Delectable Dime

meal planning on a budget

Dining By Design

Delectable Dime

Dining By Design by Faith Escher

When I first started shopping the sales for groceries, I noticed that I would buy things because they were a great deal, and not always because I knew that I would eat and enjoy them. The phenomenon that I began to notice was that I would have several miscellaneous foods and none of them were really cohesive as recipes, the things I bought were not the things that I wanted to eat, and that I was throwing away too much food and eating out too often. I realized that this was happening because I wasn’t designing my meal plan, but rather that the sales were designing my meal plan; while shopping the deals is great, it’s ineffective if its not designed to really work for you…

So… I developed these strategies in order to help myself and others eat by design:

No. 1: I need to be realistic about what I am going to eat, and what I truly enjoy. Realizing that I often eat on the go, and that I enjoy snacks, it is important for me to shop with those parameters in mind…I need to stock my fridge with hummus and veggies, I need to keep rice crackers on hand, and I need to prepare little tupperware containers of foods ahead of time. Being realistic about what I eat means that I think about my favorite foods, consider my cravings and recognize my eating patterns so that I can be armed with healthy options and prepared for what I will enjoy.

No. 2: Once I recognize what I truly will eat, I can avoid spending money on things that will sit on my pantry shelf until they expire, and avoid throwing away beautiful produce that goes bad due to neglect. After deciding what it is that I do eat, I can still shop the sales by determining what I do love that is on sale!

No. 3: I need to be realistic about my schedule, and how much time and effort I can truly put in when it comes to my food plan. When selecting recipes and developing my meal plan, I need to look at cook times, I need to be aware of what tools and appliances I will need, and I need to think about how involved the preparation process is. With these considerations in mind I can anticipate my weekly food needs and plan accordingly.

No. 4: Once I know everything that I need to purchase…I need to be mindful about where I shop and what is in season. Can all of the foods I need be bought at one store? Do I want to go to the farmers market for fresh and local produce? What stores are close by and convenient? Are there specialty items that I will need to go to a specific store for? Would I rather shop at several different stores so that I can shop for some things in bulk, and other things at their best rate? Personally, I like to subscribe to store email lists, use phone numbers to become a rewards member and shop at several different stores in order to find out what stores have the best deals and start earning discounts for my frequent purchases.

With these strategies in mind, I hope you enjoy dining by design this week, and to make it a little easier, I have designed a template shopping list, selected recipes and have given you a price estimate to make your give you all the tools you need to design dinner on a dime.

Dining By Design

Dining By Design

Total Budget: $100 or less

All recipes serve 4

NOTE: Garlic (2) = how many recipes the ingredient garlic is used in. For example, “Garlic (2)” means we will be using garlic in two of our recipes for this week.

The Shopping List For All 5 Dinners

  • 1 Large or 2 small garlic bulbs – $1 at 50 cents each (4)
  • 3 Eggplants – $5.98 (2)
  • 3 Red onions – $3.00 (2)
  • 1 Fennel bulb – $1.99 (1)
  • 6-7 Zucchini – $5.00-$7.00 (2)
  • 4 Large ripe tomatoes – $4.00 (1)
  • 2 Teaspoons herbs de Provence – $4.99 (1)
  • 4 White onions – $4.00 (3)
  • 5 Red bell pepper – $5 at $1 each (3)
  • 1 Green bell pepper – $1.00 (1)
  • 1 Orange bell pepper $1.00 (1)
  • 1 Carton of vegetable broth – $2.99 each (1)
  • 1 Bottle of red wine – $6.99 (2) *Feel free to buy a higher quality bottle of wine if the budget allows.
  • 1 Large bag (8) of golden potatoes – $3.49-$5 (1)
  • 1 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes with juices – $0.99 (1)
  • 1 lb of penne pasta – $0.99 (1)
  • 14 oz passata or tomato purée – $1.47 (1)
  • 1 Bin or bag of spinach leaves – $2.50 (1)
  • 1 Bag of Trader Joe’s garlic-herb pizza crust – $1.29 (1)
  • 1 Carton of button mushrooms – $3.99 (1)
  • Fresh garlic powder – $1.99 (1)
  • Basil – $2.44 (1)
  • 1 Tin tomato pizza sauce – $0.99 (1)
  • 1 Tin of tomato paste – $0.99 (1)
  • Vegan parmesan Cheese – $5.59 (2)
  • 1 Small bunch of parsley – $0.99 (1)
  • 6 Squash blossoms – $2.00 (1)
  • Paprika – $2.59 (1)
  • Dried oregano – $1.83 (1)
  • Balsamic vinegar – $2.59-$4.99 per bottle (1)

$73.66 – $85.00  *Prices may fluctuate depending on tax, store, sale and season. I paid $77.35 this week.

If you followed us last week (and/or the previous weeks) you already have the following; however, if this is your first week you will need to make these additional purchases (appx $10.47) or substitute with ingredients you have in your cupboard.

Recipe No. 1

Ratatouille | Cook Time: 1 Hour

Source: Jamie Magazine | Link to instructions

  • 2 aubergines (eggplants)
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 red onions
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 2 red peppers , or 1 red and 1 yellow
  • 1 fennel bulb
  • 3 large courgettes (zucchini)
  • 4 large ripe tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons herbs de Provence

Note: Ratatouille is special to me because it is the first vegan recipe I ever learned to make, it has since become one of my absolute favorites. This recipe is from Jamie Oliver, so note that an aubergine is an eggplant and courgettes are zucchini. Also, If you have never tried fennel, I would highly recommend trying it before you add it to the dish to get a sense for its flavor. The fennel can easily be left out if you find that you are not a fan of the sweet and spicy herb.

