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With many of us hunkering down at home, and temporary shortages on meat and eggs, creating simple meals with on-hand ingredients is a necessity. Many of these suggestions are not only pantry-friendly, but they’re also budget-friendly and perfect for this list of April meal plan ideas.
During this uncertain time, enjoying the company of our family over a simple, lovingly prepared meal, can bring order to the chaos. One of my favorite articles (which I’ve shared several times on my Facebook page and often results in great conversation) is Why Sunday Family Dinners Need To Make A Comeback.
“…what’s for dinner doesn’t matter and that it’s the communal environment that is created during this time that matters and makes all the difference.“
We may not be in a time right now to invite the entire extended family over for a family dinner, but we can still come together and discuss our day. Not just on Sunday but every day. Now, when the busyness of work and school isn’t as pressing, is the perfect time to form this new habit.
I’ve tried to keep this month’s meal plan ideas as basic as possible. While it does seem to be improving, there have been reports of trouble purchasing beef, chicken, pork, milk, and eggs. While this list of meal plan ideas is not vegetarian, it is lighter in meat than most of my meal plan ideas. And meat is never the star in any of the meals.
There are also many shelf-stable items unavailable or limited. In my local stores, there’s very little tuna and canned chicken. No salmon. There were some other canned and potted meat items, but they had so many extra items that I chose not to include these on this list of menu plan ideas. Pasta is another item very limited in my area. I did find a few packages in the ethnic sections, both the Asian and Mexican food areas. And there is no flour or cornmeal in my store. All of this said, I put this list together with common pantry items and limited meats (including tips to stretch meat when appropriate). Your pantry may be stocked differently than mine, and your grocery stores may have more or less items available than I do.
Here’s a couple of handy charts for egg substitutions. I don’t recommend soy protein or tofu and would substitute full-fat dairy yogurt for the vegan yogurt. You can also try 3 tablespoons milk (works well in some baked goods that don’t need to rise), 1 tablespoon gelatin + 1/4 cup water, 1/2 of a ripe avocado, or 1/4 cup oil (I’d use coconut or olive).
Because of the meat situation, the Resurrection Day meal featured a very adaptable quiche recipe. You will need fresh, boxed, or powdered eggs.
I’ve been heartened to see so many places coming together to provide for those in need. While I don’t know the resources available in your area, here’s a few options I’ve seen on the internet.
School lunches. Many districts are still providing a daily sack lunch for any child in their district under the age of 18. Many also include breakfast. Check with your local district on this option.
Your local health department. Some health departments are coordinating food efforts for those in need. Check with your health department to see if they are doing this or can direct you to who may be leading the effort in your area. They should also be able to direct you to your local food banks.
Here’s an article listing organizations trying to help provide food for those in need. And Thrive Market is offering need-based stipends.
Community Facebook pages. You might have a local Facebook page, or a new one may have been created, specifically to help during this time. I’ve seen posts such as; “I made too much spaghetti, I have a meal for two ready. I’ll even drop it on your doorstep.” That brought a tear to my eye! I pray this camaraderie and togetherness continues.
Design a Dish
You may be interested in my book, Design a Dish, which focuses on formulas, instead of recipes, to help you design dishes with ingredients that are abundant to you. This will help reduce food waste and save you money — you may even find yourself eating a meal or two for ‘free’ each week just by cutting down on waste!
For a limited time, I’ve put this Design a Dish and Stock the Real Food Pantry, in Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program. And Amazon is currently offering its Kindle Unlimited program for FREE for 2 months. This is a huge savings of $19.98! (Sorry, existing Kindle Unlimited subscribers are not eligible.) You don’t need a Kindle device to use the Kindle feature or enjoy Kindle Unlimited. Put the Kindle app on your PC, on your Mac, on your Android, and more for free!
This collection of meal plan ideas serves four or five average eaters. You can make needed adjustments based on your family size and personal desires. Some of the meals may build off of a meal from a previous day. This collection of meal plan ideas features whole, real, and traditional foods. These foods are often (but not always) fermented, cultured, soaked, sprouted, or soured.
