01 April 2011

How To Make Dinner When You Have No Money (But Have What I Have On Hand)

I ran out of grocery money a week ago (boo, hiss) so I knew this week I would need to be EXTREMELY creative with what I have. If you know what I have on hand, this will make a lot more sense to you.OK, on we go.

Monday: Tilapia with lemon sauce, rice pilaf and salad.

Tuesday: Polenta with homemade sauce, salad. 

Wednesday: Steak (from Steve), noodles and broccoli. Oh, and salad.

Thursday: Oven-baked rice pilaf with lentils and.....salad!

Friday: I had no clue, so I started peeling potatoes and ultimately came up with the idea to make a chili-esque skillet thing over mashed potatoes.

If you are interested in any of the recipes I used this week, here they are:

Tilapia with Lemon Sauce
(Also known as Orange Roughy with Lemon Sauce, but I don't regularly keep Orange Roughy)

1 lb fresh or frozen orange roughy or red snapper fillets (or tilapia)
1 pound asparagus spears (or not if you don't have them)
1 14 oz can chicken broth
2 tsp finely shredded lemon peel
1/8 tsp black pepper
1 medium yellow sweet pepper, cut into strips
4 tsp cornstarch
2 tblsp fresh chives (I didn't use these either)
2 cups hot cooked rice or couscous

1. Thaw fish if frozen. Rinse fish; pat dry. Snap off and discard woody bases from asparagus. Cut asparagus in half; set aside.
2. In large skillet, combine 1 cup of broth, lemon peel and black pepper. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Carefully add fish and asparagus. Cook, covered over medium-low heat for 4 minutes. Add sweet pepper strips. Cook, covered 2 minutes more or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Using slotted spatula, transfer fish and vegetables to a serving plate, reserving liquid in skillet. Keep fish and vegetables warm while preparing sauce.
3. For sauce, stir together remaining broth and cornstarch. Stir into liquid in skillet. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir for 2 minutes more. Stir in chives. Arrange fish and vegetables on couscous or rice; spoon sauce over top.
I did not prepare the fish like this. I made the sauce in a separate pan and browned the fish by itself, then served the sauce over it. Heidi took one bite and said "I like fish!"

To make the polenta, I just followed the instructions on the package. Crazy, right? It actually turned out really good. For the sauce, I used:

1 can diced tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
About 1/2 can tomato paste
1 onion, chopped
2 or 3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 stalk of celery, chopped
Oregano, basil, salt, pepper and parsley

I sauteed the onion, garlic and celery for a few minutes in coconut oil because it's awesome, then I added everything else, reduced the heat and let it simmer for many hours. I used a lot of oregano because I refuse to put sugar into my pasta sauce.

Here's the basic recipe for the Oven-Cooked Rice Pilaf:
1 1/2 cups boiling chicken broth
1 tblsp butter
3/4 cup uncooked long grain rice
1/4 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup sliced green onion
1/4 cup chopped carrot

In a 1-quart casserole combine boiling water and butter; stir until butter is melted. Stir in rice. Bake, covered in 350 degree oven about 35 minutes or until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed. Fluff with a fork before serving.

Of course, being who I am, I did not do this exact recipe. I did not use butter, but I sprinkled olive oil all over the rice mixture before I put it in. I used 1/2 cup barley, 1/2 lentils and 1 cup of a wild and brown rice mix instead of regular rice. I used about 4 3/4 cups of my own homemade vegetable broth and also threw in some garlic with the vegetables (and regular onion instead of green). I baked it for 40 minutes and then let it sit for another 5-10 until all the liquid was absorbed. In order to conserve dishes, I put my rice into my empty salad bowl, that still had some dressing in it, and boy was that tasty! Heidi ate most of her portion, then finished my portion and finally turned her sights on Piper's. And when I got seconds, she gobbled right on that too. I always say I don't necessarily care how she eats it, as long as she's eating, and that she did.

Finally, I made a really quick dinner tonight off the top of my head that may sound weird but was actually pretty good. Some people eat chili on baked potatoes, so why not have something similar over mashed potatoes?

I used:
1 can each black beans and kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 onion
3 cloves of garlic
2 carrots
2 cans of tomato sauce
1 tblsp tomato paste left over from pasta sauce the other day
(And I used some leftover broth to mash the potatoes with)

I sauteed the onion, garlic and carrot in coconut oil for a couple of minutes, then added both cans of beans, the two cans of tomato sauce and the tomato paste. I seasoned with salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder and cumin. Brought the mixture to a boil, reduced heat and let it simmer until I changed diapers.

I mashed the potatoes with however much butter was left in the end of a stick, a little bit of broth, salt and some cayenne. In a pinch, it worked.


  1. I do cabinet pot luck a lot. Tonight the girls and I has black bean tacos LOL.

  2. I love that name! I should use that from now on :) Cabinet pot luck...genius! :)

  3. Amanda!I don't know how I survived without your blong in the past!! This post is AWESOME!

  4. Lol thanks :). The blog has only been up since January so that is how you survived :)