Some readers may remember my writing last July about my desire to mainly give up cooking. I don't love to cook (although I love to eat). I spend many hears doing the "menu plan" thing for a family and I am tired. Truthfully I am more tired of the "what to have" then I am of the cooking, but it's all of the same cloth. And unfortunately, in retirement I never developed the cooking as a hobby thing.
So what's a frugal retiree to do? Since then, I (we) have cobbled together various alternatives. I cook in the slow cooker once or twice a week in large amounts. Someone else cooks at least once on the weekend. We take advantage of those deli and to go sections of the grocery store for things like beef fajitas, roasting chickens and more. I also get ready made meals.
Now, when I say ready made meals, I am not talking about Blue Apron or Hello Fresh-the kind of place that sends you the pre-made, pre-cut ingredients for a meal and you cook the meal. I'm talking about the next level of laziness-getting ready made meals that are complete and need to be heated in the oven. In some locations there are Dream Dinners, Downtown Dinners or similar places, and we use those regularly. My primary go to though, has become Schwan's foods.
Now for the uninitiated, Schwan's is a delivery service that brings frozen, fully cooked meals to my home. All I need to do is put them in the oven or microwave. They have a nice man with a freezer truck. I place an order and later on (a few days later) the food appears at my door. I apologize by the way for not linking to the company, but I'm having trouble capturing links and the like on my tablet since my laptop has died.
At first glance, Schwans would not seem like a good fit for the frugal retiree, who keeps her costs down. A second look shows Schwans in the affordable range. A recent order includes a skillet meal of beef Merlot (with onions, carrots and the like) that serves three for twelve dollars. Six chicken enchiladas on rice were fifteen dollars, and a prime rib shepherd's pie that serves four was fifteen dollars.
Obviously, these prices are not as low as rice and beans. And if we were ordering every single meal in, the price would certainly not be right. But as a fill in in between deli foods, breakfast for dinner, and scratch cooking in the slow cooker with leftovers, it works for me. My last order contained eight items and was $107 for eight full meals. I can work with that.
More importantly though, is what does the stuff taste like. My answer to that is, surprisingly good. Obviously, everyone has things they like and don't like. We tried breakfast pizza, and it was horrendous. Most dinners we have tried though, have been pretty darned good. The crab cakes were filled with crab. The baked ziti with ground sausage was better than anyone's homemade Italian style casserole we've had and both the shepherd's pie and chicken pot pie were to die for.
In other words, I'm eating real food, not the family meal sized equivalent of a TV dinner of the like. Certainly, as with any food, there are things we like, things we regularly re order and dishes about which we look at each other and say "eh!",
The bottom line is that prepared food works for us, and Schwans is a big part of that (along with downtown dinners, a local store that has pasta dishes and quiches ready to go and other options). Today, after making more dozens of cookies than I care to admit, and going Christmas shopping as well, I came home, grabbed a prime rib shepherd's pie and threw it in the oven. Granted I added a salad to my meat, potato and vegetables. But the only clean up was dishes and silverware. The container is all able to be recycled. And I got to sit down and put my feet up, both before and after dinner.
What can I say, it works for me. At least for now.