31 December 2008

Preparing for the coming year

I was shocked to see a Labor Party politician on the TV news yesterday say that now we've had our retail therapy over Christmas (his words, not mine) we should all go off and book a holiday. I won't be taking his advice, I, instead, thought of how sad it is when people bend and compromise their values for the sake of power. Despite what our politicians tell us, now is not the time to spend. We should all be in squirrel mode with our stockpile of food and some cash savings firmly packed away ready to help us out a bit further down the track.

We're being told that the coming 12 months will be very difficult for the average family. Apparently jobs will be lost, homes will be repossessed and businesses will close. I really feel for anyone who will suffer over this period of time but instead of just doing that, let's try to make the best of it. There are ways to prepare your family for hard times so let's get to it. You have to start NOW - today. The earlier you start with this, the better prepared you'll be.

How quickly you prepare really depends on how much money you have available. If you're like many families now you'll have a limited amount of money that has to cover many different areas. I want you to sit down with your partner and work out a plan. Of course, no one can predict what will happen. There will be some people who feel very secure in their job who will lose it, and others who think they're on the edge and will sail through the year. But everyone needs to prepare because no one knows who will be effected or how bad it will get.

I wrote yesterday that your priorities are to keep your home, feed your family and keep paying off your debts. That applies here too. If you can do those three things and come out of this at the other end, it doesn't matter if you didn't have cable TV for a year or those shoes you like went in and out of fashion without you buying them. When it comes down to it, the frills don't matter and you might discover that living on less is really a great way to live.

But first things first. You need to track your money to see where it's going. My post on that is here. It will take a month of tracking to discover your spending patterns so start that today. Each partner should have a little notebook to record every cent of spending.

And then go through what I listed yesterday. See if you can get cheaper rates for the bills you pay like your phone, internet, insurance etc. Check every bill that comes in to make sure you haven't been overcharged. If you haven't been saving, now is the time to get some money into a savings account. After you've tracked your money you'll probably find some money leaks that you can stop. If you come home with some change in your pocket or purse, grab a jar and put the change in the jar. Start saving your change. A small step, but it will add up over time.

Try to save a small emergency fund so that if something happens during the year, you'll have the cash to pay for it and don't have to put more debt on your credit cards. About $500 would be a good amount to aim for, but that might be too much for some families. Just save as much as you can and set it aside for an emergency. Believe me, it will make you feel better knowing you have that buffer there.

If possible, pay a bit more on your regular mortgage payment, or change from monthly payments to fortnightly. If you can do that while things are still going well, IF your circumstances change, you'll be better off. Stop using your credit cards, pay for everything in cash but continue to pay off your credit cards. Now is not the time to spend. If you can, live off one income and use the second income for the emergency fund and for debt payments.

If you haven't started a stockpile yet, now is the ideal time to do it. My posts on how to build a stockpile are here and here. Southhavenjen and Tracy asked in the comments yesterday about Aldi food miles. This will vary in most countries, what happens here will be different to what happens in the UK or USA. I deal with that like this: we buy mainly Australian products at Aldi. The exceptions being tinned salmon from Alaska and Italian parmesan cheese. We buy the rest of our products from our local IGA (independent grocer) and our bulk food store. We haven't shopped at Woolworths or Coles (our main supermarkets) for many years now but I'm told by my friends that they are stocking a lot of imported foods now. I wholeheartedly agree with Tracy's comment about not buying imported products and I have written in the past about how we should be building our own clothing, shoe and whitegoods factories and not sending our money overseas. But I believe, at least here in my state, that you can buy a lot of your groceries at Aldi, as long as you take the time to pick and choose local products.

So, the important points today are to:
  • stop spending on non-essentials,
  • track you money,
  • start saving an emergency fund,
  • increase payments on your mortgage and credit card debts,
  • start a grocery stock pile.
Most of you know that Hanno and I have no debt. We are currently living on $300 a week, and we save $100 a week into a savings account. That $300 allows us to live well, we have private health insurance and generally we are able to do what we want to do. I guess people might think of us as poor, but that doesn't worry us. We live according to our values, we can do whatever we want to most days and we have the kind of productive work here at home that makes each day feel worthwhile.

What I'm trying to say is that cutting back and living through tough times isn't all bad. It can be the start of a new way of living for you. You can gain great satisfaction out of providing for your family by changing how you save, shop and cook. I am old enough to remember when everyone lived as Hanno and I live now. The past 50 years has brought us some wonderful things, but it's also taken so much away. So don't worry if you feel you're getting back to the way your granny lived, I'm here to tell you you will gain a lot from those old ways of doing things and you'll save money in the process.


29 December 2008

20 tips for living on one income

It was a strange Christmas in Australia. The expected shopping downturn didn't happen and people kept spending just like they always do. I know in the UK, in Europe and the US, Christmas sales were down, which I believe is a truer reflection of the economic situation than what we saw here in Australia. From what I read and see on the TV news and from what I see at my job, 2009 will be a tough year for many people.

There are predictions of job loses, hundred of thousands of them, as many countries go into recession. That will mean families who currently live quite well on two incomes will have to change and survive on one income. So what do you do if you need two incomes to survive and one of you loses your job?

Your main goal is to keep your home, feed your family and pay off your debt. It won't be easy, but you'll learn a lot and grow strong because of it.

When I closed my business down I didn't know if I could keep us going on what Hanno was earning but I was sure going to give it a try. We had already paid off our mortgage but we had a small amount of debt on our credit cards. I have to tell you now that my decision to close my business, although we were walking in unknown territory and had absolutely no clue about what would happen, was one of the best decisions of my life. It pushed us toward this beautiful life we now live. You may find you thrive living with less. So keep an open mind and remember it's not the end of the world. What I'm writing here is what worked for us, and still works for us now.
  • Start tracking your money so you know what you both spend. I have written about it here. Start that immediately because it will take you a month to know where you money is going.
  • Sit down with your partner and work out a plan. Both of you need to be working towards the same goal. Financial problems can break marriages apart, you'll have to talk to each other and stay strong. Promise each other that you won't use your credit cards. When you get through this, you'll be a stronger couple for it.
  • If you have children, depending on their ages, explain the situation to them. Work out ways they can help cut costs. The loss of income will effect them too, so respect them enough to talk it over with them and see what they can do to help.
  • You must continue paying off your debts but if this becomes difficult, go to your bank and talk about what you can do. There will be solutions, many other couples will be in the same predicament and your bank may already have programs up and running. Talk to your bank, don't hide, that will just get you in trouble.
  • Make up a budget, both of you, sit down and expect to take a couple of hours doing it. There are many posts on budgeting here. This will be your working plan for the coming months; both of you need to contribute to it, both of you need to know what it is. What you're hoping for with your budget is to cover all your expenses and have a bit of money left over. That's probably not going to happen so you'll have to cut your cost of living.
  • Get rid of everything that is not essential. Cable TV, phones, eating out, convenience food, downloading music and movies. If you have a second car, sell it. Be strong.
  • And keep talking to each other. Tough times bind people together. You will see each other's strengths and help each other with your weaknesses.
  • Have a look at all the accounts you have and try to get better deals on your phone, Internet, insurance etc.
  • Check every bank and credit card statement that comes in. Banks make mistakes, so make sure they haven't overcharged you.
  • You will both have distinctive roles to play. The person who goes out to work must take lunch, coffee and snacks from home. That person must not spend anything while they're at work, no matter how tempting the coffee smells that your colleague is drinking, don't buy one for yourself. That magazine only costs a few dollars, but you still can't buy it. Every cent counts.
  • The person staying at home has a very important job. It is their job to save as much money as possible at home. Check what food you have on hand. Are you a good cook? If you aren't, now is the time you'll learn. When I came back to my home I took great pride in being able to lay our table with tasty nutritious food that cost a fraction of what we used to spend. It can be done. There are many frugal recipes on my blog and millions of them online. Start looking for those you know your family will enjoy.
  • Make up a menuplan.
  • Get the flyers and work out the best place to shop. If you have an Aldi nearby that will probably be the cheapest supermarket. Don't reply on supermarkets for your fruit, vegetables and meat. Often the green grocer and butcher will have better prices. Check out all your options.

