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Thursday, November 18, 2021

Cheap & Cheerful Meals -- Mid-November

Monday's roasting pan dinner

sausage pizza, beet salad, spiced fig-applesauce, chocolates

Friday is pizza and movie night, here, where I make a scratch pizza and we watch a free movie on the Roku. I was temporarily out of pepperoni, so I cooked up some Italian turkey sausage to top the pizza. Turkey sausage is dry and lean, and our current mozzarella is on the low-fat side, so I added a bit of cheddar cheese to add some fat to the pizza toppings. That little addition made the whole pizza very tasty. In addition to the pizza, I made a beet salad and some spiced fig-applesauce. The beet salad is a quickie to make. I use a 15-oz can of sliced beets (50 cents at Walmart), cutting the slices into matchsticks then dressing in vinegar, oil, salt, sugar, ground cloves, and onion powder to taste. I let it chill for 30 minutes while I finished up the pizza. And as I've described here before, the fig-applesauce is my homegrown and sweet-preserved unripe figs pureed with some applesauce and a bit of cinnamon and ginger to flavor. Our dessert was a chocolate out of the box of chocolates given to us last Christmas. Yeah, I can hardly believe that we didn't gobble up the chocolates before now, either.

baked potatoes topped with greens in cheese sauce and bacon bits, roasted pumpkin cubes, curried slaw, pumpkin snack cake.

This was a busy day for us. We had a tree guy come out to cut up and remove the tree from our roof. After he left, my husband and I had a huge clean-up job to start in on. By late afternoon, my back was tired and I knew I still needed to make dinner. So I made something fairly easy with little hands-on time involved -- baked potatoes covered with greens in cheese sauce and bacon bits, along with roasted pumpkin cube, curried cole slaw and a no-egg pumpkin snack cake that I'd baked in the morning. For the greens, I chose Brussel sprout leaves. The tree removal was hard on the patch of Brussel sprouts, so I thought I'd better use some of the greens while I could. The pumpkin cubes came from another one of our small garden pumpkins. And like before, I washed and froze the seeds in the baggie with other squash and pumpkin seeds to roast up once I have a large amount. I was able to bake the potatoes, roast the pumpkin cubes, and steam the Brussel sprout greens in the oven at the same time, just putting them in the oven staggered, to reflect the different cook times needed.

I made these cakes for Monday, not Sunday.
Sometimes, I'm so hungry that I forget
to take a pic before devouring dinner.


homemade flour tortillas. scratch refried beans,  canned tomatoes, cabbage in lime dressing, brownies

My husband made dinner for us today. I had some cooked beans in the fridge that needed using up, so I suggested he make something using those. He loves Tex-Mex meals, so that was the theme. My daughters and he prefer the flour tortillas fried (I like them soft), so for the 3 of them, they had fried tortillas -- a lot like those tortilla salad bowls that taco salads are served in. My daughters baked scratch brownies in the afternoon for our dessert. Some day, I think my daughters will reflect that someone was always cooking something in the kitchen during the years they were in this house. That's the way it seems. Earlier in the day, the two of them made a big bowl of popcorn for all of us, too. Someone is always cooking.


TVP and ground beef meatloaf and gravy, oven-roasted garden baby carrots and garden purple potatoes, garden tossed salad (radishes and their leaves, nasturtium leaves, watercress, beet greens, carrot leaves, lentil sprouts), pumpkin snack cake

I stretch 8 ounces of ground beef with some rehydrated TVP in the meatloaf. This serves four adults. The beef was 73/27, so there's always a lot of fat that seeps out of the loaf while baking. I surrounded the loaf with baby carrots and chunks of potatoes to roast in the fat from the meatloaf. There was still a lot of residual fat in the pan after baking. I used this excess fat to make a gravy to go over the meatloaf and vegetables. Waste nothing. I had about 1/4 cup of pureed pumpkin lingering in the fridge. This was just enough to bake a half-batch of pumpkin snack cake. I baked the batter in 2 small round bakers. After baking, I made a small batch of icing to frost the tops of each little cake. Two cakes served as small servings of dessert for our family of 4 for 2 nights. I continue to find leafy greens in the garden to use in salads. This last week, I found several rogue watercress plants. These are usually a spring thing for us. I picked lots of their leaves to add to a tossed salad. By the time I washed and tore all of the greens, I had enough salad greens for 1 family dinner and 2 me-lunches.

Making meatloaf gravy -- the fat from meatloaf often has zero zip or flavor. Even with rinsing the roasting pan with water to use in the gravy, at most I wind up with a tan thin paste. I stir some flour into the fat left after cooking the meatloaf, heat, and stir in liquid (rinsing from the roasting pan). To flavor, I add some dried herbs (this time I used thyme), onion powder, black pepper, and beef bouillon. If the gravy still tastes a bit flat, I add about 1/2 teaspoon of vinegar. Vinegar adds zip without increasing the sodium.


