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Dec 17, 2006 07:46 PM

Low Cost Cooking

I am volunteering to cook for a women's shelter once a week, and need to cook on a budget, something, I'm not good at. Anyway, what are some basic inexpensive main dishes? I'm thinking,,,meatloaf, spinach manicotti, quiche, soup. Ideas please. Thx.

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  1. Lasagna
    Shepherd's Pie
    Macaroni and Beef Casserole
    Veggie Soup

    1. Bean based soups would be great in the winter, something like a really simple pasta e fagioli. Baked spaghetti or any kind of baked pasta are also inexpensive. Also, keep an eye out on sales circulars. Stores get great deals sometimes that they pass onto the customers to get them in the store.

      1 Reply
      1. re: chowser

        Another advantage to bean dishes is that it avoids any religious issues when it comes to meats (such as seafood, beef, and pork).

        Could be important if you don't know the religion of your guests.

      2. Also Chili - or other bean based dishes.

        1. A big yes on the soup. Wonderfully inexpensive for a big bang of flavor and nutritional value. Root veg at this time of year is very affordable, since your shelter is probably on a shoestring budget. Also (and I may be stereotyping - forgive me) soups are an opportunity to get some high-quality nutrition (through vegetable use) to a population that may not have the time or resources to think about such things. When in crisis, it's hard to do so. Soups are also perfect for making in large quantities, depending upon the extent of your need.

          The other thing I can suggest is chicken and dumplings - also easy for large quantities, affordable, and a good source of protein and carbs...and a satisfying comfort food.

          1. I used to participate in this group where the volunteers would purchase food out-of-pocket and prepare dishes for the homeless men and women on Friday night. I am a student, so my budget is seriously constrained. When I participated in the street outreach, I consistently found that I could not prepare any main dishes at all, simply because I don't have enough money in my budget to buy all the ingredients to make a main dish that will nourish anywhere from 50-100 people. I was limited to spaghetti and other heavy carb dishes, such as fried rice.

            I often prepared side dishes in bulk instead.

            STEAMED VEGETABLES. A couple of times I brought steamed vegetables. A homeless fellow told me that the homeless men and women do not get enough vegetables and fruits.


            DESSERTS. Desserts are often a luxury for the homeless. The men and women I interacted with absolutely loved desserts: cakes, pies, cupcakes, etc.