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Let me begin with the FWF confessional:

Forgive me finance lords for I have sinned, repeatedly and I have never confessed such in all my time on FWF.  My family and I eat out far too often, whether it is breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  We can hit Starbucks for breakfast on the weekend and get a b'fast sandwich and a coffee eat (non-coffee for the youngest) and spend $50.  We can go to a run of the mill restaurant like Applebees and drop $80... no alcohol either.  We do it far too often.  But we are resolved to reduce these occurrences drastically so that we can save more money in general and perhaps save to do other things that we deprive ourselves of (we have not taken a vacation in six years).

That all being said, we have more than adequate salary, but any FWF'er knows living below ones means is a good thing... and if you want to drastically improve your situation... live even further below your means.  So, I thought I would see if anyone else is interested in throwing out recipes that range from inexpensive and tolerable on up to expensive for home-cooked, but cheaper than eating out and of superb quality.  It probably isn't a good place to list the recipe instructions and such, but if you have a link to a recipe that would be good, along with a cost per portion, perhaps a cost per meal for a family of 4 (I am larger than 4, but that is a good number for most), and perhaps a number of days you can eat off of it.

I will look for a place to post the recipe my wife used to make a Mexican-style chili chicken stew.  Pretty tasty and we ate it for three nights this week, including having a guest with us (six people in total) one of those nights.

Cost to make it: $18
Cost per serving: $1.13
Cost per meal (family of 4): under $5

Basically, we bought two fully cooked rotisserie chickens, some chicken stock, beans, jalapenos, plenty of seasoning, some sour cream, and some tortilla strips.  I will get full recipe together and link to it.

Some savings, as in the spirit of the "Time=Money thread" where we listed time saving expenditures, some of these ideas in recipes could incorporate that... because lots of folks are busy and I am sure that is a common excuse for most of us that eat out too often.  The rotisserie chicken is a time saver here, along with cooking once for three nights of meals.





 

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beans and rice.  also, rice and beans.

My gf is addicted to pinterest, especially the recipes. At this point it's rare that we do go out to eat, and when we do the food isn't nearly as good as what she makes at home. Combined with my couponing and stinginess, we spend in a month what it sounds like your family could spend in a weekend on our food.

Ramen Noodles.....17 cents

bigdinkel said:   Ramen Noodles.....17 cents
Sometimes could get them on sale for 10 cents.
Mac and Cheese for your splurge nights.
 

I had this problem. I fixed it by tripling my income. Way more useful way to spend my spare time.

We do buy a lot of semi prepared food from Costco. Since their products rotate, it's like a natural changing recipie plan.

Whole chicken roasted in the oven stuffed with half whole garlic and lemons on a bed of carrots and potatoes. Meals for a week. Have the rice cooker going too.

I go through phases where I like to cook. I'm used to eating out a lot, so I feel like I get *paid* to go to the grocery store for the huge discounts over dining out.

You could give e-meals or theFresh20 a try. Wife and I signed up for thefresh20 about 5 months ago and will never go back. It's way cheaper than eating out and the meals are really, really good and healthy. It has been about $80/week or $4 per serving if you buy everything they tell you to. You could probably get it down to $50/week if you did things like swap expensive olives with the cheap stuff. So not cheap - but more manageable.

Otherwise, noodles w/ butter and a little pepper.

I'm so glad you made this thread.  I have been thinking doing so for a while.

My cheap meals:
Pizza sales (take out or frozen): For frozen try googling for a coupon too.
Burritos: Large tortilla, rice, beans (optional: guacamole, cheese, salsa, steak, chicken)
Baked Ziti: Ziti, sauce (optional: cheese, vegetables, sausage, meatballs)
Pad Thai: Noodles, sauce (optional: green onions, chicken, steak, mushrooms from Farmer's Market, bean sprouts)
Chicken Curry (buy the sauce and get the chicken on sale, serve over rice)
Peanut butter and Jelly sandwiches
Chicken and Rice baked
Velvetta & Shells with mixed frozen veggies
Tacos: ground beef (no seasoning necessary), diced onions, chopped tomatoes, iceberg lettuce finely chopped, tortillas, grated cheese, salsa
Quesadillas: Flour tortillas and cheese  (optional: cooked chicken, tomatoes, etc.)  Put a tortilla in an ungreased heated pan.  Place a slice of cheese on top of tortilla.  Once cheese melts, fold tortilla over.
Turkey
Veggie Sandwiches if Farmer's Market goes well (see below)