  • Try to cut down on the number of times you go out. Can you set up a car pool to get the children to school? Shop once a week, but try to go two weeks without grocery shopping. When you are out, do everything you need to do, like go to the library, post office, doctor, or whatever.
  • Learn how to read your electricity and water meters and use them to help you cut down your usage.
  • If you have the space, plant vegetables.
  • Learn how to make bread. Not only will your bread be healthier, it will be cheaper.
  • Forget brand loyalty and buying something because you always buy it. Buy generic brands, buy in bulk, buy whole foods. Find a farmer's market nearby and check out their fresh produce.

  • Organise yourself. Make up a home management journal where you keep all your new information.
  • Don't waste anything.
  • Rediscover your library. If it's been a while, you'll find a nice variety of media available like books, DVDs, comics, magazines, talking books, the internet, games and music CDs. This will provide you with some cheap entertainment.

I know my frugal friends here will have great tips to add to this, so come back later and read the comments too, they'll also help.

Tomorrow I'll write about preparing for the recession.

Where to buy Australia's cheapest groceries

Household survival tips - part 1
Household survival tips - part 2
Recipes and meal plans from Aldi products
What does cooking on a budget mean?

How to eat organic on the cheap (USA)
Saving at the Supermarket
Frugal Food - UK

Christmas breakfast

Hanno and Kerry cooking up a storm.

Voluntary work is a big part of my life now that I have the time for it. I am the co-ordinator of my local neighbourhood centre where a bunch of us volunteers work for the disadvantaged and homeless, and to provide information about various government agencies and helping hand organisations to people in our community. We also have a permaculture garden that supplements the food staples we give those who need them. I teach budgeting there, we have a sewing circle and a new knitters group and we have just partnered with our local relocalisation group to provide life skills workshops for our community. We'll teach things like vegetable and fruit gardening, worm farming, bamboo construction, bread and jam making, preserving and dehydrating and a lot more.

One of the seasonal things we do is to provide Christmas breakfast for our community. It's the one day we don't focus solely on our disadvantaged folk but instead invite our community to come together for one special meal - Christmas day breakfast. It is such a great event and all morning I meet with people happy to be there and who want to help in some way. Honestly, we had more people asking if they could help that I ever imagined. In the end, I'd say half the people who wanted to help, couldn't, and had to be content having a freshly cooked free breakfast in the warm sunshine.

Almost all the food we consumed was donated by local businesses - we had locally made yoghurt from our cheese maker and fresh milk from our local dairy, the egg farm gave us hundreds of eggs, the local butchers gave sausages and bacon. Restaurants gave juice and mushrooms, the green grocer gave fresh fruit and the local food co-op gave organic muesli. It was a feast! And it was all enjoyed by everyone who came along. Our disadvantaged folk mingled with those we didn't know so well, and most filled their bellies up and helped clean up. We catered for 500 and ran out of hot food, but we still had organic muesli, yoghurt, fresh fruit, tea and coffee to offer.

We had a couple of raffles and our donations tins ran hot. When I came home I counted up about $700 that will go towards providing more programs and services next year.

It took about a month to organise our breakfast, I worked closely with my good friend Bernadette and other volunteers, and picking up the donations, transporting it all to the park and co-ordinating the morning was really hard work. But oh the payoff. When I came home from that breakfast I was as full of the Christmas spirit as I could possibly be. I didn't have any breakfast apart from a wedge of watermelon because I was too busy talking with people who wanted to thank us for the breakfast and those who wanted to help. Representatives of our local churches came over and said hello and thanks, and a couple of people from the RSL (Returned Servicemen's League), Lions and Apex talked about how we could all help each other during the year. An older man said: "Mrs Hetzel, I'm pleased to see you have food covers this year." LOL (Our sewing circle made us net food covers.) Kids kept asking when Santa would arrive - he came on his Harley. There were people everywhere and they met people they didn't know before. It looked like everyone enjoyed themselves. I know I did.

I was really pleased that both my sons came to the breakfast. They saw for themselves that Christmas is really about giving of yourself, and that generosity is its own reward. And that's a fine thing to be reminded of in these times of crass consumerism, over indulgence and keeping up with the Joneses.


25 December 2008

Merry Christmas everyone


I see a twinkle in your eye.
So this shall be my Christmas star
And I will travel to your heart:
The manger where the real things are.

And I will find a mother there
Who holds you gently to her breast;
A father to protect your peace;
And by these things you shall be blessed.

And you will always be reborn;
And I will always see the star
And make the journey to your heart:
The manger where the real things are.

Michael Leunig

I found this Michel Leunig poem on The Duck Herder's blog last Christmas and have read it many times since. It's the perfect poem for the perfect day. Merry Christmas, Duckie.


24 December 2008

Look at this!

Yes, I know I said I wouldn't be blogging over Christmas but I just had to tell you this.

I entered a giveaway draw at the lovely blog - the long thread a few days ago and have just been told I won! The giveaway is a pair of beautifully embroidered white linen hand towels. Many of you know I love such very simple linens so I'm really happy to have won them. Thank you Ellen!

If you have some spare time over the holidays, make sure you visit this site because Ellen is a very talented craftswoman and I'm sure she'll inspire some wonderful projects for your home. I have linked to Ellen before but she has much more than the little recycled fabric Christmas trees I showed you previously. Your small children will love the free paper toys she blogged about today.


21 December 2008

The best

When I gave up work and returned to my home I promised myself that all the days of multitasking, doing too much in a half-hearted way, and second best were in my past. I decided that I wanted to live deliberately, that the decisions I made would be carried out with care, and from then on, I would do my best, no matter what the task was.

It took a while to get used to that change. I had to slow down and concentrate on what I was doing. I had to focus on one thing at a time and do it to the best of my ability. The pace of my work slowed down and, after a while, so did I. My mind stopped racing and I adopted a slow and mindful approach to everything I did. The strange thing to me was that even though I slowed everything down, I still got my house work done, and I came out the other end of it much more relaxed and pleased with what I achieved. I realised then that putting housework off, or not doing it at all, added to the stress of it. Doing it slowing, one task at a time, gave a rhythm to the day that helped the work flow.

But it wasn't only the housework that I applied this new philosophy to. It was also my relationships with people. I found that when I slowed down and concentrated on the person I was with, it made a difference. When I stopped thinking about what I would do later in the day, or tomorrow, and gave my thoughts as well as my time to the person I was with, I gave more and got a lot more in return. When I gave my best, they gave their best too.

When I started writing this blog I wanted it to be the best. Not the best blog, but the best that I could do. Some days I struggle with what I should write, mainly because I think it's too mundane to be a subject. Some days I use my blog to work out things in my own head - like thinking aloud. Some days the words flow like honey from a honey pot and I have to stop myself for fear of overwhelming you. It's been up and down, but I think I can say that every day I've written here has been the best I could give on that particular day; I have not written half-heartedly.

That has paid off handsomely. I gave my best and got your best in return. Sure, there have been a couple of hiccoughs, but over the year the comments have become a genuine and substantial part of this blog. You give a lot when you comment, it's like a payment for the writing, it not essential but when it happens it rewards me because I know my words are finding you and not just floating out there. That is true of everyone's blog, not just mine.

I am looking forward to Christmas because all my boys will be here, one with his special girl. We are having a family dinner on Christmas Eve with seven of us sitting down to eat, the first time we've all been together for a long, long time. On Christmas morning, we'll all help cook and serve at the free Christmas breakfast I have been organising at work this past month. Last year we served 450 breakfasts, I wonder how many there will be this year. I hope this year will be our best.

This is the last post I'll write for a while because I need to have a break. I'll be enjoying my family, working on my book, watching the cricket, knitting, relaxing and generally getting ready for another good year. A special thank you to Sharon who has been such a help to me throughout the year, both here and at the co-op blog. Thank you for your visits and comments during the year, you have made this blog writing thing a real joy for me. Have a merry Christmas, stay safe and enjoy your holidays. I send you and your family my best.


19 December 2008

Best, fast, from-scratch meal recipes - updated

This is a fast, from-scratch recipe collection created by the Down to Earth community. There are a lot of great ideas here. Thanks to everyone who took the time to add their ideas and information. You've helped create a very useful collection of quick, frugal recipes.

