Stay Connected

Friday, March 24, 2017

Cheap & Cheerful Suppers for the Birthday Week

a birthday celebration
  • takeout from a Chinese restaurant
  • a salad that I made with cabbage, tangerines, and a dressing of soy sauce, oil, ginger and vinegar
  • homemade birthday cake, and ice cream (which was hidden in the back of the freezer for a couple of months)
husband cooks
  • lentils and rice
  • carrot sticks and ranch dressing
  • leftover cake
husband cooks
  • lentils in a peanut butter sauce, over
  • rice
  • canned peas
  • olives
  • leftover cake
  • ham slices from the freezer
  • baked potatoes with butter and cream cheese
  • vegetable medley of frozen spinach, onions, garlic and canned tomatoes
  • cucumber, lettuce and parsley salad (cucumber gifted to us)
  • baked chicken breasts (baked with the potatoes on Monday, then sliced and heated today), made into Inside-out Chicken Cordon Bleu
  • leftover baked potatoes
  • sauteed cabbage, onions and garlic (made Monday in same pan as veg medley, then saved to reheat)
  • vegetarian chili from the freezer
  • carrot sticks
  • blackberry bread pudding
  • ham and egg fried rice, from the freezer
  • canned pineapple

With the kids' birthdays we alternate going out to dinner with having a dinner served at home, from year to year. This was a year to have a restaurant meal for my daughters. We chose Chinese takeout, as it was a Friday night; with everyone coming home at a later hour than weekends, bringing takeout in saved us all from a very late night, and it allowed my daughters to work on school-related projects at an earlier hour. The expense for the restaurant meal comes out of a different budget than groceries. We have a budget specifically for holidays and celebrations.

When we have a birthday meal out, we try to keep the spending to about $45, which is incredibly hard to do for a family of six, if eating at a table service restaurant. My son's and his fiancee's birthday celebration was in November (also a joint celebration as they have birthdays 3 days apart). For that celebration, we chose a lunch meal, going to a local Greek restaurant which is part table service, part order at the counter, bringing the total bill down somewhat. I think we spent somewhere in the neighborhood of $65 for that meal.

Restaurant dining for our family is very expensive in the Seattle area, even when we're trying to keep the bill low. So, for my daughters, I knew we had to come in under budget, to help offset the overage from our fall celebration. I spent just under $35 for the Chinese takeout, which means we are only $10 over from the overall celebration budget. I made up that money with a cheap, at home Valentine's dinner this year. And most importantly, my daughters had a wonderful birthday, and were super duper excited that I got Chinese takeout for dinner that night! I love it when relatively small things make a big splash with my family.

The rest of the week was filled with simple, humble meals. I tried to cook extra whenever I had a chance. As well, I continue to use up items from the freezer. There is always something there to use up.

I've been feeling very blah about the foods that I've been cooking, lately. I'm eating simply because it's there. Oh well. Maybe soon I'll get back to cooking more interesting dishes.

How has the week been at your place? Anything particularly interesting on the menu? Anything seasonal yet? Have a great weekend!


  1. We actually had a nice week. Even though our son was home, he is so quiet and doesn't create a tornado of activity. He studied almost the entire time except for a day he went to work.

    The freezer leftovers were all eaten and our meals were so simple because I wasn't going to cater to anyone with anything special even though it was spring break and son was home.

    Our meals were:
    Sun. Scalloped potatoes and beef roast
    Mon. hmm, I think it was leftovers
    Tues.macaroni and hamburger
    Wed.lomo Saltado
    Thurs. vegetarian lasagna and roasted chicken breast
    Fri. unknown
    Several of those days I made a corn and black bean salad that was also good for lunch the next few days.


    1. Hi Alice,
      Your meals sound delicious. I am guessing it was nice to just have your son around all week, even if you were busy during the day. I checked out a few recipes for lomo saltido and it looks tasty. Some recipes called for french fries to be added to the dish, so had fries on the side. do you fry your potatoes for this? Or just serve the potatoes cooked with the meat and veggies?
      Have a lovely weekend, Alice!

    2. we make home made baked french fries and serve them on the same plate but to the side of the rice and meat which is served meat on top of rice.


  2. The interesting thing we had to eat this week was your simple chicken with ham and cheese. A hit with all. Thanks for the suggestion. :)

    1. Hi live and learn,
      so you made it! It is tasty, and we think better than ham alone or chicken alone. Of course, the cheese really helps!
      have a great weekend, live ad learn!

  3. Lili, can you share your recipe/technique for the fzn spinach with tomatoes? I think I have all the ingredients to try that here. Thanks in advance.

