In terms of cooking on the fly or for larger families, I think back to when I cooked while in a relationship or further back, when I was in high school and both parents worked.
Stews, soups and casseroles are great when cooking on the fly especially with slow cookers. Put it on and leave, it'll be ready when you get home. Even when I was at my poorest I could make a nutritional soup. I purchased the cheapest cuts of meat I could find (as stew meat is not always cheap), buy veggies on sale that were almost rotten and back then, I'd either use a ketchup base or toss in boullion, whatever I found cheaper. The alternate to meat is beans and barley - both are reasonable cost and often can find in bulk. If I had a little extra cash I'd toss in pasta. The only thing I didn't skimp on was spices, as that'll bring out the flavour even if you have to skimp on the veggies and meat. There are good recipes all over the place for soup and when you are tired of soup, add some thickner and you have stew.
Casseroles can be anything. They can be fish, meat, vegetable - whatever you can afford and want. There are many casserole recipes. I usually threw together whatever I had in the house, then splurged for cheese that I grated on top. If I couldn't get cheese, then I'd crumble up old bread soaked with a bit of milk and seasoning, put on top.
When I could still eat salads, I loved making shrimp salad or chicken salad and those can be made ahead. It's just watching when stuff goes on sale, grabbing it. Little bit of romaine lettuce, whatever veggies you want to toss in and for shrimp, lemon juice and chicken, whatever you want. Often we made a soy based vingerette. We even made salads with moose meat, it was good.
Stir-fry is another inexpensive and tasty way to cook. It's also quick. If you want, you can prep up the meat and veggies ahead of time and toss in the fridge. If you do, I'd suggest tossing the meat with a bit of sauce to saute and toss vegetable spice on the vegetables to add flavour. Stir-fry is fast and healthy - depends whether you add sauce (like my girlfriend loved doing) or leave it plain with spices (as I tend to do).
Another cheap healthy and quick meal is pasta sauce and pasta. You can make up the pasta sauce ahead of time and freeze. Then when you don't want to cook, just put on a pot, toss in pasta and thaw out the sauce. I add vegetables to my sauce but if you don't, toss up a salad or plain veggies to the side.
I get the costs as I used to be dirt poor and now, I'm not dirt poor but I do live pay cheque by pay cheque. It is tough but what I suggest is using your imagination. It's amazing what you can create when you look at what you can afford and go "okay, how will this make into a nice meal."
Do the same with exercise. Put on music and dance while cleaning the house. Borrow DVDs from the library for exercise. Talk with neighbours and friends about starting a walking club. Go to the local playground and play. There's lots to do, just sometimes we get wrapped up in that it needs to cost money to make it good.
Edited by: SASSIISSAS at: 9/22/2010 (18:25)
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