Post your one least expensive meal and cost - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 100 Old 01-04-2006, 08:55 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Here's mine: My least expensive meal costs as little as $1.75 for three of us. And it can be made with all leftovers except for the bread part which can be made for as little as .25.

Take an ovenproof skillet. It can be cast iron or an enamelled camping one, but it has to have a handle that can go in the oven. It's also nice if it's slightly rounded, like a saute pan, but that's not necessary.

Quickly (a couple of minutes) saute some veggies ($1) in a tiny bit of canola oil or other healthy oil. Add whatever herbs or spices you want. Take off the heat and top with canned beans, a few beaten eggs, cooked meat chunks, or cheese (.50). Cover the whole thing with your favorite homemade biscuit or cornmeal dough (.25).

Bake in the oven until the dough is cooked and browning.

Turn the whole thing over carefully onto a plate (like the way you turn over a jello mold or bundt cake). It's a meal and a centerpiece for less than $2. And it's as varied as your imagination.
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#2 of 100 Old 01-04-2006, 09:15 PM
 
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On a really bad day we have 9 small baked potatoes (a 5lb sack is only £1.50 so maybe 30p?)which cook in less than an hour with tinned beans which are very cheap here (2x9p) with grated cheese (50p) and a green vegetable something like broccoli (60p) or spinach/greens (30p)

For 2 big people, 2 medium and one small child for under £2
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#3 of 100 Old 01-04-2006, 09:47 PM
 
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Mmmmmm yum! In rough times, older dd and I have gotten by with mac and cheese(or just plain pasta with butter dpeneding on whether we have cheese or not) topped with frozen veggies. Definitely a kid-please in this house!


Meg

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#4 of 100 Old 01-04-2006, 11:41 PM
 
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Our cheapest meal has to be the lentil-rice casserole from the Tightwad Gazette (you can probably Google it), served with a cabbage salad. It has to be about $1.50 to feed all 4 of us, with leftovers. All organic too.

Pinto beans and corn tortillas has to be pretty cheap too. A half pound of organic beans is 60 cents, plus 30 cents worth of tortillas, plus more of that cheap and healthy cabbage salad. Definitely under $1.50, even with salsa. We splurge though, and add a can of sliced black olives for 79 cents.

Of course, we actually eat a lot more produce than these meals would suggest. Which is why our grocery bill is pretty high.
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#5 of 100 Old 01-05-2006, 09:04 PM
 
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Great thread!

Though I am cooking illiterate and have nothing to add

Mama to 9 so far:Mother of Joey (20), Dominick (13), Abigail (11), Angelo (8), Mylee (6), Delainey (3), Colton (2) and Baby 8 and Baby 9 coming sometime in July 2013.   If evolution were true, mothers would have three arms!

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#6 of 100 Old 01-07-2006, 07:13 PM
 
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My cheapest meal is a two-three night thing. I make a pound of black beans(only about about $1.10 a pound when bought in bulk). Then I make some flour tortillas (only about .25-.35 to make if that). With some rice and grated cheese and some steamed veggies or salad to go with. Then on the second night (probably a couple of days later) I will make some white sauce enchiladas. I will wrap the beans and rice into the tortillas and fill a large glass pan full of them. The I will make a basic white sauce with a half cube of butter (or margarine) 1/4 a cup of flour and some milk. Sprinkle with cheese and pop in the oven. We are only a family of three so we always have enough leftovers to make up yet another meal! That's 3 meals for only a few dollars!

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#7 of 100 Old 01-08-2006, 02:05 PM - Thread Starter
 
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You know I have a real question as to whether or not it's more economical to make foods like beans from dried stock compared to using canned beans. I mean, cooking a pound of black beans for 8 hours on my stovetop uses 1500 watts for eight hours which costs another $1.20 for that food. Using a 2000 watt oven (which does cycle on and off) for another two hours costs approximately another .30. So the question about the beans is, can I buy the same amount of cooked beans for less than $2.20 of dried and electricity used to cook them (not to mention the water and soap used to clean up after cooking them)?

