Most of you know that I run a very tight ship around here when it comes to our weekly grocery budget. It is rare that I make room on my list for high-dollar grocery items like ground beef, macadamia nuts, and canned cream of coconut (the likes of which you’ve seen a lot of here lately.) But the month of January brought many unusual changes to the Casey household. Some bad… and some so very humbling and good!
I never expected my dad’s illness and sudden passing to prompt such an outpouring of generosity on my family. People have brought over meals, supplied us with money for gas and other expenses, given me gift cards to my favorite restaurant, donated money for my siblings and I to attend a grief recovery retreat, babysat my daughter, cleaned my house, even rented me a U-Haul the day we cleaned out my dad’s house. It has utterly blown me away!
So the decadent recipes you’ve seen here over the last few weeks are the direct result of all this generosity. With a freezer full of meals at-the-ready, I figured why not spring for a little ground beef so I can share Spaghetti Pie with the masses? 😉
But… don’t think this means I’ve become a softy!
I’m pinching my pennies just as much as ever, because I’ve still got my eye on that dream house I keep pinning pictures of!
So in the spirit of penny-pinching, I wanted to share a quick list with you today. This is a list of meals you can put on the table when you’re reeeeeally stretching to get to that next grocery day. (Meals that will do the job of filling your belly and nourishing you, at least somewhat, until you can replenish the fridge and pantry.)
One of my favorite challenges in the grocery-budgeting-game is putting a shopping date on the calendar and refusing to break down and go to the store before that date.
Sometimes that means you’ll go a few days without milk at the end of a week…
Sometimes it means oatmeal for other meals besides breakfast…
Sometimes it means smaller portions. (Who doesn’t need that once in a while??)
But it also means you’re exercising discipline and sacrifice… And that you are awesome!
So here are a few of my suggestions for “Pinch Hitter” meals, when the fridge and pantry are nearly bare. Please throw out your own suggestions in the comments section so we can all expand our arsenal of pinch hitters. Goodness knows I could use em’!
1) French Toast –
Filling (thanks to protein-packed eggs), yummy, and a great way to stretch ingredients that may be past their prime (like bread!) Bonus: You don’t need sandwich bread… you can use French Bread, Sourdough, even sliced dinner rolls!
2) Baked Potatoes –
Cheap cheap cheap, full of potassium, and a great vehicle for whatever you have! Even if you’re short on the traditional favorites like sour cream, cheese, or bacon, you can always try mixing it up! Chopped frozen broccoli with canned Parmesan cheese… salsa with black beans… chopped tomatoes with Italian herb seasoning… caramelized onions and a bit of beef broth or bouillon… seriously, your options here are endless!
3) Oatmeal –
Don’t knock it, Man! Oatmeal is a cozy meal any time of day that supplies you with loads of heart-healthy fiber. I particularly love keeping steel-cut oats on hand because they have such a nutty flavor and satisfying, chewy texture.
4) PB & J –
Cuz who doesn’t do this sometimes (and secretly love it)?
5) Michelina’s frozen entrees –
I’m kinda evangelistic about Michelina’s frozen entrees. They regularly go on sale at my local Kroger for 88 cents each, so I buy them in bulk whenever that sale is going on. You cannot beat an 88-cent meal! I will say that I haven’t tried them all… so I can’t vouch for every single entree they make. But I particularly love the Lasagna, Veggie Lasagna, Manicotti, Pizza Bites, and Buffalo Chicken Bites.
6) “Leftovers” Soup –
If you have an onion and a few odds and ends in the crisper, you can usually throw together a decent soup. It is especially helpful if you have a well-stocked spice cabinet or a few herb bushes in the yard. (Also, this is why I never throw away chicken bones or leftovers from restaurants. The most meager leftovers can really enhance a soup!)
7) Omelettes –
Of course this is assuming you have eggs on hand (enough for each family member to have a couple)… so it may be a long shot. But it’s still worth mentioning because sometimes people don’t think of omelettes for lunch or dinner. And even if you only have enough for 1 egg per person, you can bulk up an omelette with leftover mashed potatoes, any veggies and seasonings you have lying around, even a little flour and milk to give them a crepe-like consistency!
8) “Doctored-Up” Mac n’ Cheese –
I never serve Macaroni and Cheese on its own… I just can’t justify calling it a “meal.” But I definitely serve it often (especially to myself!) My trick is to mix in frozen broccoli, or canned tuna, or a few heaping spoonfulls of hummus (or all of the above.) And you know who else loves it? My little one!
Hope these ideas provide a little fresh inspiration for the days you find yourself struggling against the temptation to head to the store early. You can do it! And be sure to send your own ideas my way.
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