Food

5 Days of Healthy Dinners Under $40

I thoroughly enjoy cooking, but after working all day, deciding what to make for dinner can be the worst part of my day. To fix that I started planning what to make for the week on Sundays before grocery shopping. Sometimes I do a little prep work for the week on Sunday too. What a huge difference it’s made on my evenings! A meal plan is also a great way to reduce your grocery bill, and your food waste since you know you’ll use what you buy for the week.

5 Meals – 4 Servings Each

This meal plan is for 4 vegetarian meals, and one meat containing recipe, but all of them are favorites in our rotation. A few of the recipes share ingredients which helps keep the prep work streamlined and ensures that produce gets used up before it goes bad. Depending on the ripeness of your avocados, switch meals around to match whatever day the avocado becomes ripe. Overall things are pretty low in calories to keep things healthy too.

For each of these meals there are 4 servings, so for the two of us that means lunch the next day. That’s 10 meals for each of us (so really 20 meals) covered in 5 meals worth of work. And if you consider the efficiency of prepping produce and beans all at once, that makes a little less work for each meal.

For these recipes I did not calculate in the cost of spices as I always have those on hand. I buy them in bulk on Amazon, or in big containers from Kroger or Costco to save money. I also didn’t calculate in flour or olive oil for the same reason. The budget of $40 is using prices from my Aldi and Kroger in the Richmond, VA area. These are the costs of purchasing these items, not the cost for the amounts actually used. For example, you’re paying $2.99 for 5 pounds of rice, but are only using a cup, which costs $0.24.

The Shopping Lists, $35.87 + tax
Aldi, $24.63 + tax
Kroger, $11.24 + tax
  • cauliflower head, $2.19
  • mini peppers, $2.55
  • cilantro, $0.59
  • 3 avocados, $1.47
  • tortillas, $0.65
  • hamburger buns, $0.65
  • tortilla chips, $0.89
  • enchilada sauce, $1.89
  • dried black beans, $2.39
  • cream cheese, $1.49
  • shredded parmesan, $1.45
  • shredded Mexican cheese, $1.75
  • sliced cheese, $1.25
  • dozen eggs, $0.98
  • ground turkey, $3.49
  • frozen corn, $0.95
  • box of pasta, $0.50
  • 2 red bell peppers, $1.98
  • 2 heads garlic, $1.00
  • 6 jalapenos, $1.20
  • lime, $0.79
  • frozen hash browns, $1.79
  • Italian breadcrumbs, $0.99
  • 5 lbs rice, $2.99

 

Aldi prices are usually consistent except for eggs. I picked a median price there. At Kroger I regularly get pasta on sale for $0.50 and bell peppers for $0.99 so those were the prices I used. To get some money back on your purchases, be sure to check the Kroger app for coupons and open Shopkick in the store for rewards. When you get home you can upload receipts to Ibotta, Checkout 51, Receipt Hog, and Fetch Rewards (use my referral code D5HMB for Fetch and we both get a bonus!) towards rebates and giftcards. I find I do the best on Receipt Hog and Fetch Rewards since you get coins/points just for uploading a receipt no matter what’s on it.

The Prep Work
  • Cook 3/4 cup black beans (for burritos and rice bowls) in enough water to cover them on low to medium for about an hour, adding pepper caps and a clove or 2 of garlic as they cook. Once cooled store in the fridge.
  • Seed and quarter both red bell peppers, get them roasting in the oven at 375 F for about 30 minutes. Let steam and cool in a closed container before peeling. I store them with a few garlic cloves in my blender container so all I have to do is blend and dump into a skillet to make sauce.
  • Slice all mini peppers. I like to cut off the tops, slice in half longways, remove seeds, then slice down each half to make strips. Don’t forget to add the tops to the beans. Store in fridge.
  • Cut the head of cauliflower into bite sized pieces and store in fridge.
  • Cut up jalapenos, I’d slice 3 like the mini peppers for use in burritos and the bowl, slice one into rings for adding to the burgers, and dice the remaining 2 for use in guacamole. Don’t forget to throw the caps into the beans also. Add slices to mini peppers, store rings and diced jalapenos in small containers in the fridge.
  • Mix up a double batch of turkey burger seasoning: 4 tbsn chili powder, 4 tsp garlic powder, 4 tsp chipotle powder, 4 tsp ancho chili powder, 2 tsp cumin, 1.5 tsp onion powder, 1.5 tsp paprika, 1/2 tsp cayenne powder. A small mason jar works well for storage.
Eating for the Week

We pick up bagels for the week from Panera on Tuesdays (a bakers dozen is half off!) to eat for breakfasts and both of us keep a few snacks at our desks at work. This plan has five nights of dinners that give leftovers for 5 days of lunches to take care of everything else. I like to start my weekly meal on Sunday so I have lunch on Monday. That means I don’t have dinner planned for Friday, which is ok since we often go out, get takeout, or make things like that aren’t good leftover.

I like to start the week with more produce heavy dishes since the produce will be fresher then, but switch things up based on your mood and how much time you have that night. If we have a dog training class to get to I might do something like roasted red pepper pasta instead of cauliflower burritos because it’s quicker. I also try to plan meals that don’t use the oven on warmer days to avoid overheating the house.

What’s your favorite recipe in this meal plan?

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