Monday, October 22, 2007

Frugal Food

Having stared at the computer for 15 literal minutes this morning trying to come up with a weekly menu, I know how daunting menu planning can be. Why is it sometimes it's as easy as breathing? Something I look forward to doing? And other times it's frustrating and nothing sounds good or right or like it goes together.

Back in a minute, I've forgotten (yes, really, forgotten) to start the homemade rolls for supper tonight. Ugh.

Okay, back. Anyway.

I've definitely felt the pinch with grocery shopping too. Times when I've needed to spend as little as possible at the store and yet still not compromise nutrition.

Andrea has asked for our help. She needs to feed her large family of hearty eaters for as little as possible. And that's something that a lot of us could benefit from, especially at this time of year. The problem is, she lives nowhere close to me and I'm not sure that the things that I can find cheaply here are the same things she can find cheaply there.

So the only thing I know to do is to post ideas instead of menu's and/or recipes.

My husband is a meat eater. He'll tolerate a meatless meal about once a week, and after that he just isn't happy if there is no meat for supper. But there are ways to work around that. My recipe for Cheesy Chicken Casserole only takes one can of chicken and it feeds our family for 2 nights. If I wanted to plump up the casserole with more stuff, I'd throw in an extra can of vegetables. I buy them at A*ldi's for 39¢. I get the chicken for less than $2 a can at Sam's. The whole dish costs me about $5.50. And that's for 2 suppers. My younger girls don't eat a lot, but even if you only got one meal and then lunch the next day...that's pretty good for a meat meal.

Tuna Patties is another good one. You feel like you've gotten a big piece of meat, but the reality is that it's pretty frugal. It cost me about $4 - $4.50 to make the huge pan of 12 patties depending on how cheaply I can get tuna (I found it on sale at Target last week for $1.58 for the huge family size pouches of 12oz). I don't know if you can tell, but these patties are bigger than the palm of your hand and about 3/4 or so inch thick. Now, of course you'll have to serve this with some side items. But for a meat dish, this is pretty reasonable.

Meatloaf is a family favorite here and fairly economical. It costs appr. $9 to make the big meatloaf. It feeds my family of 5 for 3 nights (2 of the nights being sandwiches). I can make a huge bowl of instant mashed potatoes for less than $1. Homemade rolls to eat the first night and use with the sandwiches the next 2 nights for less than 50¢. Throw in a green vegetable of choice (we used canned turnip greens...we're southern you know. :) Add more breadcrumbs and spices if you need to stretch it farther.

You can also use the meatloaf recipe to make about a gazillion meatballs. Cook them up and then freeze them. They're *fabulous* on cheap spaghetti.

Also, being from the south, we like beans and cornbread. And beans and rice. I try to have one bean only (meaning no meat) meal ever couple of weeks. I'll make a huge crockpot full of beans. Pintos. Small red beans are really good. Black beans. It doesn't matter. The first night we have either beans and (brown) rice or beans and cornbread. (Any leftover rice is eaten, sweetened and with a touch of milk/cream and dried fruit, for breakfast.)

The next night, I'll brown some ground beef with homemade taco seasoning and we'll have beef and bean burritos. All you have to add is cheese (though lettuce, onion, peppers, sour cream etc is good too). Then I freeze whatever is leftover (and there *will* be leftovers) in cup sized containers. The next I'm pushed for something quick for supper, bean burritos it is! The kids love it.

Another one of Andrea's readers suggested pasta, which is always a good idea. Another good idea is Rice a Roni. A couple of boxes of this is simple and easy. Top with a couple of meatballs or just a bit of chicken (pulled from a whole crockpot chicken or one breast sauteed in a bit of oil will feed my whole family with the rice a roni dish for less than $6)

Baked potatoes are really good and fairly cheap. They can be topped with just about any leftovers you have or even a can of cheap chili and a handful of cheese. Oven potatoes work the same way and are usually a crowd pleaser.

Whew! Okay, I'm gonna stop now. If I can find a way to make this more coherent, I will. And I'm sure I'll think up more stuff.

If you have any great frugal meal ideas, please share them. I know I get in a rut and it's great to have other ideas!


Andrea said...

Thank You sooo much Michelle.These are some really great ideas. I will be keeping an eye out on your comments and hope others join in. I haven't had the response to this I had hoped for. My hubby is very similar to yours. He will eat nonmeat meals but he doesn't like them frequently. And he likes variety. That is the biggest challenge. I know that grocery prices are kind of steep here. Even Wal*mart is expensive. I told someone the other day that a 20 qt box of powdered milk is about $17 at this Wal*mart.
Again, thank you so much for helping with this. And if you think of any more ideas please share. You can always contact me by email if you would like.
Andrea :)

Homeschooling Momma said...

I love how you share a ton of info on your blog! It helps so much. I've also given you an award! Check it out on my blog! Tonya

Lindsey @ Enjoythejourney said...

One of our favorite frugal meals around here is angel hair pasta with pesto sauce, or alfredo sauce. Sprinkle with a little cheese (your favorite)...and if we have pine nuts bought in bulk still in stock at home, we toss in a few of those too.

It is delicious.

The hard time I have with eating frugally is eating WELL. So many times we sacrifice good health in the name of frugality. Yea, the store has triple coupons, and we can get that box of hamburger helper for only .50....but is it HEALTHY for us and our family???

That is the balance I strive to find. I could be a real foodie/omnivore if I allowed myself to spend the cash!

Carrie J said...

I'm not really that good at planning meals. I have a list of things I have made for inspiration. One of the things I serve the most, especially in the winter and if money is tight, are soups. They are easy to stretch if needed and feed us at least 2 meals.
Homemade chicken noodle and cornbread is a favorite. I like potato soup, which can be made with instant potatos if needed. Corn Chowder is another favorite. I sometimes use a bag of frozen mixed veggies instead.
Hamburger soup is one my family loves.
My husband is a meat eater as well, but I have found that if I serve a hearty soup along with a good homemade or dense textured bread, especially cornbread, and a dessert of some sort he is fine with it.

Melissa said...

Hi- I wanted to add that you can really fancy up the Pasta Roni with imitation crabmeat. Sometimes it's on sale for B1G1 in my area(North West Florida) and it's great as a topping for alfredo Pasta Roni--can't remember the real name for the product, but the imitation crab makes it a little special. It's also great over the Ragu alfredo sauce. Sometimes I'm able to get that on sale for pretty cheap.

I can't wait to try your tuna pattie recipe. My husband likes salmon patties but I don't like the bones that come in canned salmon. The tuna sounds like a nice compromise for us.