I need some CHEAP dinner ideas...list yours! - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 27 Old 06-12-2006, 11:29 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm trying to cut back our grocery bill and need some ideas. We're not exactly the beans and rice kind of eaters, but I'm willing to experiment. Any suggestions???

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#2 of 27 Old 06-12-2006, 11:50 AM
 
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Do y'all not like beans in general? Because you don't have to pair them with rice (of course, there are lots of different kinds of rice and beans, so it might just be a matter of finding the right recipes). You can do bean soup, refried beans (in burritos or quesadillas), curried beans, bean salads. And lentils are very cheap and very versatile, too. Soups are inexpensive and filling and wholesome. Make some rolls or bread to round it out.

If you eat meat, use the meat as a flavoring instead of serving a portion of meat to each person. In other words, a casserole, soup, or stew is more economical than hamburgers or chicken breasts. Or you can add some ham or bacon (or chicken or meat) to the aforementioned beans.

Pasta, of course, is the perennial cheap food. Or make breakfast for dinner with pancakes or waffles, or eggs and biscuits (from scratch).

Tell us more about what you eat/don't eat (meat? dairy? any allergies or dislikes, etc.?) and we can give you even better ideas.
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#3 of 27 Old 06-12-2006, 12:39 PM - Thread Starter
 
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OK - so I guess I'm not very bean savvy...I'm not familiar with a lot of types of beans and howto cook them. I know I don't like black beans, but I have a pasta recipes with cannellini beans that I love.

There aren't any food allergies to deal with. I personally don't care or seafood, but that's not a problem when you're trying to eat cheap!

We adore pasta.....I just get sick of regular red sauce....got any new ways to prepare pasta? I'll take any and all suggestions...we are in a serious food rut at our house! I'm trying to incorporate a lot more veggies into our diet, too.

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#4 of 27 Old 06-12-2006, 02:40 PM
 
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:

Rynna, Mama to Bean (8), Boobah (6), Bella (4) and Bear (2)
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#5 of 27 Old 06-12-2006, 03:43 PM - Thread Starter
 
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anybody?

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#6 of 27 Old 06-12-2006, 04:40 PM
 
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Here is a great link for frugal recipes. And most of the ones I've tried have been pretty good. Not a lot of bean recipes either... my husband won't eat 'em.
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#7 of 27 Old 06-12-2006, 04:57 PM
 
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Here are 2 cheap-cooking sites
http://www.hillbillyhousewife.com/
http://www.healthy.hillbillyhousewife.com/

Do you eat pasta? Let me look through my recipes, and see what I can find that might be inexpensive.

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#8 of 27 Old 10-02-2006, 11:29 AM - Thread Starter
 
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#9 of 27 Old 10-02-2006, 12:09 PM
 
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Tuna noodle casserole-- cook any kind of pasta (macaroni or those curly noodles work best, but any kind will do!), drain the water, add a can of tuna fish and a can of cream-of-mushroom soup (condensed). If you want to stretch it even more, you can put some veggies in it. The best ratio is 12 oz : 1 can : 1 can, but depending on how tight things are you can use more or less of something. (This is especially cheap if you're getting WIC; I don't know about you, but we've always got tuna fish and canned carrots in the house these days).

Egg drop soup-- all you need are eggs, water, salt and pepper. It's not a meal all by itself, but with pasta or rice it's great.

If you're looking for bean recipes, I got a whole bunch of them at a WIC cooking class that I did last year. The kids really like the bean burritos I made; cooked beans, flour tortillas, & cheese are all you really need, though of course you can add other things. I usually cook beans in the crock pot, rather than soaking them because soaking requires that you have a place to put your beans for at least 8 hours without the bowl being knocked over by small children.

Do you have a rice cooker? If you're going to be making lots of rice, it's a great investment. In fact, you can use it to steam veggies, too, and while I haven't tried it yet I'd be willing to bet that you could also cook beans in it.

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#10 of 27 Old 10-02-2006, 12:18 PM
 
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SOUP! It is the easiest most omnivore-friendly way to have meatless meals.

