Dinner Menu & Meal Planning & BUDGET

meal planning on a budget This is about as creative as we get for a week's dinner menu:

this weeks menu, gluten free this weeks menu, gluten free this weeks menu, gluten free

We encourage art in our family. I would bend over backwards for the little girl that drew those beautiful pieces of art. Can you see the transformation in her drawing? They are almost in the shape of a real human! Getting there, people. Marks of a true artist.

weekly dinner menu

Our allotted weekly budget for meals is $100. We usually spend around $80 but once in awhile a girl needs some cider and ice cream. And dairy free ice cream is $5 for a tiny little scoop.

Now that we are getting back into a routine, we are able to eat our weekly dose of fish. Because Mondays are usually a day off, we use them to make dinner together. We have this recipe engrained into our brains because, well, its delicious. The chicken chili and quinoa with zucchini and chicken sausage can be found here. The chicken chili was amazing, though I added some cayenne pepper. Neither Loren nor I were a huge fan of the slow cooked quinoa; it tasted a little bland.

I eat gluten free. I skip milk and cheese. I most definitely add half and half to my coffee, but that's about all this body can handle before it stops up like a dam. I find it a lot easier on my life and my wallet and my hopes and dreams to simply omit things. I have stopped trying to find substitutes for cheese and bread. To me, it isn't worth it. Cheese that is everything-delicious-free isn't good. Bread that isn't made with wheat is not fluffy and soft and like heaven in your mouth.

How Do We Eat On A Budget?

The answer: Meal plans.

They are wonderful whether you want to admit it or not. They organize your brain and your food, they provide a structure for grocery shopping, and guess what? If you don't get to the meal you had planned, hopefully you have eggs and bacon you can eat. Or cereal. Every Monday, as the start of our week, I make our dinner meal plans. Our lunches and breakfasts aren't so creative or exciting, as they remain the same quite often. >Breakfast Groceries for the week: -1 box cereal, Loren's choosing -5 dozen eggs (its only $7 for 5 dozen at winco) -1 pack bacon -Potatoes -1 gallon whole milk or almond milk

>Lunches Groceries for the week: -1 loaf bread -1 package sliced cheese (we do this because it normally lasts two weeks and the only time we use cheese is for Loren's sandwiches; it's easy and cheaper than a block. I recognize you get more per capita when you buy the block, but we don't need that much) -romaine lettuce (used for his sandwiches and my salad) -1 pack of sandwich meat, which also lasts about 2 weeks worth -2 cans of shredded chicken for my salads will last me a week

>Snacks for the week: -4 cliff bars for Loren -4 kind or lara bars for Nat -1 bag of chips, Loren's choosing -dried banana chips -applesauce squeezes from Trader Joes (4 for $2) -bananas -apples or pears -hard boiled eggs

>Dinners When we shop for dinners, I simply add to my list what I don't already have. If dinner is from a Pinterest recipe, I look it up and write down any ingredients needed. With our budget, we eat a lot of chicken and ground turkey, with 1-2 nights of red meat. So far this has worked really well! The way I plan our dinner menu is by sitting down, looking at the calendar each day, and discerning about how much time I will have to make dinner. Tuesdays need quick dinners- they are usually something easy like breakfast-for-dinner (brenner) or croc pot. Wednesdays are the same. Thursdays and Fridays I can usually alot a bit more time.

Eat out? Right. We use the jar system (see our budgeting here). We put $20/week to go eat out on a date or with friends. What usually happens is every other week, creating a $40 eat-out night. Really, eating out isn't a top priority for us. It may be different in your home!

There you have it, friends. That is how we budget and meal plan and stick to the menu. It takes about 15 minutes of planning every Monday + the normal grocery shopping. Totally worth it!

How do you meal plan and budget? Give us your tips!

