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Cost effective recipes?

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 

I'm sorry... I don't know if this should go here or in nutrition, but I'm going to put it here in hopes it will get some good responses! I am desperately in need of some really cost effective (read:cheap!) recipes that my kids will eat. We have no restrictions. The bean/rice thread is GREAT, but what about other 'cheap' food items? Like potatoes, ground beef, pasta, casseroles, etc.....


post #2 of 17

I can generally make spaghetti for under $2/person (much less actually, since there are usually leftovers), and that includes a bag of green beans for our side dish.


Soups and stews are usually great too, especially if you're careful with the meat.  You don't need a whole lot of meat to make a good, filling, tasty soup, so you can get 2-3 of them out of one whole chicken, plus the carcass makes a great broth.  And the nice thing about them is that you can mess around and make all kinds of variations. :)  Some of our favorites are chicken salsa stew, beef and barley veg stew, turkey and rice soup, things like that.


In my experience, the *least* cost-effective meals are those with large, seperate elements and meat as the main part--like just a plain roasted chicken, or a pot roast or something with several side dishes.  

post #3 of 17

Veggie heavy stirfrys and Asian-style soups are pretty cheap. I like to make Thai Noodle Soup utilizing ramen noodles. 


This has been a very popular topic around here these days. :-) You might want to check out the How to budget and eat healthy thread, the Ground beef thread, and the Meals on the cheap - Under $2.00 meal ideas thread. Oh, and Cheap crockpot recipes and Let's Talk Tuna

post #4 of 17
We like to make pizza from scratch for something that is inexpensive and pretty yummy. The individual ingredients are cheap, and we put up our own sauces this summer from our garden.
post #5 of 17

My familys favorite cheap recipes include :


1. Lettuce wraps. You add whatever meat you wish (leftover chicken, a small amount of hamburger) and lots of veggies. I've found that fresh veggies are getting really expensive, so adding frozen works just as well and can be more cost efficient, depending on the time of year. Sometimes we might add rice, but usually not. Throw the filling in a piece of lettuce and top with hoisin sauce. (or add it on the side) I've found that 'Golden Dragon' is the best hoisin sauce. My kids love assembling their 'little lettuce pockets.' I love that that this is super easy, quick, and good.


2. Chicken pot pie. Buying a (3) pack of chickens or even one whole chicken helps keep cost down. Make you own crust, throw in some frozen veggies and you have a great tasting low cost meal.


Another cheap recipe I cook once in awhile is hotdogs and potatoes. I know it sounds gross, but what you do is cut up the hotdogs and fry them in a pan, and add some potatoes, cook until potaoes are tender and add some tomato sauce. Make sure to add your choice of seasonings, we usually add some garlic powder and seasoning salt. I also add lots of garlic and some onions.


I wish I could say I could get away with cooking soups (which are very cost effective) for my family, but my husband doesn't consider soup a good dinner choice and usually scoffs when I try to make a soup for dinner. We do love to make pea sound with ham, which is really cheap and good, and very filling. Now I'm wishing for pea soup lol.


Anyways, don't know if this was helpful, hopefully it was :) Looking forward to other recipes.



post #6 of 17
Another recipe I make that is pretty inexpensive is potato soup. When we get a whole chicken or turkey, I always use the carcass to make broth. I'll use several cups of broth, several potatoes cubed, a diced onion, a little butter, and whatever seasonings. At the end of cooking, I add some milk or cream (totally optional), and thicken with powdered potatoes instead of roux. You can add meat if you'd like. It is good with ham or bacon.
post #7 of 17
Originally Posted by cameragirl View Post

Another recipe I make that is pretty inexpensive is potato soup. When we get a whole chicken or turkey, I always use the carcass to make broth. I'll use several cups of broth, several potatoes cubed, a diced onion, a little butter, and whatever seasonings. At the end of cooking, I add some milk or cream (totally optional), and thicken with powdered potatoes instead of roux. You can add meat if you'd like. It is good with ham or bacon.

Yes potato soup is really tasty. I also make my own broth after cooking up a chicken, it's easy and yummy and can be used in many different recipes. I found a great recipe on allrecipes.com I believe it's called Golden Potato Soup . So good.


post #8 of 17

Soup and sandwich. Pancakes and fruit (that we canned this summer), veggie pain is on homemade bread. Stirfry (with whatever is in the fridge) and rice. Eggs and potatoes. Pasta with homemade pesto or sauce. 

post #9 of 17

Depending on where you shop dishes with eggs can be cost effective as they are a good protein source as well. Add some chopped vegetables and a little cheese to an omlette and you have a balanced meal. A side tip is if you want to make stew is not to buy stew beef that is all cut up already=tres expensive. I buy a roast that is on a good price and cut it up myself. Don't buy converted rice-buy rice that you have to cook 20 minutes and buy it by the bag. Also don't make recipes that call for ingredients that you buy and won't use again i.e. an odd ball spice.


post #10 of 17

I make shepard's pie quiet often.  I don't usually follow a recipe, but simply use whatever I have on hand.  










leftover chicken/ham/beef


Season with:






Top with mashed potatoes and bake till golden.  This is one of those easy recipes that is helpful in using up the last bits of everything in the fridge.  I made it the other night and added a big handful of sauteed garden kale to the mashed potatoes and we called it 'green pie'.  



