sauce I know I like with it. Once warmed up enough I put it all into a bowl and I’m good to go.
Two things here. One, I’ve done the measurements using my food scale, and my meals always come out between 12 and 16 ounces. That’s higher than a measured serving should probably be. However, two, I always get at least 10 meals out of a sauce; sometimes more, but never less.
In any case, these are two meals I cook often that help me spread out not only my food budget but the rest of my budget also. If you have any questions or comments, let me know below.
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