When you don't feel like cooking - saving $$ - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 33 Old 04-29-2008, 07:49 AM - Thread Starter
 
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So, what do you do to prepare in advance in case you don't feel like cooking, but don't want to eat out? Is there any other way to prepare other than having casseroles in the freezer? I'd like to hear your ideas to save money when you don't want to cook, but want to save money from eating out.

I guess my best idea, that gets old very quickly, is to keep chopped romaine lettuce and veggies in the fridge for salads and do a huge salad. I also cook a large batch of rice at the beginning of the week, keep it in the fridge, and we eat on the rice throughout the week.

Other ideas?
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#2 of 33 Old 04-29-2008, 07:59 AM
 
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I always keep tortillas on hand to make fajitas or tacos (you could mix them with your salad fixings.)

Other things - with the rice, some veggies, a meat or not, an egg or 2 - you could make fried rice.

make pizza dough and keep in the freezer (if you have room to freeze it flat you just have to top it and cook.)
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#3 of 33 Old 04-29-2008, 08:00 AM
 
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I always have pancakes, breaded chicken cutlets, and meatballs in the freezer for those nights I want something easy. I usually have some kind of soup in the freezer. I also do the big rice cook at the beginning of the week, some for the fridge and some for the freezer. If I do make lasagna or baked ziti I always make 2 so I have one in the freezer.

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#4 of 33 Old 04-29-2008, 08:11 AM
 
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French bread pizza is a great go to meal. Smear some sauce on bread, throw down some cheese and toppings and your done. It always makes enough for leftover the next day and it's cheap. (I only buy the bread on clearance and then keep it in the freezer until I am ready for it.)

I also buy those big old family packs of chicken breasts on sale. I cook about half of them and then freeze them. Then you just pull them out the night before and throw them into pasta, rice, quesadillas, sandwiches etc.

Jenny, proud maker of red things
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#5 of 33 Old 04-29-2008, 08:13 AM
 
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My super easy go-to dinner:

Don't cook, have DH grill on the BBQ

I always love using my crock pot too. Put it together in the morning and forget about it. No after-dinner cleaning (besides the dishes) and no stress of what to make. LOVE it.

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#6 of 33 Old 04-29-2008, 08:25 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Great ideas... keep 'em coming!
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#7 of 33 Old 04-29-2008, 09:39 AM
 
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Quesadillas
Scrambled eggs and toast
Frozen soup
Chicken pot pies (yes, not good for you, but yes, very tasty )
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#8 of 33 Old 04-29-2008, 09:57 AM
 
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It's not as cheap as pure homemade, but it beats eating out -- we sometimes keep a few of Trader Joe's frozen meals on hand. They are reasonably priced and take little or no real prep, and I assume they are way better for you than takeout.

Baking mama to dd (7.5), ds (6), ds (3.5) and someone new in April
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#9 of 33 Old 04-29-2008, 09:58 AM
 
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We do leftovers in a tortilla and grill them till hot and crispy. We always have beans, rice and cheese on hand, so that plus whatever odds and ends in the fridge is our go-to meal when we are wiped out.

Frugal, food growing mama to my four loves

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#10 of 33 Old 04-29-2008, 10:04 AM
 
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Menu plan! If you know what you're eating and can prepare ahead of time (day before or in the morning in the crockpot) it makes it alot easier when you're beat at the end of the day.
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#11 of 33 Old 04-29-2008, 10:15 AM
 
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We just do something simple like grilled cheese or eggs and toast. I also keep fixings for bean burritos on hand in the pantry and freezer for a quick meal. It isn't really "not cooking" but in between. DH sometimes eats hot dogs but that's not a very MDC-friendly suggestion

I always have bricks of cheese on hand, as well as eggs, milk, homemade sourdough bread, homemade yogurt, frozen berries, etc. I can usually make quick meals out of those in a pinch. Another idea is to par-bake pizza crusts and freeze them along with some grated cheese and chopped veggies.
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#12 of 33 Old 04-29-2008, 10:28 AM
 
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For lunch one day this last weekend we had grapes, strawberries, apples and cheese w/ a few store bought croissants. We loved it. :
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#13 of 33 Old 04-29-2008, 10:31 AM
 
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I try to keep homemade things in the freezer, and use them on days when I'm beat, etc. Lasagna, soups, etc. "Breakfast for dinner" works too--eggs, pancakes, etc.

