Here is my suggested meal plan for the upcoming week which is Week 6 in our meal planning series. If you want to check out previous weeks’ meal plans, hotlinks to them are included at the end of this posting. Continue reading Meal Planning – Week 6
Here is my suggested meal plan for the upcoming week which is Week 5 in our meal planning series. If you want to check out previous weeks’ meal plans, hotlinks to them are included at the end of this posting.
As with previous meal plans I have published, I’ve provided a list of the main ingredients for each recipe that, for the most part, would probably involve a shopping trip to the supermarket for most. However, as always, read each recipe thoroughly and carefully to create your own list as I have not listed what I consider to be “staple” items like regular milk, butter, eggs, flour, sugar, butter/shortening, oil, spices, etc.
This week, we’ll start off with a baked ham which will give us leftovers for the next day. Continue reading MEAL PLANNING – WEEK 5
With continuously rising food prices, many people find it necessary to cut corners on their grocery bill and that can be a challenge. There are several ways in which I keep my food bill in check and reduce food waste. Here are my 10 top tips:
Cut Back on Eating Out
It’s easy to fall into the “convenience food” trap. The old “I just don’t have time to prepare homemade food” trap comes with a hefty price – both in terms of money spent on food and in nutritional value.
It’s very easy to pick up a muffin and a coffee on the way to work, for example. However, for the price (or very little more) of those two items on one day alone, an entire batch of a dozen muffins could be made and frozen, ready for the weekday lunch bag(s).
For a visual of how much that daily coffeeshop tea or coffee is costing, multiple it by 365 days – if a coffee/tea costs, for example, $3.00, a significant sum of $1095.00 a year will be spent on just one take-out coffee or tea a day (and I know some folks buy more than one a day). If you were to make your own tea or coffee, how much would it cost? How much are you shelling out for the convenience of picking up the beverage at a coffeeshop? Add to that a bakeshop or coffeeshop muffin that generally runs about the same price as the coffee and, again, basic multiplication will reveal another $1095.00 for just the daily muffins for a year. I can make a LOT of batches of muffins for $1095.00 a year! Together, those two simple items can run you about $2200.00 a year!
Spending $7.00+ for a bowl of soup or a salad at lunchtime adds up over a week, a month, and a year. For $7.00, a big batch of healthy basic homemade soup, for example, can be made and frozen in portion-sized containers, making the lunchtime meal more healthy and economical.
I do not eat out a lot. I’m not against it but it is expensive and dining out frequently makes it less of a special treat. For anyone on a restrictive diet, finding a restaurant that can accommodate the diet can be a real challenge. When I do eat out, it’s usually because I am traveling or, if at home, I am choosing to go to a nice restaurant as a special treat. If you normally eat out several times a week, cut it back to, perhaps, only once a week and see the difference it will make in how much you spend on food. I never “order in” food and very rarely eat from a deli. Stopping at a supermarket deli on the way home from work is a temptation to scoot around the store and “pick up just a few items” while you are there. Suddenly, the supper stop just cost $60 instead of $15.
If you can afford these conveniences, great. However, if you need to cut your food expenditures, this might be a good place to start making adjustments. Making your own food/beverages is both cost-effective and healthier.
Make a Budget
Make a realistic budget for food, based on what you really need. Set aside that money from your income and stick to the budget. If you only allot so much for groceries, it will force you to shop for good bargains and to only buy what you need, not what you see and are enticed by, that if truth be told, you probably really don’t need. I sometimes see shoppers using calculators as they grocery shop. This is a great idea! If you only have so much money to spend, you’ll immediately see where you are with your budget as you select items from the grocery shelves and deduct their cost from your budget. If you start to see you’re over budget, take a look through the grocery cart to see if there are any non-essentials that could perhaps return to the grocery shelf.
Keep track of what you buy and are spending on groceries. A bit tedious but, if you need to figure out where your food dollars are going, keep a record for a few months recording what you buy. Review it to see if there are non-essential items creeping into the grocery cart that could perhaps be eliminated from future grocery orders. If you are, for example, buying big name brand products to be used as ingredients for a casserole, could the dish be made with less pricey items such as store-brand ingredients? Do you really need the frozen entrée dinners or could you prepare healthy homemade meals? Do you need to pay for cheese already grated or could you buy a block of cheese on sale and grate it yourself? Do you really need to buy a bottle of salad dressing or could you make a simple healthy vinaigrette from ingredients already in your pantry? Once you get a clear picture of exactly what you are buying, you will likely identify items that can be eliminated or exchanged for more economically-priced substitutes.
Engage in Meal Planning
I’ve written about the merits of meal planning before. Make a list of the foods/meals your family likes to eat. Plan for leftovers. For example, if you are cooking a turkey dinner on the weekend, know ahead of time what you will use the leftover meat for so that you can extend its use.
Transforming the meat into other dishes will generate more servings than simply plating the leftover meat. For example, you might make a turkey chowder that will yield several servings. You might substitute the turkey for chicken in creamed chicken and get a significant number of servings. Perhaps you’ll make a chicken chow mein casserole that will give several dinner servings.
Save the turkey carcass and make stock that can be used as the base in soups and other dishes. Extend that turkey to get as much use out of it as you can.
The homemade turkey stock makes a wonderful base for turkey vegetable soup in which some of the leftover turkey meat can be used.
If you are having a boiled ham dinner, save the broth and use some of the meat to make a tasty ham and lentil soup that will yield many servings.
Or, make a ham-based casserole that will generate several servings. All of these items can be frozen in whatever servings sizes you need for your family to have on hand for weeknight dinners.
By careful planning, you’ll be amazed at how many more meals you can generate from the leftovers of just one food item.
Try to make recipes that will give at least two nights’ meals. For example, if you are making scalloped potatoes to go with leftover ham, double the recipe so you will have the side dish prepped for another meal. Many dishes, like scalloped potatoes actually, in my opinion, improve their flavour over a day or two.
The same principle of extending food usage holds true with foods like chicken breasts, for example. To serve individual chicken breasts, it’s expensive. However, if they are bought at a good price, they are golden for meal extension. One 7 – 8oz boneless chicken breast will yield two to three sandwiches much more economically than buying sliced processed chicken at the deli.