Rachel from NZ
I had one such dinner myself last night. Ballet rehearsal's until 5.30 and then battling the traffic all the way home (45 minutes) didn't leave me in the mood for cooking the shepherd's pie I had planned, so we had Fried Rice instead. Just boil any amount of rice (takes 10 minutes so you can do your other ingredients while waiting), if you want meat, chop it up small and cook in a pan with onion and garlic and ginger (if you have it). Add whatever vegetables you have on hand - I had some frozen beans/corn/peas, broccoli, a grated carrot, splash in some soy sauce and heat in the pan with all the other ingredients. Fry some lightly beaten egg and water and add to the top of the fried rice. If you have walnuts, they're good too. It's really quick, easy and yummy!

Anonymous said...
I'd like to share my own "from-scratch" meal. I work part time, and on work-days am often so totally tired out that I can't be bothered cooking. Usually I cook for two days the day before, but if for some reason I fail to do so, here's my safety-net recipe. I suppose it's kind of gross, but I grew up with it and have retained a perverse liking for it.
I take slices of bread (this is a good one for using up old bread - you won't notice the stale taste once it's done), about 3 or four per person, and cover them with any kind of cheese I have at hand (if it melts well so much the better). Pop into the microwave until the cheese is all bubbling, take out and cover with ketchup. Voila! It sounds less than inviting, but it does taste good, and takes all of 3 minutes to prepare.
Best wishes, Claudia

Debbie said...

My quick and easy meal is hamburgers. I always have some mince in my freezer made into hamburgers (just mince and onion a bit of bread crumbs and an egg). You could put whatever you like in the mince to your families liking and flatten them out and freeze them so you can separate the amount you need for your meal. Cook on the bbq or get your husband to cook them on the bbq while you get the tomato, lettuce, beetroot, anything you prefer could include egg, cheese, pineapple, bacon and sauce.

Good old reliable Frittata. Our eggs and what ever veges I grab from the garden Shallots, Zucchini, Carrot, silverbeet even some corn cobs and I take the nibblets off and add them. Served with the ever present slads I make sure I have ready all summer.

Jenn said...

This is my tasty, simple, go-to meal for times when I'm not inclined to cook anything complicated. It's fast, nutritious, and surprisingly tasty.

Chop up one medium onion and a few tomatoes. Toss into a pot with eight cloves of chopped garlic, two cups of dried red lentils, and six cups of broth. Leave the whole thing to cook for 30 minutes at medium on the stove. Stir occasionally to make sure that it’s not sticking or burning. After 30 minutes, add two and a half teaspoons of cumin, some fresh-ground black pepper, and chili flakes to taste. This is good as is, or you can add in one and a half cups of chopped cabbage or other greens, one cup frozen corn. In either case, let cook for another 15 minutes and then serve.

Lila said...

we also had a "can't be bothered" meal here last night -- my oldest standby is to slice up whatever produce i have on hand & give it a quick saute, and top it with a sliced fried egg and a bit of good cheese. very quick & healthy, and soooo tasty. last night's combo was broccoli, brussel sprouts, garlic & some frozen corn; really i use whatever i have available. for some more variety it can be served over any starch (couscous, quinoa, brown rice, etc). another staple of mine, even more can't-be-bothered, is simply a fried egg on toast, typically gussied up with some veggies & cheese.

Marie said...

One of our favorite quick dinners is making up a batch of organic black beans which we buy dry in bulk from maryjanesfarm.com. Reconstituted with boiling water, and served with left-over brown rice and a sprinkling of shredded cheese it is a delicious and nutritious meal. We had some home-made salsa and left-over greens on the side. We've used the beans on tortillas when we have them, with a quick pan of stone-ground corn bread (a really short baking time) or even all by themselves for a good portion of legumes. A very valuable staple in our pantry.

We also really enjoy sesame kale. We rinse, rough chop, steam for about 5 minutes until softened but still bright green and then saute in olive oil for about a minute whatever kind of kale we have from the garden or the farmstand, then we toss in about 2 Tablespoons of sesame seeds, 1 teaspoon of brown rice syrup, 1 teaspoon of sesame oil and 2 teaspoons of rice wine vinegar. Heat for another minute or so, until most of the liquid has cooked off and enjoy. They are delicious as a side, or served with brown rice or noodles, or featured as the whole meal. They are very nutritious and delicious prepared this way. And under 20 minutes to prepare from start to finish.

badhuman said...

Our favorite is grilled cheese, we always have local cheese and homemade bread around. If we are in the mood we'll steam whatever vegetables we have around or roast up potato wedges. The potatoes take a little while but require little effort.

Lizzie said...

Cheese on toast, under the grill until melted but not too much, then splash or Worcester sauce. Delicious!

A Bite of Country Cupcakes said...

French toast...Egg bread whatever you like to call it,
Whip eggs and cream and soak /dip each slice of bread heat pan with plenty of butter and fry...
Can serve sweet with Maple syrup or savoury as is or with chicken or onion salt or good old tomato sauce.
My Kids love this brekky, lunch or tea.
Or what we call breakfast in a pan.
Fry up,mushrooms zucchini tomatoes or whatever combo you like and crack eggs over top whilst on heat and then serve with hot buttered toast! Steam whole jacket spuds, I do in the microwave, Split and fill with baked beans and top with grated cheese. This is filling and nutritious,
You can also dress it up more by microwave together Bacon and onion together to add to the topping and even a dob of sour cream.

Joanne said...

Pasta is my quick-fix. Whatever pasta I have in the drawer, with half a bottle of passata (pureed tomatoes from a bottle- is that OK?), and a tin of tuna or salmon. Its a pretty bad night if I don't chop in an onion and some garlic. I have Italian parsley, oregano and basil growing so a combined handful and there you go.
I've also found that sometimes I can push through that "can't do it tonight" mental barrier by putting on some music & putting the brain in neutral- ie. don't think about it, just do it. ;-)

Chantel said...Hello Rhonda,
One quick and easy meal I like is simply get a pot boiling with water - add some salt to it. Then chuck in a head of broccoli that has been slightly chopped. Once cooked which will only take a few minutes, drain and sit aside. In the same pot don't drain out the water but chuck in some spaghetti pasta. While that's cooking separate the broccoli a bit with a fork and add a little butter a mix around (maybe a teaspoon is enough). Once the pasta is cooked drain and toss the broccoli though and drizzle with olive oil. Top with cheese if you like. This is so simple and tastes so yum! I'm sure it'd work with other veggies too :)

Farmgirl Cyn said...

Late this summer, when the tomato harvest was at it's peak, I oven roasted dozens of my heirloom tomatoes. When they had cooled a bit, I pureed them in the blender and put them in freezer containers for winter. Now, when I am just not up to cooking, I take one out, simmer on the stove, add a carton of chicken stock and we have the freshest tasting tomato soup ever. For real decadence, add a slosh of half and half, or a dollop of sour cream. Might make a grilled cheese sandwich to go along with the soup...or I might not!

Kim said...

I have lots and lots of quick healthy whole foods meals. The quickest of ALL for me though is just bread pizzas. I slice my homemade bread, put some tomato sauce or diced tomatoes (and wish they were from MY tomatoes instead of the store) put some grated cheese and whatever veggies I have and just pop in the oven. Takes me minutes and is delicious!

JoAnna said...

Noodles & sauce. I boil pasta & make the sauce with canned tomato sauce fixed up with fresh garlic, basil, oregano. I used to use bottled spaghetti sauce, but since reading your blog I started using plain tomato sauce & fixing it up myself. We always have fresh parmesan on hand, so I top it with that. Fast & good!

gail said...
It's Peas with Pasta for us. (really easy)
Cut up a couple of tomatoes an onion and some bacon or ham (optional)
Put a little olive oil in a saucepan and add the above and cook. You may need to add water as you are making a quick sauce.
While this is cooking put some pasta on to cook.
When pasta is cooked, drain and then add tomato sauce .
Add a cupful of frozen peas and mix them through. The heat from the pasta will cook the peas. Serve in a pasta bowl with grated cheese on top.

ruizbe82 said...

I cook up some angel-hair pasta. In the meantime, I chop a handful of parsley, a tomato or two, and when the pasta is done I combine with the veggies and drizzle olive oil over it. Sprinkle some salt if it needs it and a pinch of pepper, and voila! Pour yourself a glass of wine and enjoy.

daisymum7 said...

