5 Ways Kosher Monthly Meal Planning Saves Me Money

One of the best ways to reduce your grocery budget is to meal plan. Incidentally, it’s also the best way to fight that 5 p.m. blah. You know, when your husband and kids are all asking what’s for dinner, and you’re just wishing there was kosher take-out, because you have NO IDEA.

Of course, while I know that meal planning is a real money-, time- and sanity-saver, I must admit that there are many (many) weeks when I don’t get around to planning a menu. Which inevitably translates into an expensive and stressful week.

This summer, I decided to try something new: Monthly meal planning. I’ve always been daunted by the idea of planning a month in advance, since I couldn’t imagine having to come up with 30 different meals at a time. So I cheated. Instead of 30 meals, I decided to make the same thing (or some very similar variation) on the same day of the week for the entire month.

Monday — lasagna or baked pasta

Tuesday – tacos or burritos

Wednesday – quiche or gratin

Thursday – homemade pizza

Friday – meatballs and rice or roasted chicken

Saturday – flexible, depending on our Shabbat plans

Sunday – grill out

No, it isn’t the most creative, gourmet menu plan in the world, but you know what? It’s been working. Not perfectly, but then what fun would that be?!

So, how does this monthly meal planning thing save me money? Well, lots of ways, but here are a few of them:

  • I’m less likely to splurge on Kosher Subway (our one kosher restaurant in town, bless their hearts!) since I’m not scrambling to figure out dinner at the last minute. I’m also less likely to run out to Walmart to pick up a bunch of ready-to-make ingredients that don’t exactly fit into my budget.
  • I’m able to shop more strategically, since I know exactly what I’ll need for the next four weeks. I can scout out sales from the grocery flyers and buy “in bulk” because I know the food will be used within the month. Once I’ve got the basic ingredients stocked up, I just watch the circulars for great weekly sales on fresh fruits and veggies.
  • I’ve further simplified my life by doing some basic freezer cooking, as it fits in with my monthly meal plan. For example, on the first Monday of the month, I made one cheese and veggie lasagna to eat that night, and prepped four more to freeze. Which means that tonight, all I have to do is pull the pan of ready-assembled lasagna out of the freezer, stick it in the oven for 1.5 hours and cut up a salad. Convenience foods without the inconvenient price tag!
  • I can increase our vegetarian meal quotient, while still making sure that my family gets enough meat (and other animal-based protein) to satisfy their carnivore tendencies. Lasagna, tacos, quiche/gratin and pizza are all vegetarian, with beans, tofu, cheese, TVP or veggie crumbles adding some more substance to the meal. While kosher cheese is costly, I can minimize that expense by balancing it with the other protein sources. And there is no doubt that a can of beans (or, more frugal yet, a bag of dry beans) is far cheaper — and better for your heart — than a pound of beef. Makes the 9 days a lot easier, too, since we’re already accustomed to veggie meals!
  • By shopping strategically at the beginning of the month, I can comfortably afford little splurges. That’s because I now have a better sense of how much money is going to be “left over” in my grocery budget. It used to be that every week, I would aim to spend $100. That’s a great basic budget, but it doesn’t allow much wiggle room for special treats. Now, I’m spending $200+ the first week of the month to stock up on staples, and then I’ve got $300 left to spend on cheap CVS toiletries, more costly dairy or meat purchases, and, yes, even a dinner or two out at Subway.

Do you menu plan? What’s on your schedule this week? For inspiration, check out the organizingjunkie.com to see what 300+ other women (and men) are making for dinner this week!

Comments

comments

Comments

  1. Hi, Mara,

    Good luck with your new blog! I’ve been writing about kosher frugality for a long time, but chosen not to specialize about it since I hate to limit myself to one topic! Our food budget is very similar to yours, as well as our restrictions (prefer healthier sources of meat, etc – sounds like we order meat from the same place!), though our family is a bit larger (we’re eleven people).

    Menu planning is the key to sanity, in my opinion!

    • @Avivah — Thanks so much for stopping by! I’ve actually read your blog before, what a coincidence (makes me realize that even the blog Jewish world is a small one!). I remember being so impressed by you! Eleven people is a lot more than 5, bless your heart! Do you also order from Golden West? We just love their meat!

  2. Avivah, it’s perfect that you posted, because I was going to direct Mara to your blog — I think you once mentioned that you buy quinoa in bulk. Y’all should share your resources. :-) Also — Mara — TVP. Do share. Where do you buy it, how much do you pay? I’ve been thinking of going that route.

  3. Hi Mara,

    I meal plan too…though I do it weekly. But I sat down with my family one day and asked them to list all of their favorite meals. I found they fit into categories…pasta, mexican, pizza, shabbos meals. So I just pick one from each category for the week.

    I’ve done a little freezer cooking. Nothing on the scale of Life As Mom – Jessica. But I am thinking about it.

    Thanks for sharing yours!

    • @Amanda – I’m laughing b/c I tried that approach with my kids and my middle son said, “Tuna casserole and macaroni and cheese”. Can you imagine eating that 7 days a week? He’d be in heaven, although the rest of us… not so much! Fortunately my older son is more adventuresome and will eat anything. Life as Mom is an inspiration… she makes it seem so easy — and with 6 kids!!!

  4. Dana Horesh says:

    Mara, Here is the recipe I use for Pumpkin Roulade. It is a family favorite for Shavuot or any time we are celebrating a birthday. The frugal part of this is my rummaged pumpkins. I will need to write to the marscarpone cheese company to get coupons and bring the cost down.

    Pumpkin Roulade with Ginger Buttercream

    * Recipe courtesy Ina Garten

    Ingredients
    For the cake:
    * 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
    * 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    * 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    * 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    * 1 teaspoon ground ginger
    * 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    * 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    * 3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
    * 1 cup granulated sugar
    * 3/4 cup canned pumpkin (not pie filling)
    * 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus extra for dusting
    *

    For the filling:
    * 12 ounces Italian mascarpone cheese
    * 1 1/4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
    * 2 tablespoons heavy cream
    * 1/4 cup minced dried crystallized ginger (not in syrup)
    * Pinch kosher salt

    Directions

    Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 13 by 18 by 1-inch sheet pan. Line the pan with parchment paper and grease and flour the paper.

    In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt and stir to combine. Place the eggs and granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until light yellow and thickened. With the mixer on low, add the pumpkin, then slowly add the flour mixture, mixing just until incorporated. Finish mixing the batter by hand with a rubber spatula. Pour into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake the cake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the top springs back when gently touched.

    While the cake is baking, lay out a clean, thin cotton dish towel on a flat surface and sift the entire 1/4 cup of confectioners’ sugar evenly over it. (This will prevent the cake from sticking to the towel.) As soon as you remove the cake from the oven, loosen it around the edges and invert it squarely onto the prepared towel. Peel away the parchment paper. With a light touch, roll the warm cake and the towel together (don’t press!) starting at the short end of the cake. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

    Meanwhile, make the filling. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the mascarpone, confectioners’ sugar, and cream together for about a minute, until light and fluffy. Stir in the crystallized ginger, and salt.

    To assemble, carefully unroll the cake onto a board with the towel underneath. Spread the cake evenly with the filling. Reroll the cake in a spiral using the towel as a guide. Remove the towel and trim the ends to make a neat edge. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and serve sliced.

    • @Dana – Y.U.M. Love that you’re going to write the mascapone company in hope of coupons. Let me know how it goes! Shabbat Shalom <3

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