With the economy the way it is I am trying to find foods that don't use meat for a main entree (beef, $6 a pound, are you kidding me!) My son won't eat chicken (we have a pet chicken and it's like eating "fluffy".) Pork and ham are sometimes on sale, but ham is high in salt and the pork is usually the huge fatty roasts with a huge bone!
1. It has to be kid friendly, I have 3 boys ages 10, 9, and 6.
2. Only things I can find at a regular grocery store
3. Each meal for 4 has to be under $10
And I'll share one recipe you can try, it's called Pizza Pasta and the kids love it!
1/2 box Barilla Plus Spaghetti
1 can Hunts 3-cheese tomato sauce
Turkey peperoni (on the kids side)
Skim Milk Mozarella cheese
Calories w/o the cheese and pepperoni (about 150 per serving)
Cook the spaghetti according to directions (unless baking, then cook less) and drain. Put in bakin dish and top with sauce, cheese, peperoni, or whatever pizza toppings you like. I microwave it, but it would probably taste better baked at this point.
**We use Barilla plus spaghetti noodles, not much more than regular spaghetti but made with beans and grains and tastes just like plain nooodle! Plus it doesn't get soggy and mushy as easily as regular noodles.
I grew up eating a Mediterranean diet – both my parents are from southern Europe… :) and all of our family meals were ‘vegetable-centered’. So, maybe my ideas will be helpful to you.
• Vegetable stews – Any combination of vegetables cooked together in a pot. The possibilities are endless. Adding meat, fish or a grain is optional.
• Vegetable soups – Pick any vegetable or combination of vegetables and create a soup and make it more hearty by adding beans or peas.
• Assortment of vegetable side-dishes – This is a very Mediterranean way to eat. Instead of having one vegetable main-dish, make several simple preparations of vegetables and enjoy them together at a meal. For example, roast asparagus, boil zucchini, sauté spinach and serve it all with a tossed salad and canned (and rinsed) beans. You can serve meat, fish, cheese or grains as a side dish.
I can give you more specific suggestions, but this is the general idea.
Would the kids eat fish? It can also be a little expensive, but buying the 'family pack' is usually a lot cheaper per pound. Some other ideas:
-Veggie lasagna (same as usual, minus the meat, plus mix in whatever veggies you know the kids will eat)
-pita pizzas: I buy pita bread or you could probably use those sandwich thins that have become really popular. You can use a lot of the same ingredients from your pizza pasta, just put them on the bread and pop in the oven to melt the cheese and crisp the bread. The kids will have their own little pizzas and can mix and match toppings.
Can you work beans into dinner anywhere? You can buy those in bulk packages and cook them yourself for a lot less. Use what you need for dinner and throw the rest in the freezer to use later. They're packed full of protein and fiber.
You might have to think up some game to get them to try new veggies and maybe you'll find some new favorites. If you don't want to use meat, hopefully you could at least get a wide variety of veggies in them!
A few ideas
My boyfriend and I eat the way you're describing all the time (minus the kids and pet chicken), and for the same reasons. Meat is so expensive!! We try to save the steak, shrimp and pork tenderloin for "special" meals (weekends, when Mom comes over, etc.) Maybe these suggestions will help:
1.) Do breakfast for dinner -- we have a lot of omlettes and scrambles for dinner. Its super easy and affordable. We have a bunch of ziplock baggies of veggies and some ham already cut up in the freezer, so I can usually prepare something pretty quickly, especially when its late and we're STARVING. Also, since it IS so easy, I can get two skillets going and make custom dishes for each of us. I do an egg white omlette with a half yolk and add some mushrooms, salsa, onions and a sprinkle of cheese plus some cottage cheese and fruit as a "side dish" for about 300 calories! Delicious! Also, buckwheat pancakes with fruit and a little yogurt on top are pretty awesome. You can mix the dry ingredients ahead of time so you'll always have a meal on hand.
