I'm a bit shocked to hear that so many Americans are broke apparently because they eat out too much. We rarely go out to eat any more because of restaurant prices (going up) and quality and quantity (definitely going down.) I also find it difficult to eat out because my diet restricts me from eating about 90% of what's on any menu, so I generally have fish. I like fish, but oy, you get tired of it fast when everyone else is eating steak smothered with onions and bleu cheese crumbles.
I know getting into the habit of home cooking takes some commitment, and coming up with quick/easy/appetizing dinners that don't require five thousand ingredients one must procure from a specialty store is a challenge. But home cooked meals are not only thrifty, they bring the family together. If you don't have much cooking experience you can find tons of free cooking classes and videos online. Here's a list of free cooking instructional videos from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension that features quick, healthy dinners.
I think the key to making meals at home more often is to prepare easy, quick dinners a couple nights a week. Just keep it simple, too. For those of you who are looking for ideas, here are
Ten Quick & Easy Things I Make for Dinner
1. Breakfast: We like breakfast any time, so I'll put together some combination of waffles, pancakes, turkey sausage, turkey bacon, grits, egg white omelets, scrambled Egg beaters, toast, english muffins, etc.
2. Calzone and a caesar salad: if you don't like this one I've linked to you can find a bunch of other, easy-to-make calzone recipes online. They sell bagged caesar salad kits in most market produce sections if you need help putting that together, but it's very fast and easy to make your own.
3. Chili dogs: We adore chili, so I make a big pot of it every other month and freeze it in smaller containers, which I then thaw, warm up and put on top of hot dogs or smoked sausage when we want it. Usually these are so filling I don't bother with anything else, but if you want veggies a tray of celery sticks with ranch or blue cheese dip goes well with them.
4. French onion soup and grilled roast beef and swiss sandwiches: This sounds fussy but it's not, as I use sliced deli roast beef or leftover pot roast for the sandwiches and make a very simple version of the soup. Horseradish mayo is a great spread to add to the sandwiches (sparingly for those who aren't fans of the heat.)
5. Grilled cheese and tomato soup: Yes, the childhood classic, and we're still fans. I like using different cheeses for the sandwiches, too. Sprinkle the soup with oyster crackers or cheddar-flavored gold fish crackers for the kids. If you don't care for grilled cheese try BLTs.
6. Homemade pizza and a romaine salad: if you don't make your own pizza, frozen is fine. I make a romaine salad very simply by chopping up romaine and drizzling it with a homemade Italian vinaigrette and a bit of parmesan cheese.
7. Meatball sub sandwiches: a baguette + leftover meatball pasta sauce + provolone cheese; toast under the broiler for a couple minutes. Like the chili dogs these are pretty filling, but if you want veggies try slicing up a cucumber and drizzle with your favorite dressing.
8. Pulled pork BBQ sandwiches with beans and garlic-chive fries: I use an extra-lean pork tenderloin baked in the oven to cut down on the fat plus a bottled BBQ sauce we like. The beans are from the deli (they make them better than I do), and the garlic-chive fries are actually not fried but baked in the oven.
9. Rotisserie chicken and deli sides: Get all of it from your market's deli; if you live in the South Publix has a nice combo meal deal that feeds four for about twelve bucks, which is usually the price of one meal at a restaurant.
10. Tuna salad sandwiches and soup: This is one of my guy's favorite meals; I usually make a light chicken noodle soup to go with the sandwiches.
Another way I use leftovers is to make just about every variation of hot open-faced sandwiches with leftover meat, a little gravy and toast. You can do this with chicken, beef, turkey, pork or ham. If you're not a skilled gravy maker you can buy a jar of almost any variety at the store.
Also, if you want a decadent, beautiful dessert that everyone will love and think you slaved over but that requires no cooking, try this raspberry cream trifle, which my daughter's friends went wild over (and if you don't like raspberries, substitute strawberries, peaches or whatever fruit suits your fancy.)
Do you have any quick fix ideas for dinner you want to share? Let me know in comments.