So are we as frugal moms taking into account the cost of our utility use when figuring cost of meals? And if I invest in a pressure cooker, am I figuring the cost of the appliance into the long-term results. For instance, if I'm not going to make waffles more than once a month, but when I make them, I do make enough to freeze a bunch, is the $35 waffle iron cost, plus ingredients (like actual butter -about the only thing I buy butter for- for $4 a month for waffles) economically feasible? If I break the appliance cost down by 12 for the first year and add ingredients, is it reasonable to spend $8 on 24 waffles per month for the first year? I can get freezer waffles on sale for 2 for $2.50 so 4 packages for $5 is $3 less than homemade. AND no mess, no additional hot water and soap use to clean the waffle iron.

Okay so maybe I'm just crazy, but this IS the method I use to determine whether a system is economically and reasonably justified in my home. It gives me the power of choice. When the children were younger, it made them feel very special when I went through this long drawn out procedure with REAL butter (yummy) just so they could enjoy waffles. So the extra money spent there meant streamlining another system by $3. I read being frugal doesn't mean being cheap; it means knowing exactly what everything costs, including time and energy, AND as well what benefits you get from that expenditure, and then having choice about whether or not to invest your time and money into that thing.

And the turnover meal I posted uses about .11 of electricity for both the stovetop saute and the 20 minutes in the oven.
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#8 of 100 Old 01-08-2006, 03:50 PM
 
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I'm with you on the beans. I use canned but keep dried for emergency use only.

Mom of a 7 yr old, 4 yr old, and 1 yr old. Wow. How did that happen?
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#9 of 100 Old 01-08-2006, 07:34 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rabbithorns
You know I have a real question as to whether or not it's more economical to make foods like beans from dried stock compared to using canned beans. I mean, cooking a pound of black beans for 8 hours on my stovetop uses 1500 watts for eight hours which costs another $1.20 for that food. Using a 2000 watt oven (which does cycle on and off) for another two hours costs approximately another .30. So the question about the beans is, can I buy the same amount of cooked beans for less than $2.20 of dried and electricity used to cook them (not to mention the water and soap used to clean up after cooking them)?
The organic beans the I make cost about $1.10 a pound. Compared to a 1 small can of beans cost about $1.25. A pound of cooked beans equals at least 4-5 cans of prepared beans. I soak them over night in water and then I boil them for 2-3 hours covered on low-medium heat. It takes much less effort or time then it would take to drive to the store to buy the canned beans. It does how ever take slightly more organization, but to me that is worth the 3-4 dollars I save once a week on beans. How do you think that these companies cook the beans, can them, label them, and distribute them if they weren't making a profit? .

Quote:
Originally Posted by rabbithorns
So are we as frugal moms taking into account the cost of our utility use when figuring cost of meals? And if I invest in a pressure cooker, am I figuring the cost of the appliance into the long-term results. For instance, if I'm not going to make waffles more than once a month, but when I make them, I do make enough to freeze a bunch, is the $35 waffle iron cost, plus ingredients (like actual butter -about the only thing I buy butter for- for $4 a month for waffles) economically feasible? If I break the appliance cost down by 12 for the first year and add ingredients, is it reasonable to spend $8 on 24 waffles per month for the first year? I can get freezer waffles on sale for 2 for $2.50 so 4 packages for $5 is $3 less than homemade. AND no mess, no additional hot water and soap use to clean the waffle iron.
I would consider it very unfrugal to go out and buy a brand new waffle iron. I was given my waffle iron and I have seen PLENTY of them at yard sales or even consignment shops. Do you really go through all $4 worth of butter EVERY month just on waffles? My recipe does not even require butter unless you're talking about the little bit that you melt on top. The waffles that I make only cost about $.75 for a double batch. Even if you bought an over priced used waffle iron for $10 you would only be paying $1.58 if you made one double batch a month for the first year. The next year it would only cost about $.75 a month. Maybe you should measure and compare the killowatt output of the toaster compared to the waffle iron. Since I make a double batch I save electricity by not having to repeatedly heat it like you would a toaster.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rabbithorns
Okay so maybe I'm just crazy, but this IS the method I use to determine whether a system is economically and reasonably justified in my home. It gives me the power of choice. When the children were younger, it made them feel very special when I went through this long drawn out procedure with REAL butter (yummy) just so they could enjoy waffles. So the extra money spent there meant streamlining another system by $3. I read being frugal doesn't mean being cheap; it means knowing exactly what everything costs, including time and energy, AND as well what benefits you get from that expenditure, and then having choice about whether or not to invest your time and money into that thing.

