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Budgeting Your Recipes – Money and Meal Planning

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Today, I’d like to talk a bit about budgeting your recipes. With today’s prices, it can be difficult to plan nutritious meals and stay on budget. However, I’m going to share with you some tips and tricks I’ve picked up to stay on track.

Now, some of my recipes can be quite pricey to piece together especially if you are having to buy all the ingredients at once. Some of them, though, are quite cost effective. Plus, after you establish certain staples that you keep in your pantry all the time, like rice or herbs and spices, that can cut back tremendously on the amount you spend per shopping trip. Let’s dive in to some examples.

Best Recipes for Budgeting

For examples of budgeting your recipes, I have listed a few below that should be quite cost effective:

I’ll start out with a cost analysis of the ingredients for the White Bean, Spinach, and Turmeric Risotto. This is a delicious and gourmet-tasting recipe that lends itself surprisingly well to budgeting.

Cost-per-ingredient analysis:

Cannellini – Two cans of cannellini only cost me $2.98, which is $1.49 each.

Sweet onion – One sweet onion costs $1.44.

Spinach – Five ounces of organic baby spinach costs about $3.50 to $4.00.

Garlic – While I do not have a receipt on hand where I bought a fresh bulb of garlic, I would estimate that to be $1.00 or less.

Olive oil – Now, olive oil can be expensive to purchase for a recipe. However, it’s one of those staple ingredients that a home cook is likely to already have in the pantry. I bought a 17 fl oz bottle of olive oil for around $10.00 to $11.00.

Arborio rice – A 16 oz bag of arborio rice is about $4.00 to $5.00. If you’ve made a few risotto recipes recently, you might already have this common risotto ingredient.

Vegetable broth – A 32 oz container of vegetable broth may be between $3.00 and $6.00.

White vinegar – You can get a 32 oz bottle for about $2.00 to $3.00.

White grape juice – Welch’s non-GMO white grape juice is good quality and cost effective. You can get a 64 fl oz bottle for around $5.00 to $6.00.

Turmeric – Ground turmeric is available for around $3.00 to $4.00 per 1 oz jar. Not too expensive. Plus, if you’re into cooking with turmeric, this might be a staple you would have in your pantry.

Black pepper – May be between $2.00 and $3.00 for a jar that’s about 1 or 1.5 oz. A common staple a lot of people keep in their pantries.

Rosemary – Anywhere from $2.00 to $6.00 for a 1 oz jar depending on the brand and store. Could be something you would already have.

Thyme – Available for around $3.00 to $4.00 for a 0.75 jar. Another common staple you might already have on hand.

Totals

So let’s total everything up. That’s $42.92 to $57.42 if you had to buy everything new. However, you would likely have some of these ingredients in your pantry already. That can make a huge difference when it comes to budgeting your recipes. Let’s say you already had olive oil, turmeric, black pepper, rosemary, and thyme. All of these ingredients together could be between $20.00 and $28.00. So in that case you would only be spending around $22.92 to $29.42 on your shopping trip. And then you get eight meals out of the recipe, so that’s really not bad.

Meal Planning For Future Recipes

Another thing that might help you with budgeting your recipes is taking into consideration how much you would spend per week or per month. For example, if you are making this White Bean, Spinach, and Turmeric Risotto recipe, you would already have the following:

Vegetable broth left over for making the Veggie Plate (Black-eyed Peas, Carrots, & Green Beans)

Turmeric, black pepper, rosemary, thyme, and olive oil for the Bean Burgers with a Healthy Turmeric Spice Blend recipe

This makes budgeting and meal planning really easy when you know exactly what recipes you can make with leftover ingredients. If you know you’re planning on making the veggie plate recipe later that week and the bean burgers within the same month, then you have a better idea of how you’re going to stretch these ingredients you buy. A concept which brings me to my next topic – long-term budgeting and meal planning.

Long Term Budgeting and Meal Planning

On the topics of budgeting and meal planning, there’s one blogger I know of who has this down to a science. Have you ever heard of the blog Budget Bytes? This blog was founded by Beth Moncel, who developed a method of calculating down to the penny all of her food-related spendings and strategically created recipes with just the right cost-balance of ingredients so she didn’t go over budget.

Budget Bytes Method

Analyzing the budgeting method she uses, she factors in the total cost of an ingredient, such as black pepper and then figures out how much the specific amount she used in her recipe would cost. For instance, in her Bruschetta Pasta recipe, she has the amount $1.10 in parentheses next to olive oil on the ingredient list. That does not mean that she bought a bottle of olive oil for $1.10 – that would be a dream! It means that the amount she used in the recipe, 1/3 cup, cost her $1.10.

