It’s important to have a core set of recipes which are simple to prepare but always welcome on the table. For breakfast we always have fried oatmeal, i.e. thick-cut oats (cheap) which are toasted in butter (cheap) and then boiled for a few minutes, with some sort of sweetener—for us, homemade brown sugar, i.e. white sugar plus blackstrap molasses (cheap). For lunch, it might be a "Mexican" macaroni casserole, with diced tomatoes and cheese and ground meat (all cheap) or macaroni & cheese (cheap) plus a salad (free). Supper is often built on beans and rice—red beans and rice with sausage chunks, pinto beans and rice with cheddar cheese and salsa garnishes, soup beans, black bean soup over rice—all cheap.
Those are family favorites, not only when they make their first appearance but as leftovers. Partly it’s because they are good recipes, partly it’s because our tastes have simplified over the last few years. For example, pesto is not a luxury for us—Debbie puts up a bunch of it when basil is in season, and we eat it often over spaghetti noodles or coating some sort of meat—but it is always a treat, simple and honest. A repertoire of such easy-to-prepare recipes, each made in sufficient quantity to generate leftovers that can be looked forward to, helps to reduce time spent cooking. (You know you’ve conquered leftovers when it’s hard to decide which one you want!)
There is a tension that must be acknowledged between the gourmet-level complexity commonly championed by local food advocates, and the need for self-sufficient households aiming to reduce the workload wherever possible. I’m all for delighting in food, but one can take just as much delight in simple, wholesome dishes as in complex ones—though it may require some training of the palate.