Dinners on a Dime

Every other month or so, Meijer runs a ridiculously great deal on Tyson breaded frozen chicken.  I can typically pick up a family-sized bag of chicken nuggets or chicken tenders for just $2.99 with the sale and (of course!) a coupon.

As much as our kiddos love chicken nuggets, I’m not a huge fan of just plopping a plateful of them in front of the kids to eat.  So, I started brainstorming to think of a recipe that I could put together that would utilize the chicken nuggets.  Strolling through the store, flour tortillas caught my eye, and I instantly thought of putting together Southwestern Roll-Ups.

Here’s what I came up with for my concoction:

Southwestern Chicken & Bacon Roll-Ups

Flour tortillas
Tyson frozen chicken nuggets, cut into small chunks
Turkey bacon, crumbled into small pieces
Cheddar cheese
Kraft reduced-fat honey dijon dressing
Romaine or Boston lettuce

Place open tortilla on plate.  Spread a small amount of honey dijon dressing down the middle of the tortilla.  Add chicken, bacon, cheese, and lettuce according to preference.  Roll up and enjoy!

The entire family loved this incredibly simple meal.  And I felt much better about serving the kids chicken nuggets in this fashion as opposed to the traditional method!

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Dinners on a Dime: Grilled Shish Kabobs

by Katie on August 31, 2011

Over the Fourth of July weekend, we enjoyed a grill-out together with family members.  The hostess of the party put together a station for make-your-own shish kabobs.  Guests could choose between marinated chicken or steak as well as an assortment of vegetables – tomatoes, mushrooms, zucchini, squash, peppers, onions, and carrots.  We all assembled the kabobs to our liking, and they were then grilled to perfection.

We all enjoyed them so much that we were anxious to try them out for ourselves.  I bought a package of chicken as well as a pack of steak and cut them all into medium-sized chunks.  I poured marinade into two different resealable bags, and placed the steak in one, and the chicken in the other.  I put both bags in the fridge to marinate while I cut up the vegetables.

Since fresh vegetables are so reasonably priced during the summer, I picked up fresh zucchini, squash, tomatoes, and onion.  I had previously inherited a set of metal skewers from my parents, so I assembled them all, alternating between the meats and vegetables.  My husband grilled the kabobs until the meats were cooked and the veggies were tender.

We served the kabobs over steaming hot rice along with fresh fruit – yum!  Such a simple dinner that is both economical and easy to prepare.

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Dinners on a Dime: Chicken & Rice Bowls

by Katie on July 21, 2011

One of the new recipes we tried last week was Chicken & Rice Bowls.  I found a basic recipe online, and as per usual, I tweaked the recipe to match our family’s preferences.  The recipe is one of the easiest I’ve ever made, and everyone loved it (trust me, that’s not an easy feat around here!).

Chicken & Rice Bowls

5 large boneless chicken breasts
1 can chicken broth
1 jar salsa (I used Chi-Chi’s mild salsa)
1 bag frozen corn
4 cups cooked rice
Shredded cheese
Sour cream

Place chicken, broth, salsa, and corn into crockpot.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours.  Serve over cooked rice.  Top with cheese and sour cream.

This meal was perfect for the hot days we’ve had in Cincinnati over the last few weeks.  Instead of heating up the entire house by using the oven, I popped everything in the crockpot, and was finished with dinner prep in less than 10 minutes!

I think I would also enjoy adding black beans to this recipe; however, since my oldest hates beans, I would most probably cook them on the side, and add them to each bowl according to individual preferences.

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Dinners on a Dime: Homemade Pizza

by Katie on July 6, 2011

One of our family’s all-time favorite meals is pizza.  While there’s definitely something to be said for the convenience of carry-out pizza, it can become really pricey, especially with the size of our family. We often opt for making homemade pizza, as it is a much more economical choice, and it’s hands-down our favorite.

I used to be really intimidated by the idea of making my own pizza crust.  I tried a number of different recipes, none of which were a huge hit for our family.  I finally tweaked a combination of different recipes to come up with a recipe that we all love.  And the best part – it’s so easy to make!

