We are also a very busy (by choice) family. Here are some of our stand-bys:
* Crockpot baked potatoes - We talked about these in meal planning. Wash and dry potatoes well, wrap in foil, place in crockpot, NO water. Cook on low 8 hrs. or on high & they'll be done in 3-4 hrs. Top with sour cream, cheese, green onions, canned chili, whatever.
* Tostadas - Open and heat a can of black beans. Put on top of tostada shells with toppings of your choice - sour cream, cheese, salsa, lettuce, etc. We have this probably once a week.
* Crockpot chicken - Put chicken pieces in crockpot, dump on BBQ sauce. Cook. Cooking time depends on your crockpot. I don't time too closely because I am home to check on it. I have never had BBQ sauce burn in the crockpot, but watch it the first time if the sugar content is high.
* Spaghetti and sauce - Cook a box of pasta and dump a heated jar of sauce over. Parmesan cheese optional. Serve with salad. I always have this in the house. For a homemade, almost-as-easy version of sauce: Open a lg. can of chopped or crushed tomatoes and put in a pot. Throw in a peeled whole onion. Simmer for 10-15 min. or so. Finish with salt, pepper, and a pat of butter. Really yummy.
* We tried frozen pizza and weren't really fans, so now I buy french bread rolls or pitas and top with pizza sauce and shredded mozzarella. Place under broiler until cheese melts or bake in oven until cheese melts. Other toppings optional - olives, artichoke hearts, etc. Takes about the same amount of time when I buy cans of pizza sauce and pre-shredded cheese.
* Does your family eat Indian food? There are jars of Indian sauces available for around $3 or so. Makes an easy meal. I saute some tofu and vegetables and simmer with the sauce. I'm not too concerned about authenticity, so I use butter chicken sauce on tofu, etc. You could also do an easy meat like chicken tenders - takes just a few minutes to saute those. Serve over rice (I make mine in a rice cooker, so again, super easy). The thing I noticed about most brands of the prepared Indian sauces and spice mixes is that they are natural with no weird franken-ingredients. Yummy and takeout-like.
Mom "D" to DD1 "Z" (15) and DD2 "I" (12) DH "M"
Another thing that I think about when we do eat out or get take out is, can I make it at home, & can I make it cheaper. So we tend to only get the meals that I don't make at home like, sushi or chinese food!
WOOHOO!!! That is an awesome improvement!
The truest answer to violence is love. The truest answer to death is life. The only prevention for violence is for the heart to have no violence within it. We cannot prevent evil through any system devised by mankind. But we can grapple with evil and defeat it, but only with love—real love.
thank you for posting this, pretty much all of our extra money goes to eating out because i hate cooking and cleaning the kitchen. this thread was just what i needed (including the hamburger helper recipes LOL loved that junk as a kid!)
Another thing I did for quick and easy meals is make up a bunch of homemade Hamberger Helper style meals from this website - http://chickensintheroad.com/cooking/homemade-hamburger-helper/. It probably took me an hour one Sunday morning to put 8 of them together and now I can just grab one out of the freezer. I make it with dried milk in the mix and the cheese already portioned out and with it, then keep it all in the freezer so I don't have to remember anything for the meal except the ground beef. I've even though of browning a giant pot of ground beef and putting that in the freezer with my packages of noodles, seasonings, and cheese, then all I would have to do is throw it on the stove top and simmer for 20 minutes. Haven't tried that just yet.
my mom loves hamburger helper, i dont, lol. we might have to try this
I've never eaten the boxed HH before but that recipe seriously rocks! Easy, and my kids and DH loved it. One of the versions is now in our weekly rotation. Thanks to the person who posted that link!
I think you've gotten some great suggestions. I also love the crockpot and you CAN use non crockpot recipes in it. And it's great for just reheating and keeping warm. So if you made a soup, keep it in there so it's ready when you are. Or, as a baby step, start buying deli items instead of eating out, and do the final prep at home.
I also wanted to add how planning will help you so. very. much. If you are busy, you need it even more. And if you do enjoy eating out and can afford to some, work that into your menu plan. Especially as you get started so you don't get overwhelmed. Take a very busy day and plan a restaurant meal. I think that will really help you on those days you are bugged by the dishes. You can tell yourself, "tomorrow we're going to xxxx!"
Also, I don't know your kids ages, but get them to help. Little kids can unload dishes, load dishes, set and clear tables. Big kids can do these same things plus wash and do some cooking. I know you are busy, but I feel like lots of kids are so busy with their structured activities and homework, they don't learn these basics. It won't happen overnight, but start teaching them. Very soon it will pay of for ALL of you.
Prepping ahead of time is a huge help for me. When I can carve out a little time, I chop veggies for whatever meals I have coming up in the next few days. I always make double the grain so I have extra on hand for lunches or another meal. I keep cooked beans ready to go, as well as hard boiled eggs and egg muffins (Google recipes, it's basically scrambled eggs with whatever you want to throw in, cooked in a muffin tin for a quick snack or breakfast.). Double the pancakes and freeze the extra. Same with muffins or waffles.
I make my menu plan around using leftovers and that saves time too.
I have some non-perishable snacks in the van at all times. We pack food a lot so we aren't tempted to stop anywhere.
When we first decided we needed to cut back on dining out, we chose a day of the week and that was eating out day. The kids could see it on the schedule and we all looked forward to it (and honestly enjoyed it a lot more than usual). Now we eat out maybe twice a month, and a lot of the time when we do I end up annoyed that I could have made what we just spent a lot of money on! lol
DS: 18 DD: 15 DD: 8 11/10 4/11
DD: 3 8/11