Modern menu building on a budget – step 5: build your menu

Have your inventory in hand? Saved a ton using coupons and sales flyers? Built your template? Now here’s a sample menu that pulls it all together. First, look at breakfast and follow the asterisk past the shopping list.*

Week of 10/11 Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Breakfast Bread with cashew butter, coffee Egg sandwich, coffee Egg sandwich, coffee Bagel with cashew butter, coffee Egg sandwich, coffee
Snack 2 raw green peppers Asian pear 2 raw carrots Eggplant caviar Raw veg.
Lunch Tabbouleh with falafel Squash, stuffed with quinoa, lime, corn, chiles + tomatoes Baked sweet potato with sautéed kale Tabbouleh with falafel Chicken salad on a toasted bagel
Snack Sauteed sprouted wheatberries Radishes Raw veg. Baked sweet potato Mo’ raw veg. Cookies!
Dinner Baked sweet potato with sautéed kale [Dinner out] Whole wheat pasta with mushrooms, onions + garlic Roasted chicken thigh/drumstick with sautéed eggplant Mac + cheese with some sort of veg. Chicken and brown rice soup
Before bed Crispy bar + tea Warm cider Crispy bar + tea Warm cider Crispy bar + tea

Produce: already at the house

2 tomatoes
3 carrots
4 green peppers
9 onions
3 eggplant
1 squash
5 sweet potatoes
5 blue potatoes
2 ears of corn

Shopping list:


1 whole chicken (on sale at Whole Foods)
Sausage/meat for breakfast sandwich


½ doz eggs
¼ lb Vermont cheddar from Shelburne Farms (swap for whatever cheese is on sale)

Dry goods

Whole wheat WF brand bagels – 6 pack (on sale at Whole Foods)
Annie’s Home Grown Cheddar Cheese shells (on sale at Whole Foods)
Envirokidz crispy bars (on sale at Whole Foods)


Wax paper (baggies?)
Apple cider

*When I considered my behaviors around food and mealtimes, I noticed that I had a habit of grabbing a latte and a breakfast sandwich at a cafe whenever I was running a little behind for work. So for breakfast, I got a 6-pack of bagels, eggs to fry, cheese, and sausage to create my own sandwich to go. I also filled the coffee maker the night before so all I had to do was hit a button.

Eating the same breakfast day in and day out is boring, though, so I looked the list of stuff from my pantry (not shown here) and remembered the cashew butter.

Snack time was a great opportunity for me to eat the raw veggies and fruit that came in my CSA.

Now for lunches and dinners. I probably have more time than you do. But notice how the meals repeat? That’s because I’m not going to pretend that I can cook distinct meals for lunch and dinner seven days a week.

That’s why when you cook, you cook enough for two meals, eat one and then the other in a day or so. Don’t forget to build meals outside the home into your menu, if you have any planned for the week.

Lastly, leave a free day or a few free meals in your schedule so you can eat any leftovers that might accumulate. Having a menu like the one above isn’t something you need to stick to religiously. Think of it as a guideline, but if there’s food that needs to get eaten before your regularly-scheduled meal, feel free to swap days around. Waste not, want not. 

For our next post, we’ll wrap up all of these menu building tips into a neat little package and answer any questions you have about how this works. Send questions to us via the comment section below and get excited!

Next week is vintage Christmas cookie week, and we plan to post a few recipes that you can use in your own baking. If you’re Boston-based, we hope you’ll join us for our own cookie swap, December 10, 4:00-7:00 p.m. at the chocolate tarte, 199C Highland Avenue in Somerville, MA.

Published in: on 2 December, 2011 at 10:54  Comments (1)  

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  1. […] 5. When you’re done, write a menu. I always play a game with myself to see how much existing stuff I can use up while bringing in as few new items as possible. An empty fridge can be a good thing sometimes, folks, though if you asked 8 year-old Jenny that same question, you’d hear a totally different answer. […]

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