She would have started out with the amount she paid for the bottle of olive oil, $10.00 for example. Then she would have looked on the back of the bottle to see what constituted a serving size and how many servings are in a bottle. For instance, my 17 fl oz bottle of olive oil has 33 servings, and a serving is one tablespoon. To find the cost per serving, you would divide 10 by 33 since the bottle cost $10.00 and contains 33 servings. This would equal $0.30 per serving.

When I Googled how many tablespoons are in a cup, I came up with 16 tablespoons. If you divide this by three to find out how many tablespoons are in 1/3 cup, you get 5.3333…. So that’s the number of servings you are working with. Multiply that by $0.30 to get the amount you spent on the 1/3 cup of olive oil in the recipe. That’s $1.60. You can use the same method to analyze the cost of the specific amount of each ingredient used in your recipe down to the penny.

Applications for Long-Term Meal Planning

Although I have not tried this yet, it would be interesting to do this with all of the food you cook and create a spreadsheet to keep track of it all per week, per month, and per year. That’s where the meal planning I was talking about earlier comes into play. For example, the planning of cooking the veggie plate the same week as the risotto recipe and the bean burgers sometime that month and budgeting it all in so you know when you will have certain ingredients left over.

Back to Per Recipe Cost Analyses

Veggie Plate (Black-eyed Peas, Carrots, & Green Beans)

Carrots: A 16 oz bag of carrots costs about $3.00.

Green beans: One 14.5 oz can of green beans costs about $2.00.

Black-eyed peas: A 15.5 oz can of black eyed peas would probably be about $1.00 to $2.00.

Vegetable broth: A carton 32 fl oz container of vegetable broth costs about $3.00 to $6.00 depending on the brand and store.

Butter: A 15 or 16 oz tub of butter or margarine usually costs between $5.00 and $6.00. But you might have some in your fridge and not have to buy it.

Salt: A 24 to 26 oz container of salt would probably cost around $2.00 or $3.00 depending on the brand and store. However, this is something you are likely to have already in your pantry.

Rosemary: This could be anywhere from $2.00 to $6.00 for a 1 oz jar depending on the brand and store. You might already have it though.

Garlic: A 2.75 oz container of garlic would be about $4.00. Another common spice that you might already have.

Herbs de provence: A 0.7 oz container of herbs de provence might cost around $9.00. However, you might already have some on hand.

What This Means for Shopping

If you had to buy all new ingredients for this recipe, it would likely be between $31.00 and $41.00. However, many of these ingredients are items you would probably already have, at the very least the butter and salt. So if you already had those two items, that would cut back on your expenses by $7.00 to $9.00. Thus, you would only be spending $24.00 to $32.00. If you also had the rosemary, garlic, and herbs de provence in your pantry, this would cut back an additional $15.00 to $19.00. Therefore, you would only be spending around $9.00 to $13.00. And you get two to three meals out of the recipe. That’s a bargain!

Say you’ve already made the risotto dish I mentioned earlier and you’re going to make the Veggie Plate (Black-eyed Peas, Carrots, & Green Beans) later that week using some of the leftover vegetable broth. If you make the risotto recipe exactly as I did, using just 1 3/4 cups vegetable broth and substituting water for the remaining liquid, you will have 2 1/4 cups left over. This is more than enough for the veggie plate recipe, which only calls for 1/4 to 1/2 cup of vegetable broth. If you had to buy all new ingredients except the vegetable broth, then you would be spending around $28.00 to $35.00. However, if you also had the butter and salt, you would be spending around $21.00 to $26.00. Then, if you also had the rosemary, garlic, and herbs de provence in your pantry, you would be spending around $6.00 to $7.00. Super cheap!

Mashed Beets with Roasted Garlic

Beets: One bunch of beets might be $4.00 to $5.00.

Garlic: While I do not have a receipt on hand where I bought a fresh bulb of garlic, I would estimate that to be $1.00 or less.

Olive oil: Now, olive oil can be quite expensive to have to purchase for a recipe. This is a common item that you might already have on hand, though. A 17 fl oz bottle of olive oil cost me around $10.00 to $11.00.

What This Means for Shopping

If you had to buy all new ingredients for this recipe, it would be $15.00 to $17.00. However, you would likely have olive oil, which would save you $10.00 to $11.00 on your shopping trip. Therefore, you would only spend $5.00 to $6.00 for this recipe. Now, the risotto recipe, like this recipe, only uses a few cloves of garlic, so if you had already bought garlic and olive oil for the risotto, you would not need to buy them again for the mashed beets. Thus, the only ingredient you would need to buy for this recipe would be the beets at $4.00 to $5.00.

