Feeding the Fam on a budget

When I was pregnant with my first son I left my teaching job. On his first birthday I found out I was pregnant with my 2nd baby. So we went from my husband and I both working and no kids, to two babies with one income in a very short period of time. That is when I started cooking a lot. I couldn’t get out too often when my boys were small so coming up with dinner for all of us gave me something to think about. Feeding the Fam on a budget was a challenge. I would get recipes from my mom, aunt and grandma because they always had great options. Once the boys got through their toddler years and actually started eating and enjoying the food I couldn’t stop! Now they love to put in their requests and critique my cooking. My boys are now 11 and 13. They are growing rapidly and eating me out of house and home. Cooking on a budget is even more of  a challenge now. I definitely buy chicken broth, canned items, olive oil and pasta when they are buy 1, get 1 free. I shop at BJ’s once a month to stock up on some meats. And I’ve started shopping at some lower priced stores like Aldi which really helps. I put together some of my favorite meals that are budget friendly. I hope this post helps you feed your fam on a budget. There is nothing like knowing you fed your whole family for less than $10 and they have full bellies and smiling faces…

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Pasta:  Need I say more? I love pasta. I love pasta for a lot of reasons.

  • There are so many different options (whole grain, rigatoni, gluten-free, spaghetti)
  • It fills everyone up.
  • It’s inexpensive!
  • Who doesn’t like pasta? Cold, hot, with veggies, as a side dish, etc…)

So here are some of my favorite budget-friendly pasta dishes…

Soup:  A bowl of comfort… So many reasons I love soup as well.

  • It’s a budget-friendly meal.
  • Super healthy
  • You can add ingredients based on your families likes and dislikes (pasta, beans, veggies, etc…)
  • Makes great leftovers.

So, here are some of my favorite budget-friendly soups you should put on your weekly rotation!

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All the other good meals that aren’t pasta or soup:  There are so many budget-friendly dinners. Honestly, when I look at all my recipes most of them are affordable. It’s never my motive to spend a fortune on dinner, holidays and celebrations not included…

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Spring Pasta

Spring is here and it’s getting hotter in Florida! When it gets hotter, the food has to get a little lighter. Instead of my pasta with meat sauce or meatballs, I like to add more veggies. One of my favorite side dishes of all time is peas and onions. When I have no fresh veggies in my fridge that is my go to. Sometimes I add it to pasta or rice and it is delicious. I took my fav, peas and onions and added a lot of other great ingredients and tossed it with pasta. OMG. This dish is really tasty and one of my family’s favorite meals.

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I cook dinner almost every night. There are a few items that I can not live without.

  1. Large Pot:  I use this to boil pasta or to make sauce and soup.
  2. Saute Pan:  I use this to saute veggies and make a quick crushed tomato sauce.
  3. Wooden Spoons:  I can’t get enough of these…

 

Spring Pasta

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 package of mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 onion sliced thin
  • 4 oz. package of diced pancetta
  • Splash of low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 bag of frozen baby sweet peas
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 pounds of pasta (I prefer shells or bowties)
  • Grated pecorino romano cheese

Directions

  1. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a deep saute pan.
  2. Add mushrooms and onions and cook until all the juices from the mushrooms evaporate and the mushrooms and onions are browning.
  3. Add pancetta and cook for about 5 minutes.
  4. Remove from the heat and add the chicken broth. Scrape the pan with a wooden spoon.  
  5. Return to the heat and add the peas. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until peas are heated through.
  6. Set aside.
  7. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to directions on the box. Save some pasta water if needed to moisten the pasta in the end.  
  8. Combine the veggies and the pasta.
  9. Drizzle with olive oil and top with grated pecorino romano.

If this recipe is your kind of meal, you will also enjoy…

Mini Tortellini, Sausage and Spinach

Poolside Pasta Primavera

Bowties with Broccoli

Orecchiette with Sausage, Mushrooms, and Tomatoes

Lasagna Rolls

Lasagna is the perfect dish for any holiday. My mom makes the absolute best lasagna. She made it for every holiday. We all loved it and would enjoy it for weeks later. She’d have leftovers and then a whole tray in the freezer for another night. It is the ultimate comfort meal.

I love lasagna, but I’m not a big fan of making it. It always looks a little messy when I make it. I would prefer to make a tray of stuffed shells, baked ziti or lasagna rolls! It looks better and I like that it has less ricotta cheese.

