Let’s Eat Really Great Food During the January Money Diet

Plan Meals | January Money Diet

Welcome to Day #3 of the January Money Diet.

I’ve been enjoying your comments and ideas SO much! I loved reading about Vida, who got out her coffee grinder and enjoyed fresh-ground coffee yesterday. And Cindy, who took a luxurious bath complete with bath salts and an inflatable pillow. Susan enjoyed the sweet fragrance of a scented candle, while Lynn Louise wrote of the simple joy of putting a pretty tablecloth on her table. Hilary found some brand-new clothes she’d forgotten, and Glenda is going to learn how to use her pressure cooker. Meg plans to use the sea glass and shells she collected to make a memory box for her granddaughter.

Cindy committed to cook the food in her freezer, and Baylee got inspired to create some new recipes from the food she has on hand — which is the perfect segue into our next challenge.

Cook at Home and Save Big

During this no-spend month, we take a break from nonessential spending. Since meals are considered essential, however, we do get to buy groceries.

I believe that we deserve to eat really well during the January Money Diet. Cooking at home is a wonderful way to save significant dollars.

According to research from the United States Healthful Food Council, Americans spend half of our food dollars eating in restaurants. The average American adult buys a meal or snack from a restaurant 5.8 times a week.

You may be surprised at how much money you can save this month on food. With a little creativity and planning, cooking at home doesn’t need to be a lot more work.

If you participated in yesterday’s “Home Scavenger Hunt” challenge, you likely unearthed some pantry items that you can incorporate in meals this month. You may wish to make an inventory of your other basic ingredients so you can use up food from the freezer and refrigerator this month. For inspiration, you might enjoy checking out the oddly-named but helpful site Recipe Puppy. You simply plug in the ingredients you have on hand, and Recipe Puppy provides recipes that match those ingredients.

It’s usually more economical — and healthful — to plan meals using seasonal, regionally-grown produce. You might want to consult your grocery store’s weekly sale circular to plan meals based on what’s available at a reasonable price. Your store probably posts this information online.

I also keep a running list in a small notebook of dishes my family especially likes; then, when I’m low on inspiration I can review the list and get some ideas for sure-to-please meals. I’ve also gathered some recipes my family enjoys on a Pinterest board — Happy Simple Suppers.

Pizza, Please

One dinner my family seems to consistently love is pizza. Back in the olden days I used to call for pizza delivery on a regular basis, but now I prepare a a big batch of pizza dough early in the month and freeze the extra rounds of dough. I remove the dough from the freezer and let it thaw in the refrigerator for 24 hours before pizza night, and after that it’s really easy to press the dough in a pan, add the toppings and bake. We can make a great, piping hot pizza with organic ingredients for less than $2.00 using this method.

Here’s my homemade pizza recipe, including detailed instructions, two crust recipes, a homemade sauce recipe, dozens of topping ideas and lots of photos. If you don’t have a pizza pan you can simply use a cookie sheet for the pizza, and it’s so easy and delicious you may never call for delivery again.

Soup-er Meals

Soup is another great choice in January. I remember how my mom always carefully saved and froze leftover meat and the cooking water from vegetables for homemade broth. Her soups always have the most incredible flavor, and I follow her example now.

If you have a slow cooker, you can prepare a meal in the morning and enjoy an easy dinner that night. A slow cooker is great for less expensive cuts of meat, which become nice and tender after cooking at low heat all day.

Daily Specials

For easy planning, you may want to assign days to meals during January.

Here’s an example:

  • Mondays — casserole night
  • Tuesdays — stir-fry night
  • Wednesdays — slow cooker night
  • Thursdays — pasta night
  • Fridays — pizza night
  • Saturdays — cook-on-the-grill night
  • Sundays — soup night

Breakfast and Lunch Ideas

For breakfast, I like to make a big batch of breakfast burritos and put them in the freezer. We also like homemade Greek yogurt (the recipe happens to be Happy Simple Living’s #1 post of all time) and fresh-baked granola.

Leftovers are great for lunch, as well as salads, sandwiches and soups.

You might want to visit the website of your local grocery store and see what’s new. Our King Soopers offers free items periodically, as well as convenient coupons that can be downloaded on a loyalty card so you don’t have to clip and save.

Just try to figure out the meals you want to prepare and serve this month, take advantage of seasonal foods and specials, and stay within your budget. You’ll be way ahead in the challenge to spend less and eat well this month.

Your Challenge: Plan a Week’s Worth of Meals

Plan every meal for at least the next 7 days, utilizing what you already have on hand and taking advantage of any good deals at the grocery store.

Bonus challenge:  Plan to cook a double batch of at least one of your meals, and freeze half.

If you’re so inclined, share a few of the meals you plan to cook in the comments section on this page.

I hope your new year is off to a very good start, and I’m so glad we’re supporting each other during this spending break.


The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

Let’s Eat Really Great Food During the January Money Diet

  • Lyn

    Your pizza recipe has become a family staple – – Wednesday nights have been arugula pizza night for two years now. But when I had carpal tunnel surgery in November, I lost the use of both hands for a few months. It was so great to make a huge batch on Wednesday, freeze most of it and serve four small personal pizzas for dinner with friends. They loved it!! Thank you thank you thank you Eliza.

  • Sara

    Since I live on the third floor with no elevator and don’t have a car, I tend to go grocery shopping every second day instead of doing a weekly trip to the grocery store. This week I tried to do one big trip, I had to physically walk to the store two times in one day and my elderly neighbor helped me carry some items up the stairs. Quite sweet! Hopefully, the food will be enough for the week. I have bought salmon, chicken, minced meet, eggs, noodles and some fresh fruits and vegetables, I also consume quite a lot of milk and yoghurt.

