Wednesday, March 18, 2015

21 day family menu for just $350....

Do you want to feel like you're eating at a restaurant every night for mere pennies?
Well, here's my most awesome budget busting 3 weeks of dinner, menu plan. When my son was still living at home, this menu made it possible for us to eat well for less, and prepare meals ahead of time so we could avoid the tired and hungry takeaway trap. This menu will feed your family of four, dinners for under $100 a week once you've made the initial spice and sauce purchases.

 Dinners only - all served with salad of choice unless vegetables stated

Week One Menu
Saturday Fried rice
Sunday Savoury bread cases
Monday Poached chicken salad
Tuesday Crumbed fish, lentil mash
Wednesday Whole microwaved potatoes with home made Boston Baked Beans
Thursday Chicken schnitzels, potato wedges, corn cob
Friday Giant rissole cut into wedges, mash

Baking Cake mix biscuits, freckle muffins

Week Two Menu
Saturday Burritos
Sunday Chicken tenderloins, coconut rice, salad
Monday Baked fish parcels
Tuesday Chinese one step quiche
Wednesday Ham & chicken cannelloni
Thursday Spring rolls
Friday Thai fish cakes

Baking Cake mix biscuits, date muffins

Week Three Menu
Saturday Individual shepherds pies
Sunday Chicken and cashew stir fry, steamed rice
Monday Grated potato, bacon and marscapone slice
Tuesday McMummys
Wednesday Pan fried salmon/fish, frozen chips
Thursday Lasagna/Spaghetti Bolognaise
Friday Home made KFC seasoned chicken tenderloins

Baking Marshmallow rice bubble slice, iced cupcakes

Poached Chicken Breasts:
Bring 6 cups of water to a high simmer and add 6 chicken stock cubes and leave the stock plain, or add any additional herbs or flavours such as diced celery, diced onion, garlic cloves, sprigs of parsley or thyme, lemongrass, chilli and so on. Add 3 chicken breast fillets, return to a high simmer (not a rolling boil), cover the saucepan and switch the hotplate off, removing the pan from the heat source. Allow the breasts to poach for 20-30 minutes without (and this is the important bit) lifting the lid. Slice into a breast after 20 minutes and if it's cooked through to the middle it's ready to be served sliced or shredded, on sandwiches, rolls, salads and even in a stir fry added at the last minute and heated through.

 Multi purpose rice:

 For each cup of rice in your saucepan, add 1 1/2 cups of liquid. Bring to the boil, and as soon as it is boiling, put a lid on it, and turn it off. Not down, but off. Now, this will only work if you do not peek! Leave it sit for about 15-20 not peek! After 15-20 minutes you should have perfectly cooked, fluffy rice. If you have a gas cooktop, and you find the rice is not cooked, simply repeat the 'boil, switch off, cover, do not peek'. It should work.

For thai rice - add a good squeeze of lime juice, and a teaspoon of coriander (out of a jar or one of those tubes or fresh if you have it).

For coconut rice - use half and half coconut milk and chicken stock. ( this is a particular favourite with my kids, and my husband who never used to eat rice, at all!)

For chinese rice - use chicken stock, and a teaspoon of sesame oil.

For dessert rice - use milk instead of water or stock, and add a couple of dessertspoons of sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla. Serve with custard and poached fruit.

For italian - use half and half chicken stock and tomato puree. Add some garlic if you like.

For sushi - use the proper sushi rice if you can, cook and allow to cool then proceed with your sushi.

To make authentic fried rice - allow your cooked rice to cool, and dry. Spread out on a platter if possible to facilitate this. This is important, so your rice does not glug together when you fry it. In a large wok or fry pan, fry one peeled and diced onion and some chopped bacon. While this is cooking, heat one cup of  mixed frozen veg in the microwave. Throw in your rice (I use about 3 cups cooked rice) the veg, a crumbled stock cube, a tablespoon of soy sauce, and a teaspoon of sesame oil. If you are inclined you can also add an egg, beaten with a bit of water, poured onto a heated sandwich maker hot plate, and quickly lifted off and sliced into ribbons. Toss it all together until heated through. Voila!

