I am a big “fast and inexpensive dinner” fan. However, I don’t like to sacrifice nutritional value with preprepared items or lose that home-cooked feel by eating out (let alone that COST of eating out!) Occasionally the nice, well planned big family meal is in order for sure, but with a strict budget, kids activities, and well, LIFE happening- it is not practical most of the time. Here are a few that we have often at our house:
#1: Spaghetti Dinner Menu
12 oz spaghetti noodles ($.62)
24 oz can/jar spaghetti sauce($.86)
1 pkg Texas Toast, Garlic or Parmesan variety ($1.88)
1/2 lb hamburger or 1, 12 oz can chicken ($1.50)
Lettuce/Dressing (on hand)
1/2 lb Fresh sliced strawberries ($1)
Total cost $5.86
How to prepare it:
1. Break the noodles in half, put them in about 8 cups of boiling water. Occasionally stir to separate the noodles.
2. Brown the meat or open your can of chicken and drain. Add the sauce and set to a low simmer.
3. Turn the oven on and arrange your toast on the pan and put into the oven. The toast will already be done by the time your oven has just pre-heated!
4. Wash and Slice strawberries.
5. Check your noodles for doneness, they will take about 15 minutes. When done, drain and put into a bowl.
6. Set the lettuce and dressing out, set the table, take the toast out of the oven, turn off the sauce and set it out beside the noodles and voila! Dinner ready for 2 adults and 3 small children!
#2: Lemon Chicken and Rice Dinner Menu
2 cups cooked rice ($.50)
2, 12 oz.cans chicken, cooked ($3.88)
3/4 c. vinegar ($.09)
1/2 c. white sugar ($.08)
2 Tbsp lemon juice ($.08)
2 Tbsp corn starch ($.10)
3/4 c. water
1 can green beans ($.55)
2 oranges, sliced ($.65)
Total cost $5.93
How to do it:
1. Add 1 c. rice to 2 c. water, bring to a boil then lower heat to a simmer, cover and simmer until its ready. (About 15 minutes) You can set the table during this time or ask your child to do it.
2. After 10 minutes or so, add the vinegar, sugar, corn starch, and water into a microwave safe bowl. Mix until cornstarch is thoroughly dispersed. Add the chicken, drained.
3. Microwave for 4 minutes, stirring well after each minute, until thickened. May take more or less time depending on your microwave. Add lemon juice.
4. Check the rice. When it’s done, it will be soft and no water will be in the bottom. Remove from heat.
5. Open can of beans, drain and pour into a microwave safe dish and microwave for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes until hot.
6. Wash and slice oranges and set all the food on the table and voila! Dinner for 2 adults and 3 small children.
Serve the chicken mixture over the rice.
(You will probably want Salt and Pepper for your green beans and maybe for the rice.)
Of course prices may vary depending on where you shop. But these are the prices I usually pay, give or take a few cents.
#7: Fish Tacos (really, my kids love it)
*Minute Brown Rice, 3 cups (took 15 mins to make) $1
*Frozen Petite Peas, 1.5 cups (took 1 min to make in the microwave) $0.40
*Corn tortillas, 12 ea (warmed up for 15 seconds) $0.60
*Mango Salsa, 2 cups (Took 10 minutes to make while the rice was cooking) $2
*Tilapia Fillets, 16-24 oz Broiled with a little butter and Salt and Pepper, then shredded with a fork (Broiled for 8 minutes after I finished the salsa.. what can I say? I am a master at kitchen dove-tailing.) $3.50
My Recipe for the Mango Salsa: (there are only about a hundred different ways to make it….)
2 Mangos, diced
A Dash each of: Dried cilantro (fresh is awesome too), chili powder, cumin, and red pepper flakes.
1 Tbsp Lime Juice
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/4 cup red onion, chopped small
2 Tbsp your favorite salsa
-Mix it altogether and enjoy
#8: Tortilla Soup (Pantry Style— meaning, you already have the ingredients…)
1 can black beans, rinsed
1 small can green chiles
1/2 c. canned corn, or other cooked corn (totally optional btw)
2 Tbsp dehydrated chopped onion
5-6 cups water with enough chicken bouillon for broth or just chicken broth pre-made
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 dashes cumin powder (or to taste)
2 dashes garlic powder (or to taste)
1 Tbsp dried cilantro or 1/4 c. chopped fresh
1 can stewed tomatoes, or I use a home processed pint jar of stewed tomatoes
2 avocados, cut into bite-sized pieces (if you don’t know how to do this properly, msg me…)
2-3 limes, quartered or lime juice in a bottle
tortilla chips- whatever variety you like
sour cream and or chopped jalapeños- optional
1. Bring to a boil the canned tomatoes, chilis, beans and chicken with the dried onions and broth.
2. Add the corn, cumin, garlic and cilantro and turn down the heat a little and gently boil for 10 mins or so and then salt and pepper to taste. Cut up your avocado during this time.
3. Garnish with avocados and lime juice/squeezed fresh limes and tortilla chips. Many people also like to add a dollop of sour cream and a few jalapeños for heat- actually some even add a spoonful of their favorite salsa as well.
Cost is about $8 or so depending on what you already have on hand, and it takes about 15-20 minutes to prepare. My family LOVES this. There is always 1-2 servings left over for me to have for lunch the next day. YUM!!!!!
Serve it with a fresh fruit like grapes or melon on the side and you’ve got a balanced meal!