What’s For Supper?

Like many other moms I am sure, I really dislike deciding what to make for supper. I think for me, it is the most frustrating part of being a mom and wife. This is how meals work around here:

Grocery Shopping
I usually do one big shop at the beginning of the month for staples and things for the freezer. Then after that, I go about once a week for fresh fruits and veggies and milk.
I don’t like to shop for specific meals because that gets way too expensive. I like to get what I am used to working with.

The Budget
$325 per month. That includes any restaurants and coffee.

What I keep on Hand
Dairy – milk, cheese, sour cream (usually), eggs, butter

Fruits and Veggies – apples, bananas, other fruit that is on sale, ice burg lettuce, broccoli, carrots, tomatoes (usually), peppers (usually, unless they are way too expensive), potatoes, yams, freeze dried onions (because I don’t like or use them enough to buy whole ones)

Meat – pork loin, ground beef; when it’s on sale I get whole chickens to quarter and stewing beef

Dry Goods – cereal, peanut butter, honey, pasta, different forms of canned tomatoes (diced, paste, etc.), black beans, salsa, rice, oats, white and brown flour, white and brown sugar, chocolate chips

Spices and Seasonings – seasoning salt, chilli powder, paprika, oregano, basil, salt and pepper, ketchup, BBQ sauce, chili sauce, soy sauce, various salad dressings

I really only go outside these items when there is something special to cook for or I remember something I can make that I haven’t made in a while (like remembering about pea soup would make me buy ham and split peas). Terribly exciting, no?

Meal Making
Since I always get what I am used to working with, I always only have certain ingredients on hand which means I make the same meals over and over again. My go to meals are:
meat loaf, meat balls, pasta
chili, stew
sweet and sour pork, pulled pork
roasted chicken
borscht, chicken noodle soup
nachos, taco salad

Again, I can feel your excitement.

For a while during the summer I was doing a meal plan of sorts, where I would plan my meals for the week, but that didn’t give me new ideas, simply just putting all the decision making on one day. I am lacking something inside of me, like creativity or motivation or something, to get myself to make new meals. Yes, I see delicious looking recipes online and think “That’s a great idea!” and watch Rachael Ray and say “That is super simple!” But it stops there.

So I guess the point of this post is to ask you a few questions:
1) What other staples do you think I should add to my list that could broaden the scope of my culinary skills (I’m not looking for specific recipes…I know how to find those)?
2) Meal planning? Yay? Nay?
3) If you want to share, what is your grocery budget and how do you stay on target?

19 thoughts on “What’s For Supper?

  1. Naomi Janzen

    Here are a few staples I keep in my pantry:

    *cream of mushroom soup (casseroles galore! Add some cheese or Mexican seasoning for a twist)

    *Coriander, Cumin, Chili, cilantro (dried spices) – I get them in bulk and make my own Mexican food to taste. I pre-make pulled pork or chicken in batches, then freeze it. On a whim we can have tacos, burritos, quesadillas, fajitas, nachos, or tortilla soup without a lot of work. The pulled meat is pretty good with rice and beans too.

    *gnocchi is fun to change things up with, too. You can get it dried next to the pasta in a lot of stores, and it’s similarly priced. It’s great with any kind of pasta sauce and you can throw in bacon or sausage or any kind of leftover meat and it still seems really different than pasta.

    I’ve started to plan my meals a week or two in advance, just because I don’t get home until 6:30 or 7 most nights and I’m too frazzled to try and decide what to make at that point. To some extent I planned before (like which meat we’d defrost), but now I’m super careful and plan out sides too, because Saturday is really the only day I can grocery shop.

      1. Monika Thiessen

        Cream of chicken soup instead of mushroom is a great alternative. tortilla shells can be frozen. If you know you need 4 (or whatever) for one meal, then put a piece of wax paper between that amount.

  2. Ingrid

    I love this post! I meal plan about a week at a time. I like a lot of variety and I cannot think up meals on the fly. We spend easily $500 a month on groceries. Of course Eli eats all real foods now, but $325 would be almost impossible for us. Im a big fan of frozen veggies, especially in the winter. great for quick stirfrys, stews or soups. I’d say more spices will help too – cumin, curry powder, coriander, rosemary, herbs de Provence, turmeric thyme to name a few. Also dijon mustard, red wine vinegar, coconut milk, and apple cider are pretty standard and cheap in the pantry and usually the base of many recipes. Also chicken breasts give a lot more variety – fajitas, butter chicken, Greek chicken etc. It’s more expensive than ground beef but my list of chicken dishes is way longer than beef. I buy frozen bags at Superstore for $22 (2kgs worth). Although ground beef is great for crockpot meals too . . . The other thing I do is periodically go through all my cookbooks and I have separate lists made of beef meals, chicken meals, crockpot meals, soup meals etc. I write down the name of cookbook and the page number. Then when I want variety or feel we are eating too much of one type of meal, I can use the lists. It’s easier than always flipping through cookbooks because that takes too long each time and I only ever make a few recipes per book anyways

    1. Larissa Sevenhuysen Post author

      I would eat a lot more chicken if it was less expensive! I am not good at looking around at different stores for good deals, so it’s nice to hear if hat you have found elsewhere. I will have to check Superstore out! I’ve never grocery shopped there because most people think their aisles are confusing to find items in. But if its cheaper, maybe I should think about it.