Easy I always have bags of ratatouille in the freezer ( I make it from our garden, line a plastic container with a plastic bag pour it in freeze it - the plastic bag then stacks neatly in the freezer )
So our standby meal is ratatouille heated in the microwave, couscous and salad from the garden.
or I slice some bread rub it with garlic and pop it in the oven until crunchy and have that with ratatouille on top (and natural yoghurt)
or frozen chips with ratatouille and natural yoghurt.

silversewer said...

Take 4 slices of bread and toast on one side, grated cheese, ham if you have it. Butter 2 slices of bread on the toasted side, put the ham, add mustard if you like it, spread the grated cheese on the top and slide the two pieces back under the grill. when the cheese has melted, put the other two slices toasted side down onto the cheese, allow the one side t toast and then using a fish slice turn the sandwich over and toast the underside.......serve with a side salad if you can be bothered....known as croque monsieur in France, toast ham and cheese sandwich anywhere else. Makes a fast nourishing, filling replacement for a meal if you just cannot be bothered to cook.

Liz said...

Probably my fastest is couscous salad - I chuck some dried fruit, frozen peas, a little bit of garlic, olives, sundried tomatoes, pine nuts, baby spinach, cooked chickpeas if I have some in the freezer - anything which doesn't need cooking (defrost anything frozen first). I add 1/2 cup couscous and a bit of butter, season with pepper and maybe some spices, pour over 1/2 cup boiling water and leave for five minutes.

This makes a substantial side for two adults and two kids, or add some more couscous and make it a main meal.

Stormie said...

I have a young child and last minute dinners are quite common for me. I try to make some mini-meatballs in the freezer - made with local pork and beef, breadcrumbs, garlic, onion, and seasonings and freeze them raw into tiny meatballs. Then I can make pasta with meatballs, quick soup with meatballs, pasta, and kale, or just plain meatballs as a little side dish. I tried this with lamb once and it worked well for gyros. I also try to make buttermilk biscuits and then freeze the dough once it is rolled out and formed, and homemade buttermilk biscuits with honey or jam is wonderful especially hot out of the oven. Either of these isn't quick since you have to plan ahead of time, but one day of work allows me at least a month of quick meals!

attila said...

tomato pasta: Fry onion and garlic
(and bacon, sometimes), add chopped peppers and mushrooms if available, add tin of chopped tomatoes and basil; simmer until thickened, maybe 10 minutes.
Meanwhile boil pasta, drain, add sauce, top with grated cheese.

My other standby is the same, but with beef mince, made in huge quantities and frozen in portions. We have it on pasta or with baked potatoes, done in the microwave.

Anna M said...

I typically have something I can pull from the freezer and microwave, soups, casseroles and that sort of thing. If I'm not in the mood for any of that it's either what can a forage to stuff into a tortilla or make a Fritatta. Both are easy and quick.

Diana said...

One of our favorites is toasted mushroom sandwiches. Slice some mushrooms and an onion(thinly sliced) and saute until done. Take some homemade bread and spread some mustard on each slice place mushrooms,onions and some cheddar cheese on the mustard side of the bread and then butter the outside of the bread and cook like grilled cheese sandwiches until bread is toasted. Serve with a simple Greek salad of feta cheese,cucumber,tomatoes,bell pepper,onions,olives and vinegar,olive oil and whatever spices you have on hand.

Solorn said...

I tend to search the fridge for 'remnants' and make a frittata type meal. I tend to just throw in all the bits that need using up, ham, peppers, bits of cheese, anything that will taste good.

If I feel like putting in a little extra effort then I will add small salad potatoes that are thinly sliced or just boil them and serve them on the side with a bit of butter and herbs. The best thing is that the kids can now cook frittata when I'm having a bad day, I have poor health, and it's always good.

Margaret said...

I have a few don't feel like cooking recipes. I'm Italian so pasta is always a staple. If I'm feeling really lazy it's any shape cooked pasta with butter and parmesan cheese. If I'm feeling a bit more enthusiastic then I sauté mushrooms, minced garlic, Italian parsley and mix in the cooked pasta, again with butter and parmesan, hold back some of the pasta water because if the pasta is too dry just add a little pasta water to make it saucy. Don't have mushrooms?? I've used broccoli, green beans, zucchini, asparagus, or a combination of whatever is in season or whatever I grew and froze. I do the same thing with risotto, just add whatever veggie is available, substituting barley for risotto also works well.
I have chicken broth in the freezer so veggie soups with some type of carb like pasta, rice or barley is really easy and fast.
I always have salad fixings of some sort and add a salad to any of the above to complete the meal.

Born Blonde said...

My first thought was quesadillas. Pop a tortilla in a skillet, spread on some shredded cheese, fold it in half and flip it after a bit to brown the other side. It's probably not the healthiest thing in the world. But it can be filling if you throw in some leftover chicken, beef, beans, etc. seasoned with homemade fajita seasoning.

We (even my children) generally call those nights "scavenge nights."

Donetta said...

Basmati rice, sushi and jasmine are all staples here, as is chicken broth or beef broth saved from roasting. Veggie broth (roasted root) is also useful to keep on hand.. by boiling my rice in a broth It gives it a lot of good flavor. So I then will add in the left over meat and veggies in the refer.
By keeping a good variety of herbs and spices available I can take this into any culture. For I use the interest in culture to whet my appetite.
Spanish rice: Jasmine rice, beef broth or use basil,add cumin and cayenne pepper with beef scraps and diced green onion
Asian: us a soy, tamari with five spice, chicken goes well with bok choy or snap peas and carrots.
Far eastern...Use a curry with chicken,lintel,peas carrots and such
European: Use chicken or shrimp, shushi rice, with a savory of basil and thyme... Diced tomato broccoli Rab, garlic onion.
Polynesian: Use a Basmati rice, pineapple, mandarin oranges (canned), snap peas, add brown sugar and ginger and clove.
Cajun: use a jasmine rice...jambalaya by adding these types of things cooked smoked kielbasa, shrimp or chicken. Make it spicy with red pepper flakes,sage is good here. Diced finely greens can be added. Corn.
Re fried pinto beans)I make mine ahead in the blinder.Basmati is a nice full bodied rice,a beef base with cumin, chili pepper, Taco type seasonings
Put your rice and broth(herbs toward the end) on to boil while your veggies and seasonings are being gathered.
If veggies are added in the dish good if not as a side dish, green beans from the garden or corn and the like. Kids eat it all up!
Super 45 minutes to table. Or less.
When I am above the day, I cook rice and freeze it in family size packages.
Each of these has additional spices in them but for brevity I listed these.

Elizabeth said...

Quick defrosted (microwave) chicken breasts, pounded, and stuffed with leftover veggies, ham, cheese, etc.
Clean out the Cupboards Pasta Toss: Toss your favorite pasta with fresh, frozen, or leftover veggies, plenty of Parmesan, roasted red peppers, leftover meat, you name it. Yum!
Toasted ciabatta bread topped with roasted asparagus spears, poached eggs, and fresh Parmesan cheese.
The Old Standby: Breakfast for Dinner. I make my own pancake/waffle mix and always have it on hand. Or I cook double batches when we have them for breakfast and just reheat. We also like eggs, bacon, cereal, French toast, fritatta, etc.
We love sandwiches at our house. Cheese toast dipped in tomato soup is a favorite. I love to cut a loaf of bread in half and then stuff with whatever I have on hand. Turkey, roasted red peppers, provolone cheese, chopped olives, you name it. Wrap in foil and heat until hot in the center. Let stand and then slice.
Baked Potato Bar: Bake some potatoes, then top with leftovers from the fridge, defrosted homemade chili from the freezer, steamed vegetables, cheese, etc.
Ham Steak heated with brown sugar and spicy mustard served with baked sweet potatoes and steamed veggies. You can also heat sausage with brown sugar and mustard.
Chili Maple Glazed Chicken breasts. Real maple syrup and chili powder to taste bakes up great on quick defrosted chicken breasts.
Fried rice is a favorite of ours, but I'll defer to the other poster. Our "recipes" are about the same. I like to add mushrooms and garlic/ginger paste.

