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#1 of 41 Old 10-05-2011, 11:10 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Eating out is a MAJOR money pit for us. I mean, MAJOR. In the month of August, we spend $2,000 on restaurant food & fast food. Riiiidiculous. We are not movie stars or professional athletes. We cannot afford to be eating that way. The problems are (a) we are extremely busy and on the go a LOT (and this is even after narrowing down our away-from-home activities as much as possible for this school year), and (b) I hate cooking, and I hate cleaning the kitchen even more. All of these things make eating out seem super appealing and eating at home almost impossible. So I'm looking for some good tips on avoiding eating out. Fast, easy, but relatively healthy things I can keep at home for when I feel like eating out, and what to do on nights we aren't HOME at dinner time? I have three kids, so I really don't see myself packing a full dinner that doesn't have to be heated up. What do you super busy people do to stay frugal when it comes to food?
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#2 of 41 Old 10-05-2011, 11:19 AM
 
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My crock pot is our major solution for the lack of time evenings where it seems that a drive through would be a lot quicker.

 

I've also done a substantial snack (so like a sandwich and fruit, or a big handful of trail mix, or granola) in the car on the evenings when we just can't get home first, followed by a more substantial ether easy or already made (crock-pot) meal once we get home.

 

I've also developed a few meals I know I can get on the table quick. Eggs and Bacon is our default "we just don't feel like cooking" evening meal and I try to make sure I have the stuff on hand at all times.

 

We've taught our kids how to make some basic and easy meals themselves. My 5 year old can make eggs in the microwave. My 8 year old can do scrambled eggs on the stove top or pancakes.

 

I haven't been doing it so much lately, but I have made double and triple batches of things when I cook, or make two similar dishes at the same time. Some goes in the fridge for later in the week some goes in the freezer for another week it just depends. I do have to remember to pull it out to thaw, but I don't have to assemble it just cook it.

 

Give yourself permission to serve less than perfect meals. Your goal is to get something relatively filling into bellies that is reasonably healthy. It doesn't have to be a meal that wows.

 

Also there is no reason you should have to do all the cooking and cleaning by yourself. Get the kids involved with both the cooking and cleaning. Have your spouse clean if you cook and vice versa.

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#3 of 41 Old 10-05-2011, 11:27 AM - Thread Starter
 
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These are really good suggestions. Thanks so much! Where do you get your crockpot recipes? I have a cookbook of crockpot recipes, but it's ancient & I've done a couple that turned out not so good.

What you said about the meal not needing to wow hit home. That's a big reason why I don't cook -- I feel like it needs to be a four-star meal every single time, which is silly. I need to change my thinking in regard to that.
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#4 of 41 Old 10-05-2011, 11:49 AM
 
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I was thinking if you eat fast food out for instance don't stress about everything you make at home having to be the most healthiest either - keep some hot dogs in the freezer; fried egg sandwich; grilled cheese; or some "fast cooking" bags of dahl (yummy).  And plan a few meals a week too cook that are more substantial (salmon and brown rice/lentil mix, rotisserie chicken (thats always an easy pick up at store and serve at home)

 

I also agree with the crock pot. Sometimes I have way more energy in the morning, so if I prepare dinner when I have more energy (morning) ... well, lets just say I am SOOOO happy, relieved and excited when I come home and I dont have to think of dinner.

 

I have a couple favourite crock pot recipe; 1) a curried beef stew & 2) beef stragnoff. I am looking to expand my recipes too.

 

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#5 of 41 Old 10-05-2011, 12:01 PM
 
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Oooo... can I get your curried beef stew recipe?  That sounds so good right now (it's getting chilly here).

 

I wish I had some advice for the OP, but I'm in the same boat.  Just starting to meal plan... so far so good.  The big thing we figured out (obvious now that we realized it) is that we make stuff where we can freeze a lot of it.  Meatloaf, stews, etc.

 

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#6 of 41 Old 10-05-2011, 12:02 PM
 
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For the nights we know we won't be home at dinner, we've packed sandwiches w/ snack-y type sides; fruit, nuts, granola, popcorn, etc.

