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Super-Frugal Meals -- around $1 per serving -- Beyond Rice and Beans

Hey all, some friends and I are embarking on a bit of an adventure. We're all pretty broke 20-somethings, in the financial crunch of a first mortgage or first baby or whatever, and we're tired of feeling like we can't eat together without it being a budget buster for everyone (if we eat out) or one person (if we eat at that person's house).

So we thought, why not find a way to eat together for free? And why not make it really interesting and see just how cheaply we can do it? We set $1 per person as the threshold, and what will happen is, one person will cook and the others will bring $1 apiece to pitch in. I'll probably be handling all the cooking in the beginning, which is fine with me, since I'm single and don't often get to have the pleasure of cooking for a big group. I have a few ideas, and I DO really love rice and beans, but woman does not live by rice and beans alone, you know?

So. Hounds. Help! I'd love to hear what you'd make if you had, say, just $10 or $12 to cook a healthy, filling meal for 10 people.

(Important details: I do keep a well-stocked pantry, buy my spices at ethnic grocery stores, and plan to keep things in the vegetarian or vegetarianish category. Healthy and balanced is a goal, but not an obsession. All cuisines are fair game -- no picky eaters. I bake my own bread regularly and am perfectly willing to make things that require long cooking. Some of the folks in this group are: nursing mamas, burly dudes, foodies.)

Thanks! :)

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  1. Sounds like an interesting venture! For some reason, the first thing that came to mind was traditional stuffed cabbage with rice and tomato sauce. You could add ground beef if you wanted to make a few for any meat-eaters.

    I found this recipe which also happens to be on a blog called Cheap Eats - might help you out a bit :)

    1. A frittata or a Spanish tortilla.


      23 Replies
      1. re: The Dairy Queen

        tortilla española FTW.... i could eat this all week, hot and cold...
        getting the nice smoked paprika to use in it is worth gold!!

        1. re: AnchovyBourdain

          left overs make an awesome sandwich too....

          1. re: AnchovyBourdain

            Don't call it tortilla española if you add pimentón to it.

            And harryharry is right, it makes a mean sandwich. Carbs on carbs...

            1. re: bacallado

              I think this nomenclature is to differentiate it from what americans call tortillas, nothing more.

              And actually it's almost 40% protein, considering the egg/potato ratio.

              1. re: CallAnyVegetable

                You're wrong, that's the name of a specific dish. Making it with pimentón is a travesty.

                1. re: bacallado

                  LOL@travesty. My tastebuds don't give a damn about the rules. Google pimenton + tortilla a bit, hundreds of people like it that way too.

                  1. re: CallAnyVegetable

                    You rebel! ;) I am sure many people like it with pimentón, mostly Americans.

                    1. re: bacallado

                      If you had googled like I said you'd notice that half of the results are from Spain. And I'm not American.

                      I don't know, I don't like being overly rigid with cooking, it stifles creativity.

                      1. re: CallAnyVegetable

                        Good for you. There is something to be said for authenticity and simple food though, but somehow that's a challenge for foodies in the US and elsewhere. A Spanish tortilla has 4 ingredients, counting the salt, and it's darn good the way it is.

                  2. re: bacallado

                    I have never understood someone wallowing in righteous indignation over the name of a dish when a component has been slightly changed. It doesn't matter if he/she calls it a sunshine vagina sandwich, he/she thinks it is good and you don't have to eat it.

                    Veggie, make it with Mexican chorizo. That will really get him riled.

                    1. re: Hank Hanover

                      Off to create a sunshine vagina sandwich!!!

                      1. re: CallAnyVegetable

                        Hey Veggie;

                        You should try my new recipe for tortilla española! It's great. You use Mexican chorizo (chorizo is chorizo right?) and some American cheese and some smoked Hungarian paprika. It makes the best tortilla española, you have ever tasted. Sprinkle a little soy sauce on it and it's perfect. ;-D

                        1. re: Hank Hanover

                          What is this blasphemy? Those are called Tortilla Hungariõla ya fake foodist! :D

                      2. re: Hank Hanover

                        Well, some of us have an emotional attachment to certain dishes and like to protect their names. You'd understand this Hank, if you had grown up in a place with culinary tradition.

                        1. re: Hank Hanover

                          Paging Eve Ensler to protect the name of the dish you just created ;)

                          1. re: foiegras

                            Well the sandwich does monologues.

                            Btw.. the name was stolen from another thread. That's what someone called eggs in a nest or whatever else you wanted to call it.

                            It is just so memorable that I just have to commit that misdemeanor occasionally.

                            1. re: Hank Hanover

                              Oh is that what is correctly called Eggs in Purgatory? ;-)

                              1. re: coll

                                No.. I don't think so. Eggs in purgatory is where you poach eggs in tomato sauce, I believe. This is cutting a hole in a piece of toast, putting it in a pan and dropping an egg into the hole. Aka .... eggs in a nest, one eyed johnnies, toad in a hole, etc.

                                1. re: Hank Hanover

                                  Ah now I remember! This is one I've never tried. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, right?

                                  1. re: Hank Hanover

                                    I love your renaming of this dish, Hank. Or whoever is to be credited for the original renaming. It's one for the books!

                                  2. re: coll

                                    I think it's correctly called eggs in heaven ;)

                                    1. re: foiegras

                                      That's what my in laws thought too, they called it eggs in hell and thought purgatory was a joke, but that's how I see it listed most places.

                                      1. re: coll

                                        back to tortilla: check out Despana on Broome St, which I would assume it a pretty legitimate Spanish food purveyor - there are about 6 variations on the traditional tortilla de papas, all delicious.

                  3. Assuming you're not averse to *using* rice or beans...
                    You could go indian theme and make dal and some naan and rice component.
                    Chinese theme - chop suey with eggs or tofu, fried rice, spring rolls, etc.
                    Italian - veggie lasagna (sub cottage cheese for ricotta for price, and make your own white sauce) or made-to-order pizzas (let people customize and bake upon arrival)
                    Breakfast for dinner - fun... pancakes/waffles, eggs, biscuits or popovers with jam
                    Homestyle - chicken pot pie (minimal chicken, heavy on veggies)
                    French - quiches and salad
                    Nostalgic - soup and sandwich (grilled cheese / tomato soup - cheese being the costliest component)

                    48 Replies
                    1. re: Emme

                      FABULOUS ideas. I didn't even think about breakfast-for-dinner!