And the turnover meal I posted uses about .11 of electricity for both the stovetop saute and the 20 minutes in the oven.
Yes, being frugal does mean the you need to know how much everything costs and factor that in, but you can't just go by one recipe. That's like going by only one opinion without doing the research yourself.

One other thing that I would like to add is that even if it actually did cost me a little bit more (which it doesn't) to make my family good preservative free food I would do it. I do not want my dd eating things full of sodium and artifical flavorings and colorings, or ingredients that I can't even pronounce. The things that they put in foods now a days are scary and are putting people at risk for a lot of health problems, and I will try my hardest to keep most of these things out of my home.

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#10 of 100 Old 01-08-2006, 07:55 PM
 
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We're meat eaters and DH hates beans, so my favorite super-frugal meal is a cooked whole chicken, because I get three meals out of it. I just made one, so I have the package here. I only buy meat on sale, so it was $3.50. It was around 5 lbs.

First night, we had it as roast chicken, and I served it with roasted potatoes (20 cents each maybe and we use three? Don't know since I don't know what they weigh, but a bag is around $1.50 on sale) and roasted carrots (50 cents or so for the whole batch). $2.26 for the meal if I count 1/3 of the chicken ($1.16).

Second night, we had a hot chicken salad casserole. Leftover chopped chicken, 1 cup cooked rice (1/2 cup dry), some chopped celery (1 rib) and onion (1/2 a small onion), and a few tablespoons of mayonnaise. I'm guessing $1.50 at the most, since I buy rice in a 20 lb bag, I have no clue how much a half cup costs. Served with baked (microwaved actually) acorn squash. $2 for the whole meal.

Third night, we'll have chicken and dumplings. I'll boil the carcass, pick off any meat that is left (and there is a cup or two left on there, I'd say) then add some sliced carrots, potatoes, celery and onion (and herbs to season). Cook until veggies are soft, add some flour mixed with water to thicken. I make my dumplings out of fake bisquick and milk. Again, guessing it's $1.75. We'll probably have frozen broccoli or corn with it, because fresh veggies in Ohio in January are less nutritious than frozen. I'll use about a third of a 75 cent bag, so I'm still thinking $2 for the meal.

Not only that, but I have the chicken juices and fat that I saved to use in flavoring veggies. So I got three meals and some flavoring out of one little chicken. What can I say...it's winter, we're in the Midwest...I'm a comfort food kinda gal.

Mom to Liz (14) and Dillon (3) and Mitchell FINALLY born 7/11/10!
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#11 of 100 Old 01-08-2006, 08:04 PM
 
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I chop 2 onions and add it to boiling water. I make a bunch of brown rice (~6-10 cups) in the water. About 10 minutes before it is done, I add as much broccoli as I can. Then when it is done, I mix in 2 cans (rinsed/drained) white beans (navy/northern) and dried basil. I heat everything, sprinkle with seasalt and serve. I have no idea what the total cost is, because I always have brown rice, seasalt, and basil. So it only takes 2 onions, 1-2 heads of broccoli and 2 cans of white beans. Dirt cheap, vegan, and totally healthy. Best of all, the kids love it.
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#12 of 100 Old 01-09-2006, 02:56 AM - Thread Starter
 
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sarah_bella is absolutely right on about the canned vs. dried beans when they are organic. I was thinking about the conventional beans that can be bought at the grocery store. But it is a real different price structure for processed (canned/boxed) organic foods in particular.

And yes, my recipe for homemade waffles does call for between 1/2 to 1 whole pound of butter or margarine. They come out like pastry which is more of a treat than a food, AND our waffle iron was actually free to us, but what I was trying to make a point about was that sometimes we don't look at the big picture of cost when making purchases that sound good at the time and we can make costly errors by not taking the whole into account.

Your suggestions are the most frugal, looking at that scenario, but I read more posts every day about how folks are trying to get rid of stuff they don't use and about how much debt they are in. They got that way somehow (admittedly many times through no real fault of their own, but just a run of bad luck). But sometimes it is through a lack of planning. My hope was to point out that even in the seemingly insignificant areas of our lives, planning could make a good deal of difference in our lifestyle and financial outcome.

