Meal Planning Strategies for Back to School

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The new school year is upon us! Consider these meal planning strategies for back to school to make breakfast, lunch, and dinner good, easy, AND cheap.

divided lunch box with cheese, vegetables, salad, and dip

The clock is ticking on summer vacation. In some parts, the kids have already gone back to school; in others they’re counting down the days until summer ends. Perhaps you’re hearing the faint ding of the school bell in the distance?

Switching from the lazy days of summer into the regular routine of the school year can be a shock to the system as well as to the pocket book. There are school supplies and new clothes to purchase as well as quick, easy, and packable meals to prepare.

No longer can you just warm up a plate of leftovers at lunchtime and call it good.

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How to Cut Melon the Quick & Easy Way

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Knowing how to cut melon is a valuable skill to help you make the most of in-season produce and to facilitate a healthy diet. Here’s how to do it.

How to Cut Melon the Quick & Easy Way | Good Cheap Eats

You see a great deal on cantaloupe and watermelon. You want to take advantage of it, but what in the world do you do with it when you get home. Sure, you can buy those plastic packs of pre-cut fruit, but let’s be real. Rarely does that fruit taste ripe and delicious.

And here in front of you is a fragrant melon just begging to be carted home.

Don’t fear the melon.

You can do this. Knowing how to cut melon, whether it’s a cantaloupe, honeydew, or watermelon, is a valuable skill to help you make the most of in-season produce and to facilitate a healthy diet. Melon is full of fiber and vitamins and can be a great way to hydrate, but it won’t do you any good if the fruit sits on the counter uneaten.

Never fear. This is easy.

Cherry Limeade Recipe – Do It Yourself Better

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Cherry Limeade is a fun and refreshing drink. Make it with lime and tart cherry juices instead of dyed syrups and artificial flavors for a real food treat.

Dye-free Cherry Limeade Recipe | Good Cheap Eats

Cherry Limeade is the epitome of refreshing drinks. Cold and refreshing, sweet and tart, sparkling and happy, it’s what happy days are made of. You can’t help but smile when someone hands you a glass of Cherry Limeade.

Can you?

Now the problem with Cherry Limeade is that the commercial versions are the epitome of fake food. Artificial sweeteners and colors galore! Not to mention that it can be expensive at take-out joints, especially when you have a crowd craving Cherry Limeades.

Can you make a Cherry Limeade at home?

What I spent on groceries in July (A Grocery Geek report)

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Want a peek into our grocery cart? Here’s how I’m buying groceries and feeding eight people on the cheap.

groceries in a cart in front of ALDI

Hey there! Hi there! Can you believe how quickly the summer has flown by? We are inching up on back to school, so I’m battening down the hatches!

July was a pretty relaxing month with beach days and trips to the movies and a weeklong visit from friends-closer-than-family, but at the same time, I tried to keep my eye open for things that will make my life easier once school starts.

If you’re new here, you might not know that I teach my kids at home. The two eldest are in college, but I’ve got four students on my watch. Trust me when I say, “The days are just packed!”

No-Cook Suppers: Enjoy Real Food the Easy Way

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Don’t feel like cooking tonight? No problem. You can skip that kitchen task and still eat real, good food on a budget with these no-cook suppers. No take-out or reservations required.

ploughman's lunch with eggs, ham, bread, pickle, cheese, and fruit

The Ploughman’s Lunch

Fancy dinners are to people in the 2000’s what restaurants were to people in the ’80s. Ahem.

I just might have borrowed a phrase from one of the best movies to watch on repeat during the 90’s. You’ll forgive my poetic license as I make the point:

You don’t have to cook every night.

Now, I am not saying that you should eat out or get take-out or buy convenience food items with ingredients you can’t pronounce.

That’s not usually good cheap eats.

However, I will propose the idea that you don’t have to cook every night. You can still eat real food easily and affordably without getting all hot and bothered in the kitchen.

Chicken Caesar Baguette Sandwiches for a Quick & Simple Meal

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Chicken Caesar Baguette Sandwiches are just what you expect – quick and simple deliciousness tucked into French bread. They are a fun, portable twist on a vintage classic.