                      1. re: LauraGrace

                        Emme nailed much of it on the head. Breakfast for dinner is easy on the budget, and always satisfying. I've been on a shirred egg kick, simply because they are so easy to use whatever you have on hand (caramelized onions or shallots, spinach, bits of leftover meat, cheese, and heading-to-stale bread). The smallest size of heavy cream is more than sufficient for this, but you can also use a substitute. Also, eggs can be cooked in the oven without ramekins. If you use a casserole dish, the you just layer whatever you want in the bottom, and make wells for the eggs. Also, if you think your non-breakfast dinner looks boring, consider offering a fried egg on top of individual servings (this works well with bean dishes, sandwiches, and burgers).

                        Soup and sandwiches are very filling. Sometimes, I make quesadillas instead of sandwiches (tortillas are cheaper than bread, require far less frying fat, and I tend to use less cheese).

                        So, yeah, soups and stews. Roast chicken is the gift that keep on giving. *Some* part of the chicken is always on sale: roast the chicken, take the meat from the bones, roast the bones with some cheap root vegetables, and use those to make your stock. Use the meat and stock for a soup or stew, like chicken and black bean. If you want chicken noodle, make your own egg noodles. Or how about some ravioli?

                        The cheaper cuts of beef need only a long and slow cooking time (and, maybe, sometimes, a mallet), to be a lovely beef stew (I've subbed a not-expensive beer for red wine, and received nice praise for it), or shredded beef in gravy over mashed potatoes.

                        I'm making a carrot pudding tomorrow (a dinner pudding, not dessert), just because carrots were on sale (sixty cents a bag), and I have to use the things up. So, I think, as Greygarious said, planning your meals around the sales is always a good way to get creative while you save some cash.

                        Also, you know how cheap garlic is. Roasted garlic improves many a dish. I've even made cream of roasted garlic soup, served with a really nice bread, and a spicy sweet potato dish (*that* was a cheap and lovely dinner).

                        And, if you're a baker, then you are ahead of the game in so many ways.

                        1. re: onceadaylily

                          How do you make a savory carrot pudding? I get 1 lb bags of carrots at the local Asian market for about 35 cents.

                          1. re: Jen76

                            You ignore recipes that want a carrot dish to be merely sweet. ;)

                            Here is the basic recipe, from The Thanksgiving Table, (which I'm using for the first time tomorrow):

                            Peel 5 large carrots, cut into one inch chunks, and boil until tender over high heat (about twenty minutes). Using a food processor or stick blender, puree, and then add and blend in 2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice. Butter a 2 quart casserole dish, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Combine 4 T of butter, ¼ c sugar, 1 T flour, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp salt, ¼ tsp pepper, and 1/8 tsp nutmeg in a medium mixing bowl, and beat until smooth. Add 2 T grated onion and the carrots, and blend well. Add 1 cup of milk and 3 (lightly beaten eggs), and beat until smooth. Transfer mixture into dish, and bake until it is golden and has risen, about an hour, or little less. Serve straightaway.

                            My plan is to caramelize a few onions, adding in a bit of garlic near the end of the cooking time, and add them in after the additions have been blended, mixing by hand. I also want to add some ginger to the carrot mixture. I'm also playing with the idea of adding a few spoonfuls of tomato paste to the onion and garlic (which means I would have to season that mixture a bit more). I'm also playing with the idea of using wilted spinach, which means I'd likely have to cut back on the carrot.

                            I'll taste the thing before I pour it, and, if It needs a little something, there's always curry powder, or garam masala.

                            1. re: onceadaylily

                              I used your recipe last night for a dessert to go with our braised chicken thighs, with a couple of modification. I only used 1/2 the butter and sugar in order to cut out some of the fat and calories. It was really good! Good flavor. It was pretty solid, almost the consistency of a quiche. I wonder if this is because of only using 2 T of butter? Is there any way to make it a little more like "pudding"? Thanks for the recipe.

                              1. re: Oboegal

                                I would think adding more liquid, and definitely using all the fat and sugar, but I'm not certain. I think the ratio of those two things might need more eggs as well. When it comes to baking, I just follow the formulas. You could always look at a baked pudding recipe you trust, and try using the carrots and seasonings in that.

                                And you're right, the author of the recipe might have done better to call this a quiche, but there are types of sweet-savory puddings that are fairly dense (corn pudding and bread pudding are two that come to mind), and this is one.

                                I still haven't made it yet (the boyfriend isn't crazy about carrots to begin with, and balked at 'carrot pudding', so I would up roasting them instead), so I appreciate the report. It's good to know I can cut back on the sugar and butter without losing any flavor. I might make this tonight, actually.

                          2. re: onceadaylily

                            Yup, a lot of those tips I've done in the past -- I'm on a very tight budget so being frugal isn't a new concept to me at all! :)

                            I'll only buy meat if I know where it comes from (personal conscience issue), so I think any dish that's meat-centric is out, since local meat tends to be pricier. At $6 or $7 per pound for a roast, four 4-oz servings knocks out way more than half my budget for ten. Now if it's meat-as-seasoning, like a ham hock or bacon, or meat as a small portion of the dish, like ground meat in pad thai or something, I think it'll work.

                            1. re: LauraGrace

                              One simple dish off the top of my head is fried potatoes and eggs. Simple and can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

                              Peel and slice potatoes into 1/2" cubes, place them in a skillet with olive or cannola oil, when the potatoes are about done, add 2 eggs and continue in the skillet until the eggs are done. Figure 2 small potatoes and 2 eggs per serving.

                              1. re: Gary627

                                To make them more quickly, try steaming the cubes until nearly fork-tender before frying. Enhanced greatly by a tiny bit of fried onion bits and red pepper bits and paprika for color and flavor. I used up onion ends and red pepper ends by chopping and sauteing for potatoes. or chicken strips.

                              2. re: LauraGrace

                                Laura I agree about only buying meat if I know where it comes from, and we too are on a tight budget. We don't eat a lot of meat, but I always watch out for the sales at Whole Foods (don't know if you have one by you). For example this week chicken is $1.29 a pound. So a 4 pound chicken is a little over $5...I'm planning to buy one and make a stock - then use the meat as an addition to Indian curry, or plain rice with melted cheese. Not a bad deal in the end...and fits within our budget...

                                1. re: lovessushi

                                  I would think that if you were on a tight budget, you wouldn't buy at Whole Foods, they're just too expensive. For instance, your chicken example, $1.29 is far more expensive than the $0.89 per lb I can buy chicken at my neighborhood grocery. i'm talking whole chicken, it appeared you were too.

                                  As someone that was raised poor, I find you and Laura's personal conscience issues interesting. We simply couldn't afford such issues.

                                  However, a vegetarian or near vegetarian menu is cheap. After all, poor people all over the world eat lentils beans and rice. The super poor have to give up the rice.

