I don’t know about you, but the holidays definitely took a toll on my wallet. I also spent a lot of my holiday break cooking for family members – Christmas dinner, get-togethers, and New Year’s pork and sauerkraut. This week I needed some fast, inexpensive make-ahead meals to get me through the work week.
Winter is definitely here. Snow is on the ground, and the trees are bare. I tiptoed out of the house at 6 this morning, while the kids were still in bed, for my weekly trip to the grocery store. Getting up early isn’t fun, but being the only one at the grocery store is great! I hate maneuvering my grocery cart around hundreds of people and waiting 30 minutes in line just to check out.
My early morning grocery trips are a quiet time when I can browse the aisles and score the best deals possible. Usually the only other people I see are store employees stocking the shelves and a few other early risers. I’m the only one at the checkout, so I can make sure all of my coupons go through and I get all of the discounts from the weekly circular. I don’t have to feel guilty, because someone is waiting in line behind me.
This week as I left the grocery store, I was greeted by icy air and snow flurries. You know it’s cold when your hands get numb in the few seconds it takes to put your grocery bags in the car. I couldn’t wait to get home and start making my fast, inexpensive make-ahead meals for the week. The heat from the oven would feel great on my frozen hands!
Fast, Inexpensive Make-Ahead Meals
Monday – Cheesy Spinach Stuffed Shells
My kids love anything with noodles, cheese, and sauce. I had some shell pasta in my pantry, and ricotta cheese was on sale at the grocery store this week. I’m always looking for ways to add veggies into my meals, so I decided to mix some spinach into the ricotta cheese before stuffing the shells. I found the recipe for Cheesy Spinach Stuffed Shells from Mindy at Coco and Ash. The shells were boiled, stuffed, and ready in under 20 minutes. I decided to make an extra batch of them for a friend. You could also freeze a second tray of shells and have dinner ready for another day.
Cost: $6.45 to feed my family of 4 and my friend’s family of 5
Tuesday – Chicken Parmesan Sliders
Who doesn’t love a slider? I’ve made a lot of different sliders over the years – burger sliders and kentucky hot brown sliders for my cousin’s Kentucky Derby Bridal Shower. When I saw the Chicken Parmesan Sliders from Kat and Melinda at Real Housemoms, I knew I had to try them. They combine two of our favorite foods, so they have to be good, right? It helped that they were super fast to throw together. I cut the rolls, and put the chicken tenders and sauce on the bread. I actually used the last little bit of sauce from the stuffed shells. I’ll make the butter mixture Tuesday night before I cook them. Meal number 2 was ready in under 5 minutes.
Tuesday night, I just need to add the butter sauce and cook the sandwiches. While they’re in the oven, I’ll throw together a salad, and we’ll have a complete meal.
Cost: $5.67 for 12 sliders (Just think, you would pay at least that much for 3 sliders at a restaurant.)
Wednesday – Southwest Chili with Black Beans and Corn
The cold weather makes me crave chili. It’s such a warm, comforting food. Plus, it makes a great fast, inexpensive make-ahead meal. Well, technically it’s not fast because it has to cook for a while, so the flavors marry together. However, assembling the chili is super fast. Plus, this recipe can be make in the slow cooker. You can set it and forget it for the day. I chose to make mine on the stove, because I knew I wasn’t going anywhere today. I used the recipe for Southwest Chili with Black Beans and Corn from Lisa at Cooking with Curls.
When lunchtime arrived, the house smelled so good! Everyone wanted a sample of the delicious chili. I topped it off with some cheese and sour cream and served it with tortilla chips. Yummy! It made a delicious lunch, and there is still plenty for supper on Wednesday night.
Thursday – Creamy, Cheesy Chicken Spaghetti
Split chicken breasts were on sale at the grocery store, so I got 2 for $2.45. I love buying the split chicken breasts, seasoning them with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and popping them in a 400 degree oven for 40 minutes. They come out tender and juicy, and they’re so much less expensive than buying a rotisserie chicken. You can use the meat for anything that calls for cooked chicken. I cooked the chicken while I made my other meals. It was ready and cooled a little before I started making the creamy, cheesy chicken spaghetti.
This week, I decided to make the Creamy, Cheesy Chicken Spaghetti from Brandie at The Country Cook. It combines Mexican flavors with pasta, two of my family’s favorite things. After cooking the pasta and adding all of the other ingredients, I shredded my cooked chicken and added it to the pot. After the chicken was cooked, this recipe took under 10 minutes to make.
Friday – Steak Sandwiches
Normally, Friday nights are pizza nights at my house. However, this week I got a deal on the ingredients for steak sandwiches. Since I bought the meat for the sandwiches, I got the rolls for free. I already had lettuce for salads and tomatoes, so California-style steak sandwiches will be our supper for Friday night. They won’t be made ahead of time, but they will be a fast, inexpensive meal. I just need to cook the meat and put it on the rolls with some lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise. We’ll probably have another salad with these sandwiches to complete the meal.
Cost : $4.99
Dessert – Strawberries and Cream Gooey Butter Cakes
Our desserts for the week are the Strawberries and Cream Gooey Butter Cakes from Amanda at A Few Shortcuts. The layers look beautiful, and they taste absolutely delicious! They are the perfect sweet ending for each of our meals. Plus, making them only took 10 minutes. They baked in the oven for 40 minutes while my chili cooked on the stove.
Ready for the Week
Making my meals for the whole week took less than an hour and a half, with the exception of the chili simmering on the stove. All of the ingredients cost only about $35. That means my family will eat homemade meals all week for less than it would cost us to order take-out for one night.
Do you want to learn to save money on your grocery store bills? In my course, Supermarket Savings, I’ll teach you to use the weekly circular, coupons, and online apps to save about 50% on your groceries. Get more information by checking out the sales page, and lock in the pre-sale price now!
What fast, inexpensive meals are you making this week?