  • Deborah

    I began meal planning after last years freeze/diet. I know that it has saved me money. I meal plan on Saturday for the following week. Saturday is my shopping and meal prep day. I use the sale papers to help with my planning after going through the pantry and freezer. Eating out is very rare at our house. We have lost weight and feel better eating whole foods.

  • I live in a very small space so it is difficult to plan out meals very far in advance or stock up ingredients. However, this month I am planning to eat at home as much as possible, and will not go to the grocery store without planning exactly what I need before I get there. No extras are allowed in the cart. I am also planning recipes that will allow me to have leftovers for lunches, and I am cooking muffins, etc. that I can take with me in the morning for breakfast. Crockpot recipes are my favorite as it feels like someone made me dinner while I was at work all day.

  • Betty D.

    I am so excited to participate in the January Money Diet. The first day’s challenge had me looking over my crowded library. I found 10 books that I donated to a thrift store where I am a volunteer – the $ earned is used to buy Bibles for other countries. My search for books led me to the 2nd day challenge. I found some neat books that were gifts and I had forgotten I owned them – it was like shopping at home.

    Day 3 is my husband’s birthday. Our usual celebration is going out to eat, sometimes lunch and dinner. I prepared lunch for him and invited our son to join us. I used all ingredients on-hand – salad with shrimp, pea soup (made a double batch yesterday) and chocolate cake (made that yesterday from scratch since I didn’t have a mix in the house and didn’t want to purchase one) We are also eating in for supper – that will consist of venison steak (husband is a hunter) potatoes and vegetables (husband is a gardener) garlic bread (I baked it) and wine which we make ourselves from the grapes, raspberries and rhubarb that we grow. It’s probably obvious why I like this January challenge so much! Betty

  • Inta

    I plan meals for couple of years now. Helps to save Money on groceries. However the main reason is that I have so many recipes on Pinterest, in cookbooks etc. that I try to incorporate at least one new Recipe per week using the products I have at home. I also keep track of previous meal plans so not to repeat them too often:)
    This week’s meal plan:
    Monday – rice with beans, salad
    Tuesday – slow-cooked beef, mashed potatoes
    Wednesday – mashed potatoe patties (made from leftover mashed potatoes) and bacon
    Thursday – Pasta alla norma
    Friday – leftover night
    Saturday – oven-baked chicken or cassoulet (have not decided yet, have ingredients for both), salad
    Sunday – chicken soup (stock from leftover chicken)

  • Susan Trimble

    Meals for James: tonight – fish, potato wedges, blackeyed peas, rolls, tomorrow night chicken breast, potato wedges, green peas, Thursday: roast beef fried okra, corn, roll. My meals are soup, vegs and fruit.

  • Katy Emanuel

    We meal plan every week. This week our dinners are:
    spaghetti squash served with tomato meat sauce
    roasted chicken with coleslaw and roasted potatoes
    Beef brisket, butternut squash, salad
    Salmon, broccolini, sauteed mushrooms zucchini and onions all served w/ red pepper sauce
    Pork chops with apple sauce, salad
    Pork carnitas stuffed sweet potatoes
    Frittata with chicken sausage, pepper, onion, kale served with cauli mash
    I also cooked up a couple whole chickens on the weekend and made up a couple batches of chicken vegetable soup for the freezer for lunches for my daughter for school, used the bones for bone broth and chicken – 1 batch frozen and the other chopped up for chicken salad for lunches.
    Breakfasts are eggs or dinner leftovers.

  • Susan Trimble

    For years I have made 2 different meals for me and my husband. He has to have meat, potatoes, etc. I don’t eat meat, just fruit and vegs. I have thought of a few meals for the week but will have to check my pantry.

  • Meg

    I have made a meal plan for this week and as I have every thing in my freezer and cupboards I do not have to buy anything this week so lots of no spend days.
    To use up all the veg that I think won’t keep I will make a batch of soup and freeze for lunches next week

  • We also like to make a big pasta salad with all our leftover bits and pieces: meat, cheese, vegetables and mixed with a box of prepared pasta. Between this, pizza and soup, we hardly ever waste food.

  • Jenny

    I love to meal plan in order to budget my grocery shopping better and reduce waste. It also helps to deter me from ordering a take out after a long day at work. This month I am trying to use less meat in order to reduce the cost of shopping and incorporate more lentils and vegetables into my diet. For challenge no 3, my daughter and I are making a big batch of vegetarian chilli and will freeze half for next week! Thanks for the inspiration 🙂

  • Becky

    I save all the scraps from cleaning vegetables, carrot peels, ends of celery, the sacrificial outside layer of the onion, cabbage hearts, asparagus ends, etc. and freeze them till I have a full bag, about a gallon freezer bag. Then I add water, salt, pepper, garlic and simmer for several hours. Run through a cheese cloth and presto, vegetable broth. I think I may have seen this on pinterest, but it works great and saves a little money!

  • Amy@MoreTimeThanMoney

    I love meal planning. I love that come time to cook dinner I don’t have to think up something to cook. It’s also a fantastic way to save money as it prevents over-buying and wasting food. For anyone looking for inspiration, this is how I meal plan – https://moretimethanmoney.co.nz/2015/09/11/planning-for-flexibility/

  • Kimberly

    I have only budgeted $40 for the month ( fresh veggies and fruit)We are eating what we have in the house and this month will be the month of soups. There are so many soups out there and my family loves soup. I am also going to make bread for the first time and will keep doing it for the month, hopefully longer.

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