A healthy way to stretch meat and extend 4 lbs into 14 dinners (for a family of 5)
A 2-week healthy meal plan with only 4 pounds of meat. 14 meals that will stretch meat and save you money. This healthy, gluten free meal plan is budget friendly and so good the whole family will enjoy it!
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Eating a healthy, gluten free diet can certainly be expensive. And feeding a family real, wholesome food on a budget can feel impossible. With 6 people in our family, I have worked to find frugal ways to stretch every hard-earned dollar and make it go as far as possible.
I’m assuming you are on a quest to feed your family healthy food on a budget. Otherwise you’d probably already have clicked away from this post.
Here’s some encouraging news for you:
Eating gluten-free, healthy food on a budget, with a family, is possible.
We live off of a $450 a month budget for grocery, household, and personal care items. For 6 people. I haven’t broken down exactly what is grocery and what is other household/hygiene items, because honestly a lot of what we buy is used for many things. Like baking soda. We bake with it, but also use it in our natural deodorant (gotta love that edible deodorant. Kidding! No armpit-licking is going on here! Usually).
But one way we save so much money every month is by stretching meat. Meat can easily and quickly take up your food budget.
Start thinking of meat as a complimentary element in your dishes, not the main focal point of the meal. Steak and lamb chops are great for times of feasting, celebration, or special occasions. But it’s helpful when you’re reducing your grocery budget to reduce how often these occasions happen.
This budget meal plan is for 14 dinners and uses only 4 pounds of meat.
(frugal meal planner over here!)
Don’t freak out. This is not a meat free meal plan. This is a less meat meal plan. Out of 14 days, only five dinners are meat free. The rest are meaty. None of them will leave you hungry. My husband has a high metabolism and enjoys eating meat. He had no idea these were less-meat or meat-free meals. And he never complained of being hungry.
To prepare for these two weeks of dinners, you’ll be using 2 pounds of ground beef and two pounds of chicken. I’ll show you how I stretch 2 lbs of ground beef into 5 meals. We’ll do this by “beefing it up” with potato, celery, carrot, onion, and mushrooms. You’ll cook it all at once, which will also save you quite a bit of time over the course of two weeks. You’ll use 2 lbs of either boneless/skinless chicken breasts or boneless/skinless chicken thighs. Or one pound of each, depending on your preference. For the chicken, you’ll use ½ a lb per dinner.
What kind of meat to purchase
Not all meat is equal. Healthy meat comes from healthy animals. We feel so much better when we eat healthy meat over when we eat meat from sick, stressed animals (logic).
I recommend using grassfed, humanely raised ground beef and free-range locally raised chicken.
Side note: My friend Brandi over at Chicken Scratch Diaries LOVES Butcher Box for home-delivered grass-fed, healthy meat. I’ve heard great things, but have never tried them personally. You can check them out and see if it’s worth it for you by clicking this link: 2lbs FREE Salmon with first Butcher Box
How to stretch ground beef
(this is also great for stretching meat for hamburgers)
In a food processor or blender, puree 1 large whole carrot, 1 celery stick, 1 cup of mushrooms, half of a yellow onion, and 1 medium-large russet potato or 1 small sweet potato.
Note: If you don’t have a food processor, you can finely shred the vegetables by hand as well. Then continute to the next step.
Put the pureed mixture in a tea towel or fine cheesecloth (clean t-shirt also works) and squeeze out extra water.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the puree mixture with 2 lbs of ground beef. Add 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Mix well until everything’s incorporated (I use my hands like making meatloaf).
Cook your meat. In a large skillet on medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons of avacado or grapeseed oil. Add in your beef mizture and cook through, just like you would with regular ground beef.
How to cook ground beef in the Instant Pot
If you have an instant pot, you can cook the meat in there and crumble it afterward. This is my favorite method! To do this, place ½- 1 cup of water in the bottom of the Instant Pot. Add your trivet to the pot, and rest a steam basket on top of it. I like to use one like this. If you don’t have a steam basket, you can do it with just the trivet.
Form a loaf with your meat mixture and put in your steam basket.
Close lid and switch valve to seal.
Set pressure cooker for 8 minutes on high. Allow to natural release for 5 minutes, then quick release.
