Please: Need VERY CHEAP meal ideas. Any links??? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 18 Old 12-01-2004, 10:52 PM - Thread Starter
 
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So, we find ourselves needing to squeeze the budget some more, and thought that the grocery bill would be the best place to start.

We have been spending a lot of money on groceries, mostly because I am not so creative as to how to cook cheap, yet delicious and nutritious meals. My food tastes good and is pretty healthy, but it has been costing soooo much... I know that if I only take meats off of most meals I will save a bunch of money, but I just don't know how...

I also need ideas on substitutes for kid's favorites such as flavored yogurt, home made cookies, etc - these things cost A LOT and are not so good for them anyways...

So, do you guys have any links I can look up?? THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!
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#2 of 18 Old 12-01-2004, 11:11 PM
 
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I don't have a lot of time (or ideas) right now but here is one: Buy plain or vanilla yogurt in a large tub; it is cheaper that way. Then divide it up into little paper or plastic cups, or ice cube trays. Top off with a chunk or two of strawberry, melon, berry, whatever. Freeze and enjoy.

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#3 of 18 Old 12-01-2004, 11:13 PM
 
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www.just-tell-me-what-to-cook.com is the site of somebody here - I got it off her sig but I don't remember who it was! - there are some very good recipes. Not that many in the meatless section but those there are are yummy.

Google "cheap recipes" and I bet you will come up with lots of links.

Have a trawl of second hand bookshops for cookbooks, possibly those aimed at students since their main focus tends to be thrift. I have a very good one called "Hard Up and Hungry" but unfortunately I think it's only available in England.

What happened to that MDC cookbook?
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#4 of 18 Old 12-01-2004, 11:18 PM
 
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What has really helped us is having "themed" dinner nights. OF course they are subject to change but for example:

Monday~Italian night which can include meatless spaghetti, sometimes meat spaghetti too, homemade pizza, raviolis, and meatless/or meat (ground turkey only for the kids & I) lasagne.

Tuesday~Egg dish which can include quiche, egg casserole, etc.

Wednesday~Thai night I started out buying the prepackaged stuff from Thai Kitchens but you don't need to do that at all! I bought the sauce seperately and the rice noodles at the regular grocery store I think it was albertsons....Anyways try to stay away from pre-packaged foods if at all possible. They are easy but don't save you any money!~Also they aren't so good for you right?

Thursday~Mexican food.....I make my own beans now in the crockpot which is very inexpensive! I used to buy canned black beans and such from Trader Joes but I can get way more for my dollar making them from scratch.

Friday~Breakfast for dinner....This is a real inexpensive way to go. We rotate btwn French toast, pancakes, sometimes have bacon and yogurt variety. Also we do eggs sometimes but not as often since Monday is egg night. I buy the 5 dozen Large eggs at Costco for like 4.25 don't know if you have access but its a great deal that can last quite sometime!

Saturday & Sunday are open maybe a crockpot meal or the occasion of PAPA MURPHY'S if there is a special or I have a coupong

Also Trader Joe's has great prices if you don't already shop there :LOL There bowtie pasta is only .69 for 16 oz, and they have organic whole wheat pasta that we buy too for .99/lb.....Anyways I just went recently if you can't tell.

I hope some of this has helped you It isn't easy & takes a constant reality check of do we really need to buy this, and that?
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#5 of 18 Old 12-01-2004, 11:19 PM
 
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I think the cookbook is in Nutrition & Eating

And yes that tell me what to cook has been helpful at times in our house too
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#6 of 18 Old 12-01-2004, 11:21 PM
 
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I like http://allrecipes.com . You can search by ingredients like what you have on hand or by type of dish or time it takes to cook and prepare. Plus all of them have been ranked by people who've tried them. And you can make a shopping list of all the ones you are gonna use and print it from the site. I used it this week and spent $40 less than normal and did light recipes
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#7 of 18 Old 12-01-2004, 11:24 PM
 
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Bean and rice burritos with cheese are a favorite here. I make up big batches of beans and rice and keep it in the fridge. You can also saute whatever veggies are on hand and toss them in.
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#8 of 18 Old 12-01-2004, 11:27 PM
 
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It's all about soups/stews/chowders and casseroles over yonder. I make a HUGE pot (12-15 cups) of soup and a casserole composed of what we have in the pantry and/or what's on sale and that makes up the bulk of our menu for the week, supplementing with more veggies, fruits and yogurt/milk.
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#9 of 18 Old 12-01-2004, 11:44 PM
 
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The More-with-less cookbook is great! It is a staple in Mennonite kitchens. Tons of cheap, from scratch, menu ideas with an eye towards social responsibility. Interesting read...also has substitutions and the recipes are easy to modify to your needs/tastes.