    1. Hi Carol,
      here's something very similar to the spinach, tomato, garlic, and onion medley that I made the other night. I didn't have frozen zucchini, and I didn't top it with anything. The leftovers the next day were delicious tossed with cooked pasta, for lunch for two of us.

    2. Sorry, did you mean to post the recipe with zuzzhini or provide a link?

    3. I'm sorry, Carol. Here's the URL:

      I thought I did add the URL, but must have forgotten. I added much more spinach than this photo shows. I think it was about a 10 oz amount, like one of those small boxes. And about 1 cup to 1 1/2 cups of canned tomatoes, plus half an onion and some garlic powder.

      Have a great weekend!

    4. Got it, thanks. I've copied it and now have it on my computer. I bought 2 large pkgs of fzn spinach before we found out that I would be buying a home! I also have 2 large "St Pat's" cabbages to fall back on.

  4. Do you find that your interest in cooking varies with the seasons? I do. In winter I'm all about soups and hearty foods, but when spring/summer comes, I tend to have a hard time coming up with foods that appeal to me. I've been trying some Chinese food recipes this winter (I had some frozen boneless chicken breasts that were in danger of freezer burn) and that's added nice variety to my menus--we were able to use up freezer goods and avoid a restaurant bill.

    We haven't been having as many home-cooked meals lately--my husband was the speaker at a wild game dinner a week ago at a neighboring church, so he and my son ate there (daughter and I had baked eggs and toast for dinner). Tonight our church has a wild game dinner, so the guys are attending that and I think my daughter and I will splurge and go out to eat (it's easier for me to justify 2 of us eating out than all 4 of us ...). Last night at youth group someone brought in sloppy joes, so that was our dinner. I did roast a chicken and on another night I made chili and cornbread (in the crockpot--we had multiple places to be that night and different schedules, so we could all have a hot meal at our convenience).

    I think you do amazingly well with keeping your restaurant costs under control with that many mouths to feed! Your future DIL must come from a frugal background and be understanding of the need to watch expenses--what a bonus for your son to marry a woman like that!

    1. Hi Kris,
      I have always had a point of getting bored with food. Seasonal? Perhaps? The main chef in the family? Perhaps?

      And yet I had to always push through it when the kids were little. We lived waaay out in the country so there were no restaurants nearby so everything was cooked from scratch. Working outside the home full time, grocery shopping was done every other Sat. and was a whole morning affair. Something like 8 gallons of milk, tons of eggs and freezer full of everything imaginable.

      Now I'm older, living in the "city", close to grocery stores and the kids only come home sporadically (except summer but then they work during meal hours and get fed). I still struggle with wanting a well-equipped freezer and pantry and I decided that visit all the local restaurants! Ha, ha, I have visited only three of them in four years of living in the city. My homemade has been instilled in me from all those years that I can't pay for going out for dinner except maybe once every 2-3 months, if that. I love chinese food recipes that you can make at home. I haven't gotten it all figured out the capture the flavor but it still tastes pretty good.

      I think you rock with all your goodies you make for your family. I would even say you're a lot like me in how take such good care of your family. I think I'll make sloppy joes tonight also. That sounds so good to me.


    2. What a kind comment, Alice! I love to bake, so sweet treats are fun and relaxing for me to make. I am trying to let my daughter do more baking, as she has taken an interest, but I admit it's sometimes hard to step back when I want to be the one whipping up something yummy. :)

      Last weekend my daughter had a friend for a sleepover. Her mom commented to me later that she heard about "all the good food you made". It made my day! Her mom is on a gluten-free diet so I tried to indulge the friend with goodies she wouldn't normally get at home (homemade breadsticks .... chocolate pancakes topped with cherry sauce ...). I guess I fall in the "food is love" category.

    3. Hi Kris,
      Yes, I think part of it is that there is little to inspire me right now with groceries. I am using up surpluses that we bought in fall, so it's more of the same, night after night. Part of i is the season itself feels blah, especially this year. It's been so dreary here this year, and I need some sunshine. And part is just that I need some time.

      Oh that's cute about your daughter's friend, and loving everything you cooked! How wonderful!

      So, at a wild game dinner, do they talk about hunting and stuff along those lines? You can tell I live in the city. Ha ha! That's great for your husband and son to get out and do guy things. And you and your daughter can have a fun girls' night out, too.

      Restaurant dining is simply expensive. We've tried a couple of times to have really nice restaurant experiences, but I'm always left feeing like it cost more than it was worth. Because of that, the whole meal, I keep thinking about the cost. Kinda ruins the experience for me.

      Have a great weekend, Kris!