Compostwoman said...My fast meals are

1 Cheese on toast or toasted cheese sandwiches...( add chopped onion, worcester sauce, other seasonings...)
2 Baked spuds...with toppings
3 Home made soups from the freezer ...I freeze them in 2 portion concentrated sizes, so on defrosting I have either 3 "normal" portions or 2 " hearty" portions...
which could be stretched to 3 normal ones by thinning down.......
add some home made bread and butter ( and if very hungry some cheese) and it is a very filling lunch!

jacqui jones said...one of our favs is something i saw on a simple blog...i wish i could remember where??
in the oven for an hour or so
tomatos, potatos, onion, some herbs, garlic - if your not allergic like me, carrots and corn have been known to hit mine, olives from the trees in our yards when we get more fruit, really whatever feels italian to me at the time. drizled in olive oil. sometimes some homemade tomato paste is added too...depends what ive got.
fresh homemade pasta
and maybe some cooked bacon if im in the mood (a few rashes as in like 2 will make my kids eat the veg to get to the bacon)
toss together and serve with parmesan

Em said...

We have at least one standby meal a week; some of them use tinned food (tomatoes, chickpeas) but many are from the garden + fridge/pantry :
1. Mash potatoes and stir through chopped steamed veges + grated cheese. Add a tin of tuna or leftover meat if wanted.
2. Frittata type thing - parcook a few potatoes/kumara, chop into cubes. Sprinkle over cooked oniony equivalent of a large leek and 1 clove garlic. Pour over 6 beaten eggs and 1/2 cup milk. Bake until set then sprinkle over cheese and grill to brown top. Serve over salad from the garden, with home pesto if you have it.
3. Mixed salad, cucumber, beans, tomatoes, anything fresh from the garden. Boil a few eggs then quarter over salad. Grate tasty cheese or sprinkle fetta over. Dress with vinegar/oil and herbs. side of bread to mop up dressing.
4. Halve fresh tomatoes into a baking tray and bake until starting to collapse. Stir through a tin of chickpeas (I use my own prepared frozen), crumbled fetta and a handful of fresh basil leaves. Serve with bread.
5. Omlette with cheese and salad.
6. Stirfry of whatever veges are available, dressed with soy and sesame oil - add any leftover meat if wished - serve over couscous made by pouring boiling water over dry couscous, add a little stock powder stir and leave. Fluff/fork through some oil or butter before serving. Or serve over ricestick noodles cooked by pouring over boiling water and leaving for 10 minutes.
7. Toasties - slice bread, spread with pesto, tomato paste or similar; scatter over anything tasty on hand (fridge leftovers are great); grate cheese over and grill.
8. Pasta - Cook a few cloves crushed garlic (with fresh chilli if you want), add quite a bit of olive oil then fresh bread crumbs. Cook till golden. Stir through drained pasta and lots of grated parmesan.

But quite often our standby meal is whatever leftovers we can rustle up - leftovers are fabulous!

Elizabeth said...

Pasta alla carbonara. We had it for dinner tonight with a salad.
And eggs are always quick with many easy variations.
Chicken caesar salad is also popular around here.

Desiree said...

Quick and easy, and great for any time of year- our Tostada's. Chop up some onions, a hot pepper, a little garlic all in a drizzle of olive oil. Throw in a can of or left over black beans (lentils, kidney, whatever beans would work) and some diced up tomatoes. Warm all up, throw on tostadas, nacho chips, or in a flour tortilla if you want a soft wrap, add a sprinkle of cheese (and I like a little fresh cilantro) on top, and tada! Very yummy, fast, easy, and pretty decent for you. :)

CAM said...

I sit next to the toaster and toast slices of bread....laid out on the bench are every kind of condiment (often home made) that I love, possibly cheeses, preserved and pickled things,smoked stuff and salad veggies...whatever makes up a sort of bench smorgasboard and I usually read a book in between creating various mixtures of things lol

greenfumb said...

My favourite is also frittata with home grown eggs and any veges you happen to have, raw or left over. Another easy one is spaghetti with good olive oil, toasted pine nuts, some steamed pumpkin and parmesan. Of course that assumes you can be bothered to boil water.

The Old Dairy said...

I call this chilli beans....
I use 1 large tin of four bean mix i tin corn 4 chopped up tomatoe or 1 tin of diced tom,1 onion 1 hot chilli,garlic.Fry chillie.onion and garlic till onion soft.add tomatoes and stir untill cooked. Add drained tins of corn and four bean mix. Allow to simmer gently for at least 10 minutes. Great on its own or with toast.
I have used chilli sauce if there is no fres chillies in the garden.

Jen said...

I laughed about the "breakfast for dinner" one...we do that often...pancakes, eggs and toast...or using eggs in some way for the main dish, as they cook so fast.
Huevos Rancheros is awesome. In a large frying pan saute half an onion and a clove of garlic in a Tbsp. of olive oil, throw in half a jar of tomatoes (we use our own canned ones, but about half a 28 oz. can), a Tbsp. of chili powder and cook down for about 10 mins. until thickish. While that's cooking down, take a corn tortilla for each person, and brush olive oil onto the top...crisp up in a moderate oven. When the sauce in the pan is thick, carefully crack eggs onto the top...for this amount of sauce, about 6-8 eggs, put a lid on top and cook to desired doneness over med. heat (About 5 mins. for us.) Put a crisp corn tortilla (or some corn tortilla chips if you don't have tortillas) on each plate, top with an egg or two and the sauce underneath it and sprinkle with some grated cheddar cheese...the hot eggs and sauce will melt the cheese. Add hot sauce and salt to each person's taste! A piece of toast out of homemade bread and a quick and dirty fruit salad of a couple of fresh fruits cut up and mixed with a splash of lime juice (for tang and to keep fruits from browning) are great additions to this meal.
Or we have my husband make omelettes...he makes fabulous thin French ones and we eat with some greens (frozen swiss chard in the winter) and some toast.
Or egg burritos...We always have packages of flour tortillas in the freezer. When I'm ready to start I get out a pack and pry apart as many flour tortillas as I think I'll need and after about 15 mins. they're thawed. Turn your oven on hot. Scramble up a few eggs with a little chili powder, a little oregano if you have it and some salt and pepper in a frypan; set aside. Cut up a little green pepper, a little onion, a tomato if you have it. I grab out some beans I already have cooked and frozen...and run some hot water over them to "thaw" them. (Black beans, pintos, kidneys, garbanzos, whatever.) Grate some cheese. If I have leftover rice, I use this, too. Spray a baking pan with non-stick spray or oil it. Take a tortilla, scoop on a Tbsp or two of beans, add a couple of spoonfuls of egg, sprinkle on some of your chopped veggies (rice, if you have it), and a Tbsp or two of grated cheese. Fold in ends and roll up. Place seam side down in baking pan. Repeat until pan is full. Take some salsa (we use our homemade canned stuff) and glob a spoon or two over each one and spread around a bit for a light "sauce". Cover your baking pan and put in oven for about 15 minutes (oven is really hot...about 425 degree F or so)...take lid off for another five mins. to crisp up the burritos a bit. Serve with some more salsa and some sour cream, if you have it. Fabulous! Kids love these. These are great to clean out little containers of leftover veggies, etc. in the fridge.
I have tons of quick meals (well, half an hour of cooking or so), but I don't want to take up all your space here! :) We don't have a microwave (conscious decision), but we haven't found that has added to our cooking times.
We save ourselves a lot of time by having containers of cooked beans in the freezer, ready. Whenever I cook dried beans, I always make sure to cook extra for future meal "bases". If you have some beans, a doz. eggs, a loaf of bread, a couple of veggies, and some cheese on hand...well, you're set to make a multitude of quick meals! :)

Michelle said...

Our standby dinner is super easy if you can boil water and only takes as long as the pasta takes to cook. Put some spaghetti on to cook. Meanwhile (in the ~11 mins it takes to cook) put some olive oil, oregano, basil, chilli (optional), garlic and salt/pepper into a bowl. Halve or quarter some cherry tomatoes and add them to the bowl. Squish some of them with your fingers or a spoon to release the juice. Stir around and add the cooked spaghetti. Done! Add some parmesan to serve.
This works with fresh and dried herbs, depending on what you have. A variation is to add a can of tuna in olive oil rather than the olive oil - I find a bit of extra chilli is good with the tuna.

The Tin House said...

