Tuesday, November 11, 2008

What's For Dinner?

I'm sure everyone has found themselves in a rut over dinner ideas from time to time. Whether you're a single person, have a small family, a large family, or empty nesters or something else entirely: Everyone has to eat at some point.

In our house, I am the meal person. Prior to my usual Monday shopping routine, I try to ask around for meal ideas for the upcoming week.

Sometimes I get good ideas. Sometimes I get blank stares.

As uninspired as it seems, I tend to do spaghetti and meatballs with texas toast garlic bread at least once a week.

We have four people with four distinct food preferences. It's hard to please everyone. Spaghetti is one meal I don't fret over. Everyone likes it.

Oddly, while Buddy likes spaghetti, he doesn't care for lasagna. I don't know why - lasagna is essentially spaghetti in a varied format. Oh sure, he'll do baked pasta, but only if there is no cheese on top that has browned and become crunchy.

Typically, everyone likes my paprika chicken. That will be served this week as well.

But, I think this week, I will also serve some more laid back meals. Monday evening was Manwich and fries. Sissy ate a plate of plain pepperoni and fries. At some point, I'm going to do grilled sandwiches and fries (like ham and cheese).

This weekend, the Evil Twin will pitch in to do his famous chili. I can't wait for that.

I think I'll throw in loaded baked potatoes and salad one night. (I can split the sour cream among the: paprika chicken, potatoes and chili). I really try hard to utilize the things I have on hand, and the things that need to be fixed before they go bad, so I'm not throwing out food. I'm not a waster.

In fact, I was analyzing our budget recently. Back when Buddy was born, my dad was still alive. He loved to visit the Sam's Club every two weeks and he would supply us with diapers, wipes and formula (a real blessing!). We didn't ask him to do this and we offered to pay him every time, but he refused payment.

This was 1998. I had stopped working at a paying job. Our weekly grocery expenses were roughly $40 a week. Keep in mind, I shopped at regular grocery stores (not discount places like the WM) and bought all my paper goods, cleaning supplies, etc. from places like Kroger.

These days, I have a larger family, one (STILL) in diapers and I shop at the WM (aka "discount" place). I spend about $100 to $130 a week. That is for lunches and dinners for a seven day period. I think that's pretty decent - especially considering that includes paper towel, toilet paper, dish detergent, laundry detergent, toothpaste, shaving supplies, cleaning supplies, bird seed for the pet bird, etc. (as needed - I don't buy all those things every week) and food.

Plus, I haven't even calculated in the 1998 to 2005 weekly carton or more of cigarettes that the Evil Twin smoked back then. His last cig? January 15 2005. That would up our weekly spending average by about $35 - meaning at least $85 a week 10 years ago and now: $110 - $130 doesn't seem very out of line.

I'm thrifty. I like to use coupons, but only for the things I know I would buy anyway. Like: Cascade dish detergent. Cascade Complete was rated number 1 on cost and performance by Consumer Reports. It's great. It's worth a little more - to me. I'll use coupons for that. But, I won't use a coupon just for the sake of saving .50 cents if the generic equivalent is less anyway (like for a can of green beans, for example).

We all have to do things that work for our own family. Might not work for everyone, but I just do the best I can with limited resources.


  1. It varies for me, sometimes I have frozen burritos or frozen pizza or chips and salsa or maybe even pizza delivery. I try to eat healthy so sometimes I get a hamburger and fries to mix it all up.

  2. Just with the two of us, I still get into a rut. Last night I made something a little different -- a low fat cheeseburger mac bake, and it was pretty darn good! I was surprised that even David liked it.

    Spaghetti & meatballs is a standby for me too. I love chili, but I don't make that as much because David doesn't care for it. ::grump::

    Oh, I make black beans and rice a lot, usually with a grilled something and pico de gallo. (The grill stays near the back door and is operational in all weather.)

    I also like to try unconventional foods, like my foray into Middle Eastern food of a couple three weeks ago. :)

  3. We have some things we have regularly. At least every other week, we have grilled cheese with tomato soup, macaroni and cheese, spaghetti, grilled chicken with BBQ sauce, sloppy joes. Hubby tends to get more original with meals when he cooks. I do easy and quick.

  4. I could eat spaghetti and garlic toast every day of the week! Mmmm - Congrats to Evil Twin for quitting smoking..maybe he can share his secrets with me....

  5. My family looooooooves spaghetti! Sometimes, I top it with a grilled chicken breast and mozzarella for a healthy version of chicken cacciatore -- Mike's favorite. I am picky about sauce, so I like to make my own, but my family seems to like sauce in a jar equally well.

    I make a lot of things from scratch -- pancakes, mashed potatoes, sauces, salad dressings... so I find that that saves us a bunch of money! I also find great deals on cleaning supplies at the dollar store, but I am picky about brand names and only shop that way if I can get the brands I like. That being said, I mix my own glass cleaner and all-purpose cleaning spray, so that saves a lot of money, too.

    I also re-dye worn clothing that still fits and mend stuff a bazillion times before sending it to the rag bag. I love shopping at consignment stores, too, although don't have time to do that as much as I would like... and Target Online is so handy...