Be sure to scroll down to the To-Do List and Notes section for lots of valuable information! While this can be a time for us to come together and enjoy the company of our families, food scarcity may be an issue. I’ll also make substitution recommendations when appropriate. Most of the time, I do not list side dishes. I assume you’ll purchase vegetables and fruits abundant and/or available to you. Because many people report bread is not available, you may be baking bread. Here’s a few of my favorite bread recipes.
Don’t have a sourdough starter? Learn how to catch a wild starter.
Yeast Pan Bread (for this recipe and the one above, I use whole milk instead of powdered milk. Decrease the amount of water by the amount of milk)
Design a Muffin (can be sweet or savory)
Sunday: Mock Chicken Fried Steak
Monday: Majadareh (Read more about this in the To-Do List and Notes)
Tuesday: Spanish Rice
Wednesday: Lentil and Vegetable Soup with Dumplings (Read more about this in the To-Do List and Notes)
Thursday: Soaked Apple Spice Oatmeal Bake
Friday: Sprouted Lentil Tacos (even my meat-loving husband enjoys these tacos!)
Saturday: Sausage and Sweet Potato Hash Using lentils instead of sausage if necessary.
Sunday: Easy Cheese Quiche and Layered Salad
Monday: Garbanzo Bean Curry
Tuesday: Fried Rice
Wednesday: Winter Greens and Garbanzo Salad
Thursday: Sesame Noodles
Friday: Hummus Platter and Arabic Meatballs
Saturday: Main Dish Salad (Read more about this in the To-Do List and Notes)
Sunday: Slow Cooker White Beans (I don’t add ham hocks)
Monday: One Pan Spanish Rice Bake
Tuesday: Middle Eastern White Beans and Rice (Fasooli)
Wednesday: Hashbrown Breakfast Casserole
Thursday: Design a Soup
Friday: Marinated White Beans with Olive Oil Toast
Saturday: Cold Grain Salad
Sunday: Easy Black Beans and Yellow Rice (Read more about this in the To-Do List and Notes)
Monday: Design a Casserole
Tuesday: Black Bean Bowls (Read more about this in the To-Do List and Notes)
Wednesday: Black bean and Cheese Quesadillas (Read more about this in the To-Do List and Notes)
Thursday: Creamy Black Bean Soup, savory muffins
To-Do List and Notes
Oatmeal Pancakes. Let’s start this month with breakfast for dinner! Put the oats and flour to soak early in the morning, and they will be nutritious and digestible by dinner. The small amount of flour in this recipe helps hold the batter together. No eggs? You can sub 1 banana, a 1/2 cup of applesauce, or 1/2 cup peanut butter. Idea! 1/2 banana + 1/4 cup peanut butter for peanut butter banana pancakes.
Delicious with my buttermilk syrup.
If you have any broth stashed in your freezer, pull it out for tomorrow. If you have bones stashed, start your broth. Nothing stashed? You can make a simple vegetable broth using vegetable scraps (ends of onions, celery, potato skins, carrot skins, etc. and (washed) eggshells. Put everything in a stockpot and cover with water. Bring to a rolling boil for 10 minutes. Skim as needed. Then lower to a simmer and cook for 2 hours. Strain out veggies and eggshells. I’ve done this many times when money and broth bones are in short supply. It works!
Creamed Onion with Thyme and Sage. Onions are one vegetable I’m hearing is in abundance at local markets. Make this delicious creamed onion dish. If you can’t make broth, use water; it will still be delicious. No cream? Use 1/2 cup sour cream, yogurt, coconut milk, almond milk, or regular milk.
Barley Soup. Barley is a little utilized item. Even if you don’t keep this on your pantry shelf, you may well find it in your local store. Look in the section where rice is sold. You can use water in place of the broth. This makes a large amount of soup, plenty to enjoy for lunch tomorrow.