I love spinach in my lasagna rolls because I love veggies. If I put spinach, I don’t serve meat with it. If I leave the spinach out, I serve it with a side of meatballs or meat sauce. Either way lasagna rolls are delicious and comforting and presents beautifully.

Of course double the recipe for a bigger crowd or to put one tray in the freezer for a later date.

A basic marinara sauce should be made first. You can find the recipe here. 👇🏼

Marinara Sauce

If you decide to leave the spinach out and do meat sauce, you can find the recipe here👇🏼

Meat Sauce 

or Meatballs!

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Lasagna Rolls

Ingredients

  • Marinara sauce
  • 10 oz package of frozen spinach(optional)
  • 1 box of lasagna noodles
  • 32 oz container of ricotta cheese
  • 2/3 cup of grated pecorino romano cheese
  • 1 egg
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350.
  2. Boil a large pot of salted water and cook noodles per directions on box. Drain and set aside to dry.
  3. Put about 1 cup of sauce in the bottom of a baking dish.
  4. In a mixing bowl combine the spinach, ricotta, pecorino, and egg.
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Lay the noodles out flat and spread about 2 tablespoons of the ricotta mixture evenly on the noodle.
  7. Roll and place seam side down in baking dish.
  8. Cover with sauce and sprinkle with with some more pecorino Romano cheese.
  9. Cover tightly with foil.
  10. Bake for 45 minutes or until bubbly.

Enjoy!

Other pasta dishes that are perfect to feed a crowd…

Baked Ziti with Sausage

Rigatoni with Roasted Eggplant and Ricotta

Ravioli with Crushed Tomato Sauce

Orecchiette with Sausage, Mushrooms, and Tomatoes

 

Italian Salad(Pasta or no Pasta)

Let’s face it, I love all pasta.  I love it hot, cold and leftover!

When I think of pasta salad I think of summer. But this Italian Pasta Salad can be served all year long hot as a main dish, cold as a side dish, and packed in the lunchbox the next day for a yummy lunch your kids will love!

pasta salad

Don’t want the pasta? Put it over Romaine lettuce instead! I love making an Italian Salad for a crowd because sometimes I don’t want to make an antipasto and a salad. So, I combine them and there you have it! Like everything else this recipe can be adjusted depending on what you have in the house.

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Italian Salad

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

With Pasta:

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of small elbow pasta(or any type you prefer)
  • 1 packet of Good Seasons Italian Dressing
  • 1 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 of a red onion, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup of black olives, halved
  • 1/2 cup of Giardeniera Italian mix, drained
  • 7-10 oz pack of mozzarella balls(the little pearl ones)
  • 1/4 cup of pepperoni or salami, chopped into small pieces
  • big bunch of parsley, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Boil a pot of salted water.
  2. Cook pasta per directions on box.
  3. Drain and set aside.
  4. Prepare the dressing per directions on box.
  5. Put the pasta in a large bowl.
  6. Add all the ingredients except for the dressing.
  7. Toss together. Make sure you added enough salt and pepper. It needs a good amount.
  8. Drizzle with a little bit of dressing and mix again.
  9. Add enough dressing so that everything is coated and tasty.
  10. Before serving you may need to add more dressing to moisten the pasta.

Without Pasta:

Ingredients:

  • 2 heads of romaine lettuce, rinsed, drained and chopped
  • 1 packet of Good Seasons Italian Dressing
  • 1 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 of a red onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup of black olives, halved
  • 7-10 oz pack of mozzarella balls(the little pearl ones) or shredded mozzarella
  • 1 can of hearts of palm
  • 1 can of marinated mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup of pepperoni or salami, chopped into small pieces
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Prepare the dressing per directions on box.
  2. Lay your lettuce on a platter.
  3. Top the lettuce with all the toppings except for the dressing.
  4. Season with salt and pepper salt and pepper.
  5. Drizzle with a little bit of dressing.

Enjoy!

Listed below are some of my other favorite salads…

No Romaine, No Problem

Shoepeg Corn Salad

 

 

Ravioli with Crushed Tomato Sauce

When I think of Valentine’s Day dinner, I think of a simple, comforting meal at home with my family. Ravioli with Crushed Tomato Sauce may not look simple, but it is! And it’s so quick that it allows me to spend more time with my family instead of time in the kitchen. And nothing shows love better than Ravioli with a red Crushed Tomato Sauce. Right?