Other options (some not as healthy!) include:
frozen pizza, spaghetti and jarred sauce, or frozen ravioli and jarred sauce, grilled cheese (or deli ham and cheese) and canned soup, or burritos or nachos (canned refried beans, cheese, salsa)
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#14 of 33 Old 04-29-2008, 10:40 AM
 
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First line of eating out defense:

-Reheating frozen soups/lentils and some frozen naan or pita.

Second line of defense:

-Breakfast for dinner- eggs, cereals, pancakes.

Third line:

Tortillas, cheese, veggies and whatever cooked meat can be turned into dinner with a can of refried beans.

Fourth line:

Use leftover rice to make fried rice.

Last ditch effort before heading out of the house:

The small stash I have of Trader Joe's prepared meals in the bottom of the garage freezer.

Katie, mama to one big boy (6/03) and one little boy (12/08).
It is never the wrong time to do the right thing.
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#15 of 33 Old 04-29-2008, 10:41 AM
 
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I always have homemade spaghetti sauce in the fridge...add some pasta, and boom.

Also, baked potatoes with whatever happens to be around (leftover chili, broccoli and shredded cheddar, aforementioned spag. sauce with mozz, even leftover crock pot roast).
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#16 of 33 Old 04-29-2008, 10:45 AM
 
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I try to keep homemade meatballs in the freezer for a fast spaghetti or meatball sub. If you have something to use as a base (English Muffins, breads, etc.) then you could make a fast pizza with whatever else you have on hand. We have also been known to have cereal. :

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#17 of 33 Old 04-29-2008, 11:34 AM
 
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Well someone else said menu plan, and I cannot say how much this is saving my sanity, but in the case that something were to put a glitch in the plan I have my emergency stash of ideas.

I almost always have pre-cooked chicken breasts in the freezer, I make them and then freeze them for an easy go-to base for multiple suppers. Ouesadillas, chicken caeser, pot pie, paninis. It makes such a great base, plus we usually have some kind of leftover, or at least one freezer meal. I also have frozen pizza dough made up, like a pp's I have par-baked pizza crust and then you can have a super easy base for a pizza, it is really convenient.

Menu planning does really help, I make extra of things to use later in the week, for example I purchased a large pack of steaks (for $3.00) and will be making 2 meals from them, plus DH made a snack from them for his lunch. It's really been amazing to just go with what items are on sale and then meal plan accordingly, I am loving it. Anyway, HTH.

Me Wife to T (14 years)Mama to Princess(4) and Monster Boy(my 1 year old ):
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#18 of 33 Old 04-29-2008, 12:03 PM
 
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I always count on there being at least one night a week that I won't want to cook, so when I think of what the week's menu will consist of, I automatically include a meal or two that's super quick/easy....even if that meal ends up being a frozen pizza, at least we're not spending a ton of money on going out.
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#19 of 33 Old 04-29-2008, 12:12 PM
 
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In the winter months, we do chili. I always have ground beef browned and frozen in the freezer, so I'll throw all the ingredients in the crockpot and dinner is done at the end of the day.

Other meal I make when I don't feel like being in the kitchen: spaghetti, homemade pizza (I freeze dough ahead of time), or I set out chicken or beef in the morning and tell DH we are grilling when he gets home which means he does all the work.

A supportive military wife and mama to my busy boy and sweet girl.
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#20 of 33 Old 04-29-2008, 12:16 PM
 
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We pressure can soups and meats and keep them in our pantry!

It's easy enough to open a jar of cooked chicken and make a quick salad or warm it up and serve with a quick side of pasta/rice/whatever.

And heating up a quart of soup is super easy! Pair it with some lettuce cut from our window box and you have a nearly instant meal.

We also keep tortillas on hand and usually have cheese in the fridge. Combine that with the home canned pinto beans in the pantry and you have a pretty quick meal.

A tuna salad sandwich is our latest stand-by. Just open up the can and mix with some onion, celery, and mayo and put it on bread. We like it with sprouts!
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#21 of 33 Old 04-29-2008, 01:14 PM
 
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I make either:

Cannelini soup -- 2 cans of beans, 2 cans diced tomatoes, and 4 cups broth plus lots of italian seasonings, depending on my mood

or

Taco pan -- spread fat-free refried beans on a plate, cover with shredded cheese and nuke for 15 sec. Then cover with tomatoes, lettuce, and guac/mashed avocado, then eat with fat-free corn chips. One dinner plate serves two people.