An 8 oz chicken breast will generally yield about 1 cup, or slightly more, of diced chicken which can be used in casseroles or creamed chicken that will yield far more servings than simply putting a single full chicken breast on a plate with vegetables for just one serving at one meal.
When I know I need to prepare some make-ahead meals that will require a lot of chicken or turkey (I use them interchangeably in recipes), I have my recipes planned and I watch for turkeys on sale. I don’t go into a store and, unexpectedly, see turkeys on sale and pick them up to put in the freezer unless I know I am going to use them relatively soon. They are big to store and take up a lot of my valuable freezer space.
I always have a plan for recipes I can make if I can get a good deal on the main ingredient like meat, for example. If I’m shopping and I know I want to make, say, Irish Stew soon (or when I can get the beef on sale), I will check the meat section to see if they have any best-before today/tomorrow sales. Sometimes, good cuts of meat will be reduced by 25% or even 50% if it has same day, or next day, best-before date. There is nothing wrong with the meat and, if you can use it or make it into a recipe on the same day as purchase, it’s a great saving. I keep a list of ingredients of my most common make-ahead recipes on my phone so, if I can get a good deal on the meat, for example, I know what other ingredients I need to pick up at the same time to make the dish.
If you plan your meals out, you’ll be less likely to head to the deli, take-out, or restaurant for meals. Careful meal planning is a great way to stretch food ingredients out into more servings and save money.
Shop with a Grocery List and Only Buy What’s on the List
Make the grocery list before you leave home. If you don’t have a list, the tendency will be to wander the supermarket aisles aimlessly, hoping the sight of items will trigger what you should pick up. When you get to the supermarket, DO NOT go up and down every aisle! I repeat, DO NOT go up and down every single aisle. Only visit the aisles that have items on your list. Otherwise, the “browsing” will likely result in buying interesting looking items you may, or may not, use (and may not actually need) and that’s going to increase your grocery bill. In fact, because I know the layout of the supermarkets well (most have the same basic layout), I actually make my grocery list in accordance with the store layout so I have a game plan when I hit the supermarket arena and I am not “backing and forthing” all over the store to pick up my groceries. So, my grocery list starts with any needed fruits and vegetables since that’s the zone into which I enter the supermarket, then meats, and so on, as I traverse the store. The faster I can move through a zone without revisiting it (or lingering), the less likely I am to notice something that causes me to stop and explore it and potentially buy it.
Don’t stockpile food items, even if they’re on sale – you are tying up money into items that will expire and throwing them out is a waste of money. Plus, they are taking up real estate space in the pantry and/or freezer and are likely to eventually become food waste. Most grocery items go on sale cyclically anyway so it’s not a “once in a lifetime must buy now deal”. I don’t keep a supply of canned goods on hand at all. Rather, I choose a recipe, make my ingredient list, and go shop for the specific ingredients at the time. This ensures my products are fresh and I have not tied up money in products I may, or may not, ever use. This method allows me to control my food budget better.
If you only need a few items, don’t take a shopping cart. Instead, use a small hand-carried grocery basket or, better still, if you can carry all the items in your hands, you will be less likely to pick up additional products because your arms can only hold so much. I keep a grocery basket shown in the photo below) in my car. I use this basket frequently because it will only hold so much so it helps to control my shopping. It also doubles as my carry-out so it saves on plastic bags and is easier to unpack when I arrive home.
If all you need is milk, for example, pay a few cents extra and buy it at the convenience store or gas bar because it will save you money in the long run. How so? If you travel all the way to the back of a large supermarket where the milk is usually located, you will be more likely to come out with a $60+ grocery bill than the $3.00 litre of milk you were shopping for because you will be enticed by other items along the way for which you did not go to the supermarket. If you do go to the supermarket for just an item like milk (and some of us do because the supermarkets are typically the stores that carry certain types of milk for special diets), take the route through an aisle in which you have no interest in the products. For example if you don’t have pets, pet food won’t be of interest so zoom down that aisle (as opposed to, say, the chips and snack aisle). That way, you’re not tempted to pick up excess items not on your list. There’s a reason why grocery store designers place basic food necessities, like milk, at the very far back end of the store – they know shoppers have to pass by many, many items to get there and those other items are strategically placed to catch the shopper’s attention. Many shoppers will pick up items as they head to that single litre of milk they actually came into the store to buy. So, once again, the risk is that the stop for a $3.00 litre of milk may turn into a $60+ grocery bill (willpower, willpower, wherefore art thou when in a supermarket!)
Shop Around and Check out Sales Flyers/Price Compare Websites or Apps
If you are trying to save on your grocery bill, you will probably have to shop at more than one supermarket to get the best deals. In most cities, supermarket chains tend to set up business in very close proximity to their competitors. For example, in Charlottetown, we have three large supermarket chains located within about a half kilometer (or less) of each other so it makes it easy to shop around. Now, if you had to drive 10-20 kilometers between them, the savings on the item(s) would have to be very significant to justify the gas and travel time. But, if the grocery stores are close, savings can be found for the shrewd shopper who takes the time to find them.
Check out the weekly sales flyers to see which supermarket has the items on sale that you need (operative word here always being “need”). Or, check out price compare websites or apps to see which grocery store chain has the best price on products you need. Not all chains will price match but some will. It never hurts to ask.
There is one grocery store in my hometown which I would class as less glitzy and more basic than the others. I shop for what I can get there because it’s a smaller store which makes it easier to stick to my grocery list as there are fewer items drawing me to buy them. Another store has great regular prices on certain items so, when I need those specific products, I head first to that store and buy what I can there. For example, there is a particular brand of yogurt I like. The regular price for this item at one supermarket has, for a long time, consistently been (at time of writing) $2.97 for 500g. The exact same brand item of the same size retails at the competitors for $4.97. A 2.63 litre of a major brand orange juice sells for $3.97 (regular price) at one store while the competitors retail it for, on average, $7.49 – a $3.52 difference. On just these two items alone, I can save $5.52 by carefully shopping around. A third supermarket has its own name brand products that I really like and which are priced cheaper than big name brand counterparts. That’s the store I head to for those products because I don’t particularly like either of the competitors’ own store brand products.