lentil-vegetable soup, French bread, pumpkin snack cake

We didn't use all of the gravy from last night's meatloaf, so I added the leftover gravy to tonight's soup. I was able to use more baby carrots in the soup as well as Brussel sprout leaves. Our Brussel sprout plants are still doing okay despite taking a hit from the tree removal. Each time I use the leaves in dinner, now, I have to rinse off the sawdust before washing the leaves. As you might imagine, sawdust is a bad thing to put down the garbage disposal. I had to unclog the disposal earlier this week. Now, when I rinse off the sawdust, I dump that rinse water outside. 


chicken divan (chicken, broccoli, cheese sauce casserole), garlic toast, steamed carrots, bar cookies

One of my daughters made dinner for us tonight. They each have 1 night per week. This not only gives me a night off, but is also strengthening their skills to take care of themselves. Sometimes they come up with an idea that they want to make. Other times, I check our ingredients and look for recipes that would be easy and quick to suggest. The chicken divan recipe called for basic ingredients: cooked chicken, broccoli, cheese, milk, flour, butter, mustard powder. A lot of quick and easy recipes call for convenience foods that I may or may not have on hand, such as cream of chicken soup. But this one didn't. And my daughter who made dinner today said that the recipe was very easy. I helped her by poaching a chicken breast earlier in the day while I was doing other things in the kitchen. But the rest was all "her".


spaghetti in meat sauce, celery and carrot sticks

Thursday was my other daughter's night to cook dinner. I suggested spaghetti in meat sauce. I don't have a recipe written out for the sauce for her, but instead gave her basic instructions, using 8 ounces of ground beef, 6 ounces of tomato paste, minced garlic, onion flakes, dried oregano, salt, pepper. I asked her to save the fat from browning the ground beef. We'll use this meat fat in cooking at another time.

Breakfasts this week included toasty o's cereal, toasted homemade French bread, homemade yogurt, frozen and dried fruit (raisins, home-dried prunes, home-dried dried cherries, frozen foraged blackberries), milk, canned tomatoes, coffee, tea, milk. I was too busy with other things to make pancakes, waffles, muffins, oatmeal or even Cream of Wheat. It was a get-it-yourself breakfast week, so I brought out a box of toasty o's for the cereal lovers in the family.

Lunches this week included salads from the garden, toasted tortillas and cheese, leftovers, frozen and dried garden fruit, bananas, sunflower seeds, almonds, cabbage, carrots, celery, lentil sprouts, kale, brownies, bar cookies, bread, graham crackers, rice, macaroni.

What was on your menu this past week?


  1. All of your food sound good, but the toasty-o's are what I'm craving now. I haven't had those in a long time.

    I've having a hard time remembering what we had to eat here this past week but here's what I remember. Chicken tetrazzini, meat loaf, and a pasta, sausage, and green bean dish. Tonight my husband is going to get dinner from Subway since my son and I will be working late. We have a coupon for a free sub that he's going to use.

    1. Hi Live and Learn,
      Yum, your pasta, sausage, and green bean dish sounds tasty, as does the Tetrazzini and meatloaf. Your meals sound like classic comfort foods for cooler weather. Just the sort of thing my family is eating these days.
      Have a great weekend, Live and Learn!

  2. Your meals are always so creative and tasty sounding. We had steak last Saturday and then I cooked a big ham on Sunday. Monday we had taco soup and cornbread , and then Tuesday I went to idaho falls with my oldest dd and got home too late to cook. Wednesday I made a roast and last night I fixed pork chops. My Dh wanted all the leftover ham made into ham salad for his last hunting trip of the year, but I only used about half of it,and the rest went into the freezer. I have leftover pot roast and pork chops to eat while he’s gone. I might use the roast for beef and noodles, which is one of my favorites.

    1. Hi Diane,
      I'm curious about your husband's hunting -- how much of your meat do you think is the result of his hunting? It must be such a good feeling to know you have plenty of meat for each winter.

      Your meals sound delicious, especially the taco soup and cornbread and beef and noodles. Yum! My kind of meals!
      Have a great weekend, Diane!

    2. When my children were young, and money was very tight, we basically ate nothing but elk, and the chickens I raised for meat. If he didn’t get 2 tags that year I would go buy one and hunt, because we needed two elk. Believe me, I was soooo happy when my kids were old enough to hunt because I didn’t like it one bit. Now one is plenty. He hunts deer and antelope too but I won’t eat those so he makes jerky and stuff with that. The weather is not cooperating this year, and so far he hasn’t gotten an elk yet-and we need one because our oldest dd uses ground elk to make her dog food-the dog has a medical condition which makes her unable to eat most proteins. We cut up our own animals, and grind most into burger. We make a few steaks from the loins, but my days of eating elk steak and roasts are over lol. The burger is great for tacos, chili, etc. we don’t add any fat to it so it’s very lean, and much healthier than beef.

  3. It's use-up-venison week here! I made venison chili and cornbread for one night, venison stew with overnight rise bread last night, and there are enough leftovers for tonight. I made peanut chicken over rice earlier this week and sloppy joes for our final weeknight dinner. I'm getting hungry reading about everyone's meals!

    1. Hi Kris,
      Was the venison from your husband's hunting? Again, like I said to Diane, it must be reassuring to know you have plenty of meat. Chili and stew sound like cold weather comfort foods. And the peanut chicken sounds tasty. I may try that soon.
      Have a great weekend, Kris!


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