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#22 of 33 Old 04-29-2008, 04:22 PM
 
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Frozen pizza
Canned tamales
Pasta

We also keep track of 1/2 price burger night at Sonic (Tuesday) and $1 burger night at Culver's (Wednesday).
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#23 of 33 Old 04-29-2008, 04:43 PM
 
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My mom lent me her roaster for easter and I never gave it back

I have cooked hams, roasts, chicken, tenderloin, ect and freeze the leftovers.

Here is a site I like http://www.ellenskitchen.com/forum/messages/4172.html
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#24 of 33 Old 04-29-2008, 04:46 PM
 
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I've resorted to potato flakes. I can whip up quick mashed potatoes that way. I love a bowl of mashed potatoes with corn and peas, topped with cheese.

Like last night we had two small pieces of chicken leftover so I put them in the oven for dh. I made a small pot of mashed potatoes and heated up frozen peas for his dinner.

The kids had leftover mac n cheese and apple slices.

Not the best dinner ever but everyone left happy!

Mom of a 7 yr old, 4 yr old, and 1 yr old. Wow. How did that happen?
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#25 of 33 Old 04-29-2008, 06:49 PM
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we do a lot of breakfast for dinners on our desperation nights. Poached eggs with toast and fruit, pancakes and bacon, french toast with fruit etc. We also do pizzas, tacos etc.
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#26 of 33 Old 04-29-2008, 09:05 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ikesmom View Post
My mom lent me her roaster for easter and I never gave it back

I have cooked hams, roasts, chicken, tenderloin, ect and freeze the leftovers.
We use our roaster for *everything*. We bought it because I couldn't find anything to babyproof our oven door well enough (DS likes to pull the oven door down, climb on it and dance on it ). We thought we could use it for most things. Well, we use it for bread, pizza, meat, just everything. I love it, and it saves on our electric bill (two ways, it uses less electricity than the oven and I can put it outside when it's on so I don't heat up the house when it's hot).
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#27 of 33 Old 04-30-2008, 09:55 AM
 
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I third or fourth meal planning. It's a lifesaver and moneysaver!

I shape our meal planning to how I expect the week will go - nights that we're likely to be exhausted and not want to cook, I have quick convenient stuff on the menu.

I also try to build in a "make extra and freeze" meal every other week or so -- when I use the crockpot is an idea time. Scoop out a meal's worth, throw it in the freezer. Since the crockpot stuff I make is generally one-dish eating (stews, chilis, etc), on a day when we have the effits, we can pull a container out of the freezer and reheat it.

Other "Man I don't want to cook" things I have on hand:

Eggs and toast
Eggs and tortillas
Mashed bean burritos
Eggs and beans on tortillas
Welsh Rabbit (cheese sauce on toast)
frozen meatballs and spagetti (make a big batch of meatballs and freeze in bags of a dozen for this)
Canned soup and bread/crackers and cheese
french toast or pancakes.

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#28 of 33 Old 04-30-2008, 05:04 PM
 
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We meal plan too, but occasionally things come up, and it doesn't work to have whatever I've planned for that day. The kids like breakfast for dinner, and we can always make smoothies too. I keep frozen veggies and shrimp in the freezer, and whatever fresh or frozen veggie happens to be around, plus a big tossed or Caesar salad with some shrimp or leftover chicken, makes a perfectly decent meal. We also always have ground beef and/or burger patties in the freezer, so we can always make burgers. Stir-fries are also quick and inexpensive and can work with whatever is on hand. Fried rice too.

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#29 of 33 Old 04-30-2008, 05:55 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I meal plan too, FWIW. That's great, but when I make that calendar up, I don't know that on April 30, I'm going to have a hell of a day and not want to spend the hour of prep time for chicken & vegetables over homemade biscuits and the 45 minutes actually making the dinner.

Gourmet Pizza tonight!! $25... cha-ching. I need to get my act together.

Going back to actually WRITE DOWN your ideas. Thanks all!
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#30 of 33 Old 04-30-2008, 07:22 PM
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Not to be flippant, but when I don't feel like cooking, I cook anyway. It might be just spaghetti with purchased sauce I keep on hand, or easy beef stroganoff, but I cook. On the really bad days (I have fibromyalgia) we eat microwave baked potatoes topped with leftover chili.
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