Cheap ways of getting food:
Farmer's Market on rainy days: Sometimes they reduce the price or give away for free.
Meat: Buy on sale in bulk and freeze.
Fish: Buy a fishing pole and go to the lake.
Pastries: Make them from scratch.
Meals: Work for a company with free dinner.

The cheaper the food, the more you can eat

######
Edit:
Eating out: Maggianos and Al Capones, look at the size for the money http://www.alcaponedowntown.com/pdf/Al_Capone_Take_Out_Menu__2_.pdf       And that doesn't include their coupons on the website.


 

I like my food too much to skimp too much on it. Bring on the swordfish!

I may be odd in this ideology, but I like to eat the best I can afford every night. If eating bean-rice-chicken and chicken-rice-bean straight for three nights or a baked chicken over a whole week works great for you and your family, that is great!
That being said, we chose not to eat out often if time allows us to cook. And when do eat out, we almost never order alcoholic drinks with our food.
I am coffee snob but I refuse to go to $tarbuck$ for their $5 latte and $5 sandwiches. There are much better alternatives around.
For $80, you can probably have a grand feast for your family at home, if you/wife knows how to cook.
Good food=good time >> money.

Dus10 said:   Cost to make it: $18
Cost per serving: $1.13
Cost per meal (family of 4): under $5

Basically, we bought two fully cooked rotisserie chickens, some chicken stock, beans, jalapenos, plenty of seasoning, some sour cream, and some tortilla strips.  I will get full recipe together and link to it.
 

  You bought all that for $18???

I use http://allrecipes.com/ for my cooking. I like reading the reviews and making the adjustments. You can type in what you got on hand and then it will show you what you cane make.

PBS has a show called America's test kitchen. They run recipes through many iterations to find the best way to make the dish. So, pay attention order of ingredients and what may seem like a minor detail can make a big difference. It's PBS its free to watch and or record! Ok, if you want to look at written recipes you'll have to pay them some money.
However, every thing I have made according to their instructions has turned out pretty dang near phenomenal. Their recipe for beans and rice turned this poor mans staple into something that tastes like indulgence to me. Pan seared shrimp is simple, quick, and easy. It puts Crimson Crustacean to shame. As an example of my statement above about details... Yes taking the pan off the fire makes a difference that little bit of sugar in addition to the salt and pepper makes a difference. Most importantly sear don't steam; so lots of small batches in a big pan. I suspect for your family of 6 you'll need to make quite a many batches but at what was it like 2 or 3 minutes a batch you'll still bang out that deliciousness in about 20 minutes. http://www.cooksillustrated.com/recipes/article.asp?docid=157 (*grumbles something about a pay barrier*)

I will admit that on the time=money front you may find some of their dishes cost a chunk of time. I don't think speed is their goal. If your google crafty, I have found some of their recipes outside their site in the past.

While you're on the PBS station, check out the Jacques Pepin shows (Essential Pepin, [More] Fast Food My Way, etc). I've had good experiences following his no-nonsense recipes on multiple occasions, and on his TV site they have a lot if not all the show recipes available. As much as I like the Test Kitchen/Cooks Country and Cooks Illustrated, Pepin is better IMO on showing stuff that I'd actually make with ingredients that are easier to locate at most non-specialty shops.

We do batch cooking to save time on the meals that freeze and re-heat well. Burritos, lasagna, bake/casserole, soup... search online for slow cooker recipes that might sound good.

For recipes, cookingforengineers.com narrates almost like Cooks Illustrated, with easy to follow summary table. Seriouseats.com and its child sites is a good read too.

jsssm said:   
Dus10 said:   Cost to make it: $18
Cost per serving: $1.13
Cost per meal (family of 4): under $5

Basically, we bought two fully cooked rotisserie chickens, some chicken stock, beans, jalapenos, plenty of seasoning, some sour cream, and some tortilla strips.  I will get full recipe together and link to it.

