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Real Food On A Budget, Tip #2: Have a plan for when you have no plan.

Sounds impossible, right?  I mean, how can you plan for when you don't plan?  I guess, by definition, if you have a plan for when you have no plan then you always have a plan...
Sometimes all you have to do is throw together some leftovers or other fridge fare, like I did with this summer pasta toss.

Now that I've thoroughly semantically confused you, let me explain what I mean.  Or better yet, give an example.

I usually meal plan sometime over the weekend.  If I'm really on top of it I'll do it on Thursday and shop over the weekend when I can leave the kids home with daddy, because then it's easier for me to focus.

But this past weekend we were out of town.  We had a lovely time at the wedding of a college friend of Scott's in Wisconsin.  But because of it I didn't get the chance to meal plan or shop.

So when we got home late yesterday afternoon no one had any idea what was going to be for supper.  Or what we were going to eat today.

But I have a plan for... well, you know what I mean.

Last night we had ground beef one pot spaghetti, and for dinner tonight we are having Mexican beef and black bean soup.

But how can I have a plan for these days?  Here are some tips:
  • Keep recipes in mind that you can make from things you nearly ALWAYS have in your pantry or freezer- Mexican Beef and Black Bean soup is one I love because the ingredients- black beans (soaked, cooked, and frozen), ground beef, canned diced tomatoes, and chicken stock are things I pretty much ALWAYS have around.  If your family eats pasta, spaghetti is another good one.  I also like tuna casserole, broccoli rice casserole (if I'm lucky enough to have leftover rice in the fridge), homemade mac-n-cheese... all of these are things I try not to eat frequently because they are higher in starch and all (other than the rice, if you use leftover soaked brown rice) include unsoaked grain.  But they are also better than getting frustrated, giving up, and ordering pizza.
  • Replenish things when you run out.  If you cook and freeze beans like I do, be sure to make more when you run out.  If your pantry and freezer are empty it's hard to come up with a back up plan.
  • Cut yourself some slack.  Like I mentioned in the first one, on days like this we compromise a little in order to make sure we get a frugal, nourishing meal.  Or I fail and we eat pizza.  Falling behind once doesn't make you a failure!
All you have to do, really, is take a good look at your pantry, think about what is normally in there, and make a list.  Not even a long list- maybe 4 or 5 dishes.  You can do it!

Speaking of which... here's my meal plan for this week:

Lunches:  Boiled eggs, bread and roast beef, chinese cabbage salad, leftover roast chicken


Monday:  Mexican Beef and Black Bean Soup

Tuesday:  Fried pork chops with potatoes and gravy, braised kale

Wednesday:  Roast Chicken with turnips, carrots, and onion

Thursday:  Chicken and Biscuit pot pie

Friday:  Zucchini Parmesan

Saturday:  Grilled Hamburgers deluxe, deviled eggs

Sunday: Tuna Casserole

ETA Weekly Spending.  I know most of you don't care a lick, but I'm trying to prove a point so here it is, for accountability.

Walmart (don't judge...):  bought canned red salmon, canned sardines, organic butter, parmesan cheese, and hamburger buns.  Total:  $19.32

Spiral:  bought honey and tortillas.  Total:  $14

Milk:  $7.50

Weekly Total:  (minus the excess from last week) $35.52.  Overbudget by $5.52, but I'll take it out of next week.

This post has been shared at CookingTF's Traditional Foods Tuesday, Beyond the Peel's Keep it Real Thursday, GNOWFGLINS Simple Lives Thursday, and The Healthy Home Economist's Monday Mania.

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