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Hi Penny Hoarders,

I'm placing a request here for cheap weeknight meal ideas. By mid-week, I am always exhausted and end up buying takeout (pricy) or resorting to a frozen pizza (gets old fast). And my family has eaten more rotisserie chicken in the past three months than I care to count.

I'm not necessarily looking for recipes — just what does you eat that's easy, quick and cheap on a Thursday night?



Thanks everyone!

I'm Tiffany Connors, and I've been a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder since 2018. Even though I work for The Penny Hoarder, all of the comments, reviews, and opinions I express on this website are all my own.

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We are loving this go-to casserole lately:

Ingredients: Butternut squash, gnocchi, Italian sausage, olive oil, spices.

Cut the squash and sausage into small pieces, toss in a baking dish with the gnocchi, a little olive oil and whatever spices you like. Bake together for 30 or so minutes and you have an easy-to-make meal perfect for fall. Add in other vegetables and/or top with parmesan cheese if you'd like.

I wish, @Big Lew. I have one of those kids who doesn't like mac and cheese. My husband and I actually make it on our date nights sometimes because we both miss it. At least it's a cheap date night!

Alright, how about grilled cheese sandwiches ? Or Toasted Cheese Sandwiches ? Tomato Soup, or any kind of soup. That was what my mother made in the 1960s and 1970s for us kids especially when some kids did not like certain foods. As a side note, there was a total of 11 people in our home then. Yes, a big family.

Last week my wife made this awesome soup with just a few button presses & adding some veggies. We make our own bone broth in an instant/crockpot combo, but regular chicken broth would work. We just threw in some carrots, celery, onion, bell pepper, & cabbage. Then season to your taste (we added a little rice wine vinegar for a nice sharpness). You could even add some egg noodles or chicken if you wanted a heartier version. I had never thought to use cabbage before but it was delicious!

I've experimented a lot with meals (frozen brand name lasagna, frozen brand name egg rolls and orange chicken, etc) from the grocer's frozen food case. And I think it takes a lot of experimenting to find the brands that appeal to your family as there can be some real taste differences between brands. I keep salad greens AT ALL TIMES because that is also one of our favorite meals. By keeping some deli ham and cheese around, I can make a quick and hearty chef's salad. And believe it or not, we are both real fans of chipped beef (packaged) on toast.. My Mom used to fix something similar with chopped boiled eggs(always an after-Eater week meal) in a white cream sauce with diced ham. We ate it on toast or biscuits. And, my family comes from the midwest where the Iowans always fixed Maid-Rites (aka TV Roseanns's loose meat sandwiches).......super easy and quick from ground sirloin or chuck, google it.

Mom used to make buttered noodles & tuna fish gravy on toast as mid week meals. She made the worst spaghetti sauce, it was actually made from tomato juice, just add onions and hamburger, of course no seasonings.

Now days we have the crock pot to do the work when gone from the house, make extra portions for later on. One go to is stuffed peppers. Mix together a pkg of Spanish rice and hamburger, put into peppers, cover with a bottle of ketchup or your favorite canned tomato product. Set it on low. To save energy and keep the heat in I place 2 dish towels over the lid, making it cook faster. Be sure to use crock pot liners, makes clean up a breeze.

In my panty, I always keep around different kinds of pasta, noodles, and rice and canned tomato sauces, tomatoes (diced and whole), Ro-Tel diced tomatoes/green chiles, especially, and pasta sauces. Of course, lots of spices. From there, I can riff many a meal by adding beef pieces, ground beef, sausage, chicken, tuna, or no meat at all.

Last edited by sthom
@Dear Penny posted:

@Tiffany Connors Do you ever make breakfast for dinner? That's always my go-to when I need something easy! here i thought i was the only one who has dome breakfast for dinner, along with dinner for breakfast. 

I've done dinner for breakfast and breakfast for dinner many times over the years. It all started when I worked the graveyard shift, 11pm to 7am. I would take steak out of the freezer, thawing in fridge, get home from work, light my BBQ grill cooking my steak in my driveway at 8am, watching the cars (people) go by my house on there way to there work place.