Our favourite all-round, in a bleary eyed hurry cook from scratch meal is....FRENCH TOAST.
Beat a few eggs in a bowl and add some milk.
Soak slices of bread in the mix and lightly fry each piece in a pan until golden and cooked.
Serve with: plain salt (my favourite), maple syrup, golden syrup, honey, stir fried leftovers, chopped banana and apple, or whatever you fancy. Sweet or savoury is fine. Really good with homemade chutney.
Takes 5 minutes and uses eggs, bread & your topping of choice. It is a very light meal and can easily be followed with yoghurt and fruit or something to fill those tummies.

Anonymous said...

1. egg & cheese sandwiches w/ whatever fruit i have on hand sliced up to go along with them.
2. grilled cheese/tomato/dijon mustard sandwiches.
3. i always have things in the freezer ready to go, from full pans of quiche and lasagna to quarts of soup and sweet treats. getting into the practice of filling the freezer if you have the room is a saving grace on these nights. there is such satisfaction when you pull homemade 'convienence foods' out of your own freezer. :)
4. pasta and sauce (homemade sauce, from the trusty freezer). it's funny how i feel like i'm cheating when i serve spaghetti. i'm not sure why, it was my favorite meal as a kid and my daughter is always excited if it's a spaghetti night.
heather, beautythatmoves

home handymum said...

I did this twice today - once for lunch and then again for dinner.
The lunch version was pasta boiled as usual. The 'sauce' is a mix of 1 fresh avocado, chopped into 1cm-ish cubes, a couple of tomatoes chopped likewise, a dollop of oil out of the sundried tomatoes jar, some salt and pepper and green herbs of your choice. Mix the 'sauce' together.
Dollop some more tomato-essenced oil onto the pasta and mix. Top the pasta with the avocado/tomato mix and grate a little cheese over the top.
My preschoolers and I thought this was terrific (well, one of the preschoolers did - the other spat out all the pasta but ate the sauce and the cheese)
Dinner was more or less the same but on a baked potato instead of pasta, with mayonnaise instead of oil. Both kids liked it this way.

Valerie Cox said...

This is a super simple meal that our family loves...I boil up a pound of shelroni noodles, add a can of chopped tomatoes and a pound of cooked crumbled sausage. Mix it all together....so easy and we have bread and butter with it.

Simbelmyne said...

breakfast for dinner is our favorite.
Omlettes are quick and easy, with whatever fresh veggies and cheese I have around.
And sometimes I'll look for leftover baked potatoes in the fridge (I always make too many because they make lovely snacks) and slice them up for hashbrowns, sauteed in oil with some onions.

Public Artist said...

I have several of these-
1 cup of cous cous with two cups of water, a chopped carrot a chopped zuccini/courgette, peas if I have them and usually a few pine nuts and a little olive oil and a bit of salt all in one pot. I cook that according to the the cous cous directions and the veggies come out perfectly steamed (and only one thing to wash!) I'll usually have it with whatever cheese, yoghurt, nuts I have on hand for some fat/protein. Some find this bland, so you could add a stock cube or rosemary, oregano, tyme, basil or cumin can be added.
If I'm cooking for heavy meat eater I marinate some lamb in 2 parts soy sauce 1 part worchestershire (not sure if this counts as non-packaged!) sauce a handful of rosemary and 2-3 cloves of garlic and then bake that in the marinade till done. A fairly fatty cut comes out the most tender and the sauce is great for spooning over the cous cous and vegetables.
I also keep dry chinese egg noodles (soba) around, they only take 2 minutes to boil. (I'm often too lazy to boil pasta) I'll frequently take whatever veg I have on hand, stir fry that with olive oil, rice vinegar and soy sauce and add the noodles. I'll put in tofu or meat if I have it, or this a great peanut stir fry sauce:
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/8 cup soy sauce
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
2-3 tsp. peanut butter
1 tsp fresh ginger or equivalent of powdered
This goes well with tofu, but not meat.
Eggs and pasta are also frequent visitors for my plates.

goingferal(ish) said...

We had it tonight - little egg tarlets: made in a muffin tray, pastry on the bottom topped with a mixture of eggs and whatever veges we have (tonght it was corn, tomato, beans, capsicum and peas) with a little parmesan on top. Kids and grownups alike love them.

Ree said...

My It's-late-I'm-tired-&-cannot-be-bothered meal is usually poached eggs on toast.
Other options I choose from are: toasted sandwich, melted cheese on toast, baked beans on toast or toast spread with avocado and tomato slices or onion or both, salt & pepper. Yum! Toast obviously features heavily and needs to be a nice sourdough!

Elizabeth said...

For a quick and tasty meal I like to fry off a finely chopped onion in some butter, add three or four large tomatoes (deskinned and roughly chopped), a clove of garlic finely chopped, a good splodge of tomato puree, some basil and a pinch of sugar and salt. Cook until the tomatoes have turned to mush and spoon over plain penne pasta.

Melinda said...

For us it is pizza. Using flat bread or lebanese bread as the base (I always have some in the freezer). Then tomatoe sauce (homemade) or pesto made from herbs in the garden ground in the mortar and pestle with almond or pine nuts and olive oil and parmesan cheese. I usually make two for our family. A simple cheese and meat one for the boys and another with veges or what ever left overs on it. When I have a little more time I make the pizza dough by hand or in the bread maker.

Deborah said...When I just can't be bothered, it's usually pizza that saves us. The bread maker does the hard work (45 minute cycle) and we put what ever we've got on top; that's the great thing about pizzas. We use BBQ sauce or tomato ketchup from the fridge nowadays (usually BBQ) often have mozzarella cheese in the house, the girls like Hawaiian so I chop bacon or ham for them and we keep a tin of pineapple in the fridge for these occasions. One small tin of pineapple pieces does two pizzas for us.

Along a similar vein, when I feel really lazy and start thinking about takeaway, or even seeking takeaway approval from DH, I've decided to go the baked beans on toast. As legumes and vegetables too if you're looking at the food pyramid, the right variety are super healthy and loaded with protein. Not so cooked-from-scratch, I admit, but they are the forced consequence of my verbalising a desire for takeaway LOL! And DH says "beans on toast" too which makes me cranky when I'm feeling like that, of course, but it was me who gave him the instruction to do just that.

Slice of life said...

Toast. Had that the last 2 nights where I couldnt be bothered with anything.
Other than that microwave a potato, 6 mins or so. depending on size. Whilst that is cooking, turn oven on, when cooked in micro, throw potato in oven and crisp for 10 minutes. Cant bare funny micro nuked potatoes. Kind of weird skin... top with heinz beans. My only product that must be brand make.
Also, bag of crisp thrown between 2 pieces of bread. Or even a brown sauce sandwich. with a cup of tea.

allybea said...

Another vote for omelette here with whatever you have to hand in the fridge or freezer. Serve with salad and bread.
Scrambled eggs. Just before the egg sets stir in some smoked fish pieces(salmon or mackerel is good) or ham/bacon. Great with hot buttered toast.
Or Leftover Soup. If I don't have soup already made in the freezer I can make some quickly with my Leftovers Box. Every time I have some cooked pasta, rice or veg leftover at the end of a meal I put it in a 1 litre box I keep in the freezer.
When the box is full I use it to make soup. I add the contents to a litre of stock (from freezer or good stock powder). Since everything is already cooked it takes minutes to come to the boil. If it doesn't look very appetising I blitz it with a hand blender and add a bit of cream. It's never failed me yet :)

Hana said...

My favourite is egg dishes. When I have more time and am more hungry, I add potatoes or mashed potatoes. My mother's (or someone else's from whom she received it) improvememnt on mashed potatoes: save the water from boiling (that is, if you have peeled them before boiling) and mash them at first with water, then add some milk. It's smoother and softer this way.
Another favourite of mine is a quick soup. You start with chopped or grinded vegetables (I use mostly root vegetables, leek, something like that - something solid and not very juicy) warmed up on a bit of butter. Then you add some flour so that you create a roux enriched by the vegetables. Add an egg, stirr and add a glass of cold water, stirr again. Then you just gradually add the water, until you have the desired amount, and keep stirring at least in the begining; boil for about ten minutes. You can add some spices according to your liking - it is very mild on its own, but I love the taste. It used to be one of my favourite soups when I was a child, and I used to hate most soups, so I suppose children would love it. Just make sure you have enough vegetables, so it's not only water... We used to have our own vegetables pre-chopped and freezed. Somehow we have dropped this practice by now, but I'd like to come back to it, it was very convenient.

linda said...