Thanks for pointing out the really glaring errors in my example. It shows how each person really can take a look at what's meaningful to themselves and their familes and make it work for them. :-)
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#13 of 100 Old 01-09-2006, 08:47 AM
 
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Our favorite cheap meal is dahl, which is yellow split pea curry (kind of like lentils)
You fry up an onion until it is carmelised, add 1 cup dry peas, 2 cups water, at least 1 tsp curry powder and cook on low for 3 hours. Serve over rice with yogourt or sour cream spooned on top. yum.
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#14 of 100 Old 01-09-2006, 08:53 AM
 
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canned vs. dried beans - an added issue is would be loss of nutrients. How much vitamin/mineral/etc is lost in the processing of beans into canned beans?

Cheap meal - pinto bean dinner: Pinto beans, cornbread, veggies (green beans or broccoli, potatoes in some form, and carrots or squash, or if no potatoes, sweet potatoes).
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#15 of 100 Old 01-09-2006, 10:09 AM
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My cheap meal is take the bones from Sunday's chicken dinner and cook it all day in a large pot of water.

Strain and pick bones.

Add cut up veggies (hopefully leftover) Add whatever you don't have (I usually put in the Holy Trinity (carrots, celery, onion.) Add some garlic to make it yummy and healthy.

About 45 minutes before dinner add some rice.

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#16 of 100 Old 01-09-2006, 11:55 PM
 
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Second night, we had a hot chicken salad casserole. Leftover chopped chicken, 1 cup cooked rice (1/2 cup dry), some chopped celery (1 rib) and onion (1/2 a small onion), and a few tablespoons of mayonnaise. I'm guessing $1.50 at the most, since I buy rice in a 20 lb bag, I have no clue how much a half cup costs. Served with baked (microwaved actually) acorn squash. $2 for the whole meal.
OT: That sounds yummy..but does it really feed all 3 of you? It doesn't look as though it makes very much. 1 cup cooked rice, is really only 2 servings of rice.

Maybe we just eat a ton more than most people, which is why our food bill is so high..but for 2 adults, 1 preschooler and a very young toddler..I would probably make a recipie with at least 4 servings of rice, and more likely 5. Generally when I make one of those whole chickens, I can only get two meals out of it, or maybe two meals and enough left over to make a little chicken salad for one sandwich..or something like that.

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#17 of 100 Old 01-10-2006, 12:02 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rabbithorns
You know I have a real question as to whether or not it's more economical to make foods like beans from dried stock compared to using canned beans....
You're right that it is important to factor energy use into costs. Some ways to reduce energy use in cooking beans:

First, I've never needed to cook beans for 8 hours. Presoaked beans have never taken more than 2 hours here, and usually they take me about an hour. (Cooking time is influenced by the age of the beans- getting them from a store that has quick stock turnover, if possible, may help. Also, adding salt or acids like tomatoes to beans before they soften can slow cooking time.)

Slow cookers (crock pots) may be more energy efficent than your stovetop. (They're also convenient for parents since you can leave them in there fairly indefinitely.) If you have an iron Dutch oven, you can cook beans in it halfway in a stovetop, and then take it off heat, wrap it in a blanket, and it'll keep cooking from its own thermal mass for another hour or so. (Not a terribly convenient option, but a possibility, and certainly handy if you're cooking over a fire/ camp stove!)

Beans can be cooked in the oven (as can grains). Just put them in a covered casserole and let 'em go. This is not an efficient use of energy on its own, but if you're baking something anyway, it's making more efficient use of the oven's heat.

We have a pressure cooker that cooks soaked beans in about 10 minutes (20 minutes from when the stove element is turned on, since it takes time to bring the water to a boil). Yes, it's an additional appliance, but it was a gift (my mom will buy me pots, but won't contribute to my electric bill!) and I think it would have been worthwhile even if I had to pay for it ($50 for significant time and fuel savings; it's used at least twice a week). They're also available used.