For the nights we're home and I don't have the gumption to cook, we keep frozen pizza from Costco handy. The Kirkland Signature frozen pizza is a box of 4 10" pizzas for $10. We use 2 pizzas to feed our family right now and the ingredient list isn't that bad. Granted, you do need the freezer space to keep a couple boxes of these around.

I like my crockpot, too, especially now that the cooler weather's coming. Some stew meat and a few other ingredients thrown into it in the morning and the meal's pretty much done. Or a roast w/ root veggies, or a whole chicken.

Have you tried doing a day of cooking at the beginning of the month and freezing preportioned meals? I think there's a freezer thread in "M eal Planning".

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#7 of 41 Old 10-05-2011, 12:18 PM
 
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#8 of 41 Old 10-05-2011, 12:19 PM
 
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One thing that helped me immensely was keeping a box of non-melting snacks in the car.  Granola bars, crackers, that kind of thing.  Something to take the edge off so that we weren't tempted to stop for fast food because everyone had to eat NOW!  Rotisserie chickens are $5 at our grocery store.  Chicken, a bagged salad and fruit is much cheaper than a restaurant.  Use the crockpot.  I also used to cook dinner earlier in the day and then reheat it for dinner, or if everyone is home eat your big meal at lunchtime.  For me, a messy kitchen is easier to deal with at 2pm than 6pm, when all I want to do is relax.

 

Our don't feel like cooking meals are tuna sandwiches, grilled cheese and tomato soup, rotisserie chicken, pancakes/eggs, cereal with toast, and take and bake pizza.  When I want restaurant food we try to get pizza on their 1/2 price day or eat Mexican, which is more affordable and tastier than some of our other options.

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#9 of 41 Old 10-05-2011, 01:29 PM
 
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#10 of 41 Old 10-05-2011, 01:38 PM
 
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This is my favorite crock-pot site - http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/

 

I also have a few easy meals.

 

Roast - throw it in the crockpot with some store bought seasoning and put it on low. Add a salad and you have dinner. Plan to throw the leftovers in hot beef sandwiches, french dips, quesadillas, sandwiches, etc. It's already cooked and you now have two or more meals mostly done.

 

Chili - I throw dried beans in, some ground beef, some seasoning and put on low. We just serve ours with crackers. We do chili dogs with the leftovers.

 

Stew - Throw some root veggies and whatever meat you have on hand in and cook on low. Pick up some bakery bread on your weekly shopping trip to go with. I usually pre portion the left overs and throw it in the freezers for lunches.

 

Most soup recipes work great in the crock pot. Just wait to add cheese or dairy products until you get home.

 

Beans and Rice - Dried beans (soaked or not) and seasonings of your choice, a can of tomatoes and then add rice when you get home (a rice cooker can even have the rice ready for you).

 

 

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.

 

I haven't tried it yet but the site also has a homemade corn bread mix that would go fantastic with some crock pot chili.

 

 

One other big help is meal planning and a weekly grocery trip. That way I'm not having to come up with a meal last minute with little time. I also know that I have everything I need and a trip to the store isn't necessary. I don't plan what we will eat every day. I just make a list of 6 meals (day 7 is going out or leftovers), and we choose whatever one sounds good that night. I do think about the week and perhaps know that Monday is Scouts and Tuesday is Mandarin lessons so I need at least two crock pot or quick meals in the rotation. So this weeks menu is:

Tacos
Ham and Potato Soup (in crock pot), with bakery bread
Roast (in crock pot), with potatoes and carrots
Steak with instant potatoes and frozen veggies
pork loin (made on Sunday when I have more time)
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#11 of 41 Old 10-06-2011, 04:42 AM
 
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Ill get back to you on this! Im just trying to remember in which recipe book I found it! - Its been a few season since we cooked it.

 

 

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Originally Posted by AnkaJones View Post
 

Oooo... can I get your curried beef stew recipe?  That sounds so good right now (it's getting chilly here).

 

I wish I had some advice for the OP, but I'm in the same boat.  Just starting to meal plan... so far so good.  The big thing we figured out (obvious now that we realized it) is that we make stuff where we can freeze a lot of it.  Meatloaf, stews, etc.

 

Anka



 


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#12 of 41 Old 10-06-2011, 06:05 AM
 
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Originally Posted by JollyGG View Post

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.

 

Great Site!