2.) Keep it simple -- another meal we make is a simple base of brown rice, beans, and greens. You can jazz it up however you want and it seems like a new meal every time. I usually throw some frozen spinach into a skillet, add a little lemon juice, butter and itallian seasoning (boyfriend prefers frozen broccoli); make the rice with chicken or veggie broth added in for more flavor; and drain the beans (any kind -- I like black beans best) and add a good amount of salsa to 'em. Put it into individual bowls when everything is done (mix it up, or not -- your choice) and then sprinkle cheese on top. Microwave for 2 minutes. Enjoy. For me, this meal is about 400 calories, more if I decide to add extra cheese, and keeps me full for a long time.
3.) Everyone likes burgers -- we also make turkey burgers or portabella mushroom burgers all the time. With turkey, you can add oatmeal and an egg to make it go further. Also, if I have time, I like to carmelize some red onions (thick chopped onion, a little olive oil and some balsamic vinegar in a skillet 'til they're dark and sweet) and then add those, some parsley and feta cheese crumbles into the raw turkey. Get creative! You could do sun dried tomato and a little mozzerella too. I usually buy ground turkey when its half off ($3.50 for 1.25 lbs) at my grocery store and throw several packs inthe freezer. I don't know if your boys like mushrooms, but portabella caps are also easy and delicious. They look a little strange if you're not used to them, but they taste meaty and will fill everyone right up. You can make "pizza burgers" with them or marinate them in something like Mrs. Dash marinade or Lawrey's 30 minute marinade and then top with more veggies. I'd recommend those sandwich thins for these ideas to keep calories down.
Sorry for the long post, but as you can see I absolutely LOVE eating like this. All of our friends can't believe the variety of food we eat for so cheap. Feel free to ask me for more ideas or you can check out my favorite cook book "Light Basics Cookbook" by Martha Rose Schulmann -- I'll warn you, there's some chicken in there, but she gives you lots of ideas for a basic list of ingredients to keep around the house and there are a lot of recipes that combine the same or similar ingedients so you never waste anything. Good Luck! :D
Tacos! Super easy, just swap out canned black beans for half or even all of the hamburger, fry em up in a skillet with the seasoning packet just like you would the beef. Anything Mexican or Tex Mex can be made with beans instead of meat. Fresh salsa is a great way to get the kids to eat veggies.
Let's keep this thread going, I have a family full of picky eaters as well. Sneaking vegetables by these guys is like sneaking gold out of Fort Knox.
Homemade Mac & Cheese & Peas
My gang loves homemade mac & cheese w/ peas (or broccoli). I use whole grain pasta, reduced fat cheese and low-fat milk (sometimes soy, sometimes dairy depending on what we have in the fridge). I make the cheese sauce by melting 1/2 cup margarine (we use Smart Balance but any variety will work), then I whisk that with 1/4 cup corn starch, and add in 3-4 cups of milk. Once the white sauce thickens turn the heat off and add in 2 cups shredded co-jack cheese and stir until melted. Pour it over 1 pound box of prepared noodles (any shape) and dump in 10-12 ounces of frozen veggies (either peas or broccoli). My kids wolf this stuff down, but they are all girls, ages 4, 7 and 8.
My kiddos also like Papa-al-Pomadoro, which they also call "pizza stew". Basically you take whatever marinara sauce the kids like, stir in a few pizza toppings, olives, green peppers etc etc. Then prep the bottom of the bowls with a piece of whole grain bread, like a slimwich or cubed whole wheat bread. Sprinkle mozzarella over the bread, then top with the pasta sauce. This is so easy to make you can have the kids do it. My gang eats this up pronto.
Grilled veggie kabobs.
At our house in the summer we don't like to heat up the kitchen, so often we cook outdoors with fire. I like to have the girls help make dinner, so at some point in the not too distant future I can leave the kitchen to them... Veggie kabobs are really easy, you just set out bowls of veggies, let the kids make up their own skewers, spritz them with a little salad spray and toss them on the grill for maybe 8-10 minutes each. Yummmmm, and nobody can complain because they speared their own kabobs, right? Wrong, the middle child will complain no matter what. You can also use fruit kabobs for dessert, but sprinkle them with cinnamon and honey or maybe a little bit of sugar.
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