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What Are Your Favorite Fallback Meals?


What Are Your Favorite Fallback Meals?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.

Planning dinners

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

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

Cole slaw 

  • cabbage
  • lime
  • chopped cilantro
  • salt
  • 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

Fried rice

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.

meatball sandwich

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!

The following two tabs change content below.
Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. He spent 16 years working in computer design and enjoyed the technical work immensely. However, he hated the corporate BS. He left his engineering career behind to become a stay-at-home dad/blogger at 38. At Retire by 40, Joe focuses on financial independence, early retirement, investing, saving, and passive income.

For 2018, Joe plans to diversify his passive income by investing in US heartland real estate through RealtyShares. He has 3 rental units in Portland and he believes the local market is getting overpriced.

Joe highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. He logs on to Personal Capital almost daily to check his cash flow and net worth. They have many useful tools that will help every investor analyze their portfolio and plan for retirement.
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{ 63 comments… add one }
  • Ernie Zelinski August 3, 2017, 12:57 am

    I regularly joke with my friends that “the last time I cooked was about 8 months ago when I made toast — and that was only one slice.”

    That is NOT far from the truth. I eat in restaurants at least three times a week. The other days, I buy food at the various grocery store delis to take home and eat. Nevertheless, I eat very healthy food. For example, today I purchased a Greek salad, a chickpea salad with curry, a broccoli salad, and a roasted cauliflower salad. I also purchase a lot of unsalted organic Brazil nuts, cashews, and almonds. I don’t care about the price. I just buy them.

    At the same time, I NEVER buy food at places such as MacDonalds, Wendy’s, or Burger King. If I want a great meal, I will head to The Keg for a great filet with salad that costs $45 or more. A bottle of Mollydooker Boxer Shiraz to share with a friend is also a favorite at The Keg. The bottle is $46 but a great deal given that it costs $37 in a liquor store.

    That is what I like about having a good income. I never have to cheap out on food — and I never have to cook!

    Having said that, here are some of my favorite quotations about food for your enjoyment:

    “The discovery of a new dish does more for the happiness of mankind than the discovery of a new star.”
    — Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

    “Doctors are always working to preserve our health and cooks to destroy it, but the latter are the more often successful.”
    — Denis Diderot

    “To safeguard one’s health at the cost of too strict a diet is a tiresome illness indeed.”
    — François, Duc de La Rochefoucauld

    “I cook with wine. Sometimes I even add it to the food.”
    — W. C. Fields

    “Drinking strong wine cures hunger.”
    — Hippocrates

    “The only really good vegetable is Tabasco sauce. Put Tabasco sauce in everything.”
    — P. J. O’Rourke

    “Someone the other day told me that left-over wine could be used for cooking. I was totally confused. What the heck is left-over wine?”
    — Unknown funny person

    “Old people shouldn’t eat health foods. They need all the preservatives they can get.”
    — Robert Orben

    “Tomatoes and oregano make it Italian; wine and tarragon make it French. Sour cream makes it Russian; lemon and cinnamon make it Greek. Soy sauce makes it Chinese; garlic makes it good.”
    — Alice May Brock

    “Any dish that tastes good with capers in it tastes even better with capers not in it.”
    — Nora Ephron

    “Better a good dinner than a fine coat.”
    — French proverb

    Incidentally, the French proverb is the one that really resonates with me.

    • Darren August 3, 2017, 6:46 am


      Those are some great quotes and refreshing because I’ve never seen them before. “Old people shouldn’t eat health foods…” Lmao!

    • retirebyforty August 3, 2017, 7:56 am

      Sounds like my father in law’s bachelor lifestyle. 🙂
      We eat out a lot when we travel and we really miss home cooked meals then. I guess it’s the comfort factor as well.
      Great quotes, except the capers one. I love capers.

  • Mr. FWP August 3, 2017, 1:17 am

    Like you, we believe that tortilla + whatever’s in the fridge can = yummy meal. Love the fallback meals idea. Tacos are one of ours too (and were dinner tonight). (We also do pasta as a fallback.)