I always keep corn tortillas in the freezer and cans of beans in the pantry. the beans are either pinto or black beans. With onions and some chili powder (not cayenne but the kind you use to make chili) and cumin, the beans get made into a filling that I then smash with a potato masher for our own nonfat version of refried beans.
We then make up the tacos by putting the beans on the tortilla and add cheese and broil for a few minutes until hot and melted. I make a diced salad on the side with salsa as dressing. Add to that some yellow rice (turmeric and rice cooked together sometimes with peas thrown in for color), we have a full Mexican meal that nobody realizes is made in a hurry.

debbie said...Here's what we do when we don't have time or don't want to cook. The first is a recipe a young friend from Honduras gave me. It's a rice dish and it's so good that my husband who doesn't care for rice eats it right up. It does take a right big skillet.
Chop up one onion and lightly saute in a little butter or oil. Dump in your rice (I make 1 and 1/2 cups) and saute. Add double the amount of stock ( in this example I would add 3 cups) and cover and allow to simmer 20 minutes or so.( I make stock and keep a portion of my freezer to store it. It thaws well fast in the microwave.)Salt and pepper to taste.Also I like to throw in any herbs I have on the windowsill that go well with the flavor of my stock. About ten minutes before the rice is done add a couple handfuls of frozen mixed vegetables or you could add any cooked veggie you like. Enjoy
The next is a recipe my kids call "homemade hamburger helper". You put some salted water on to boil. When the water boils dump in some pasta I use elbow macaroni or whatever is on sale. In your skillet you again saute a finely chopped onion in a little butter until translucent. Add hamburger or ground turkey and brown. Drain off any fat and add a can of tomatoes, a half teaspoon of oregano, a half teaspoon of thyme ans a half teaspoon of basil. Reduce heat and simmer until pasta is done. I add the pasta to the meat with a slotted spoon. Mix well. I like to serve on a big platter with a bit of cheese grated over the top. My kids and their friends think this is fine dining. No leftovers ever. Both of these dishes cook in thirty minutes or less.

Anonymous said...

I think we are going to have this for dinner tonight. I have a feeling (at 7am) that it is going to be one of those days. Eggs. The kids like theirs scrambled with a little cheese and a side of toast. I think I will have mine sunny side up, and my husband prefers to fix his own eggs. Easier for me!
Deb in the PNW

alison young said...

curry in a hurry
boil up some red lentils and add chopped onion,garlic and potatoes,2 teaspoon garum masala spice and a teaspoon of chilli powder(adjust to taste),cook this down,about 10 mins then add a can of baked beans,we like it with toasted pitta bread.this is my favorite standby,and my hubbie and 3 children love it and like me to be a bit disorganised so i make it!!

barbara (in Tennessee) said...

Since we usually have eggs and some kind of cheese in the fridge, and bell peppers, onions, and tomatoes (either fresh, frozen or canned, as appropriate for the season) an omelet is one of my go-to meals, the other is a stir fry with veggies from the freezer and brown rice.
Another one is saute chicken and add salsa, serve with taco fixings, or wrap in a tortilla for a burrito or wrap in a tortilla and heat in the oven with salsa and cheese for an enchilada wannabe.

Green Bean said...

This is such a busy time of year we've been eating a lot of meals like you suggest. I can't promise that there haven't been a meal out a bit more than usual but we're availaing ourselves of grilled cheese sandwiches and fruit and, you know what, it hits the spot. :)

Anonymous said...

One of the dishes that I fall back on is referred to in my house as succutash(which it is not). Take a brick of frozen ground meat (beef) and start frying it in standard 8-10 frying pan with the lid. When it is ready to turn over shake about a tablespoon of worchestershire sauce over the cooked beef, put the lid back on. Open a can of tomatoes, chop coarsely, prepare some brocolli. When the second side of the beef is done, cut into little cubes with your turner throw the tomatoes over all and put the brocolli on top. Cover and simmer about 5 minutes. From start to finish about 40 minutes. We serve it over rice. The great thing about this recipe is that you can start with frozen or unfrozen beef, left over rice, canned tomatoes or fresh, frozen or fresh brocolli. It never stays around. Karen G.

Cindi said...

we do stir fry with rice and any vegetable, left over or fresh we have. We also add cubed beef. I have a potato soup recipe this is pretty quick and it can simmer for a bit if you want to start it ahead of time.

Ok, my best made from scratch, quick comfort meal is:
Rice and stir fried veggies.
I dump a couple of cups of rice in the rice cooker and then prepare myself some veggies. We actually had this last night in our house.
The veggie was bok choy which is so easy to cook. Simply, get a wok or non-stick pan very hot, add a little sesame oil then the bok choy. (Cut up as small as you would like it.) Then add 2 tbsp of sugar and salt to taste with a splash of soy sauce. (Cook for 4 mins.)
As a side dish, I cut up small seedless cucumbers, added soy
sauce, salt, hot peppers and garlic. You close that in a tupper ware and shake shake.
It's the Chinese version of pickles. Was very humble and yummy!


Rhonda Jean said ...

Some of my standbys like homemade pizza and quick pasta with a homemade tomato sauce are already listed. We sometimes have a quick meal of salad from the backyard with either boiled eggs, a tin of tuna or red salmon. But another favourite quick meal here is pasta with pumpkin sauce. It's delicious!

You need two saucepans of water. Put on a saucepan of water for your pasta and while it is coming to the boil, skin and chop a couple of wedges of pumpkin, skin and quarter an onion. Add the vegetables to cold water in the saucepan and bring to the boil. When your other saucepan of water is boiling, add enough pasta for your family and cook until al dente. Both these saucepans will take about the same time to cook.

Sit down for ten minutes to relax.

When the pasta is ready, pour into a strainer. When the pumpkin/onion is ready, pour off the water, add salt and pepper to taste, and put it in the blender. Whiz until it's a smooth sauce and add a dollop of sour cream. Then place the pasta on a plate and pour the sauce over. Add a little chopped parsley or basil if you feel like walking out to pick it. :- )


Laura Lee said...

Hot Hominy Beef (or turkey)

Brown beef or turkey; skim. Add one jar of good veggie salsa, one cup tomato sauce, large can of hominy, and season to taste with pepper, cumin, garlic, adding a splash or two of Tobasco. Simmer 20 minutes uncovered. Serve over brown rice with just a sprinkling of jack cheese and a lightly salted avocado and cucumber salad splashed with fresh lime juice.

joolzmac said...I'm a bit late but here's an easy dish, only take about 1/2 hour in the oven...

Serves 4
4 chicken breasts, skin off
4 tblspn mayonnaise
2 tspn curry powder

Mix mayo and curry powder together then slather all over the chicken breasts. Place in greased casserole dish and bake about 1/2 an hour in 180Deg oven.

Serve with fresh salad of your choice and crusty bread.

Scribhneoir said...

I missed the invite yesterday so my contribution is late, here it is...
fry a chopped onion, garlic, raisins, grated carrot, tumeric and cumin and coriander or cajun spice in olive oil til softened, add a cup of good basmati rice, two and a half cups of water and cook on low heat 'til water is absorbed. Add some sliced almonds and have with salad or fried eggs if you like.

Kittee said...Ok, my best made from scratch, quick comfort meal is:

Rice and stir fried veggies.
I dump a couple of cups of rice in the rice cooker and then prepare myself some veggies. We actually had this last night in our house.
The veggie was bok choy which is so easy to cook. Simply, get a wok or non-stick pan very hot, add a little sesame oil then the bok choy. (Cut up as small as you would like it.) Then add 2 tbsp of sugar and salt to taste with a splash of soy sauce. (Cook for 4 mins.)
As a side dish, I cut up small seedless cucumbers, added soy
sauce, salt, hot peppers and garlic. You close that in a tupper ware and shake shake.
It's the Chinese version of pickles.

belle said...

I have 2 good standbys.....baked beans, stir in a good spoonful of tahine (extra protein)serve on homemade bread toat, sprinkle a handful of toasted seeds on top....pumpkin,sesame, sunflower, tossed in a little temari. I always have some of these in the fridge to add to salads.
Second is stir fried bokchoy...plenty in garden...garlic, ginger, temari, served on top of soba noodles....these cook in a bowl with some boiling water poured over while bokchoy cooks. Add a sprinkle of toasted seeds.
I'm vegetarian, so the addition of seeds ensures some protein.
Don't forget to save the noodle cooking water for the garden or potplants.

