Frugality Means a Plan

Grocery list
Image by paige_eliz via Flickr

Frugal is as frugal does— At least, that’s what my Mama used to say. Actually, I think that was stupid, not frugal and I think that was Forrest Gump’s mama, not mine. But I digress…we’re talking about frugality here, not stupidity. Although a case for stupidity could be made for the way we buy groceries these days– throwing just about anything in our carts, left, right and center.

The first mistake is thinking we have no time and are therefore, slaves to convenience foods. What’s so helpful about Hamburger Helper, anyway? It’s full of scary ingredients, costs too much money and isn’t doing a thing for you health-wise.

The second mistake we make is thinking we are the exception to the 24 hours a day rule-we ALL have the same amount of time each day. So why not make real food for yourself and your family a priority? Cooking from scratch doesn’t require leg irons attached to you and the stove and dramatic farewells to family and friends. You will see other rooms in your house and yes, you can have a life. It is really easy to pull this off–I’ve done it for years.

You absolutely need a plan. Write down everything your family likes. Is spaghetti a winner? Does the family like the way you make Great Aunt Suzy’s Chicken Supreme (all done with healthy ingredients, of course) or is Great Aunt Suzy’s Chicken Supreme too time consuming to make? Then ditch it and start over.

Bottom line: your dinners have to be simple and some should be double-able and freeze-able. Every time you make meatloaf, make two. Or double casseroles or extra burritos even. Then you can have a frozen stash on those days when life isn’t coming together.

Sounds basic, right? It is. But it is amazing how many people live off adrenaline, driving home from work each day sweating it out because they don’t have one earthly idea what’s for dinner. If you have a plan, the world is your oyster. And if you don’t have a plan, check out mine at

Here’s a great recipe guaranteed to get you in and out of the kitchen fast and have the family begging for more!

Muy Nacho Stuffed Shells

12 ounces jumbo shells (32 to 36 shells) — uncooked
3/4 pound extra-lean ground beef
1 /4 cup quick oatmeal, uncooked
1 package (1.25-ounce) low-sodium taco seasoning mix (no msg)
1 cup water
1 can (16-ounce) refried beans with chilies
1 cup low-fat cheddar cheese — shredded
3/4 cup mild, medium, or hot salsa (your favorite jarred variety)
1 can (8-ounce) tomato sauce
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions

Optional Garnishes:
grated low-fat cheddar cheese
chopped cilantro
salsa (use your favorite jarred variety)
Avocado, carefully chopped

Prepare pasta according to package directions. While pasta is cooking, cook up the beef in a large skillet until browned; drain well and add the oatmeal. Add taco seasoning mix and water; simmer 5 minutes or until thickened. Stir in beans and cheese.

Cook until smooth and well-mixed. When pasta is done, drain well. Fill shells with beef mixture (1-2 tablespoons per shell). Combine salsa and tomato sauce in a saucepan. Cook until heated, stirring occasionally.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread 1/2 cup sauce over the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking pan that has been lightly greased. Place filled shells side by side on top of sauce; pour remaining sauce evenly over shells. Cover with a tent of aluminum foil; bake 35 to 40 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Sprinkle with green onions. Cover and let stand 5 minutes before serving. Garnish as desired.

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