 

 

We used to eat out all the time until I started freezer cooking. My goal is that everything needs to be cooked or reheated in under 30 minutes to prevent the let's just go get something habit. I cook most of the meals once a week and double up the easy ones like chili and pasta sauce.

My favorites are pulled pork in the crock pot and tacos. Pulled pork is super easy, throw in the crock pot, shred, throw some bbq sauce over and serve on buns or quesadillas...mmm  For taco night we keep seasoned beef or chicken in the freezer and almost always have cheese and lettuce so all we need to do is pick up some tortillas or tortillas chips for tacos/taco salad. Before I got in the habit of cooking I'd buy the preseasoned, cut up chicken at the grocery which is still cheaper than going out.

 

I don't aim to be Martha Stewart, my goal is to get good, but easy food on the table. I don't need to garnish my foods with parsley or use 20 ingredients. This was a problem for me early on. I'd see pictures of all those great meals on food blogs, but I don't have the time or desire to put that much work into dinner. This lead to me being discouraged and us going out to eat. Now I focus on the food being yummy, but not usually fancy. I like one pot meals and if I'm just cooking a meat then the sides are something easy like frozen veg, salad or something that cooks super fast like zucchini. 


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#13 of 41 Old 10-06-2011, 06:24 AM
 
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I would say that is a lot even if you are eating out every day,  If you really don't want to cook at least eat at cheaper places.

 

Some things to keep on hand to make dinner easy and mess free (i totally understand.)

 

bagged salad

canned fruit and veggies, frozen veggies

lunch meat and other sandwich fixins  

instant potatoes and if you want it gravy in a jar (year it is made from goodness knows what bu it is nothing worse than what you are eating in a restaurant)

frozen lasagna (it still takes an hour to cook but at least it is not a mess)

pasta and sauce in a jar.

frozen pizza.

brenner:  have breakfast for dinner.  a bowl of oatmeal, scrambled eggs, precooked sausage or bacon, and toast.

roast - these are so easy.  just add a salad and canned fruit

potatoes for baking\

raw veggies that taste good with dip (I buy mine already washed, cut and ready) and fruit that needs no help.

 

I am not in love with  my crock pot but it is good for a roast and  cooking cheaper chicken parts.  cream of soup ( i know) and meat makes an easy meal.  add some rice or noodles.  carrot sticks.  done and done.

 

cooking on the grill is great because you can get away with without dishes.  hamburgers and carrot sticks.  grilled chicken breast with a salad, roll and apple slices.  pork chops, frozen veggies and instant mashed potatoes (get the plain ones.  the flavored ones have all kinds of junk.  you can add stuff in - sour cream, cheese, bacon- without making a mess and without all the junk.).

rotisserie chicken.  Its cheaper than buying a raw chicken.  you can easily make a cassarole, chicken salad, soup, whatever.  You can even bone it and put the meat in the freezer for when you need it.

 

if I know we are going to be out when we need to eat, I pack a sandwich, piece of fruit and some carrot sticks.  We are big on raw fruit and veg.  why cook them when you don't have to?

 

If you are eating out every day this is going to be an adjustment.  fell free to take it slow.  Maybe try to hit at least 3 or 4 meals at home a week and try to grab lunch to avoid fast food (this will also avoid the fights about what place to stop at and the irritating "could you please just pick what you want its not like you have never been to burger king"freak out at the order window....maybe that is just my family....) once you have adjusted to that add another night of home cooking.  another thing that might help as you transition is to use paper plates.  It is a few less dishes to wash and you won't be wasting any more than you did eating out.  also i might make most of the meal and pick up one thing.  For example, got a roast in the pot but don't have enough time to bake potatoes...stop and wendy's grab potatoes.  have the rest of the meal but want a fun salad.  swing into the grocery stores deli for something good.

 


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#14 of 41 Old 10-06-2011, 09:47 AM
 
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I think a big, HUGE part of the problem is planning.  Because I have SO been where you are (my husband did all of the cooking in my house for 8 years because I hated it so much). We are crazy on-the-go people, too, and we're not stopping; but yeah--we so can't afford to eat out.  Plus, we super pay the price in reactions to multiple food intolerances unless we're eating at places that just increase the cost to eat around them.  For us, it was just taking an extra 15 minutes to really think about how we were going to eat, when, what, etc.  Once you get through it a few times, it gets easier... you start going to the supermarket and looking at things differently.