Amber said...

Just this morning my partner commented on my ability to turn simple, humble food into yummy meals, when he had a bite of my breakfast, which was stewed apples made with a pat of butter, cinnamon and maple syrup, with just a splash of water to keep it from sticking to the pot. I left it on the stove to simmer while I got ready for work. I added toasted sunflower and pumpkin seeds on top. With a slice of toast, it made for a quick and easy, warm and yummy breakfast on a cold snowy morning! Simple and nourishing. (When I have such things on hand, I will also add raisins, yogurt, buckwheat...)

Belovedgoddess said...Recently I made the decision to involve my children in the making dinner process, they are more than old enough at 16 and 13. Last night I was busy so got them into the kitchen to prepare dinner. My daughter cooked steak and package macaroni/cheese while my son prepared and cooked the vegies. I was able to concentrate on cutting out quilt squares and still be available to answer questions. In the new year we will concentrate more on cooking from scratch meals, I am a beginner at that as well. But with the advice I get from you, Rhonda I am sure we will do it and both my children will have the experience for when they are out on their own.

getting stuff done said...

Pasta Puttanesca
put pasta on to boil. then, in pan chilli oil, chopped garlic, fry 3 mins. add tin of chopped tomatoes. Add tin of tuna, olives and capers. Pour over cooked pasta. add parmesan.

good store cupboard food!


18 December 2008

Best, fast, from-scratch meals

My kitchen in the late afternoon.

Hanno and I were out free ranging yesterday. I wanted to have a day off. It was the first day of my 3½ weeks holiday. The Centre will close on Friday for three weeks and apart from Hanno, Kerry and I helping out at the Christmas breakfast, I have no away from home work to do until mid-January. My plan was to have the morning out, then return home to knit and watch the cricket. I should know by now not to make such plans. ; - )

Early in the day, before what I expected to be big crowds of Christmas shoppers, we travelled over to a nearby town to do the shopping. I wanted to buy a cookbook for my son, meat for Christmas lunch and sewing supplies for me. I bought Crust: Bread to Get your Teeth Into which is a very good all-round book on how to make all manner of interesting yeasted breads and sourdoughs. I'm going to try some of his recipes and I'll pass on those that work well. We had to go to the mall for the book and I was surprised to see less people there than I expected. Anyhow, I got my fabric and some buttons and we called in at the butcher shop on the way home.

Great, that done, now for the cricket! Driving down our street, Hanno stopped to speak with our electrician who was working two doors up. He asked if he could come and finish off the work he started at our place last week. Pffffffft there goes the cricket. I ended up doing a little bit of work on the book.

It's strange how the mind works sometimes. By the end of the day, when the workmen left, I didn't feel like making dinner for us so after looking in the fridge we ended up having leftover potato salad, from the night before, with a toasted cheese, tomato and onion sandwich each and a cold drink. Often, my standby can't be bothered meal is pasta from the pantry with a quick sauce, but I didn't want to boil water for some reason, so sandwiches it was.

While I assembled that meagre meal I wondered what my friends out in blogland would make for a quick and easy meal at the end of a busy day. I think it would be a good idea for us to share our best, quick, cooked from scratch meal. Gone are the days when we run out to buy takeaway or convenience food. Remember, in keeping with our cook from scratch focus, all these recipes should be made using fresh food or pantry staples with no cans of soup or anything with preservatives in it. It can be healthy AND fast. I'll devote tomorrow's post to compiling what you give me so all of us will have an easy to print out collection of fast recipes. I'll add a couple of my favourites and we'll see what you come up with. So thinking caps on ladies and gentlemen, it's over to you.


17 December 2008

What sort of madness is this?

Apparently there will be changes to laws in the USA in about two months to make the sale of homemade toys and cloth nappies (diapers), in fact all homemade children's products, illegal. Please read this post which explains what is happening.

I think it's crazy and yet another way big business is protected at the expense of cottage industry and small business. Obviously these new laws are supposed to protect against some shoddy and dangerous Chinese product, but this is overkill.


Read this post by Anais over at Path to Freedom. What's going on? Is there something in the drinking water? ; - |

If you're in the USA, please contact your local politician to let them know you don't agree with the changes.


Saving vegetable seeds - how to - 2

Well, as you can see, I didn't get back here yesterday. I had a full on day of Christmas preparations at work. Our Christmas hampers and gifts go out today and we finalised the prep for our free Christmas day breakfast for our town. All is ready, my friends, now I just need a bit of extra sleep to catch up and get back to normal. There is only one thing I really dislike about growing older, I get tired easily. :- (

There were a number of questions from the comments yesterday so I'll answer them today.

Gail: Bunnings do sell some open pollinated (OP) seedlings, but very few. If you remember the varieties you bought, google them and see if they're OP not. I think it's a good idea to swap seeds and I have no problem with those interested in swapping doing that here. We have had an OP seed swap here in the past. I'll talk to Sharon and see if she can set something up. We might be able to get a seed swap happening on the weekends. You have to be mindful that you cannot send to WA though, and I think some things can't go to Tasmania. Other countries would need to work through their own government requirements for sending seeds - some countries are strict, some aren't. Regarding diseases surviving in dried seeds the process of fermenation does kill of some diseases but others do survive. You need to select seeds from disease-free plants.

Kim, until you really know what you're doing, just plant one variety of each veggie and work up from there. Each year, add something new and it will be more manageable. When you do add more variety, add the easy ones first, like tomatoes. Tomatoes rarely cross pollinate, I've been growing beefsteak, paste and cherry tomatoes together, alongside my brandywines and they didn't cross. All I did was put them in different garden beds and they were fine.

Barbara: here is how I ferment tomato and cucumber seeds. Select a couple of your best tomatoes/cucumbers and wait until they are just past the ripe stage. Cut the tomato in two and scoop out the seeds, you'll take out the surrounding flesh when you do, that's fine. Place that in a small glass jar, add about half a cup of water, cover with a cloth to keep insects out and leave it in a warmish place in the kitchen. Depending on the warmth in your kitchen, about three or four days later, mould will develop on top of the tomato pulp. Stir with a spoon to dislodge any seeds caught in the pulp and you'll see a lot of seeds fall to the bottom of the jar. Carefully pour off the rubbish at the top without losing any seeds at the bottom. Then, when most of the pulp and mouldy flesh is gone, pour the seeds into a fine strainer and wash them gently, but thoroughly. Then tip the seeds onto a clean cloth to dry the water from them and place them on a ceramic or glass plate to dry out completely. That will depend on your conditions there but it will be between 10 - 14 days. Then add to your labelled container and put in the fridge.

Rachel: yes, you can cook the leftover beans. It's difficult to tell you how long any seeds will be viable for. It depends on the type of seeds and how well they've been stored. This is good test for seed viability - get a couple of sheets of newspaper, write the date and name of the seeds on the paper, then wet it. You want every sheet moist but not dripping wet. Sprinkle about 10 of the seeds you want to test on one side of the paper, fold in the sides and roll it up into a cigar shape. Place that into a plastic bag, along with any other cigar shapes you're testing, and seal the bag. Leave it for two days, then check. If there are no seeds sprouting, check it again in two days. If you see the seeds are sprouting, note how many sprout because that will give you a good indication of how viable the seeds are. If only a few germinate, I'd still plant your seeds but don't expect all of them to grow. If a lot of them sprout, you'll have no problems growing your plants. Be aware though that not every seed will sprout, generally expect about 80 percent success rate. If the seeds don't show any signs of life for two weeks, the seeds are probably dead. Be aware that some seeds do take a long time to sprout, so check the germination time (on Google) for the seeds your testing. And even with the best seeds and storage, you'll only get about 80 - 90 percent success anyway. Please let us know when baby arrives and take care, love.

Good luck with the laundry soap, Kathy.

Bobbi: Hanno and I had a giggle over your Mary Poppins comment. ; - )

And just a final thought for all those who are nervous about saving seeds. When you step away from the mainstream and go along this path we're all on, there aren't a lot of guideposts along the way. I've made plenty of mistakes, but it was through my biggest mistakes that I made my biggest gains, and went on to becoming quite proficient in a number of unusual tasks. So dive right in, the water's fine.

Check out Lyn's great post on pruning tomatoes here.

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