Saturday, January 8, 2011

Frugal Finds for Dinner

Eating at home often saves time, money, and calories! We love family dinner at Mama Henley's house and try not to miss one. Thankfully our move to Florida has allowed us to focus more on this grand old family of 7. Feeding a big family is no easy task as it's hard to find meals that please everyone while not eating Chick Fil A nuggets 6 nights a week! Therefore, I have started trying to make meals that make one child really super happy while most everyone else will eat it. I rotate so that everyone enjoys their favorites at some point during the month.
Coming home after a week away means lots of extra laundry and gifts to put away in a new home. We've been cleaning house, putting away the last of the Christmas items, and washing lots of clothes. I have also been trying to cook at home every meal. Last Monday night we had the frozen PF Chang's entrees. Tuesday morning I cooked 4 pounds of ground beef. I cooked 2 of those pounds with chopped onion and the other without. Cooking all of your ground beef at one time saves a lot of time! Sometimes I freeze some of the cooked ground beef, but this week I was able to use all of it.
The ground beef cooked with onion was used to make spaghetti sauce. I brown my beef and then add things like oregano, basil, garlic powder, chopped green peppers, chopped carrots, diced tomatoes, a little Maldon sea salt, and tomato sauce. I usually add a really big container of store bought spaghetti sauce as well. The brand depends on what is in our garage pantry! I buy pasta and pasta sauce on sale. We have not found a huge difference in taste. I probably had $3-4 in extra ingredients and $6.00 in the 2 pounds of ground beef. At most our meal cost $10.00. All 7 of us had spaghetti and then I made a spaghetti pie for some friends. I even had a little sauce leftover! So $5.00 for one meal for 7 people is great plus the $5.00 to feed our friends a spaghetti pie!
The other 2 pounds of cooked ground beef was used to make tacos on Wednesday night. Our children LOVE tacos. I have quit buying the store bought taco seasoning because it is cheaper and better for you to make your own. There are no preservatives when you make it yourself. I brown the meat and add LOTS of chili powder, some cumin, some garlic powder, and a little red pepper if we want it to be spicy. After the meat is cooked and covered in these spices, I add at least 1/2 cup water just like you do with the seasoning packets. I just shake the chili powder until it looks right and the tacos always taste great! We love to dress up our tacos with cheese, guacamole, sour cream, salsa, black or refried beans, et cetera. I made a taco salad over spinach and arugula and added some of the jasmine rice from Monday night! I usually just buy tortillas, but I had a really cheap soft taco kit from a buy one/get one free deal, so we used those tortillas for this meal. Since all of the toppings are things we keep on hand, this meal only cost around $7 or $8!
Thursday is a full day for our family with lots of activities. I am not home to start dinner until after 6pm. Therefore, dinner has to be prepared in advance or cooked when we walk in the door. This week I decided we would actually eat our leftovers rather than just say we were going to eat them! Some of us had pasta with red sauce or spaghetti sauce and others had tacos! Of course we had fruit and salads with our meals as fillers. All in all, it was a frugal week of eating at home!


Preppy Pink Crocodile said...

Great tips! I always try to prepare my meat at one time too. When I buy a big package of chicken, I take the time right then to cut it up. Some get cubed and some halved and some into strips. Then I freeze it in meal-size servings. Makes cooking so much easier to have it all ready to go for me. Buying a chest freezer saves me a lot of $$ too because I can buy meats and stuff on sale and stock up.

Do you use your crockpot? That is my biggest time saver. Dump it in, go about my day, dinner is yummy.

Leigh Powell Hines said...

You are an inspiration.

Town and Country Mom said...

I always cook ground beef in quantity and usually chicken, too, but I had never thought to make my own taco seasoning! I will be doing that from now on--thanks, Mama Henley!

Jo said...

I just made a Mexican soup that called for such seasonings. I'm going to try making my own next time ~ thanks!

With both of us working, I try to save time whenever I can. We use our slow cooker several nights a week, wash all greens upon purchasing and I'll even cook meat and then freeze if I don't need it until later in the week. I can't imagine doing this for a family 7. You deserve an award.:)


Travelbugmom said...

Thanks for all these ideas Mama Henley! I also try to make MANY different things with ground beef. One of my family favorites is ground beef, chilli powder, diced tomatoes, shredded cheese and elbow macaroni...we call it CHILLI stores call it "HAMBURGER HELPER"!

EntertainingMom said...

one of my favorite recipes is your chicken chili. I use ground chicken instead of regular chicken sometimes. I always make enough for leftovers!!!

Diana Mieczan said...

Those are such a great tips. Thanks you so much, I need to try them out. Hope you are having a relaxing Sunday

Btw: I love family dinners:)

mamamagnolia said...

Great tips-I usually buy in bulk and repackage in family friendly sizes. I'm making chicken chili today and will post the recipe later.

bevy said...

It's amazing how far ground beef goes!!!

myletterstoemily said...

bless your heart, you do have to cook
a lot for a family that size. i used to
shop for a month and brown hamburger
for many meals, too!

the reward is family dinner, a lost art.

Personalized Sketches and Sentiments said...

With our three grown and living out of state, either off to college or married, I find that my hubby and i have eaten out more than before since I have been working outside the home. (mostly once during the weekend and also on Mondays (I work very late on Mondays and get home after 8pm-so my hubby has lately been buying me Mexican-Mexican Monday for Mama M :o) I really should bring out my crock pot recipes for Mondays!...but up until our youngest was still in high school, it was a blue moon that we ate out-even with all his high school sports and was homecooking.
Your week of frugal dinner finds are great :o) And a very great idea to rotate each child's favorite meals :o)

Blessings & Aloha!
Thank you dear blog friend for stopping by! I wish that I had more free blog time to visit such wonderful blogs like yours! I still am barely getting one post up a week and behind in replying to past comments left on my posts! ...but I do so find it fun to read your sweet comments. Thank you!
Hau'oli Makahiki Hou! (Hawaiian for Happy New Year! and you may know this little fact: Hawaii is the southern most Blessings to y'all from our family with Hawaiian ties and currently living in Southern Georgia. :o)

Personalized Sketches and Sentiments said...

Oh dear! Sorry about such a long comment! I tend to do that lol... and here I am leaving a PS comment to my long one! I meant to also say to your comment: Yes, we are so very thankful and blessed that our three are close and were able to spend Thanksgiving together (the younger two drove to their big sister's home, especially made it a point, when they learned that our son in law was working Thanksgiving day at the hospital and that my hubby and I were spending Thanksgiving week up at my dad's to help him after his heart surgery. I wish that we were all together, but their Thanksgiving break and break from work schedules were too short.)

Blessings & Aloha!

The B Family said...

Why have I never thought about cooking ground beef in bulk and freezing it!?! That will save me a ton of time! And I'm always trying to come up with quick, healthy and frugal dinner ideas! Thanks for the tips and inspiration!