 

We're also big on freezer cooking.  I used to take a weekend and cook a month of dinners at once (before my 8-year hiatus redface.gif), but now I'm just doing the double/triple batching.  There's no reason you couldn't take a Saturday and make a week or two of dinners.  Even if you just made a few "emergency" stashes.  The Prevention's Freezer Cookbook: Great Dishes You Can Cook & Freeze cookbook is half stuff cooked ahead and you just thaw it to eat, and half stuff that you make part of a meal and pull the ingredients together quick.  Love it.

 

Agreeing that car-durable snacks are a huge factor.  I also do substantial (or multiple) snacks to hold us to a real meal.  I also pretty much only use Arborio rice now because it doesn't have to be soaked.

 

I'm not sure I can add anything to the loads of great info here.  Oh--maybe my "anything green & leafy" recipe for really fast greens if you have fresh ones.  Wash & cut them up while you heat some olive oil in a large pot that has a lid.  Throw some minced garlic in the oil (I buy it packed in water pretty cheap and keep it in the fridge).  When the garlic is sizzling, throw in your greens, use a tong or something to coat them with the oil and garlic, cover them, and let them cook for a total of about 5 minutes.  They'll wilt.  You can take them off the heat and let them sit for a bit while other stuff cooks, too.  They're very resilient.  I use this for chard, kale, collards, bok choy... if it's green and subject to wilting--this is what I do.  I used to do pine nuts in there, too--but they're crazy expensive now.


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#15 of 41 Old 10-06-2011, 01:09 PM
 
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All of these are really great ideas, especially crock pot meals and planning ahead.  Something that hasnt been mentioned that might be middle ground or a solution for some nights is finding a make-ahead place and spending some time there preparing meals to put in your freezer/fridge.  This would be an alternative to eating out and you could have ready-made meals at home without paying for drinks, tip, etc.  Plus it might give you some cooking ideas/help for home too.  Around here we have Dream Dinners (www.dreamdinners.com) but there is also Super Suppers and Dinner My Way and probably others. 

 

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#16 of 41 Old 10-06-2011, 04:50 PM
 
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4 kids and several sports teams means we are on the go non stop it feels like. The crock pot is my best friend and the only reason why our eating out bill isn't like your's! I spend an hour on Friday nights going through my nest week's schedule, meals, and what is in my pantry. I make a list of certain meals on nights that they work best and go shopping the next day for what I need. I have to plan ahead of everything it seems. Tonight was chicken chow mein from the crockpot but by the time we would get in, the kids wouldn't be able to wait for me to cook noodles so I served it on rice that I cooked a double batch of the other night when I made it for another meal. It is the little things like that I have to plan ahead for or else we'd be tempted to swing through a drive through. I feed them hearty snacks after school and they often have a luna bar or half in the car coming home as another snack. I plan for 6 nights a week of meals and the 7th night is often pizza. 


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#17 of 41 Old 10-06-2011, 09:39 PM
 
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My favourite easy, not-takeout-but-not-a-"proper"-meal meal is ravioli or tortellini. Keep a packet in the freezer, keep a jar of sauce in the pantry. Grated cheese is all you need if you really can't be bothered, but it's easy to cut up a carrot while the water's boiling and steam it. Or throw some frozen peas into the sauce a few minutes before the pasta's done. The ravioli has meat and/or veggies in the stuffing, so it feels more like a "real" meal than just spaghetti and sauce. Also, I love it. Carby comfort food. :)

 

Also, remember that "takeout" from the supermarket is usually cheaper, healthier AND nicer than real takeout - where I live, anyway! Today our family was out of town for a talent show. It went over lunch, so DH said "meh, let's just get Subway". But I thought, for the price of three subs, we could probably get a bunch of yummy supermarket stuff. So I got some biersticks, chippies, sour cream, crackers, two kinds of fancy cheese, and a little pouch of marinated herby olives. And we had ourselves a picnic. Probably saved us a ton of additives and sugar in the Subway dressings, too.

