What’s for Dinner: 10 Frugal Fall Foods

Some people don’t believe Los Angeles has seasons, but we do. They’re just not as pronounced, and they don’t arrive on the traditional schedule, or always in the proper order. Nevertheless, my body seems to follow the traditional seasonal cycle, so I start craving fall foods when the calendar rolls to September, even if it’s 80 degrees outside.This weekend, with the air-conditioning blasting, I got to thinking about the fall foods I’d like to make. If your temperatures are dipping or you’re just craving a good meal that warms you up on the inside, here are some ideas.

Beef Stroganoff
Not from a box, from scratch. It’s probably as cheap, if not cheaper, than a box of Hamburger Helper. All you need is ground beef or tenderloin strips, onion, beef broth, sour cream, and noodles. In a pinch, you can sub in chicken broth for the beef, but beef will taste better. Rather than using a recipe designed for ground beef, I use the tenderloin version.

Chicken Pot Pie
I posted the full recipe in my winter comfort foods post, but have an update to the freezing method. The second time around, I cut the crust to size and froze it flat between sheets of plastic wrap. I put the filling in a freezer Ziploc that I froze flat. When both were frozen, I slipped them into a larger Ziploc. Defrosting the filling was a snap in the microwave, then I put the filling into tins and baked them until the crust had browned and the filling bubbled.

Roast Chicken
Roast a chicken in the oven, bake a couple of potatoes and root veggies, and prep some green beans and butter and you’ve got a dinner guaranteed to fill your tummy.

Chicken Soup
Got a chicken carcass or leftover chicken? Make your own chicken stock, then brew up a batch of chicken soup. All you need is onions, chicken, broth, and whatever else you like in your favorite version.

Turkey and Bean Soup
Last Thansgiving, my Mom sent me this recipe for fabulous turkey, tomato, and bean soup. It’s simply the best. I didn’t have cocoa powder, but I did have dark chocolate. A few shavings were all I needed. The recipe also calls for deli turkey, but I think it’s best with leftover roasted turkey. This Thanksgiving, cook up a huge batch and freeze it in several bags for quick meals all winter long.

Red Beans and Rice
This another one that cooks up fast. I pre-cook dried beans and freeze them in bags so I can easily make a fresh bean meal in minutes, without using high-sodium canned beans. I enjoy the version found in the 40th edition of the Joy of Cooking (minus the ham hock).

Clam Chowder
I’m still trying to find a great thick clam chowder recipe to rival the version found in San Francisco (not New England, which prefers a thinner chowder), but even a can of Progresso (original, not the healthy version) is soul-satisfying. It’s best in a bread bowl. I can’t do that, so I bake my own bread to dip into the hearty soup.

For every American mom, there is a meatloaf recipe and everyone likes their mom’s version best. I will say that mine has bacon on top, which seems to be the key ingredient. Of course, it must be served with a baked potato smothered in butter.

In a pinch, a can of Hormel will do, but it’s much better to take the time to cook your own. There are approximately 1 billion recipes for chili, so search until you find one you like. Serve with tortilla chips or thick bread and cheese.

Pork Pie (Tourtiere)
This French Canadian dish is guaranteed to satisfy a crowd, but it also serves a crowd. A pork pie is just what it sounds like: beef and pork in a pie crust. As with all traditional recipes, there are hundreds of versions. Use the one above or find another you like. Some include potatoes. If you use this one and can’t find the herb savory, substitute thyme or thyme and sage.

I’m sure you’ve got other ideas for frugal fall foods. Most of these can be cooked up quickly for less than $2 a serving, but will keep you full and satisfied. What are your favorite fall dishes? Tell me in the comments.

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