Penny Pinching Dinner Ideas

Published: 25th November 2011
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Are you thinking about saving a little money on food? Well I have good news; it's a lot easier than you think. That's right; it's a whole lot easier. Why? For one thing as soon as soon as you decide to eat in, you just saved a bunch of money. You see when you eat out your not just paying for the food you eat but the server that took your order, the cook that cooked your food heck even the new car the owner of the restaurant just bought and so on.

Now once in awhile I enjoy going out to dinner too. It's fun, especially to eat something that I don't usually cook at home. But those are the exceptions to the rule not the rule itself. Ok, let's move on to some penny pinching dinner ideas. Think from "scratch" meaning cooking from scratch. Why? Because cooking out of a box or can is a lot like going out to eat. You are not only paying for the ingredients but the preparation of them. Someone was paid to cut, peel, wash and prepare the food you're just putting into the microwave, oven or stove top.

If you buy raw vegetables, fresh meat, fresh fruit, herbs and spices, fish and so on you'll get more for your money. That is you get more product for less money spent. Sounds pretty simple right? But so many people today still rather pay for the convenience of ordering, eating, paying and then leaving to go home over preparing, cooking, eating, washing a few dishes and staying home to eat. This brings us to another point which has to do with an overlooked household asset of our modern age the refrigerator. Yes the refrigerator can make us money (if you believe in the penny saved is a penny earned principle).

You may be asking yourself what am I going to do with 3lbs of chicken, meat, fish or a half dozen apples and oranges or milk, juice, eggs and bread. Do you know what I'd say? I'd say great, bring it on. I'll just put it in the refrigerator or freezer. I always have freezer paper, wax paper, plastic wrap and aluminum foil handy along with a variety of different sized zip lock bags.

Ok now that you have your ingredients what do you make? Do you want pasta for dinner? Do you want meat for dinner? Do you just want a salad? The list of possibilities can go on and on. One of my favorite meals is a steak. All you need is a grill; it can be gas or charcoal. If you don't have a grill then you can use a frying pan or an electric grill like a George Forman.

For a great tasting dish try using some seasoning. In stores they sell a variety of ready to go seasonings, one for beef, one for chicken, and one for fish, vegetables and so on. Just take one of the corresponding seasonings and sprinkle it over whatever you're cooking, pretty simple right? I like to use medium to high heat when cooking steak on a gas grill. I'm careful not to overcook it or burn it. Watch the fat drippings because they will catch on fire and burn your steak.

Now what to cook for a vegetable? I may have a fresh salad, potato, some baked beans or even grilled zucchini. Today will have a salad. So I'll reach into my refrigerator pull out my favorite lettuce which is red leaf, a cucumber an onion and grab some black olives and croutons out of the cupboard. I'll wash the lettuce, peel the cucumber, slice up some onions and add a few olives and croutons and whalla a salad! If I want to really get fancy I'll take some bread, French or Italian I think works the best and add a little olive oil maybe some oregano to one side and roast it on the grill with my steak. Be careful not to burn the bread. I'll turn it over to do both sides and that's it. This is a simple but good dinner fit for a king. Add your favorite beverage mine is a beer, wine or just a glass of water and I'm happy.

Now how much did we spend? Well let's see, the steak was on sale and cost around 6.99lb so it was around seven or eight dollars. The salad and all the trimmings came to about two dollars a beer maybe.75 cents. Why did it cost so little to eat a steak dinner?

Let's break it down. The steak as I said was on sale and yes it was a good cut one of my favorites, rib eye. The salad is just cheap to begin with. A head of lettuce is around three dollars a cucumber is 59 cents a can of black olives is one dollar fifty, croutons maybe two dollars. I like olive oil and salt on my salad. Olive oil can cost upwards of fifteen dollars but that's for almost a gallon, and a box of salt costs around two dollars (by the way sea salt is my favorite, try it, you'll like it).

All of these items such as the olive oil, salt, cucumber, olives, croutons, onions and so on provide more than enough for one meal. In fact you will get several meals out of one purchase of any of these items and that's how you save money on food.

Don't be afraid to by some groceries, especially raw groceries, and stuff your cupboards, refrigerator, and freezer. You'll be amazed at the money you'll save and when you do go out to eat it'll be more than a convenience it will be a treat.

Happy Cooking!!

John Carlo is the webmaster for Articles About Cooking. For more information please visit

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