 

So, could you train yourself into getting "fake" takeout instead? A rotisserie chicken instead of KFC? Crusty bread, pesto and shredded chicken instead of a pizza? A frozen pizza or pie, if you have time to cook it?

 

Also, depending on kids and bedtimes this might not work, but could you eat later some nights? Chuck the kids a hard-boiled egg or some nuts to eat in the car and have dinner later, at 8 or so, from the crockpot? We eat pretty late most nights... but then we have a kind of weird schedule. Probably wouldn't work for, you know, sane people. :p

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#18 of 41 Old 10-07-2011, 01:53 PM
 
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$2000 a month is $64 a day.  Plus the time costs of going out and waiting for food to be served.  Almost anything you can do differently will save you money here.  You could hire a high schooler with culinary ambitions to be your part-time private chef:  meal planning, shopping, making things ahead, cooking on nights you are home, cleaning up.  Or hire a grandma with time on her hands and not enough in her Social Security check.  Buying eight or ten hours a week of someone else's labor for cooking might actually be worth it for you.  I'm just suggesting it because you said that you really, really hate to cook and clean up.

 

 

 

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#19 of 41 Old 10-07-2011, 02:26 PM
 
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All are great ideas.  Even if you just start with baby steps.  I make ground beef crumbles in 6-10 pound batches and then freeze them in one pound containers.  Sloppy jos, tacos, chili, meat sauce, burritos, etc can be whipped up so much faster if the ground beef is already cooked.  I make double batches of mac and cheese and freeze one.  We might have chili one night and baked potatoes the next, then next week we will have chili on baked potatoes.  Love rotisserie chicken from Sam's or Costco.  Only $5 for a whole chicken.  Can be shredded and thrown in a bagged salad for a great chicken salad that my pickiest kid will eat with some almonds and craisins.  And we only eat half a chicken when shredded unlike when we eat it as parts.  So then we can have chicken tacos.

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#20 of 41 Old 10-07-2011, 11:05 PM
 
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I hardly ever used my crock pot because I never liked the consistency of things that came out of it. They always seemed like 'mush' and everything tasted the same. I got a countertop electric pressure cooker and I am SO in love. I moved somewhere that we have no options for eating out, so I had to start cooking more. I now can't imagine not cooking all the time and usually take lunches even when we go somewhere for the day.

 

Today, I put some already chopped steak bits ($2.30 3/4 lb), 1 lb bag of dry beans ($.99), big can of crushed tomatoes ($.99), some chili powder, garlic, spices, little cornstarch, and set it for 35 mins. Pulled a loaf of bread from the freezer and thawed in microwave, and we had two meals worth of chili/bread.

 

Not the healthiest, but better than takeout--I make orange chicken 'takeout'--white rice in the pressure cooker takes 3 mins. Bake white meat chicken nuggets, then cut in half and toss with bottled orange sauce, put on the rice and sprinkle with sesame seeds. (All stuff from Costco--nuggets $12/3 lbs, sauce $7, sesame seeds $5 rice ??--basically enough for 2-3 meals for less than one time of takeout.)

 

The pressure cooker is like an 'instant' crock pot, and I use mine every single day.


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#21 of 41 Old 10-08-2011, 02:02 PM
 
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Best idea ever !!!!  I should hire a stay at home mom to cook for me a couple of nights a week.  She could just double whatever she was cooking for her family.   It might be a wash budget wise but at least we would have real food.  I would have done this in a heartbeat when I was a SAHM.  
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Vaske View Post

$2000 a month is $64 a day.  Plus the time costs of going out and waiting for food to be served.  Almost anything you can do differently will save you money here.  You could hire a high schooler with culinary ambitions to be your part-time private chef:  meal planning, shopping, making things ahead, cooking on nights you are home, cleaning up.  Or hire a grandma with time on her hands and not enough in her Social Security check.  Buying eight or ten hours a week of someone else's labor for cooking might actually be worth it for you.  I'm just suggesting it because you said that you really, really hate to cook and clean up.

 

 

 



 


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#22 of 41 Old 10-08-2011, 05:55 PM
 
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Or read "Fly Lady's Sink Reflections" ....it's all about getting organized and changing your attitude, so you're not worrying about perfection and you're not dreading the task- you're thankful that you've had the means neccessary to dirty said dishes and accept that there's clean-up and move on.

