Thrifty mamas help needed! - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 6 Old 10-08-2007, 07:14 PM - Thread Starter
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I am in need of some help! I am the worst meal planner but have vowed to change my ways and save a few bucks while I am at it. I have read through the archives but always found 2 out of the three things I am looking for.I would like to combine 3 key elements, QUICK (30 min or so is great), HEALTHY and CHEAP! Please share your favorite with me, my family will be thanking you for it!
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#2 of 6 Old 10-08-2007, 10:44 PM
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Well, I don't know if this would qualify as healthy for you (depends on how you feel about sausage), but this is a quick and easy fave of mine.

Sausage and Peppers in a Pita

1lb italian sausage (I use hot, but mild is fine)
1 medium onion, sliced into half-rings
1 large pepper, sliced into strips (I like red peppers, but green is fine)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 can tomato paste
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp basil
1/2 tsp oregano (or use 1 tsp italian seasoning instead of basil and oregano)

saute the sausage in olive oil until cooked through, remove from pan and saute peppers and onions until they begin to soften. When the sausage is cooled a bit, cut it into bite sized pieces and return to pan. Add the seasonings, tomato paste and 1 can of water, stir to mix it all up, then cover the pan and cook until the veggies are soft, the sauce has thickened up and the flavours have blended nicely (I give it about 15 minutes). Spoon out into a large pita bread, roll up and serve. I wrap the rolled-up pita in tin foil so it doesn't drip, and we can eat them as finger food (sorta

This in incredibly tasty for how easy it is to make, it's my fall back quick recipe, but like I said, it depends on how healthy you feel sausages are. I buy mine from a local italian shop where the meat is butchered on site and I know exactly what's in them, so I feel ok about eating them once in a while.

If you have a bit more time, there's nothing like a big pot of lentil soup. For nearly instant lentil soup you can use canned, but lentils cook so quickly, you can still put together a pot of soup in under 45 minutes. I use my crock pot a lot when I want to put together frugal meals, too. Not quick, in that it takes 8-10 hours, but I can spend a few minutes in the morning putting dinner together, and not worry about it again. Especially great for me because I work evenings some nights a week, and I'm making dinner, but won't be home to eat it until after 10pm. There are as many different lentil soup recipes as there are cooks, I'm sure, I have more than one myself. I won't bother posting any of them.

Pasta salads are another great quick option, use whole wheat pasta and canned or frozen beans, or tuna, with fresh veggies and a quick vinagrette.

I blog about meal planning (yeah, I think about food all the time, maybe that's why I'm permanently trying to lose 40lbs ), here's a link to a quinoa greek salad recipe I posted a while back, rather than typing it up again.
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#3 of 6 Old 10-09-2007, 05:01 PM
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Hmmm.... The quickest meals I can think of usually include some element of convenience items, which make them less healthy.... but tonight I'm fixing store-brand turkey pot pies with brown rice. Takes about 20 minutes all together if you use instant rice. It's relatively healthy I think, and definitely inexpensive. Also good to add a side salad or an extra veggie.

I also ditto using the crock pot. It seems to take the least amount of prep time for the greatest amount of yumminess (for lack of a better word). You just season your meat, wash and cut up your veggies, add a little water, and cook for 4-6 hrs on low or 8-10 on high. Then you have a complete meal already prepared when you're too tired/busy to fix dinner later that evening!

Oh! I just thought of one of my faves if your family eats salad. Here it goes:
Mandarin Orange Chicken Salad
1lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
italian dressing
peanut sauce (in the asian section of the grocery store)
1 pkg salad greens
1 small tomato sliced
1-2 sliced green onions
1 can mandarin oranges
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 cup chow mein noodles

1/2 tsp pepper
4 TBS sugar
4 TBS vinegar
2tsp salt
1/2 cup veg. oil

Cube your chicken and cook it in the italian dressing and a couple splashes of the peanut sauce on med-high about 10 minutes (I'm guessing - just until it's done). Toast your almonds and chow mein noodles on a cookie sheet in a toaster oven or in your regular oven @ 400 for a few minutes - they'll burn quickly, so keep an eye on them. Mix together the dressing in a container that you'll be able to shake as you serve- it will separate.
Fix the salads by placing your salad greens on the plate, then tomatoes, green onions, mandarin oranges, chicken, almonds, noodles, dressing, and some extra peanut sauce if desired. Voila! it's delicious! I don't think it's UNhealthy. Just buy your chicken on sale, and the peanut sauce, chow mein noodles, and almonds (if you get a bigger bag) will all last for many meals, making it cheap once you regularly have those on hand.

Sarah , Wife to DH , Mommy to DS 01/07 , DD 04/09 , and Due 04/11
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#4 of 6 Old 10-09-2007, 06:48 PM
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I try to plan all my meals quick, healthy and cheap. Not all of them end up that way, but that's the goal.

I try to do a few things to lower my grocery bill. We raise and butcher our own beef so that cuts out a huge expense.

As an example, tonight we're having steak (I thawed too many over the weekend), leftover scalloped potatoes (I make a big pan for just a little bit more than a smaller pan and we get lots of leftovers), whatever fresh veggies are in the fridge and some pasta. It'll take maybe 30 minutes.

One of my kids' favorites in paninis on the George Foreman. I found some bread at a local bakery that we all like for $.80 a loaf, leftover ham and we always have cheese. Dh and I put in lots of fresh veggies too.

We all like salmon cakes and they take no time at all. Just a couple cans of salmon (or fresh), mixed with an egg, some bread crumbs and spices. I'll add some fresh stir fried veggies and tartar sauce.

Chicken pot pie is a quick easy one too. I buy frozen pie crusts because I haven't found a recipe I like yet. Just cook some chicken and cut into bite size pieces, boil some potatoes, onions and carrots (or whatever veg you want), then mix the veggies, chicken and some cream of chicken soup together and pour into the crust. Bake until the crust is done.
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#5 of 6 Old 10-12-2007, 03:02 PM
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My main fast stand by: Fried Rice

(brown rice takes about an hour, I can cook it ahead of time and then turn the stove off and let it sit until I need it-- it can sit all day as long as it's covered)
Meat: polish sausage, ground burger, diced chicken, etc.
Veggies: Anything in the fridge (celery, carrots, broccoli, bell peppers, swiss chard,) Just chop them smaller and they will cook faster.

Cook meat first then add the veggies and rice and heat through-- I use a skillet w/ a lid.

Stirfrys are normally fast and healthy, you can precook the rice or use pasta, which doesn't take too long. You can use Raman noodles and toss the packet and use your own sauce.
My normal sauce is a mixture of water, soy sauce, garlic, ginger with honey and hot pepper flakes or cinnamon.

Tacos/Burritos are good-- we use refried beans, which you could either make ahead and freeze (I think) or buy a can
Put baby spinach on them instead of iceberg lettuce.

Omelets can have alot of veggies in them.

Chili- can cook the beans/meat ahead and toss it all in a crockpot in the morning.

Soup can also be fast, just have the broth/meat ready and heat it up, add veggies and barely- the quick barely takes 15 minutes.

Rachel, wife to Brian, mother of 5. Lover of birth.
Blog on profile.
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#6 of 6 Old 10-13-2007, 10:15 PM - Thread Starter
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Thank you guys for the great ideas! Hearing others favorite quick and cheap meals helps me save time from having to figure it out on my own.

I think you could always make things a little healthier , brown rice instead of white rice, etc.

Any other ideas are welcome!
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