  You bought all that for $18???

  Yep, we bought rotisserie chickens on sale at meijer for $5/each, $1 each for the chicken stock, $1 for the dried beans that we had to soak, $3 for the sour cream (which we still have half left, so we used about $1.50 worth), and a $2 bag of tortilla strips.  The jalapenos were cheap and the seasoning was cheap and on hand, but I figure another $1.50 covers all of that.

No coupons or anything.  meijer regularly runs discounts and they have their MPerks program where you can get eCoupons on items, $x off $y spent, or 5-10% off certain categories of items.  So could potentially be done more cheaply.

delhel said:   I may be odd in this ideology, but I like to eat the best I can afford every night. If eating bean-rice-chicken and chicken-rice-bean straight for three nights or a baked chicken over a whole week works great for you and your family, that is great!
That being said, we chose not to eat out often if time allows us to cook. And when do eat out, we almost never order alcoholic drinks with our food.
I am coffee snob but I refuse to go to $tarbuck$ for their $5 latte and $5 sandwiches. There are much better alternatives around.
For $80, you can probably have a grand feast for your family at home, if you/wife knows how to cook.
Good food=good time >> money.

  I agree.  And things like ramen noodles and the "rice and beans" suggestion obviously aren't the intent.  I don't ever intend to eat the same thing for dinner several nights in a row on a regular basis,but when things get busy, it can be helpful to have something already made up.

I do have a grill/smoker and BBQ covers a lot.  I could eat a couple of nights and lunches on that.

Again, I agree and am looking for better quality eating.  When I say inexpensive and tolerable... ramen isn't on the tolerable list unless you do a ton extra, like add real chicken or beef and better seasoning, etc.

Deviled eggs (add any toppings you like)
Total cost: less than a dollar


If you live in the South, you can use www.southernsavers.com  that shows you local grocery store add prices compounded with coupons (+ where the coupons are located - a lot are on-line). This site cuts our grocery bill in at least half as we stock up on the good opportunities when there are good sale + coupon combinations and we plan menu items around what we have in the pantry/fridge.  The site also shows drug store adds as well as some internet deals (which would be good for folks outside the South).

Thanks OP for posting the thread - will look at some of the recipe links for new ideas!

   Yep, we bought rotisserie chickens on sale at meijer for $5/each, $1 each for the chicken stock
  You can shave another $1 by making your own chicken stock from the remnants of the rotisseries.

You're in luck the Holidays are coming up. Turkeys are what $1 a pound. Hams are $2 a pound (Spiral hams you dont even have to cut). Compare that with Deli meat @ $6+ a pound. Buy yourself a FoodSaver and portion up the meat to make meals out of it throughout the year. Buy an extra turkey and hams to keep in your freezer. Take it out once your first set is all done and do it all again. I dont know about you, but I love having a full turkey more than once a year. My fav is to make a toasted cheese sandwich (with swiss) and add turkey along with the juice.
I make about 4 pounds of bacon at a time (in the oven) ... I hate the clean up just to make a few slices. It is obv fatty so reheating is not a problem.

Spend a day here and there and prepare some bulk food, you will save money as well as some time from preparing future meals.

Pulled chicken in a crock pot is cheap and easy. I get chicken from a warehouse club for $2/pound and make around 3-5 lbs at a time. Usually takes 5 minutes to toss the ingredients together in the morning and it is done when you get home from work. We usually have some for dinner, take leftovers for lunch for a week and freeze some. I've done BBQ, Mexican and Buffalo. You can add any cheap sides you want.

http://www.thekitchn.com/dinner-recipe-barbecue-pulled-chicken-i...
http://fastpaleo.com/recipe/buffaloranch-pulled-chicken/
http://www.paleoperfectly.com/2011/03/paleo-crockpot-mexican-shr...

Soylent! link

I've tried a DIY version, and it's not that bad.

