Menu Plan Monday: Eat Well, Spend Less Edition

eat well spend less

This month I’m participating in the Eat Well, Spend Less series with eight other bloggers. Each week we’ll be sharing tips from our own experiences to help you eat well on a budget.

This week, rather than sharing my actual meal plan for the week, I’m sharing my  favorite “budget meals” for eating well on a budget! As it turns out, inexpensive and easy tend to go hand-in-hand (in our house, at least), as you’ll see below:

1. Easy Baked Ziti

We eat a lot of Italian pasta dishes, a combination of our tastes (even my notoriously picky husband likes most Italian food!) and my Italian heritage. Although I have my grandmother’s recipe for baked ziti, we often make this easy — and inexpensive — version instead. This summer, I’m hoping to stock the freezer with Aimee’s tomato herb sauce, because there’s no doubt that using homemade sauce would make this dish even less expensive!

Ingredients:

  • 16 oz. box of shaped noodles (ziti and bowtie are our favorites)
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 24 oz. jar of tomato sauce
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Bring a pot of water to a boil and add noodles. Boil until al dente. Drain water.

Add ricotta cheese and tomato sauce and mix well.

Pour mixture into a 9×13 pan. Top with shredded mozzarella.

Bake for 30 minutes.

2. Twice Baked Cheeseburger Potatoes

I discovered this recipe while working on the potato recipe gallery I did a few weeks ago, and it quickly became one of my favorites. It’s easy, inexpensive and delicious!

Ingredients:

  • 4 large Russet potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 pound ground beef or turkey
  • 1 1/4 shredded cheddar cheese, divided
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Wash potatoes, drizzle with olive oil, roll in Kosher salt. Pierce several times with a fork and bake at 400 for 60-75 minutes, until you can stick a knife through them easily.

In the meantime, cook the ground beef. Mix with sour cream, onion powder, salt and 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese.

When the potatoes are done, cut them in half and scoop out the insides, leaving enough around the edges so that they hold their shape. Mix the potato with the rest of the filling and then scoop it back into the potato shells.

Sprinkle them with more cheddar cheese and bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

3. Dutch Puff

This is one of our favorite breakfast — or breakfast-for-dinner — recipes. It’s  packed full of protein, inexpensive and sticks with you for a while so that you’re not hungry again in an hour!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 8 eggs
  • 4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2.5 tsp cinnamon

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degress. Melt 1/3 cup of butter in your baking dish while you mix the other ingredients (just watch to be sure the butter doesn’t burn).

Once the butters melted, pour your mixture into the dish.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until it puffs up and browns.

Let it cool for 5 minutes or so, until it starts to deflate, and then serve with syrup or fruit.

4. Smoothies & Popcorn

Yep, smoothies and popcorn. This is one of our favorite inexpensive meals on days that we’ve had a big lunch and are just looking for something light for dinner. We don’t add a whole lot of extras to our smoothies, just lots of good fruit!

Easy Microwave Popcorn:

Add 1/3 cup popcorn kernels to a paper lunch bag. Drizzle with a tiny amount of oil and sprinkle generously with salt. Fold the bag over twice and microwave for 2-3 minutes (time will vary by microwave) until popping slows down.

Easy Fruit Smoothies:

Blend 4-5 frozen bananas, 1 cup fresh baby spinach, 2-3 cups frozen fruit, 1 tablespoon frozen orange juice concentrate and 3-4 cups water (start with half the water and add as needed) on high until well blended.

5. Leftovers

It’s cheating to list this as my 5th recipe, I know, but one of the best ways to stretch your grocery budget is to make sure that leftovers don’t go to waste. Plan regular “leftover” meals where you clean out your fridge and use up any extras, and make sure that you put anything you’re not going to eat right away in the freezer for later!

Visit Menu Plan Monday at I’m an Organizing Junkie for more menu plans and ideas!

  • http://www.simplebites.net Aimee

    Fun recipes, Mandi! I bet these are all favorites with your girls. Ricotta with pasta is one of my favorites, so I’ll be giving your ziti a whirl soon.

  • Lisa W.

    Thank you for giving me permission to declare “leftovers” an official meal! :)

  • http://www.morethanmundane.com Krissa

    I love Dutch Puff! I make it often as a breakfast treat…for the kids…except I eat most of it. I squeeze lemon juice on it and powdered sugar. Yum!

  • http://savingbymaking.com Diana

    the puff recipe sounds delicious! What size pan should I bake it in? (or did I just miss it?) I’ll definitely be trying this soon :)

  • http://www.ilovethatdeal.com Hillary

    Mandi, Do you add any seasoning to your Ziti? And YES! Leftover night is one of my FAVORITES! :)

    • http://lifeyourway.net/ Mandi @ Life Your Way

      We use Prego Meat Sauce, which already has seasoning, so I don’t add
      anything else. I definitely would with a milder sauce, though!

  • Amy

    Made the Dutch Puff and the Cheeseburger Potatoes this week…both really yummy! Looking forward to trying that popcorn method. Thank you!

    • http://lifeyourway.net/ Mandi @ Life Your Way

      So glad you enjoyed them, Amy! We had both this week too, LOL!

  • angie

    what size baking dish do you use for this? It isn’t listed in the directions. Thanks

  • angie

    I meant for the Dutch Puff. Sorry and thanks again

    • http://lifeyourway.net/ Mandi @ Life Your Way

      Oops, sorry, Angie! 9×13 mostly, but you could split the batter between two
      smaller dishes as well!

  • http://www.marandacarvell.com/ Maranda

    Thanks for the ideas, I’m going to try the baked ziti, sounds delish! I try to do two ‘budget’ meals a week, it really helps stretch our grocery budget to specifically plan a couple of inexpensive meals.

    The Dutch Puff also sounds good, I haven’t heard of that before.  The kids always get excited by “breakfast for dinner”.