Cost-Effective Serving Suggestions for This Recipe

Some cost effective serving suggestions to make this mashed beets recipe a meal would be serving with sautéed spinach and beans with a bit of butter or margarine. If you made the veggie plate recently and have leftover carrots, you could throw some of those in with the side of spinach. You could get a 5 oz box of spinach for about $3.50 to $4.00. Canned beans would likely cost between $1.00 and $2.00 per can. A 15 or 16 oz tub of butter or margarine usually costs between $5.00 and $6.00. This might be something you already have, though. Buying everything to make this meal would be $24.50 to $29.00. If you already had olive oil, it would only be between $14.50 and $18.00, and if you had garlic also, it would be between $13.50 and $17.00. Plus, you’re actually getting three to four meals out of this purchase. Each component, the mashed beets recipe, the 5 oz box of spinach, and the can of beans, probably contains three to four servings.

You also might like to pair this recipe with a dressing, such as the tahini dressing I used on my roasted radishes and lemons or the tahini parsley dressing I used on my beets and greens. This would add to the cost a bit, but each of these dressings yield a lot of servings, so it will go a long way. Homemade dressings like this can really make a simple plate of veggies taste gourmet.

Mashed Turnips with Brown Sugar and Cinnamon

Turnips: I would estimate that two medium turnips would be between $1.00 and $1.50.

Olive oil: May be quite expensive to have to purchase for a recipe, but it’s a common item that you are likely to have already. A 17 fl oz bottle of olive oil cost me around $10.00 to $11.00.

Low-sodium Smart Balance, or margarine or butter of choice: A 15 or 16 oz tub of butter or margarine usually costs between $5.00 and $6.00. But you might have some in your fridge and not have to buy it.

Brown sugar: You can probably get a 2 lb bag of brown sugar for about $4.00. If you’re getting a fancy organic brand, it may be almost twice as much.

Cinnamon: Ground cinnamon in a 2.5 oz container could be anywhere from about $1.50 to $8.00 depending on the brand and store. An example on the cheap side would be Great Value cinnamon from Walmart. More expensive, high-end examples would be Simply Organic or Morton & Bassett brand.

What This Means for Shopping

Putting this recipe together with all new ingredients would be between $21.50 and $34.50. If you already had olive oil and butter, it would only be $6.50 to $17.50 to get the remaining ingredients.

Cost-Effective Serving Suggestions for This Recipe

Cost effective serving suggestions for how to make a meal from this would be pairing it with sautéed spinach and tofu cooked in some butter, margarine, or olive oil, and liquid smoke. Since you’re already getting olive oil and butter or margarine, this would only add about $3.50 to $4.00 for the spinach, $3.00 to $4.00 for the tofu, and $3.00 for the liquid smoke. Overall, you’d be spending $31.00 to $45.50 to buy all new ingredients and make this into a meal. Actually, it would be four meals taking into consideration the number of servings in the mashed turnips recipe, box of spinach, and container of tofu. You could even throw in a few cloves of garlic with the greens if you had that left over from the risotto and/or mashed beets.

Bean Burgers with a Healthy Turmeric Spice Blend

Black beans, cannellini, Great White Northern Beans (or whatever you prefer): Canned beans such as these would likely be between $1.00 and $2.00 each, and the recipe calls for two cans. That would be $2.00 to $4.00.

Panko breadcrumbs: One 8 oz container of these breadcrumbs would probably be between $2.00 to $2.50.

Onion: An onion would probably be around $1.50.

Turmeric: Ground turmeric is available for around $3.00 to $4.00 per 1 oz jar. But you might already have it.

Black pepper: May be between $2.00 and $3.00 for a jar that’s about 1 or 1.5 oz. Another common staple that you might already have.

Salt: A 24 to 26 oz container of salt would probably cost around $2.00 or $3.00 depending on the brand and store. You would likely already have this in your pantry though.

Coriander: This would probably be between $2.00 and $3.00 for a 1.75 oz jar.

Paprika: Varies widely depending on the brand and store. Some brands have 2 oz jars of paprika available for just over $2.00. Other brands have 1.62 oz jars that cost almost $6.00.

Thyme: Available for around $3.00 to $4.00 for a 0.75 jar. You might already have this, though, as it’s a fairly common herb.

Rosemary: Could be between $2.00 and $6.00 for a 1 oz jar depending on the brand and store. A common staple you might already have.

Olive oil – Now, olive oil can be quite expensive to have to purchase for a recipe. But you would likely already have this, and you would only have to buy it occasionally when you run out. A 17 fl oz bottle of olive oil cost me around $10.00 to $11.00.