 

Pizza Crust Recipe

3 Tbsp. active dry yeast
3 cups hot water (approximately 110 degrees)
3 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
6 Tbsp. vegetable oil
9-10 cups flour

Dissolve yeast in hot water.  Stir in the sugar, salt, and vegetable oil.  Add flour until dough becomes thick and difficult to stir.

Dump mixture onto floured counter and knead for 5-10 minutes, or until dough is smooth and easy to handle.

Divide into three sections, and roll out according to the size of the pans you’re using (I typically use two rectangular cookie sheets and one round pizza pan).

Add pizza sauce (we typically use Prego or Ragu sauce) and desired toppings.  Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 15 minutes.

We have an older oven, so I usually bake our pizzas for closer to 18 minutes.  I check the side crusts to make sure they are lightly browned and have a hollow sound when I tap on them.  I also put a fork into the middle of the pizza to ensure it is baked through, and isn’t gooey in the center.

There is no limit on the number of combinations you could create with your family’s pizzas.  Our favorites includes the traditional cheese, sausage, pepperoni, or mushroom, but we also enjoy a Hawaiian pizza from time to time as well.  We add chopped ham and pineapple bits and cover with cheese – yum!

As a side note, this recipe makes three large pizzas.  This is plenty of pizza to feed our family for dinner and at least two lunches.  Since it does take a little time and effort to make homemade pizza, I would rather make extra so we have plenty of leftovers to enjoy.  However, if you have a smaller family, this recipe could easily be cut down to just one batch of dough.

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Have you tried the new Wendy’s Chicken Berry Almond Salad?  I received a $1 coupon in my e-mail from Wendy’s, so my sister and I decided to stop by on our lunch hour and try out this newest salad creation.

On the positive side, we both thought the salad was absolutely delicious.  On the negative side….our jaws about hit the ground when we saw our combined total on the drive through screen – almost $14!  To me, that’s a whole lot of money for two salads.

After last week, I thought I’d get creative this week and put together a salad using ingredients we had on hand.  I started with an organic lettuce blend that I had purchased from Meijer.  I added leftover grilled chicken from the previous evening’s dinner, as well as craisins, pear slices, and poppyseed dressing.

While I didn’t have almonds on the salad, I loved the combination of flavors, as did my daughter who “shared” the salad with me.  Now technically speaking, we had the salad for lunch, but it was absolutely filling enough to be served for dinner.  I’m sure a roll or slice of bread would compliment the salad nicely, and round out an evening meal.

Cost

Organic lettuce mix, $0.50 (Meijer)
Grilled chicken, $1.10 (Aldi)
Ocean Spray craisins, $0.20 (Kroger)
Pear slices, $0.25 (MainStreet Market)
Kraft poppyseed dressing, $0.05 (MainStreet Market)

Total cost – $2.10

For this cost, I’ll gladly make my own salad and not only enjoy the flavor, but the amazing savings as well!

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Dinners on a Dime: Burrito Casserole

by Katie on May 12, 2011

There are certain staple foods that I try to always have on hand in our household – things like fresh fruit, yogurt, and soft tortillas.  Yes, tortillas.  Our kiddos absolutely love anything that is made with a tortilla, and will even eat them plain for a snack.  While the frugal side of me would love to try making them from scratch, the very practical side of me knows that I’d be hard pressed to make them much cheaper than the $0.99 that Aldi sells them for.

I love finding new recipes that incorporate tortillas, since they are almost always a huge hit for our family.  The burrito casserole is one such recipe.  It’s quick and easy to put together, and is an economical dinner choice as well.

Burrito Casserole

3 cups water
2 burrito seasoning mix packets
2 cans (8 ounces) tomato sauce
2 lbs. ground beef
2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
20 flour tortillas
2 cups shredded cheese (I use either Cheddar or a  Mexican blend)

Brown ground beef; drain and set aside.  Mix water, seasoning mixes, and tomato sauce until well blended.  Add beans and 1 cup of the sauce mixture to the ground beef.  Fill each taco with approximately 1/2 cup of ground beef mixture.

