Ah, yes, January – that time of the year when we make and stick to resolutions and feel full of potential. I’ve decided to take advantage this year and plan out an entire month of meals, because I think we all know that my enthusiasm on January 20 is going to be 15% of what it is now, at best. It’s always nicer to make changes in community with others, so I’m sharing our budget-friendly January meal plan with you. I hope you’ll let me know if you use it!
Our family has a few goals related to food and meals in the new year, and you might share some of them. However, I plan to implement changes gradually. I tend to be a big-bites kind of person, which, after 37 years, I’ve finally realized can lead to burnout. My instinct is to try to do it all at once, and that does work for me for some things in life. But I’ve got three other people to consider when I make changes to something as basic and as vital as what we eat, and I don’t want to overwhelm myself or them. So, this is an easing in to some of the changes and a further refinement of others.
First, we’re hoping to cut our grocery budget even further and simultaneously reduce food waste. (I saw a billboard the other day saying that a single egg thrown in the trash wastes 55 gallons of water – in resources to raise and keep the chicken and bring the egg to market, I think.) We are already reasonably frugal with our meal planning, but there’s certainly room for improvement.
January’s challenge, then, is to buy as little as possible and to use up what we already have instead. I have a tendency to want my home to be kind of like Costco – stocked to the gills with food. I’ve experienced food insecurity (when you don’t have enough to eat) and it’s kind of a safety blanket for me. I’ve been slowly moving (very slowly) towards feeling OK with maybe not having an entire grocery store worth of canned tomatoes on hand. Maybe. I’ll be doing a separate post on how to come up with meals from your pantry this month.
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Second, we have a generic goal of eating “healthier foods.” Primarily, I’m looking to reduce carbs. You may’ve noticed my post about the keto diet last summer; while I may return to that at some point, I don’t think I can make it work right now. But that doesn’t mean we can’t reduce refined sugars, grains, and starchy carbs anyway. The first out the door is… pop. Soda. Yes. I know it’s terrible. I also know it’s delicious. I’m moving to the intermediate step of sugar-free Torani syrups with club soda (Italian sodas). We’ll also try to use more whole grains, and eat more actual vegetables (i.e. not corn). You’re going to notice that this month still has a lot of starch and that’s because of item #1 – using up what’s in the pantry. I anticipate February will be less carb-y.
And third, I got this Classic German Baking book for Christmas, and I intend to implement weekend snack time for the family. It seems slightly counter to the above goal, but it’s not, I think. If we eat better-quality, homemade baked goods on weekends and skip Tastykakes during the week, that’s still a positive change. That said, I haven’t planned out what to bake when and I don’t intend to – I think it’ll be more fun as a last-minute decision. I think. So those recipes won’t appear in the menu plan, but I’ll post about some of them, I’m sure!
I also just plan 2-3 options for breakfast and lunch each week, and 3-4 for snacks. I find offering too many different things is overwhelming and confusing for me and for the kids. I do prefer to rotate from day to day, though, so they’re experiencing different meals rather than eating the same thing all the time. My three-year-old is having a difficult time with food right now so I do keep chicken nuggets and hot dogs on hand since I know he’ll eat them. He has a few sensory issues so we work with what he can accept in terms of food right now. I also offer whatever else we are having.
You can find most of the recipes on my winter meal plan Pinterest board, so make sure to follow for these recipes and some extra ideas in case you’d like to make substitutions!
Without further ado:
Breakfast: Baked oatmeal; scrambled eggs and toast; peanut butter toast
Snacks: String cheese; peanut butter spoon (come on, you know you do this too); veggies and dip; leftovers; hummus and veggies or pita; cottage cheese and fruit; cheese slices and crackers; pistachios.
Lunch: Leftovers (we will have lots of pork and sauerkraut on the 1st, as well as ham frozen from Christmas, AND leftover appetizers from our New Year’s Eve buffet); cheese sandwiches; hardboiled eggs. Veggies and dip or applesauce on the side.
- Sunday 1: Pork and Sauerkraut, kielbasa, mashed potatoes. This is my family’s traditional New Year’s meal, and it’s basically my favorite ever, so.
- Monday 2: Cheesy Vegetarian Chili Mac from Budget Bytes
- Tuesday 3: Sauteed chicken marinated in Italian dressing, Rice-a-Roni, broccoli. We have chicken breast from a Zaycon Fresh sale, but use whatever you have! Pork works too. If you don’t have Rice-a-Roni because it was on sale, brown rice or couscous or noodles or sweet potatoes would also be lovely.
