How to Make 7 Dinners for Less than $60
How to Make 7 Dinners for Less than $60
Have you tried meal planning, but still think it’s harder than you’d like it to be? Well, then you need to try this Capsule Meal Plan Menu. Not only will cooking this way save you time, but it was so much cheaper than I’ve been able to shop in the past.
And it can work no matter where you live! Although I am American and have lived in 5 states, I am currently in Germany. Grocery shopping here is usually a daily task, but I REALLY hate going to the grocery store. It’s one of my least favorite chores. On top of that, I have to carry our groceries home about half a mile and then walk up 3 flights of stairs. I just like to get it over with as quickly as possible.
That’s one of the reasons I love this new way of meal planning and I am so excited to share with you a full week’s capsule meal plan menu.
What is a Capsule Meal Plan?
A capsule meal plan is similar to a capsule wardrobe. The idea is to mix and match ingredients to make meals throughout the week. Just like in your closet when you mix and match clothes to make new outfits. Through simple planning you take as few ingredients as possible, often 15 – 20, to make 5 – 7 dinners.
Yes, you will buy items in bulk, like protein, grains, and veggies, but that’s where the savings comes in. It also cuts down on those strange ingredients you only use once and then waste away in the back of your fridge.
How to Create a Capsule Meal Plan
1. Start with Your Base Layer – Protein
The first step when planning your menu for the week is to decide the main protein you want to eat. My family eats a lot of chicken and turkey so for this first menu I wanted to start with what we love best. Here’s the beauty of capsule meal plans…you do not start with the recipes! Instead you start with the food you already have on hand or your favorites.
2. Choose Your Coordinating Essentials – Grains
The next step in a capsule meal plan is to choose your grain. This is commonly rice or pasta. Sometimes your grain can be bread or tortillas. You can have more than one in a week, but the more this is limited the better it will be for your weekly meal budget.
I decided to use pasta in this menu as my daughter is not a big fan of rice. But, the beauty is that this plan can be flexible if you want to DIY a bit.
3. Choose Your Accent Color – Veggies
The third step in creating a capsule meal plan is to decide on your favorite veggies. If your home is anything like mine, your kiddo has his or her favorite vegetables and you don’t stray too far from them. I do try to introduce new veggies from time to time, but we run through the tried and true classics on a weekly basis.
4. Add Structure – Choose 5-7 Simple Recipes
It’s only on the 4th step of creating a capsule meal plan that I start to look at recipes to see what will fit for the week. It’s about 50/50 on using our regular recipes and mixing in new recipes. When looking for new recipes I use SuperCook, Epicurious, and America’s Test Kitchen. These 3 sites all let you search for recipes using ingredients you already have (or want to use in our case). I did a write up on each here.
Here’s my process for this week’s meal plan:
- Protein: Chicken
- Grain: Pasta, Tortillas, Bread
- Veggies: Carrots, Onion, Broccoli, Bell Peppers, Olives, Peas, and Tomatoes
- Dairy: Milk
- Other: Filled in after recipes are decided
Using these base ingredients, I found the following recipes that I knew we would all enjoy eating.
- Chicken Enchiladas
- Chicken Quesadillas
- Chicken Noodle Soup
- Chicken Mac N Cheese
- Loaded Sweet Potatoes
- Sheet Pan Sausage and Veggies
- BBQ Chicken Pizza
All of these meals contain the same base ingredients, but have plenty of variety so we will not be tired of eating these by the end of the week.
5. Add Interest: Spices and Sauces
Fill in your Shopping List with necessary spices and sauces. The recipes above needed barbecue sauce, beans, and spices for the soup. Often times you will have these items in your pantry already so it will be easy to use them without having to purchase them again.
6. Plan your shopping trip and enjoy the savings
Once you have your meals planned out, you can set up your shopping list. Here is the grocery list for this week:
- 6 Chicken Breasts
- 4-6 Chicken Thighs
- Chicken or Turkey Sausage
- 2 packages macaroni pasta
- 1 pizza dough
- 2-3 packages tortillas
- 3 Bell Peppers
- 1 Package Carrots
- 1 Onion
- 1 Bunch of Celery
- 1 Package Cherry Tomatoes
- 4 large sweet potatoes
- 1 can black olives
- 8 cups Shredded Cheese
- BBQ Sauce
- 1 can kidney beans
- 1 large can Enchilada sauce (in Germany I combine 1 can tomato sauce with 1 packet taco seasoning)
- 1 package croutons
- Bay Leaves (if you do not have them in your pantry)
These are the recipes I will be able to make with these ingredients:
Easy Chicken Enchiladas
(instead of the Mexican style tomato soup, I used canned tomato sauce with a packet of taco seasoning)
Simple Chicken Quesadillas
(I served this without the bread crumbs as it was over my 20 ingredient limit. I also had garlic and flour at home so I did not add that to my shopping list.)
Loaded Baked Sweet Potatoes
(I made these quite a bit differently, but they were delicious. Subbed the bacon for shredded turkey breast, left out the green onions, and instead used sautéed bell peppers and carrots.)
Sheet Pan Saugsage and Veggies
One final thought…sometimes when you are at the store, you will discover a good price on something that will work as a substitute. I found that this week with a big turkey breast. It was much cheaper than individual packages of chicken breast so I went with it.
I also found a fresh veggie soup packet that I picked up instead of a big bag of carrots and a bunch of celery. This was very helpful for keeping my bags light as carrots are generally sold in a tiny bag (see pics above) or a giant 3lb variety. This is also a good time to work in seasonal veggies which are usually priced the best.
These are the grocery bags I was able to fill with ingredients for a week of meals. I cannot believe how much space was left and how many dinners I was able to make with this.
And if you enjoyed this (or think it will help other families), I’d love if you’d share it on Pinterest. Let’s spread the word so all families can get control of their dinner!