I am not a huge user of coupons because I find they are most often for items I don’t need. However, they are a good way to save money if they are for items you do actually need. That said, as a word of caution, don’t use the coupons to buy items simply to try the products. If the items are not ones you need, then putting any money at all on to the items is adding unnecessary strain to the food budget.
While I am not against big box warehouse shopping venues, they can require a lot of willpower on the customer’s part to pass by items that aren’t on the grocery list but certainly look interesting and appear to be a good price. BUT….are they really a great price if you look at the per unit or per weight price and factor in all the considerations around them? Items typically come in very large quantities at these stores (there’s a reason why they have those jumbo-sized grocery carts that can hardly be pushed or navigated through the store). So, unless you have a very large family and lots of refrigeration and pantry space, many of the items are just simply too large for many households to store and use up before the items expire. Therefore, the questions to ask are: Do you, first of all, really need the items? Will you be able to use them all up before they expire? If you are a household of one or two people, would you really use a 10lb bag of quinoa or rice? If you end up throwing out a good portion of the food items, that constitutes food waste and a drain on the food budget and you really haven’t saved any money.
We don’t have big box grocery warehouse stores in PEI at the time of writing but a lot of Islanders frequent them off Island. I did have a membership (which also costs an annual fee) for a couple of years but discontinued it when I found I wasn’t using it enough to justify the membership fee. Living in PEI, I had to factor into the cost of the grocery items, the Confederation Bridge toll (nearly $50. at time of writing), gas, and the time to travel to the big box warehouse stores. But, the biggest reason why I wasn’t shopping at them? Everything was available only in way-too-large quantities and most of the products, well, I just simply did not need or I could get what I needed more economically when the standard local supermarkets put on good sales.
One previous frequent grocery warehouse shopper told me his family recently discontinued their membership as well because every time they were at one of these stores (2-3 times a month, on average), they were spending at least $500 per trip on items they really did not need (but looked enticing) and they ended up throwing out a good portion of them after their expiry date had passed because they could not use up such large quantities. These shopping excursions were in addition to their regular grocery shopping at home, putting a huge unsustainable strain on their food budget.
To stay on a food budget, shop around and buy only what you need and can reasonably use up before the items expire.
Follow Credible Well-Tested Recipes
While it’s fun to try new recipes, if you are on a strict food budget, you’ll want to ensure you choose recipes that, first of all, have ingredients you know your family will like and, second, come from a trusted source. This is because you want a recipe that has good, clear directions and that will turn out for you. The last thing you want is to have to walk the dreaded walk to the compost bin with a failed recipe and still have nothing prepped for dinner. That’s when you tend to order in or head out to a restaurant for the meal, really taxing the food budget.
Don’t choose complicated recipes with expensive ingredients, especially if you are a novice cook – it will be easy to become discouraged with home cooking if your efforts don’t meet with a satisfying tasty dish. Start basic and move toward more elaborate recipes as your cooking experience grows. There is no shortage of cookbooks and cooking magazines on the market and literally anyone can post any recipe on the internet. However, there is no guarantee that any of the recipes from these sources have actually been tested for success. Ask your friends and family for recommendations on the recipe sources they use with success and, of course, you can always check out recipes here on My Island Bistro Kitchen’s website since those recipes have been tested!
For those on a budget, look for recipes that call for economical ingredients and that you can get more than one meal from the recipe. While pricey food items like lobster, scallops, and steak are wonderfully tasty, they can make a serious dent in the food budget. To keep the budget in check, I recommend saving those types of items for a special treat or occasion and selecting other, more economically-priced, ingredients for everyday meals.
There are ways to turn everyday basic ingredients into very tasty, wholesome meals using seasonings, sauces, and so forth. A lot of the contents in my freezers are not “gourmet” by any stretch of the definition but they are mighty tasty meals and not difficult to prepare. These include the basics like baked beans, chili, macaroni and cheese, creamed chicken, chicken and ham casseroles, soups, and so forth.
Buy a Big Freezer
In my opinion, one of the best investments one can make is in a big upright freezer. This allows for batch cooking make-ahead meal preparation to be done when food ingredients are in season or on sale. I freeze lots of varieties of soups, main entrées, side dishes, and desserts. This allows me to eat well, at home, and quite economically. Plus, I know what I’m eating and the foods are not full of preservatives or ingredients I can’t pronounce.
Properly package items for freezing and label and date everything. While the money has to initially be laid out for ingredients to batch cook and the prep work still has to be done, it does cut down on the grocery bill on an ongoing basis and lessens the task of meal prep on weeknights. Plus, it discourages the old fallback of stopping at the supermarket deli for dinner on the way home from work because you will know you have quality homecooked meals already prepared.
Batch Cook and Prepare Make-ahead Meals for the Freezer
I believe that, no matter how busy we are, we make time for whatever is a priority for us. So, if healthy, affordable eating for you and your family is important to you, you’ll put some time into healthy, economical meal preparation.
Set aside a few days and prepare several make-ahead meals for the freezer – soups for lunches, muffins for breaks, entrées for main meals, and desserts for when the sweet tooth calls.
Once I have my freezers (yes, freezers plural) filled with make-ahead meals, my ongoing grocery list just usually consists of dairy, fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, and the like. If you don’t know how to cook, or you need the motivation from others to get you going, gather together some friends to have a batch cooking session at the end of which everyone goes home with some make-ahead meals. Or, take a short cooking class. Many larger supermarkets, for example, will frequently offer evening or Saturday cooking classes. You might also check out some community colleges or local cooking schools to see what short-term cooking classes they might offer.
If you want to tackle a new recipe you are not familiar with, engage an experienced cooking mentor to help walk you through the process. Most experienced cooks will be more than willing to share their knowledge and experience in this field.
Batch cooking is my lifesaver – I don’t have to stop at the supermarket or takeout for dinner and I know what’s in my food that contains no preservatives or weird, hard-to-pronounce ingredients. Whether you are living alone, as a couple, or a family of several members, advance batch-cooking is a great meal preparation strategy. For singles or smaller households, it offers the benefit of having a variety of meals on hand from which to choose each day without having to individually prepare small-sized meals on a daily basis. For larger families, it provides healthy, home-cooked meals on busy weeknights when everyone is running in multiple directions to and from activities. If you have some others in the house, engage them in the meal preparation to lighten the load (it’s a great way to teach the younger generation how to prepare home-cooked meals, too).
