HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >

Discussion

Stretching a buck?

What are your favorite meals for getting the most out of your money? I've been thinking about this a lot lately as I make our weekly grocery list and plan for the week. I just got finished making a giant pot of homemade red sauce with pork and sausage--used some for dinner and then froze the rest in small batches.

In these times, it seems we are becoming increasingly aware of making our money stretch at the grocery store. We cook at home a lot anyway mostly because its healthy and I love to cook, but it seems we are giving up going out to eat more and more lately in an effort to save money. I'd love your inspired ideas for menus that stretch your grocery dollars.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. 16 bean soup in the crock pot. My first time and loved it. Next time I would add a healthy kielbasa. This was healthy & cheap.

    We've also done a few vegitarian dishes lately that seem pretty cost concious - spaghetti squash, eggplant towers (with sauce/cheese layered).

    and rather then go out for lobster, I steamed a couple up tonight from Market Basket ($4.99 per lb, nice new shell).

    I love to cook, but love to add a challenge in there as well like, keeping cost down or eating really healthy - lots of produce lately.

    2 Replies
    1. re: lexpatti

      Lex is right about eating more veggie main dishes...especially look for good buys for seasonal vegetables, squash, cabbage, sweet potatoes, etc. There are a few new threads on cabbage on this board now, too...it's great with chickpeas and potatoes in a curry, very economical main dish. You could even make a vegetable chili that could make a few different meals. This is a very good chili (I like to add more spices and cinnamon as other reviewers suggest)...Black Bean Chili with Butternut squash and Chard:
      http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

      1. re: Val

        I'm going to pile on the pro-veggie bandwagon here. Rather than cheap meat, I'd usually prefer expensive lentils, good eggs, high-quality beans. Even expensive legumes and pulses are cheap compared to meat.

    2. I must agree that we are more likely to get more bang for the buck creating dishes with veggies, beans and pasta. Perhaps it's time to create a series of new sauces to coat the pasta, new soups (but bread is getting almost too expensive to serve with the soup) and casseroles. We enjoy creating new dishes using summer or winter squash. Stuffing it, serving it with sauces (spaghetti squash with spaghetti sauce can be very nice - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spaghett...) and we explore ideas in preparing Strata creations using veggies.

      4 Replies
      1. re: todao

        A loaf of good artisan bread will indeed run you $4-$6 but you can make a good loaf of bread for pennies. It just takes patience.

        1. re: jpc8015

          Yes, there are some good recipes for easy to make breads that can be found here. :) I can't find the link for the specific one I was thinking of from a few months ago. I guess I didn't mark it as a favourite. But the idea is you make up an easy, simple batch of dough and keep it in the fridge. Then you snick off some when you need bread, let it rise, then bake it (all pretty quickly done, IIRC). I meant to give that a go, but I've lost the link! I'll search harder for it. :)

          1. re: Morganna

            The book is called Artisan bread in 5-minutes-a-day. Search on some of those terms. We don't make the 5-minute bread during the summer but now that it's cooler, we're going to be making it again. We saved a lot of money on bread last winter with this recipe. We were'nt buying big loaves and then wasting a lot of it. The dough is cheap and we just made what we needed. Good and easy.

            1. re: karykat

              I bought "The Bread Bible" by Rose Levy Beranbaum a couple years back and am amazed at some of the breads I have been able to make. By just adjusting a couple of ingredients here and there you can make some dramatically different breads and it is incredibly cheap to do. If you need to stretch a buck, bread baking is the way to go.

      2. Polenta is fun and cheap, even if you get Bob's Red Mill Coarse Ground, which ROCKS!!!

        Egg dishes are cheap, and endlessly creative.

        Cheesy polenta slabs fried to crisp exterior and topped with a runny yolk fried egg is absolute heaven, I tell you.

        3 Replies
        1. re: scuzzo

          scuzzo, do you like bob's red mill grits?

          and on-topic, i love bean soups with chunks of smoky or hot sausage. i love garbanzado, too. http://www.recipelink.com/mf/31/14986

          and cuban black bean soup, served over white rice, and topped with diced white or red onion with a splash of vinegar. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/aa...

          bean soups are great. beans in stews bulk it up, and taste good.

          and i'm definitely on the cabbage-in-all-forms bandwagon: soups, stir-fries, salads, stuffed, or simply steamed, with butter, S&P (like caroline1 loves, too). thrifty, filling, nutritious, delicious.