I posted a few soup recipes in the soup thread as well as the favorite recipes thread, all the ones I posted are very frugal. Some other ideas -

bean burritos -

1 lb. ground turkey or beef
1 can (or if you really want to save money 1.5 C cooked...which starts as 1/2 C dry) EACH of pinto, kidney and black beans
1 onion, chopped
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 package taco seasoning (again, to save money use your own seasonings)

Cook onion and ground meat in oil. Add beans and seasoning, cook together just to get everything mixed and warm. Delicious and easy burrito filling.


I also posted a chimichanga recipe in the fav recipe thread, it's very cheap if you just use 1 piece of cheap chicken meat (like a bone-in breasts or a couple thighs) then pick out the bones once it's cooked.


Making a roast (pot roast or whole chicken or turkey) and then using the leftover meat in recipes can be really frugal. I cook a whole chicken and serve it with lots of sides so we don't use too much meat on the first night. Then I pick all the meat off and shred/chop, then freeze in 1-2 C portions. Then take the bones and leftover skin and put in the crock pot with water and some seasonings and veggies, also a little ACV to get all those minerals out of the bones. Let it cook for at least 24 hours on low. Then strain into a bowl and cool in the fridge. Throw away bones and veggies, but save and chop up the little bit of meat (there should be about a cup). Skim off the fat. You can use this stock in recipes or make into chicken and rice soup. To make the soup add the meat from the stock back into it, then put in a stock pot and add about 1 C of brown rice. Also add some more seasonings (like bay leaves, sage, thyme, garlic, marjoram). Simmer for about 10-15 minutes then add chopped carrots and celery, then simmer for another 15-25 minutes or so until the rice and veggies are cooked. This is SO good with bread and butter.

With the leftover meat make wraps -

chicken salad wraps (chopped chicken, chopped veggies like olives, bell pepper, onions, etc, lettuce, crutons, a little grated Parmesan and salad dressing of your choice all wrapped up in a tortilla)

asian chicken salad wraps (chopped chicken, chinese fried noodles, green onions, mandarin oranges, sprouts, grated carrots, and sesame dressing. I have a recipe if you're interested)

buffalo wraps (chicken, lettuce, buffalo sauce)

You can also use the meat in soups, tacos, enchiladas, empanadas, casseroles, pita fillings, stir fry etc.


Homemade pizza is really cheap. We like BBQ chicken pizza using leftover shredded chicken.

Breakfast burritos can be pretty cheap too, if you make a lot of potatoes and eggs to increase the filling. 1 lb turkey sausage or ground turkey with seasonings to make breakfast sausage (I have a recipe if you want it), 4-5 potatoes, tossed in oil and paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and peper, then baked. 6 or 7 scrambled eggs. Mix it all together and fill tortillas.

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#11 of 27 Old 10-02-2006, 12:28 PM
 
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When money gets low, I force myself to use ingrediants we have already instead of buying more food. I like mixing new things. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but ususally it's edible. (And that's what counts, right? ) Something I tried lately was using a can of cream of chicken soup as sauce for pasta. It was condensed, so I added some water. Then I threw in some mixed frozen veggies. It was really good. Cream of mushroom works really well too. The same type of soup can be used as sauce for rice or scalloped potatoes.

Sometimes I blend up veggies like carrots, broccoli etc to add to spaghetti sauce. (Good for picky eaters) Changes the taste a bit and makes a thicker sauce. Or add the veggies whole. Sometimes I make pasta sauce with beans/lentils instead of meat.

Biscuits, tortillas, dumplings and pancakes are really simple to make and don't use a lot of ingredients. (I've run out of milk before, and made pancakes and biscuits with water instead, worked fine.) Try adding something extra to them now and then. Example: pancakes taste great with cinnamon and raisins, basil in biscuits or dumplings...

One time I wanted something sweet, but had no eggs etc. Made biscuit dough, added extra sugar to it, rolled it out and sprinkled it with powdered hot chocolate mix (because I didnt' have any cocoa!) Then roll up and cut like cinnimon buns. Turned out really good! Apple crisp can be a really simple/inexpensive dessert, especially when apples are in season.

Soups can be really good from scratch. Add left over meat, rice, carrots, onions, potatoes, pasta, barley, lentils etc. Whatever is around. The longer they simmer, the better they taste.