                                  1. re: Hank Hanover

                                    A useful saying is "Eat meat as a condiment". My husband was in school the first seven years we were married, now sixty years ago. With a teensy amount of meat and a whole lot of pasta, plus whatever else I could scrounge, I made dishpan-size casseroles that we survived on.

                                    1. re: Hank Hanover

                                      My view is that the poor the world over are doing their part to be green and have a small footprint in most ways, whether they realize it or not. I have been there, and agree that it is a bit of a luxury to have a conscience as a consumer ... and I think everyone who can afford to would be well-advised to acquire one :) I find it to be the luxury most worth indulging.

                                    2. re: lovessushi

                                      if you make a stock, the chicken flavor will be in the stock, not the meat anymore.

                                      1. re: alkapal

                                        You are right but I have found a way to split the difference. I cook pieces of chicken in a little more than enough water to cook a big bag of noodles, with a rib of celery and an onion for flavor, for one hour by the clock. This is long enough to give me a stock but not ruin the meat. I then remove the chicken and dump in the noodles, which totally absorb the stock in cooking---don't drain them. Add the chicken meat to the noodles and you have a large quantity of chicken and noodles, which can be frozen in several meal-size portions.

                                        1. re: Querencia

                                          sounds good. i love those egg noodles cooked in stock.

                                        2. re: alkapal

                                          You're right, but the reverse works- make the chicken, then the stock.
                                          I roasted a chicken the other night, took most of the meat off the bones,, then simmered the remainder for a couple of hours with the deglazed goodies from the roasting pan. I got a quart+ of tasty stock studded with the crushed remnants of vegetables from under the chicken, plus enough also-tasty chicken for sandwiches for five hungry boys.

                                          1. re: sccrash

                                            I did this with chicken wings, cheap at Costco. Made a broth from them enough to cook the meat, kept the broth, stripped the meat off the bones (DH loves the skin, me not so much), set it aside. The meat is very moist and flavorful. DH adds it to the soup below to bulk it up.It can also be used in stir fries, added at the very end as it is already cooked. Or put in salads, or mixed with mayo for chicken salad sandwiches. No waste!
                                            Prepared chickpeas from dried yesterday. Added the chickpeas to the stock,with thin sliced onion, thin sliced carrots, parsley, thin sliced leeks, brought to boil and cooked til veggies were soft. Added rice sticks. Soup for 4 days. NOM NOM NOM!

                                    3. re: onceadaylily

                                      re: "Some part of the chicken is always on sale,"

                                      there's a soy-braised chicken I like that costs between 50 and 65 cents per serving for the meat (2 drumsticks per person). The recipe is at http://cyngularity.blogspot.com/2010/...

                                      My supermarket usually has drumsticks on sale from time to time for between 79 cents and 99 cents per pound, which is why this dish is so cheap.

                                      It is even cheaper if you simmer some hard boiled eggs in the braising liquid and serve each person 1 drumstick plus 1 egg along with a side of rice and a vegetable or salad. The braising liquid, which also can be used to cook tofu, can be frozen and re-used.

                                      1. re: 8itall

                                        perfect timing 8itall - I just bought 3 - 10# packs of chicken leg quarters. @ 59 cents per lb - This will be a perfect recipe to go off of. I'll have to see if I can bring a meal in at the challenge cost. I wonder if or which pantry items are considered free.

                                        1. re: 8itall

                                          Thanks, 8itall, I've bookmarked that. I buy two packs of chicken and two dozen eggs per market trip.

                                          I used to go out of my way to make hundred-year eggs, before I realized that I like eggs dipped in soy sauce just as much (well, almost as much). And the boyfriend likes soy sauce on pretty much anything, so this looks like an interesting meal to try out. This would go well with rice and cabbage (another frugal, yet nutritious, item).

                                          1. re: onceadaylily

                                            I think the OP specified humanely raised meat only.

                                            1. re: jvanderh

                                              I know, but 8itall directed the recipe in my direction.

                                              And I wouldn't quite rule out the dish for the OP. If she bought a whole chicken (which is cheaper, even for the pricier happy meat), she could split it up herself into the needed parts for the dish. The eggs, rice, and another cheap side would keep the costs down. And it would be easy enough to sub in the kinds of meats she thought more cost-effective, and bump up the veggies.

                                              1. re: onceadaylily

                                                Hmm, good point. Plus, as much as we try to only buy humanely raised, grass fed, organic etc., we just can't always afford to pass up really low prices. Sometimes it just has to be bought, even if it is from a giant farm that isn't normally my first or second choice.

                                          2. re: 8itall

                                            Your comment about adding eggs to the chicken takes me to Ethiopia where they commonly cook a Wat (stew) with check and add shelled hard-cooked eggs to it. It's an amazingly tasty combination as thee gravy is quite spicy and the egg soaks it up.

                                            1. re: fedora

                                              I'd try Wat. Do you have a recipe? If not, I can try to look one up.
                                              Lately I've been cooking Indian food at home because of the vegetables and different types of lentils. The kids like the seasoning as long as I take it easy on the heat, and we minimize the expensive meat purchases.
                                              Ma po tofu also works out well if you don't use too much meat. But organic tofu isn't cheap either, so it's not the cheapest meal we've eaten. I've bought dried organic soy beans and made cheap tofu from scratch, but it takes time and makes an extra mess in the kitchen to clean up.

                                        2. re: LauraGrace

                                          Breakfast for dinner is always a great idea. Pancakes or waffles are cheap and easy to prepare. If you can get day old challah 1/2 price or bake your own, you cold make a stuffed french toast casserole.

                                          I recently saw a recipe for quiche cups that used cutouts of tortillas/wraps in muffin tins as the crust. Much healthier than a typical piecrust.

                                          1. re: cheesecake17

                                            Why bother with a crust when you can have a crustless quiche?

                                            Sub in your fillings of choice:

                                            1. re: blinknoodle

                                              different presentation.. and LauraGrace mentioned she was feeding nursing moms and burly guys.. so maybe they could use the extra carbs and calories

                                          2. re: LauraGrace

                                            Brinner is a tradition @ my house. everyone looks forward to it.

                                          3. re: Emme

                                            Regarding the breakfast-for-dinner idea, try using agave instead of maple syrup. Real maple syrup is too expensive and fake maple syrup just tastes like watery corn syrup to me. Although, when I was little, my grandmother would top our pancakes with straight corn syrup, right out of the microwave. Our parents didn't know but it was pretty good and cheaper than maple syrup!

                                            And, my ideas are:

                                            Lentil dahl using split peas, buying them in bulk is pretty cheap and you can just add a chopped carrot, onion and some celery, spices too. You could serve it over hard red winter wheat, cooked similarly to rice only with more water and for a longer time. It is a nice change from rice and not too pricey.