Mince Base:

 This super basic mince recipe can save you up to $100 a month on takeaways, thanks to the convenience of having meals already half made.

Note: If you're not fond of the texture of this mince base with the lentils added (it's almost more of a paste, a bit like tinned braised steak and onion), leave the lentils out, and add tinned beans, or extra grated vegetables like carrot and zucchini, or chunks of eggplant which are actually very 'meaty' and give great texture without adding distinctive flavour. Whatever suits is fine, really.

 2kg minced beef
2 cups of red lentils
2 tbsp of vegetable stock powder, or four vegetable stock cubes
1 tsp dried garlic granules
1 dsp dried onion flakes
4 cups of water.

Place all the ingredients into a crockpot (slow cooker) and cook on high for two hours, stirring every 30 minutes. It should be thick, aromatic and an unattractive brown colour (don't let this worry you, it tastes delicious!).

One batch of this is super economical to make, and is enough to serve as a base for seven meals for our family (at the time of writing, some years ago, that was two children and two adults). This saves heaps of money and time too. I usually freeze the mince in 500gm capacity tubs, as that seems to be the right amount for one meal for our family.

The meals I make are:

1. Piemaker pies.
Allow one heaped tablespoon of basic mince per pie. The hollows in those home Pie makers are small anyway, so this is heaps. Frankly you'd be lucky to get more than a heaped tablespoon of meat in a bought meat pie for one! Pour the mince into a small saucepan and add a large spoonful of gravy powder, or a dessertspoon of cornflour. Heat and stir until thickened. Spoon into pastry cases and cook in the piemaker.

2. Mexican enchiladas.
I use Mountain Bread or make my own crepes. Lay the bread or crepes in u-shapes in a large baking dish. Mix the mince with an equal amount of tinned or home-made refried beans. Spread the mixture in a sausage shape down the middle of each crepe, fold each side of the crepe over, sprinkle with grated cheese and bake at 180C until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve on a bed of rice, topped with natural yoghurt and some salsa.

3. Stuffed capsicums.
Halve enough capsicums for half or one per person. Spoon the mince straight into the capsicums, top with some mashed potato, pumpkin or sweet potato. Sprinkle with cheese and bake for 40 mins at 180C. Kids love these as the capsicum sweetens when baked.

4. Baked spuds with topping.
Allow one potato of appropriate size per person. Cook in the microwave according to manufacturer's instructions. Split a cross in the top and pile filling into the opening. Top with natural yoghurt or sour cream and chopped, sauteed bacon. Allow one large tablespoon of filling per potato. Mix the filling with one tin of baked beans and heat in a small saucepan before pouring on to the potatoes.

5. Spring rolls.
Mix about four tablespoons of mince mixture with a packet of cooked and cooled Two Minute Noodles, some shredded carrot, and 1/2 teaspoon Chinese five spice. Using filo pastry sheets or spring roll wrappers, fold a small handful of filling into each spring roll. Spray liberally with cooking spray and bake at 180C for 20-30 mins.

6. Greek pasta bake (Pastito).
Heat a container of mince mixture with a 400g tin of peeled tomatoes. Cook enough macaroni for your family and drain well. Mix with the meat mixture and spoon into a large baking dish and top with your favourite white sauce or cheese sauce. Sprinkle on some grated cheese and bake for 40 minutes at 200C.

7. Shepherds pie.
Add any vegetables of your choice to the mince mixture. Place into a baking dish and top with mashed potato, pumpkin or sweet potato then bake until heated and the potato browns.

One step quiche with variations

 You can add anything to this, from the usual ham/bacon and cheese, to kabana and capsicum, to a Thai variation with the addition of sesame oil and fresh ginger to the basic batter. I have used all of the above, and added things like a tin of creamed corn, shallots, sliced celery, mixed frozen vegetables, any left over meat or chicken, any kind of cheese, sundried tomatoes, a packet of frozen spinach (thaw and drain excess liquid) and so forth.

Basic recipe:
3 eggs at room temperature
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cups self raising flour
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Grease a 4cm x 20cm pie dish. Whisk eggs, milk and flour until well combined. Stir in all other ingredients. Pour into dish and bake until just set in the centre, about 30-40 mins. Let stand for 10 minutes.