Adjust Meal Planning According to the Seasons
Create a list of favorite recipes to make when fresh local produce (perhaps from your own garden) is available and at good prices. For example, I do a lot of soup making and freeze portion-sized containers of the soup for weekday lunches. Some of my favorite soups are tomato, cauliflower, and broccoli.
We had an abundance of tomatoes in the garden this year and making soup with them is a great way to use up the tomatoes and cut the cost of the soup significantly. I was able to find beautiful large heads of broccoli and cauliflower for .99 cents in the fall and, since they are the primary ingredients in two of my favorite soups, I was able to make double batches of cauliflower and broccoli soups for the freezer very economically – much more so than making cauliflower soup, for example, in the winter when a small head of imported cauliflower has run as high as $7.00 in recent years. The same holds true with fresh fruits. I make my Blueberry Peach Crisps, Apple Crisps, and applesauce when the fruit is fresh and at a good price. I then freeze these desserts for use throughout the year.
Shop Less Frequently
Just because it’s Saturday (or whatever day you typically do your main shopping) does not mean you automatically have to go grocery shopping if you really don’t need a grocery order. Make it a habit not to be stopping at the supermarket every day, or every other day, throughout the week. The more times you enter a grocery store, the harder it will be to stick to a food budget. You might try only doing focused grocery shopping every two weeks and, in the interim, stop to pick up the necessities like milk, at a convenience store or gas bar where there will be less items calling your attention and wallet.
It is a challenge, for sure, to eat well when food prices continue to rise rapidly. It does require some folks to become more creative in how to feed a family healthy meals on a budget. I believe it can be done but it does take work, dedication, commitment, organization, planning, and shopping around for the best deals possible on food items. For some folks, it may mean a lifestyle change by eating out less frequently and removing some non-essential items from the grocery cart. For others, it may mean learning how to cook economical and nutritious meals from scratch at home.
I hope you have found some of my tips helpful for controlling the grocery bill and reducing food waste. What are your strategies to stretch your food dollar?
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Here is my suggested meal plan for the upcoming week. If you want to check out previous weeks’ meal plans, click here for the meal plan for week 1, here for week 2’s plan, and here for the meal plan for week 3. I’ve provided a list of the main ingredients that, for the most part, would probably involve a shopping trip to the supermarket for most. However, as always, read each recipe thoroughly and carefully to create your own list as I have not listed what I consider to be “staple” items like regular milk, butter, eggs, flour, sugar, butter/shortening, oil, spices, etc.
This week, we’ll start off with a roast chicken or turkey. I watch and get chickens or turkeys when they are on sale and I usually have a stock of 2-3 in the freezer. They are great week starters because, yay, there are leftovers!!!! This means the leftovers can be transformed into other dishes such as turkey chowder and chicken (turkey) chow mein casserole. And, if you are cooking a turkey (or a large chicken), don’t throw out the carcass as it makes great poultry stock!
Click on the green links below to access the recipes for this week’s meal plan.
Bran Muffins – A healthy batch of muffins to start off the week.
Shopping List: Applesauce, molasses, natural bran, all-purpose and whole wheat flours, and raisins
Who can pass up a roast chicken or turkey dinner with all the fixins’!
Shopping List: Roasting Chicken or Turkey, Vegetables of Choice. For Turnip Puff Casserole – Rutabaga, applesauce, onion, parmesan and cheddar cheeses. For Stuffing – Potatoes, bread crumbs, onion, summer savory, celery, apple, and liquid chicken bouillon. For Cranberry Sauce – cranberries (fresh or frozen), apple, and orange juice.
Dessert: Blueberry Buckle
A cake type dessert made even more tasty with blueberry sauce and vanilla ice cream.
Shopping List: Blueberries (fresh or frozen), orange juice + general baking supplies
Make stock from the carcass of the turkey/chicken.
Homemade stock is so flavorful and versatile. You’ll find a multitude of uses for this stock.
Shopping List: 2 lbs fresh turkey pieces, onion, leek, carrots, celery, garlic, rutabaga, parsnips, mushrooms, cider vinegar, herbs and spices (rosemary, parsley, thyme, dill, sage, basil, coriander, summer savory, cardamom pods, cloves, allspice, star anise pod, peppercorns)
NOTE: Be sure to save 2 cups of cubed turkey/chicken for the turkey chowder for Wednesday’s dinner and 1 cup for the casserole for Thursday’s dinner.
Dinner: Leftover Roast Chicken or Turkey with Potato Salad (add a green salad, if desired)
Don’t reserve potato salad just for summer picnics and barbeques. It’s great any time of the year and is a fine accompaniment to cold chicken or turkey.
Shopping List: For the Potato Salad – potatoes (such as Yukon Gold or Reds), eggs, celery, onion, salad dressing (click here for my recipe), sour cream, sweet relish, and mustard).
Dessert: Leftover Blueberry Buckle
Dinner: Turkey Chowder
Leftover turkey gets transformed into this hearty and flavorful chowder.
Shopping List: Onion, celery, carrots, mushrooms, red pepper, summer savory, poultry stock, potatoes, milk, 1 – 10oz can creamed corn, and Parmesan cheese (Note: This recipe requires 2 cups of the cooked, cubed leftover turkey/chicken)
Dessert: Molasses Spice Cookies
A spicy and chewy cookie. Great for the cookie jar!
Shopping List: Molasses and general baking supplies
Leftover chicken (or turkey) gets re-purposed into this flavorful easy-to-prepare casserole.
Shopping list: For the casserole: 1 – 10oz can Cream of Chicken Soup, Parmesan cheese, fresh mushrooms, red pepper, celery, onion, garlic, chicken broth, cashew pieces, sliced water chestnuts, and chow mein noodles. (Note: This recipe requires 1 cup of the cooked, cubed leftover turkey/chicken) For the salad: Lettuce and fresh vegetables of choice and dressing. For the biscuits: Whipping cream, milk, and standard baking supplies.
Dessert: Old-fashioned Jam Squares
A real old favorite, these jam squares demand red jam like raspberry!
Shopping List: Raspberry Jam, Lemon, and general baking supplies
Dinner: Seven Layer Dinner (aka Shipwreck Dinner)
By far, one of my most popular recipes and one of the most frequently searched for on my website. Dinner in one casserole! A simple meal but a mighty tasty one!