Roll tortilla, and place seam side down into a greased 9×13-inch pan.  Pour remaining sauce over burritos.  Top with cheese.  Bake for 15 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Our oldest son does not care for beans, so I typically leave a portion of the ground beef and sauce mixture aside to fill his burritos prior to adding in the beans.

Cost

Meijer brand burrito seasoning packets, $1 (Meijer)
Store brand tomato sauce, $0.80 (Aldi)
Ground beef, $1.98 (used $1/1 Ground Beef wyb Uncle Ben’s Rice coupons at Kroger)
Ortega black beans, $0.76 (Meijer)
Store brand flour tortillas, $1.98 (Aldi)
Store brand shredded cheese, $2.39 (Aldi)

Total cost – $8.91 (or $1.49 per serving)

We paired this casserole with corn and brown rice, which rounded out this meal nicely.  The leftovers on this meal never stick around very long!

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Our family loves fixing breakfasts foods for dinner.  It’s an inexpensive dinner option, and by fixing breakfast at dinnertime, we always seem to have more time to enjoy the meal than we would first thing in the morning.

A few weeks back, I decided to try making French toast by using store-bought French bakery bread, complemented by homemade syrup.  After searching out recipes online, I decided to tweak a few different recipes to make a simple almond butter syrup.  Here’s what I came up with:

Almond Butter Syrup

1 cup water
2 cups granulated sugar
1 stick butter
1 tsp almond extract
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon

Combine sugar and water in a small sauce pan.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly; continue boiling and stirring for 5 minutes.

Remove from heat.  Add butter, almond extract, and cinnamon; stir until combined.  Serve warm with French toast or pancakes.  Refrigerate remaining syrup.

While the syrup was cooling down just a bit, I prepared the French toast recipe below.

French Toast

4 eggs
1 cup milk
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 loaf fresh French bread, cut into 1/2 inch slices
Confectioner’s sugar

In a large bowl, beat together eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Dip bread into mixture, coating both sides.  Place bread in a preheated skillet.

Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side or until golden brown.  Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar and serve with almond butter syrup.

This was a huge hit for our family.  And the almond butter syrup…..let’s just say that I would willingly use it to dip just about anything in and eat it – yum!  While it might not be the healthiest syrup to eat on a routine basis, it was delicious for an occasional treat.

Cost

Store brand sugar, $0.35 (Aldi)
Countryside Creamery butter, $0.57 (Aldi)
Store brand almond extract, $0.25 (Meijer)
Store brand ground cinnamon, $0.10 (Aldi)
Store brand eggs, $0.32 (Meijer)
Friendly Farms milk, $0.12 (Aldi)
Store brand vanilla, $0.25 (Aldi)
Store brand nutmeg, $0.05 (Meijer)
Meijer French bread, $1.49 (Meijer)
Domino confectioner’s sugar, $0.25 (Meijer)

Total cost – $3.75 (or $0.63 per serving)

We also whipped up a batch of scrambled eggs and sliced up fresh strawberries and pineapple to go with our breakfast for dinner.  Even though Lent is over, I’m sure this recipe will stick around throughout the entire year!

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Dinners on a Dime: Cincinnati-Style Chili

by Katie on April 6, 2011

If you’ve ever lived in or visited Cincinnati for an extended period of time, you’re most likely aware of the foods that we are known for – namely, Skyline Chili, Graeter’s Ice Cream, and Montgomery Inn Barbecue Sauce.  While our family loves these foods, they don’t tend to be the most budget-friendly choices.

So, when Amy from Clipping Coupons in KC sent me her Cincinnati-Style Chili Recipe, I was excited to see how the cost would compare to buying Skyline Chili either at the restaurant or at our local grocery store.  The recipe was very simple to prepare, and since it cooked in the crockpot all day, it was ideal to put together for a very busy day. 

