Bacon, Brie & Leek Quiche
As comments and feedback on the Micro Session Freezer Cooking post trickled in, a common question was “so just what are these Twelve Meals? And where are the recipes?”
Actually, if you glance back over the previous two posts, you’ll find reference to most of those meals, but to make things super easy I’ll list them out and then begin to post the recipes as well, a few per post.
Before I do that, let me just back up a bit.
Over a decade ago, when my husband and I were first married and living with minimal expenses, renting a charming apartment in an old Victorian house for just $450 per month and eating well on a grocery allowance of $70 a week for just the two of us, I never would have dreamed that an income over twice what we brought in then would be so difficult to stretch now. But five children, a dog, a mortgage and two vehicles, together with all the costs of being a responsible grown up (insurance, medical expenses, retirement savings, etc.) add up quickly and keep me on my toes to find creative means of keeping our family budget in check.
I went through all the usual steps of listing out income and expenses, cutting and slashing, and we were already saving money on clothing and housewares through thrift shopping, tag sales, craigslist and the like.
In the end, there were only a couple categories of monthly expenditures with any “wiggle room.” And the most significant of those? Ah, yes. The grocery budget. So easily sent into a tailspin. And with food costs skyrocketing, the slightest lack of planning and a few extra grocery runs to “pick up a few things,” and the difference between “the budget” and reality can quickly rack up to hundreds of dollars per month. Ask me how I know.
So I came up with a firm number for our monthly grocery budget. Not to be exceeded. And from that number I subtracted an allotment for cooking and baking staples (condiments, flour, oil, sugar, butter, etc.), snacks, coffee, fruit and milk (basically, items not featured as a key ingredient in a meal). Then I came up with a template for meal costs. For our family of two adults and five children, this worked out to be 50 cents per person for breakfast, $1 each for lunch (my husband’s lunches at work are a separate budget item), and $2 per person for dinner. That’s how I arrived at the target of a $14 average cost for dinner every night.
Even before I discovered Micro Session Freezer Cooking, I had decided on a Twelve Meal plan. A rotating list of meals, repeating twice each month and allowing for occasional dining out, dinner at the homes of friends or family, takeout, holidays, or trying a new recipe. Sometimes a meal is repeated more frequently, but for the most part, no meal shows up on our table more than twice per month. I selected the meals carefully, knowing they needed to be simple to prepare because of our busy schedule, made with mostly fresh and healthy ingredients, economical, and a good blend of beef, chicken, and vegetarian options for reasons of variety, health and cost.
The Twelve Meals
Chicken Tikka Masala over Rice with Roasted Broccoli, Naan and Raita
Bacon, Brie and Leek Quiche with Fruit or Garden Salad
Chef Salad with Crusty Rolls
Penne with Meat Sauce, Steamed Broccoli and Artisan Baguette
Club Sandwiches with Kettle Chips
Tuscan Soup with Crusty Rolls
Tacos with Fresh Homemade Mango Jalepeño Salsa
Crock Pot Chili with Cornbread Muffins
Pizza (one 19″ XL pizza from a local pizza parlor for $12)
Marinated Grilled Chicken with Baked Potatoes (Sweet and/or Russet) and Steamed Green Beans
Pancakes or Waffles with Bacon
Gourmet Burgers and Waffle Fries