Dinner Tip 4

I used to be really creative about making dinner. That was before The Great Birthing of Baby #4 and The Time of Two Boys Taking (Separate) Martial Arts Classes and That Decade I Was (Am) Depressed.

Even still, I have yet to resort to cold cereal for dinner. Why?

  1. Cold cereal is not very filling.
  2. It’s, like, 80% sugar.
  3. The kids are probably getting hyped up on MSG and preservatives alongside the sugar.
  4. We’re often out of milk, too.

And so, this Super Mom has adopted a time-saving and money-saving and stress-saving technique: buying ahead.

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If you buy the super-huge bottle, you’ll never run out of salsa.

In short, I keep a lot of ingredients handy that can be used to make my simple meals. A few of the items I keep on hand are: shredded cheese (extras in freezer), frozen chopped onion, frozen sliced bell pepper, flour tortillas (extras in freezer), refried beans, minced garlic, spices, tortilla chips, olives, lettuce, various meats (freezer), sandwich bread, chili, canned tuna, potatoes, rice, milk, butter, salsa, ham slices, frozen vegetables, and most dry ingredients.

I’ve recommended having a go-to list of meals before. Well -what good is that list if you haven’t the ingredients to make anything from it?

So; after you list the cheap and easy dinners you can make, make a habit of keeping what you need for them around. You and your grumbling tummies will be happy you did.

Dinner Tip 3

Takeout is expensive, especially if you go multiple times and/or have multiple eaters.

Make a list of cheap, fast, go-to meals. You’ll thank yourself later.

My list includes:

  1. Pizza (frozen pizza counts!)
  2. Chicken on the bird (Costco whole, cooked chicken)
  3. Costco clam chowder
  4. Chili (sometimes with biscuits or cornbread)
  5. Taco salad
  6. Grilled cheese sandwiches
  7. Quesadillas
  8. Frozen burritos
  9. Ramen with vegetables (not necessarily made according to the package)
  10. Sandwiches

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Dinner Tip 2

Cooking does not have to be that complicated, especially with the prevalence of so many frozen and pre-made options.

My tip today, however, is to not be afraid of making basic meals.

Don’t fear cooking!

There are a ton of easy meals that don’t take a lot of time, ingredients, or money to make. From the Poor Man’s Grilled Cheese Sandwich to French Bread Pizza to all the quick meals I listed on this very site, you have more than the drive thru to choose from come dinnertime.

You can do it. I promise.

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Photo Credit:
Pixzolo Photography

The Cheapest, Bestest Dinner Ideas, XI

Today’s meal was inspired by Thanksgiving leftovers. Through a combination of laziness and laziness, I haven’t purchased any extra food besides milk and bread since Turkey Day.

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We actually had two Turkey Days this year. At the second one, we also baked a ham. My children have informed me that, if they have to eat another meal with ham hidden somewhere in it, they will voluntarily fast.

Slightly before that point, I used ham slices as a side for a new recipe I discovered over at Genius Kitchen: Leftover Mashed Potato Pancakes.

Leftover Mashed Potato Pancakes

Ingredients

2 cups mashed potatoes (approximately)
2 eggs
1/4 cup flour
Salt and Pepper
Dried onion flakes or powder, to taste
Garlic powder, to taste
Oil or butter, for cooking
Toppings: sour cream, shredded cheese, or ketchup

Supplies

Mixing bowl
Mixing spoon or electric mixer with beaters
Griddle or skillet
Spatula

Directions

  1. Mix all the ingredients except oil and toppings together in a bowl. If stirring manually (or using mashed potatoes that were a tad lumpy), use a potato masher.
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  2. Preheat griddle or skillet to 325°. Add a small amount of oil or butter to surface.
  3. Pour about 1/4 cup batter in a round shape in the oil or butter. Repeat to fill griddle or pan.
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  4. When one side is browned, flip and cook the other side. If too thick to cook the inside evenly, press down slightly with the spatula. Repeat with all pancakes.
  5. Set aside and serve with toppings.

I hadn’t made these before and felt pleasantly surprised at how they turned out. My kids all ate them (win!) and only complained mildly (a midway win).

I thought they tasted like hashbrowns with extra substance, and preferred eating mine with ketchup. When eating them for leftovers breakfast the following morning, I tried the sour cream and cheese and thought that tasted more like baked potato.

This is a great meal for using up leftover mashed potatoes, for keeping things cheap and easy, and for serving a dinner that’s fairly healthy as well.

The Cheapest, Bestest Dinner Ideas, X

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I’m cheating a bit with tonight’s meal by not using an actual recipe.

Sometimes we get a bit hassled ’round dinner time and decide to go out to eat. Since we have four children who are too old to eat off our plates anymore, these trips end up costing $60 or more each time. Yowza!

Ever since a memorable night at Olive Garden when I was last pregnant (2013), I have always opted for something at home instead. Surely, I figure, for $60 we can think of an alternative meal.

I usually make a dinner from my list of meals I’ve shared on this blog. When not in the mood for one of those (again), I have a few quick and easy meals I can get from one grocery store visit.

Cue this meal! I think of it as Sausage with Rice-A-Roni. We’ll keep working on the name.

The cost is definitely worth it! One box of Rice-A-Roni is less than $2. The broccoli: $2. The sausage? $2.50. We’re talking a meal for the entire family for $11 (because I bought two of the meat and rice). ELEVEN DOLLARS!

Polish Sausage with Rice and Broccoli

Ingredients

1 pkg your favorite variety of Rice-A-Roni
1 full link sausage of your favorite variety
A head or two of broccoli (or a family serving of frozen)
Butter or oil
Water
Salt and Pepper

Supplies

Skillet
Saucepan
Microwave-safe bowl
Wax paper or EPA-safe plastic wrap
Knife for cutting broccoli
Cutting board
Spoon
Wood Spatula or tongs

Directions

  1. Prepare Rice-A-Roni in the saucepan according to directions, using the butter and water.
  2. Follow directions for frying the sausage in the skillet.
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  3. Rinse broccoli. Cut main parts of stalk off and discard. Place in microwave-safe bowl with some water in the bottom. Cover with wax paper and microwave for 4-5 minutes.
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  4. Serve together. Season broccoli according to taste.

My kids made a face about this meal, so we may try different varieties next time. I think I’d have great success with Li’l Smokies, for example, but that raises the cost.

In all, however, making a meal for under $20 and in less than half an hour is a win in my book!