          last night, i re-purposed a leftover thick pork chop with some leftover rice, by rendering some small-diced trader joe's chianti dry sausage, tossing in the pork chop dice, green onions, soy and sesame oil, and stir-frying the rice. good. and a little rice goes a long way.

          and greens are good. (hey, thanks gordon gekko!) and whole grains, like bulgur wheat and the like.

          and boil up a little chicken, for some chicken and dumplings, or chicken and rice, or chicken and noodles. so tasty, comforting, and inexpensive.

          pasta: mr. alka adores spaghetti. and so many sauces can be made for very little. anchovies are my new-ish secret umami ingredient.

          casseroles, oft-maligned, are great, and are good as leftovers. i love my mom's eggplant casserole made with ritz crackers, cheddar cheese, onions, and cream of mushroom soup. i've made it with cream of celery soup, too. similar to this (but without the butter and bell pepper!) http://www.cooks.com/rec/view/0,1950,... darn tasty -- and eggplant casserole is VERY flexible: it takes on the flavors of what you add in.

          i love eggs, fixed any way. quiches and omelettes are thrifty, and a good vehicle for leftover veggies or meats.

          there is also another dish my mom used to make (she doesn't cook so much anymore..) called "bundle burgers." essentially, it was ground beef mixed with some evaporated milk, made into thin patties and wrapped around a cornbread/herb stuffing, then covered with condensed cream of mushroom soup (undiluted.) and baked till golden brown. i tell you it is so YUMMY!!! (i'll try and get exact recipe....) (something like this, but don't put the cheese on top -- you'll be gilding the lily!) http://www.cooks.com/rec/view/0,1826,...

          1. re: alkapal

            thanks for the eggplant link, I have 4 eggplant from CSA sitting in the fridge, and just bought Ritz crackers to go with my Cowboy candy!

            I am just also jumping in one thread and haven't read it all so it might already be mentioned but joining a CSA has been a money saver for us. I get way to many veggies to eat during my week, so I freeze a lot and we eat organic farm frozen veggies all winter. If not good on their own, they get turned into veggie soup which is great for winter lunches at work - and you can add pretty much anything to them (veggies, grains, meat, etc...)

            Also, I try not to throw away anything. For ex. I just experimented with freezing extra sushi rice, and I just used it this week in chicken fried rice - just as good with frozen imo...

            thanks again alkapal

            1. re: geminigirl

              For future reference re eggplant, recently read that the darker-skinned and older an eggplant is, the bitterer, and the more oil it will absorb. So they are best when cooked as soon as possible.

        2. Practice something many of our ancestors did -- they cooked like peasants, but ate like kings. (Google Maria Luisa Scott for her work). I like making curries lately because you don't need the most expensive cuts of meat to prepare them, they pack so much flavor, and they freeze well too. Along with that, I usually serve basmati rice, which is still fairly reasonably priced considering the number of servings you get out of just one bag. A little goes a long way [as does pasta].

          There are so many Americans who avoid the produce aisles at stores when they go shopping. Visit those aisles and look for bargains. Don't head straight for the wallet-draining trevisos and white asparagus, but instead, explore and consider the many other options. Try kale perhaps, chards, cabbage. All well priced. Bring them home, and search online for recipes. Your body will thank you, and you'll likely see some extra cash in your pockets as a result.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Cheese Boy

            I'm pregnant so we are all about the fresh produce even if it can be pricier. But I do agree that you can get some good deals on produce especially by only buying what you know you will eat for the week and not letting any go bad in the fridge or fruit bowl, which can be a huge money waster. I'm trying to avoid the fruit and veg I notoriously cannot eat before it goes off. This most likely goes without saying with the Chow crew, but generally local and in season does equal better prices.

          2. Buy what's on sale is the easiest advice.
            Pasta, potatoes and rice are your cheapest calories. How to jazz them up a bit is up to you.

            Stir frys over rice
            Chicken and dumplings
            Chicken + spaghetti sauce + peppers and onions served over mashed potatoes
            Shepherds pie
            Good old tuna-noodle casserole
            Ham and scalloped potatoes
            Ramen noodles, although make your own sauce and add veggies, think stir-fry.
            Pasta, pasta, pasta with all kinds of sauces. Spend one day making several different kinds of pasta sauce in bulk, and can or freeze portions for meals.
            Fresh vegetables are nice, but will cost twice as much, on average, as canned or frozen, with some exceptions such as carrots.
            Stuffed cabbage - cabbage is cheap and the rice extends the meat.
            Halushki (noodles and cabbage)