    There’s also a LOT to be said for rice and beans. You can do just about anything with it: add sauces, add veggies/whatever, add meat, add spices/flavor, add tortilla…the possibilities are endless. And a can of beans only costs $0.75 around here. So we stock plenty of those. It’s a good filler meal.

    We also do “everything else” soup, especially in the winter. I’ll throw in whatever veggies we want to be rid of, plus some beans, and add flavoring. It also freezes well, so I can make epic batches of it, freeze, and have lunches for a while.

    Also, we’ve taken to saving fresh fruit and veggies that are about to go bad and freezing them. It prevents us from wasting food–it has really helped us save.

    Then, we use the fruit for smoothies (or sangria!) and the veggies for soups or stir fry. I’ll toss some in whenever I cook something that’s amenable: more veggies = more nutrients and more volume, and thus, more nutrients per volume. For example, we threw some lettuce that would have otherwise gone bad into the taco meat this week, which was fun and healthier.

    • retirebyforty August 3, 2017, 8:01 am

      I’m not a big fan of refried beans, but Mrs. RB40 loves them. Must be a southern CA thing.
      Great idea with soup. Lettuce in taco meat sounds interesting. I’ll try that next time we have extra veggies.

  • Pennypincher August 3, 2017, 1:21 am

    Oh, my! Your recipes look so colorful and delicious! I’ll be right over.

    Yes, you cannot control the fat, salt, sugar when you eat out. So I stay home.

    I try to make 2-4 meals at a time, freeze the rest. That way the effort and mess/cleanup are a one shot deal.
    I could eat Mexican cuisine 8 days a week. No two tacos, burritos, tostadas are ever alike!
    Ok, now I’m hungry.

    • Mr. FWP August 3, 2017, 5:43 am

      Agreed! (Too bad there isn’t a “like” button here.)

    • retirebyforty August 3, 2017, 10:05 am

      I’m not a big fan of making big meals because we don’t like left over that much. I’m okay with eating them for lunch, but not a few days in a row. 🙂 I know it works well for many families.

  • Amber August 3, 2017, 3:30 am

    At our house dinner can be pretty chaotic with 4kids and lots of extracurricular activities! Our standby meal for dinner is breakfast. We have chickens so there are always fresh eggs for scrambling or making pancakes or French toast. Throw some veggies in the eggs or add a side of meat and I have covered almost all the food groups! Your shrimp tacks do look delicious!

    • retirebyforty August 3, 2017, 10:08 am

      Yummm! Fresh eggs. That’s great! We just make do with store brought eggs. 🙁

  • Ember @ An Intentional Lifestyle August 3, 2017, 3:32 am

    Fried catfish!! So good right? We are southern and we deep fry something probably once a week. Pan fry once a week too. So good!
    Our go to meals are fried rice, burritos, and breakfast. Pretty much any meal consisting of rice is a winner in our house. Our kids are obsessed with it. Breakfast, whether just scrambled eggs, bacon, and hashbrowns or pancakes, is an inexpensive meal at any time.
    I meal plan, but always try to have the things I need to throw at least one extra quick meal together at all times.
    Food… it’s always a fun subject, right? 🙂

    • retirebyforty August 3, 2017, 10:10 am

      The fried catfish was really good. We haven’t had southern food for years so we thoroughly enjoyed that meal.
      Breakfast for dinner. I see trend here. I guess breakfasts are easy. We usually don’t eat breakfast for dinner, but maybe we can try it sometime. 🙂

  • Al August 3, 2017, 3:41 am

    Yes it is cheaper to eat at home but it can also get expensive if you eat super high quality food.
    We love Taco Tuesdays but found that none are better than the ones we make home.

    • retirebyforty August 3, 2017, 10:11 am

      Fish tacos is better at the restaurant because we don’t deep fry. Our shrimp tacos are definitely better than going out.
      Good point about high quality ingredients.

  • Pat August 3, 2017, 4:25 am

    Since when did you turn into a family of 4? Have I missed something?