Grated Potato Thyme and Marscapone Slice

 150mls cream
125g mascarpone or any other cream cheese (but marscapone is the nicest in this particular recipe)
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 sprig fresh, stripped from the stem
125g tasty cheese, grated
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Sea salt
750g (about 3 medium) potatoes, peeled

Peel the potatoes, and grate in a food processor or by hand. Squeeze out all the moisture.

Mix all the liquid ingredients together with a whisk till smooth, then add spices. Add the potato. Press into a greased pie or quiche dish and top with grated cheese.

Bake for 40-50 minutes or until potatoes are cooked and top is crisp and golden.

Quick Boston Baked Beans

 2 teaspoons oil
Bacon, ham, speck, corned meat, about 2 handsful, chopped. I like to use speck because you need a lot less to get the flavour 'punch'. You buy it at the butcher, and I pay about $8 for a 500gm knob. I would only use 1/4 of it at time for this recipe.
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon garlic granules or 2 cloves fresh, crushed
1 teaspoon smokey paprika
400gm tin peeled tomatoes
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 x 400 gms tins of beans, cannelini, borlotti, kidney, drained and rinsed. It doesn't matter which sort really, or pre-soak and cook your own, which is less expensive again.

Heat oil in a deep non-stick frypan. Add bacon or speck and cook for 4-5 minutes until crisp. Remove to a bowl.

Add onion to pan. Cook, stirring until golden. Add garlic and paprika. Cook, stirring for about 30 seconds.

Return bacon or speck to pan along with all the other ingredients. Cook, stirring often till heated through. Season with salt and pepper, and add some dried parsley or fresh if you have it for a bit of colour.

Cake Mix Biscuits (Cookies)

 For quick and yummy cookies, I always use the following recipe.


1 packet cake mix (any cake mix will do)
1 egg
4 tablespoons margarine
choc chips, peanuts or sultanas.

1. Place cake mix in a bowl, add egg, margarine and a dry flavouring of your choice (choc chips, peanuts or sultanas). Mix well. If too dry, add a tiny amount of milk.

2. Place spoonfuls on a greased tray, press lightly with a fork and bake in a moderate oven till golden. Cool on a rack and enjoy!


 1kg mince
2 tbsp honey
1/2 tsp each of basil, oregano and thyme
1 egg

Mix all the ingredients together with your hands. Tip onto the bench or chopping board and press into a flat rectangle with your hands. Roll out like a scone dough, with a rolling pin if you have one, otherwise just press firmly so it compacts and you have an even thickness. You have to roll one way with the rolling pin otherwise the mince will just stick and come away. You can roll it between sheets of baking paper if preferred.

Using a large scone cutter cut out your patties and freeze on a plate between freezer bags. When frozen, place into freezer bags and they will remain separate for future use. I toast slices of bread on my griddle plate to get the stripes, cut the bread into rounds with the scone cutter, pop the pattie in with a slice of cheese and a squirt of tomato sauce (and a pickle for those who like them). They are served with home-made wedges in a paper bag with McMummy's logo (printed off my home computer and stapled to the sides), and a thick shake. I include trinkets like stickers, tiny soaps, DVD vouchers, promises for a hand massage or manicure for my daughter and her friends, that sort of thing.

Ham and Chicken Cannelloni:

 Cannelloni tubes or crepes
Chicken breast cut into strips or chicken tenderloins
Thinly sliced ham
Tasty Cheese, some cubed, some grated
Bottled pasta sauce, or homemade if you have it

Roll a slice of ham around each chicken strip and push into tube or roll inside a crepe. Lay the filled cannelloni in a greased baking dish. Push a cube of cheese (feta, tasty, whatever) into each end of each cannelloni tube (this is optional). Pour the pasta sauce over it all, and sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 180C for 25-35 minutes.
Thai Fish Cakes:
 Large tin pink salmon
2 eggs
2 tablespoons tom yum paste
1 teaspoon minced lemongrass
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon minced coriander
3 tablespoons plain flour
6 dried kaffir lime leaves, reconstituted for one hour in a cup of water, finely shredded

Dipping sauce:

80mls water
150gms sugar
80mls white vinegar
1 tspn salt
1/2 teaspoon minced chilli
2 shallots, finely sliced

Make dipping sauce first by combining water, sugar, vinegar and salt in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Simmer for 2-3 minutes. Add chillies, remove from heat and leave to cool for 10 minutes. Add remaining ingredients, stir, and leave to one side.