 

 


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#23 of 41 Old 10-08-2011, 11:23 PM
 
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Don't forget to just give yourself permission to use paper plates, etc.  At times when my life gets super busy, they rescue me from the cleanup chores.  IF you don't have a dishwasher, installing one would almost certainly cost less per month than $2000!  I used to keep a  list of easy dinners posted in my kitchen.  Things like:  breakfast burritos, scrambled eggs with sausage and toast, grilled cheese sandwiches with a salad or a bowl of soup.  Baked ziti made with a jar of sauce and shredded cheese.  Quesadillas with soup or a salad.  There are many decent frozen vegetables available.  I generally keep them in my freezer.  I recently discovered that Trader Joe's has a frozen multigrain vegetable lasagna that both of my kids liked and I can heat it up in the microwave in 20 minutes.  The lasagna was, I think, around $6.  Not so bad for a meal for the 3 of us.  My kids are vegetarian, so your go-to rmeals will vary.  For myself, I always keep whole wheat wraps around, bags of shredded cheese, purchased already cooked chicken(I eat it for lunch), eggs, etc.  I also keep some of the bottled sauces around. Tonight I sauteed a couple of onions, threw in some cubed tofu and already cooked broccoli, and added some purchased sauce that had terriyaki and pineapple and other seasonings.  Then I cooked some quinoa.  It was pretty good.  I would have liked it so much more with chicken, so you could try that.  Could easily change that to a tomato based sauce, ground beef, whatever vegetables you have and serve it over pasta.  Or the exact same thing with purchased chicken gravy and chicken and vegetables over egg noodles.  Premade sauces are the best.  Hey, there is a reason for the thousands of recipes made with canned soup!!!  Speaking of soup, the exact same base of sauteed vegies with some canned tomatoes and purchased stock and herbs make a one pot soup meal .  I try to be careful with my diet and not eat too much salt, so I am cautious with only using this kind of thing once a week or so.  But if you are eating out that much, you would almost certainly be eating better this way.  You can create a meal with only a couple of pots to clean up if you use paper plates.  Slowly you might work your way up to real dishes after you get a dishwasher installed!

 

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#24 of 41 Old 10-09-2011, 12:53 PM
 
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Originally Posted by becoming View Post

 Fast, easy, but relatively healthy things I can keep at home for when I feel like eating out, and what to do on nights we aren't HOME at dinner time? I have three kids, so I really don't see myself packing a full dinner that doesn't have to be heated up. What do you super busy people do to stay frugal when it comes to food?


We have a couple of baked chicken recipes that translate nicely to the crock pot. You won't get the oven carmelization and crunch, but you also won't wait an hour for supper.

 

We use a basic bread recipe that has seriously changed our lives. We keep the dough in the fridge and throw a small loaf in the oven every other day or so. We also use the dough (with more flour) to make small pizza crusts; pre-bake em and freeze the crusts: add some pasta sauce (1/2 cup or so), some pepperoni, ham, veggies, cream cheese cubes (don't knock it 'til you try it!), cheese on top, bake until the cheese is brown like you like it. If I start it as soon as I'm in the door, I can settle down the kids while it cooks.

 

Really, though, the number 1 and number 2 things you should do are, in order: Meal Plan (it seems like such a waste of time until you try it, seriously!); and pre-make meals (aka, feed the freezer) (make anything you want, cook it until it's ALMOST done, then heat it up and it tastes like fresh-made).
 

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Originally Posted by FillingMyQuiver View Post

Have you tried doing a day of cooking at the beginning of the month and freezing preportioned meals? I think there's a freezer thread in "Meal Planning".


Yes, there is. http://www.mothering.com/community/f/314/meal-planning

The forum also has cheap 'n' easy crock pot recipes, learning to meal plan, etc. It's a great forum for both beginners and extra ideas.

 

BTW, everyone who suggested the rotisserie chickens, I totally second that. Sometimes I have DH bake a whole chicken or turkey on the weekends and I shred it up immediately for easy meat, lunches, etc. Doing a little extra when you have time makes the busy days less hectic.

 

Good luck!