    • retirebyforty August 3, 2017, 10:12 am

      My mom is here until November.

  • Mr. Freaky Frugal August 3, 2017, 4:32 am

    I’m very lucky because Mrs. Freaky Frugal is a superb cook. Really, I’m spoiled.

    My favorite dish lately is a Skirt Steak Casserole. Mrs. FF sautes skirt steak in butter to medium rare. Then she slices into little pieces. Then she slices potatoes really thin and bakes them in the oven. Finally, she layers the potatoes, skirt steak, and cheddar cheese in a casserole dish and puts it in the oven to melt the cheese. Yum!

    • retirebyforty August 3, 2017, 10:13 am

      The skirt steak casserole sounds awesome. We’ll have to try that sometime. It sounds like something Mrs. RB40 would like to cook and eat. 🙂

  • Ms. Frugal Asian Finance August 3, 2017, 4:39 am

    Wow all of your fallback meals look absolutely delicious! They look like you’ve spent a lot of time making them.

    My fallback meal is instant noodles. But since I’m trying to stay healthy, I’ve switched to fried rice and wheat noodles with soy sauce. But we always have leftovers in the fridge to fall back on for some reason.

    • retirebyforty August 3, 2017, 10:13 am

      The shrimp tacos take very little time to make. Probably 15 minutes, not including thawing time.

  • Mrs. Groovy August 3, 2017, 4:50 am

    I’ve gotta try your shrimp tacos!

    Meatballs are a fallback I make for Mr. G and he never even liked meatballs until he had these. I make them ahead and freeze. The recipe is simple: 1 lb ground pork, 1 lb ground beef, 1 cup Panko breadcrumbs, 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, 2 eggs, 1/4 of medium onion, chopped (or a generous sprinkle of onion powder). Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

    • retirebyforty August 3, 2017, 10:14 am

      Yumm.. homemade meatballs are much better than store brought. I’ll have to try your recipe sometime. Thanks!

    • Donna August 5, 2017, 6:57 pm

      Mrs. G – do you freeze them after they’re cooked, or after they’re prepped (and then bake them straight from the freezer)?

  • Lazy Man and Money August 3, 2017, 5:07 am

    I make a lot of use out of the slow cooker. I love being able to make meals for days in just a few minutes of prep.

    A basic meal would be chicken thighs, peppers, onions, and some Taste of India butter curry sauce (with some butter). If I want to get really crazy, I serve it over rice from our rice cooker.

    I also make sausage, meatballs, and peppers. It’s the same thing as above except different meat and sauce (tomato) and I serve it over pasta.

    My wife prefers the InstantPot because she doesn’t need to plan in advance like I do with the slow cooker. I might like the InstantPot too, but I haven’t taken the time to learn it.

    Lately, I’ve also been making batches of egg salad. Eggs are super cheap at my grocery store. It’s great for sandwiches on hot summer days.

    • retirebyforty August 3, 2017, 10:15 am

      I like the slow cooker too, but just in the winter. It’s too hot to have the slow cooker running all day long.
      I haven’t tried the InstantPot. Sounds interesting.

  • Budget on a Stick August 3, 2017, 5:30 am

    We have a long list of fallback meals!
    Some that I remember off hand: Box Mac & Cheese, grilled cheese and tomato soup, pancakes/waffles, frozen pot stickers, and fried rice.

    They are great if we have to quickly swap out a more complicated recipe for an easier one because of plans changing. It helps that we meal plan on Saturday and shop on Sunday so we can limit the need of fall back meals.

    • retirebyforty August 3, 2017, 10:16 am

      I’m all for grilled cheese. Trader Joe’s pot stickers are RB40Jr’s favorite.

  • Adam and Jane August 3, 2017, 5:47 am

    Oh, you are killing me with those pictures of delicious meals with white starchy carbs!

    It has been 2 years since we stopped eating white starchy carbs like rice, pasta, noodles, potatoes from Mon thru Fridays. Saturdays and Sundays are our cheat days and we eat some white carbs. NO ice cream, junk foods or any desserts in the house. Occassionally, we cheat with a bag of chips.