Hamburger: can be used in many ways, stretched out with bread crumbs, oatmeal, rice, barley, crackers etc. They can be formed into meatballs, then make a sauce with flour/water/salt/pepper or maple syrop or onion soup mix or beef bouillon. Tastes great with mashed potatoes, veggies on the side.

Another good meal is crumbled cooked hamburger, mixed with rice and veggies (like a stir fry) and beef seasoning.
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#12 of 27 Old 10-02-2006, 12:47 PM
 
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Oh, pasta sauces! I can't eat red sauce because my Bella is allergic to tomatoes. I've been using a bit of olive oil, salt, & herbs on my pasta.

Rynna, Mama to Bean (8), Boobah (6), Bella (4) and Bear (2)
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#13 of 27 Old 10-02-2006, 12:48 PM
 
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tuna and noodles: egg noodles with a bit of butter or oil and a small can of tuna

we can feed all 4 of us for about $1 with that meal

sometimes we'll throw in some shredded carrots or something if we have them on hand...but we usually don't and we like it just fine without
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#14 of 27 Old 10-02-2006, 01:27 PM
 
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We take brown rice and cook it then brown about a lb of hamburger. make a white sauce (in place of 2 cans of soup) season it with chicken stock and a few herbs the put in the burger and serve over rice.

We love it, hot and filling

We use this recipe as kind of a guide for the seasonings http://extension.missouri.edu/harris..._sauce_mix.htm
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#15 of 27 Old 10-02-2006, 03:17 PM
 
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These are my 3 favorite pasta dishes to make that are almost as simple as opeing a jar of marinara. And they are pretty cheap, too.

Penne Arribiata-drizzle olive oil in a pan over medium heat, roughly chop 1 or 2 garlic cloves and saute garlic until brown and crispy. Scoop out garlic and discard. Add a can of diced tomatoes and a can of crushed tomatoes, 1/2 to 1 tsp of crushed red pepper (depending on how spicy you want), and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, and then simmer for 20 minutes. Boil penne pasta and cook till al dente, drain. Add pasta to sauce and continue to simmer for a couple of minutes. You can sprinkle fresh chopped parsely or grated parmesan cheese on top. Nice and spicy.


Spaghetti alla carbonara-fry a half pound bacon or ham steak cut into 1 each pieces until crispy, drain on a papertowel. While bacon is cooking, bring a pot of water to boil and cook a pound of spaghetti noodles. While all that is going on, grate a cup of fresh parmesan cheese and add 2 eggs, and beat together. When pasta is tender but firm, drain but don't rinse, return to hot pan, and then immediately toss egg/cheese mixture with pasta. The eggs and cheese will cook from the heat of the pan and turn into a rich creamy sauce. Sprinkle bacon over pasta and serve. Very rich and filling, a small amount goes a long way. Serve with a steamed green vegetable or a salad.


Pasta e olio with broccoli-heat a 6 tablespoons of good olive oil and 4 tablespoons of butter (non-dairy margarine works fine) in a small skillet over medium low heat. Saute 2 minced garlic cloves, 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (a couple tablespoons dried), and 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper until garlic is golden brown. Turn off heat. Boil a pound of spaghetti and cook until al dente. Steam a pound of fresh broccoli in the microwave or just add to the pasta in the last few minutes. Drain and toss pasta and broccoli with olive oil mixture. You can serve with parmesan cheese, or toss with some toasted fresh bread crumbs.
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#16 of 27 Old 10-02-2006, 05:28 PM
 
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Here are some of our favorites:
quiche- this is a fairly cheap, super yummy meal- we load it up with seasonal veggies.

split pea and ham soup (do a search here for some great recipes)

"nachos" w/ rice and beans- make brown rice and cook either black or pinto beans (we have a pressure cooker that makes cooking beans really simple, if not, you can soak them and use a crock pot all day). Layer the beans on rice and add salsa, guacamole, lettuce, cheese, etc. It's like nachos w/rice instead of chips.

spinach and lentils- cook an onion and 3 cloves of garlic until onion is clear- add some lentils and water (I think 4 times as much water as lentils) let it cook for about an hour. Cook spinach seperately- add 10 minutes before the rest of the dish is done. Add cumin and salt. Serve over brown rice (tomatoes go really well with this if you have some fresh).

pasta, pasta, pasta!