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#25 of 41 Old 10-09-2011, 03:09 PM
 
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Have you checked out what the delis at your grocery stores have "ready to eat"?  These days they have a lot more than just pizza and fried chicken.  I love to cook, so I cannot vouch for their quality because I've never tried them, but there is a LOT offered.  My sister almost EXCLUSIVELY eats these foods when she eats at home (she eats out a lot, though, and mostly fast food).    These stores (Whole Foods, Trader Joes, Costco, mainstream grocery) sell everything from soups to sandwiches, olive bar goodies, wraps, mains, sides, and even whole meals that just have to be unwrapped and microwaved, but someone cooked them from scratch.  They appear to be much healthier than fast food, at least, which it sounds like you eat regularly.   You could start off by substituting the fast food with these healthier ready-to-eat, that would be a step in the right direction.  Buying pre-cut vegetables to reduce prep work would also save your some time an money instead of eating out.  The delis and fresh produce areas have just about any vegetable and fruit already cut and ready to be eaten raw or used in your recipes.

 

I don't think anyone could quickly go from what you are doing to eating exclusively from scratch at home.  Make some realistic goals and start small.  Great ideas here from others, but know that doing it a little at a time and adjusting is probably more realistic than taking that dining out bill down to 0$.

 

Eventually, I think that if you can do some meal planning and prep work, as others have mentioned, that is THE key to not eating out.  We have one planned meal out per week and the meal planning for the other 20 meals really helps us keep to that once-a-week dining out. Good luck!

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#26 of 41 Old 10-09-2011, 06:03 PM
 
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Something that is easy to tote along and has a decent shelf life are boiled eggs.  I try to keep some on hand at all times.  Having a fun insulated lunch box and ice packs makes taking a lunch so much more fun.


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#27 of 41 Old 10-09-2011, 07:46 PM - Thread Starter
 
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These are all SUCH great suggestions. I have seriously made a notebook page full of ideas. Now I'm excited to do better with this smile.gif Keep the advice coming! You guys are awesome!
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#28 of 41 Old 10-10-2011, 06:45 AM
 
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You could hire someone for $15 an hour for 15 hours a week to do your meal planning and shopping and prep/cleanup and still come out ahead financially - that would be less than $1000 a month. If you are comfortable having someone in your house when you are not home they could come in, meal plan for the week, do your grocery shopping and spend a couple of hours a day baking, cooking, freezing meals and baked goods and cleaning up and you would be all set. If you provide a weekly calendar of which nights you will be on the run this person could have sandwiches, homemade pizza, etc ready for you to 'take out' from home without all of the preservatives and cost of restaurant food. Use some of the savings to invest in some tupperware and reusable lunch bags, water bottles, etc and you will be all set.

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#29 of 41 Old 10-10-2011, 11:57 AM
 
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You've gotten so many great ideas. Meal planning has changed my budget so much. For the nights I know we won't be home until later I plan super simple meals like quesadillas, or pasta with red sauce or tossed with basil and oil. A rotisserie chicken from a grocery store goes a long way, as does a large frozen lasagna.

 

I normally wouldn't suggest this as a cost-effective measure, but since you are spending money out, I think it's perfectly reasonable to purchase convenience items like pre-shredded cheese, pre-cooked chicken chunks, etc.

 

Another trick is to wash produce or slice things up as soon as you get home from the grocery store. I've had things go bad because I felt like I didn't have the time to wash or slice them for the meal. For instance, I'm much more apt to make a big salad if the lettuce is already washed.

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#30 of 41 Old 10-10-2011, 02:26 PM
 
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You've gotten a lot of great suggestions.  I *know* you know how to meal plan- I remember all of your posts from years ago in the meal planning forum  ;)  But OTOH, I totally understand how easy it is to get out of the habit, and when you try again it seems overwhelming. 

 

I also want to reiterate the idea of having your kids help with dinner.  My kids make a huge mess when they cook, so they don't make dinner terribly often, but they do help to clean up.  Your kids are old enough to have clean up jobs.  It's worked well for me to make a rotating schedule of 4 different jobs

1) clean off/wipe off the table, counters and stove

2) wash dishes

3) dry and put away dishes

4) sweep and vacuum floor

 

On the nights we're crunched for time I try to modify jobs if need be, but I've found it's not a good precident to allow the kids to do nothing, because they tend to get whiney and complacent.


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