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Monday, March 12, 2018

Cheap & Cheerful meals for this past week

It's been a while since I made one of these meal posts. That's a large part due to the hodge-podge nature of meal-planning in our house for the last couple of months. But, here goes. I think I've remembered this past week's meals.

cheddar cheese pizza
cole slaw

roasted chicken
roasted vegetables (potatoes, carrots, onions)

chicken on fried corn tortillas, topped with cheese and salsa
green peas

chicken and vegetable soup
focaccia (using leftover dough from Saturday's pizza, kept in the fridge)

chicken, vegetables, and dumplings

stir fry of smoked chicken sausage, tofu, asparagus, celery, carrots, and garlic, with a liberal amount of toasted sesame oil (very, very delicious meal)
steamed brown rice

baked beans
baked carrots
pickled beets (turned out to be spiced cranberry jelly -- I should really label these things!)

barley and lentil salad
fry bread
gifted, leftover cake

sausage and veggie soup
cheese quesadillas

leftover soup
fried corn tortillas
baby carrots and dip

A week and a half of very basic meals, based on basic ingredients (with the exception of the asparagus).

Conventional frugal living wisdom says to make your week's meal plans, then go shopping for ingredients. This type of thought process is especially helpful for the individual who doesn't know how to shop for basic meal ingredients which can be transformed into many different dishes.

Imagine if you were completely new to shopping for a household's groceries, and you didn't have a good grasp on what a family might eat in a week, or what ingredients would go into family favorite meals. You might wander up and down each aisle trying to decide what you wanted to eat, there on the spot. (BTW, this was exactly how my husband and I used to shop when we were first married. When you're poor newlyweds, grocery shopping easily becomes "date night.") This could be disastrous to your budget (which is was), and may not be enough meal ingredients to get through a week (which happened to us on many occasions), necessitating those extra stops at the market mid-week. So, planning a week's meals, then deciding what you need to make them, does make a lot of sense for households that just don't have a grasp, yet, on what a kitchen needs to be well-stocked.

However, I would hazard to guess that most of us, here, already know what our pantries need to have in them so that we can make several meals. This is how I shop. I keep my pantry filled with meal-making supplies, then I plan what we'll eat based on what I have. I like to think that this is the way people have made meals since the beginning of cooking. They ate from what they found, trapped, or hunted. They didn't create elaborate meal plans based on foods they didn't have, then go out hunting and searching for these foods. It's not an efficient use of energy to begin a meal plan with a dream, instead of ingredients on hand. Imagine the poor cave man who got sent out to find squab in caribou-hunting season, all so his lovely cave-bride could perform her culinary miracles over the open fire, and serve up a delicate and romantic meal under the stars.

Anyway (getting way off topic) the meals that we make in our house are almost always on the humble side, so humble that when there is a "very, very delicious" meal of a stir fry, it really stands out. I hope that your meals have been equally simple and satisfying in your home.


  1. I think your meals sound extremely varied and delicious--in terms of cuisines, ingredients, and format!
    Would love to know more about that fry bread--I recently had a dish at a restaurant that was fry bread paired with very good burrata cheese. So simple but oh so very rich and decadent. I'm wondering if your version is similar!

    1. Hi Allie,
      For fry bread, I use a simple yeast bread dough, like I use for pizza crust. I form the dough into small balls, pat into patties, allow to rise for 20 minutes on a floured counter, then fry them in a skillet with a shallow amount of oil. Flip them once to cook the other side, then drain on paper. In the summer I serve hummus with dinner often. I like to pair hummus with fry bread, either spread right on the fry bread as open-faced sandwiches, or as a dip/spread to be scooped with the fry bread. It's a simple meal that is perfect for long, warm evenings.

      I'll have to look up burrata cheese. I've not heard of that before.
      Have a great day, Allie!

      here's the post with a basic pizza/focaccia/French bread dough:

    2. Thank you!! Sounds delicious! I can't wait to try it! :D

  2. Hi Lili,

    Your menu looks good as always! I'd also like to try fry bread but I hope it doesn't involve deep frying because I don't do anything deep fried.

    I would say for myself that it takes time to learn how to become a good shopper. It surely didn't happen from the day I got married but it did mature over time as I got used to preparing meals for a family of two, then three and up to five. By the time we had children I was pretty good at knowing what amounts we needed and what extra we needed to have in the pantry.

    The reverse will also take time. We went down from five to four and now to two and sometimes three but I still get groceries for five with extra for later. I will have to learn all over again that I need less not more.

    We've had all home cooked meals this week which was lasagna, beer meatloaf, roasted chicken, tacos, pork stir fry. Last night was a bit crazier. We had not enough leftovers so I made a turkey roast, a corned beef, and chicken legs with rice, couscous and the option of the leftover lasagna and mashed potatoes. We made enough lunches for two days and had our fill of supper with enough left for tonight. And there's a big lettuce salad and a little leftover chicken/pasta/pea salad for another lunch.


    1. Hi Alice,
      the bread isn't deep-fried, but it is skillet-fried, with a shallow amount of oil (to heavily glaze the pan).

      Wow, your meals sound delicious, and now you have several days of lunches all prepared! Great job, Alice!

      I think that you're right about learning to buy less. It does take some conscious decisions to shop for fewer people, too. Have a great day, Alice!