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#10 of 18 Old 12-01-2004, 11:44 PM
 
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I make HUGE amounts of everything. We eat the same dinner 3 nights in a row, with variations. But if there is someone in your house that isnt cool with leftovers you can freeze meal sized batches. I find that it is waay cheaper to make large batches of things in comparison to making the same dish twice. You can always use all of a vegetable in the larger dishes, leaving no half eaten things in the fridge. And often an extre can of tomatoes will stretch a sauce for an extra night( for a dollar) instead of buying ingredients for a whole other meal. I use all whole foods in our house and cooking everything from scratch can be quite time consuming. I dont want to be in the kitchen ALL day every day if you know what I mean. See if your friends have large amounts of anything in thier cupboard and trade. Learn to make a good soup out of anything and everything... making your own stock will saave you money too. As for the yogourt thing., When you have a little bit of cash buy a large bottle of organic maple syrup at the health food store( it lasts a long time) We get the b grade or #2 grade, it is less refined and therfore has more nutrients. We put a spoonful into a bowl of plain yogourt, a handful of seeds and some chopped dried fruit( or chopped fresh) This is so delicious! I really thought that I would have trouble cutting store bought flavoured yogourt out of my diet, but now 4 years later I would never go back.

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#11 of 18 Old 12-02-2004, 12:31 AM
 
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My grocery store is practically giving away fresh turkeys right now. They are still good--have a sell by date of a week from now. They are going for 19 cents a pound so I picked up a few for the freezer and cooked one. Besides eating it for a few days, I'm making a few casseroles and a huge vat of soup that I will freeze in meal sized portions. If you have freezer space, you might think about doing that.
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#12 of 18 Old 12-02-2004, 01:23 AM
 
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My store didn't have any turkeys on sale -- and I wanted one.

to the helpful part:
Try adding a cheap filler to every meal you usually make, add rice, noodles, beans, frozen, canned, or fresh veggies. You'll be making the same things, but you'll be making the meal bigger (for leftovers) or you can use less raw materials. It's good if you can add something nutritious, but anything cheap works. I buy the big bag of frozen peas at costco and they go in just about everything. It adds about a cup to the recipe, and that's one meal for me for "free".
If you are running low on calories because of the filler, try adding egg or a good oil to the mix.

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#13 of 18 Old 12-02-2004, 05:19 AM
 
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Quesadillas are one of our favorite meatless meals right now: homemade whole wheat tortillas (recipe follows) with homemade refried beans (ridiculously easy -- recipe follows) and cheddar cheese. Spread some refried beans on a tortilla, sprinkle cheese, top with another tortilla, cook on griddle till hot through, flipping once. You can always serve with sour cream, chopped tomato, homemade guac/chopped avocado, onion & so forth if you like. Don't be intimidated by the homemade tortillas, they might turn out lopsided but they're pretty easy. (They do have a several-hour "sitting" period.) Kids love to "help" with this one too :LOL

TORTILLAS
Makes a big batch, but you'll be surprised how fast they go!

5 c whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup shortening or lard
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups boiling water
more flour for rolling

In a big bowl, stir together flour & salt. Rub in the shortening by hand until the mixture is the texture of oatmeal. Make a well in the center, and pour in the boiling water. Mix with a wooden spoon -- the water will incorporate really fast. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface & knead till no longer sticky, and smooth.

Make balls the size of golf balls, about 2 ounces each. Place them on a tray, and cover with a cloth. Let stand for at least 1 hour, or up to 8 hours.

Heat a griddle or large frying pan over medium-high heat. Roll out dough balls 1 at a time; they make tortillas about 6" across. If you flatten them into discs first, then roll out with a light touch & rolling out from the center in all directions, like the spokes of a wheel, they're more likely to turn out round.

Fry for 10 seconds or until a big bubble puffs up. Flip. Cook another 30 seconds or so, till other side is nicely browned too. Roll out the next tortilla while you wait for that one to cook. Repeat till all are cooked. Freezes really well in airtight container.

REFRIED BEANS

Soak 1c beans (pinto are traditional, but small black beans are super yummy) in 4c water or stock in the fridge overnight. Put water, beans & all in a medium saucepan; bring to boil, then reduce heat & simmer 2 hours or till beans smoosh easily with a fork. Remove from heat. Drain the extra liquid out, but don't throw it away.