Chicken Caesar Baguette Sandwiches | Good Cheap Eats

Do you love caesar salad but sometimes find it a little cliche? Are you ready for a sandwich that will knock your socks off? Do you crave sandwich and salad at the same time?

Then this recipe is for you, my friend.

Last summer when we were traipsing through England as a family, we would often grab lunch or dinner at a fresher, faster food place called Pret a Manger. Pret offers ready-to-go soups, salads, and sandwiches at very reasonable prices. It’s the ideal stop when you want a real meal on vacation but don’t have a lot of time and money. There are a few Pret locations stateside, but none in California, so I’ve take to recreating some of our Pret favorites at home.

(And it doesn’t really matter where they are located; the UK menu is different from the US menu, anyway.)

We both know that when at home, it’s cheaper to do the cooking yourself, so it all works out.

The Ploughman’s Lunch, a very British Snacky Lunch

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The Ploughman’s Lunch, aka Ploughman’s, is the UK version of the Snacky Lunch. What was once a laborer’s meal now looks like a very posh cheese and meat platter. Make your own at home for less!

Ploughman's Lunch | Good Cheap Eats

You’re looking for an easy, no-cook meal but you want it to feel a little special.

You’re tired of the same old dinner options, but you need a quick meal that satisfies.

You long for simple meals with little fuss. Without resorting to cans and boxed mixes.

Well, any day of the week, I’d say that the fancy-pants-though-not-difficult-at-all meat and cheese boards that have been filling your instagram feed for a couple years now (aka the Snacky Lunch) is a go-to solution.

Not only does this answer your quick fix dilemma, but it also allows you to take a meal on the go, serve a crowd, and even appease a little wanderlust at the same time.

Wanderlust? Whatchoo talking about, Willis?

Small Batch English Pickle Recipe for American Kitchens

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Jams, jellies, and other spreads offer great flavor to sandwiches, toast, and appetizers. This Small Batch English Pickle recipe is tangy and sweet, a welcome change to the preserves you usually serve. And it’s made with pantry staples, common to American kitchens, making it easy to whip up a batch anytime.

Small Batch English Pickle Recipe for American Kitchens | Good Cheap Eats

Do you ever go on vacation, experience some amazing food during your travels, and then upon your return home, think about that amazing food for months on end, scheming a way for you to go back to that happy, delicious moment?

How about finding a way to make that amazing food at home, so that until you can make that return trip, you can appease at least your tastebuds during the waiting?

Enjoy Carnitas Tacos at home until your next trip south of the border.

Until your next trip to France, make the most of your mornings with a vrai Petit Dejeuner.

Cuddle up with Burning Love Mashed Potatoes until you can get back to Denmark or a bowl of Split Pea Soup while you await a return voyage to Norway.

Cooking at home allows us to travel the world — from our kitchens.

Fajita Vegetables, Simple & Delicious

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Fajita vegetables, basic sauteed onions and peppers, add fiber and flavor to many dishes. Make a big batch to enjoy throughout the week in bowls, wraps, salads, and sandwiches.

Fajita Vegetables | Good Cheap Eats

You might be familiar with Fajita Vegetables in terms of their showing up in a steaming, hot pan at your favorite Mexican restaurant or along the chow line at your local Chipotle. But, surprisingly, they are a very versatile vegetable side to include in any number of dishes.

As you know, most Sundays I spend a couple hours prepping food for the week, including a week’s worth of lunches for my husband to take to work on Monday morning. Fajita vegetables are often one of the components that I prepare. 

Sloppy Joes from Scratch: A Very Good Cheap Eat

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Sloppy Joes from scratch are a quick and easy dinner that won’t break the budget. In fact, you can very easily — and economically — make this savory meat mixture to serve a crowd. No cans or mixes required.

Sloppy Joes from Scratch | Good Cheap Eats

Sloppy Joes are ultimate comfort food. They are hearty so they fill you up after a big day of activity. They make good use of ground beef or turkey, often on sale throughout the year.

Sloppy Joes can be made in the pressure cooker or slow cooker so that you don’t heat up the kitchen or have to stand over a hot stove. You can easily take it to a potluck or on vacation! The recipe can easily be stretched to feed a crowd. It’s very freezer-friendly so you can make it weeks in advance of serving.

And it tastes great. Especially served with pickles.

Yep, pretty much ultimate comfort food.