I did change a few things from the original recipe.  First off, I omitted the cayenne pepper since some of my little ones are not fond of spicy foods.  I also browned the ground beef and rinsed it thoroughly (as I always do in any recipe) before adding it to the crockpot.  I’ve listed the original recipe (compliments of Amy!) below:

Cincinnati-Style Chili

2 cans beef broth
3 lbs. ground beef
1/4 cup chili powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 square unsweetened chocolate
1 can tomato sauce
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

Add uncooked ground beef and beef broth to the crockpot.  Cook on high for 2 hours.  Add the remaining ingredients, and cook on low for an additional 6-8 hours.  Serve over hot dogs and buns for coneys or over cooked spaghetti noodles with cheese for a Cincinnati-Style 3-Way.

Our family loved this recipe.  Some of us made coneys, while others preferred making 3-ways (or a little of both as our youngest son chose to do in the picture above!).  However, there was enough chili for dinner with plenty of leftovers for an additional lunchtime meal of chili.  So, the cost comparison?

Cost

Store brand beef broth, $0.98 (Aldi)
Ground beef, $2.97 (used $1/1 Ground Beef wyb Uncle Ben’s Rice coupons) (Kroger)
Store brand chili powder, $0.30 (Meijer)
Store brand ground cinnamon, $0.10 (Aldi)
Store brand cumin, $0.10 (Meijer)
Store brand allspice, $0.05 (Meijer)
Store brand cloves, $0.05 (Meijer)
Baker’s unsweetened chocolate, $0.16 (Meijer)
Store brand tomato sauce, $0.40 (Aldi)
Ronzoni pasta, $0.50 (Meijer)
Kraft cheddar cheese, $0.59 (Meijer)
Store brand buns, $2 (Kroger)
Bar-S franks, $1 (Meijer)

Total cost – $9.20 (or $1.53 per serving)

Needless to say, this is a much more economical version of Cincinnati-Style Chili for our family!  The only thing I’ll change for next time……I plan to use a crockpot liner (as you can clearly see that Amy did when she made her chili).  That crockpot was a pain to clean out after dinner!

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Dinners on a Dime: Calzones

by Katie on March 31, 2011

I was halfway to Louisville this past weekend when I realized that I never posted our family’s calzone recipe.  Our kiddos (especially our older two sons) absolutely love calzones, but at almost $7 apiece, they are not a very affordable option for dinner.  So, I thought I’d get creative and come up my own homemade version. 

I tweaked my usual pizza crust recipe a bit, and doubled the majority of the ingredients for the crust of the calzone:

Calzone Crust

2 Tbsp. active dry yeast
2 cups hot water
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
4 Tbsp. vegetable oil
6-7 cups flour

Dissolve yeast in hot water.  Stir in the sugar, salt, and vegetable oil.  Add flour until dough becomes thick, and difficult to stir.  Dump mixture on floured counter and knead for 5-10 minutes.  Divide dough into 8 equal parts.  Roll each portion into an elongated oval.

Since the day I made the calzones was a Friday in Lent, it was a no meat day for our family.  I searched the refrigerator and came up with ricotta cheese, shredded mozzarella cheese, and shredded cheddar cheese (I still had kiddos with colds at this point, and running to the store for needed ingredients was not so much of an option).  I tossed these cheeses as well as salt and pepper together for our filling. 

Cheese Calzone Filling Recipe

1-15 oz. container ricotta cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

I scooped an eighth of the filling onto the center of each dough oval.  I then flipped the long ends over each other, and twisted and tucked the short ends under the calzone.  I cut four slits into each calzone to allow for proper heating as well as ventilation during the cooking process.  I brushed a small amount of vegetable oil on the top of each calzone, and baked them at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until they were lightly browned on top.

The verdict?  The kids loved them!  They are excited about making them again this week, although they want to make them on a day that is not Friday, as they intend to add a variety of sausage, beef, and chicken to their calzones. 

To save yourself a fair amount of clean up time, I would suggest lining the cookie sheets with either foil lightly brushed with oil, or with parchment paper.  While I love to cook and bake, I’m not such a huge fan of having a sinkful of dishes at the end of the evening.  I’m always happy to find ways to simplify the clean up process!

