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As we move into May, our nation continues to be in unprecedented times. Some states are still on full lockdown. Others are open at least to some degree. And many fall somewhere in between. Offering meal plan ideas has proven to be a challenge. So this month, instead of giving a designated daily/weekly meal plan ideas list, I share resources. My hope is these ideas will help you make the most of your food dollars and local availability.
Before I officially begin with May Menu Plan Ideas, let me take a minute to encourage you to consider your pantry. Last week, the UN said the world could experience famines of biblical proportions. There are daily reports of crops (both plant and animal) being destroyed. I’m not going to go into the “why” behind this. I simply wish to encourage you to do what you can today to ensure you can feed your family in the coming months. Can you buy locally from farmers or ranchers? If you have the means and ability to plant a garden, this is the year to do so. If there is any way you can raise chickens for eggs or meat, consider it. How about raising rabbits for meat? This can be done in very small spaces. Learn what grows locally: 21 Wild Edibles You Can Find in Urban Areas. And here’s a soup made with wildcrafted greens.
Stock the Pantry
I have several articles in the archives on how we stock our pantry. We use a combination of shelf-stable items and stocking our freezer. Most of the shelf-stable items are things like beans and grains we buy in bulk. Azure Standard is one source for bulk ordering. If you have a drop near you, this can be an economical option. Without a drop, shipping costs can be prohibitive. Amazon is another source I use, especially Frontier Co-Op for dried veggies, spices, and dried herbs. We also try to buy local. There are farms near us that sell beans and grains. Going directly to the farm can yield the least expensive costs and also support your neighbor. For more information on our methods, check out my book Stock the Real Food Pantry. It’s free to read on Kindle with your Kindle Unlimited Subscription (which currently offers a FREE 30-day trial through this link!), and it’s also available in paperback.
Use What You Have
My first tip to share in these meal plan ideas is to use foods that are available and/or abundant to you. When I was a child, I’d watch my mom cook and marvel that she rarely used recipes. Sure, she did for baking or for special meals, but for our everyday fare, she winged it. As a young adult, I tended to rely on recipes. Then I came to a time in my life when money was tight. Really tight. I borrowed The Complete Tightwad Gazette: Promoting Thrift as a Viable Alternative Lifestyle by Amy Dacyczyn from the library. The tips are amazing! Through that book I was reminded of creating dishes with what is available instead of being strict to a recipe. She would take a recipe and show how it could be adapted to an individual’s needs. Her book brought me a lot of hope and comfort during those lean years.
In 2008, my family started converting our diet to a real/whole/traditional based diet. I found using Amy’s ideas helped immensely in our traditional foods journey. We use the traditional foods concepts of soaking, souring, sprouting, and more but create inexpensive meals using what is available to us. I share more about this method in Design a Dish: Save Your Food Dollars! It’s free to read on Kindle with your Kindle Unlimited Subscription or available in paperback. This book will help you make the most of each morsel of food.
Cutting down on food waste is another way to make each morsel count. Here’s 5 ways we reduce our food waste. And here’s a helpful article on using fruit and veggie scraps. From Food Network, 10 Tasty Uses for Leftover Food Scraps to Reduce Food Waste. Tip #7 suggests pickling leftover produce. This is an excellent tip, which we often do. But instead of using a vinegar-based pickle as they do in the article, we do natural pickling. It’s such a quick and easy process! And super easy to learn. Grab my friend Wardee’s free fermenting formula’s cheat sheet. You’ll be fermenting in no time! And fermented foods are full of enzymes and beneficial, gut-loving bacteria. Adding a nutritional powerhouse, like fermented foods, during times of stress is important.
I have many years worth of meal plan ideas on this blog. For years, I shared our menu for most weeks. In the last several months, I’ve been offering a monthly meal plan ideas list. Find previous meal plan ideas here. You’ll especially want to check out my 13-week rotating menu, which features a different Stretchy Bean each week. The years after we moved to Wyoming, we ate a lot of beans. They are excellent economical nutrition.
In 2012, my family embarked on a challenge to keep our food budget under the USDA recommended “thrifty” guidelines while cooking traditionally and focusing on real food. Thrifty Food Plan Experience is an eBook chronicling the two-week challenge. This free eBook includes a two-week menu plan and detailed information.
There’s plenty of menu ideas on the internet. Here’s a few of my favorite frugal plans.
Don’t Waste the Crumbs
Ready-to-go meal plans to spark ideas, tips & strategies to help you stick to the plan, and kitchen hacks & tutorials to maximize the time you spend in the kitchen. Don’t Waste the Crumbs focuses on economical real food. At this link, you’ll find monthly menu plans and other inexpensive tips and ideas.
Frugal Fit Mom
In January, she shared the video 126 MEALS FOR $30! | Emergency Extreme Budget Grocery Haul 2020. I watched this when it first came out (and think I may have even shared it previously) and found the tips to be helpful and realistic. She collaborates with Mexican Cooking with Gaby for additional frugal Mexican recipes. And a month ago, she put out a video recreating a box from the local food pantry. Utilizing a food pantry often offers many interesting combinations. While the video may not be totally realistic for every food pantry box, the ideas may be helpful. I found useful tips and recipe ideas.
Around the same time I discovered The Complete Tightwad Gazette: Promoting Thrift as a Viable Alternative Lifestyle by Amy Dacyczyn, we utilized a food pantry for a couple of months. Then I was one a volunteer while their regular person was on medical leave. Not all food pantries are like the one I am familiar with, but what I discovered was you really had to be creative with what you were given. I think the video is great for sparking creativity.
The Prudent Homemaker
When we first started stocking our pantry, Brandy at The Prudent Homemaker was a great inspiration. Her large family lived on their food storage during a period of low employment. Her Strictly Pantry Menu is good, but also check out the other menus she offers. To find the other menus go to her main page and hover over Cook then look to the left. Be sure to check out her article How To Eat Beans Every Night.
These were put together several years ago. They won’t be accurate for the cost and, truthfully, the nutrition in them is questionable. But if you are desperate to feed hungry tummies, they should be looked at. $45 Emergency Menu for 4 to 6 and $70 Low-Cost Menu for 4 to 6. If you do need to utilize these menu plans, try and add in fermented fruits and veggies to help your gut.
Looking for more meal plan ideas? Check out the meal plan archives here.
Design a Dish: Save Your Food Dollars!
Many of these methods are based on the principles of nourishing traditional foods based on the teachings of the Weston A. Price Foundation.