Cooking at home is one of the best frugal moves anyone can make. It’s more affordable AND much healthier than eating out. A nice dinner out for our family of 4 usually costs about the same as a week of groceries. (My mom is staying with us until November.) We get much better value out of cooking at home. That’s why we go out just a few times per month. We enjoy eating out because we can try something new, but it usually isn’t very healthy. Last week, we went to a great southern food restaurant and ate fried chicken and fried catfish. Those fried southern dishes were delicious! We don’t deep fry at home so we can’t make this kind of food. I gave us a pass for this meal because we went hiking all day before stopping for dinner. Also, lunch was PBJ sandwiches and trail mix in the car.
Restaurant food tastes great because chefs use a lot of butter, salt, sugar, and oil. At home, we minimize these extra ingredients so our meals are healthier, but a little more bland. My family has a history of high blood pressure so extra salt is dangerous. Also, the serving portions these days are huge. I know I shouldn’t eat everything in front of me, but it’s so hard to resist something so delicious. So that’s why we mostly cook at home.
Cooking easy meals
Cooking can be a lot of fun if you like good food. You can learn to cook pretty much anything these days. There are so many resources on the internet now. We don’t even really need cookbooks anymore. It’s a lot of fun to look up new recipes on YouTube and other cooking sites. I’d go through a few recipes of the same dish and make an amalgam dinner with the ingredients I like. I don’t follow recipes exactly so every meal is a bit different. Mrs. RB40 on the other hand follows instruction to the letter and her cooking is more consistent.
We only cook dinners and usually have the leftovers for lunch or just make sandwiches. On Saturday, I’d write down 5-6 dishes we plan to make on our whiteboard before we go grocery shopping. That way, we can buy exactly what we need to make those dishes. Of course, it doesn’t always work that well. Last week, we went spelunking at Ape Cave so we didn’t go grocery shopping like usual. Normally, we go to WinCo on the weekend to load up on groceries. This week, I’m just dropping by Safeway to pick up a few things as needed. Safeway is much closer to our condo, but everything is more expensive. A red bell pepper costs $2 each! It’s usually around 75 cents at WinCo. It’s during these weeks that we go to our fallback meals.
These are meals that are easy to make and we usually have the ingredients in the pantry. We’re in the middle of a heat wave here in Portland so I need to minimize cooking time as well. It’s going to be 107 degrees on Thursday! That’s really unusual for us and it would be the hottest day on record if the temperature hit 108. Whew, that’s hot.
Our fallback meals
Of course, it’s much easier to cook now that I’m retired (5 years!) because I have more time, but sometimes I have to go with my fallback meals. Here are some of them.
Shrimp Taco & Cilantro Lime Coleslaw
Shrimp Tacos are so easy to make. We usually have a bag of frozen shrimp in the freezer and a head of cabbage in the fridge. The great thing about this dish is the minimal prep and cooking time. The shrimp thaws in about 10 minutes in a bowl of water and shredding cabbage is easy. Cooking the shrimp takes just a few minutes on the stove and that’s it.
Mrs. RB40 grew up in southern California so she loves this kind of food. RB40Jr also loves shrimp tacos so everyone is happy whenever I make this quick and easy dinner.
Joe’s Shrimp Taco Recipe
- chopped cilantro
- mayonnaise, sour cream, and/or Greek yogurt. Try and see what you like. I usually use half mayonnaise and half yogurt.
- optional – chopped green onions, garlic, and grated carrot.
- Shrimps – defrost in a bowl of water.
- Marinade for 10 minutes in olive oil, cumin, garlic, paprika, salt, and a little chili pepper.
- Cook on medium high heat for a few minutes. Don’t over cook.
Serve with warm tortilla and avocado slices.
Fried rice is another easy fallback meal for me. I just toss in whatever I have in the fridge. This one was extra yummy because we happened to have some Chinese sausage in the fridge that day. Making fried rice is a great way to use up some left over vegetables too. Bell peppers, frozen peas, corn, onion, mushroom, and broccoli are great in fried rice.
Pasta with Spaghetti Sauce
Of course, pasta is a great fallback because it is so easy to make. Here we went a bit off script and made a meatball sandwich. Yummm… This fallback meal is made from premade ingredients so it’s not quite as healthy as the previous dishes. The meatballs and pasta sauce can be pretty salty.
Cooking at home is fun
So those are 3 of my fallback meals. They are easy to make and we usually have the ingredients in the fridge. It really isn’t difficult to cook good meals. Mrs. RB40 wasn’t a great cook when I met her, but now her meals are delicious. You just have to keep cooking and your instincts will kick in at some point.
It’s kind of like blogging. I wasn’t a very good blogger when I started out, but eventually I found my voice and blogging became a lot of fun. Whether it’s cooking, blogging, or managing your finance, you just need to stick with it and you’ll get better at it. Here is my tutorial on How to Start a Blog, in case you’re interested. 😉
What are your fallback meals? It’d be great to add some easy recipes to my repertoire. Stay frugal!