One of my tricks with meal planning is to keep a list of main dishes on my fridge, organized by cost. The categories are Everyday Meals, On-Sale Meals, and Once-in-a-While Meals. This is helpful, because when meal planning time rolls around I'm not always at my brainy best. If I have the grocery circular and my handy-dandy list, I can usually come up with four or five meals we haven't eaten recently. I aim for a total cost of about $6 for our family of seven for the main dish, with another $2 or so for veggies.
The Everyday Meals category includes pasta with pesto, homemade baked beans, latkes with applesauce, black bean soup, made-from-scratch mac 'n cheese, homemade pizza, channa masala, omelets, and hash.
The longer list is the On-Sale Meals, which require an ingredient I won't buy for full price. This week mozzarella cheese, English muffins, and good hot dogs were on sale. The other night the kids made 'Greek pizza' while I was out (brush English muffins with olive oil, sprinkle with chopped olives, cover with mozzarella and broil). Tonight we had a ridiculously easy meal that is our favorite for bringing to pot-luck suppers.
Hot Dog Cornbread (feeds about 10)
Make a double batch of your favorite cornbread recipe. I use the one in Joy of Cooking, using about 1/3 C. brown sugar. Mix in one box of thawed frozen corn, and one package of hot dogs sliced into 1/2" pieces. Bake at 425 for about 40 minutes. Eat hot, with catsup on the side.
This stuff vanishes. Total cost tonight: $2.99 for the hot dogs, roughly $1.50 for cornmeal/flour/eggs/milk, $1.59 for the corn. (Coulda made it with fresh corn from Tuesday's CSA share, but I didn't think of that!) You could make a single batch of cornbread and use half a pack of hot dogs, and half the corn. But then there wouldn't be any left for lunch the next day.