    Two years ago, Jane and I lost 18 and 23 lbs respectively. This year so far Jane and I maintained our weight lost of 16 and 21 lbs respectively. We are both up 2 lbs this year and our BMIs are still mid 22s. I hope that the increased in weight is muscle but my slight muffin top indicates NO ?. Jane’s stomach is pretty flat now and I envy her!

    For the past 10 years, my high cholestrol ranges from 200 to 241. In 2016, it was the highest at 241 but my good cholestrol was 19 points higher because of my excerising and the ratio of bad & good was OK at 3.5. A1C dropped from 5.7 to 5.6 ?. In 2017, I was lazy for the 1st half of the year, ate out more at buffets, excerised only 1-2 times a week and I gained 9 lbs. I started excerising 6 times a week in June, watched what I ate and it took 2 months to lose 7 lbs. I have 2 lbs to lose and I still fit my 29″ waist pants. At the end of July, we had our annual exams and blood test. The good news is that my cholestrol dropped from 241 to 201 ?!! A1C dropped from 5.6 to 5.4 ?!!

    Jane’s cholestrol dropped from 201 to 188 ? !! A1C dropped from 6.2 to 5.9 ?!! She is still pre-diabetic and needs drop her A1C to at least 5.6 to be in the normal range. She also increased her kick boxing to twice a week. For the last 2 months, she started making a vegetable smoothie every morning instead of eating a bowl of oatmeal or a yogurt.

    Jane thinks the key to our improved numbers are eating little to none processed food, more home made meals, lots of vegetables, fruits and excerising.

    Usually for lunch or dinner, we eat a protein with vegetable unless it is just soup or chilli.

    Our main meals:
    1. Baked pork chops or chicken legs with salt, pepper and Emeril Essence spices.
    2. Baked salmon or catfish with salt, pepper and Emeril Essence spices.
    3. Baked turkey meatloaf.
    4. Steamed salted cod fish with ginger or salmon with soy sauce and ginger.
    5. Braised chicken leg with homemade sofrito and sometimes with Goya baked plantains.
    6. Lentails soup
    7. Vegetarian Chilli with TVP
    8. Stir fried shrimp with garlic, ginger and salt.
    9. Bitter melon with minced turkey and tofu.
    10. Stir fried eggplant with fish balls and tofu.

    Vegetables are usually brocolli, spinach or some chinese leafy greens blanching/boiling in salted water for 5-7 mins. Chinese napa cabbage with dried baby shrimps.

    We eat very basic simple foods in order to maintain our weight lose.


    • retirebyforty August 3, 2017, 10:18 am

      Great! You’re doing very well with your food. We probably will have to cut out white carb at some point, but Mrs. RB40 loves carb. It’s going to be a tough transition for us. I like the idea of weekend cheat days.
      Your meals sound very good and healthy.

  • Fromusa August 3, 2017, 5:52 am

    I am one of those people who tend to lose weight when eating a lot of butter, salt, sugar, and oil. Yeah, so restaurant food suits me well. But I hate the taste of dairy.

  • Adam August 3, 2017, 6:39 am

    Ever since I started telecommuting full-time early last year, it’s been a pleasure and a delight to make sure my wife gets home to a good dinner. I cook, she bakes; it suits my “let’s see if this works” nature and her more meticulous mindset. Tuesday it was BBQ chicken grilled over indirect heat and bacon-wrapped mushrooms. Yesterday, grilled shrimp tacos with sauteed zucchini and onions (you might detect a theme — the Weber is three feet from the kitchen door). We, too, spend five minutes every weekend meal-planning before we hit the store… it’s kept our grocery spending to about $2300 so far this year, below budget.

    • retirebyforty August 3, 2017, 10:20 am

      I cook almost all my meals on the stove top and grill. Mrs. RB40 uses the oven much more.
      Grilled chicken is a fallback meal for us too. It takes more time, but so good!

