One of my best tips for getting out of a dinner rut? Plan your menu around vegetables, not meat! Not only is this a creative way to menu plan, it's good for your body and your budget
This month, I decided to shop at Grocery Outlet for inspiration for a couple vegetarian meals. I wanted to come up with meals that would be light and refreshing as the weather has started to heat up!
Of course, I didn't leave my store disappointed! Check out some of the deals I spotted...
I snagged a 1-lb package of tomatoes on the vine for $1.99, 2 containers of cherry tomatoes for $1.50, grated Parmesan cheese for just $1.99, and a full pound of mozzarella cheese for $2.99! After taking the tomatoes home, I knew I wanted to make dinners that played on the flavor combination of one of my all-time favorite appetizers, bruschetta. (And yes, they both turned out AMAZING!)
I even managed to find a bottle of Chardonnay for just $2.99, which went perfect with my menu.
To this, I also picked up a loaf of bread, some garlic, and a red onion! All told, I spent only $17.04 at Grocery Outlet on these simple dinners (including the wine) - the rest of the ingredients needed I already had on hand (and you likely do right now, too).
Night One: Broiled Tomato & Herb Sandwiches
I knew I wanted one of my recipes to be a sandwich of some sort. But what to do? That's when I came upon this Broiled Tomato Sandwich recipe. I loved the idea of an open-faced sandwich! I took the idea and made some modifications to the recipe to suit my taste. The result? Pure heaven!
Here's what you'll need:
- 1 lb tomatoes-on-the-vine, sliced
- Loaf of bread (choose something that is a little "sturdier")
- 2 tbsp Parmesan cheese (plus more for top)
- ¼ cup butter, softened
- ½ tsp dried parsley
- ½ tsp dried basil
- ¼ tsp garlic powder
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- Salt & pepper, to taste
Start by preheating your broiler, then get to work on marinating your tomatoes. Whisk the olive oil and vinegar in a bowl, and add some salt and pepper. Gently place your sliced tomatoes in, stirring to cover. Here's a tip: when you're ready to use the tomatoes, don't throw out that marinade. It makes a delicious dressing!
Next, make an herb butter. Combine the softened butter with the dried herbs, 2 tbsp Parmesan, and garlic salt.
I picked up this beautiful loaf of bread at my Grocery Outlet for $2.49. Because you will be topping the bread with tomatoes and butter, you want a bit of a heavier bread like this. Too soft, and the whole thing could go mushy on you.
Lightly toast your bread. I did this by placing in my broiler for a minute. I didn't let it turn brown at all; just enough to firm it up a little. Then, spread the herb butter on your bread and top with your tomatoes. Add a bit more Parmesan cheese and throw under the broiler for a few minutes. Watch it closely; you don't want it to burn! Mine was done in about 5 minutes.
You can enjoy this sandwich open-faced, or, combine two for a full sandwich. To keep it light, serve with a salad using the reserved marinade. This sandwich was so good, I found myself returning to the fridge later than night for a second helping!
Night Two: Bruschetta Pasta
For night two, we're keeping with bruschetta theme, but doing something a little different. Your costs will still stay down because many of the ingredients you used last night can be used in tonight's dinner! I took this recipe for Bruschetta Pasta
and paired down the ingredients to keep it simple and frugal. This pasta is so delicious, you'll find yourself going back for seconds (my husband and I sure did!).
Here's what you'll need:
- 2 cups grape tomatoes, halved (one container at Grocery Outlet = 2 cups)
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 tbsp minced red onion
- Salt & pepper, to taste
- 8 oz mozzarella cheese, cut into cubes
- 1 lb pasta of your choice, plus 1/4 cup reserved cooking liquid
- 8-10 torn basil leaves
Very similar to last night's dinner, you're going to start by creating your marinade! Mix the olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and minced garlic clove in a large bowl.
To the bowl, add your halved cherry tomatoes, red onion, cubed mozzarella, and basil. Stir to coat.
To complete the dish, toss in the cooked and drained pasta along with the 1/4 cup of reserved cooking liquid. Serve hot, or refrigerate a bit and serve cold. Either way, it's absolutely delicious!
The next time you're planning your family's menu, think about how you could save money by using similar ingredients or going vegetarian for a dinner or two. Then, make sure to shop Grocery Outlet first to save even more.
Join me next month for another menu plan and shopping list!
Angela Russell blogs at The Coupon Project, a site that encourages families to live well for less. She lives in Tacoma, Washington with her firefighter husband and two small kids. In the rare event she finds spare time, she loves gardening, hanging out with her girlfriends, and watching old cheesy monster movies.