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004 | Meal Planning: Budget-friendly and Use what you have

004 | Meal Planning: Budget-friendly and Use what you have

Welcome back to my blog! Join me on a journey to simplify meal planning and make the most of what's in your freezer and fridge. As a work-from-home mom, I'm venturing into a new realm of organizing and optimizing my meals. Let's dive into the world of budget-friendly, delicious options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, all while embracing the convenience of what's already in your kitchen.

The Deep Dark Freezer

My favorite trick for your freezer is to do a quick organization and take pictures of each shelf. Then, as you skim through the photos, you can meal plan with the images themselves or make a list of what you have. To help me explain, lets take a look at my freezer.  Ooh, authenticity. This may be embarrassing :)


Frozen cubed bread - 1 gal

Broccoli cauliflower - AirF.

Walnuts - 1 cup

Whole wheat tortillas


Pecans - 1 cup

Regular tortillas


Butter - 8 sticks


Pesto - 8x 2 TBSP

Chopped onion - 1 gal

Shredded Coconut

Ground beef - 1 lb

Beef tenderloin (3 serv.)

Coffee - 1 lb hazelnut

Sausage patties - 42

Chicken tend. unbreaded

Salmon - 2.5 lb

Shrimp - 30-40

Tuna - 1 filet

Ginger Chick Dumplings

Steamed soup dumplings

sweet/spicy chicken

Pork chops - 4

Bananas - 2

Canadian bacon

Roasted potato - AirF.

Edamame - 1/2 bag


Veggie Nuggets

String cheese - 5

Chopped spinach

Ginger minced

Sugar, ginger, CC cookies


Green beans

In summary, a sneak peek into my freezer reveals a diverse array of ingredients waiting to be transformed into delightful meals. From frozen cubed bread and broccoli cauliflower to walnuts and various meats, the possibilities are abundant. Embracing authenticity, I've laid bare the contents, setting the stage for creative meal planning. Join me as we explore inventive ways to turn these freezer treasures into budget-friendly and delicious dishes. The journey to optimize our kitchen inventory starts here!

The Fridge

Now, you may not need to do the pictures here since it isn’t oh-so-cold. But this is a nice time to check dates and note any bottles you want to finish up before they expire or just to make more room. I don’t do this deep of a meal plan every time, but I’d like to save my grocery budget for later and start the year with less of this food that’s been in my fridge for 30+ days.


Ramen noodles

Amish peanut butter

1 red cabbage

Shredded carrots

Egg bites

Egg whites

Mushrooms - 3 varieties


Tomato paste

White rice

Kale spinach pesto

Greek yogurt (1/4 c)

Almond milk



Biscuits - 1 can

Mexican cheese

Whipped cream cheese



Cheddar cheese

Mung bean sprouts


Turkey loin

Mashed potatoes

Romain lettuce


2 oranges


Sliced apples


2 Mayos

Sauces and marinades


2 bananas are brown

Let’s Just see what chatGPT has to recommend

If you’ve never used AI, there are a few options. I am just going to drop these ingredients into a chat and see what meal ideas he has to offer. And here, I will share with you his/her starting point:

Breakfast Options:

  1. Blueberry Walnut Overnight Oats: Combine rolled oats, almond milk, blueberries, and chopped walnuts. Let it sit overnight in the fridge for a quick and nutritious breakfast.
  2. Vegetable Omelette: Mix eggs with chopped spinach, mushrooms, onions, and shredded cheese. Serve with a side of sliced apples.
  3. Greek Yogurt Parfait: Layer Greek yogurt with sliced strawberries, granola, and a drizzle of honey or almond butter.

Lunch and Dinner Ideas:

  1. Salmon and Shrimp Stir-Fry: Stir-fry shrimp, salmon, broccoli, and snap peas with ginger and soy sauce. Serve over white rice.
  2. Veggie Wrap with Whole Wheat Tortillas: Fill whole wheat tortillas with sautéed mushrooms, bell peppers, spinach, and a dollop of kale spinach pesto.
  3. Beef and Broccoli Stir-Fry: Sauté sliced beef tenderloin with broccoli and ginger. Add a soy-based sauce and serve over brown rice.
  4. Chicken and Vegetable Skewers: Thread chicken tenders, bell peppers, and onions onto skewers. Grill or bake and serve with a side of roasted sweet potato cubes.
  5. Pesto Pasta with Shrimp: Cook whole wheat pasta and toss with shrimp, cherry tomatoes, and pesto. Top with grated Parmesan.
  6. Vegetarian Burrito Bowl: Combine brown rice with black beans, corn, avocado, and salsa. Top with shredded cheese and a dollop of Greek yogurt.

Snacks and Sides:

  1. Fruit Salad with Nuts: Mix chopped strawberries, blueberries, and pomegranate seeds. Top with a sprinkle of chopped pecans.
  2. Edamame and Walnut Salad: Toss edamame, walnuts, shredded carrots, and sliced oranges with a light vinaigrette for a refreshing salad.