                                            We live in a small town and our market has an area for marked-down produce. We can often buy veggies for next to nothing and they are not that old or damaged. You could ask the person in the produce section if they ever mark down produce that is not super new or perfect.

                                            Grow your own greens! Maybe you all could start a garden and each person pitches in a bit towards the water bill? I know friends who are doing that, more and more as the economy continues to be wimpy. Anyway, I grow tons of lettuces and greens (heirloom loose leaf, mesclun, herbs, bok choy, mustard greens) and I also grow beets, turnips and radishes and use those greens too. I like the beet greens raw and the turnip and radish greens cooked as they can be hairy sometimes.

                                            You could go ou of foraging expeditions and collect edible wilds. My favourites are purslane (great added to salads), mallow (use the seeds like peas or cook them to thicken stews like okra does), lamb's quarters (Chenopodium album or alba, I forget) and dandelion. BUT, I would make sure you do your research first as some wild plants have look-alikes that are toxic. I've been doing this for a long time so I'm very familiar with what to eat and what to stay away from. You could check out a book at the library or go online for some tips.

                                            Beans and rice are delicious and inexpensive. You can get good deals on bulk grains and so on. Try mixing it up with different varieties. I love garbanzos, pintos (super cheap), aduki, navy and great northern. Short grain brown rice does not taste the same as long grain brown rice (well, not to me). They all taste different to me!--basmati, jasmine, wheat, sushi rice. all those other grains like quinoa and buckwheat are worth trying and not too pricey, plus, they go a long way. If you add even just one rasher of bacon (turkey, regular, veggetarian) to a bean/rice dish, the taste becomes much more complex and pleasant. If you let the mix stick to the bottom of the pot and even scorch a bit and then mix it in, the flavour becomes more meaty which can help out when meat is scarce due to expense.

                                            I hope some ideas help!

                                            1. re: MinkeyMonkey

                                              I really like the spirit of this thread

                                              Minkey in the spirit of your forage party, about 12 years ago in SF the food columnist for either the Weekly or the Guardian, I forget, I think it was Stephanie Rosenbaum, did a column where the challenge was to create a dinner using only things foraged on public land (other than pantry staples of course), she found wild fennel growing everywhere; rare patches of blackberries in GG Park; the (ubiquitous) garden snails there are actually escapees of ones brought by Basque settlers in the 19th century for food; mussels at the beach by Seal Rock (not sure of the legality in that) and assorted wild greens. fun piece, wish I could provide a link.

                                              1. re: hill food

                                                They didn't harvest a duck, goose or pigeon so common in Golden gate park?

                                                Oh I wonder if there is a recipe for sand crabs. It would take a lot of em.

                                                1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                  eeew, I had pigeons living under my bedroom window near Union Sq. for a year and I have yet to go back to squab!

                                                  maybe if the crabs just molted they'd stew nicely.

                                                    1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                      visited a Filipino friend once, her dad hadn't caught anything surf casting so he was eating his steamed sand crab bait by hooking it out with a bent nail.

                                                  1. re: MinkeyMonkey

                                                    Just a note on foraging. I would be very careful to not pick from places where pesticides and herbicides have been used. Also, along the edges of roadways the plants absorb a lot of the gunk from traffic.

                                                    Another thing, be sure to get permission before foraging on any private land. I don't mind sharing, but I get really annoyed to find people on our farm harvesting watercress, purslane, plantains, blackberries, wild rosehips, ginsing, dandelions, ramps, fruit from our fruit trees and whatever else takes their fancy without ever asking us if it is OK. We also had people come fish all of our trout, and many of the bluegills and bass. That is stealing!

                                                    1. re: decolady

                                                      good points and I couldn't agree more on the private land issue. we usually have bumper crops of blackberries, but they're well off the road so really only us and the nearest neighbor knows about them, we'll pick all we can stand and then give nabes a ring to help themselves to the rest. one would never do that out here, a good way to get shot.

                                                      although a friend in SF was commuting to and from Menlo Park and noticed the bus stop was under a Meyer lemon tree and the yard was littered with them, so without trespassing put a few in his knapsack. I'd say that's sort of acceptable as they were obviously not being collected and private property was never entered.

                                                      1. re: hill food

                                                        It's typically fair game if it's overhanging, even if it's growing on public property. That's in a lot of city ordinances, although some, I think, forbid the use of ladders or other equipment. Just whatever you can reach up and grab.

                                                        1. re: hill food

                                                          Oh, yes. I agree it is acceptable to forage like that. I've been a forager since my grandmother took me looking for wild asparagus as a little girl and it is a time-honoured tradition. But when you open gates, climb fences and such, that is not OK. It's the trespassing on private property that's the real issue for me.

                                                          1. re: decolady

                                                            i suppose that you have put up "no trespassing" signs?

                                                            here's one that i'd put around the property: Bilingual Private Property No Trespassing Violators Prosecuted Sign


                                                            1. re: alkapal

                                                              Ah yes. We immediately put up no trespassing signs. Haven't had any problems in several years now.

                                                              There is one family that comes to forage watercress that I just love. Grandparents who bring their grandson. One day they knocked on the door and asked would it be OK if they picked some of the watercress in the creek. I told them yes, that was fine. They don't come very often, but when they do they always harvest a couple of bags for me. Works out very nicely.

                                                              1. re: decolady

                                                                that's how it should be! ;-)).

                                                                my brother in law had some key lime thieves last year come and strip his tree of every key lime. bold, i tell ya!

                                                                1. re: alkapal

                                                                  I actually counted my Mangos on my trees this year!!!!!!, same thing a guy asked me if he could gather some, and said he would pick the highest up ones, and asked me how many I wanted him to pick for me........No problem!!!!!

                                                                  1. re: ospreycove

                                                                    funny how far just a little conversation will get you.

                                                                    decolady: out here (currently the Ozarks) we've been coming here for 40+ years and I just recently noticed there's a "tag" convention of spraying a swipe of lavender (lavender?!?) paint on your gate or wherever which is code or "tag" for "no trespassing" cheaper and easier than signs I s'pose.

                                                                2. re: decolady

                                                                  I fondly remember working polo ponies in the grapefruit orchards that surrounded my friend's polo ranch in the Coachella valley. we would always come back with our shirts stuffed with grapefruits :)

                                                            2. re: hill food

                                                              Re foraging, if you are lucky enough to live where old houses are being torn down to make way for new construction, check out their yards (there is usually a piece of time between humans moving out and house coming down). You may find crabapples, a rhubarb bed, a blackberry bramble, a black walnut tree, or even asparagus (of which a bed can last a half-century). Old timers typically grew edibles around the house. I once made 21 jars of blackberry jam from berries found in such a venue. PS, if the place is truly abandoned you can also dig up some nice things and plant them in your own yard, saving them from the bulldozers and providing yourself with a lifetime of, say, rhubarb.