Season beans with chili, garlic, onion and some salt. Mash the heck out of those beans with a potato masher, adding a little liquid back in as you need it to get a nice consistency. (You could probably use an electric hand mixer, too, but I'm not sure.)

Heat 2 Tb. lard or oil in a heavy frying pan. Add mashed beans, stir and "fry" till heated through again. (I've skipped this step, though, and just used the mashed beans.)

Completed quesadillas -- tortilla, beans and cheese -- freeze nicely in stacks, I've found. Then when you want one, microwave it (flip it halfway through). Not as nice as the ones made on the griddle, but still yummy.
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#14 of 18 Old 12-02-2004, 12:59 PM
 
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As far as making snacks for the kids, just think about your time. It does take extra time so consider when you will be able to cook so you don't plan on making a bunch of stuff & not be able to get to it. I usually spend Sunday afternoons in the kitchen making muffins, waffles, yogurt etc for the kids to have after school during the week. When I bake I like to use a combination of whole wheat pastry flour & oat flour and honey in place of sugar. You get much more nutritious quality & less expensive than buying snack cakes, muffins etc at the store. There's a pumpkin waffle recipe on this forum that my kids love you might search for -- I make a batch & pop in the freezer. Another thing they love to snack on is seasoned ceci. You just take cooked chickpeas/garbanzo beans (either cook dry ones or get canned), toss them in a little olive oil to coat, season with whatever suits you (we like salt, garlic, cumin & chili powder) then dump on a cookie sheet & pop in the oven until they're toasty.
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#15 of 18 Old 12-02-2004, 03:46 PM
 
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I have four suggestions:

Beans

Curry

Rice

Potatoes

These are all incredibly cheap and it's easy to make enough for leftovers. I get big ass cans of organic tomatos for 99 cents at Big Lots and put them in the curry along with tofu or veggies or both. Counting in the price of all the ingredients, it's like under $4 for a gigantic frying pan full of curry... enough to feed four people easily, especially if you serve it with lots of rice (brown or white).

My kids like plain yogurt and whole wheat pancakes and beans straight out of the can. I make homemade crackers too. Those are all fairly cheap for "snack" foods. They also eat rice and fruit and popcorn for snacks.

You can get the goya 12 bean 1 lb bags for 99 cents here. Half of the bag along with broth (or just use water) and veggies makes a BIG pot of soup that's good for at least a couple of meals for a family. I usually make muffins or cornbread to go with it.

Potatoes. We eat these a lot since my daughter loves them. Mashed, french fried, roasted, etc. Carrots are cheap and versatile, too. Probably about 80% of what we eat has a base of beans, rice, potatoes, or whole wheat flour.
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#16 of 18 Old 12-02-2004, 04:49 PM
 
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My kids eat a lot of crispy fried tofu.. It costs me about $2 cdn for a big chunk of organic tofu big enough to feed all my kids.. i dice it into chunks, sprinkle it with nutrional yeast, fry it till its crispy in olive oil and put bragg sauce on it.. they love it and request it all the time.. along with it i make some brown rice and carrot sticks with yogurt dip.. a whole meal for under 5 dollars. We eat this about twice a week for lunch or supper, all of us enjoy it.

Also I make a big pot of homemade soup about twice a week and for lunches we eat soup and sandwiches all week.
Baking your own cakes and muffins and cookies is way cheaper and they are so much healthier without all the extra oils and preservatives.

Investing in a yogurt maker when you are able to is a great idea.. we make a lot of yogurt/frozen berry smoothies, so we go through a lot of plain yogurt.

oo ya and potato pancakes.. my kids love them and i can sneak in other grated veggies they wouldnt normally eat like zuchinni etc

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#17 of 18 Old 12-02-2004, 06:38 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tanjarine
My kids eat a lot of crispy fried tofu.. It costs me about $2 cdn for a big chunk of organic tofu big enough to feed all my kids.. i dice it into chunks, sprinkle it with nutrional yeast, fry it till its crispy in olive oil and put bragg sauce on it.. [/URL]
Did a search for it, but didn't come up with anything useful.
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#18 of 18 Old 12-02-2004, 07:29 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Siana
Did a search for it, but didn't come up with anything useful.
Bragg Liquid Seasoning
Its an alternative to soya sauce or tamari.. not so salty.. we have used it for years instead of regular soya sauce so my kids dont know the difference,, i can buy it at my local grocery store or health food store. A big bottle lasts us months and months. Im sure they must sell it at american whole foods stores..
Tanja
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