I definitely find dried beans more economical, easier to store, and easier to dispose of (we buy them in bulk filling our own containers, so we have literally nothing to dispose of, while messing with lots of cans would be especially annoying for us since we haul our own trash/ recyclables).
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#18 of 100 Old 01-10-2006, 12:27 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rabbithorns
You know I have a real question as to whether or not it's more economical to make foods like beans from dried stock compared to using canned beans. I mean, cooking a pound of black beans for 8 hours on my stovetop uses 1500 watts for eight hours which costs another $1.20 for that food. Using a 2000 watt oven (which does cycle on and off) for another two hours costs approximately another .30. So the question about the beans is, can I buy the same amount of cooked beans for less than $2.20 of dried and electricity used to cook them (not to mention the water and soap used to clean up after cooking them)?
I your post and I think this is an important ? I have decided to buy caned beans since, I can get organic for .99 cents a can. However, there are thing that I will make from scratch. You have to look at your priorities and evaluate if that time energy could be better used. This calculation will be different for every person.
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#19 of 100 Old 01-10-2006, 09:05 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ameliabedelia
OT: That sounds yummy..but does it really feed all 3 of you? It doesn't look as though it makes very much. 1 cup cooked rice, is really only 2 servings of rice.

Maybe we just eat a ton more than most people, which is why our food bill is so high..but for 2 adults, 1 preschooler and a very young toddler..I would probably make a recipie with at least 4 servings of rice, and more likely 5. Generally when I make one of those whole chickens, I can only get two meals out of it, or maybe two meals and enough left over to make a little chicken salad for one sandwich..or something like that.
There's three of us and a cup of dry rice, cooked (which I think makes maybe 3 or 4 cups) will last us two meals, and maybe a lunch leftover for dh. But that's if I mix it with veggies and beans and stuff like that.
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#20 of 100 Old 01-10-2006, 09:06 AM
 
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I think it's smart to calculate energy consumption as well, but I also think some of what you figured is off. I can use a stock pot and soak the beans and make enough beans for many meals in the same 2-3 hour cooking time. But, usually our method for beans is a good soak and the crockpot. (Which is a used crockpot that my mom gave me. It's avocado green and I can remember her using it 30 years ago when i was young!)

Waffle irons, crockpots, etc etc. can all be found used pretty easily at thrift stores. I think it's foolish to buy these things new.

In my mind there is no question that dried beans are more economical, cheaper, easier to store, and have less packaging (we buy bulk). Probably more nutritious and definitely tastier too.

Also, running our oven helps heat our house and so we can keep the furnace from running.

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#21 of 100 Old 01-10-2006, 09:21 AM
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I started using the crock pot when I went back to school last fall. It has been a blessing to me.

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#22 of 100 Old 01-10-2006, 12:17 PM
 
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A Frittata is cheep and easy- I use leftover veggies and meat then add a little cheese to the top and it is a family favorite.
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#23 of 100 Old 01-10-2006, 11:37 PM
 
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I don't know the cost, but broccoli pasta is super cheap and easy. 1 pound of dry pasta (for three hungry people plus leftovers) a head of broccoli, some garlic and olive oil and salt. Even better with grated cheese on top. You can boil the broccoli and pasta in the same pot, and then just drain and toss with some sauteed garlic and a little salt.
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#24 of 100 Old 01-11-2006, 12:32 AM
 
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I make slpit pea & lentil soup

1 1/2 cup peas & lentils, 6 cups water (or leftover stock)
soak peas for 3 hours, add lentils, simmer 45 mins

add veggies, (potato, peppers, carrots, lima beans, green beans, etc.) canned tomotoes from the garden, and spices
Simmer another 1/2 hour or until thick.

Sometimes I'll add a little salsa for a kick or leftover meat - chicken, ham, and roast work out the best.

This will feed 2 adults and 2 kids 3 meals. I usually make a batch on Sunday and DH and I eat it for lunches throughout the week.
Total cost - about $4 total, less than $1/family meal, or .50 a lunch bowl. DH loves it!
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#25 of 100 Old 01-11-2006, 11:04 AM
 
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Great ideas, mamas! Thanks! Rabbithorns, love your skillet supper. What kinds of veggies do you typically use? Do you have favorite combos? This is something I can't wait to try.