The only ravioli my mom ever bought when we were growing up was Pastosa. They were so delicious. We used to eat them raw out of the box! I can get them(frozen) at The Boys near me, but if I don’t feel like taking a ride there, I can pick up Mimi’s Ravioli at Western Beef. They are also very tasty.

 

 

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Go ahead and make your dinner at home look fancy. A beautiful lace tablecloth and a vase of fresh flowers is all you need.

If you are in the market for new wine glasses these are the perfect stemless wine glasses.

I love my square white plates that I have, but these dinner size ones are perfect for a bright dinner like this.  I love how a white plate always makes the food look that much better…

Better Homes and Gardens Square Porcelain Dinner Plates, White, Set of 6

RAVIOLI WITH CRUSHED TOMATO SAUCE

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds of Ravioli(Pastosa, Mimi’s or similar)
  • 2-28 oz. cans of crushed tomatoes
  • 8 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • crushed red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper
  • EVOO
  • Grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Directions

  1. In a large saute pan heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Add a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes and garlic.
  3. Once garlic is light golden, add both cans of crushed tomatoes (When I pour the tomatoes in the pan there is usually some leftover tomatoes in the can. Fill both cans 1/3 of the way with water and swish it around to get all the leftover tomatoes.  Add that to the pan as well.)  
  4. Lower the heat to low so it doesn’t splatter.
  5. Add 2 pinches of salt and fresh ground black pepper.
  6. Stir and let simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, boil a large pot of salted water.
  8. Cook the ravioli per directions on the box.
  9. Drain the ravioli and top with the crushed tomato sauce.
  10. Sprinkle with grated cheese and enjoy!

If you enjoyed this recipe, you will also like:

Lasagna Rolls

Momma’s Meatballs

Call it what you want…

Meat Sauce

 

Mini Tortellini, Sausage and Spinach

I found these little bitty mini pesto filled tortellini at Trader Joe’s. They do not have to be refrigerated since they are not filled with cheese. So, they’ve been hanging out in my pantry waiting to be used. After writing up the spinach tortellini soup recipe, I have been on a tortellini kick! I think I have to stop eating tortellini…

Or not.

This is another super easy, delicious dinner.  Perfect for a weeknight when you are rushing around.

 

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Click here to shop your favorite Pampered Chef Products.

Mini Tortellini, Sausage, and Spinach

Ingredients

  • 1 pound of Italian Sausage, out of the casing
  • 1/2 of an onion, chopped small
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2(28 oz) cans of crushed tomatoes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 big handfuls of baby spinach
  • 1 bag of Trader Joe’s pesto filled tortellini or any tortellini you prefer
    • Optional:  1/4 cup of half and half or heavy cream
  • Pecorino Romano cheese

Directions

  1. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil.
  2. Cook tortellini per directions on bag. Drain and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet brown the sausage.
  4. Then add the onion and cook with the sausage until the onion is tender.
  5. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute.
  6. Add the crushed tomatoes.
  7. Season with salt and pepper.
  8. Stir and bring to a simmer.
  9. Cook for about 10 minutes.
  10. Add the spinach and stir until wilted.
  11. If using half and half or cream stir that in now.
  12. Put all the cooked tortellini in the sauce and combine.
  13. Top with grated pecorino romano and ENJOY!


If you enjoyed this recipe, you have to try these…

Spinach Tortellini Soup

Baked Ziti with Sausage

Orecchiette with Sausage, Mushrooms, and Tomatoes

Spinach Tortellini Soup

This was the quickest dinner I’ve ever made! Quick, simple, and so tasty. As you can tell from my previous blogs, I love soup.  I really love soup that my whole family will enjoy.  This is one of those soups. And it actually fills my growing boys because of the tortellini. I served it with a side of garlic bread.

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Spinach Tortellini Soup

Adapted From:  Food Network Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 8-10 cups of low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 20 oz. package of cheese tortellini, fresh not frozen.
  • fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 package of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 can (14.5 oz.) of Italian stewed tomatoes
  • Pecorino Romano Cheese

Directions

  1. In a large pot, bring the chicken broth to a simmer.
  2. Stir in tortellini and simmer gently for 3 minutes.
  3. Stir in spinach, garlic, basil, and tomatoes.
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Return to a simmer and cook 2-3 more minutes.
  6. Top with grated cheese.

Enjoy!

Click here to view some of my other favorite soups!