    4. Wild game dinners (ours is known as the Orange Hat dinner, as a takeoff on the Red Hat Society--if you aren't familiar with it, it's for senior citizen women to meet up periodically and eat out--they often wear red hats) are a big deal in my neck of the woods. My husband and son aren't big hunters (so they are taking cookies, haha) but they love to fish. There is usually a speaker, door prizes, etc. Our church was setting up for it last night--we got to see some of the wild animal mounts. Women are invited, but it's not my thing (my husband was the speaker at our church's a few years ago so I was a good wife and showed up ... he's a fisheries biologist on the Great Lakes, but I think I've mentioned that before). It's a fun evening for the guys and a nice outreach for our church.

      I have a hard time getting around the fact that I can feed our family for a week on the amount of money it would cost to eat two meals out at a moderately priced restaurant. When we do eat out, we try to hit places that offer food we aren't able to replicate in our kitchen. I DO like restaurant eating, but it's a balancing act between the enjoyment of a meal out versus the cost.

  5. Our meals have been of the easy sort around here. I had the kids put together several dinners this past week, as my time was taken up with other things.

    However, tonight we are celebrating my husband's successful work presentation in WA DC this past week & the fact that my son completed his online writing course (he's very happy about it:) I pulled steaks out the freezer to thaw in fridge last night. We'll have those tonight with salad, broccoli and baked potatoes.

    The guys are going on a camping trip this weekend, so the girls & I plan on have Reuben in a bowl all to ourselves tomorrow night. Maybe a we'll watch a movie the guys wouldn't like, too--something Jane Austen-ish. Melissa

    P.S.--That's so awesome your husband has been so faithful in helping out with meals at your house, Lili. I can't believe what a load it takes off my shoulders to have someone else cook.

    1. Hi Melissa,
      Congratulations to both your husband and your son, on their recent achievements!
      I know. I've been so appreciative of his help with dinners on the weekends. It has allowed me to take classes and get the taxes done. Having the afternoon time to work on those sort of mental draining tasks has made a difference for me.

      I hope you found a good Jan Austenesque movie! One of my daughters just checked one out from the library. It's a movie that she and I saw last summer, in our discount theater, Love and Friendship. It's actually quite funny.

      Have a great day, Melissa!

  6. The grandkids were over from Saturday afternoon to Wednesday evening. For lunch/dinner, we had market deli fried chicken/homemade coleslaw/refrigerated biscuits, fried rice with crispy gau gee (made with Chinese fishcake), personal pan pizzas (made their own), Korean japchae noodle dish, black bean eggplant, corned beef and cabbage. Breakfast was pancake/bacon, grilled ham/chicken/cheese sandwiches, spam/egg musubi, fried rice (leftover) topped with egg sheet, papayas and chocolate dipped strawberries. We had one meal out, on Wednesday evening, at Panda Express. Brought our own rice balls/steamed broccoli, and shared a three choice plate and a large order of Beijing Beef. We could all dine on $20 and a survey coupon, plus used an evoucher bought at half the cost using SYWR. Last night, without the kids, we treated ourselves to beer and their leftover frozen pizzas. This is our ritual to ease back from days of noise and activity. We love when they are over, but the day after is like arriving home after an exhausting vacation.

    Happy Friday!!


    1. Hi YHF,
      It sounds like your grandkid meals were a success! I can understand needing some down time after they go back home. It is exhausting when it's not your daily routine.
      Have a great day, YHF!

  7. Nothing to exciting to write about here just simple, frugal meals. We do tend to repeat them as there are only two of us eating most days and most recipes make more than that.

    I love that you were able to get the Chinese takeout for under $35, which is great. If we do eat out we like to do Chinese as it is one of the foods I am not as easily able to duplicate at home. Sometimes I will order one of the dishes my daughter loves, called Cajun Chicken, as a carry out order for just under $10 and then we come home and either split it or I make myself something else and let her eat that over the course of a couple of meals.

    1. Hi Belinda,
      you pointed out one of the reasons that I will often choose Chinese as our restaurant meal, that it's not a cuisine that I'm very good at creating at home, at least not with the variety that a restaurant offers. Your way of doing the takeout meal that your daughter enjoys is quite sensible, IMO. Portion sizes are large enough that one meal can split two ways pretty easily. This is our style of restaurant dining, too.

      Have a wonderful day, Belinda!


Thank you for joining the discussion today. Here at creative savv, we strive to maintain a respectful community centered around frugal living. Creative savv would like to continue to be a welcoming and safe place for discussion, and as such reserves the right to remove comments that are inappropriate for the conversation.


Be a voice that helps someone else on their frugal living journey

Are you interested in writing for creative savv?
What's your frugal story?

Do you have a favorite frugal recipe, special insight, DIY project, or tips that could make frugal living more do-able for someone else?

Creative savv is seeking new voices.


share this post