My cheap meal - saute a bit of onion, carrots, celery in whatever kind of oil until tender, then toss in a bunch of lentils (sorry - I'm one of those cooks who never measures) with water and canned tomatos from garden (can also use fresh diced canned from supermarket), a splash of wine, a cinnamon stick, salt, pepper and let simmer away until lentils are tender. Some times I will add macaroni to this towards the end. This soup is meant to be thick and chunky, so be generous w.the lentils. Great with a sprinkling of cheese on top. I usually serve w/homemade cornbread (bought the cornmeal in bulk for a few bucks and it has lasted forever).

Not as impressive as the 1.75 meal someone was touting above, but easy, yummy, and cheap - AND it freezes well, so I always have a few extra meals of this on hand.

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#26 of 100 Old 01-11-2006, 03:58 PM
 
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It's not great for you. But this has been a family favorite for generations. In a pan fry up a bunch of cubed potatoes (I like a big pan full) then when it's almost done throw in a can of corned beef : and toss it around to break it up and warm it up. Serve it with creamed corn and apple sauce (they really compliment it). Make sure to have more potatoes than corned beef, you should be able to eyeball it according to taste. Not sure the exact cost. $1 for the corned beef, cost of potatoes, a .50 can of cream corn and apple sauce that I either make at home or buy from the $1 store. Cheap, easy, kids love it.

Melaya (29) - Mom to Z (9) and soon to be I (due Nov 2013) stork-boy.gif

Birth mom to M (7), O (5), & C (2). winner.jpgnovaxnoIRC.giftriadadopt.jpg

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#27 of 100 Old 01-11-2006, 04:27 PM
 
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Another kid friendly one. In a seperate pot cook a bag of macaroni noodles. Melt some butter (maybe 3 tblsp) in a skillet. With the skillet on medium low, add two bags of california blend veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots). Add seasonings (salt, garlic powder, pepper, parsley, all optional). Cover and cook until veggies are still crisp but unfrozen. Cook approx. 10 minutes, stirring 2-3 times. Cut up 1 pound of kelbasa or any smoked sausage into bite sized pieces (what's up with me and the processed meat : ). Add to veggies and cook until it is all warm. Add parmesan chees is you like and serve over noodles. This was my favorite growing up.

I always buy the meat on sale for $1 or $2. Noodles, butter, seasonings are always around here already. Then throw in the cost of a bag of frozen veggies (usually $1) and that's it.

Melaya (29) - Mom to Z (9) and soon to be I (due Nov 2013) stork-boy.gif

Birth mom to M (7), O (5), & C (2). winner.jpgnovaxnoIRC.giftriadadopt.jpg

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#28 of 100 Old 01-11-2006, 09:15 PM
 
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our cheap meal is especially cheap for us when we grow our own vegetables, in the summer it may as well be free! this year we are growing enough to freeze/can/cellar our winter needs, too!

karl's famous tofu, made with our homemade tofu, costs perhaps 75 cents start to finish. served with steamed beets and chard. (virtually free when homegrown, perhaps 1.50 otherwise?)

re beans.

we own a large pressure canner and can our own organic beans. pressure canning preserves nutrients and saves money. it is so nice to have canned beans around! we buy our organic dried beans in bulk.

Hi, I'm Tabitha. I'm a homeschooling mother of four: ds (11) dd (9) ds (7) ds (5) And I'm expecting a fifth in 2014! Find me at http://www.omelay.blogspot.com
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#29 of 100 Old 01-12-2006, 12:40 AM
 
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Our favourite cheap meal is nearly free when made with veggies from the garden, but a couple of dollars if I buy the veggies.

I get the food processor out and use the grate thing ... chuck in a clove of garlic and an onion, saute in a little olive oil. Then I grate whatever vegetable is cheap/free (last time it was carrots, time before last it was sweet potato, tonight it will be pumpkin - although pumpkin can be cubed instead of grated). Add a bit of water and a few tb dried coconut milk. Let it simmer until the veggies soften. Add some chopped (or canned) tomatoes and some curry powder. Serve over rice and some spinach (the spinach is optional but we've usually got it in the garden). It's delicious. I'm planning on making it with lentils sometime.
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#30 of 100 Old 01-12-2006, 03:48 AM
 
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I jsut have to say that I applaud your frugality!!! I am just dipping my toes in compared to you gals. I don't even know what the price of my meals are... I just buy groceries with teh money I"ve got and see what I can whip up. Hmmm perhaps I'll lurk and learn how to cut my costs Thanks in advance.
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