January menu preview

Snack tray

My final kitchen project for 2013 was a cheese and meat tray, inspired by A Thoughtful Place, and by the lovely serving tray that my daughter gave me for Christmas. And before you feel intimidated by the fancy shmancy, let me tell you– no way I’d have thought I could pull together something like that before I watched this video and found out it isn’t actually hard!  This one was for a New Year’s Eve party. I had so much fun making this one that I’m planning to make a similar one when we have the kids’ friends over to hang out for games in a couple days.

Now, on to January menu planning! I’m planning on spending no more than $400 for the month, which is going to be lots more doable if I spend as little as possible during the first half of the month.  I’ve been digging through the cupboards and the freezer, looking at how far I can get using what we have.  I canned lots of tomatoes and pickles this fall, and have lots of butter and a reasonable amount of meat in the freezer.  We also have beans, pasta, potatoes, cabbage, onions, canned applesauce, canned pears and frozen green beans.  We have a good stash of baking ingredients including WAYYY more chocolate chips than is strictly necessary– literally 10 bags of different chips, including butterscotch.  (Hello, Butterscotch Chip Cookies!)  There will be no cookie shortages around here.

Since the chickens aren’t laying terribly well right now, I’ll probably need to buy eggs, and doubtless I’ll think of a few other things.  If I happen to see ground beef on sale for $2.29/lb or less, I’ll be grabbing it, since I doubt I have more than two weeks’ worth right now. Another goal of mine is to use more bone-in chicken, both to take advantage of the affordability of whole chickens and to make chicken broth for winter soups. But here are the meals I can make with the current provisions.

  1. Pasta carbonera & salad
  2. Cheesy Corn and Potato Chowder (Family Feasts for $75 a Week, p. 192)
  3.  Chili for a Crowd and cornbread (double batch)
  4. Make-your-own pizza
  5. Cauliflower Tom Kha Gai (Thai soup)
  6. Split pea soup with bacon (Family Feasts, p. 190)
  7. Hearty Beef Dumpling Stew
  8. Hamburger lo mein (from Family Feasts, p. 161 )
  9. Korean vegetable pancakes (Family Feasts, p. 204)
  10. West African Sweet Potato Soup
  11. Tuna sandwiches (with grated carrot and cheese, toasted)
  12. Beans and rice
  13. Tacos with refried beans, ground beef/lentils and soft shell tacos
  14. Biscuits and hamburger gravy
  15. Ethiopian Sloppy Joes and Injera
  16. Grilled cheese and tomato soup
  17. Korean sushi using smoked salmon I got for Christmas  (yum!)

Lunches tend to be leftovers from previous dinners as well as sandwiches.  Our youngest got a panini grill for Christmas, which she adores.  So we have been doing lots of grilled cheese sandwiches with soup.  For breakfast we mostly do eggs and toast, and occasionally cereal, waffles or pancakes.  I also want to make Lemon Cream Cheese Pancakes (GF). I’m sure I’ll be adapting this menu a bit as the days go on, but I’m pleased to see how much food we have in the house at the moment, and am planning to dig through the freezer and use up more odds and ends during the month as well.

Are you setting a spending goal for January?  I’d love to hear what it is, as well as how it compares to your usual spending habit.  My $400 goal is about half of what I usually spend.  We’ll see how it goes!


  1. Mary, we just got our half beef stored in the freezer. I am curious if you freeze that much beef and plan out your usage over a year or just use as needed? I am trying to determine how to wisely use it with purpose rather than being strict and having lots leftover or liberal and running out before summer.

    • HI Janey,
      When we have a beef in our freezer, we do tend to use it more liberally. I’m sure it would be a great idea to count the various items as you’re sticking them in the freezer and figure out, for example, how much ground beef and how much steak you can use each week to make it last all year.

  2. I just pinned a couple of your recipes– yum! Both to save money and eat healthy, I plan on making a lot of soup this month. Starting with whole roasting chicken is great for that.

  3. We are limiting ourselves to $400, that’s a little under half what we have been spending (and that was over budget). I just wrote out on an Excel sheet what I bought and some of what I knew I had in the freezers and realized I had more than I thought I did plus I found 8 lbs of cooked hamburger buried under the frozen broccoli. Had to chuckle at that one.

  4. Love that appetizer tray. Well done! You’ve totally inspired me. 🙂

  5. I like the idea of planning a few weeks at a time. So far I’ve done one week at a time, but would like to cut the planning down to fewer times a month. My Costco run to coming up, so that’ll make a dent in the grocery budget. To make up for that I want to keep my weekly grocery store runs to $30. We’ll see how it goes and thanks for the motivation. 🙂

  6. Well, I would have liked to have had no grocery expenditures at all this month, but then I bought some stuff this morning, so there goes that! 🙂 We didn’t have any breakfast cereal and the kid’s favorite one was on sale, so… I also picked up a couple pounds of B/S chicken on sale. I’ll need more milk during the month and I’m sure a few other little things. Otherwise, my freezer and pantry is more than full right now, so I’m shooting for $75 for the month. There are only two of us, making that completely doable. I probably need to rearrange that full freezer and update my list of the contents to make sure it is accurate.

    We had fish florentine from the freezer yesterday, frozen meatballs for lunch today, and using frozen ham pieces for bean soup tomorrow. Jamaican Jerk pork and veggies is about to start simmering for dinner. We are off to a good start!

  7. Had to tell you all what we did for New Year’s; the kids thought it was a riot!
    Sandwiches with a base of peanut butter and jelly then set out fluff (marshmellow cream), graham crackers, kit kats, hershey bars, oreos, banana slices, fruit loop cereal, cheerios, kiwi slices, caramel and chocolate sauces, mint cookies…well you get the idea. It was so much fun watching the kids build their sandwich and then eat it.
    This is something we had when we went to Dylans Candy Bar in New York City (daughter sang at Carnegie so we went to see her)and mentioned to the kids that we would have to do at home one day. Well, New Year’s Eve was perfect since we were up until 3 a.m. watching television new year’s eve shows, playing cards, and enjoying each other’s company.

  8. A good trick I have learned over the years for making a deep dark broth, is to roast the bones and the veggies first, then place in water to simmer. You can even place in water, lid the pot, and put back in the oven if you don’t want to watch the stove closely. Makes dynamite dark broths.

  9. The link to menu is not working for me. Would love to have it 🙂