Shopping List: Ground beef, potatoes, onion, celery, parsnips, carrots, frozen peas, Minute Rice, and 1 – 10oz can tomato soup
Dessert: Peanut Butter Cookies
This is an all-time favorite cookie.
Shopping List: Peanut butter + general baking supplies
NOTE: Soak the yellow-eyed beans overnight tonight in preparation for making the Maple Syrup Baked Beans for tomorrow night’s dinner.
A Saturday night tradition in many Maritime homes. These beans freeze great if there are any leftovers.
Shopping List: For the Baked Beans – 1 – 1lb bag yellow eye beans, garlic, dry mustard, liquid chicken bouillon, tomato paste, cider vinegar, pure maple syrup, molasses, BBQ sauce, and onion. For White Bread: Yeast, milk, flour and general baking supplies.
This bread pudding is such a treat, especially when flavored with maple liqueur that is made right here in PEI by Deep Roots Distillery in Warren Grove, just outside Charlottetown.
Shopping List: For Pudding: 1 – 1lb loaf of soft French bread, whole milk, blend/cream, baking apples, maple liqueur, and raisins. For Sauce: Maple syrup and maple liqueur.
Sunday Breakfast: Special Treat – Irish Cream French Toast, a great way to use some of the homemade bread from yesterday
Irish Cream jazzes up traditional French toast. A lovely weekend treat.
Shopping List: Irish Cream Liqueur (click here for my recipe), orange juice, eggs
Dinner: Pork Chops with Bread Stuffing and Creamy Mushroom Sauce; serve with baked potato and medley of favorite steamed vegetables
This is such a flavorful way to present pork chops. Yummy.
Shopping List: Pork Chops (bone-in), bread crumbs, onion, summer savory, celery, apple, liquid chicken bouillon, 1 – 10oz can mushroom soup
Dessert: Leftover Apple-Maple Bread Pudding with Maple Sauce
So, there you have it! A weekly menu that makes full use of a roasted turkey or large roasted chicken.
Casserole recipes are useful for the home cook’s meal planning. They are a convenient entrée for a dinner meal, can be prepared ahead of time, are often a great way to use leftovers and re-purpose them into a new entrée, and they can stretch the food dollar. My Chicken Chow Mein Casserole is one that fits that bill nicely.
This casserole will easily feed four people and there might be some left over for someone’s lunch the next day! This recipe calls for cooked chicken but I often substitute turkey if I have some left over from a roasted turkey. All it takes is one cup cubed chicken which is what one good-sized chicken breast will yield. So, when you think about it – if you were to serve chicken breasts for a family of four, you would need to buy four chicken breasts for a meal. However, you can make this casserole with one good-sized chicken breast and still feed four people (see what I mean about extending the food dollar).
This recipe does not take a lot of costly ingredients which makes it economical to make. Apart from the chicken breast, only celery, onion, mushrooms, a tin of cream of chicken soup, a bit of chicken broth, some garlic, red pepper, a few sliced water chestnuts (which are optional and I buy when they are on sale), some cashew pieces, and chow mein noodles are required as ingredients.
For the chicken, you can use leftover chicken (or turkey) from a roasted foul, poach a chicken breast, or even use some meat from a rotisserie chicken from the supermarket. The casserole itself is not difficult to prepare. Sauté the vegetables, open a can of soup, combine all the ingredients into a casserole, and bake in the oven.
This Chicken Chow Mein Casserole can be made several hours ahead, or even the night before, so it’s ready to pop into the oven when you get home from work.
[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]
Chicken Chow Mein Casserole
1 cup cooked chicken, cubed
3 tbsp butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
¼ cup diced red pepper
2½ oz sliced mushrooms (about ¾ cup)
½ cup chicken broth
1 – 284ml tin Cream of Chicken Soup
1/8 tsp ground ginger
2 tbsp Parmesan cheese
½ cup cashew pieces, chopped
2½ oz (72 g) sliced water chestnuts, drained and rinsed
2½ oz chow mein noodles (reserve 1 oz for casserole topping)
Grease 1½ quart casserole and set aside. Preheat oven to 350°F.
Melt butter in skillet over medium heat. Sauté garlic, onion, celery, red pepper, and mushrooms, stirring constantly, for 3-4 minutes, just until the onions are transparent.
Combine the chicken broth and soup together in bowl or large measuring cup. Stir in the ground ginger and Parmesan cheese. Transfer the sautéed vegetables to large bowl and add the chicken, soup mixture, cashew pieces, and water chestnuts. Mix together. Carefully fold in 1½ oz chow mein noodles. Transfer mixture to prepared casserole and sprinkle with remaining 1 oz chow mein noodles. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until casserole is hot and bubbly.
Yield: Apx. 4 servings
Chicken Chow Mein Casserole
- 1 cup cooked chicken, cubed
- 3 tbsp butter
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup chopped onion
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 1/4 cup diced red pepper
- 2.5 oz sliced mushrooms (about 3/4 cup)
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
- 1 284ml tin Cream of Chicken Soup
- 1/8 tsp ground ginger
- 2 tbsp Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup cashew pieces, chopped
- 2 1/2 oz sliced water chestnuts, drained and rinsed
- 2.5 oz chow mein noodles (reserve 1 oz for casserole topping)
- Grease 1½ quart casserole and set aside. Preheat oven to 350°F.
Melt butter in skillet over medium heat. Sauté garlic, onion, celery, red pepper, and mushrooms, stirring constantly, for 3-4 minutes, just until the onions are transparent.
- Combine the chicken broth and soup together in bowl or large measuring cup. Stir in the ground ginger and Parmesan cheese. Transfer the sautéed vegetables to large bowl and add the chicken, soup mixture, cashew pieces, and water chestnuts. Mix together. Carefully fold in 1½ oz chow mein noodles. Transfer mixture to prepared casserole and sprinkle with remaining 1 oz chow mein noodles.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until casserole is hot and bubbly.
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A weekly meal plan is always useful to have. It helps with shopping, meal preparation, healthy eating, meal variety, and can save on the grocery bill. What follows is my suggested meal plan and shopping list for Week 3. I have several weeks’ worth of meal plans developed using recipes I have created for my food blog. You can access the meal plans for other weeks by clicking on the hotlinks at the end of this posting. Of note, the Week 1 posting also includes information on meal planning in general.