Cost:

Meijer brand active yeast, $0.50 (Meijer)
Store brand sugar, $0.10 (Aldi)
Morton salt, $0.05(Walgreens)
Store brand vegetable oil, $0.10 (Aldi)
Store brand flour, $0.70 (Meijer)
Store brand ricotta cheese, $2.38 (Aldi)
Kraft Mozzarella cheese, $1.17 (Meijer)
Kraft Cheddar cheese, $0.59 (Meijer)
Store brand pepper, $0.05 (Aldi)

Total cost – $5.64 (or $0.94 per serving)

Since the cost to make calzones for all of us was less than the cost of one restaurant calzone, I’m thinking this is the route we will take more often than not!

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Dinners on a Dime: Chicken Quesadillas

by Katie on March 15, 2011

 

One of my favorite places to browse online for new recipe ideas is Tammy’s Recipes.  She has a variety of recipes on her site, and I’ve yet to try one that our family hasn’t loved.  I came across her chicken quesadilla recipe, and although our family isn’t a “one size fits all” sort of family when it comes to tacos or quesadillas, I loved the idea of browning the tortillas on each side in the oven.  I was pleased to find that the crisp texture of the tortilla was a perfect complement to our own individual quesadilla fillings.

The only difficulty I had was trying to flip the quesadillas halfway through the cooking time.  Even with a large spatula, I was still losing part of the filling with each flip.   Fast forward a few days…..my oldest son was shopping at Meijer with my husband when he spotted a quesadilla maker on sale.  Since quesadillas have become a regular meal at our house, I was more than happy to allocate some of our household funds for this purchase.

I’m pleased to report that the quesadilla maker was definitely a worthwhile purchase.  Each quesadilla crisps up in a matter of minutes, and I no longer lose half the filling on the cookie sheet!  As far as a recipe goes, I usually set bowls of various ingredients out on the counter, and then build each quesadilla based on each person’s preferences.  It’s a rare moment when any two quesadillas are the same, as everyone likes their own variations. 

The recipe I’m adding below includes the steps for baking the quesadillas in the oven.  When I prepare them in the quesadilla maker, I skip the oil, and simply crisp them for 3-5 mintues. 

Chicken or Beef Quesadillas

2-1/2 lbs. seasoned chicken or beef, cut into small pieces
3 bags of 8″ flour tortillas
1 bag frozen corn, cooked according to package directions
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups rice, cooked according to package directions
2 cups shredded cheese
sour cream

Line a cookie sheet with foil.  Brush a tortilla with a small amount of vegetable oil.  Place oil side down on the cookie sheet.  Place desired fillings on top of tortilla.  Top with second tortilla; brush top with scant amount of vegetable oil.  Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes.  Flip tortillas; continue baking for an additional 8-10 minutes, or until browned and crisp.  Serve with sour cream. 

When I made the quesadillas last week, I accidentally picked up 12″ tortillas instead of 8″ tortillas.  Since the larger tortillas wouldn’t fit into the quesadilla maker, I trimmed the edges, and made tortilla chips out of the scraps.  I cut the scraps into medium-sized squares, and brushed both sides with a small amount of vegetable oil.  I sprinkled half of them with salt, and the other half with cinnamon and sugar.  I popped them in the oven on broil for 2 minutes, flipped them, and baked them for another 2 minutes. 

While we all loved the tortilla chips, there are a few adjustments I plan to make the next time around.  I think it would be more efficient and healthier to spray the tortilla squares with a nonstick cooking spray before sprinkling them with salt or the cinnamon sugar mixture.  I also plan to stay very close to the oven, as I managed to burn the first batch to a crisp! 

Cost:

Seasoned chicken from whole baked chicken (prepared earlier in the week), $2.25 (Kroger)
Store brand flour tortillas, $2.97 (Aldi)
Meijer brand frozen corn, $0.99 (Meijer)
Store brand black beans, $0.55 (Aldi)
Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice, $0.69 (Kroger)
Kroger brand cheddar cheese, $1.67 (Kroger)
Store brand sour cream, $0.50 (Aldi)

Total cost – $9.62 (or $1.60 per serving)

Do you have a cooking tip or recipe you’d like to share? If so leave your comment or link below to share with all of us.

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