Place salmon and eggs in food processor and process until combined. Add tom yum paste, lemongrass, fish sauce, sugar, coriander, and flour, process to a smooth paste. Add a little more flour if necessary. Transfer to mixing bowl, and add shredded lime leaves. Mix well, and shape into small patties.

Heat enough oil in a small saucepan to deep fry the patties one or two at a time. Cook in very hot oil for 2-3 minutes each, and drain well.

They can now be frozen until ready to use. Dipping sauce will keep for at least a week.

Microwave on high for one minute for 3 patties or wrap in foil and reheat in oven at 180C until piping hot.
Lasagna Impossible Pie:
You have to make the baking mix first...

1 cup plain flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cooking margarine

Mix dry ingredients together, then process for 30 seconds in a food processor, or use a knife to cut the margarine into the mix. Store excess in the fridge.

This serves 8...

1/4 cup plus an extra 3 tablespoons creamed cottage cheese
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan
450gms mince (I'm going to use chicken mince), cooked and drained
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
170gms tomato paste
240mls milk
2 large eggs
1/3 cup plus 4 extra tablespoons baking mix
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried garlic granules or 2 cloves garlic, crushed

Preheat oven to 200C. Layer cottage cheese and Parmesan in a greased 25cm pie plate.

Mix cooked mince, 1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons mozzarella cheese, oregano, basil, and tomato paste in a bowl. Spread evenly over the cheese mixture in the pie dish.

Combine milk, eggs, baking mix, salt and pepper in a bowl. Beat until smooth and pour into plate.

Bake 30-35 minutes or until a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Cool for 5 minutes.
Home made Southern Fried Chicken (KFC to us Aussies!)

 I use this recipe for my home made KFC. I cut the poached chicken into strips, dip in the batter and flash fry. Yum!

1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 tablespoon Pepper
300g corn flour
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon paprika or chilli powder/cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon cumin powder
200ml Buttermilk
2 eggs
1 litre oil for frying

Combine eggs and buttermilk.

Sprinkle some of the herbs over the chicken pieces, then mix the rest of the herbs with the cornflourh and salt and pepper . Dip the chicken into the flour mix, then into the buttermilk then back into the flour mix.
This goes lumpy and gooey, but that forms a nice crust when you fry.

Heat oil to 180 C in a large saucepan or wok.

Slowly add the chicken pieces to hot oil and fry for serveral minutes until deep golden and crunchy. Place on cake draining tray and if neccesary place in moderate oven to finish cooking for 5 mins. Sprinkle with a little more salt and pepper if needed. Enjoy hot or cold!
Marshmallow rice bubble slice (copycat LCM bars)
8 cups generic rice bubbles
3 tablespoons margarine
400gms marshmallows
 Mini M & M's, choc chips, yoghurt icing if you wish

Line a large baking tray with baking paper. Put the rice bubbles in a very large mixing bowl. Melt the marshmallows and margarine together in a microwave safe jug...about 45-60 seconds on High. They will puff up and the marg will melt. Quickly beat them together until smooth, and immediately pour over the rice bubbles. Mix well, working quickly, until combined. Pour into prepared baking tray. Flatten with wet hands. Sprinkle with topping if desired, pressing topping into top of slice. Chill for one hour and cut into bars or squares. Makes 24-36 large bars. I wrap mine in foil and put a smiley sticker on daughter still loves them.
Another great money saving idea is to replace the cannelloni and lasagna sheets with crepes. This has been particularly useful for us, now that we eat gluten free.

 In week one, you would bake them filled with mince mix, cheese and bacon, covered with a bechamel sauce, as a variation on the idea of filled bread cases.

 You could use them for week two next week in place of the cannelloni, rolling the crepe around the chicken strips and ham, laying in a baking dish, and covering with the sauce.

 In week 3, they're superb in place of lasagna sheets. I bake the lasagna in a round cake tin, serving it in wedges.

