Look at things that can be plan-overs. My mother used to do that all the time. A pot roast became beef and macaroni soup which was hearty and filling. Leftover lamb became lamb curry or shephard's pie. Buy a turkey breast half and roast, left overs become turkey enchiladas with a creamy filling with roasted green chilis.
You certainly can make Marcella's very simple and delicious tomato sauce. I lg. can imported plum tomatoes, 6 Tbs. butter and half an onion. Put the tomatoes in a pot and mash up with a potato masher. Add the butter and onion half. Cook until the butter pools on top of the sauce. Serve it up for spaghetti one night and cook it down a bit more and you have a delicious pizza sauce. When doing meal planning keep double duty in mind. Avoid as much as possible the "convenience" foods. You pay a lot more for them than you will cooking from scratch.
At my age, frugality is the word of the day. Chicken was dirt cheap during college, so I ate it for nearly every meal. After 4 years, I never want to see a chicken again and have become pretty resourceful with making meals of whatever is on sale at the market. On good weeks I can keep my food bill under $20 for the week. Among my kid-friendly favorites:
1) Parmesan pork chops
2) Chipotle pork chops
4) Roasted pork shoulder
5) Pulled pork
6) Pork and chicken adobo
7) Kheema matar
9) Chipotle mac-and-cheese
10) Hot tamarind soup
Among a plethora of sides and veg. Large roasts are the best way to go for their versatility and economy.
Here are some general guidelines that might help...
1. Rediscover the power of your slow cooker, it will turn the lousiest cut of meat into tasty by the time you get home from work. I personally take 1 lb of whatever cheap stew meat they've got on sale (pork or beef), a bunch of potato, carrot, yellow onion, celery, etc., some dried rosemary & thyme, and 1 packet of McCormick stew seasoning, and 1 cup of the crappiest jug of red table wine your local liquor store has to offer (I usually buy the big jug and use it in a bunch of recipes over time...very cheap this way). Trust me and use the red wine not water, it makes a HUGE difference. Extremely tasty and filling and very cheap.
2. Another slow cooker winner is cheap chicken parts, tons of garlic, rosemary, and thyme, and some chicken broth. Let it go on low all day till it's fall off the bone tender. Cook up some barley (trust me barley not rice) and serve the chicken and it's broth over the barley.....really delicious.
3. Go to your local ethnic grocers to buy spices, such as you local latin, indian, or middle eastern grocers. They are a LOT cheaper, because each of those groups know that well spiced cheap food still tastes great.
4. Lentils in Indian spices (plenty of recipes online)with tomato & eggplant (all cooked down together, is suprisingly yummy and again very cheap.
5. Start making soups! You can get day old small loaves of bread from you grocery store, cut a whole into them to make them bread bowls (slightly stale bread actually works better in this case) and fill them with soup. It feels fancy but very cheap. Corn chowder, clam chowder, above mentioned beef broth, etc. all work great in bread bowls.
6. Polenta is cheap and very filling, just be sure to season it well or serve it with something flavorful (slow cooker pork with taco seasoning is my favorite).
Ground Beef Enchilidas served with bean and spanish rice..
Chicken Garam Masala on a bed of jasmine rice and a cucumber salad
Chicken/Beef/veggie Kabobs with rice and a salad
Eggplant Parm with a caesar salad or minestrone
2 boxes of the 'expensive mac'n cheese' and saute onions, garlic, shitake mush, tomatoes and other great veggies and top over the creamy mac..
Here in Southern California, the dark meat parts of the chicken are incredibly cheap, and personally I prefer them in flavor and texture to white meat. Legs and/or thighs are usually around $1.20/lb at my local supermarket. They are my friend, good for a multitude of uses including roasting, grilling, stewing, etc. Wings also tend to be very inexpensive, and can be used for fine meals.
I'd also recommend exploring traditionally "immigrant" cuisines. Immigrants are notoriously resourceful and good at making do with limited means. I'm sure if you poke around the cookbook section of your local library, you'll find some great ideas.
I can find thighs and legs at 99 cents a pound at my local grocery store. Wings are good but take more work to eat-- great appetizer for a special meal.
I was raised by a Black woman who was born in the rural south (I'm Black too)-- grew up eating everything but the oink:) So resourcefulness is part of my heritage as well.
Raley's puts out a free color recipe magazine every month or two. All the recipes are online.
I've always found them good for ideas. They are geared for families and easy to put together.
Usually they are hawking something that is on sale that month, but you can do a simple substitution. For an example, the nacho bar idea says to use Raley's pico de galo from the produce section ... well, any pico de gallo will do.