Chilli.

We eat stir fry at least once a week w/ whatever veggies are in season.

I agree with the pp who said use meat sparingly- it's healthier for you and much cheaper!
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#17 of 27 Old 10-02-2006, 05:48 PM
 
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We often eat pasta with broccoli, olive oil and garlic. No sauce, just the garlicky oil. Just saute the broccoli and crushed or minced garlic in oilive oil while the pasta is cooking ans salt to taste.

Curried lentils are good. Cook red lentils in a can of coconut milk plus enough water to make the full liquid amount needed. Add a spoonfull of curry paste (we like Patak's mild) and salt to taste. Serve over rice or on pasta. I often add a bag of frozen spinach to the lentils.

We eat a lot of stir-fries. 1 regular traditional American serving of meat is enough to feed my whole family of 5 in a stir-fry. Just cut the meat up in little pieces (like maybe 1 chicken breast or a half lb of groundbeef for instance) fry in a little oil. WHen the meat is cooked through, add whatever fresh (or frozen would work, I guess) veggies you have on hand. Add a little soy sauce (and/or oyster sauce ) and salt/pepper to taster and serve over rice.

Speaking of rice, different types of rice make a HUGE difference. No one likes that cheap old store brand tasteless white rice day after day. I get organic Lundberg brown rice through a co-op in 25lb bags. It's DELICIOUS. Sure organic rice costs a little more, but if you cut WAY back on meat (and dairy, which we do not use), you'll end up saving so much, you can afford the tasty rice.

We also use corn tortillas for a lot of things. We are wheat free (Well, I am all the time and the rest of the fam is for family meals b/c ds3 is allergic.) I make tacos out of black beans and brown lentils mixed together. Just use leftover beans that you didn't use for your other recipes (I usually use dried beans. Cook them all, use half for dinner, and either freeze or use up the rest in other recipes.)To make the tacos taste like tacos, just add cumin and chili powder. My mom always used those taco seasoning packets, but I realize now what a wate they are. If you don't like black beans, try pinto. Also homemade chili made w/ pinto beans w/ very little or no meat is very good.
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#18 of 27 Old 10-03-2006, 03:32 PM
 
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Super easy, freezes/reheats well, everyone I know likes it even picky eaters and kids!

Easy pasta bake:

1 pound ground beef
1 can spaghetti sauce
1 box pasta shells, the small ones
1 can no salt corn niblets
1 package of block medium cheddar cheese


Brown the ground beef, drain, add sauce and simmer for a few minutes
Boil pasta shells
In a lasagna pan (9x13 or so), toss the corn, beef/sauce, and pasta....bake at 350 for 15 minutes and then remove and cover with slices of cheddar, bake until cheese is melted and gooey

Makes a huge casserole with plenty of easy to reheat leftovers. You can feed a family of 4-6 for $10!!

You can also make variations.........ground turkey or tofo, add other veggies, etc
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#19 of 27 Old 10-03-2006, 08:08 PM
 
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I like to make split pea soup for a cheap meal. It's just a bag of split peas (less than $1), carrots (less than $1), onion ($.50), water, salt/pepper, and a ham hock ($5 or less). That will feed DH and I for at least 2 meals and we are pretty big eaters. If we have bread and butter with it, it comes out to something like $2.20 per person per meal (I did the calculation one time).

The only problem is the stinkiness afterwards.

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#20 of 27 Old 10-03-2006, 08:11 PM
 
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Garlic toast dipped in or put on, spaghetti sauce with or with out hamburger.
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#21 of 27 Old 10-04-2006, 07:48 AM
 
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my favorite pastas are ww pasta, veggies, cheese. my faves are brocoli, sauteed onions, and gruyere chhese. or kale, garlic, cannelli beans, and parm. or bacon, winter squash, onions, and mushrooms. or cauliflower, bread crumbs, gruyere, and a dash of mustard. or asparagus, parm, and bread crumbs. or potatoes, onions, and fontina. yum. i toss the stuff with pasta (after cooking the veggies) - if it's too dry i add a splash of olive oil.
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#22 of 27 Old 10-06-2006, 11:09 AM
 
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Do you have a Trader Joe's nearby? I had one of their samples a few months ago and have added it to my lineup of dishes... It costs less than $7 for a HUGE amount of food!