Basic crepes:

 3/4 cup plain flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup milk or water

Hand whisk the ingredients until well combined. If you have a food processor, combine by using the steel blade, processing all ingredients for 20 seconds. Refrigerate 30 minutes or overnight to improve texture of cooked crepes. The batter should look like thin pouring cream.

Put a knob of butter or marg in a square of paper towel, heat a non-stick round frypan, and rub the wadded marg over the base of the pan to grease. Do not over grease the pan. Sprinkle with a few drops of water and if they sizzle, the pan is ready.

Working quickly, pour about 3 tablespoons of batter into the pan, and swirl to cover the base. Pour excess batter back into bowl.

 Cook for one minute, flip, and cook for 30 seconds on the other side. Repeat with remaining batter.

Store with sheets of greaseproof paper between crepes, freeze in a ziplock bag until required.

 You can make further cost cuts or eat a more plant based version of the menu by making my Crockpot Refried Beans to replace:

1. The mince mix in the Burritos week two.

2. The McMummy's in week 3, changing to another takeaway favourite, Nachos.

3. The Boston Beans in Week 1, changing to Mexi-Potatoes. Just replace the Boston Beans with Refried beans, topping with all the usual Mexican accompaniments, such as guacamole, salsa, sour cream, cheese and crumbled bacon.

Also note, that I on occasion I had run out of or just didn't have, Smokey Paprika, so I used a tip from a chef friend of mine, and threw in some bacon rind I had saved to generate the 'smoky' flavour in the refried beans. This worked well, and I simply removed the rind after the chilling step, and before processing. I also recently found a product that my American readers would be familiar with, called Liquid Smoke and just half a teaspoon of that would do the trick too.

Crockpot Refried Mexe-Beans:

 This makes heaps...enough for 4 meals of Nachos for 4 people...
and costs about $3-$4!

2 cups dried red kidney beans
1 cup red lentils
3/4 cup olive oil
6 cups water
1 onion diced
6 cloves of garlic, sprinkled with a touch of oil and roasted for 15 minutes in a moderate oven (more or less according to your love of garlic!)
1 tin peeled tomatoes
1 teaspoon smoky paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1-2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder (this makes it quite spicy, but palatable for younger kids. Adjust for preference)
1 Bay Leaf

Squeeze the roasted garlic out of it's papery shell. Chop the peeled tomatoes.

Combine everything in the crock pot, and cook on high for 9 hours (if an old one like mine) or probably on low if yours is a newer model. You can also simmer this on the stove top for 2-3 hours.

Refrigerate overnight or as long as possible, to cool and allow the beans to take up the liquid.
 Remove the Bay Leaf.

Empty into a food processor and blend until smooth, or mash well with a potato masher.

Taste and adjust for flavour.

Ta-dah....Better than the bought ones (well, we think so..)...Mexican Refried Beans.

Serve as a dip layered with guacamole, sour cream, grated cheese, and salsa, or over nachos, with rice, or as a filling for enchiladas, crepes, or vegetarian pies.


 1. Steam the rice for Saturdays Fried Rice and chill in an airtight container.

2. Make the bread cases and freeze them. Push crustless slices of bread into large muffin holes, spray with oil and bake until crisp.

3. Poach the chicken breasts and store in their own liquid.

4. Shred cabbage and carrot for salads for the week.

5. Process the bread crusts from the bread cases for crumbs for fish and schnitzels and freeze for later use.

6. Make a batch of Bulk mince mix in the crockpot for the next couple of batch should do a 3 week cycle at least.

7. Make a batch of bulk rissole mix and freeze into meal sized portions....see McMummy's below.

8. Make the Boston Baked Beans and freeze.

9. Do a multi use cooked potato batch....1/3 mashed, 1/3 cooked and diced for potato salad, 1/3 diced for later roasting. Make sure you do enough mashed to freeze some for the individual shepherds pies in Week 3. To reheat, defrost, pop into a saucepan, stir over medium heat until piping hot, then leave with a lid on for 5 minutes, off the heat. Give a good stir, adding extra milk or butter if you like...should be perfect.

10. Bake biscuits and muffins.

(This sounds a lot, but honestly it's no more than 2 hours of work.)