I’ve provided a list of the main ingredients that, for the most part, would probably involve a shopping trip to the supermarket for most. However, as always, read each recipe thoroughly and carefully to create your own list as I have not listed what I consider to be “staple” items like regular milk, butter, eggs, flour, sugar, butter/shortening, oil, spices, etc.
Click on the green hotlinks to access the recipes.
Glazed Lemon Pecan Sweet Bread – This is a lovely treat to start off the week. Tuck it in to the lunch bags for a treat at break.
Shopping List: Lemon, pecans
This soup is the full meal deal – very filling and flavorful.
Shopping List: For the Soup – Ground beef, onion, celery, carrots, rutabaga, parsnip, potatoes, zucchini, garlic, tomato paste, canned diced tomatoes, ketchup, beef stock (click here for my recipe), red wine vinegar. For the Biscuits – All purpose and whole wheat flours, buttermilk
There’s nothing like a wholesome homemade biscuit and these whole wheat biscuits go really well with the Goulash Soup.
Dessert: Apple Crisp
No matter the season, this old faithful dessert will always meet with satisfaction. Pure comfort food at its best!
Shopping List: Apples (e.g., any combo of Cortland, Honeycrisp, Humes, Gingergold), rolled oats, pecans, lemon juice
Dinner: Pork Loin Roast with Pomegranate, Red Wine, and Black Garlic; serve with Potato Patties and medley of roasted vegetables of choice
Black garlic is not all that common yet, here on PEI, the garlic grower at Eureka Garlic just outside Kensington produces black garlic. Click here to read the story I wrote on Eureka Garlic’s black garlic. Not at all the taste you might think – in fact, no garlic flavor at all. Its transformation is more of a cross between a fig and a prune. Goes particularly well with pork.
Shopping List: For Pork Loin Roast – Pork rib roast, garlic, soya sauce, white wine vinegar, shallots, pomegranate molasses, chicken stock, black garlic, balsamic vinegar, red wine, orange juice. For Potato Patties – Potatoes, sour cream chicken bouillon, breadcrumbs.
These potato patties are such an incredibly tasty way to serve potatoes and they freeze well, too!
Dessert: Date Squares
Date Squares, the perennial favorite with many! These are a yummy treat and they freeze well, too.
Shopping List: Dates, rolled oats, orange juice
Dinner: Savory Cottage Pie
Lovely winter time treat, these little pies are packed full of flavor!
Shopping List: Ground beef, onion, carrots, parsnip, celery, green pepper, garlic, mushrooms, tomato paste, tomato sauce, ketchup, canned diced tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, beef broth, molasses, frozen peas and corn, potatoes, grated cheddar cheese
Dessert: Butter Tarts
When it comes to food, it doesn’t get any more Canadian than these sweet butter tarts! A treat for sure, eh!
Shopping List: Pie Pastry, general baking supplies + maple syrup, milk/blend/cream
This chowder is incredibly flavorful. They’ll ask for seconds on this one!
Shopping list: For Chowder: 2 lbs PEI mussels, onion, garlic, white wine, celery, carrots, potatoes, chicken broth, whole milk (or evaporated milk); For Pan Rolls: Yeast + standard baking supplies
Nothing better with chowder than fresh homemade rolls, still warm from the oven! Bring on the butter!
Dessert: Squash Pie
Pick up a butternut squash and make this delectable pie – it’s even better than pumpkin pie and has a deeper flavor. Don’t reserve this recipe just for the autumn – it’s good any time of the year!
Shopping List: 1½ – 1¾ lb butternut squash, pastry for 10” single crust pie, evaporated milk, whipping cream
Dinner: Chicken and Mushroom Crepes with Cheese Sauce; serve with favorite green salad
A real special Friday night dinner. These crepes are so tasty with their cheesy sauce!
Shopping List: For crepes – 2 cups cubed cooked chicken, chicken stock, cheese mix (e.g., mozzarella, provolone and parmesan), celery, mushrooms; For salad – lettuce and favorite salad fixings and dressing.
Dessert: Leftover Squash Pie
Fresh asparagus works best in this chicken dish. Super yummy and looks great when it is sliced with the rings of the asparagus being very showy!
Shopping List: Boneless skinless chicken breasts, Boursin cheese, fresh asparagus spears, prosciutto, parmesan cheese, rice.
Oh là-là, how many different ways can you say “yummy”? This moist and flavorful bread pudding will have them calling for seconds!
Shopping List: For Pudding: 1 – 1lb loaf of soft French bread, whole milk, maple syrup, 2 cups high-bush blueberries (fresh or frozen). For Sauce: Grand Marnier, corn syrup
Sunday Breakfast: Special Treat – Cinnamon Rolls
Dinner: Cranberry and Ginger Sauced Pork Chops; serve with baked potato and medley of favorite steamed vegetables
Jazz up pork chops with a tasty and colorful cranberry and ginger sauce.
Shopping List: Pork Chops, chicken broth, orange juice, balsamic vinegar, cranberry preserve/jam, mustard, onion
Dessert: Leftover Blueberry Bread Pudding
I hope you have found some interesting recipes from my food blog to try this week!
For other weekly meal plans from My Island Bistro Kitchen, click on the links below:
I am a big fan of meal planning – it takes some coordination and effort upfront but the payoff is great. Find tested and reliable recipes with ingredients you know your family will like, read through the recipes to see what’s involved in their preparation and how long it will take to prepare them, make the shopping list, shop for the ingredients, and set aside the time to make the recipes. If you have helpers in the household, assign them tasks to help with the preparation.
Rather than spend time aimlessly perusing recipes in books or magazines or searching through the internet for a recipe that might pique your interest, I recommend first thinking about what main ingredient might appeal to you – is it ham, beef, poultry, fish, pasta, vegetables, etc. Are you looking for a casserole, a pot pie, or a main entrée, a one-time meal recipe or one that leftovers could be frozen for another meal or transformed into another dish altogether? Once you narrow down what you are aiming for, your search for the recipe will be more focused and concentrated and you will spend less time on the recipe search and more time productively spent actually making the dish.