                                                              1. re: Querencia

                                                                That is something that I should do more of, I always think of the woods or fields but old abandoned houses is genius! I have a little beach plum planted outside my back door, it came from a center island in the road at my old house; it's only been a couple of years but I have high hopes.

                                                      2. Check the markdown shelves at your supermarket. I always go to those first. The other day I got three 1# packages of sliced button mushroomw for a total of $1.50. Jacques Pepin is a big fan of older button mushrooms - he says they have the best flavor. They needed to be cooked right away, but can now be frozen for use in omelets, sauces, and soup. I never buy deli meats at the counter unless there's an exceptionally great sale, but I buy the prepackaged ends, both meat and cheese, every time I shop. I can usually get an idea beforehand what they will have, based on what the deli sale items are that week. This week sliced roast beef is on sale so I will probably be able to get thick end slices, which I will slice up and use with the mushrooms for stroganoff. Usually I cube thicker deli ends and use them for soups and chef's salads.

                                                        26 Replies
                                                        1. re: greygarious

                                                          The ends of deli meat! Really? Awesome! I consider myself well versed in all manner of frugal strategies, but you've taught me something new today, greygarious!

                                                          1. re: LauraGrace

                                                            I particularly like the garlicky crust of deli roast beef, and they cut off a good half inch or more from the end of the roast before putting it on the slicing machine. They also stop slicing that far from the other end. So you can either cube those pieces or slice them thinly on an extreme diagonal. Ditto for roast turkey breast. Sometimes they goof and start with slices that are too thick - like 1/4 inch or more. Those will wind up in the ends packages, too. A while back I wound up with pristine Italian loaf (something I'd never had) that way. It was spicier than I liked, so I posted here for suggestions and followed one, which was to mix it in the food processor with cream cheese, mustard, and sweet onion. It made an absolutely delicious spread for hors d'oeuvres and sandwiches. So now I do that with mixed Italian cold cuts. Another one I look for is salami, which I thin-slice and sautee to render. Tastier and less fatty than bacon. Really good with pasta, pesto, and cheese. Cheese ends are always available - usually mostly American, with some Swiss and provolone. I use those for mac&cheese.

                                                            My supermarket didn't used to pre-pack and I assume they do it now because having to dig out ends and hold them up for customer approval is time-consuming considering how cheap the stuff is - and they can stick in the few odd, mangled pieces of this and that when they do mixed cold cuts. Stuff no one would choose. On a recent trip the only ham end package they had looked a little off, so I asked if they had any not yet packed up - they did and I got a nice fresh piece. I assume they pack the ends after hours, or before the store opens in the morning, so they generate new ends during the day.

                                                            1. re: greygarious

                                                              You're lucky. I never see the meat ends at my market (but, possibly, they are snatched up by the Polish and Russian mamas who seem to have a knack for arriving at our market when such things go out). The most I've been able to score are cheese ends. They are all lumped together in the package, and there is always a huge hunk of horseradish cheese, which we always think we'll use, but never do (it's overwhelming enough to make us shake our heads and laugh when we sample it yet again). But there is always a nice hunk of meunster or two, and we quickly learned that we could take the package to the counter and ask about any not readily identifiable chunks.

                                                              You make me feel a little braver about asking the butchers for other bits (meat, I mean), even if they do look so battle-weary by the time I get there.

                                                              1. re: onceadaylily

                                                                Sometimes you have to ask the deli guys if they've got any on hand or if there's a designated day of the week when they package and display them. At my supermarket I regularly get the ends and scraps of high-end meats like prosciutto and smoked salmon for a fraction of the usual price, usually around $7 a pound. They keep in the fridge for forever and are in fine shape to be added in small quantities to sauces.

                                                                1. re: everybodyever

                                                                  I have a market trip tomorrow, so this gives me something else to look forward to (besides picking up my first squash of the season). If I could get a hunk of proscuitto at a discount, I would be a happy, happy girl.

                                                          2. re: greygarious

                                                            Yes, ask about those deli ends. I have often seen them being trashed at one of our local markets!!! What a waste of good food. They could give it to a food bank, if nothing else. I ask for them whenever I shop there. Most of the time they give them to me for free.

                                                            1. re: decolady

                                                              Too bad about the waste, but on the other hand, I am envious, since I pay $2/pound.

                                                            2. re: greygarious

                                                              Deli ends for both meat and cheese used to be easier to come by, but I think a lot of places now use them in their own salads.

                                                              I've had good luck at buying sale items at Sprouts or finding deals on veggies at 99 cent only stores. When I first moved to Fort Worth I was really broke and I existed on my weekly pan of roasted vegetables. I'd find a wide assortment of veggies either on sale or from 99 cent only and toss them with olive oil, fresh garlic, and an assortment of fresh herbs I was growing on my balcony. I could eat the roasted veggies as is, or toss them with eggs for added protein, or stuff them into a tortilla. They could last a week in the fridge but I'd finish them in less time.

                                                              1. re: Barbara76137

                                                                Any Chicagoans here? Treasure Island stores trim the crooked edges off their fancy smoked salmon and sell them cheap in little plastic boxes---look at the end of the meat counter.

                                                                1. re: Querencia

                                                                  Fairway here in NY does that too; even if I'm having them slice me some, I always grab a tub too. It's a nice combo of the 6 or 8 varieties they sell.

                                                              2. re: greygarious

                                                                Speaking of button mushrooms, I learned about roasting them from cooks illustrated for a delicious roasted vegetable lasagna I made and they ended up tasting divinely rich and nutty. I will look through my books and post the how to if you are interested.

                                                                1. re: greygarious

                                                                  How do you get the Deli to sell those to you? I have found most Delis use them to the very end

                                                                  1. re: fedora

                                                                    The supermarkets I frequent have packages of ends in the refrigerated cases next to the deli service counter - in with the pepperoni sticks and packaged cheeses. Before that, you asked what ends were available and the clerk would hold up pieces for you to choose or not. There are always ends. The first 1/4 to 1/2 inch of cheese, ham, or processed meats; nearly an inch thickness of roast beef - I have never seen less than a 6" long slice of roast beef being cut on the slicer, and you'd have to do a lot of slicing before you got a 6" long slice. Ditto for turkey breast. Also, sometimes they goof and start a roast beef from the side rather than end, or cut too-thick slices of meat or cheese before realizing it - all these wind up sold as ends.