 1. Remember to defrost portion of bulk cooked mince for Burritos. If making your own, make the tortillas or crepes for these today. Assemble in advance and freeze in a tray, if you want. Once frozen, they can be tipped from the tray and stored in a ziplock bag.

2. For info...I never cook the coconut rice in's so quick and easy, and best made and eaten immediately. Poach enough chicken for the dish with the coconut rice and the cannelloni at the end of the week.

3. Assemble the baked fish parcels. One half to one piece fish per person. You need to keep these frozen, so have everything ready to go. Lay out one piece of foil per person. Put a knob of butter, a grind of salt and pepper, a squeeze of bottled lime juice on each piece. Lay the fish piece over this. Repeat the ingredients on top. Finish with a paste of minced coriander and lemongrass. Fold or twist to seal and refreeze. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 180C, and bake for no longer than 30 mins. As soon as the fish is white and flakes easily, it's ready...if you over cook it, it will be dry, so check every 10 minutes.

3. Quiche best made on the day.

4. Cannelloni can be stuffed with slivers of poached chicken breast and slices of ham, proscuitto, salami or mortadella. Then assembled in a baking tray or slice tin for freezing. Once frozen they can be tipped into a ziplock bag. On day of cooking, assemble in the baking tray again, pour over bottled or home made pasta sauce (tomato or bechamel or alfredo), sprinkle with cheese and bake for 45-50 minutes covered, and 10 minutes uncovered to brown.

5. Spring rolls can be made in advance using Bulk mince...see recipe. Freeze until ready to use, then spray liberally with cooking oil, and bake at 180C until golden.

6. Thai Fish Cakes can be made in advance including cooking and then brought to heated temperature in oven or microwave. 

 7. I use cake mix for bikkies and muffins, and make up several batches at a time and freeze them ready to go. You can also use my Bake Anything Mix.


 1. Use the Bulk Mince and frozen mashed potato from week one to assemble the shepherds pies.

2. Poach enough chicken for stir fry (shredding or dicing it and adding in the last couple of minutes of stir frying to reheat), and KFC strips at the end of the week.

3. Dice bacon for potato slice and set aside in a ziplock bag.

4. Make patties for McMummy's if not done previously.

5. Slice the salmon fillets in half lengthwise and then into 3 pieces. Make a marinade of sweet chilli sauce, lime juice, coriander and lemongrass (yes we like thai fish!), and seal fillets and marinade in a ziplock bag, massaging the marinade into the fillets well. Freeze until ready to use. Bake, pan fry or grill to your liking.

6. Decide whether the dish is lasagna, impossible lasagna pie, lasagna crepe stack or spaghetti bolognaise. Make crepes or assemble ingredients for impossible pie in a ziplock bag. Use the bulk mince on the day with appropriate variations, to assemble.


 Remember these are just dinners and snacks, and that you may already have many ingredients, so check first!!! Even with having to purchase these items, the 3 weeks comes to under $350 for all dinners, some lunches, salads, and snacks for a family of 4. Subsequent 3 week cycles will cost less, as you will already have things in the pantry to carry over. Remember, you still have to supplement this with your other shopping items like toiletries and pet food, but for the actual food component, it's extremely cost effective.

NOTE: This is a FIRST TIME spend. You may already have many of these items in your fridge or pantry!!! I have also rounded all items up to the next dollar. So if my items usually costs $1.20, I have listed it at $2.

The first weeks ingredients will yield enough bulk mince for 3 weeks, poached chicken for our lunches and dinners for at least a week, and ingredients that will be used for many weeks or months such as herbs and spices, and pantry items. It also allows enough fish for at least two weeks, bacon for the entire 3 week menu, enough potatoes for mash for 3 weeks, the grated potato for week 3 potato and marscapone slice, and eggs for baking. You could obviously reduce this considerably, by cooking beans, biscuits, and muffins from scratch, using up old veges in the fried rice, making your own breadcrumbs from the crusts of the bread of the bread cases and so on.