Pot pie crockpot soup

Throw chicken in frozen - do this in the AM before work , amount depends on your crockpot and family size

Bag of frozen mixed veggies, chopped onion (can be frozen)

2 cans chicken broth, water

Chopped onions celery whatever else sounds good at that time

Salt/pepper/garlic to taste

Fill crockpot with water and/or broth after dumping all ingredients in - turn on low go to work 🙂

After work turn to high. When it begins boiling take CHEAP canned biscuits, cut each biscuit into 4 pieces, throw biscuit pieces into boiling soup give it a good stir then cover and let return to boil. Ignore it for 15-20 mins then use your spoon to break them up and stir them into soup again. And there you go that's it all done.

It depends on where you live. For example, I live in NYC and there's this app called "Too Good To Go" where you can buy food that restaurants might throw away at the end of the day (i.e. perishable goods they can't keep until the next day).

You get a fair amount for like just $5 and it's enough to feed 2 people. And because it's perishable, it's generally pretty fresh as well, but it's only available for some cities.

If you aren't in a city that supports that app, another thing we do is just:

1. Flatbread + hummus + tomato + sausage

2. Smoked salmon + avocado + rice cakes.

Simple, healthy, and fast.

--

https://goodmoneygoodlife.com

@Angie P. it doesn't look like Too Good to Go has reached St. Pete yet, but I will definitely keep an eye on that app's expansion.

However, your flatbread idea reminded me that we used to do "pizza night" by using store-bought naan, a can of tomato sauce, basil and cheese. Then my husband, daughter and I each got to choose our favorite topping for our personal pizza. I'd forgotten all about that — it was a lot more fun and tasty than frozen pizza (and about the same price). And I'll definitely try the salmon, avocado and rice cakes. Thank you!

@Angie P. it doesn't look like Too Good to Go has reached St. Pete yet, but I will definitely keep an eye on that app's expansion.

However, your flatbread idea reminded me that we used to do "pizza night" by using store-bought naan, a can of tomato sauce, basil and cheese. Then my husband, daughter and I each got to choose our favorite topping for our personal pizza. I'd forgotten all about that — it was a lot more fun and tasty than frozen pizza (and about the same price). And I'll definitely try the salmon, avocado and rice cakes. Thank you!

Tiffany, if you are a Pulix shopper have you tried their folded already prepared pizza dough (meaning rolled out and raw) from the deli? The dough that is in a ball from the deli is good too, but you have to let it rest as per directions or you will never get it spread out in a pan. And bonus, lately they've been putting both on sale quite frequently.

Tiffany, Have you tried Pasta a La Carbonara without the egg.  It's one of my favorite quick meals, any day of week.

1 Lb. Cooked Spaghetti, 12 oz package of Bacon, 3 garlic cloves, minced. Parmesan/Romano Cheese to taste, 1/2 stick of Butter, 1/2 - 3/4 C of Milk or Evaporated milk or cream.

Fry bacon until it's crispy, set aside on paper towel to drain. Break bacon into pieces once it's cooled.  Melt butter and add minced garlic in a large skillet.  Be careful not to burn butter.   Add drained/hot pasta, bacon and warm milk, evaporated milk or cream into the skillet, season with salt, and white pepper and incorporate cheese to taste. Toss together, and if needed add 1 Tablespoon of bacon drippings. Top with additional cheese if desired. Serve and enjoy!  Note:  you can add extra milk if you like it creamier.  Serve with salad and bread or bread sticks. Check out the authentic recipe with the egg if you want to try it out. Claudia from El Cerrito

@Angie P. it doesn't look like Too Good to Go has reached St. Pete yet, but I will definitely keep an eye on that app's expansion.

However, your flatbread idea reminded me that we used to do "pizza night" by using store-bought naan, a can of tomato sauce, basil and cheese. Then my husband, daughter and I each got to choose our favorite topping for our personal pizza. I'd forgotten all about that — it was a lot more fun and tasty than frozen pizza (and about the same price). And I'll definitely try the salmon, avocado and rice cakes. Thank you!

This reminded me of another super easy meal our house loves: French bread pizza!

We take a loaf of French bread & cut it in half lengthwise. Then we cut it to individual portions, press the bread down a bit, add some sauce & toppings & throw it in the oven! Last time we added some garlic butter under the sauce for an extra little something & it was delicious! All you really need though is a loaf of bread, a can of sauce, & toppings of your choice! (We baked it for 15-20 minutes at 350° or until the cheese was melted.)

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