                                                                    1. re: greygarious

                                                                      Sappington Farmer's Market...a little local grocery w/a great cheese department...sells cheese ends, which are variable, cheap, and great for beer/cheese soup and mac and cheese, anything where you like a blend of cheeses. When they have 'em, I grab em. I've never seen deli ends...but you can bet I'm going to be asking about them.

                                                                      1. re: tonifi

                                                                        hey thanks for the local tip - have to check them out - hadn't heard of them before

                                                                    2. re: fedora

                                                                      I'm not sure I would want to eat deli ends. I'm not a germophobe, particularly, but with the scares about Listeria, I don't think I would want to eat something that's been handled that much and is old to boot. Maybe if I could cook the ends in soup or something -- that would feel different. I also am not such a fan of deli to begin with . . . .

                                                                      1. re: somervilleoldtimer

                                                                        Listeria comes from the factory, not from hands.

                                                                    3. re: greygarious

                                                                      A couple of months ago, my deli had imported proscuitto ends for sale for $4 a lb, I bought a bunch to chop up and just used the last in an asparagus quiche. They were really big. Wish I had some left for the coming holidays! But had fun thinking of things to jazz up with them.

                                                                        1. re: alkapal

                                                                          You're right (as always); I just found another baggie full in the back of the freezer. Time for some a la vodka!

                                                                          1. re: coll

                                                                            i just had prosciutto yesterday with burrata, arugula, basil and cherry tomatoes with italian bread. some of the prosciutto you have might be good in a little phyllo or puff pastry "pocket" or egg roll wrapper with maybe some fontina or mozz, or ricotta and some mushroom, deep fried or baked. that is super low-fat, huh?

                                                                            1. re: alkapal

                                                                              OMG stop! I'm TRYING to be on a New Years healthy diet ;-) The salad is a good idea though.

                                                                              1. re: coll

                                                                                one "dieting" trick is grating cheese and spreading it out. that is effective to give flavor, but without the calorie and fat density. take a one inch cube of cheddar, for example, and shred it vs. just eating as is. you'll be surprised. of course, that doesn't work for burrata.

                                                                                1. re: alkapal

                                                                                  I often grate romano over whatever I'm serving, it adds flavor but no need for mass quantities.

                                                                                  1. re: coll

                                                                                    yes, i'm a big fan of pec rom's bold flavors. i have a little recipe for tomatoes that takes advantage of it. http://www.chow.com/recipes/13591-alk...

                                                                                    1. re: alkapal

                                                                                      That sounds wonderful. I try to remember to grate some on any tossed salad I make, not enough that anyone can identify it but it adds so much flavor.

                                                                    4. Though it is rice, risotto with seasonal vegetables.
                                                                      Soups and stews, pho
                                                                      Pad thai
                                                                      spinach souffle

                                                                      1. OK, I thought this chili was so delicious, I promised to bring it to a potluck, but ended up telling them I was sick so I could eat it all myself. That's probably bad social karma, right? Anyway:
                                                                        1 (28-oz.) can whole tomatoes, with liquid
                                                                        3/4 c. uncooked bulgur
                                                                        1/4 c. oil
                                                                        1 med. onion, chopped
                                                                        3 stalks celery, chopped
                                                                        2 carrots, chopped
                                                                        1 sweet potato, chopped
                                                                        4-5 tsp. chili powder
                                                                        2-4 cloves garlic, minced
                                                                        1 tbsp. lemon juice
                                                                        1 tsp. sugar
                                                                        1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
                                                                        1 tsp. ground cumin
                                                                        1 tsp dried basil
                                                                        1/2 tsp dried oregano
                                                                        1 1/2 cups diced green pepper
                                                                        1 (10-oz.) can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
                                                                        1 (19-oz.) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
                                                                        2 cups tomato juice
                                                                        1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter (optional)
                                                                        Drain tomatoes into 1 qt. saucepan. Set tomatoes aside. Bring drained tomato liquid to a boil and stir in bulgur. Cover, remove from heat and let rest 30 minutes.
                                                                        Meanwhile, in a 4-qt. saucepan, heat oil and sauté onion until soft. Chop reserved tomatoes and add to onions along with celery, carrot, sweet potato, chili powder, garlic, lemon juice, sugar, pepper, cumin, basil, and oregano. Simmer until vegetables are tender, about 15-20 minutes.
                                                                        Add green pepper and cook another 10 minutes.
                                                                        Add prepared bulgur, beans, chickpeas, and tomato juice, and mix well. Simmer gently for 30 minutes. Stir in peanut butter, if using, and simmer until ready to serve. If the chili becomes too thick and dry, add more tomato juice.
                                                                        Nice with avocado, chopped onion or scallions, plain yogurt or sour cream, and/or grated Monterrey Jack.

                                                                        10 Replies
                                                                        1. re: bakersdelight

                                                                          >>>> I promised to bring it to a potluck, but ended up telling them I was sick so I could eat it all myself.<<<<

                                                                          that's astonishing! i never fail to be amazed here on the 'hound.

                                                                          1. re: bakersdelight

                                                                            Sweet potato! And bulgur! This sounds great.

                                                                            1. re: bakersdelight

                                                                              Chili is a great way to go. But it will taste much better AND be cheaper if you use dried beans, rather than canned beans. A 1-lb bag of dried beans that yields at least 2 lbs of beans is 99 cents, and you can get it cheaper if your store has bulk bins.
                                                                              There are a variety of different directions you can take it in, but my basic vegetarian chili is an assortment of beans (4 different kinds, including chickpeas), tomato, celery, carrots (leave the pieces pretty big--it adds a nice sweetness), chili powder, salt.

                                                                              1. re: Nicole


                                                                                Also if you cook from dried beans you can flavor them as you wish (lots of garlic too), much better than the flavorless mush from cans... I cook a whole 2 lb bag and freeze them in 2 cups portions (a regular sandwich ziploc-full - same as a regular can) then lay them flat in a bigger freezer ziploc i get about 6-7 small ziplocs out of it and it costs like 1.49$..

                                                                                1. re: AnchovyBourdain

                                                                                  canned beans will never get the creamy (but not mushy) texture and lusciousness that comes with cooking dried beans with some fat.

                                                                                  i like canned beans for quickie salads, or a quickie black bean soup.

                                                                                  1. re: alkapal

                                                                                    how about soup beans and cornbread ....you could add some fried potatoes to the side.....great cheap southern meal!

                                                                                  2. re: AnchovyBourdain

                                                                                    I never thought if cooking dried beans in bulk and then freezing individual portions. Do they lose anything nutritionally or in taste when freezing?

                                                                                    1. re: Barbara76137

                                                                                      I'd doubt it, just may dehydrate a bit and lose texture when reheating.- hey frijoles!