  3. It still seems funny to me that you describe your meals as humble. You have described what you mean by that--meaning not like a fancy restaurant, but to me your meals seem anywhere from humble in my use of the word. They seem varied, tasty, and even fancy. Humble to me would be biscuits and red-eye gravy made with ham fat with maybe a little meat if you were lucky to have some. Add to that some kind of greens and you're good to go. Or maybe some kind of stew using whatever ingredients you have--usually canned from the garden.

    But whatever you want to call them, you meals always sound good whether or not they have a lot of prior planning.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      Thank you. Actually, biscuits and gravy, with a side of greens sounds delicious to me, and I believe on menus in some roadhouse-style restaurants these days. So, "humble" may all be relative. For a while, comfort food/humble food was popular in restaurants. I don't eat out much, so I don't know if that is still the case.
      I hope your week is off to a wonderful start, live and learn!

    2. Ha! I totally agree with both of you! Lili's meals always sound extraordinary to me, but it's funny that you pointed out the stirfry meal as the most special. My family is Chinese, so growing up, we had a LOT of stirfries, so that's my idea of an extremely humble meal in comparison to the others you described here.

      And on the other hand, I never got to have much classic American comfort food growing up, except what was served in school cafeterias (where I was the only kid who absolutely loved the boxed mashed potatoes, salty canned gravy, and lumpy mystery meat salisbury steak, haha). So I consider biscuits and gravy to be a very decadent meal, even when I eat it in a completely unfancy diner or when I make it at home now, and it's one of my absolute favorite things.

      So funny how our perceptions differ!

  4. Lili, your meals were varied and balanced, and sounds delicious. I would consider it gourmet compared to our meals!

    You make a very good point about shopping, that it is more efficient to plan meals around what is available in the pantry and weekly specials than what is dreamed up. I am facing that dilemma this week since the grandkids will be over during spring break...what we have vs what they want to eat. I made a list of foods in the chest freezer and will shop today based on sales, then come up with more dishes to add to the usual repertoire of meals. Nine days of B/L/D for four grandkids is a jolt to our normal meal planning and preparation. We eat so simple daily, so I feel it is good to be forced to do the opposite. Of course I say this when my husband is the cook lol

    Have a great day!

    1. Hi YHF,
      oh, you will have so much fun with the grandkids over spring break! Yeah, I can imagine cooking for 4 growing kids will be a challenge, and so will shopping for all of them. I think you have a good plan in place, though. You can do this! What a fun week and a half you'll all have, and then it will go back to quiet again.

      Have a great day, yourself, YHF!

  5. Smiling about your "pickled beets".

    I had fry bread in the southwest and mmmmm was it tasty. I'm afraid I'd hog it to myself.

    You are so right--it has taken me years of honing my kitchen skills to get to where I am now with shopping and meal prep. And you are also right about how most of our meals are humble--I think the difference for me isn't in ingredients, but in know-how (browning stew meat before making a stew, using the browned bits, that kind of thing). I notice when my kids come home that their first question is "what's for dinner" (or their first comment is "something smells good!"). We creators of humble meals are nourishing more than bodies with what we do.

    1. Hi Kris,
      The jar really looked like pickled beets. It was even a little bit sloshy inside. Oh well, the cranberry sauce was also good with the baked beans.
      Yeah, I think you're right about knowing how to prepare simple foods well. I hope you had a great week, Kris!

  6. Looks good, Lili. Like you, I keep my pantry full of meal making supplies. I'm making chili beans from dry beans today We also picked up some free produce yesterday, which I will incorporate into our meals this week too. :)

    1. Hi Belinda,
      Mmm, chili sounds delicious on a cold day! I hope your week went well, Belinda! Have a good weekend.

  7. Looks like you ate well! We're coming up on our 25th anniversary this summer, and as with you, our grocery shopping has certainly evolved! I used to shop much differently pre-Tightwad Gazette, but now primarily follow the "pantry principle". I try to keep stocked up on the basics at the best possible prices, then fill in weekly with produce that's on sale. Most of the time, I can sit down and easily write out a month's worth of dinners just from things onhand, maybe picking up an ingredient or two for a special meal not made often.

    1. Hi Cat,
      Wow, 25 years! Does it seem like just yesterday?
      It sounds like you do a great job with keeping your pantry full while saving as much as possible. I know that with family size at either extreme (either very small or on the large size), it is difficult to keep the per person grocery cost low. But you manage quite well.
      I hope you have a great weekend, Cat! Is it spring, there, now?

  8. Yes. I agree. My menu planning & shopping has definitely changed in the almost 25 years (in October) I've been married. In fact, I realize it's just second nature to me now. I need to do a better job of passing this knowledge on to my girls. They understand a little of the method behind my madness, but certainly not the full picture.

    I realized the other day that I do by staples on a regular basis (milk, bread, lettuce, etc.) but a very large portion of my shopping is stocking up on good deals when I see them and buying in bulk (flour, wheat berries, oats, dried beans, etc.). I never ever walk into a store without a list. When I go to Costco, I zoom right past all of the "stuff" & pick up my regular grocery items, t.p., water softener salt & get out. I'm always amazed at what I see in other people's carts, especially at Costco. If I succumbed to all of the "sample" deals & other dangling carrots there, my grocery budget would be in real trouble.

    You've taught me a lot about planning & shopping, too, Lili. You've been a great resource for me. Melissa


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