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Dinner on a dime: Gainesville residents skillet ham is a frugal fall favorite
Renee Strickland’s recipe for skillet ham is featured in Dinners on a Dime, a new Gooseberry Patch cookbook. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Fall is under way - work is getting harder, school is getting more stressful and daylight is running out. Who has time to breathe, much less cook a hearty meal for the family?

Thankfully, the editors of Gooseberry Patch had busy readers in mind when developing "Dinners on a Dime," a cookbook for the budget-conscious person on the go.

Hidden inside this cookbook (one of 190 Gooseberry Patch books) is a local gem: "Renee's Skillet Ham & Tomatoes," a recipe created by Gainesville's own Renee Strickland.

"I made this recipe up myself. My mom used to make rice and tomatoes. I just did my own thing with it. I've been cooking it for years. You will really like it," said Strickland.

The main ingredients of "Renee's Skillet Ham & Tomatoes" are either pre-cooked or canned, leaving minimal preparation time and optimal free time once the meal is finished.

Because this recipe is an entire meal in one dish, it is cheap, but efficient. It takes no more than 30 minutes to make (including preparation) and costs less than $15 for eight servings. All of that, and it does not skimp on taste.

"This is such an easy recipe to make. The hardest part is chopping the onions, but you can even buy those pre-chopped, now ... they will just cost you more," Strickland advised.

With little prep time and cheap ingredients, one would assume all that would be left is the ability to cook. However, Strickland would beg to differ.

Many people claim they cannot cook, but she argues that you cannot knock it before you try it.

"If you think you can't cook, just try it. Even though you say you can't, try it and see how easy this recipe actually is."

"Dinners on a Dime" may focus on low-cost recipes, but the majority of its 200 recipes follow the same path as Strickland's dish, giving home cooks an easy alternative to dinners that take too much time and too much cash away from more important things in their lives.

Similar ideas are expressed through all of Gooseberry Patch's cookbooks. With themes from Halloween favorites to Christmas cookies, there is a cookbook for everyone.

A long-time follower of Gooseberry Patch cookbooks, Strickland jumped on the opportunity to submit an original recipe.

"I am a Gooseberry Patch fan. I love all of their cookbooks. I subscribe to their e-mail, where they requested recipe submissions for "Dinners on a Dime." The only qualification was that (the recipe) had to be budget-conscious. This one is very inexpensive. I didn't have any idea I got chosen until I received the book in the mail. I was tickled."

Every inspiring chef is invited to submit original recipes. In fact, there is a call for "quick and easy game-day recipes" now. All interested should submit a recipe to Gooseberry Patch's website,

"This is the first time I've ever entered a recipe - I did it to get a free cookbook. I would definitely enter again," Strickland said.

"Dinners on a Dime" provides a source for tasty, cost-effective eats that anyone can prepare. The best part, Strickland has even more advice for chefs on a budget.

"I am an avid user of southern Through this site, I easily save over 50 percent on my grocery bill."

Southern Savers, along with other savings websites, like, show where to find the best deals on everyday groceries as well as offering links to printable coupons not found in a Sunday newspaper.

"The way the economy is right now, anything you can do to cut the cost of your grocery bill is great," said Strickland. "I stockpile coupons to ensure I get the best deal, but I know I will save with "Dinners on a Dime." This cookbook is very economical."

If you're a person who believes there is not enough time in a day, or that it costs less to order out than staying in, try "Dinners on a Dime." While there are many wonderful recipes throughout the cookbook, Strickland's appears on page 146, begging you to give it a try.

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