  • freebird August 3, 2017, 6:50 am

    There’s an old Japanese tradition that serves up a frugal fallback meal. If you have various leftovers stashed in the fridge, toss them together with Bisquick and milk and make savory pancakes out of them. Sure beats just throwing them out. Last time I visited Tokyo a few years ago my hosts took me to a restaurant that specializes in just this dish.

    I think the Brits do something like this too they call “bubble & squeak”. Waste nowt want nowt!

    • retirebyforty August 3, 2017, 10:21 am

      I’ve never heard of that before. Is that different than Okonomiyaki?

      • freebird August 3, 2017, 7:19 pm

        That sure looks like the same thing, I recall it was my host who explained to me this is how they use leftovers, and maybe what he meant was that was for his family and perhaps not in general? Anyway it seemed like such a good idea the story stuck with me all these years.

      • mary w August 7, 2017, 3:10 pm

        Since cabbage is a staple for you, Okonomiyaki would be a good fall back to add to your repertoire.

        • retirebyforty August 7, 2017, 9:27 pm

          We make Okonomiyaki once in a while. It’s a bit fussy because we need bacon on top, which we usually don’t have on hand.
          It’s not as good without bacon. 🙂

  • Solitary Diner August 3, 2017, 6:54 am

    We have a few fallback meals that are variable in their healthiness:

    1) Spaghetti with meat sauce
    2) Frozen pre-seasoned fish fillets served with rice and frozen vegetables
    3) Burrito bowls made with rice, beans, cheese, and whatever else we have in the fridge
    4) Eggs and toast
    5) Brown beans and toast (for really lazy nights)

    We also freeze a lot of leftovers, so we can often pull something out of the freezer if we’re in a hurry. I often make quesadillas (bean and cheese or chicken/vegetables and cheese) and freeze most of them, which makes for a really quick meal.

    If you’re finding it hard to not eat the whole portion at a restaurant, one trick is to ask the waiter to box up half the meal before bringing it to the table. It’s easier to stop eating when you don’t see all the food, and then you have tasty leftovers for the next day.

    • retirebyforty August 3, 2017, 10:23 am

      Thanks for sharing. I’ll get some frozen fish fillets next time we go to the grocery store. We need to eat more fish.
      Mrs. RB40 likes quesadillas, but Jr doesn’t care for them. Strange kid.
      Good trick with the restaurant!

  • Andrew August 3, 2017, 7:12 am

    I have the same fallback meals: fried rice and spaghetti. Fried rice is easy…it’s a great way to get rid of leftover meat or vegetables. The real lazy fallback are frozen pretty much ready made stuff from Trader Joe’s. The Mandarin Chicken and Teriyaki chicken are pretty good.

    • retirebyforty August 3, 2017, 10:25 am

      Fried rice is probably every Asian family’s fallback meal. 🙂
      I try not to buy too much ready made stuff from Trader Joe’s. They are yummy, but probably not very healthy. RB40Jr loves their gyoza.

  • Justin August 3, 2017, 8:54 am

    Tacos, pasta, fried rice – all staples for us. We usually have some kind of meat in the freezer if we want a hearty meal.

    We usually go out for fried foods too. Fried fish/shrimp is great! But so greasy (which is why it’s great 🙂 ).

  • Pennypincher August 3, 2017, 2:01 pm

    Today’s blog is a keeper. So many good, tasty ideas!

  • Dividend Diplomats August 3, 2017, 8:31 pm


    Two meals, and they are short/sweet:

    PB Sandwich (With banana occasionally)
    Oatmeal with Peanutbutter, honey, banana, cinnamon

    Cheap, easy, delicious.


    • retirebyforty August 3, 2017, 9:32 pm

      Our kid gets almond butter and jelly sandwich for lunch. No PB at school. 🙁
      Oatmeal is great too. Doesn’t stick, though.

  • Laura August 3, 2017, 10:54 pm

    We’ve just wrapped up 3 days of main-dish salads during the heat wave (phew!).