Pretty much anything in a slow cooker/Crock-Pot is a winner in my book for the ease of cooking and clean-up. I also make extra at almost every meal and have the leftovers for lunches or future dinners. A few years ago I bought a nice set of glass storage containers (hot deal, of course) and threw away all the crummy old ones, which was a great decision; finding the right size container and its matching lid is painless now and it's easy to see at a glance what I've got in the fridge.


Dus10 said:   Let me begin with the FWF confessional:

 We can hit Starbucks for breakfast on the weekend and get a b'fast sandwich and a coffee eat (non-coffee for the youngest) and spend $50.  
 We can go to a run of the mill restaurant like Applebees
 We do it far too often. 


 

Cutting this kind of crap out of your "all to often diet" will likely result in saving more than a few bucks, but also a few calories and a few pounds and will likely save you a host of health problems down the road. Your children will also thank you.

alcohol

Ozymandias036 said:   You could give e-meals or theFresh20 a try. Wife and I signed up for thefresh20 about 5 months ago and will never go back. It's way cheaper than eating out and the meals are really, really good and healthy. It has been about $80/week or $4 per serving if you buy everything they tell you to. You could probably get it down to $50/week if you did things like swap expensive olives with the cheap stuff. So not cheap - but more manageable.

Otherwise, noodles w/ butter and a little pepper.

  Add to that, http://www.blueapron.com/  $9.99 per person per meal and the ingredients are delivered.

We used to use emeals.com; we selected Publix as our grocery store, then it would give us recipes using just the bogo / sale items. It was subscription based, and after a while we found the recipes we really liked and wanted to repeat and cancelled.

Sample plan: http://d3qrl2xm10iebd.cloudfront.net/stores/publix/emeals-publix...

I made this pasta fagioli  recipe recently and it was just as good as the Olive Garden version. I don't think it cost much more than $20 for the ingredients but it made 12-15 portions.

Also came across this recipe  the other day that looked good, but haven't had a chance to test it out - looks like it needs more than just the two sausages though if it's for 4 people.

I'm going to cast another vote for Rice and Beans. My wife makes a dozen different dishes with these two main ingredients and it's great. Add chicken or steak, ground beef, or sausage, chili (and others) seasoning, peppers, corn or other vegetables. Lasts all week and the kids love it. You can also eat it right out of the pot with shredded cheese and sour cream or wrap it up in a burrito or eat it with tortilla chips. Very cheap and very versatile.

We make a one pot meal with a more Mediterranean flavor that comes out pretty cheap per serving and lasts for days - chicken tagine. I actually make it in a tagine dish, but it can be done in a casserole or crock pot instead.

In the bottom of the dish, I put in olive oil, then a layer of onions, and then a layer of carrots. Next, I pile bone-in, skin-off chicken pieces in the middle, and sliced up potatoes and sweet potatoes around the edges, and top it with a tsp+ each of turmeric, black pepper, ginger, salt, chopped garlic, and saffron (a bottle of this is expensive, admittedly, but it lasts forever). Finally, I put a bunch of olives, grape tomatoes, prunes, dried apricots, cilantro, lemon wedges, and cucumber and red and yellow pepper slices on top, and pour in a bit more olive oil and ~3/4 cp of chicken stock. It simmers on the stove on low for ~2 hours, and we eat it on top of couscous. It also freezes nicely for easy reheating later.

MechTeach said:   We make a one pot meal with a more Mediterranean flavor that comes out pretty cheap per serving and lasts for days - chicken tagine. I actually make it in a tagine dish, but it can be done in a casserole or crock pot instead.

In the bottom of the dish, I put in olive oil, then a layer of onions, and then a layer of carrots. Next, I pile bone-in, skin-off chicken pieces in the middle, and sliced up potatoes and sweet potatoes around the edges, and top it with a tsp+ each of turmeric, black pepper, ginger, salt, chopped garlic, and saffron (a bottle of this is expensive, admittedly, but it lasts forever). Finally, I put a bunch of olives, grape tomatoes, prunes, dried apricots, cilantro, lemon wedges, and cucumber and red and yellow pepper slices on top, and pour in a bit more olive oil and ~3/4 cp of chicken stock. It simmers on the stove on low for ~2 hours, and we eat it on top of couscous. It also freezes nicely for easy reheating later.

