August 18, 2009

Good Eating in Hard Times

Let's get something straight before we start: I don't like to cook. As home chores go, I prefer laundry. But, with a husband and three kids, we can't afford to eat out all the time, either, even at "family" restaurants, like Dixie Cafe.

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Dixie Cafe, anyway. Eating there kind of reminds me of eating at my granny's house. On the other hand, I'm pretty sure my granny could feed a field full of hay-hauling teenagers for what it costs to feed a family of five at Dixie Cafe. At Dixie Cafe, for $8.79, I can get "platter" or chicken fried steak, two vegetables and a bread. Instead, I make this at home, and it doesn't take much longer than making the kids presentable, driving across town, waiting for a table, placing an order and getting food. Even if your cooking skills are minimal, you can do this.

I buy "country fried steak" in a box of 10, with two packages of white gravy at Sam's Club for about $11. Those taste great baked in the oven in cast-iron skillet. And, let's be real: that is the same chicken-fried steak that most restaurants serve anyway. If you put half of that in the freezer for another night, so far our cost is about $6.50.

Buy a bag of potatoes for $4-$5. Scrub them, and cut them up and put them on to boil. When they get done, "mash" them with the mixer, peelings and all. Add a couple of tablespoons of butter, a glug of milk, and a dab of salt. Or, do it the easy way with instant potatoes. With the white gravy, no one will be able to tell the difference anyway, especially if you use real butter. So far, we are still less than $10 total expense to feed a family of five a meal.

Add your favorite fresh or frozen vegetable, and a bag of rolls. You are still less than $15, and the only thing you really had to cook were the potatoes.

Add a gallon of sweet tea from Kroger and you are good.



  1. Good God, woman, now I'm starving to death. I don't even care how much it costs.

    You had me at "white gravy."

  2. Outstanding suggestions. You're right, most of our restaurants probably shop at Sam's too.

    Extra points for "glug."

  3. Smart suggestions for these hard times, I'm sure. But I'm still knocking my head trying to figure out, "If you put half of that (country-fried-steak, $11) in the freezer for another night, .... cost is about $6.50". Maybe, I'm recession hit ;)

  4. Ha! There's a "How many writing teachers does it take to add a couple of numbers?" joke in here somewhere.

    Oh, those crazy right-brainers.

  5. Addition and subtraction, not my strong point. I can manage the math involved in recopies, but budgets? Well, all I can say is it is a good thing I can cook!

  6. You're right that good meals don't have to bankrupt a household. And that picture looks delicious. Thanks for a nice article.

    John DeFlumeri JR, Clearwater, Fla

  7. You're missing the fun of pounding that steak with the edge of a saucer. I did this once at my daughter's house--used a saucer that did not match her dishes. I didn't realize the saucer was a gift from her friend who'd visited Italy (No. 3 out of 45); luckily, it did not break. I was forgiven because the steak was delicious.


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