Wholesome Meal Planning on a Budget

Let’s be realistic. Most of us have budgets. We can’t spend unlimited amounts of money on the food we eat. If you can, that’s awesome, but I know our family is not there yet. We have talked about switching out white sugar, white flour, processed foods and such for more wholesome options, but how does this translate into actual meals? What do these decisions look like when we apply them to a family meal plan and budget?

As I’ve mentioned before, we get our meat from a CSA. We get a combination of beef, pork, and lamb (all pastured/grass-raised) delivered to our door on a monthly basis from a local farm. Once our meat comes, I make a monthly meal plan. The meal plan consists of dinner time meals only. We usually eat leftovers for lunch the next day, and breakfast consists of a whole-wheat baked good and homemade raw yogurt for Ryan and an egg or two, sourdough toast, and homemade raw yogurt for me. We have fresh fruits and vegetables on hand for our lunches and snacks as well. I make a large batch of a baked good (whole-wheat muffins, pumpkin bread, etc.) on Saturday or Sunday and Ryan has that for breakfast throughout the week. It helps us to do it this way because breakfast and lunch are essentially already made. Then, the only thing we focus on making is our evening meal. I’m sure this system won’t work as well when we have more kids, but for now it works quite well for us.

Below is an outline of our weekly dinner plan. I included some health and sourcing information in parentheses by some of the meals so you can get a more accurate idea of how we eat and live.

Monday: Baked paprika salmon (wild caught Alaskan salmon, our source for salmon is a local grocery store), organic brown rice (soaked at least 7 hours in water and whey to break down phytic acid- this helps your body absorb more nutrients from grains and legumes), steamed broccoli with melted butter.

Tuesday: Piima cream and onion pork chops (Piima cream is similar to sour cream, and we make it ourselves. Onions are from a local grocery store, as they are one of the “cleanest”  vegetable (none or very little pesticides). Pork chops are from our CSA), mashed potatoes (potatoes are organic and we buy them from a local grocery store), and cranberry beans (farmer’s market).

Wednesday: Hamburgers (meat is from our CSA, buns from a local bakery or I make sourdough rolls myself, any vegetable toppings are from farmer’s market), pinto beans (we buy these in bulk) and cucumbers (from our farmer’s market).

Thursday: Ribeyes (from our CSA), baked potatoes (see potato source above) with piima cream (see description above), and sautéed squash (from a friend’s garden).

Friday: Baked lamb chops rubbed with salt and pepper (lamb chops are from our CSA, salt is gray sea salt that we order in bulk online), and grilled zucchini and tomatoes (source for zucchini and tomatoes is the farmer’s market or a friend’s garden).

Saturday: Herb-rubbed chicken (chicken is free-range/pastured, happy chicken from our farmer’s market), brown basmati rice (from a local shop that sells it in bulk and soaked at least 7 hours to break down the phytic acid), and corn on the cob (from the farmer’s market).

Sunday: Chicken salad (made with leftover chicken from the night before and homemade mayonnaise) on homemade sourdough rolls (any vegetable toppings are from the farmer’s market) and any vegetable or rice leftovers.

None of the meals above take a terribly long time to prepare. There are a few that require extra prep though, such as rice or beans being soaked. The major change we have made is not so much the recipes themselves, but in the ingredients and where they come from. We’ve found that if we have a few basic ingredients, we have a lot of flexibility in what we are able to prepare. Here are a few things that we always keep on hand:

  1. Beans (pinto, black, etc.): They are incredibly good for you, store well, and are delicious if prepared the right way. Plus, they are cheap!
  2. Whole wheat flour (a must for baking!)
  3. Local eggs from happy hens (e.g. they get to run around outdoors and eat bugs): Eggs are versatile, excellent for you and easy to prepare. I try to eat at least one egg a day. Okay, so sometimes I eat four eggs a day because I LOVE them so much and they are such a cinch to make!
  4. Raw milk (see earlier blog post here about our switch to raw milk, along with a brief bit of information about its health benefits)
  5. In season fruits and veggies from our farmer’s market and friends’ gardens (since mine did not do so well…)
  6. Brown rice (easy to store in bulk)
  7. Local raw honey, local maple syrup, and Rapadura for sweetening baked goods, coffee, etc.
  8. Healthy oils for cooking: We try to have unsalted butter, unrefined olive oil, and coconut oil on hand
  9. Light gray sea salt: Light gray sea salt is packed with minerals and flavor. We buy it in bulk online.
  10. Lots of wild caught Alaskan salmon: It’s easy to prepare and excellent for you!

These are our top 10 grocery priorities (in addition to our CSA meat). We’ve found that these few items can really help stretch out our monthly grocery dollars to go as far as possible. Of course, the trade-off is we make a lot of things from scratch, but we like it that way. We like to know where our food comes from, and we like to know and thank the people who work so hard to grow it.

So, what do we typically spend in groceries? Well, this month our budget is $300 for all our groceries (including paper/household products, food for us, food for pets, etc.). The most we’ve ever budgeted for our monthly groceries in the past year (after we made our wholesome living switch) is $470 and the least we’ve ever budgeted was $270). I have no idea how this compares to other families of similar size, but there you have it for what it’s worth. The key for us has been to decide what ingredients we are willing to spend extra money on to have a higher quality product. Then, we sourced those ingredients to find the best prices possible (this is still a work in progress). Finally, we use those ten products as the backbone of our meals. Be on the lookout for an upcoming blog post where we’ll look at the ten ingredients above in more detail.

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3 thoughts on “Wholesome Meal Planning on a Budget

  1. Melissa says:

    Hi Grace, I’m not sure how well you remember me, but I am VERY interested in learning all of this wonderful knowledge! I need to get a handle on doing this on a very regular basis. Thank you for blogging about this and giving me a go to for meal planning the healthy way!!

    • Grace says:

      Hi Melissa! I do remember you! Thanks so much for the kind words. I’m glad you are enjoying our blog! Not that I know everything there is to know about healthy cooking by any means, but if you have any questions about anything, please feel free to ask!

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