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Meal Planning with only your Pantry and $20

I am sure many people think that with only $20 a week a family of 4 must be surviving on Ramen noodles and Kool-aid, but that can't be farther from the truth. This week we stayed under budget and still ate well.

I am really lucky that I am an avid (but not crazy) couponer who keeps a decent stockpile of the basics in the pantry. The key is to figure out what you have, and how you can use it.

The meals I made this week were all based around something I already had in my pantry. I didn't really have anything planned, but every morning I scoped out the fridge and figured out (usually with the help of Pinterest) what I could make based on a single key ingredient.  Here are the results:

Sunday: Bean and Ham Soup (Pinterest)

I made this from the leftover ham bone I had frozen after Christmas dinner. I did have to purchase beans but buying a pound of bulk dried beans only cost $0.89.

Monday: Shepherd's pie. (Pinterest)  

 I had all the ingredients I needed for a mirepoix and hoped it could be a base for a hearty recipe when I stumbled onto this version of shepherd's pie. I did buy potatoes this week and spent $1.10, but I had the rest of the ingredients to this Weight Watchers friendly recipe in my freezer.

Tuesday: Chicken Parmesan (my own secret recipe)
This was another dish made completely out of frozen and pantry items, since who doesn't have frozen boneless/skinless chicken breasts, pasta, spaghetti sauce, bread crumbs and Parmesan on hand? If you are married to an Italian, like I am, you certainly do.

Wednesday: Stuffed Peppers.  (Pinterest)

Green peppers were on sale this week so I bought 3($1) knowing I could use them for this.  Although this recipe didn't call for it, I added ground beef that was already in my stockpile.

Thursday: Leftovers. We had a little bit of everything left from the 4 previous nights.  Time to clean out the fridge.

Friday: Penne with Acorn Squash and Sausage.  (Pinterest)
I have had an acorn squash sitting on my counter for as long as I can remember so I decided to figure out how to use it.  The original recipe called for pancetta and I was planning on substituting bacon.  Unfortunately, I didn't realize that I was out of bacon until I was halfway through so I used some sweet Italian sausage instead.  The remaining ingredients also came out of the pantry.

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