Salmon Cakes with Homemade Lemon Mayonnaise. These are so good! For the homemade mayo, you do need an actual egg. If you don’t have well-sourced eggs (free-range or pastured is important in this recipe), skip this and use store-bought mayo or yogurt. Add the mustard, lemon juice, and Worcestershire sauce only, then salt to taste.
Can’t find salmon? You can substitute canned tuna or mackerel.
Mock Chicken Fried Steak. This is a dish my daughter loves. Instead of the mushroom soup, I make a simple country gravy to go over the top of these.
Put five cups (two pounds) of lentils on to soak for this week’s Stretchy Bean.
This week’s Stretchy Bean is lentils. Lentils are one of the few legumes still on my grocery shelves, making them a great option during this time.
Instead of cooking a big pot of lentils, I prefer to sprout a big container. I find sprouting lentils results in a much nicer consistency as opposed to cooking and reheating. Sprouted lentils tend to go a long way. We’ll make four meals out of these lentils.
Early in the morning, drain and rinse the lentils in a colander, after soaking overnight. Put the colander on a plate and cover with a towel (to keep out dust and such). Soak 1 cup brown rice for tonight’s Mujadareh.
About an hour before you wish to eat, take out 5 cups of lentils for tonight’s meal. Rinse the remaining lentils, put on a plate (to collecting dripping water), and cover with a towel so they will continue to sprout. Follow the instructions in this post for making Mujadareh.
Rinse your lentil sprouts both morning and evening.
Tonight’s Lentil and Vegetable Soup with Dumplings is inspired by this recipe.
About an hour before supper, take 2 cups of sprouted lentils from your container. Rinse the remaining lentils and continue to sprout. Put tonight’s lentils in your soup pot. Add 8 cups water (or 4 cups water and 4 cups broth); 4 carrots, peeled and sliced; 3 or 4 celery stalks, peeled and sliced; 1 large onion, peeled and sliced; 1 can diced or stewed tomatoes; 1 teaspoon salt; 1 teaspoon garlic powder; and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Bring to a boil and cook 10 minutes. Meanwhile, mix up the dumplings using this recipe. After the soup has cooked for 10 minutes, follow the cooking instructions for adding the dumplings. Leave covered for the entire 20 minute cooking time. Delicious!
Start the soaking process in the morning to enjoy in the evening.
Rinse your lentil sprouts both morning and evening.
In the morning, rinse the lentils. If you’d like to make your own sourdough tortillas for tonight’s lentil tacos, this recipe is my favorite.
If you don’t have sausage for tomorrow night’s dinner, hold back 1 to 1 1/2 cups sprouted lentils, or use half sausage and half lentils.
Sausage and Sweet Potato Hash. You can sub the sprouted lentils for all or half of the sausage.
Happy Resurrection Day! While this is not likely the celebration many of us envision, we still rejoice in The Resurrection and Christ’s victory over death. Our victory over death and eternal life for all who believe in Him.
After dinner, put five cups (about two pounds) of garbanzo beans/chickpeas on to soak.
Garbanzo beans are the stretchy bean this week. This is another bean that was still on the shelf at my store. If using your crockpot, start the beans in the morning and let them simmer all day. Allow 45 minutes to an hour to prepare the Garbanzo Bean Curry. This curry is delicious with Naan or Sourdough Flatbread.
Portion the 4 cups of garbanzo beans out for the curry, then divide the rest and store in glassware for future meals: 4 cups for Wednesday, 2 cups for Friday, and 1 cup for Saturday.
I think you’re going to like this one! A warm salad featuring garbanzo beans and your choice of hearty greens. Use kale, collards, mustard, beet, cabbage, or a combination. The recipe calls for 1 can of garbanzo beans. We like more beans with our greens and use 4 cups of cooked beans.
Sesame Noodles. No advance preparation needed.
If you are fermenting your hummus, start it tonight.