What This Means for Shopping

For all new ingredients, you would end up spending around $31.50 and $48.00. However, if you already had olive oil, that would reduce your spending by $10.00 to $11.00, so you would only end up spending $21.50 to $37.00. If you also had the turmeric, salt, coriander, paprika, thyme, and rosemary, you could save an additional $16.00 to $29.00, saving $26.00 to $40.00 overall. Then you would only have to spend $5.50 to $8.00 on your shopping trip.

If you had to buy everything else new, but you already had the olive oil, turmeric, black pepper, rosemary, and thyme from making the risotto, you would save between $20.00 and $28.00. Your total spending on your shopping trip would just be between $11.50 and $20.00. And you get six bean burger patties out of the recipe – not too shabby!

Side note: Personally, I really like making these bean burgers with just a simple side of rice. This is really cost effective since rice is a common staple that you would likely have in your pantry.

So let’s imagine you bought all the ingredients for the risotto, veggie plate, and bean burgers in the same shopping trip. This would be between $82.42 and $112.42, but you would be getting approximately 17 meals out of it. That’s only $4.84 to $6.61 per meal, cheaper than a lot of meals you would get at a restaurant. Keep in mind this is based on the amount you are spending on the shopping trip. If you are using the Budget Bytes down to the penny approach based on how much of each ingredient you use in the recipes, the cost per meal would probably be even less.

Mexican Veggie Bowl with Rice and Beans

Green bell peppers: These cost about $1.50 to $3.00 each, and the recipe calls for two. So that’s $3.00 to $6.00.

White onion: An onion is probably about $1.50.

Olive oil: Can be quite expensive to have to purchase for a recipe. However, you might already have it on hand. A 17 fl oz bottle of olive oil cost me around $10.00 to $11.00.

Salt: A 24 to 26 oz container of salt would probably cost around $2.00 or $3.00 depending on the brand and store. You are likely to already have this though.

Paprika: Varies widely depending on the brand and store. Some brands have 2 oz jars of paprika available for just over $2.00. Other brands have 1.62 oz jars that cost almost $6.00.

Coriander: This would probably be between $2.00 and $3.00 for a 1.75 oz jar.

Black beans: Canned beans such as these would likely be between $1.00 and $2.00 each, and the recipe calls for two cans. That would be $2.00 to $4.00.

White rice: A 28 or 32 oz container of white rice would probably be between $6.00 and $10.00. However, you might already have it in your pantry.

Butter or margarine: A 15 or 16 oz tub of butter or margarine usually costs between $5.00 and $6.00. But you might have some in your fridge and not have to buy it.

Shredded Mexican cheese: One 8 oz bag of Mexican cheese would likely cost around $6.00.

What This Means for Shopping

Budgeting this recipe with all new ingredients comes out to around $38.00 to $56.50. If you already had salt and olive oil, that would cut the cost by $12.00 to $14.00. In that case, you would only have to spend $26.00 to $42.50 on your shopping trip. Now, it’s worth noting that this is a really great recipe to make around the same time that you make the bean burger recipe. You would already be getting olive oil, salt, coriander, and paprika for the burgers, and maybe rice to go with the burgers. So the ingredients for this Mexican veggie bowl would only add about $17.50 to $23.50 to your purchase, or $12.50 to $17.50 if you already had margarine or butter.

Applying the Budget Bytes Method to These Recipes

White Bean, Spinach, and Turmeric Risotto

2 cans cannellini – ($2.98)

1 sweet onion – ($1.44)

2 cloves garlic ($0.20)

5 oz. box of baby spinach ($3.50 to $4.00)

2 tbsp olive oil ($0.61 to $0.67)

1 1/3 cup arborio rice ($2.13 to $2.67)

1 3/4 cup low-sodium vegetable broth ($1.31 to $2.63)

2 3/4 cup water (from the fridge, not a grocery shopping item)

1/3 cup white vinegar ($0.03 to $0.05)

1 cup white grape juice ($0.63 to $0.75)

1 tsp turmeric ($0.30 to $0.40)

1/2 black pepper ($0.10 to $0.15)

1 tsp rosemary ($0.20 to $0.60)

1/2 tsp thyme ($0.20 to ($0.27)

Cost per recipe: $13.63 | Cost per serving: $1.70

Veggie Plate (Black-eyed Peas, Carrots, & Green Beans)

3–4 carrots ($1.65)

1 can green beans ($2.00)

1 can black-eyed peas ($1.00 to $2.00)

1/4 to 1/2 cup vegetable broth or water ($0.19 to $0.38)