    Hmmm…fallbacks? The kids like sloppy joes, burritos, and slow-cooker kalua pork. I like chili during colder weather and a new fallback from Budget Bytes is her shakshuka recipe – cheap, easy, good. Misc. roasted veg served over polenta is great as well. Also gnocchi – I fry it w/ misc ingredients such as bits of ham, spinach, onions, etc.

    And yep, we do WinCo/Costco run about once a month, Trader Joe’s weekly (good prices on what we do buy there) and Safeway only occasionally, New Seasons even less.

  • Anil August 3, 2017, 11:14 pm

    Joe – good points about cooking. We cook our dinner almost everyday & love the fact that it gives us the choice to pick whatever we like in terms of calories & ingredients. However, cooking is not cheap if you add all the cost, especially if you want good fresh ingredients from Farmer’s market or Whole Foods or New Seasons. We love Trader Joe’s, that helps make it affordable.

    On a side note, lot of people reading here have done real estate investment. I spent past few days analyzing the Portland housing market & put the data at http://www.ak37.org, let me know if it helps you or the readers. Any feedback will help me provide better analysis for future.

    Cheers and as always pleae keep the good work going!

  • Turning Point Money August 4, 2017, 4:52 am

    BBQ for sure. I pulled two pork shoulders off the smoker last night. 14 pounds of prepared meat that freezes extremely well. It will feed us for weeks all for under 25 dollars. Add in some healthy collards and wood fired veggies.

  • Jeff - MaximumCents.com August 4, 2017, 6:21 am

    Here are some recipes we have been making lately:

    1. Grilled Chicken & Veggies (usually Broccoli, Cauliflower, & Onions) – We cut up the veggies and put in aluminum foil packets for easy grilling.
    2. Easy Omelettes – Crack some eggs and/or egg whites in a pan and add baby spinach, cheese, peppers, etc.
    3. Baked Falafel – Add chickpeas, onions, parsley, spices, and oil to a food processor and pulse. Form into balls and bake at 500F for 25 min.
    4. Kodiak Cakes – Whisk mix and water to create batter. Pour batter onto hot griddle. Flip when golden brown.

  • SMM August 4, 2017, 8:57 am

    All those look amazing. Ours is grilled chicken lightly seasoned, with any kind of vegetable available (corn on the cob, green beans, baked potato) and home made garlic bread. I’m hungry now 🙂

  • Mr. Tako August 4, 2017, 3:02 pm

    Great looking meals there Joe! Like you, we do the vast majority of our cooking at home. I agree, it’s way cheaper and healthier!

    Frankly after years of practice, I think I can cook better than most restaurants!

  • Adriana @MoneyJourney August 5, 2017, 3:35 am

    Oh my gosh, that shrimp taco is mouth watering!!

    I’m also a big fan of cooking at home, although I don’t find home cooking to be more bland than restaurant meals. It’s true, restaurants have their ‘secrets’, but cooking your own meals allows you to use a variety of spices to make your meals interesting. The ones I use most often are salt and pepper, but I’m also a huge fan of oregano, curry, rosemary, thyme, paprika (both sweet and hot), dill, chives… I can go on but this comment would never end… 😀

  • Mrs.Moe August 6, 2017, 5:16 am

    The slow cooker is the best. Though we use it a TON in winter/fall, even in the summer we’ll break it out. It’s a huge cost savings. We do a lot of roasts and soups in the colder months and beans (which are quite versatile for side items and lunches) for the warmer months.

    I enjoy coming back home from a long day and not having to thing about what we’re doing for dinner.

    • retirebyforty August 7, 2017, 9:25 pm

      I like the slow cooker too, but I need more recipe. Currently, I only make roast and pull pork in our slow cooker. 🙂

  • Done by Forty August 7, 2017, 4:34 pm

    Man that food looks good. Can you share the shrimp taco recipe you guys use? As a former San Diegan, fish tacos speak to my soul…

    • retirebyforty August 7, 2017, 9:27 pm

      Sure, I’ll put it on the page.

