A Frugal Meal, Italian Style


Continuing my quest to become a better adult through cooking, this week I made a very simple but delicious pasta dish. Once again my boyfriend and I stood together in the kitchen and asked that eternal question: ‘so…what do you feel like eating?’

My modus operandi has become this: look around the kitchen and try and make a meal out of what is already there. If necessary, supplement with one or two things from the grocery store, that can be used in future meals. I live less than a mile from a huge 24 hour grocery store, so often the boyfriend and I will decide what we want to eat and if we need something to complete the meal, we walk over to the store and then walk home to start cooking. Exercise+frugality=date night at my house!

I’ve realized most of my kitchen adventures involve my boyfriend. See, when I’m making food for just me, it’s going to be as fast and as simple as possible. Catering leftovers are my first stop, of course. Things like brown rice, black beans and salsa in a bowl or scrambled eggs with some veggies or peanut butter toast are my go to meals. Not fancy and not pretty.

While my boyfriend is by no means a food snob (he calls himself a human garbage disposal), he does usually want a more complete meal than I do. So I tend to do more actual cooking when I’m with him. And that’s fine with me! It allows me to put together more ingredients, which helps eliminate food waste. It helps me hone my cooking skills. It also yields a pretty good meal at the end, which I thoroughly enjoy.

This time we decided to go Italian. I had all the ingredients at my house: whole wheat pasta, mushrooms and a yellow pepper and traditional marinara sauce. I am a huge fan of working vegetables into a meal whenever you can, so pasta and veggies is a staple in my diet. I’ll cover absolutely any veggie with tomato sauce so whatever I have lying around is what goes in the skillet!

I like cooking with someone else, be it friends or boyfriends, for a few different reasons. One, company is always lovely. I like using the time to catch up. Two, most people know more about cooking than I do so it’s a chance for me to learn from someone. Three, it’s a division of labor. Often the thought of washing, chopping, sauteeing, baking, broiling or whatever-ing all by myself is enough to dissuade me completely from cooking. When I have someone to help with that stuff I’m much more likely to make a home cooked meal.


The boy cutting those veggies!

Like I said, pasta and veggies is a common meal at my house. It’s one I will actually make alone. It’s easy, it’s delicious and it can be pretty healthy. I skip putting butter and salt on my pasta, especially when there’s a sauce to top it off with. (Even sauceless pasta doesn’t get the salt and butter treatment in my house though.) I actually don’t love the taste of butter so if I need to put something on there it’s a little olive oil and then the topping of pan cooked veggies.

We each had beer to go with our meal and we sat down and enjoyed it together. Cooking together is definitely one of the most common things we do as a couple. We both want to save some money and we both like spending time with each other. Cooking at home accomplishes both those goals. Clean up is also a team activity, so no one gets stuck doing all the work. Plus afterwards, we just wander into the living room and turn on Netflix. Dinner and a movie without leaving the house! 😉

None of the meals I’ve made thus far have been out of this world complicated and they never will be. I’m just finding my kitchen-legs and God knows I don’t dream of being a chef one day. I’m interested in learning to make a couple basic, healthy meals that I can whip up on my own. I think I’m accomplishing that!

Any quick and favorite meals you make at home?

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5 Replies to “A Frugal Meal, Italian Style”

  1. I’ve just recently started cooking so I too am just looking for some basic dishes I can make on my own now. Right now, my go-to would just be a simple dish of tomatoes and egg scramble over rice. Or baked salmon.

    1. I eat eggs and veggies all the time. I have two hens at my house so we have fresh eggs daily. So easy and delicious!

      1. eggs at your disposal, how awesome! i love eggs in every form; scrambled, poached, as omlette, frittata, etc.

  2. What, you don’t love the taste of butter? How lucky you are to not have the urge that most of us do to cover everything in it. :] Last night I made a shepherd’s pie with sweet potatoes on top and used whatever veggies I had in the main part. I love altering familiar dishes to make them work with what you have, and healthier! Happy cooking!

    1. I know, I am lucky! I grew up on margarine and so butter seems a little weird to me. That Shepard pie sounds great. Putting new spins on classic dishes is the way to go!

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