save money with convenience foods

lion If DH comes home to find me flat out on the lounge in front a Simpsons rerun (or these days on the floor in front of the baby bouncer), then he knows there’s a good chance I’m not going to be cooking dinner any time soon. And $25 later, we usually end up with KFC.

I’m all about cooking from scratch. It’s cheaper and healthier than convenience food. But sometimes it pays to have a little bit of that convenience food in the cupboard or the freezer for days where you just don’t feel like cooking. Because a microwave meal, a frozen pie or a jar of simmer sauce is going to be a lot cheaper than takeaway and often healthier.

Our current fall back meal is frozen fish pieces. And I use the term ‘fish’ loosely. They’re not particularly cheap, and when I read down the list of ingredients, there are things in them that I usually avoid eating, but… it’s better than KFC and they can be on the table with little fuss and preparation in less than half an hour. And if I’m really good, we might have real vegetables to go with them.

We also rely on frozen pies, instant pasta, spaghetti bolognaise sauce and surprisingly, Thai curry paste, because a Thai beef curry is one of those dishes that is really quick and easy for us. I’ve yet to serve up popcorn for dinner, but it has certainly crossed my mind.

What convenience foods do you rely on, on those days that you just don’t feel like cooking?

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  1. Charmaine says

    These days I keep chicken tenders and fish fingers in the freezer for emergencies. Also, my husband can cook up a pretty quick pasta with bacon (that we freeze), tomato puree, olives and chilli. Sometimes we challenge ourselves to cook up a meal from whatever is in our pantry/fridge and have often been pleasantly surprised with the outcome.

  2. Delphine says

    I keep an assortment of frozen chicken thingies too and potato gems or munchies – so we can have fries with that. But this time of year I cook to feed the freezer. I make my own sausage rolls and pies with a wonderful pastry recipe a friend gave me. I also make my own pizza. I buy the bases (thin ones – makes me think I’m being good) and buy the cheese on special and keep a stock in the fridge or freezer. When you have to deal with illness regularly you keep your freezer stocked. Make a stew and double it etc. etc. Bulk shopping and the freezer are very important to me.

  3. says

    I keep a couple of packets of easy pasta. I add my own chicken and veges to make a quick easy meal.
    I also keep a couple of Lean Cuisine or WW meals in the freezer.

    There’s only one take away food that I’ll buy, maybe twice a year. We have a place that sells the best battered fish, in a small town 33 klms away.

  4. Claire says

    I use our crockpot alot – can throw together the ingrediants while making breakfasts, yakking on the phone or if you are lucky when the littlies are napping. Another trick is to have it cooking overnight (very satisfying to know that you are ahead of the game for once) and in the morning it will be done, with the temp in the mornings being very chilly the cooked meal for dinner is cooled suffiently in no time for putting in the fridge until dinner time (obviously need to transfer to another dish as the crockpot takes ages to cool down – means that you can have a hearty lunch aswell.

  5. Kaye says

    Hello Melissa,

    I usually have tuna in my store cupboard and frozen pastry sheets in the freezer. I make a tuna pie recipe that I found on Simple Savings. You drain a large tin of tuna, add corn kernels and grated cheese and onion or green onions and a egg. I usually add curry powder as well. You just simply lay down one sheet of puff pastry, top with the ingredients then place another sheet on top. You seal the edges with a little egg or water and I usually brush the egg over the top and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Cut slashes in the top and bake for around 25 mins or so until golden. Lovely hot with a quick salad or nice cold as well.

    Another good backup is pitta bread pizza. I often keep in the freezer small ziplock packs of olives, sliced capsicum, mozza cheese and bacon or ham. I just spread the pitta bread with tomato paste, crushed garlic and herbs then top. Whatever is around (red onion, sundried tomatoes or grated zucchini or broccoli) may also get put on top, but having the packs of capsicum etc sure makes it quick and no chopping required. I pre-cook bacon and mince sometimes too and use that with a barbeque sauce base. (can be frozen ready to go)

    Frozen fish fillets ARE a good standby (as you use already) and I’d have to say Aldi curly fries with sour cream and sweet chilli sauce with a salad are yum!! :-)
    Not healthy I’m sure, but so yummy.

  6. says

    I’m another fan of frozen puff pastry. I also like to keep mountain bread in the freezer for quick wraps, along with frozen berries. We always have plain tomato pasta sauce, and medium salsa (both from the Aldi organic range) in the pantry, plus taco shells, tinned beans, artichoke hearts, olives etc.

    I agree, a quick meal with whatever veggies are in the fridge mixed with a tasty sauce & thrown over pasta (or in a wrap, or a pastry shell) may not be total ‘scratch’ cooking, but it beats takeway!

  7. says

    Hi, thanks for sharing all of your meal ideas.

    @ Charmaine, your pasta dish sounds yum. We do a similar dish with bacon from the freezer and cream but we don’t always have cream, so I’ll keep tomato (which we do have) in mind.

    @Delphine I’ve been wanting to make my own sausage rolls (inspired by masterchef) but I hadn’t thought of freezing them, thanks for the idea

    @Maa, 33kms – it must be really good fish!

    @Claire, I’ve been thinking of getting a crockpot, but goodness knows where I’d put it. I bought MIL a crockpot cookbook for Mother’s Day and I didn’t realise all the things that you could make in it!

    @Kaye, thanks for tuna recipe, I’m always looking for new tuna recipes. I’ve been an SSer for over 5 years now but I haven’t been on their website for a while. I’ll have to go and have a look.

    @MSbetterhome, We keep frozen puff pastry too. What other quick and easy thing do you make with it?

  8. Claire says

    Melissa, I keep our crockpot in the oven when not in use (haven’t yet turned the oven on with it inside) – they can be heavy beasts but well worth the effort – NZ author Alison Holst has written a cracker book with heaps of recipes for soups, casseroles, deserts and lunch options for feeding the hords.

  9. says

    I forget about putting stuff in the oven, my mum stores stuff there too. But I’m not sure that DH would remember to look in there before turning it on.

  10. says

    For me it,s Chicken Nuggets for the Grandchildren and for the adults it,s Lasagna, not a shop bought one, but my own which I cut into servings and freeze, for the instant meal nights in front of the T.V.

  11. says

    Hi Melissa,

    I mainly use frozen puff pastry for savoury meals, such as:

    * lunchbox ‘curry puffs’, using leftover curry,
    * ‘notmeat’ triangles with sanitarium nutmeat, grated veggies, spices & a dollop of tomato paste,
    *spinach triangles,
    * vegan ‘quiche’, with a filling of sauteed veg & blended cannelini beans (add a tablespoon of cornstach to help the beans set).

    I also use it make savoury scrolls for parties, using homemade fillings like vegan pesto or olive paste & chopped sundried tomatoes.

  12. says

    @ MSbetterhome, thanks for the puff pastry ideas. I usually keep some puff in the freezer, but all I make with it is quiche or pie.

    @ Maureen, lasagne is a good idea – just goes to show that being frugal requires planning and prep.