Meal plan + Verse of the week

It's been too long since I've meditated on a specific verse or passage for the entire week. It is time to revisit this. Without the discipline of writing it down every Monday and having something to think about through the week, I find my mind easily wandering off onto rabbit trails of worry and fear, shriveling and withering. Even with reading the bible every morning, if I haven't purposed in my heart that I am going to use a specific chunk to meditate on throughout the week, I tend to trail off. It's the secret of truly meditating. Who knew? The Bible proves true every time:

But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do. Psalm 1:2-3

20140714-161855-58735778.jpg Delighting in The Lord. Meditating on His word day & night. When we do this, we are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each and every season! All of the time. We don't wither and shrivel from fear or worry or anything at all, but prosper in all that we do. Even when our circumstances should be shriveling us. Yes. I want to get back to that. I want to meditate day and night and night and day. But the only way for me to really do that, is to be in His word everyday. And having something to always draw upon.

So this week, I choose Psalm 23. Will you join me? I read it three times this morning. While on our 16 mile bike ride, two of the verses echoed through my head. The Holy Spirit used what I had read to help me meditate on His word. "The Lord is my shepherd. I have all that I need...Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me." 20140714-153116-55876074.jpg20140714-153113-55873930.jpg




As I go through my week I'll read this passage every morning in addition to anything else. As I catch myself alone or need something to think about

besides my lists or "what if's," I have something that will easily pop into my heart. So can you! Just ask the Holy Spirit to take captive of your thoughts, help you meditate on what is pure and lovely, from the heart of Jesus. I promise that releasing our fears and replacing them with prayer and His truths brings SO MUCH FREEDOM. It is so delicious.

On another note- what are you eating this week? Here is my dinner meal plan:


I've been asked by a few peeps now how I meal plan. I'll give you a quick run down.

Our usual day off is Monday. I plan my weeks as Monday being the start of it, rather than Sunday - it's how my brain works & categorizes life. Every Sunday evening or Monday morning, I sit down with my board and my calendar and I begin the process. I ask Loren if he has any requests, which usually he has one. This week it was enchiladas. I am not going to lie - we eat almost the same meals every week. I'll switch it up a bit, but mostly, they're the same. We eat a lot of tacos but this week, they didn't make it onto the menu!

When planning meals, I look at what's going on that day. Will I have an hour or 15 minutes to prep dinner? Will we have something going on for hours where we need to stock up on lots of food or is a simply small meal going to do the trick? I am gluten free and I avoid mass amounts of dairy such as milk and any sort of cheese or ice cream. When we make burgers or BBQ hot dogs, we skip the buns. We don't ever buy flour tortillas; if we are craving some sort of tortilla for our tacos, I'll either make a paleo wrap (found on my Pinterest board) or we will splurge and get corn tortillas. Loren enjoys it all just the same.

Lunches? We are very blessed to have space for a garden. I eat a salad with canned chicken on it; I'll add nuts or berries or avocado. Loren eats a sandwich or hot dog. Since I don't use cheese in our main meals, I no longer purchase the large blocks. So instead of spending $8 on cheese a week, we spend about $3 and buy the pre-sliced for his sandwiches. Not only do we save $5, but I get to save time! No slicing!

We eat about 5 dozen eggs a week. Yes. 5. At WinCo, we can purchase a 5 dozen pack for $7-8 depending on the week. Worth it! For breakfasts we both eat about 4 eggs. Whether scrambled or in a quiche or fried with some turkey on it...we eat eggs. If I don't have a salad for lunch, I eat eggs. Scrambled or hard boiled. I love eggs!

Hard boiled eggs, nuts, and whatever fruit is in season are great snacks to pack as well. I am all about picking local berries and storing for the year! Last year we filled 4 gallon zip lock bags of blue berries. It lasted us 11 months! It maybe cost us a little more than $40, but if you compare a years worth of blue berries at the store versus picking them, it's like you're stealing. So we get all the berries in the summer! Strawberries, black berries, raspberries, and blueberries.

We do most of our shopping at Trader Joes. Not only is it all great produce and free range chicken and grass fed beef, we have found that 75% of it is cheaper than WinCo and Walmart! Definitely cheaper than Safeway and Fred Meyers. Our food budget is about $75/week. Email me if you have any questions.

Enjoy your week and feel free to share any recipes you love, or scriptures that you're meditating on!