10 Simple Dinner Recipes for Frugal Moms
The first thing I learned as a new mom trying to have dinner ready for my family every night is that there are no recipes in the traditional sense but things I can reliably come back to with little changes depending on what that day through at me. This is doubly true if you’re trying to save money. Running all over town for work some days and staying in the house with my kids on others makes it hard to always have the right ingredients at home to traditionally follow a recipe. Don’t bother trying to duplicate something from a cookbook, it will take longer than just following your instincts, cost more money, and unfortunately your kids and husband probably won’t notice. Instead here are 10 little “recipe” ideas or tips for making dinners that my entire family loves that got me through my time as a new mom and my first year with two kids.
Easy to cook and even easier on your budget. Frugal moms love pasta because of its low prep time and changing sauces or adding different things to the bowl keeps dinners from becoming repetitive. Being able to throw pasta on the stove after a long day at work and know most of dinner is taken care of is heaven for moms everywhere.
Once considered a bit of a delicacy, these tasty crustaceans have come way down in price. A frozen bag of shrimp costs less than $5 in some grocery stores and will last for more than one meal. Whether you’re throwing them in pasta, serving over rice, or using them to top off some surf and turf, shrimp are an easy to cook item that will save you money on groceries while making dinner feel a bit fancier. Bonus is that kids like to play with the tails, and shrimp are more cute than gross when they end up in my daughter’s hands.
- Stir Fry
A dish that can combine the first and second items on our list because stir fry can make any two ingredients go together. To me, a stir fry is the art of throwing things in a pan, hoping for the best, serving those things over rice or noodles, then hoping for the best again. It’s an amazing way to get rid of leftovers that makes me feel like a worldly cook when all I’ve got is teriyaki sauce and a desire to save money on dinner. Best of all my family actually looks forward to it.
- Slow Cooked Whatever
The toughest cuts of meat are normally the cheapest. Whether you like chicken, steak, or pork, if you’re looking to save money, whatever you bring home for dinner will be tougher than the parts of that same animal which costs more money. Luckily, there’s a really easy way to deal with tough meat and that’s cooking it slower by using more time and less heat. This doesn’t actually take more effort so you’ll be able to save on the same dinners you would have made anyway by spending a bit more time on the cooking.
Everyone knows the basics of a roast. Buying a big helping of meat, cooking it slowly, and gorging on it at Christmas, Thanksgiving, or another family holiday. Choice cuts of prime rib won’t save anybody money on dinner but pork shoulder, leg of lamb, and turkey breast are relatively inexpensive cuts you can roast, serve warm once, and reuse throughout the week. Roasts are a great way to make every home cooked meal feel like a family event that will save you money by cooking in bulk or providing food for the rest of the week.
- Add Rice
Is there rice in the dish? Is the person still hungry? Add rice. Rice goes with anything, is remarkably easy to cook, and fits into any budget. An amazing way to make any meal, but especially dinner, more filling without a significant expense. The only downside is that many kids enjoy the rice more than the actual main course.
- Never Give Up On Old Bread
Rotten vegetables and spoiled milk should be discarded with extreme prejudice. Stale bread however, has plenty of uses. Croutons (break into pieces, lightly drizzle with olive oil and your favourite spice, and then bake) and bread crumbs (break into smaller pieces) are staples in many kitchens and are made from old bread. You’re probably buying loaves of bread, may as well get the most value out of them by turning whatever is left over into something you can use to save money on dinner.
- Save Old Bananas Too
Freeze any peeled overripe bananas you don’t get a chance to use. Not only does this avoid wasting food, frozen bananas are a pretty common baking ingredient in dishes that can end any dinner on a warm homey note. You can also use frozen bananas in smoothies and if you’re feeling really adventurous, homemade ice cream.
- Vacuum Seal Before You Freeze
Won’t spend too much time on this one since most people that are looking for ways to save on dinner potentially cannot afford a vacuum sealer or want to make the investment. That said, vacuum sealers are amazing. They do a noticeably better job at preserving food that sealing plastic bags by hand, which they probably should, but trust me, the vacuum sealed difference is very noticeable. These machines will likely come down in price in the future and then they will be indispensable to the mom looking to trim her food bill.
- Start From Scratch
At first it won’t save you time but the rewards do become obvious with time. Cooking from scratch means the only ingredients you buy are the least expensive ones. It will let you tailor every meal to your family’s preferences while saving money. The more you practice, the faster you’ll get at preparing your favourite dinners and believe me your family will appreciate the effort.