Apr 11, 2012

Meal Stretching

Meal stretching is by far my most favorite way to save on groceries without having to become an extreme couponer, although I do use coupons and follow store sales for things we actually eat (who needs 50 bottles of BBQ sauce?  And yuck). I am also able to feed my family healthy this way.

My 2 Meal-Stretching Techniques:
1. Plan to use the same ingredients in different recipes throughout the week.
2. Dress up dinner leftovers for lunches the next day.

Our budget, which I smile big when I don't go over, for our family of four is $130 per week. That is for all breakfasts, lunches and dinners (including hub's breakfasts and lunches). Many times I'm able to stretch that to a week and a half/two weeks and most of the time I'm under budget. This week I was under budget at $90.

First, I'll give you a 3 day example of our dinners, and then I'll throw in some other money-saving, meal-stretching tips that work for us.

Meal-Stretching  Example

Monday: Ziti Pasta Bake, Salad & Homemade Garlic Bread
1 box of Ziti, 1 jar of pasta sauce, 1 lb ground beef, 1 onion chopped, 1 C shredded cheese (2 cups in one package), seasonings of choice. 
Salad was mixed greens, cucumber, and broccoli. Dressing and/or squeezed lemon.
I baked this in a large casserole.
Stretch it: Before I serve anyone, I fill two Pyrex containers and place in fridge- one for hubby to have for lunch the next day, and the other to divide for me and the kids for our lunch. I pack a small salad for the hubs too.

* Monday morning I made two loaves of homemade whole wheat bread. For the first loaf I used half as garlic bread with Monday's dinner and the other half for breakfast toast. The second loaf I've used in Tuesday's dinner.

Tuesday: Breakfast Casserole and potatoes
2nd loaf of homemade bread from Monday torn or chopped, 8 eggs, 1 onion chopped, spinach I found in the fridge that needed to be used quickly, 1 Cup shredded cheese (last cup from Monday's package), milk, melted butter. I also threw in sour cream that was about to expire.

Potatoes cubed, toss in oil, and desired seasonings. Bake. 
Stretch it: Plenty of left over casserole for Wednesday's breakfast

* I made homemade white/wheat hot dog buns for Wednesday's dinner

Wednesday: Hebrew National Hot Dogs and Fries
Hot dogs on homemade buns, fixings, and homemade fries using potatoes from Wednesday. 

Stretch it: Use leftover buns as sub rolls for hub's Thursday sandwich. Also use leftover buns to make baked french toast for mom and the kids.


1. Bake often or reserve a day just for baking. Freeze large batches in freezer bags and use throughout the week.

2. Use what you already have in your cupboard in recipes. I love using this tool from allrecipes.com. Just type in ingredients you have on hand and it will shoot you various recipes with those ingredients. I've gotten pretty creative here and it has saved food from going to waste.

3. Set a snack time for the kids and stick to it. Don't let kids snack throughout the day.

4. Keep breakfasts for you and the kids simple. Protein, fruit, starch - that's it.
- Scrambled eggs, grapes, wheat toast.
- Whole milk yogurt, apple slices, slow cooked oatmeal. 

5. Buy sale produce (particularly for those who don't have a garden). I only buy fruit that is on sale and use these for breakfasts and in hub's lunches.

6. Buy less meat and with the meat you do buy, use it in casseroles, on salads, or in burritos/wraps. It gives the appearance of "more" when mixed in with other ingredients.

7. Always fill a container for hubby's lunches before serving dinner. Make sure your man is fed :) It is much easier on the bank account this way too.

8. Get meal ideas from other blogs. I love seeing all the delicious recipes in the various Link-Ups throughout the week :)

9. Eat less. Don't serve the kids (or yourself) mammoth-sized servings. Use smaller plates.

10. Let the kids in the kitchen. I've found that the more the kids are involved in the meal prep process, the more likely they are to finish their meal. Less food waste = more $.

What are some ways that you stretch your meals each week? I'd love to hear :)

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