- Wednesday 4: Leftovers. I expect we’ll still have extra chili mac or pork and sauerkraut, along with other odds and ends. When I plan leftover days and there aren’t enough, we can supplement with eggs (omelets, scrambled, fried egg sandwiches, egg salad…).
- Thursday 5: Shrimp stir fry, rice, and broccoli. I plan to use this recipe for General Tso’s sauce from Omnivore’s Cookbook.
- Friday 6: Marinated lentil salad from Budget Bytes.
- Saturday 7: Rotisserie chicken, Rice-a-Roni, broccoli. Costco shopping day means rotisserie chicken! My post on rotisserie chicken has ideas to make it super frugal!
Lunch: Leftovers as needed; PB&J or ham sandwiches; chicken nuggets.
- Sunday 8: BBQ chicken nachos with black beans, sour cream, avocado. Like this – using up the leftover chicken! We’ll make stock as well.
- Monday 9: Beef and Cabbage Stir-Fry from Budget Bytes (I love her site – you’ll notice that, ha).
- Tuesday 10: Oven fajitas, corn tortillas, refried beans from Budget Bytes (yup) and Dad Cooks Dinner.
- Wednesday 11: Leftovers. I anticipate lots of fajita and cabbage leftovers and might just stick them all into tortillas! Alternately, I think the beef and cabbage stir fry would work well as a filling for okonomiyaki.
- Thursday 12: Tonkatsu, gyoza, rice, broccoli. I’m not sure yet if I’m going to try my hand at making my own gyoza (dumplings) or if I’ll just buy some. This meal counts as kind of a family favorite special treat, so I’m OK with buying a specific item for it.
- Friday 13: Chili Mac leftovers from the 2nd. There’s lots left to keep in the freezer!
- Saturday 14: Leftover tonkatsu as sandwiches with rice or veggies or whatever we need to use up on the side.
Lunch: Leftovers as needed; tuna or egg salad sandwiches; hot dogs.
- Sunday 15: Spaghetti and meatballs with green beans and garlic bread. Half or more of the sauce and meatballs will get frozen for next Sunday.
- Monday 16: Fried chicken, collard greens, macaroni and cheese. This meal is in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. day. We will be discussing some of the origins of traditionally Black soul food, slavery, and the Civil Rights Movement at the table. Not even gonna try to make potato salad right 😉
- Tuesday 17: Black bean tacos, veggies and dip. Again from Budget Bytes!
- Wednesday 18: Leftovers. As usual on Wednesday!
- Thursday 19: Green chile chicken enchilada cauliflower casserole. Finally, something deliberately low-carb makes it onto the menu!
- Friday 20: Teriyaki salmon, rice, broccoli. If I have any gyoza left in the freezer, they’ll probably accompany this for the kids and my husband. (I try not to eat meat on Fridays.)
- Saturday 21: Chicken marinated in Italian dressing, rice-a-roni, broccoli. Look. We all like broccoli.
Lunch: Leftovers; PB&J or ham sandwiches; chicken nuggets.
- Sunday 22: Spaghetti and meatballs with green beans and garlic bread. From our leftovers in the freezer.
- Monday 23: Pork chops with mushrooms, mashed potatoes, and green beans. Yum. I don’t have a recipe for this right now – I am just going to make a pan sauce – but I’ll try to do a post on how I approach this technique soon.
- Tuesday 24: Bacon chicken ranch casserole. This sounds so good, I can’t wait til the 24th.
- Wednesday 25: Leftovers. Bet you’re surprised!
- Thursday 26: Buffalo chicken cauliflower casserole. I haven’t typed up the recipe yet but I’ll add it when I do!
- Friday 27: Broccoli cheese soup (with ham for the kids/husband), bread. I use the Vitamix but I don’t quite follow the recipe. I steam a bunch of broccoli in my Tupperware SmartSteamer, then puree some of it with full fat milk and cheese for soup. I leave some whole, for texture. This is *super* filling because of all the fiber, so uh, be careful with that.
- Saturday 28: Leftovers. This week seems pretty abundant so I anticipate leftovers.
Lunch: Leftovers; tuna or egg salad sandwiches; hot dogs.
- Sunday 29: Creamy Bacon Thyme Mushroom Chicken, cauliflower, salad.
- Monday 30: Chicken tenders, fries, coleslaw, Cane’s sauce. So basically fast food, but at home.
- Tuesday 31: Pizza! This is payday (after six weeks of waiting) so we’re definitely just picking up a pizza!
That’s it! What’s on your January menu?