NOTE: At the bottom, I included a cost breakdown. Total cost for all three meals? $28.34 before any coupons or sales! Each will serve a family of four with leftovers. Combined cook time: 1 hour 15 minutes!

I am not a foodie. I am not a cook. By the time I am looking for food, I am starving. Unfortunately, that doesn’t lead me to have much interest in waiting for a hot cooked meal. Now that I have kids, I know that my old “popcorn and pepsi” dinner plan doesn’t work. So what’s a girl to do? I have decided to cook as many things as I can ahead of time so that I can simply pull it out and warm it up. I decided to make comfort foods that are common in my family rather than Last night, I cooked three direct-to-leftover meals in just over an hour!

What I made:

American Chop Suey
What you need:
1 box of Medium Sized Shell pasta,
1 small can tomato paste

[6 oz],
1 can stewed tomatoes,
1 jar of Spaghetti Sauce. I use Prego Fresh Mushroom – but any will do.
1 lb of browned hamburger.
1/2 onion, sauteed.

To make this one, make the whole box of pasta in a large pot. Brown the hamburger in one pan while sauteeing half of the onion in another. Use a colander to drain the pasta completely, then return it to the big pot. Add the tomato paste, stewed tomatoes (do not drain the liquid out of the can), and jar of spaghetti sauce. Stir. Wha-la!

My mom made a recipe similar to this one in our house growing up a LOT. When I’m homesick, or just looking for some good shovel food, I go with this one. Hubs family calls this Goulash, but they don’t put in the pasted tomatoes, stewed tomatoes, or sauce. Instead? A can or two of Campbell’s Tomato Soup! This is an interesting twist for a lighter version in the summer time, or for a lunch :).

Shepherd’s Pie
What you need:
1 lb browned hamburger,
1 can creamed corn,
one pouch of mashed potatoes*

This is the only recipe that I didn’t complete. I browned the hamburger and then combined it with the can of creamed corn in the bottom of a 9×9 glass casserole dish. When I am ready to eat it, I will prepare the pouch of mashed potatoes (or make 3 or so actual potatoes – mashed) and then I will put it over the combination of corn and burger and bake at 325 for 10 or 15 minutes.

*I could have made the potatoes this evening, but I chose not to because I got tired. I’m just being honest. I chose this recipe because of the common ingredients to the other two recipes. It’s not necessarily a staple of either family of origin. We don’t have any in the house, or I would put French’s Onions on top for some added crunch.

Chili with Egg Noodles
What you need:
1 lb browned hamburger,
1 bag egg noodles,
1 can baked beans,
1 can kidney beans,
1 can diced tomatoes,
1 jar Heintz Chili Sauce,
1/2 onion, sauteed.

Sautee your onion half and brown your hamburger. Put the onion into the hamburger, then add the beans (baked AND kidney – do not drain the cans, but DO remove the fatback from the baked. yuck.). Add the diced tomatoes and the full jar of Chili Sauce. Let it simmer for about 20 minutes. Wha’la! This one came from my Nana. This is not at all a spicy chili. It’s more of a sweet one. Hubs doesn’t like chili, but likes this a lot. You can choose to serve the chili OVER the noodles, or mix the noodles right in for more of a chili-stroganoff.

Feel like multi-processing? Use the same pan to brown all of the meat, one pound at a time. As you combine the hamburger into the pot for the chop suey, replace it with a raw pound to brown for the shepherd’s pie. Then do the same when you put the burger in the Pyrex. Your pan will be prepped for the chili ingredients when the burger finishes browning. OR, if you have a big pan, you can brown all three lbs at the same time from an economy burger purchase. Then simply divide it into three portions by putting one into the pasta, one into the Pyrex, and then adding the chili ingredients back into the pan with the remaining third.

Sautee your whole onion at the same time as you brown your first pound of hamburger (in a separate pan). It will be ready to go for both the chili and the chop suey.

If you’re trying to minimize your pots, you can make your egg noodles first, then use the same pan to make your pasta for the Chop Suey.

When I did it, I ended up dirtying only 1 pot, 1 pan, 1 spaghetti spoon, 2 stirring spoons, and the Tupperware. I put mine right into the fridge to eat throughout the week. Each recipe feeds 4-6 people easily, so the kids and I will have enough meals for the whole week! Instant leftovers (see below). I did make one canister of Grands Flaky Biscuits to go with it all. That’s what’s in the bowl.

According to Safeway online:
Onion 75 cents
3 pounds of Hamburger 3.50 x 3 = $10.50
1 box medium shell pasta $1.25
1 can creamed corn 79 cents
1 bottle Heintz Chili Sauce $2.35
1 pouch mashed potatoes $1.45
1 can diced tomatoes $.99
1 can stewed tomatoes $1
1 can tomato paste $1.09 [6 oz] 1 jar Prego Fresh Mushroom Spaghetti Sauce $3.29
1 pouch egg noodles $1.79
1 can baked beans $2
1 can kidney beans $1.09

Total: $28.34 for three night’s worth of meals plus leftovers for a family of four!

Broken into meals = American Chop Suey for $10.50 Shepherd’s Pie for $5.74 or Chili with Noodles for $12.10. You will have much more left overs with the Suey and the Chili than the Pie.

Full/Combined cook time? 1 hour 15 minutes.

DISCLAIMER: I don’t know where these recipes originated. I did not make them up. I altered family recipes to my personal taste (and hubby’s).