  • Oliver @ Appreneurinvestor.com August 8, 2017, 5:51 am

    Your fallback meal ideas are making me hungry! Very good final advice: stay frugal! We all know that it’s still more practical to buy food in a grocery store than in a restaurant – home-cooked meals are yummier and healthier, I must say.

  • Mr Crazy Kicks August 8, 2017, 6:45 am

    I think I’m gonna need some shrimp tacos! You have some really fancy backup meals 🙂

    Our backup meals change a lot by season. Right now we have a lot of veggies coming form the garden so a big salad makes for a quick and easy lunch. For dinner I can throw some meat on the grill while we steam up some broccoli and cauliflower. During the winter, we make a lot of soups, and I usually have pizza dough going in the fridge so we can easily bake up a fresh pie 🙂

  • Thuy August 8, 2017, 6:04 pm

    I have been obsessed with my instant pot lately. My husband laughs but it is a huge timesaver and bonus doesn’t heat up the house during this heatwave. I have started making home made yogurt with it, either Greek or Noosa style. Saves us a ton of money and I can control the amount of sugar/additives in it. I also learned to make savory egg custard in it and that is in regular breakfast rotation.
    The regular dinner rotation at our house includes:
    Sesame noodles with shiitake/king oyster mushrooms and ground pork
    Carmelized braised pork and eggs
    Pasta with home made quick red sauce
    Chicken tikka with roasted cauliflower
    Stir fried veggies

    I try to have the ingredients for these in the freezer at all times.

    • retirebyforty August 8, 2017, 11:45 pm

      I’ve got to get this Instant pot.

      • Thuy August 9, 2017, 10:23 am

        We bought ours off Amazon during their Black Friday sale. There are also tons of free recipes available online. There is a little bit of a learning curve but it is very versatile. You can use it in place of a rice cooker, slow cooker and of course as a pressure cooker. I haven’t pulled out my slow cooker in ages.

  • JasoninVancouver August 10, 2017, 11:28 pm

    We’ll pan fry a chicken thigh with skin as a base protein in a cast iron pan. They’re pretty easy to debone and cook. We’ll toss in some veg like onions, carrots, peppers, etc and then use a can of cream of mushroom for a sauce. For a starch, we’ll either do mash potatoes or roasted potatoes and veg.

    Another dish we’ll do is fry up various veg in a non-stick, add some pasta, and some pesto sauce.

    We’ll also do a wrap with taco ingredients. We’ll grill up a protein like chicken, fish, or whatever. Cut up some veg like tomatoes, onions, cilantro, lettuce or do a quick coleslaw. We’ll then take a warmed flour tortilla and roll it up with the above ingredients.

  • Early Retiree Wannabe August 20, 2017, 6:24 pm

    Thank you for your website and for this post! The pressure cooker has been a true time- and money-saver, and makes fork-tender, kid-friendly meals. I got the Power Pressure Cooker for about $75 (Instant Pot is a bit more), and it’s one of the best appliance investments in our home. We’re very busy during the week with work and school, so I usually cook double recipes on the weekends. They freeze well or make great leftovers for dinner or lunch during the week. Lots of recipes on the web to suit your tastes, but here are a few of our faves:
    1. Pot roast w/yukon potatoes, carrots, celery, & onions
    2. Pork chops w/mushroom or au jous gravy
    3. Corned beef w/cabbage, carrots, onions & red potatoes
    4. Shoyu chicken – Quick, but tastes like it was marinated for hours. Cook time for 6 to 7 lbs. of boneless, skinless thighs is about 15 min. after reaching optimum pressure.

    There’s a short learning curve to use the pressure cooker, but it’s easy and well worth it. You need to add about 15 min. to allow the pot to reach optimum pressure prior to starting the actual cook time. For the pot roast and corned beef recipes, I cook about 6-7 lbs. of meat for about 1 to 1-1/2 hrs., then remove and cover to let meat “rest” before slicing. Then, the veggies are cooked in the same broth for about 7-8 min., and come out tender, not mushy.

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