Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Making dinner on a monetary (and time) budget

Donna Freedman wrote a post over at Get Rich Slowly about economical cooking and eating.  It sparked some controversy.  I can relate even though I don't do things quite the way she does, as I'm a shameless foodie who flakes out on cooking anything elaborate during the week.

Here's the thing: Unlike Donna, I'm not okay with eating the same thing repeatedly until it's gone--which is why I freeze them and eat them later, or use the leftovers in another dish.  The things I have been known to eat every night are pasta (which I shouldn't, and I don't make a big bowl of it and reheat it, I just love tomato sauce and pesto), or soup and crusty bread.  If it's my mother's homemade chicken soup, heck yeah I'll eat that until it's gone.

I do make one-dish meals, and they turn out very well.  And you can do this, and make them delicious (and Earth friendly, and vegetarian, and whatever else you prefer).  I suppose they aren't technically one-dish meals if you include a salad or vegetable or rice, but those aren't too difficult to add (and I often have leftover rice or a salad going in the fridge).  Or I'll steam some frozen spinach or broccoli in the microwave for the side.  But here are some things that I do for quick meals:

Curried lentils, peas, and potatoes. Steam some rice while you cook this dish if you like, and saute a leafy green or add a side salad if you're worried you're not getting enough vegetables.

Moong Dal.  See above.

Eggplant and Vegetable Casserole (or even just a simple ratatouille).  I really enjoyed the leftovers of that one.

Eggs.  Omelets are a great thing to eat.  Or I'll poach a couple of eggs for dinner.  Yes, I know, I'm not eating vegetables if I make the poached eggs and not the omelet (I stuff omelets full of vegetables), but if I eat boxed mac and cheese I'm not eating vegetables either. 

Butternut squash and apple soup.  I will eat this with crusty bread and/or a salad.

Chili.  Actually, one thing I'll do with chili is make a very sloppy quesadilla with it.  I just put a little on one side of a soft tortilla, add a little cheese, fold it over and heat over medium heat until browned, flip it, and let the other side brown.  Add some salsa and I've got lunch or dinner.

Or I'll just make a quesadilla with some beans, random vegetables, cheese, and spices.

Sometimes I will just have mac and cheese or noodles and butter.  I know, not a perfect meal, but once in a while it's fine.  Or sometimes I'll eat a salad with baby artichokes (which feels very luxurious to me).  But you don't have to eat the same thing every night, or cook a brand new meal every night.

Or I'll make a skillet meal.  Sautee a cup of rice with garlic and onion (and fresh mushrooms, if I'm using them), add two cups of stock, allow to cook, and towards the end, add protein (tuna or leftover meat or beans) and vegetables (frozen spinach, broccoli, peppers, etc.).  I also add whatever herbs I want--oregano, basil, rosemary or spicy things like cayenne pepper, depending on what I'm trying to go for.

These meals don't take long to cook.  They freeze well, and and they taste quite good the second time around.  They are meatless (or less meat--I make the butternut squash soup with chicken stock, but it works well with vegetable stock as well).  I consider myself a foodie but I'm also lazy and often quite tired by the time I get home.  So this works pretty well for me.


  1. Totally agree!

    We'll also use leftover chili to make nachos. Not so healthy as quesadillas, but nummy...

  2. My "go to" fast meal lately has been an omelette: starting with a bit of olive oil, saute a little fresh garlic, hot peppers, mustard greens, then add two eggs. Just before I flip it...a sprinkling of parmesan cheese. Yum!

  3. I agree with you. When at Uni I did a lot of batch cooking (especially chilli! MMMMM!) Sometimes my housemates and I would cook together, but usually it'd be one portion eaten and the rest frozen for another day.

    If I had the option I'd eat something different every day, but sometimes if you're cooking for one then fresh food has the annoying habit of going off faster than you can eat it! :)

    Your skillet meal sounds lovely. Will have to try that soon!