  6. Oh, another thing that will save you a ton of green if you eat a lot of meat and have a huge freezer is to buy a "whole beef" from a local farmer. I haven't done this, yet, but am thinking about splitting one with another family. It's a big upfront cost but you get a lot of really good meat, and also support local farmers. A friend of mine does this every year and it's a pain because you have to buy the beef and usually have it processed somewhere else, but is worth the trouble for the savings! Plus the meat is good and isn't flown in from God-knows-where like a lot of beef you get in the grocery store.

  7. Ron - we like all those things too. And, they're super easy and convenient!

    Juanuchis - It's hard to please everyone, even if it's 2 people. That's what makes me bonkers! :-)

    3C - I do the quick and easy too. Whatever works, huh?

    Vinomom - I could too, but I think the Evil Twin would get bored. LOL. He just made the decision to quit and decided when his last one would be and never looked back. I'm surprised it worked, but I'm proud of him!

    Rebecca - My family likes most stuff from scratch, but I do buy the jars of spaghetti sauce ($1 for the WM brand and nothing goes to waste). I'm the same way - try to do from scratch and be creative with clothing...But, I'm an Old Navy Online addict. LOL.

  8. Rebecca - I've thought about that, and even buying a chest freezer, but I don't eat anything on a bone and the boneless packs are way more expensive. I just try to plan meals around what's on sale...

  9. Food shopping sucks with a family of 5, I spend $200.00 a week. I'm always broke, and then they eat the food like their never going to eat again !!!!! Ugh, as for dinner, I'd rather eat out.

    Have a great day.

  10. I know you hate those veggie health foods I eat, but you should try the Morningstar Farms Veggie Chicken Patties. Bake them, place on a whole wheat bun with a slice of tomato, provolone and some lettuce. You can make a quick spread with low fat cream cheese, garlic and basil and smear that on, too. Serve with sweet potato fries (Alexia Brand- they have those at Wal-Mart). It's really quick and a huge hit in my house, even with Lucky. Plus, full of good stuff to fool the kiddos. I like your ideas, too, BTW. We all need a fresh idea from time to time, my fam is no help either!

  11. I've been in a food rut for 40 years. I could eat the same things day in,day out and it wouldn't bother me. Mr. kenju, on the other hand, needs to be entertained by his food and that means variety!

  12. I'm gong to be posting two super-quick and easy recipes tonight. Neither one are "dinner" recipes, but they're GOOD!

    And no pie...I promise!

  13. angelfood ministries helps out with low-cost food. you can basically feed a family of 4 for a week for $30. look them up.

    as for food ideas, my dad's favorite to shut us up... hotdog pancakes...

    sliced up hotdogs in pancake batter....

    or my bunkerbuster sandwitches...

  14. The Girl - sometimes it's cheaper to eat out, especially if everyone gets stuff from the dollar menu!

    MsPulp - I love the Morningstar Farms products! Especially the buffalo chicken bits (with ranch dressing).

    Kenju - we should make these "variety" types fend for themselves! LOL.

    Lauren - Yay! I liked the one pie (and I'm not a pie person). I want to make it again, in fact. :-)

  15. Lucas - I "get" Beanie-Weenies, but Pancake-Weenies? Not sure about that one. ;-)

  16. It's almost always hamburger helper with deer meat that is supplied to us year round! lol It's only .96 cents a box at walmart for the generic kind!

  17. I love the idea of loaded baked potatoes with salad for dinner - never thought of that one - will try it!

  18. I get the 'why do I always have to plan what we're having for dinner' rhetoric over and over.

    Well, thats because I'M not picky, I'll pretty much eat anything (not crazy about brussel sprouts tho)and I don't care if I had the same thing for lunch. See...I'm fairly low maintenance.

    Besides...we eat out at least 4 times a week (then I hear 'why do I always have to choose where we're going?

    Geez...I can't win ;)

  19. I try to remember to think about the week's meals on Sunday night - but I rarely follow through. Some days, I am like 'oh shit - it's 4:30 - and I have no idea what's for dinner'. I always find something to get on the table, though. Even if it IS handed to me through a drive-thru window, on occasion!

  20. Lovin' spaghetti & meatballs over here as well...my kids' fave! I always get "inspired" at the grocery store about what to make for the week...but, it never happens. We almost always have the same stuff...but, no complaints yet....& when they do complain, they go hungry! :)-

  21. Sabrae - ya gotta love the bargains!

    Momma - it's one of my new favorites. Everyone can choose their own toppings, so that's fun.

    Efen - I've never even eaten a Brussels Sprout. I wish my family was as easy to please as just you!

    Gigi - drive-thru works for me. In fact, I'd rather have Wendy's than my own cooking!

    TGG - spaghetti seems to be a universal favorite. I'll admit to switching it up a bit and doing different things for the kids if the regular meal is not "kid friendly" or something I know they hate. Such a doormat, I am.

  22. Ummm...what night is spaghetti and meatball night? I'm totally showin' up ;) I love how organized and frugal you are with your shopping and your meals. So jealous!

  23. The rut is caused by the teenaged boy in this house who is so picky he won't eat anything...

    So, I cook the same things over and over and over..... booo