I’ve Got a Plan


Last night started the new meal plan for March.  I decided to start off with an easy meal, a take on a comfort food, at least for some of us:  tater tot casserole.  The recipe came from a small Pillsbury 30-minute meals cookbook from my parents–you know, the kind you can browse through as you’re waiting in line at the grocery store.  At any rate, I love tater tots.  We didn’t have them a lot growing up because I seemed to be the only one who liked them;  I think their scarcity at our table only added to my love for the lightly-seasoned golden nuggets of potato-y goodness.  And now that I’m all grown up, I can have them for every meal if I want (I don’t). 🙂  I made the recipe pretty much as is, though I also added some french-fried onions on top, just for fun.

Tonight was pasta with mushrooms.  I adapted a recipe from America’s Test Kitchen to make it more budget-friendly, added just a bit of Italian sausage, and it turned out well.  I’m not sure it was worth the little splurge on shallots; onion might do just fine. But it was a satisfying meal that was actually meatless–always a bonus on the budget.

For those of you who are curious as to what I serve my family in a month’s worth of meals, below is the meal plan I compiled for the month of March.  It contains 4 weeks’ worth of main dishes.  Below that is the grocery list for the plan (I don’t think I left anything–at least anything major–out).  I’m still working on a way to include all of the recipes.  That will have to be another post in the next day or two… for now I’ll simply include the tater tot casserole and the pasta with mushrooms.  Please excuse any formatting errors or inconsistencies–there’s a lot to get in this post!


Speedy Tater Tot Casserole

  • 2 cups tater tots
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups frozen green beans
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 can cream of chicken or mushroom soup
  • 4 oz. shredded cheddar or American cheese

 Prepare tater tots as directed on package.

In large skillet, cook ground beef and garlic over medium-high heat until beef is thoroughly cooked, stirring frequently. Drain.

Add beans, milk, and soup. Reduce heat to medium; cook 6-8 minutes or until beans are tender, stirring occasionally. Add cheese; stir until melted. Top with cooked tater tots.

Pasta with Mushrooms

  • 3 cups bowtie or another short pasta
  • 2 Tbsp. oil
  • 1 link of Italian sausage, casing removed (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp. butter or margarine
  • 4 large shallots (or one large onion), minced–about 1 cup
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 16 oz. mini bella mushrooms
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh minced parsley or 1 tsp. dried parsley
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta as directed.  Heat oil over medium heat in 12-inch skillet.  Cook sausage, if using.  Remove and set aside.  Add butter to the skillet; melt and add shallots.  Cook until softened, about 4 minutes.  Add garlic and cook about 30 seconds.  Add mushrooms and cook until they’ve released their juices and are turning golden brown and the liquid is evaporated.  Add parsley and thyme.  Cook for 30 seconds.  Remove mushrooms from skillet.  Add water and bouillon to skillet, scraping up browned bits.  Remove from heat and add lemon juice and cream.  Stir in the pasta, cheese, sausage, and mushrooms and stir over medium low heat until cheese is melted and most of liquid is absorbed by pasta.  Serve immediately.


The Meal Plan

  • Speedy Tater Tot Casserole
  • Pasta with Mushrooms
  • Bacon-wrapped Chicken
  • Broccoli Rice Bake
  • Beef Roast
  • Vegetable Beef Soup
  • Pork Chops with Apples & Stuffing
  • Pizza
  • Loaded Baked Potatoes
  • Chicken Nuggets
  • Italian Sausage (in a bun)
  • Tuna Casserole
  • Broccoli Soup
  • Skillet Chicken Parmesan
  • Tacos
  • Ravioli
  • Hearty Cheese & Pepperoni Bake
  • Creamy Chicken Enchiladas
  • Pasta with Broccoli Rabe & Italian Sausage
  • Potato Soup
  • Chicken Stir-fry
  • Pan Pizza
  • Baked Chicken
  • Pan-seared or Grilled Steak
  • Lasagna
  • Stuffed Chicken Cutlets
  • Italian Casserole
  • Bacon & Egg Pasta
  • Spaghetti


Here’s the grocery list of items needed to make the above meals.  It doesn’t include side dishes at all.  And I always tend to consider fresh herbs as optional, at least in the winter months when I don’t have it growing in my garden.  Chicken and beef bouillon cubes serve as my broth substitute in recipes.