My dh and kids like this a lot since it looks like a proper meal.  There is something about the casserole that makes even leftovers feel more substantial.  


post #11 of 17
My favorite cheap meal is Chili.... I make a HUGE pot and we have it with crackers, cheese and dollup of sour cream on the first night, we freeze the leftovers and use it for...

a.) Coney dogs
b.) Chili spaghetti
c.) Chili over fried potatoes (DH's all-time favorite meal!)
d.) Chili over eggs (my favorite)

You gotta love a meal that uses 2# of ground beef but makes at LEAST 5 meals for a family of 5! smile.gif
post #12 of 17

We pretty much eat what's been mentioned above. :) Like today, I threw some chick peas in the crock pot, some chopped up veggies and three different kinds of sausages and viola! Dinner for today and again for another night this coming week. Cheap and easy for a family of 7.

post #13 of 17
Thread Starter 

thanks so much everyone! this is exactly what I needed! and thanks for the links to other threads too :)

post #14 of 17

I was thinking of this thread today while I was prepping food.  


I made a pot of veggie chili and then tossed it with cooked ww penne and baked it with a sprinkle of cheese on top.  I cleaned out the fridge while making the chili -- small bits of carrot, celery, onions, zucchini, all of the little bits that were limp.  My kids wolfed it down for dinner.  They usually make a fuss when I serve veggie chili, but add noodles and a bit of cheese and they proclaimed me a culinary genius.  


I think I might make it again with italian herbs, tomato sauce, penne, sauteed spinach, maybe some sausage if it is on sale. 


I made a second dish (I was cooking for 2 dinners and several days worth of lunches).  I cooked a pot of brown rice.  Sauteed a bunch of kale from the garden with onions.  Added sunflower seeds, milk, a couple of eggs.  Sprinkled some parmesean on top and baked it.  Another big hit.


I don't what it is about a casserole, but my kids love them.  And what a budget stretcher.  Both of these were vegetarian with good veggies, fiber, protein from the beans and eggs, and made everyone happy.  I think I am going to include more meals like this into our menu plan.  They are easy, frugal, and I can prep them early in the day and then bake them later in the day.  Also,  great leftovers for lunches.  

post #15 of 17

My kids and I love gravy w/ anything. I use bacon grease, left-over drippings,  left-over scraps of meat,  or just, butter, oil, or margarine to make gravy. Usually white flour, but corn starch or whole-wheat flour can work too.  With dried chipped beef it becomes "cream chipped beef".


  • Mashed potatoes & gravy
  • Rice & gravy
  • Toast & gravy
  • Biscuits and gravy





Other Ideas...


Fried rice

Stir fried noodles  -    - you can any left-over pasta and stir fry it w/ whatever is around








post #16 of 17

I just posted this recipe under another thread - http://simplyrecipes.com/recipes/moms_chili_beans/  I like the combo of the chili over the rice. The recipe calls for pinto beans but I often grab whatever type is on sale.


I pre-brown my ground beef and freeze it so when I make this dish, it is a very quick meal.  Cooked rice also freezes well.

post #17 of 17

These are more ideas and techniques rather than recipes! I have been making lots of dried beans lately - soak, drain, cover in water in crockpot, cook until soft. You can add salt, but no acid, or they won't get soft. Then I use

* black beans for bean & rice bowls, add toppings like cheese, lettuce, salsa, etc.

* pintos for pinto bean stew - when beans are cooked, drain off excess water & add tomatoes, maybe some finely chopped onion and garlic, and some chipotle chile to taste - cook until it all blends together. Serve over rice.

* chickpeas for chickpea curry - we have an Indian neighborhood nearby, so I buy spice packets & cook up with some onion, garlic, ginger & tomatoes

* white beans for soup (best with greens, which are something like $0.49/lb. right now where I live)


For meat meals, I make chicken drumsticks a lot. Chicken in the crockpot with BBQ sauce is also easy and good. I second the lettuce wraps!


For fish, I really only buy frozen tilapia filets and canned wild salmon (for sustainability reasons and being in the Midwest w/out good sources of fresh fish). I use Thai red curry (a tub costs $3-4 but lasts a long time) and coconut milk with a splash of fish sauce and some lime juice (limes 10 for $1 at the ethnic markets currently) to make fish curry with the tilapia. DH is having trouble with dairy products, so I haven't made salmon pasta bake in a while, but it's good - make a simple white sauce (saute some flour in butter, slowly add milk while whisking), mix w/ cooked pasta, canned salmon and any seasonings you want, then top w/ cheese or bread crumbs and bake. There is a Swedish version of this called Jansen's Surprise (sp?) made with sliced potatoes instead of pasta.


Other vegetarian -

* Before the dairy issues I used to also make pasta bake with red sauce and veggies (frozen spinach is good & broccoli). To make that, just mix cooked pasta with red sauce (always sales on that) and steamed veggies and top with cheese. Bake until cheese is bubbly. You could add sausage or ground meat if you eat that.

* Tofu! An easy one is tofu w/ peanut sauce (I used a mix last night, but it's easy enough to make w/ hot water to thin the peanut butter, then add your seasonings - garlic, lime, chili sauce, a touch of honey, etc.) served over brown rice w/ a green vegetable on the side.

* Lime coleslaw (I've seen cabbage as low as $0.16/lb. this week) as a side dish: shred cabbage with a carrot, mix w/ vinaigrette: oil, lime juice, garlic, salt, pepper, a little sweetener. Yummy and not gloppy like conventional coleslaw. Nice as a side dish w/ rice & chicken.

* Baked potato bar - I make these in the crockpot, too - just wrap potatoes in foil & place in crockpot w/out water, cook until soft. Top with whatever you put on baked potatoes.


Hope that helps!

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