We like to keep Friday nights fun and festive. And now is definitely a good time for fun and festive! Hummus, tzatziki, slices of cucumber, olives, cheeses, dried fruit, Naan wedges and crackers along with tiny minty meatballs (to be eaten off of a toothpick) make for an almost celebratory meal. No ground meat for the meatballs? You could try summer sausage, salami or something similar. Feel free to combine any items you have on hand to make your hummus platter.
Main Dish Salad. Scour the fridge and freezer for bits of meat and veggies to top the salad. Cut all of the fresh vegetables, cooked meats, garbanzo beans, and cheeses on a large cutting board, which then becomes the serving board. If I don’t have any cooked meats lurking in the fridge, I’ll hard boil some eggs and/or mix up salmon or tuna salad from a can.
We add small bowls of shredded cheese, olives, sunflower seeds, peanuts, etc., then everyone fills their plate with salad greens and whatever toppings they want. Finish it off with a homemade dressing and maybe a nice crusty bread. It is so good!
Put five cups (two pounds) of white beans on to soak.
If using your crockpot, start the beans at least 5 hours before dinner. After dinner, divide the remaining beans. You’ll need 3 cups for Wednesday’s fasooli and 4 cups for Friday’s marinated beans. Any leftover can be used in Saturday’s Cold Grain Salad.
The amount of ground beef could be cut in half (use in Wednesday’s casserole) or omitted altogether.
Hashbrown Breakfast Casserole. No Advance prep needed. Instead of sausage, you can use ground beef. This can be cut in half (use half from Monday). Increase potatoes to six if decreasing meat.
Design a Soup. This is a great way to use up odds and ends. Ideally, you’ll have broth stashed in the freezer or make veggie broth from scraps (instructions above).
Marinated White Beans with Olive Oil Toast. Use the beans you cooked on Sunday in place of canned. Can use dried herbs in place of fresh. Use about half the amount of fresh. Use any cheese if you don’t have feta. Omit the roasted red pepper and sun-dried tomatoes if necessary. If making your own bread, this French Bread would work well.
Put five cups (two pounds) of black beans on to soak.
Partial Week To-Do
Black beans are this week’s featured Stretchy Bean. Drain off the soaking water and rinse the beans. Start in the crockpot (on low) about 6 and a half hours before dinner. You’ll use about 3 cups of cooked beans in tonight’s dinner. Divide the remaining beans as follows: 3 cups beans and a little broth for Tuesday, 2 cups beans only (no or little broth) for Wednesday, the rest (lots of broth and some beans) for Thursday.
Tonight’s dinner: Easy Black Beans with Yellow Rice, use this recipe, substituting cooked beans for canned. Use a traditional fat (tallow, lard, butter, coconut oil) in place of vegetable oil.
Design a Casserole. This is a wonderful and adaptable dish.
Black Bean Bowls is adapted from a recipe at Traditional Cooking School.
- 4 cups cooked black beans with broth (saved from Monday), divided
- 1 cup of broth (can use water) to desired consistency
- 1 teaspoon sea salt (additional to taste)
- black pepper (to taste)
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 1/2 tablespoon paprika
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (optional, but recommended)
Combine 2 cups of beans plus remaining ingredients in a saucepan over low heat.
Mash with a potato masher until smooth. Add the remaining 2 cups beans and mash a little more. How chunky would you like it?
To serve, put rice in the bottom of each person’s bowl. Top with a scoop or two of seasoned black beans and choice of toppings, such as diced onions, sliced olives, diced avocado, shredded cheese, cilantro, sour cream, salsa, etc.
The Black Bean and Cheese Quesadillas are so, so quick and easy. Mash or puree the beans (you may have already done this earlier in the week). Spread a generous bean layer on the tortilla, sprinkle with shredded cheese (to your own taste) and top with a second tortilla. Grill in a hot cast iron skillet (I like to add a little butter so the tortilla crisps nicely) until the first side is lightly brown. Carefully flip and repeat with the second side. If desired, you can add thinly shredded meat to the pureed beans and cheese before grilling. Yum!
Put muffin batter to soak early in the day.
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.