                                                                                      1. re: hill food

                                                                                        I don't notice a change in flavor or texture and can't imagine there would be any nutritional degradation unless frozen for many months. It's not like the beans were fresh-picked when you cooked them.

                                                                                      2. re: Barbara76137

                                                                                        I do it. They taste pretty good! I can't say for sure about nutrition.

                                                                                2. egg-based dishes were my first thought - as others have suggested, frittata, strata, torta.

                                                                                  and don't forget about vegetarian or vegetable-based versions of meat dishes - like lentil-nut loaf instead of meat loaf, veggie burgers (made with beans and grains), or vegetarian moussaka.

                                                                                  if you're fortunate enough to shop in a place that sells grain, nut & legume products in bulk, definitely take advantage of it - bulk items tend to be cheaper because you're not paying for packaging or marketing. and if you do have access, try out some alternatives to the standard rice & wheat - try quinoa, teff, millet, barley, kasha (buckwheat groats)...they're cheap, versatile & filling, as are sweet or white potatoes.

                                                                                  oh, and polenta! buy the cornmeal in bulk, and go crazy with it. you can bake it or go the stove top route, and serve it loose/soupy, or firm - sliced and finished on the grill or in a hot pan.

                                                                                  there's so much more to rice & beans than just rice & beans!

                                                                                  savory pudding/jook/congee
                                                                                  stuffed vegetables
                                                                                  egg donburi

                                                                                  Moroccan-spiced chickpea tagine
                                                                                  mixed bean chili
                                                                                  chana masala
                                                                                  black bean enchiladas
                                                                                  baked gigantes

                                                                                  a meze platter with dolmades, hummus, baba ghanouj and tabbouleh would be delicious and inexpensive too.

                                                                                  ETA: Mark Bittma's Minimalist column in the NY Times is a great resource for inexpensive recipes, and since you like the breakfast-for-dinner idea, i thought you might want to check out this great piece about savory breakfast options from last year:

                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                    Re Mark Bittman: I've made his Savory Bread Pudding with great success. As he notes in the intro to the recipe the addition of "a pinch of thyme or sage, chopped nuts or cooked chestnuts, or about a cup of grated sweet potato or chopped scallions. If you want a pudding that tastes more like stuffing, just add chopped celery, onions, carrots and herbs." I've also substituted other varieties of mushrooms.


                                                                                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                      GHG, thanks for all the great suggestions! Bittman's another one I forgot about. I love The Minimalist and I have his Kitchen Express which I adore and am constantly inspired by.

                                                                                      1. re: LauraGrace

                                                                                        always a pleasure :) i'm looking forward to hearing your reports as you embark on this adventure!

                                                                                    2. I think this experiment would be a LOT more fun and delicious if you made the budget 2$ a person...or even 1.50. 1$/person seriously limits your choice of protein. At 2$ you can have almost anything.

                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: joonjoon

                                                                                        Right, but this is supposed to be kind of an adventure to see how cheaply we can eat. Besides, there are lots of ways to get protein besides meat and/or meat substitutes.

                                                                                        1. re: LauraGrace

                                                                                          I'd love to see you check in as you go along. Letting us know what works and what doesn't and how cheaply you do it. Will be good inspiration,

                                                                                      2. First thing would have to be pasta. You can always add whatever you have. a little meat or sausage, chicken whatever. You can add cooked vegetables. You can crack and egg or two into hot pasta. you can add cheese if you have any.

                                                                                        Stew will meet the criterion. Any kind of rice dish. Jambalaya. Risotto. a pilaf with any kind of meat and veggies.

                                                                                        Corn is a poverty food. Look for various dishes around corn.

                                                                                        Limit the amount of meat. No more than 4 ounces per person. Hopefully not that. Vegetarian dishes are even cheaper.

                                                                                        There is a book called "Desperation Dinners" by Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross. It may give some good ideas.

                                                                                        12 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                                                          re: corn, i was so focused on polenta earlier that i forgot to mention tamales! thanks for the reminder :)

                                                                                          1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                                                            I think Desperation Dinners focuses more on quick meals, made in under 20 minutes, rather than affordable meals. Recipes rely heavily on convenience foods, which, in my mind, is going to jack up the price. I checked this book out of the library and returned it without cooking a single recipe in it, because nothing appealed to me. Are there recipes in there that you particularly recommend, Hank?


                                                                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                              Yes, I probably should have referenced the book "Cheap, Fast, Good" by the same people. Both books emphasis is on fast and cheap and both books have pretty simple recipes.

                                                                                              The challenge the o.p. has in mind would be very difficult to maintain over a long period. It would be a good basis for a book or a website though.

                                                                                            2. re: Hank Hanover

                                                                                              I lived where Desearation Dinners first appeared in the newspaper and they were REAL meals and they worked. I would encourage anyone to get a copy of that cookbook and use it. That and a good pressure cooker will get you wherever you need to go.

                                                                                              1. re: fedora

                                                                                                I checked Desperations Dinners out of the library (long before it was recommended in this thread) and didn't find any of the recipes appealing enough to cook from it. I didn't actually try any of the recipes so maybe I really missed out. But, I might take another look since it's come up in this thread and another.

                                                                                                For those of you curious about the book, it was just recently indexed on EatYourBooks.com. You can see a listing of the recipes included in the book and the ingredients each recipe calls for (though not ingredient quantities or instructions) if you're curious. You don't have to be a member of EYB to see the recipes names. http://www.eatyourbooks.com/library/1...

                                                                                                I did search on the recipes that call for something "canned" in the book and got this result:

                                                                                                About 55 of 245 total recipes, or about 20% of the recipes. Some of these foods I don't mind canned. Canned beans and canned tomatoes, no problem. Canned corn I do have a problem with, but usually when it calls for canned corn they also list frozen corn as an option. I don't have a problem with frozen corn.

                                                                                                I also notice a few recipes that call for canned soup and refrigerated fridge biscuits. Those are definite no-no's at my house as we really try to avoid processed foods. I also don't think of them as super frugal.


                                                                                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                  Canned corn is processed by the Giant within 12 hours of picking. The hybrids are so sweet now that the product is sweet, crunchy, and predictably good, for out of season use.
                                                                                                  I haven't had nearly as good results from frozen corn, which seems to be hit or miss.
                                                                                                  The nutrition label is about the same for both types.

                                                                                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                      Yes, there is 100% more, because sodium was not even rated in the frozen product you provided for us. The vendors can elect what parameters of nutrition they want tested, and will pay for, and sodium was not included in the sample you selected..
                                                                                                      In any case, I don't buy the myths about sodium and heart disease, as the long term studies have gone nowhere, even after the statistics were re-worked..

