Looking for a few feats of money magic in tight times, especially when it comes to cooking for the family?
My 16-year old eats non-stop, and it’s a challenge to keep costs down while he’s fueling up. Fortunately, he’s observed the past few years as I’ve cooked, and I’ve learned to spend little and feed big when I need to. Here are a few of our favorite frugal feasts that we can both make.
They take 20 minutes or less, cost $20 or less, and feed four – using only one pan! If you make the potatoes (below), that’s a second pan.
Healthy Ingredients Can Be Delicious
We usually make meals of chicken, fish, steamed and fresh veggies. We also love potatoes, but we don’t overdo with fats, and we rarely use salt.
We like red potatoes (not expensive and very versatile), but you can substitute other types if you prefer.
Chicken à la Popeye
This little number, which I call Chicken à la Popeye, feeds four at a total cost of approximately $14. Antibiotic-free chicken (and organic spinach), where I shop, is very reasonably priced, and may bring the cost to $16.
- 4 medium chicken breasts
- 1 bag fresh baby spinach
- Margarine & Seasonings (garlic, pepper, rosemary)
- Dijon mustard (optional)
- Mushrooms, any kind (optional)
- Shredded mozzarella cheese (optional)
- Fresh tomatoes, any kind (optional)
- Red, green, yellow bell peppers (optional)
Use 10″ or 12″ sauté or fry pan, depending on how much chicken you’re using and how many people you’re feeding.
Throw 1 or 2 tbsp of margarine or butter in the pan, high heat. Toss in (boned, trimmed) chicken breasts, browning them quickly on both sides. Cutting the chicken into smaller pieces makes it cook faster. Season with pepper, garlic pepper, rosemary or any other spices you like, including dijon mustard.
Once browned, add almost anything else you enjoy – chopped onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, bell peppers, etc. Sear them quickly; adding margarine if needed so they don’t burn.
Turn down heat. Add half a cup (ish) of water, then as many heaping handfuls of fresh baby spinach as you’d like, right on top! (I add a half bag to a bag. Remember that spinach reduces as it cooks.) Cover. Give it 4-5 minutes until spinach is steamed, not dead. Optionally, sprinkle shredded mozzarella on the chicken. Cover again, turn heat off. The mozzarella melts in a minute or less.
Crispy Red Potatoes:
- Wash, then microwave 4 medium red potatoes on high, 3 to 6 minutes each “side,” depending on your microwave.
- Cut into thin slices or small wedges. Sauté in second skillet, in oil or margarine until crispy. Season to your taste (garlic, garlic pepper, chopped onion, rosemary).
(Note: the cost of the potatoes was figured into the amount above. When it’s just my son and me, this recipe feeds us dinner for two nights, for 14 to 16 bucks. That’s four adult meals!)
Simply Scrumptious Seared Salmon
This Simply Scrumptious Seared Salmon feeds four and runs approximately $20.
Use 10″ to 12″ sauté or fry pan again, 4 medium fresh salmon filets. As for the rest? It’s almost exactly the same as the recipe above.
The only differences?
- Substitute salmon for chicken breasts.
- Sear quickly, both sides (it’s faster than the chicken).
- Season with lemon juice, fresh ground pepper, and fresh dill just before the salmon comes out of the pan.
- Steam spinach as above.
Note: Salmon is more expensive than chicken; thus the higher cost. We make the same red potatoes for this dish, and add salad if we have some. And don’t forget for Saturday brunch – the Best Omelette on the Planet, compliments of the kiddo!
(The proof is in the pudding, as they say…pics of last night’s dinner here.)