Menu Planning – When There’s More Month at the End of the Paycheck

My husband is  UPS driver, which means that he only works when they have work for him.  This can make budgeting a little tricky.  There are definitely weeks where we don’t drive far because we are out of gas money and where I am very limited in my grocery buying options.

I’m not complaining.  It’s real life.  And living within our means, learning to appreciate everything little thing we have and seeing how God takes care of our needs every.single.time has taught us way more than ease and comfort ever could.

However, we do have to eat.  No matter how sparse our grocery budget is, it is my job to make it feed our family.

I’ve talked about this a little before, but when I menu plan, I start with “shopping our deep freezer”.  This is simply looking at the whiteboard on our deep freezer where it’s contents are written.  But, on the leaner weeks, I go a little further.

Start by going through the deep freezer, kitchen freezer, fridge and pantry and make a list of anything that is already a meal or only needs one or two more ingredients to become a meal.  (Don’t step reading here because you think you don’t have anything like this.  Go to the places in your house where you store your food.  Try this.  I think you’ll be surprised).

Take your list and make it like a game with the object being getting everything on your list on your menu planning calendar.  Fill the calendar with as much of the food that’s already under your roof.  Be creative.  These meals may not be combinations that you usually have, but that’s okay.  They may also not be Instagram-worthy.  That’s really okay.  You bought this food at some point because you thought it would be good to eat it.  So, follow through with that.

The goal is to fill the menu planning calendar with as many things as you already have in your house and limit the amount of items that need to be purchased in order to fill stomachs.

Here is my list from a few weeks ago:

And here are the meals that we got from that list: (Items listed in coral were found in my house and didn’t need to be purchased)


Whether we realize it or not, most of us are storing a lot of food.  We open the fridge and don’t see anything that is appealing to us at the time or that can be prepared quickly and resort to “We have nothing to eat”, or “I need to go grocery shopping”.  But, the truth is that, unless your shelves are bare, we do have more than one thing to eat.

Honestly, the hardest part of this is attitude.   It’s accepting that this is sometimes necessary, which requires humility.  It’s also accepting that there are times that you aren’t going to eat something that you absolutely love.  That’s the hardest part for me.  I love food.  And there’s a lot of food that I really love.  So, when I see something on our menu planning calendar that isn’t exciting to me, I don’t want to cook it.

That’s when I remind myself of why we’re doing this:
Everything we’ve been given, including food that I don’t love, is a gift, for which I should be grateful;
Not spending money that we don’t have for temporary satisfaction will lead to a much fuller satisfaction down the road when we’re not burdened with debt;
I want to be a good example to my children of making responsible decisions with what we’ve been given;
Wasting is not good stewardship.

And if you just can’t stand the thought of eating something that you found, give it away or throw it out.  It’s doing no one any good by just being stored.

You can’t do this every week because, at some point, you will diminish your supply.  But, it is great for feeding your family in a pinch.  As you can see, my one trip created almost 3 weeks of suppers.

  • Aunt Cheri The Great
    March 10, 2017

    Bravo! You are so right. I think I’ll send you my “Contents” list of things I find in my fridge, freezer, and pantry and see what kind of meals you can come up with for me. 🙂 Deal or No Deal?

    • Kristin
      March 12, 2017

      DEAL! Maybe I’ll do a Facebook Live video of me trying to figure it out. Wouldn’t that be entertaining…… (mostly because it’s pretty much guaranteed that I’d mess up the video thing since I’ve never done it before…..)

  • Aunt Cheri The Great
    March 10, 2017

    P.S. You sure have a lot of red and white striped bags in your freezer. I’m guessing hamburger meat?

    • Kristin
      March 10, 2017

      Yes. That is hamburger. We bought a 1/4 cow this summer, so are loaded with hamburger.

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