Recently, I became unemployed, and my husband and I went from being DINK’s (double income no kids) to SINK’s (single income no kids). I am temporarily postponing my search for another job to start a freelance writing career. As you can well imagine, the loss of my income as an operating room registered nurse affected our household budget, and I have had to find ways to be creative about saving money.
The first place I looked to trim the fat so to speak was the food budget. When I was working, we would order delivery food for dinner two or three times a week. At $20 to $35 before tip, you can do the math to see that we were spending a lot more than we needed to on dinner every week. I challenged myself to cook dinner every weeknight for fifty dollars or less each week. My husband and I like good food, but we are not picky eaters, and I have easily been able to meet the challenge. Now my challenge is adding new dishes to my menu. Here are ideas for five of my easiest husband pleasers for under ten dollars each.
The prices that I have listed are prices that I have paid for items according to my most recent grocery bills. I buy a lot of dry goods at dollar stores, and I buy a lot of store brand items from the grocery store. I never buy anything that is not on sale unless I have a coupon for it, and this includes meat. I buy meat in large quantities and split it up for meals. For example, I buy boneless skinless chicken when it is on sale for buy one bag and get one bag free. So I get two bags for $9.99 – $12.99. I’ll use $12.99 for this article, but most of the time it’s cheaper because I buy it when it’s on sale for the cheapest price. I get two meals from each bag, so for each chicken meal, the meat cost is under three dollars and fifty cents. I do the same thing with ground beef, so that each meal portion of ground beef costs about four dollars.
Rotisserie Chicken. This is the fast food of this article. You can pick up these ingredients and serve this meal as fast as or faster than you can get dinner at a drive through burger joint. Buy a cold rotisserie chicken from the grocery store because they are usually a dollar or more cheaper than the warm ones under the heating lamps. You can reheat the chicken in the oven. Serve the chicken with one package of Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice and one package of frozen broccoli and cheese. Chicken 4.99; rice 1.25; broccoli 2.50. Total cost: $8.44. Total prep time fifteen minutes. Total cook time thirty minutes (to warm chicken).
Chicken Chili. Love that chicken! Like I said, it’s only $3.50 for the meat. Cook and shred half a bag of boneless skinless chicken tenders or breasts. The shreds should be bite sized. Add a package of chili mix and prepare according to directions. I also add one can each of diced tomatoes and pinto beans. Serve the chili over tortilla chips with grated cheese on top. Chicken 3.50; chili mix .89; tomatoes .69; beans .69; tortilla chips 2.99; cheese 2.99. Total cost $11.75. I know this is a little over ten dollars, but consider the fact that you probably won’t eat the entire bag of chips or the whole package of cheese. Total prep time about twenty minutes. Total cook time at least thirty minutes.
Spaghetti. You can use either shredded chicken or ground meat of any kind. I use ground beef because that ‘s what my husband likes. Brown the ground beef and add one jar of spaghetti sauce. I add seasonings like salt, pepper, and sugar, which I always have on hand. Serve over pasta with a tossed salad on the side. Meat 4.00; pasta sauce 1.25; pasta 1.00; salad 2.50. Total cost $8.75. Total prep time twenty minutes. Total cook time at least thirty minutes for sauce to simmer.
Crock Pot Roast Beef. This one is so easy it almost makes itself, and it’s good enough for Sunday dinner. Start with a crock-pot and any kind of roast beef. The only kind of roast beef I buy is one that is on sale, and under five dollars. Mix one package of dried onion soup mix with one cup of water in the crock-pot. Place the roast in the center. Add some potatoes, carrots, and onions. Sprinkle the top of the roast with salt, pepper, garlic powder and steak seasoning. Cover and cook on low for eight to ten hours. Roast 5.00; potatoes 1.50; carrots 1.50, onions, 1.00, dry soup mix .50. Total cost $9.50. Total prep time fifteen minutes. Total cook time eight to ten hours.
Smoked Sausage Jambalaya. This is a super hearty dish that is fast and easy. It is also very versatile, as I often make it with ground beef or chicken. Start with a package of smoked sausage. Slice and place in a pot with one chopped onion, then sauté until sausage is fully cooked. Add one jambalaya kit and prepare as directed. I also add one can each of diced tomatoes, whole kernel corn, and pinto beans. Top with some of the leftover cheese from the chicken chili. Sausage 2.69; jambalaya mix 1.50; tomatoes .69; corn .69; beans .69; onion .35. Total cost $6.61. Total prep time twenty minutes. Total cook time at least thirty minutes.
Now these recipes may not all be to your taste. But with a little frugal shopping and some imagination, you can easily eat fast and delicious meals in the comfort of your own home, and save money too.