How do I make budget main dishes that taste delicious and don't bore me?

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Answered by: Cindy, An Expert in the Menu Planning Category
Having to stick to a budget isn’t the most glamorous thing in the world but most people have to plan their expenses carefully. For the few who don’t have to worry about sticking to a grocery budget they might discount the idea of budget main dishes. And they would be missing out. Sure, being able to go to the grocery store and buy whatever you want could yield fabulous dishes if you know how to cook. But meal planning coupled with a strict budget can force you to be creative. Not only must you come up with main dishes that are filling and taste good but you need to use everything so there is little to no waste.

The easiest way to create budget main dishes that don’t leave you feeling bored is to plan a weekly menu. Attach a budget to that menu and when you go to the grocery store don’t stray from the plan. You should have the staples in your cupboards already. Things like flour, sugar, oil, and spices should always be on hand so you just need to buy the main components of the dishes you plan to make. Keeping a supply of canned goods helps too. If your budget is particularly strict, a trip to a discount grocery store can do wonders for stretching the food dollars. Stock up on canned vegetables and no-name soup brands.

The Crock-Pot and roasts are your friends. Check the grocery store's weekly flyers for specials and when meat is on sale snap up as much as you can within the budget you’re working with. A two and a half pound whole roasted chicken can provide three or four meals if you’re cooking for two. Eat the breasts one day with a salad or veggies and use the rest of the chicken in meals throughout the week. The legs can be used the following day for a quick meal. If you have rice on hand make that and throw in a can of peas and carrots to go with the chicken legs. Take the rest of the meat off the chicken and make pasta salad or chicken tacos. Use the carcass to make chicken stock for soup. That one chicken can give you meals for an entire week at a low per meal cost.

Don’t like chicken or you get bored easily if you have the same thing every day? Eat the chicken breasts on day one, then remove the rest of the meat from the bones and put in a freezer bag to use later. You can also freeze the carcass and make that chicken soup later, on a day when you have a hankering for a hearty soup.

Any kind of roast will do. Make sure you get a large enough cut to last for a few meals. Then scour the internet for recipes that can help turn the leftover meat into exciting dishes for the rest of the week. After a while it will become second nature. You’ll want to use up the whole roast, the whole chicken, so even when you don’t need to stick to a budget you’ll want to because you know how creative and delicious those meals can be.

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