The Grocery List


  • Tater tots (One 32 oz. bag)
  • Frozen green beans (One 16 oz. bag)
  • Frozen peas (One 16 oz. bag)
  • Frozen broccoli (Four 16 oz. bags)
  • Frozen chopped spinach (one 10 oz. package)
  • Frozen mixed vegetables (2 cups)

Canned Goods

  • 3 cans cream of chicken or mushroom soup
  • 1 can apple pie filling with cinnamon (can get plain apple and add cinnamon)
  • 1 can tuna
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes (28 oz.)
  • Olives (½ cup plus extra for tacos)
  • 1 can sliced mushrooms
  • Evaporated milk (2 cans)
  • Diced tomatoes (1 can)
  • Pasta sauce (Six 26 oz. cans)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies (10 oz.)
  • Salsa (for tacos)

Dry Goods

  • Rice (4-5 cups uncooked)
  • 1 box crushed stuffing mix
  • Bread crumbs
  • Macaroni (one 16 oz. box)
  • Bowties (16 oz.)
  • Angel hair pasta (16 oz.)
  • Spaghetti (Two 16 oz. packages)
  • Lasagna noodles (1 box)
  • Short pasta (penne, etc. – 2 boxes)
  • 1 bottle Kraft Asian Toasted Sesame Dressing (or make your own from Betty Crocker or other similar cookbook)
  • Soy sauce


  • vegetable oil
  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • Flour (about 16 cups)
  • Sugar
  • Cornstarch
  • red pepper flakes
  • dried basil
  • dried oregano
  • black pepper
  • salt
  • dried dill
  • dried chives
  • garlic powder
  • paprika
  • onion powder
  • cayenne pepper
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • hot pepper sauce
  • Chicken bouillon cubes
  • Beef bouillon cubes 
  • 17 cloves of garlic (3-4 bulbs)


  • 3 lbs. ground beef
  • Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast (17-18 breasts)
  • Bacon (Two 16 oz. packages)
  • Beef roast
  • Boneless pork chops (6)
  • Pepperoni (at least one 6 oz. package)
  • Italian sausage (links—1 package)
  • Italian sausage (bulk or links with casings removed later –1 ½ lbs.)
  • 1 package of bone-in chicken (enough for meal for family)
  • Steak (enough for family)
  • Deli ham (thin sliced, 4 slices)


  • 4 shallots
  • 2 packages fresh mushrooms
  • 7 onions
  • Celery
  • Lettuce (for tacos)
  • Tomatoes (for tacos)
  • Sweet red pepper (1 cup’s worth)
  • Fresh spinach
  • ¼ cup fresh Italian parsley or basil
  • Fresh thyme
  • Potatoes (about 42 medium, includes some for sides)
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh parsley 


  • milk
  • butter or margarine
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • Parmesan cheese (6 cups)
  • Cream cheese (Two8 oz. packages)
  • Mozzarella cheese (13 cups + 1 cup chunk mozzarella or 14 cups shredded)
  • Cheddar cheese (13 cups)
  • 13 eggs
  • 32 oz. cottage cheese
  • Romano cheese (1/2 cup — 2 oz.)
  • Sour cream (1 container)
  • ¾ cup (6 oz.) half & half


  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • Potato chips
  • Tortillas (6 plus enough for a meal of tacos)
  • Dry white wine
  • Hot dog or brat buns

So, that’s it.  All amounts are based on recipes to serve four to six people.


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