Dessert Options:

  1. Baked Apples with Cinnamon: Core and slice apples, sprinkle with cinnamon, and bake until tender. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream cheese.
  2. Cherry Almond Yogurt Parfait: Layer Greek yogurt with canned cherries, sliced almonds, and a drizzle of honey.

That is a great start! Wow, now we are hoping to start the day off savory, have 20-30 g protein in each meal, and keep all the meals around 500 calories. So let us begin.

Meal Planning


I will start with breakfast! And maybe if I am brave, we can try a new recipe. I want to make a play off of this recipe for a breakfast strata - which is like a savory bread pudding. I would make it before and just reheat it in the oven or air fryer.


  • 1 teaspoon olive oil, plus more for greasing the baking dish
  • 2.5 cups chopped spinach, packed
  • 1 TBSP minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup of onions
  • 6 cups crusty bread, Toasted from my freezer
  • 1 cup shredded Mexican cheese
  • 1 cup minced mushrooms
  • 3 slices of bacon - diced
  • 3 patties of sausage
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 c egg whites
  • 3 cups almond milk
  • 1 teaspoon seasoning that matches your leftovers best
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9x13 baking dish with a little olive oil. Place it on a baking sheet.
  2. In a large skillet set over medium heat, add 2 teaspoons of olive oil. When it shimmers add the garlic and onion, saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the spinach and mushrooms and stir until wilted and most of the moisture has evaporated. Remove from heat and turn off the burner.
  3. Arrange the bread cubes in a single layer on the bottom of the pan. Layer on ⅓ of the cheese, spinach, bacon, and sausage. Top with more bread and repeat the layering process until the ingredients are used up.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and egg whites, almond milk, seasoning, salt, and pepper. Pour it over the layered bread in the baking dish.
  5. Transfer it to the oven to bake for 60 to 70 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean and the strata is puffed up and slightly golden on the top.

Yield and Nutrition:

For our family, and with our ingredients, this will make 10 adult servings, which will break down into 4 meals.

What an awesome deal! And then we can just do eggs, bacon, and either biscuits or toast for Sunday.

“This is good. I like it. My tummy is happy”
                        - Strata is toddler-approved!

.Breakfast Plan:




Egg bites, toast, and fruit (orange and apple)

Strata with pomegranate and apple

Strata with a cutie




Strata with apple slices

Strata  with apple slices

Eggs/Bac/toast with a cutie

Groceries needed: Bread and maybe more eggs!

Dinners then Lunch

Oh no! I am going out of order! That’s because I like the ease of using dinner to make lunch leftovers when possible

1st three days




Turkey Loin with broccoli and roasted potatoes - this is a one pot meal at 375F and I cook it until the turkey reaches 165F

Barbacoa Tacos with a red cabbage yogurt slaw, Mexican cheese

Ramen with tuna, spinach, and mushrooms (carrots if there are any left)




Turkey Loin with Korean BBQ sauce, white rice, and stir-fried veggies (Mung bean sprouts, red cabbage, carrots, mushrooms)

Barbacoa taco bowl with white rice and sauteed onions and mushrooms with spicy roasted walnuts on top

Barbacoa taco bowl with white rice and sauteed veggies with a little tomato paste base with spicy roasted walnuts on top

2nd three days




Pesto pasta with shrimp and pine nuts

Beef tenderloin medallions with broccoli cauliflower, sauteed red cabbage sweetened with maple syrup) and mashed potatoes

sweet/spicy chicken with rice and sauteed romain lettuce using Japanese BBQ sauce and sesame seeds




Pesto pasta with chicken and pine nuts

Chicken wrap with tortilla, lettuce, and dressing on the side.

Charcuterie board with salami, cheddar cheese, crackers, celery, and fruit

Groceries needed: fruit for Sunday lunch

Sweet treat ideas:

  1. Baked apples with whipped cream cheese topping and toasted pecans
  2. Airfrier banana muffins: like from this recipe
  3. Peanut butter cookies with 1 egg, 1 cup of peanut butter (finishing off all those almost empty jars), one cup of sugar (I will try to half this and substitute with something else like baby pureed veggies or fruits even. AHHHH), vanilla and I will top it with some flakey salt.
  4. I’ve also been wanting to try these black bean brownies (maybe even with a cream cheese swirl) and the GF/vegan/non-refined oat cookies.

Grocery items needed: dates.

Wrapping up

As we wrap up this culinary exploration, remember that meal planning is a dynamic journey tailored to your family's tastes and needs. Embrace the simplicity, the creativity born from your kitchen's existing treasures, and the budget-friendly joys of making the most out of what you already have. From freezer to fridge, and from breakfast to dessert, we've delved into a variety of possibilities. With 30+ meal ideas in your arsenal and a grocery list that's surprisingly concise (4 items), we’re equipped to embark on a delicious and economical culinary adventure. Let the joy of meal planning continue, bringing tasty satisfaction to your table while keeping your budget intact. Happy cooking!