Fabulously Frugal: Meal planning tips to stretch your dollar further

Photo by Jenna E.

One of our biggest expenses after housing is food. Menu planning can save a LOT of money.

Here’s how to do it: Based on what’s on sale, craft a weekly menu. Map out your breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks. Dust off the slow cooker and use it to cook while you’re taking care of other tasks. Challenge yourself to find new recipes to incorporate what’s in the freezer and pantry, as well as what’s on sale, to make the most of the weekly deals and what you already have on hand.

On a per-pound basis, lunch meat is not in a frugal shopper’s budget. But this week, actual chicken breasts are on sale. Chicken breasts at $4.88 for 454 grams are one-quarter the cost of sliced and preserved chicken breast lunch meat at $4.28 for just 100 grams. Frugalists can cook those delicious chicken breasts in the slow cooker and then shred them with two forks and portion them out for lunches.

Besides being economical, menu planning is convenient for several reasons. It can eliminate extra trips to the store for a missing ingredient. Keeping a prepared menu on the fridge helps answer the dreaded ‘What are we having for dinner?’ and the often inevitable ordering of take out. And when you get the cream out of the fridge for your morning coffee, you can look at the menu and be reminded to grab that package of meat from the freezer and pop it in the fridge to thaw for those already-thought-out dinner plans.

Photo by Brooke Lark.

And plan for leftovers! Cooking a big batch of something is a money and time saver, but most of us don’t want to eat the same thing more than twice in a row. If you save two servings of each meal you make just once a week, in four weeks you’ll have eight frugal, healthy, nutritious home-cooked meals ready to go in the freezer!

Plan your meals around some of the best sales on a weekly basis, and before you know it, you’ll be meal planning in your head without effort and saving money while you’re at it!

See my tips for using this week’s deals in your meal planning below.

Flyer deals of the week

Giant Tiger

  • Iceberg lettuce or celery: $1.99 each
  • Bacon, Gold Label Smokehouse: $2.47/375 g
  • Apples, Royal Gala: $2.99/3 lb bag
  • Pears: $2.88/2 lb bag
  • Spinach and spring mix, Earthbound Farm Organic or Attitude brands: $2.97/142 g package

Food Basics

  • Blueberries: $1.88/170 grams
  • Lean ground beef: $2.98/lb
  • Boneless pork loin chops: $2.88/lb
  • Shredded cheese, Selection: $4.44/320 grams
  • Frozen vegetables, Selection: $2.44/500-750 grams

No Frills (And remember, they price match for identical items)

  • Broccoli crowns: $1.33 ea
  • Pineapple: $1.88 ea
  • Romaine lettuce hearts, Andy Boy: $1.88/2 pack
  • Chicken legs with backs attached: $1.86/lb
  • Milk, Neilson TruTaste: $4.88/4 L (you can freeze milk!)
  • Pasta, Italia: $1.25/750 grams
  • Zucchini, fresh: $1.88 lb
  • Red or green peppers, 4 pack: $3.88
  • Chicken breasts: $4.88/lb
  • Bagels, tortillas, and English muffins, No Name: $1.44/pack
  • Pasta sauce, Catelli Garden Select: $149/640 mL
  • Hash brown patties, Cavendish: $2.99/600 grams
  • Carrots: $2.88/3 lb bag

Menu planning with sale items in mind

Here’s my menu plan for one week, based on sales this week with a few pantry staples added.

Day 1:

  • Breakfast: Bagels with peanut butter and sliced royal gala apples, hash browns
  • Lunch: Chicken Caesar wrap with romaine hearts, chicken breast, and homemade Caesar dressing. (Cook the chicken in your slow cooker and shred once it’s done)
  • Dinner: Lean ground beef stir fry with frozen mixed vegetables over rice

Day 2:

Photo by Mustafa Bashari.
  • Breakfast: English muffins with scrambled eggs and spinach
  • Lunch: Bacon wraps on tortillas with lettuce, and tomato
  • Dinner: Grilled chicken breasts with roasted broccoli and baked potatoes

Day 3:

  • Breakfast: Yogurt with diced pineapple
  • Lunch: Egg salad sandwiches with a side of carrot sticks, a pear
  • Dinner: Baked chicken legs, roasted potatoes, and steamed broccoli

Day 4:

  • Breakfast: Omelettes with diced bell peppers, spinach, and cheese
  • Lunch: Pasta salad with veggies and cherry tomatoes, shredded cheese, balsamic vinaigrette
  • Dinner: Grilled eggplant and zucchini lasagna with ground beef, side salad

Day 5:

  • Breakfast: Smoothies with blueberries and yogurt, hash browns
  • Lunch: Chicken and red pepper wrap with cheese
  • Dinner: Bacon-wrapped chicken breasts with roasted potatoes and celery, baked potatoes

Day 6:

  • Breakfast: Breakfast burritos with scrambled eggs, bacon, and cheese in a tortilla
  • Lunch: Bagel with cream cheese, a pear or apple, celery sticks, carrot sticks
  • Dinner: Spaghetti with marinara sauce, spinach, garlic bread with cheese

Day 7:

  • Breakfast: Pancakes with apple slices (add the sliced apples to the batter once you’ve put it in the pan)
  • Lunch: Chicken vegetable wrap or pork fried rice, side of carrots and celery
  • Dinner: Pork chops, baked potatoes, roasted zucchini, and red peppers.

Happy Frugality!

Kingston resident Sarah Cronk offers tips on money-saving strategies and the best deals to be found in local grocery stores in her bi-weekly Kingstonist column, Fabulously Frugal. Have any questions for Sarah or things you’d like her to investigate in terms of cost savings? Let us know! Email Kingstonist Editor-in-Chief Tori Stafford at [email protected].

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