The "Take six" are dishes with six or less ingrediants. There is also a quick recipe section
You can see what you like, but a few that are easy that might appeal to a family
- creole green beans
- Zazatrain skillet chicken
- Apple sausage and rice skillet
- Chicken and banana squash mole
- Chicken and vegetables with mole sauce
- Tuscany Chicken and Tomatoes
- Fresh Baked Zucchini with Parmesan (skip the lemon juice)
- Parmesan Encrusted Green Beans
- Brown Rice Salad with Pears and Pecans
- Apple and Herb Chicken
- Apple and Honey Topped Yams
- Chunky green chile chicken
- Polenta Lasagna
- Italian rice croquettes (I always loved rice croquettes as a kid and they are cheap)
Well, it goes on and those are just a handful of ideas .. .mainly from the chicken recipes ... out of well over 1000 recipes.
When I was doing my $3 a day eating I learned how much meat can get stretched in a taco. Quesadillas are great too and you can get some ideas for different fillings from Raley's like
- Bacon and Tomato Stuffed Quesadillas
- Apple and Cheese Quesadillas
- Crispy ham and cheese quesadillas
- Brie and pear quesadillas (ok ... a stretch for kids)
- Pizza dilla quesadillas (say that three times fast)
- Chicken bacon ranch quesadillas
- Bacon, Pepper and Grilled Zucchini Quesadillas
You could pair this with Mexican corn ... ear of corn spread with mayo and rolled in cotija cheese ... chile powder optional. I throw corn in the husk in the microwave and it is pretty quick. Actually, I microwave the quesadillas too.
You have Mexican markets in your area so you can get better quality cheese and tortillas for a lot less than the supermarkets. I hope you are alsto taking advantage of Grocery Outlet. The canned food, often organic, is so absurdly inexpensive it is hard for me to shop at supermarkets anymore. GO is also a good source of sausages, cold cuts, and cheese ... and butter.
The fall means sausage and peppers to me. That makes a great dinner ... or make Italian sausage and pepper sandwiches with a side of pasta. Use rolls from your Mexican Market ... fresh, no preservatives and 25 cents each.
Maybe not less expensive, but cheap and as easy as packaged ... homemade gelatin using 2 cups of fruit juice, a packet of knox and whatever fruit is on sale.
Yes, I am the coupon, bargain hunter, Grocery Outlet princess--- I can find the stuff cheap- it is just putting together meals that vary. I am always picking up fliers and freebie mags from Grocery stores. I've eaten so much chicken, I feel like I am going to cluck...
That's why I am looking for recipes that are off the beaten path---
if your budget is say $70 a week how about thinking more along those lines than $10 a day. For instance one night could be just spaghetti, cheese and butter costing $5, or tomato omelets, so there is then money in the pot for something extra another night. Alternatively make a huge batch of meat sauce and have pasta and sauce one night and then the leftover sauce can be shepherds pie the next night with the addition of mashed potatoes and some cabbage which is cheap. Baked potatoes with tuna salad is cheap too.
a roasted chicken one night can become cold chicken and salads or sandwiches the next and the carcass can be boiled down for soup or stock.
just my suggestion.
Ground beef, kidney beans, black beans, navy beans, any combination of beans really, rice, garlic, onion. Brown the meat, drain. Cook the rice. Combine the meat and rice with the beans. Other pan cook the onions and garlic in oil and add that in to the mix. Very cheap per serving, and quite tasty, add a little S&P, cheese if you want.
You can also put this stuff in burrito wraps and add some sour cream, hot sauce, more cheese, etc.
Homemade pizza would be a change also, any toppings you can think of - chicken, pulled beef, you name it.
I just bought skirt steak for $3/lb-marinate it and grill it and vegetables and bread/potatoes or make fajitas.
black bean cakes-top w/salsa, sour cream, etc
Look through menus of the dinner assembly places (Super Suppers, Dream Dinners, My Girlfriend's kitchen) as all of their dishes average only $3-5 per person and could often be made for even less money at home
quesadillas-black bean, chicken, cheese, onion; salsa/guac/sour cream
What about a shepard's pie? I know not everyone is a fan, but I love it.
Taco night is always fun...the kids can make their own. Can get messy but it's hands on so they love it.
You can also have family pizza night where the kids make their own pizzas. Spread a blanket on the floor, put in a movie, and have a pizza picnic. Sometimes it's not about what the food is, but where you eat it.
Chicken breasts on sale, and stock up. I buy boneless, skinless
Check out Rachel Ray's recipes on FTV, she makes quick, pretty easy, cheap meals.
Mac and cheese with pancetta.
Chicken cutlets parm w/ spaghetti
Chicken, broccoli, ziti
Check out Giada's on FTV, she has some great stuff.
Love her lemon spaghetti.
Ina Garten's chicken stew w/biscuits. Half everything she uses.
Buy fresh dough, make calzones.
Beef Stew, try Tyler's.
Trust me, I have done this for years, shop sale items, and be creative.