4 tbsp butter ($0.60 to $0.72)

pinch of salt (less than $0.01)

sprinkle of rosemary ($0.05 to $0.15)

sprinkle of garlic ($0.04)

sprinkle of herbs de provence ($0.32)

Cost per recipe: $5.86 to $7.27 | Cost per serving: $1.95 to $2.42

Mashed Beets with Roasted Garlic

2 beets ($2.67 to $3.33)

2 cloves garlic ($0.20)

1 1/2 to 3 tbsps olive oil ($0.45 to $1.00)

Cost per recipe: $3.32 to $4.53 | Cost per serving: $0.83 to $1.13

Mashed Turnips with Brown Sugar and Cinnamon

2 medium turnips ($1.00 to $1.50)

2 tbsps low-sodium Smart Balance, or margarine or butter of choice ($0.30 to $0.36)

3 tbsps brown sugar ($0.32)

1/2 tsp cinnamon ($0.02 to $0.08)

Cost per recipe: $1.64 to $2.26 | Cost per serving: $0.41 to $0.57

Mexican Veggie Bowl with Rice and Beans

Sautéed vegetables

2 green bell peppers ($3.00 to $6.00)

1 white onion ($1.50)

2 tbsp olive oil ($0.60 to $1.00)

1/4 tsp salt (less than $0.01)

1/4 tsp paprika ($0.03 to $0.08)

1 tsp coriander ($0.13 to $0.20)

Mexican black beans

2 cans black beans ($3.00 to $6.00)

2 tbsp olive oil ($0.60 to $1.00)

1/4 tsp salt (less than $0.01)

1/4 tsp paprika ($0.03 to $0.08)

1 tsp coriander ($0.13 to $0.20)

Rice

1 cup white rice ($1.20 to $2.00)

2 tbsps butter or margarine ($0.30 to $0.36)

Toppings

Shredded Mexican cheese ($6.00)

1/4 tsp salt (less than $0.01)

Cost per recipe: $16.55 to $24.45 | Cost per serving: $2.07 to $3.06

Bean Burgers with a Healthy Turmeric Spice Blend

2 cans either black beans or cannellini, or Great White Northern Beans (or whatever you prefer) – ($2.00 to $4.00)

1 cup Panko breadcrumbs ($0.50 to $0.63)

2 tbsp water (from the fridge, not a grocery shopping item)

1/4 cup onion ($0.38)

2 tsps turmeric ($0.60 to $0.80)

1/2 tsp black pepper ($0.10 to $0.15)

1/4 tsp salt ($0.01)

3/4 tsp coriander ($0.09 to $0.13)

1/4 tsp paprika ($0.03 to $0.08)

1/4 tsp thyme ($0.10 to $0.13)

1/4 tsp rosemary ($0.03 to $0.08)

3 tbsps olive oil ($0.90 to $1.00)

Cost per recipe: $4.74 to $7.39 | Cost per serving: $0.79 to $1.23

Budgeting Your Recipes with a Spreadsheet

Another component of budgeting is keeping a long-term record of everything that you buy. This would require keeping all of your receipts. You could keep them in a filing cabinet, or you could keep them in your your desk drawers, or whatever you prefer. I would recommend some sort of folder to keep them all together.

Then, you could set up a spreadsheet to keep track of how much you spent per month on all your meals. Or, you could base the spreadsheet on the amount you spent per month on just dinner, just lunch, just breakfast, etcetera. Next, you could add up all the totals to see your overall spend on food for the month or even the year.

See the screenshot below for an example of a budgeting spreadsheet using the examples of budget-friendly recipes I gave in this post:

As you can see, the cost of food for fourteen meals per week (dinners for two) decreases dramatically by the second week when you plan your meals with ingredients you already have. This works out to fifteen meals you get out of the ingredients listed for the first week. (Includes the white bean and spinach risotto recipe, veggie plate with a side of bread and cheese, and mashed beets.) For the second week, this works out to eighteen meals, so that definitely carries over into week three covering four of those meals. (Recipes included in the second week are mashed turnips, bean burgers with a side of rice, and the Mexican veggie bowl.) Some ideas for dinner for the remainder of the third week might include another risotto recipe since you already have the arborio rice, olive oil, and several spices. Now I said dinner for two, but it could also be lunch and dinner for one person.

Summary

To sum up, budgeting your recipes can be easy and fun if your plan it right and keep an inventory of the ingredients you have. The key is not to let anything go to waste. Once you get the hang of it, your cooking will be cost effective and enjoyable!

Links to Cost-Friendly Recipes

So that’s all I have on this for now – stay tuned! In case you need to print out these recipes for your meal planning, here are the links again:

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