Getting home late is no fun — especially when you haven’t had a minute to think about what you’re going to eat for supper. Sure, you could stop for fast food…and sometimes you do. But a hot home-cooked meal can be not only less expensive, but very satisfying. (Besides, it’s raining out…and your feet hurt.)
For purposes of this article, I’m assuming you’ve got children and/or a partner or friend tagging along — but cooking last minute meals for yourself is just as easy, using these techniques.
Tips For Last Minute Meals
First, do what Peg Bracken suggested, and set the table. (It reassures people that supper is on the way.) Next, take a look at your pantry. Got any hearty canned soups or stews? These are by far the fastest thing to make, dumped in the pot with a little water or milk, with an extra can of vegetables added, if you have more than a few people to feed. Tube biscuits (or fresh ones, quickly made), crackers or bread with cheese fill in the holes.
What — no canned extras? (Next time you shop, buy a few…they’ll come in handy in the future.) Try this simple, satisfying soup.
Homestyle Potato Soup
- 3 large potatoes, roughly chopped
- 1/3 cup chopped onion (or a tablespoonful of dried)
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 3 cups milk
- Extras to add: 1-2 chopped sausages (bratwurst are the bomb) or hot dogs
- A handful of any chopped veggies, including broccoli, kale, carrots, celery, peppers, green beans (cans may be substituted)
That’s it! Mix all together and cook on low for 15-20 min., until the potatoes are tender. Add salt and fresh-ground pepper before serving; it feeds 2-3 people, but can easily be doubled and tripled.
Next on the idea menu: macaroni and cheese. If you don’t have a few boxes handy (buy some on your next shopping trip), all you need do is cook a package of elbow macaroni (or other pasta), grate some cheese — and mix the two together. Add veggies or a salad.
There’s always reverse meal psychology, too. Make ‘breakfast’ for supper! Scrambled eggs, waffles and pancakes are quick to make, and their novelty makes them taste good. (Especially if you add something unusual to the mix, like chocolate chips or chopped walnuts.) Add bacon or sausage, if you’ve got it…or make this a meatless meal. Serve the waffles and pancakes with whipped cream instead of syrup, for an added twist.
Or try my mom’s favorite last-minute trick: Defrost (or buy on the way home) a package of ground turkey, hamburger, pork or sausage; brown; and mix in a can of mushroom, celery or another cream soup. (In a pinch, you can make your own white sauce, as well.)
Add a tablespoonful of sour cream, if you’ve got it, or thin with a little milk. Heat until bubbling, and serve over rice, instant mashed potatoes, a baked potato (microwave on high 5-6 min.), or just over toast. If this “hamburger stroganoff” is served on both potatoes and toast, it’s what the diners call a “hot beef” or “hamburger sandwich.”
If you have to, you can go without dessert tonight. (Or fish out a can of fruit from the shelf, if you’ve got it. Make up some instant chocolate pudding. Don’t have these? Put them on your grocery list now, so you’ll be prepared in the future.) Keep teabags and hot chocolate mix handy for a cup of something hot. Add a few cookies or a candy bar, if you’ve got them.
Next time, you can plan ahead and use the crockpot. But as least for tonight, you and your family are warm, comfortable and well-fed.
Cindy Brick is a personal property appraiser, judge and national teacher who loves to write about frugality and other personal finance topics. She has written six books and hundreds of articles, but often focuses on quilting, her teaching specialty. She lives in Colorado with her husband, two golden labs and a flock of very suspicious chickens. Find out more at Brickworks, http://www.cindybrick.com, or visit her personal blog: http://www.cindybrick.blogspot.com