Monday, September 19, 2011

Cheap Meals

This morning I posted on Facebook about a show I watched on the Food Network called "Sandra's Money-Saving Meals," where the hostess made a meal for $20 (without even using something expensive like steak or seafood!) and called it budget-friendly. I'm sure her show might be helpful to some people who aren't used to cooking at home and need to start with some baby steps. But it sparked some fun discussion on my status about what we all typically spend on groceries a month and how much our average meals cost. It varied, but one thing we all agreed on is that $20 is NOT money-saving for the average family for a weekday meal! =)

Anyway, I am not at all an expert when it comes to sticking to a budget for grocery shopping. Andrew can certainly attest to the fact that I have blown way too much money on groceries too many times to count! My problem has always been not sticking to meal-planning consistently, as when I don't meal-plan, I go haphazardly through the grocery store grabbing everything that inspires me, top that off with the ingredients for a few recipes I'm wanting to try, and then faint when I get to the register and see the total. Add another fainting session when at the end of the week I realize that a special vegetable I bought for a certain recipe was forgotten about and is rotting in my veggie drawer because I got distracted with all the other cool things I bought. It's really appalling. =)

Now that I have more time on my hands, I'm working on being consistent in the thrifty habits that I know work if I use them. I am still spending more than I would like right now because there are a lot of items that I keep as staples in my pantry/fridge that had to be thrown out when we moved, and I'm slowly replacing them. Moving sucks! But it is still encouraging to break down my grocery bills and see how much our meals are actually costing me. And on average, mine cost about $3 to $6 depending on what meat I'm using. Speaking of meat, I like to buy it in bulk. Last week, I bought a big package of chicken leg quarters and a big pack of boneless, skinless chicken breasts for a total of $20, and that worked out to enough meat for 8 meals. Nice!

I can attribute my ability to make cheap meals mostly to the fact that I grew up cooking for my family of 12. Cooking was one of my daily chores and it was one chore I didn't mind having! However, we couldn't afford fancy ingredients or expensive cuts of meat, or any of the processed ingredients that can make cooking easy. I learned how to work magic on chicken, ground beef/turkey, beans, and cheap cuts of pork, even if the recipe I was trying called for something we couldn't afford or keep in the pantry.

This is a meal my mom found originally and I still make periodically to this day. It is cheap, delicious, and not at all bad for you! =)

Salisbury "Steaks"

Break up 1lb of lean ground beef into a bowl. Add 1/4 cup dry bread crumbs or 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, a sprinkle of garlic powder, 1 beaten egg, and a generous sprinkling of parsley.

From Blogger Pictures

Mix and form patties. Place the patties in a heated deep frying pan. If the beef is very lean add a bit of oil to the pan to keep them from burning.

From Blogger Pictures

Cook the burgers for about 4 minutes on each side, then take them out and put on a plate.
Add 2 cups of beef broth to the pan. Stir to deglaze the pan and let the broth heat up til almost ready to boil. Dissolve a few tablespoons of cornstarch in half a cup of water and slowly stir into the broth a little at a time until it has reached the thickness you want. If you accidentally get it too thick, just add a little water.

From Blogger Pictures

Add the burgers back into the pan and reduce the heat to low.

From Blogger Pictures

Cover and let simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until burgers are cooked through. Add a bit of salt to the gravy if needed. Serve over mashed potatoes, rice, or pasta. Yummy!

From Blogger Pictures

A few notes: This meal probably cost me around $4, and made enough for 3 people (meaning I had leftovers for lunch the next day!). You can use ground turkey instead of ground beef (just switch the beef broth to chicken), and also add mushrooms and onions. Also, I use chicken and beef broth a LOT. I would spend a lot of money on it if I hadn't discovered "Better than Bouillon" organic condensed stock. Costco has jars of both chicken and beef  for about $6 each that make 78 cups of stock. The grocery store carries a smaller jar that makes 38 cups of stock for $4. It's not quite as convenient as the bottles/cans of stock, since you have to dissolve the "gel" in hot water first, but the price makes it more than worthwhile!

1 comment:

  1. That looks like a great idea!! I'm from the south so we are always eating things like that, I will have to try!

    Thanks for sharing!