Rotini pasta is what they used, but you can use anything (16oz bag)
1 jar of their roasted vegetable bruschetta
1 can of artichoke hearts, drained and cut up
1 pkg of feta cheese with mediterranean herbs

Cook the pasta and mix all the ingredients - it's that easy! It's great warm for dinner and then cool for pasta salad over the next few days...
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#23 of 27 Old 10-06-2006, 11:31 AM
 
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we do pasta with pesto, white beans and tomatoes--either fresh when we have 'em in the garden or homemade sundried from a jar. it's a pretty healthy meal and one we can afford to do organic. another cheap meal is hummus and tabouli--just chick peas, tahini, olive oil, lemon juice and garlic for the hummus and bulgher, parsley, tomato and spices for the tabouli-we make roll-ups on ww tortillas and top 'em with hot sauce, yum! also, we eat lots of soups, tonight we're having roasted butternut and apple soup with homemade multi-grain crutons(using up the stale bread), we definitely eat soup for dinner at least once a week in the fall/winter and for lunch at least twice.

good luck, there are lots of great suggestions in this thread.
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#24 of 27 Old 10-06-2006, 02:44 PM
 
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use lots of lower cost ingredients, and we love them. And if you modify the rice mixture a tiny bit, and double it, you can use it in stuffed peppers too. (I don't use beef in them, and they are good that way too. I'm going to experiment with using different types of beans to replace the meat)

Also, Santa Fe Pasta (think southwest meets rotini)

Becky, partner to Teague, SAHM to Keagan (7yo), Jonah (2yo)
 

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#25 of 27 Old 10-06-2006, 03:59 PM
 
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I think one of the cheapest meal planning ideas I've come across so far is to buy a whole chicken. I got an almost 6 lb organic pastured chicken from my Farmer's Market for $14. I know...it sounds like a lot, but here's what we've had to eat from that one chicken for our family of 3:

Roast Chicken, Squash, and brown rice
Chicken Salad Sandwiches

I took the bones and leftover miscellaneous pieces that you would otherwise throw out and made my own chicken stock and then made:

Chicken and Dumplings (one dinner and one lunch)
Chicken and Rice Soup (leftover chicken and rice from the first meal) for a couple of meals

So...six meals, three people that's $.77 a serving per person for the chicken. The rest of the ingredients were fairly cheap as well (I actually already had them on hand) so I'd say we ate for less than $2/person all from that one chicken. You can do the same thing with any bone-in piece of meat.
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#26 of 27 Old 10-09-2006, 01:21 AM
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#27 of 27 Old 10-09-2006, 05:02 AM
 
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One of my favs are enchiladas. You can make them cheaply or slightly more expensive, but they are not too expensive either way.

Basically what you need are:
-Tortillas (whole wheat is my favorite, but you can use corn or any flour types)
-Beans (if you cook your own whole beans and use them it's much cheaper. But you can used can refried or canned whole if you prefer)
-Enchilada sauce (one can, we use mild. Or to be cheaper, make your own. You can google recipes)
-Cheese (as much or little as you want, if you grate your own cheddar cheese from a larger chunk it's cheaper).

Basically you put a bit of the sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 glass pan. Then, fill each tortilla with beans and cheese, roll up, and place in pan. When they're all in the pan, cover with sauce and sprinkle with cheese. Bake in 375 oven for 20 minutes or so. If you have a bit more $$ to spend, you can replace the beans with meat sauteed with taco seasoning.

We usually have them with brown rice and a veggie.

Other cheap ideas:
-homemade chili and cornbread
-If you can get eggs on sale cheap, quiche with broccoli or spinach and cheese
-pasta tossed with olive oil, garlic, and steamed veggies
-breakfast for dinner (waffles, pancakes, etc)

A big part is to try to get stuff on sale and if you can, use coupons. When you can get fancy stuff cheap, it is a frugal meal.

Happily married to my dh, mama to ds1 (01/2005), ds2 (07/2007)  and dd (07/2009).
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