Week one shopping list for family of 4

 Rice $3
Mixed veg $3
Sesame oil $3
Oyster sauce $3
Dried onion $3
Dried garlic $3
Bacon $7
Eggs $3
Chicken stock cubes $2
Cooking spray $3
Chicken breasts $12
Mince $15
Red lentils $3
Bread $6
Fish fillets $15
Breadcrumbs $2
Washed potatoes $6
Unwashed potatoes for mash $6
Cannellini beans x 2 $2
Smokey paprika $2
Tinned tomatoes x 1 $2
Brown sugar $3
Tomato paste $2
2 vanilla cake mixes $3
Assorted salad or vegetables $20

Approximate spend $132

Week two shopping list for family of 4

 Lavash bread $5
Chicken breast $12
Coconut milk $2
Minced coriander $3 (or plant some!)
Minced lemongrass $3
Bottled lime juice $3
Eggs $3
Creamed corn (for quiche) $2
Minced ginger $3
Shallots $3 (plant these too and you'll have an endless supply!)
Cannelloni tubes $4
Square ham $2
Bottled pasta sauce $3
Spring roll wrappers $3
Large tin pink salmon $4
Tom yum paste $5
Fish sauce $3
Dried kaffir lime leaves $3
White vinegar $2
Minced chilli $3
2 cake mixes $3
Dates $3
Salad and/or veges $20

Approximate spend Week 2 $98.00

Again, a FIRST TIME shop for week 2, so check your pantry first!

Week three shopping list for family of 4

 Chicken breasts $12
Handful cashews $2
Marscapone cheese $5
Lean mince $7
Hamburger rolls $3
Cheese $10
2 salmon fillets $12
Frozen chips $4
Lasagna sheets $3
Generic rice bubbles $3
Marshmallows $3
Choc chips $2
Cake mix $2
Icing sugar $3
Salad and/or veges $20

Approximate spend week 3 $91.00
So there it is. You really can eat well for less. Yes it's a little more effort and planning, but you won't regret it!
Let me know how you go!
Mimi xxx



  1. Hi Mimi

    I love having this here on your blog so that I always know where to find it!

    Thank you so much. I'm really enjoying your blog and finding it a huge motivation.

    We would like to save for our first home and so this is a wonderful resource.

    Thank you for everything:)
    Mrs Tiggywinkle

    1. Mrs Tiggywinkle, how lovely to see you here. I'm glad that you find this helpful. Please stop by again...Mimi xxx

  2. Mimi you know I am very happy to see this great plan. I have tried many of your recipes before and every single one has worked wonderfully.
    This is such a saver. Apart from the plan and being prepared I end us with left overs for lunches and some even to freeze. I have been able to use all sorts of left overs and home grown herbs etc in the one step quiche. I also like to make this in muffin tins to send for work lunches. Thank you for all the work to figure this out and make it easy for us. Grocery costs and healthy eating are the big variable we can control... we cant control some costs but food costs vary wildly and with good planning we can do very well. Good planning and good buying! Many

    1. Well Annabel, it is at your urging that I have posted it. It's certainly a saga in the writing of it, that's for sure! But if it helps a few people, I'll be glad to have done it. Muffin tin treats are an awesome idea and I agree that they're a godsend for easy lunchtime additions. Planning and more planning is the secret for sure. Thankyou for your lovely comments as always. Mimi xxxx

  3. Hi Mimi;
    Great post today, I can just imagine the work and planning (and cooking) that went into this post!! I put your menu's and recipes in a file folder on the computer and can pull it up whenever I need it. Thanks. Hugs, Nana

    1. Thankyou Nana. I'm pleased you like this post. It was a task and a half, but I'm glad to have done it. I hope you find it useful....Mimi xxx

  4. Good gracious me, Mimi, this is epic! Every time I pop over here I find another great idea, but this is insanely useful!! Thanks for all the recipes:)

  5. Thanks so much for writing this detailed menu plan. I like to cook and eat but sometimes I just go blank when I am trying to plan the meals. You have great ideas here.
    The fact that they are all thrifty is wonderful,

    1. I'm glad you think so Rhonda. Thankyou...Mimi xxx

  6. Oh my gosh Mimi, what a fantastic post. You have gone to a lot of effort and I am truly thankful!



I love hearing from you! I always respond to comments, so don't be shy! Mimi xxx