Margherita Pizza and Meal Planning on a Budget

Cooking on a budget is today’s theme and I’ll tell you why: my oldest has a birthday this month, he turns 6, then it’s Halloween, two days later my baby turns 1, then there is Thanksgiving, then my birthday, my daughters 4th birthday and Christmas are all in December. Oh and we are also taking a trip to San Diego in December to join my husband who has work there. Holy cow! Poor family planning to have 4 family members with Oct/Nov/Dec birthdays.

All I can think of is how expensive the next few months will be and what I can do to cut costs. I’m a food blogger who likes to have a good meal every night (or almost) and the kids and I eat quite a bit throughout the day…I spend A LOT of money on food. That is where I will focus my efforts.

So my plan is to cut my food budget big time until Thanksgiving. I have a pretty well stock pantry as of now so I am thinking between that and some freezer food, I will just have to worry about buying fruits, vegetables and maybe some dairy products.

My husband won’t be eating dinner with us for the next week due to his schedule so I am going to make a very basic meal plan that will be cheap and using up food I have on hand. I spent $50 at the grocery store this weekend and hopefully will only need to buy a little more fruit later in the week.

I am slightly concerned because my whole family just eats so darn much! The kids are always hungry, they plow through snacks- yogurts, fruit, applesauce, cheese sticks, etc. It should be interesting but lucky for them I have a decent supply of food carried over from last week’s shopping.

What do you like to make when you are trying to cut back on spending? Anyone else feel the monetary stress of the upcoming Holidays? I’d love for you to join me in my penny-pinching thrifty upcoming meal plans.

Here is my thrifty (yet somewhat uninspiring) meal plan for the week:

Chicken Fajitas, Beans, Guacamole (this was a treat because I had frozen chicken breasts and the good Tortilla Land tortillas)


Egg Scramble with Bell Pepper, Onion and Zucchini, Side of Toast or Tortillas (eggs are a great value!)

Creamy Tomato Soup, Pesto Pasta (for kids), Salad (using canned tomatoes for soup, pasta of course is super cheap)

Sandwiches (probably PB for kids and Veggie or Turkey for me), Greek Salad

Pizza (I’ll probably make the Margherita again- making homemade dough is very inexpensive, basil is from our garden, I always have the canned tomatoes but the good ones run $3.5-4.00 for a large can,  I’ll I need to buy is the cheese)


I made this Tomato, Basil, Mozzarella Pizza last week (otherwise known as Margherita). It is truly one of my favorites. I experimented with a different crust- this one has more yeast, less flour and created a thiner, cracker-like crust. It paired perfectly with these toppings. I could eat this every. single. day.

The directions below may seem long but you make the dough ahead of time and the sauce can also be done ahead of time. It comes together quickly.

Enjoy the recipe and let me know if you are interested in slashing the food budget a little!

Question: What’s on your meal plan this week? Do you need to cut food costs like me? What is your favorite inexpensive meal? Join in the conversation!


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  1. says

    Melanie, we are in the same position this month! No idea how we have spent so much recently, but are majorly cutting back.
    Monday: vegan chili with brown rice, avocado and lime
    Tuesday: leftovers and maybe quesadillas for the kids
    Wed: Gretchen cooks broccoli and vegan shepperd’s pie
    Thursday: I teach a cooking class (EEK!) and the kids and Luck will eat egg in the holes (super cheap!)
    Friday: camping! Cheap and easy foods, for sure!
    Brittany Smith recently posted..Meal plan and update.My Profile

    • Melanie Flinn, MS, RD says

      It is amazing how being a little slack about the budget can get you into the hole so fast (at least for us). I swear every year I say I am going to save up well before the Holidays and Birthdays but I never do and we are in the same predicament every year- not enough money. Oh well, we still have so much more than so many people so I need to keep the focus on that. Is your cooking class at the same place as the previous one you did on vegan eating? Is it a one-time class or a series? That sounds like so much fun!!

  2. Brittany says

    I’m so glad I’m not the only one who spends tons on food! I love making news, delicious meals. But I agree, feeling the need to pinch pennies with my food budget!

    • Melanie Flinn, MS, RD says

      Me too Brittany. It’s kind of sad to say I spend way more on food than on clothes or other items for myself. I get more satisfaction from a yummy home-cooked dinner! After a long day nothing beats good food. I just need to make my “cheap meals” exciting somehow. 😉

  3. Dana says

    i have found reducing the amount of meat i purchase at the store does a lot to help reduce costs. It is a HUGH price difference to fill my crock pot with a roast versus filling it with a bag of dried beans and spices, a total money saver and still makes a wonderful dinner.

    i have also started growing my own basil and rosemary, two very pricy items i use to purchase often at the store. i also tried to grow a tomato plant, but my first attempt was a complete failure.

    my family also loves to snack so I try to keep a supply of homemade items on hand like PB balls, healthy cookies, bar and muffins. i make double or triple batches and keep them in the freezer.

    We consume a large amount of produce every week so i try to buy most of our fruits and veggies at Costco. The savings is worth an additional grocery buying stop. i just have to make sure i stay away from the clothes, books, toys etc there. i have gotten very good at making a bee line to the “cold room” in the back of the store, getting what i need and heading straight to check out.

    Good Luck with your Budget friendly meals, i can wait to see what creative and thrifty recipes you have to share with us in the future

    • Melanie Flinn, MS, RD says

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment Dana. Great tips too. You are so right about Costco being affordable for produce. I will think of you next time and head straight to the cooler. I walked out of there last week and had only spent $37. I told the cashier it was my record low of money spent there! I wanted to frame my receipt. Haha
      Growing herbs is the best- unfortunately we didn’t make it a priority when we moved here so I only have basil. I am going to do better next year because any meal tastes better with fresh herbs!

  4. Gretchen Hokenson says

    Melanie, we are in the same boat. Ours has been unexpected car repairs, needing a new oven among some other things that has cause a crunch for us. So we are trying to eat from the freezer and cook reasonable and healthy meals. I agree with Dana cutting out a lot of meat ( using as a condiment if we even eat it) has helped tremendously. Here is our plan for the week.
    Mon- sandwiches pb&j for most everyone and fruit
    Tues-chicken stir fry and rice
    Wed-veggie shepherds pie and roasted brocoli
    Thurs- corn dog muffins ( not healthy but need to use up hot dogs) paninis for us.
    Fri- pizza night
    Sat- tostadas

    • Melanie Flinn, MS, RD says

      Good- we can all do this together. It’s worth eating PB sandwiches and bean & cheese tacos every night over the next couple months if it means we can get out of the hole. I am going to try to get creative a few nights so that it doesn’t get too boring. Thanks for sharing Gretchen!

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