  
Sounds like Moroccan dish.  Saffron is much cheaper at Indian/Pakistani and Middleeastern stores than any other stores.
 

I find rotisserie chickens to be one of the best values at the grocery store.  Often we will buy a chicken & slice the breasts to eat with veggies--either something from my small garden or store bought fresh or frozen veggies.  We then pick the chicken clean of any remaining meat (legs, thighs, wings & what's left of the breasts) and either make chicken salad for lunches the next day or perhaps quesadillas for dinner the following night.  It's amazing how far one chicken will go for 2 adults and a 2 year old.  We do something with a rotisserie chicken about once a week.

I have also discovered the joys of crock pot cooking.  A small beef roast with carrots, onions, celery, potatoes & spices provides dinner for 2-3 days.  I have made pork BBQ in the crock pot for larger family events--one boston butt, a pack of burger buns, spices, onion, sauce, a couple cans of baked beans & some chips is enough to feed a small army.  It also freezes & reheats nicely if you have leftovers.

I don't use a lot of specific recipes--I'm a pretty good cook & just play things by ear using what's around.  I worked in a fairly upscale restaurant when I was in college & learned a tremendous amount about cooking, ingredient selection, spice combinations, etc.  I also highly recommend gardening for anyone who wants to eat at home more.  For a minimal time investment, you can really produce a large amount of fresh, organic produce that tastes way better than anything at your supermarket (I may just be tasting the self-satisfaction).  I always have fresh tomatos, squash, green beans, eggplant, green peppers, sugar snap peas, jalapeno peppers, cilantro, basil right in my back yard.  I only maintain a very small plot, but it produces like crazy.  I have probably spent $50 on it in the past 5-6 years (mostly seeds, a rain barrel & PVC pipes to support tall plants).  I freeze some things & share a lot with my neighbors.  When my son ate pureed foods, we used a lot of garden fresh veggies instead of buying .50 - $1 small cans of baby food. 

Great thread OP.

Pretty much any Alton Brown recipe is gold. I use them alot for large family gatherings.

My potluck go to is a super easy "Mexican Casserole" my Mom shared with me years ago. People LOVE it.
1 can of kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can of mexicorn, drained
1 can of no bean chili
1 bag of Fritos
1-2 cups shredded cheese

I mix the beans, mexicorn and most of the cheese, then add the chili and Fritos. A couple handfuls of Fritos and about a cup of cheese is fine - but change to your taste.

Put it in the microwave for 10 minutes. Pull it out, put a layer of Fritos on top, followed by the rest of the cheese. Micro for 2 minutes or until the cheese is melted and you are good to go.

Modifiers - I usually make a double batch and will substitute the second can of no bean chili with jalepeno chili or whatever chili sounds good. Sometimes I use chili-cheese Fritos.

When calculating food cost, consider the "now" costs of time and money, but also the "later" costs related to healthiness

Since we're on beans so much, if you get the hang of preparing beans from scratch, you'll never go back to canned.
1. It tastes better, stores forever, and no BPA from the can lining and no additives.
2. Its WAY cheaper, even if you count the energy spent on cooking the beans. (I wont count time, because it takes 1 minute of your time to soak, and the cooking happens on autopilot while you're prepping other things). Pressure cooker is a great alternative.
3. You control the gas - yeah! For those with digestive issues with beans, adjust how long you soak and the acidity of the soak water.

Other cheap, relatively healthy meal options - Most of these are from Costco
Salmon burgers (they taste great by themselves, don't make a sandwich)
The big box of salad greens from Costco (just 3.99 at my store, organic, washed, and lasts about a week)
Rotisserie chicken
Frozen cut stir-fry veggies (Cook in a saute pan with some oil, throw in some spices or hoysin sauce)
Pasta

Skipping 51 Messages...
Home baked bread. It is remarkably tasty and easy to make. Plus, if you make the effort to create a sourdough starter, the bread lasts more than a few days assuming you don't eat it first.



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