  3. Nicole Birrell

    One thing we just started eating more of is stir fry. I buy the Asian frozen veggies, a stir fry sauce, whatever meat we have and serve it over rice. Casseroles are also a great way to add variety to your pasta meals. I do not meal plan but am like you and have our staples and go from there. Our budget is a bit higher then yours at about $150 a week.

  4. Sheila T.

    You probably don’t want to know what I spend a month on groceries. ;) $1000/month or so, sometimes a little less, wouldn’t be much more…except now we just finished up our 1/2 side of beef that we bought last spring, so our meat portion of the groceries will go up. I have too many spices in my spice cupboard to mention, we eat a lot of chicken as well, and I make a fair amount of casseroles. We eat alot of fresh produce, more so veggies than fruit – always a veggie side dish or a fresh salad on the supper table. If a person wants to eat healthy it will always cost more. My monthly grocery bill does not include eating out, which we do very seldom.

  5. Monika Thiessen

    English muffins are a great staple. Tuna melts, left over pulled pork (top with cheese and broil for a few mins), egg and ham with cheese…

      1. Monika Thiessen

        Again, a good price at Costco (they should pay me for all the advertisement) and you don’t run out of them as fast.

  6. Naomi Adamson

    This is such an interesting post! Definitely agree with others that a few more spices wouldn’t go amiss, dried chilli flakes I find come in handy for pretty much anything – soups, casseroles etc… Canned pineapple chunks and sweetcorn. Also apple sauce is great for pork casseroles. Butternut squash is also a great vegetable, ideal for many recipes.
    I work on a similar budget to yours though that wouldn’t include meals out. If any of you have an iPhone epicurious is a great app for finding recipes for odds and ends left in your fridge – you put in the ingredients you have and it supplies some ideas.
    I like lots of variety so do menu plan which for me means less waste. My husband and I critique new recipes tried and if they past the taste test I add them to my recipe book and menu cards sorted into different meats, veg and sweets so like others when lacking inspiration I have something to turn to!

  7. Arlene

    I remember some of the same dilemnas with meal planning, grocery shopping and coming up with new ideas. It was especially hard living in Hudson’s Hope with very limited grocery shopping options. The trips to Fort St. John rotated around stocking up at Safeway and Overwaitea. What outings those were! Then there were the years when time was the issue especially if there were after school activities to drive kids to and from. I recommend getting to know your slow cooker and make lots of casseroles. There’s nothing better than knowing that when you get home, supper is waiting in the oven or wherever because you were on the ball and made it before you left home! Cooked vegetables aren’t that bad especially quickly steamed or sauteed. Gotta keep eating those vegies! Costco is good for big amounts of chicken and bagged frozen vegetables. Good job on the Costco advertising Monika! Now my problem is more that it is hard to cook for just two or three.It’s gets boring eating the same leftovers several nights in a row.
    Happy cooking! Maybe you should ask Tim to plan one meal a week and he can prep it on the weekend! Don’t let him off too easy.

  8. anneliese

    This is so interesting … even the comments! Your menu reminds me so much of how I cooked as a young mom. Not long ago, I found a menu list that I would rotate and I smiled. I think you are doing a great job of budgeting and cooking a variety according to that.
    I agree that some more spices … such as Mexican … do you like Mexican?… would be good. Do you ever make some pizza crusts with you bun dough? Spread on some jarred spaghetti sauce (a good staple), some leftover chili or slopoy joe sauce and cheese. Chicken breasts are expensive, but they go a long way when you cut them up small for a creamy scauce over pasta or rice. That is when onions and mushrooms come in handy … simply cook chicken, add sliced oniions and mushrooms until caramelized, add cream of chicken or mushroom mixed with milk …. or spaghetti sauce for a change. There are so many quick soups to make with broccoli, caulifower, butternut squash. roasted peppers and yams … they make a great winter meal with homemade bread.
    Our budget is about twice yours (not including going out) but we have a lot of company, kids coming over etc. I always have ground beef on hand from a local butcher and buy other meats when they are on sale. I usually get fruits and vegetables from a produce stand.


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