5 Money Saving Menu Strategies

Feeding a growing family of five on a military budget is often VERY challenging.

It never fails that every time Congress sees fit to give us a pay raise my children grow a little more and quickly eat up that raise, literally!

With appetites that seem to grow faster than my food budget, I’ve had to develop a few strategies that save me not only money, but time as well. And who doesn’t need more of both?!

My strategy is simple:

1. Plan – I know not everybody was born as A-type as I am, but heading to the store with a weekly plan saves time and money. By limiting my trips to the store, I’m preventing that extra spending that seems to always push me over budget.

2. Eggs – Eggs are one of the cheapest and best sources of protein in the grocery store, and they’re certainly not just for breakfast. A quiche is a great way to use up leftovers and stretch a buck.

3. Meatless Monday – meat and produce are the two big budget busters in my family. A simple alternative is to serve a simple vegetarian dish one night a week.

4. Rinse and Repeat – If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times. Nobody likes leftovers. NOBODY! Find ways to take leftovers and repurpose them into a new dish that nobody but you will know is really leftover. Like turning Old-Time Beef Stew into Beef Stew Shepherd’s Pies.

5. Pasta – at $1.40 a box, you simply can’t beat it. And when using a sauce and some cheese, it’s easy to substitute whole wheat pasta or Ronzoni Smart Taste Pasta and get a little extra nutrition in your kids without them being the wiser. Score two for mom!

Sweet and Spicy Baked Ziti
Yields: 6-8 servings (depending on how big your appetite is…)

For Sauce:
1 – 28 oz. jar of Plain or Traditional Pasta Sauce
¼ c. water
1 tsp. Italian Seasonings
1 tsp. dried parsley flakes
¾ tsp. onion powder
½ tsp. garlic powder
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste

For Ziti:
Nonstick cooking spray
2 links sweet Italian Sausage
1 link spicy Italian Sausage
8 oz. cooked penne pasta
½ fresh grated Parmesan
2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray 2 qt. casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray, and set aside.

In a covered saucepan, combine all the ingredients for the sauce, cover, and bring to a gentle simmer. Allow to cook 15-20 minutes for the flavors to meld together.

Meanwhile, remove the sausage casings, crumble, and brown the sausages in a medium skillet. Once cooked, drain off the excess fat and add the sausage to the prepared pasta sauce.

To begin layering the ziti, add a small amount of sauce to the bottom of the prepared casserole dish to prevent the ingredients from sticking. Start with one half of the pasta, one half of the sauce, and half of the Parmesan and mozzarella. Repeat layers with the remaining ingredients. (I usually only do two because I’m kind of lazy, but if you want more, feel free to do whatever floats your boat!)

Bake 15 – 20 minutes, until cheese on top is melted and very lightly browned.

Looking for more money saving meals? Try…

Baked Ravioli and Garlic Bread

Sausage and Potato Packets

Shepherd’s Pie

Dutch Baby and Homemade Sausage Patties

Chicken Parmesan

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Comments

  1. 1

    Great ideas, Jen. We’re big egg eaters here so quiche is always a welcome meal here. :)

    I also buy a pound of bacon, divide it into thirds (about 6-8 slices each) and freeze it. That way I have enough bacon for a quiche, or my Country Breakfast Bake (which I adore). We get the flavour of bacon without inhaling a pound which isn’t good for the wallet or the heart.

    Buying in season items, stocking up (within reason) when certain foods are on sale all help too. Eating well and affordable can be done. It just takes some ingenuity and a little planning :)

  2. 2

    Great ideas! Always need to stretch a buck, and these are great tips!

  3. 3

    This looks good. I’m always cooking easy and affordable meals. Poor folks just can’t get ahead.

  4. 4

    Great tips to save some dough. I love using up everything in the fridge whenever possible. And I adore pasta. We eat it tons of it. Cheap, tasty and filling. With a 23 year old with no possibility of ever being full I stock up on pasta and breads.

  5. 5

    These are definitely great ideas! I’m all about getting my bang for my buck as well as stretching things as I see fit :-) This baked ziti is scrumptious!

  6. 6

    These are really wonderful tips for making the food budget stretch. Thanks!

  7. 7

    You had me at ‘sweet and spicy’! This looks great and those are some really good money saving tips.
    On a total side note: I love your dishes! What a beautiful pattern. :)

  8. 8

    Isn’t it wonderful that pasta dishes are comfort food as well as money savers? This ziti dish looks wonderful. We do a lot of eggs in our house too, which is why we went ahead and got a few chickens. Now we really save a few bucks!

  9. 9

    I love baked ziti and yours looks fantastic. I totally do meal planning as I find it helps keep me on track at the store and I get what I need as opposed to a bunch of stuff I don’t.

  10. 10

    GREAT information! I make a weekly menu and shop from my list. I do the occasional impulse buy, but I try to plan ahead….the ziti looks delish!

  11. 11

    what great tips! I’m actually a leftover lover (I know we come in small quantities!) – but great thinking with repurposing them!

  12. 12

    Great tips! I always try to do a meatless monday too, which definetly helps stretch a buck. (Especially since I try and buy organic meat, which is very $$$) Your ziti looks wonderful as well!

  13. 13

    These are great tips to keep in mind. And you’re so right about eggs…affordable and there are so many things you can do with them. I’m going to have to add your baked ziti to our weekday recipe list…it’s such a warm and comforting meal.

  14. 14

    I love this! Baked pasta is pretty much my absolute favourite. Covered in cheese and with some sausage is my idea of heaven!

  15. 15
    Maya@Foodiva's Kitchen says:

    We are a single income household, so I know exactly what a challenge it is to feed a family of 5 (we have 3 kids) on a tight budget! These tips are very useful, especially Nos. 3 and 4. My kids HATE leftovers too and I’m finding myself becoming more devious in the kitchen in order to trick them into thinking their meals are not leftovers. LOL. I’m trying to get my family to eat more healthily so a vegetarian option once a week is a super idea! Thanks so muh for posting this, Jen.

  16. 16
    Maya@Foodiva's Kitchen says:

    Haha, that’s ‘much’, not ‘muh’….

  17. 17

    The baked ziti looks divine!

  18. 18

    Great post re: shopping on a budget! Meatless Mondays are a wonderful way to save money. They’re also a healthy way to go. We try to eat meatless a few times a week because it makes us feel better/healthier. Happy to have discovered your blog!

  19. 19

    I have just two kids, but I still feel they are eating more and more everyday. Your advice is definitely helpful not just for me but all the moms who try to save money. Thanks for sharing! The baked Ziti looks so yum!

  20. 20

    Oh, I love a baked pasta! (Or anything baked, really.) Looks good, lady!

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