How to prepare the chicken
For week one:
Cook 1 lb of chicken and shred it. You can bake it or cook it in the Instant Pot until it reaches 165 degrees F internally.
Divide into two containers, freezing one and keeping one in the fridge for Monday night..
For week two:
A few things to keep in mind as you prepare for this meal plan:
- The day before each meaty meal, pull out the needed container and allow to thaw in the fridge overnight. Add any needed marinade the morning you’ll be using it.
- If you don’t want to make so much variety, you can repeat a meal or two that you like in place of one you don’t want to use.
- For stir-fry, feel free to add different vegetables. Zucchini, bell pepper, baby corn, spinach, water chestnuts, and mushrooms are all delicious additions.
- The Korean beef bowl is best with a special sauce that you can’t find in regular grocery stores. If you’d rather swap it out with eggroll in a bowl, that’s a fantastic option. You’ll just sub the sausage in the recipe for the extended ground beef.
- Be sure to use tamari, which is pure soy sauce, or coconut aminos. Regular soy sauce contains 60-80% wheat.
For my dairy-free friends
We often go without dairy, as my oldest son is sensitive to it. He doesn’t seem to be bothered as much with cultured dairy, but I’ll often halve the required amount in recipes, swap it out, or omit it.
- For the Mexican dishes, swap out the cheese for a homemade cashew cheese (this recipe makes A TON, so I’d suggest halving it. Half a recipe is more than plenty). This works in the enchilada casserole and in the nachos.
- When making biscuits or mashed potatoes, use solid refined coconut oil in place of butter. I do this with great success. You could also use Earth Balance butter replacement (link just for reference, purchase at a local store for a much better price!).
- On your pizza, leave the cheese off completely and pile on the toppings (the crust is dairy-free), or swap it for crumbled goat’s cheese or a cheese substitute.
- Swap out the spaghetti pie for regular spaghetti with meat sauce!
- Instead of topping the shepherd’s pie with cheese, top it with a a few spoonfuls of coconut oil or butter replacement, and sprinkle with dried parsley.
Budget meal plan for two weeks:
- Chicken pot pie with gluten free biscuits: use chicken in place of turkey.
- Korean ground beef and veggie bowls
- Sweet potato chili with gf cornbread
- Chicken tikka masala
- Loaded nachos: Top corn tortillas with shredded cheese, refried beans, black beans, corn, sliced olives, avocado, salsa, shredded lettuce, sour cream, etc. Broil chips with cheese and beans, then top with fresh ingredients
- Chicken stir fry: Add 2 celery stalks, thinly slices, and 2 cups of shredded cabbage. Sliced mushrooms are optional. You can also add in raw cashews.
*Use tamari or coconut aminos as soy sauce
- Spaghetti pie: Use colby jack cheese in place of parmesan, unless you have parmesan on hand already
- Breakfast for dinner (gf pancakes and scrambled eggs with a side of fruit)
- Chicken fajitas: add rice, avocado, shredded cheese and corn inside fajitas. Serve with a side of refried beans
- Goulash: Halve the recipe and add 2 whole carrots, diced, to the saute mixture. Use an extra can of diced tomato in place of the tomato sauce. Use gluten free pasta–it doesn’t have to be elbow noodles. Penne and fusilli work as well.
- Cream of potato and broccoli soup with easy fluffy gluten free rolls
- Beef and bean enchiladas: Use gluten free flour in enchilada sauce recipe and add ⅓ of beef mixture to the bean mix
- GF Pizza, loaded with veggies: Load up the pizza with veggie toppings like bell pepper, olives, tomatoes, spinach, mushrooms. Serve with a large salad
- Shepherd’s pie: Use gluten free flour in place of white flour Add one extra carrot and an extra cup of frozen vegetables like corn or green beans
Here are some tips for keeping things frugal with breakfast and lunch over these two weeks…
Download a week of gluten and dairy free breakfasts here. Just do it twice and it’s all planned for you!
Keep lunch frugal and easy by repeating the same lunches.
Here are some gluten-free frugal lunch ideas:
- Hard boiled eggs
- Gluten free pasta with butter, salt & pepper
- Sandwiches on gluten free bread
- Left overs