To help you with that search, I hope you find some, or all, of the following recipes of interest and ones you will add to your weekly meal plan.
I’ve provided a list of the main ingredients that, for the most part, would probably involve a shopping trip to the supermarket for most. However, as always, read each recipe thoroughly and carefully to create your own personalized list as I have not listed what I consider to be “staple” items like regular milk, butter, eggs, flour, sugar, butter/shortening, oil, spices, etc.
Make sure you read through the menu suggestions for the entire week as some require some leftover meat or gravy, etc., from a previous day’s dinner so you will need to know what amounts of ingredients need to be set aside for a subsequent day’s meal.
Click on the green hotlinks to access the recipes.
Granola – My recipe for granola is nut free. So tasty, it’s actually yummy eaten as a trail mix treat, too!
Best Zucchini Granola Muffins – These are great breakfast or coffee break muffins and they freeze very well. Great treat to start off the week!
Shopping List: Granola (click here for my recipe), zucchini, applesauce
A roast beef dinner is so tasty (and the house smells so great when the beef is roasting). Be sure to save some of the beef and make some gravy for the beef pot pies for Tuesday night’s dinner!
The potato patties are a change from traditional mashed or boiled potatoes and these are super tasty. Turnip goes particularly well with beef and is transformed into a lovely flavorful casserole to serve as a side dish. Jazzes up a roast beef dinner for sure!
Shopping List: Roast of beef, cut of choice. For Potato Patties – Potatoes, sour cream chicken bouillon, breadcrumbs. For Turnip Puff Casserole – Rutabaga, applesauce, onion, parmesan and cheddar cheeses.
Turnip Puff Casserole
Dessert: Rustic Apple Pie
Who can say no to a homemade apple pie! Add a scoop of your favorite vanilla ice cream to make this an even more special treat!
Shopping List: Apples, pie pastry for double-crust pie + enough for a single crust pie (needed for tomorrow’s Beef Pot Pie)
Dinner: Beef Pot Pie – This is a great way to use up leftover roast beef and gravy from Monday night’s dinner.
Sometimes, depending on the size of roast, after a couple of days of leftover sliced cold roast beef, it can be a little boring, shall we say. That’s why it’s important to find other uses for the leftover roast beef, like this Beef Pot Pie, so it seems like a brand new idea for dinner!
Shopping List: Rutabaga, carrots, potatoes, onion, mushrooms, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, red wine summer savory, frozen peas and corn, fresh parsley, pastry for single crust pie
Dessert: Leftover Apple Pie
Sometimes you just need a plain old-fashioned silky smooth cream soup and this Potato Leek Soup fits that bill nicely. Serve it with some warm homemade whole wheat biscuits, with a slather of butter, of course!
Shopping List: For Soup – Potatoes, leek, celery, onion, garlic, chicken/turkey stock, milk, white cheese blend (e.g., mozzarella, provolone, parmesan) For Biscuits – All purpose and whole wheat flours, buttermilk
Dessert: Chocolate Drop Cookies
These are a great chocolate cookie and sure to find their way into the heart of any chocolate lover.
Shopping List: General baking supplies + cocoa
Chocolate Drop Cookies
This chili is packed full of flavorful ingredients. While I think it’s perfect any time of the year, it’s especially inviting on cold winter days! Make a batch of homemade pan rolls to accompany this chili.
Shopping List: For Chili – Ground beef, onion, green pepper, celery, garlic, 1 – 28oz can diced tomatoes, 2 – 14oz cans red kidney beans, 1 – 10oz can tomato soup, 1 – 5.5oz can tomato paste, chili powder, balsamic vinegar, liquid beef bouillon, mushrooms. For Pan Rolls – Yeast + standard baking supplies
Dessert: Creamy Coconut Rice Pudding
Baked rice pudding is a comfort food and many will remember their mothers and grandmothers making this treat. I’ve jazzed up my recipe with coconut milk and raisins that have had a little “nip” of amaretto!
Shopping List: Arborio rice, amaretto, raisins, coconut milk, maple syrup, shredded coconut
Nothing beats honey and garlic to add some life to spare ribs! These ribs can be served with rice or choice of potato but my favorite is to add a twice-baked potato to the plate. Super yummy.
Shopping List: For Spare Ribs – Ribs, apple juice, honey, soya sauce, garlic, onion. For Twice-baked Potatoes – Baking potatoes such as Russet variety, sour cream, whole milk or cream, liquid chicken bouillon, garlic, cheddar and parmesan cheeses
Dessert: Jelly Roll
Lovely sponge cake rolled with red jam or jelly. Yes, this is indeed an old favorite with many.
Shopping List: Cake and pastry flour, favorite red jam or jelly
Dinner: Moussaka with green salad
While I have made Moussaka for years, recent visits to Greek islands reignited my love for this dish. As a nod to my Prince Edward Island heritage, my version uses potatoes instead of the traditional eggplant. A little time-consuming to make but the end result is so worth it!
Shopping List: For Moussaka – Ground beef, onion, celery, garlic, 14-oz can crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, red wine, beef broth, russet potatoes, milk, Gouda cheese, breadcrumbs. For green salad – favorite lettuce and salad fixings of choice, dressing.
Dessert: Vintage Tomato Soup Cake
I grew up with this cake being frequently made. Bet you can’t tell there is a can of tomato soup in it!
Shopping List: Tomato soup, molasses
Sunday Breakfast: Special Treat – Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes
Sunday mornings call for something just a little more special than you might make on busy weekday mornings. Try these Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes with maple syrup or a rich blueberry sauce for double the blueberry flavor.
Shopping List: Buttermilk, blueberries (fresh or frozen)
Dinner: Leftover Moussaka
Dessert: Leftover Vintage Tomato Soup Cake
So, there you have it – the Week 2 Meal Planning Menu from My Island Bistro Kitchen.
For other meal plans from My Island Bistro Kitchen, click on the links below:
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I am a big believer in meal planning and follow it regularly. I recommend meal planning for several reasons:
- Eliminates last minute meal planning – that’s when you leave work with no idea what’s for dinner and, suddenly, as you pass a supermarket with a deli or prepared food section or a fast food outlet and, well, you know the story – that becomes dinner.