Recipe No. 2

Vegan Hungarian Goulash | Cook Time: 50 Minutes

Source: The Vegan 8 – 8 Ingredient Vegan Recipes | Link to instructions

  •  2 packed cups (320 g) finely chopped white onion
  • 2 red bell peppers, chopped (270 g)
  • 6 extra large cloves garlic, minced (18 g)
  • 2 1/2 – 3 cups (690 g) low-sodium broth (amounts added at different times)
  • 1-2 teaspoons fine sea salt (see directions)
  • 3-5 tablespoons Hungarian Paprika, make sure it’s not smoked (I used 5, but that may be too strong for some, so start with 3 and add more if desired. It’s important to use Hungarian for the best flavor)
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 8 small (560 g) red or gold potatoes (do not use russet), chopped into 1/2 inch chunks
  • One 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes with juices (mine had added salt)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Note: My mom always made this Hungarian Goulash when I was growing up, and I found myself missing it immensely when I became a vegan; however, I found this delicious vegan version and am so excited to add it to my repertoire again.  

Recipe No. 3

20-Minute Eggplant And Spinach Penne Pasta | Cook Time: 20 Minutes

Source: The Tough Cookie | Link to instructions

  • 1 medium-sized eggplant (about 350g or 12 ounces), washed
  • 200g (7 ounces) dry penne pasta, I used whole wheat
  • 1 medium-sized onion (about 60g, or 2 ounces)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 400g (or 14 ounces) passata or tomato purée
  • two large handfuls (about 100g or 3.5 ounces) fresh spinach, washed and roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • salt and black pepper, to taste and to salt the water for the pasta
  • parmesan, to serve (See note)

Note: I have added vegan parmesan cheese to the shopping list, so you can use the vegan cheese or you can leave it out if you prefer. Another option is using nutritional yeast that was purchased in previous weeks.

Recipe No. 4

My Favorite Vegan Pizza | Cook Time: 40 minutes

Source: The Minimalist Baker | Link to instructions


  • 1/2 of one Trader Joe’s garlic-herb pizza crust (or half of this homemade recipe or this gluten free recipe)
  • 1/2 cup each Red, Green and Orange bell pepper, loosely chopped
  • 1/3 cup red onion, chopped
  • 1 cup button mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp each dried or fresh basil, oregano and garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt


  • 1 15-ounce can tomato sauce OR 6-ounce can tomato paste (organic when possible)
  • 1/2 tsp each dried or fresh basil, oregano, garlic powder, granulated sugar
  • Sea salt to taste (~1/4 tsp)


  • 1/2 cup vegan parmesan cheese
  • Red pepper flakes + dried oregano

Note: This portion size may be too small for a family of 4 so I highly recommend doubling the recipe to suit the portion sizes of a family of 4. I have included enough ingredients in the shopping list to accommodate this change.

Recipe No. 5

Baby Zucchini and Blossoms with Sofrito | Cook Time: 35-40 Minutes

Source: Herbivoracious, by Michael Natkin | Link to instructions

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 white onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 big pinch chili flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons red wine
  • 1/2 pound baby zucchini, trimmed; halve only if they are more than 1/2″ in diameter
  • Minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 6 squash blossoms, petals separated

Note: If you are unable to find squash blossoms, you can easily leave them out or you could just add some yellow squash in place of the squash blossoms. However, if you can find the squash blossoms I highly recommend it–they add a very special dimension to the dish.

When we are able to self reflect on what it is we truly enjoy eating, we can look for deals, plan our menu, and figure out the best places to shop! When we design our eating experience we are empowered to design our life, instead of our life designing us.

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Brandi, & The Vegan 8. (2017, February 2). Vegan Hungarian Goulash. Retrieved April 20, 2017,

from thevegan8.com website: http://thevegan8.com/2017/02/24/vegan-hungarian-goulash/

Natkin, M. (n.d.). Baby Zucchini and Blossoms with Sofrito. Retrieved April 20, 2017, from

http://herbivoracious.com website: http://Baby Zucchini and Blossoms with Sofrito

Rauter, R. (N.D.). Ratatouille (Jamie Magazine, Ed.). Retrieved March 29, 2017, from

www.jamieoliver.com website: http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/vegetables-recipes/ratatouille/

Shultz, D., & The Minimalist Baker. (N.D.). My Favorite Vegan Pizza. Retrieved April 20, 2017,

from minimalistbaker.com website: http://minimalistbaker.com/my-favorite-vegan-pizza/

The Tough Cookie, & Nila. (2016, April 13). 20-Minute Eggplant And Spinach Penne Pasta.

Retrieved April 20, 2017, from Thetoughcookie.com website:

20-Minute Eggplant and Spinach Penne Pasta



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Comments (1)

  1. Marlen Sann says:

    The https://www.trendeing.com website is one of the best we have found, and the Dining By Design –
    Delectable Dime – Vegan article is very well written and useful!

    I want to share with you a link that also helped me a lot in cooking: https://bit.ly/easy-fat-burning-recipes
    Thanks and kisses! 🙂