- Saves money and reduces food waste – have a plan in mind for using leftover meat such as ham, turkey, or roast beef. For example, use the leftover meat in sandwiches, casseroles, and/or soups. These are great ways to stretch the food dollar and eliminate food waste.
- Healthier way to eat – You will eat less pre-packaged foods that often have way too many preservatives, additives, and other unhealthy ingredients. Meal planning means you are in control, to the extent possible, of what is in your food.
- Less stress – Once you have a plan in place for meals for the week, you don’t have to stress each day over what to make for meals.
The keys to good meal planning are:
- Make meals with ingredients you know your family will like – doesn’t have to be fancy, new, or creative. Sometimes, the old faithful comfort foods are the best.
- Make the meal plan on the weekend and formulate the shopping list BEFORE you go to the supermarket and then stick to the plan, avoiding distractions of already-prepared or frozen entrées that supermarkets display to tempt shoppers.
- Make your To-Do list for the meal preparation for the week – for example, if you are making baked beans on Saturday, get those beans soaking overnight on Friday evening.
- Read each recipe carefully to ensure you will have all the ingredients and that the method is easy to understand and do-able in the time in which you have to do the food preparation.
- Watch the supermarket sales flyers. Know your favorite dishes and buy ingredients for them when they are on sale. You’ll be more likely to stick to a meal plan if you already have most or all of the ingredients for a recipe on hand.
- Plan around what’s in season. One of my favorite soups is cream of cauliflower which freezes well (provided whole milk, not fat-reduced, is used). I make several batches of this soup each fall when the locally-grown cauliflower is in season. I would not make it, however, in January with imported cauliflower that has traveled thousands of miles for days and is highly priced. Good meal planning needs to take place, on an ongoing basis, throughout the year.
Here is my suggested meal plan for the upcoming week, focusing primarily on dinners with some suggestions for a couple of lunches making the most of a boiled picnic ham. I’ve provided a list of the main ingredients that, for the most part, would probably involve a shopping trip to the supermarket for most. However, as always, read each recipe thoroughly and carefully to create your own shopping list as I have not listed what I consider to be “staple” items like milk, butter, eggs, spices, etc. Click on the green hotlinks to access the recipes.
Blueberry Muffins – These are great breakfast or coffee break muffins and they freeze very well. Nice treat to start off the week!
Shopping List: Blueberries (fresh or frozen), orange juice, orange rind
Shopping List: Ground beef, onion, prepared mustard, tomato soup, dry onion soup mix, graham wafer crumbs, fine bread crumbs, garlic powder, vegetables of choice
At least once every winter, I have to have a dose of this yummy comfort food! Drizzle with brown sugar sauce for an extra-special treat!
Shopping List: Applesauce, molasses, coffee
Homemade White Bread – This is always such a treat! This bread will be super good with the ham sandwiches this week!
Shopping List: All-purpose flour, dry yeast, milk, butter/shortening
Dinner: Old-fashioned Boiled Ham Dinner – This is truly dinner-in-a-pot and is my definition of “comfort food”! The meat and vegetables are all cooked in the same broth in the same pot. Make sure you cook enough veggies for Wednesday night as this always tastes even better the second day. Easy to heat the vegetables in the microwave and, poof, you have two nights’ meals prepared in one effort. You’ll want those mustard pickles or mustard beans with this dinner!
Shopping List: Smoked pork picnic shoulder (ham), parsnips, carrots, rutabaga (turnip), potatoes
Dessert: Blueberry Grunt
This is such an incredibly yummy dessert – serve it with your favorite vanilla ice cream!
Shopping List: Blueberries (fresh or frozen) and lemon rind, vanilla ice cream
Lunch: Ham Sandwiches made with homemade white bread! Don’t forget the mustard!
Dinner: Leftover boiled ham dinner from Tuesday.
Dessert: Cherry Wink Cookies
Shopping List: Dates, cornflake crumbs, maraschino cherries
Homemade Tea Biscuits
Shopping list: Whole milk, whipping cream, unsalted butter
Lunch: Ham Sandwiches
Dinner: Hawaiian Fiesta Casserole – this is a great way to use up left-over cooked ham and stretch its use. Serve these with those tasty biscuits and perhaps a green salad!
Shopping List: Rice, cream of celery soup, sour cream, liquid chicken bouillon, broccoli, canned pineapple chunks, Parmesan cheese, fine bread crumbs, leftover cooked ham, and ingredients for a green salad and dressing
Dessert: Decadent Chocolate Chip Squares
Shopping List: Chocolate chips and coconut
Dinner: Mac ‘n Cheese with a green salad and homemade tea biscuits
Shopping List: Elbow macaroni, liquid chicken bouillon, cheddar cheese, Parmesan cheese, salad ingredients and dressing
Dessert: Cinnamon Sweet Bread
Shopping List: Staple baking ingredients
Dinner: Maple-Orange Sauced Chicken Breasts with Rice
An extra special weekend treat!
Shopping List: Boneless skinless chicken breasts, onion, fennel, orange juice, orange rind, chicken stock, maple syrup, orange marmalade, rice
Dessert: Coconut Cream Pie
One of the best pies going!
Shopping List: 9” pie shell, coconut milk, whole milk or cream, sweetened shredded coconut
Sunday Breakfast: Pancakes
Dinner: Bistro Burgers with Home Fries
Shopping List: Ground chuck, mayonnaise, maple syrup, ketchup, rhubarb relish, Dijon mustard, sour cream, onion salt, Parmesan cheese, Blueberry BBQ sauce, dry onion soup mix, bread crumbs, Cheddar cheese slices, red onion, tomato, prosciutto, fresh pineapple, bread and butter pickles, hamburger rolls, potatoes (for home fries)
Dessert: Leftover Coconut Cream Pie
Meal planning can be a challenge, especially with high food prices, ingredient availability (particularly in winter for fresh local ingredients) and, of course, for those who are busy and time-challenged. However, with having a plan in place and establishing a routine for meal preparation, it is a way to eat better, save money, reduce food waste, and eliminate the stress of last-minute meal preparation that can sometimes result in unhealthy food choices. For those with children, it’s a good way to help them make good food choices and engage them in meal preparation by assigning them tasks to help with the work of making meals.
For my Week 2 Meal Plan, click here.
For my Week 3 Meal Plan, click here.
For my Week 4 Meal Plan, click here.