                                                                                                      1. re: jayt90

                                                                                                        I think more salt is often used in the canning process and they generally use much less salt in frozen vegetables. I know in home freezing I was warned to watch the salt as it led to quicker deterioration of the frozen product. Not sure if that applies to commercial frozen products or not. But I have noticed less salt in frozen vegetables. I generally rinse the canned product and steam it or cook it in a bit of water or chicken broth after rinsing. Depends on what one is doing with it.

                                                                                                        I think watching salt is wise in that when I was growing up we were inclined to salt things before even tasting them. I now eat much less salt as I season foods differently and don't miss the added sodium. Takes a certain amount to improve the taste. But I've found many herbs and spices are more than adequate to replace it. I use a lot of lemon/lime in my foods now and don't miss the salt all that much.

                                                                                                      2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                        you can buy many brands, including some store brands, of canned corn that have no salt added!

                                                                                                      3. re: jayt90

                                                                                                        I've always been weary of TGG since my Father worked for them and I've heard stories of what some of the workers added to the cans in the 70's ... I'm sure it is fine now, but I can't get past it.

                                                                                                      4. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                        Consider a can of cream-style corn with enough milk added to make it as thin as you want and a bit of instant mashed potato to make it as thick as you want, for Corn Chowder. You can add to this any odd bits of ham, bacon, or sausage that you may have lying around, or some fried onions, or a chunk of cheese. A good cheap quick chowder.

                                                                                                  1. I did cheesy grits with soft boiled eggs this morning and I think that would fit your criteria. I used only 1/2 cup of dried grits with 4 cups of water and cooked for about 15 minutes to get a creamy consistency with dried herbs and granulated garlic then added 1 oz of shredded cheddar cheese to flavor. That made 2 servings easily. I then topped with peeled soft boiled egg. The runny yolk makes a yummy sauce with the grits. You could do a poached egg too. Maybe some fried crispy leeks to top for texture would be nice.

                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                    1. re: septocaine_queen

                                                                                                      Fried cheesy polenta as vegetarian entree: cook 1 cup yellow cornmeal overnight in Crock Pot with 4 cups cold water and 1 tsp salt. In the morning add an 8-oz package of Sharp Cheddar cheese and stir until cheese melts. I also add a little flaked hot chili pepper for a slight bite. Turn into oiled bread pans and chill thoroughly. Turn out. Slice. Fry. Makes a lot. Can be frozen.

                                                                                                    2. Some ideas:
                                                                                                      Tuna cakes or croquettes
                                                                                                      Tempura fried vegetables
                                                                                                      Cabbage Slaw (as a side dish)
                                                                                                      Pajeon (Korean scallion pancakes)

                                                                                                      1. Turkey Leg "Osso Bucco" - i think its around this time of year that you can find really huge turkey leg quarters for a few dollars - braise them with celery, carrot, onion tomato and left over red or white wine - serve with risotto - which, by the way, you can approximate with any rice, it won't be as creamy - or try cooking orzo with the risotto method.

                                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: harryharry

                                                                                                          Yeah, and how can you go wrong with chicken leg quarters, thighs or legs for around $1 per pound?

                                                                                                          1. re: harryharry

                                                                                                            I second this and recommend using pork shanks or knuckles instead of turkey (and instead of veal), too. Pork shanks (which a lot of butchers don't seem to call shanks, so also try asking for knuckles or raw hams if you want more meat) are really cheap from my local European butchers because they're not terribly desirable parts of the pig. I almost like this osso buco variation better than the veal original, although I base it on Marcella Hazan's recipe. It is incredibly good.

                                                                                                          2. Remember eggs! So cheap and yes, healthy too. And I feel that anything served with a poached egg is a meal. Bakign your own bread is also a great way to keep costs down.

                                                                                                            This is a great braised cabbage dish that I served with a poached egg:

                                                                                                            Oatmeal - even savoury kinds for dinner (there is a chowhound thread about those


                                                                                                            Cooking in season is always the best idea. Butternut squashes were 17 cents a pound this week at the grocery store... mmmm.... Butternut squash soup would be a great idea.

                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: blinknoodle

                                                                                                              This is a great egg-based dish, too:

                                                                                                              Eggs Poached in Tomato Sauce

                                                                                                              1. re: blinknoodle

                                                                                                                In Afrika they often cook squash with peanuts. In the US we often use peanut butter instead. One of my favorite soups is a squash soup made with chicken (or vegetable) stock with a dollop of peanut butter mixed in. The PB gives the soup a real richness and it's good for you too.

                                                                                                              2. Whenever you start thinking about frugal cooking, you have to look at poverty cuisines around the world.

                                                                                                                This means an emphasis on rice, corn, beans, potatoes and pasta. These are simple and plain ingredients. Consequently, poverty cuisines usually have a lot of fairly strong spices especially if the country has a hot climate. Hot spices make you sweat which evaporates and cools you.

                                                                                                                Rice, beans and dried pasta can be purchased cheaply and in large quantities. Corn can be purchased dry and milled for grits and polentas but for the most part, people are going to have to buy it fresh or frozen. Potatoes don't last as long but are still cheap.

                                                                                                                Home grown vegetables add greatly to frugal cooking.

                                                                                                                If meat is in a dish, there won't be much. If hunting and fishing can be done, so much the better.

                                                                                                                Anyway, the point to this diatribe is: If you want to eat frugally, you have to study the cuisines of Asia, Latin America, Africa, India, Italy, Spain and the southern United States. You will need to base your meals on rice, beans and pasta and to a lesser extent corn and potatoes and stock your pantry with spices.

                                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                                                                                  Pearl Bailey (the performer) put out a paperback cookbook many years ago that focused on inexpensive foods as a way to feed a family. Wish I still had it, but I got rid of it when I moved from a house to my RV. I'm sure you could find a used copy on Amazon or eBay. It was a great read and also filled with many wonderful recipes. She was a good cook in addition to being a great performer.

                                                                                                                  1. re: fedora

                                                                                                                    You know that book is available for $0.75 at half.ebay.com. After you mentioned it, I almost bought it but I just think I need it.

                                                                                                                2. In my local groceries, I can usually find smoked turkey legs very cheap, and they're a marvelous base for soups -- all the smoky & chewy goodness of ham but cheaper and acceptable to non-pork eaters.

                                                                                                                  A savory noodle kugel is another pasta dish that I hadn't seen mentioned in this thread.

                                                                                                                  And if you bake your own breads, then empanadas would be pretty easy for you to make as well.

                                                                                                                  1. I'm thinking baked eggplant (w/tomato sauce, onions, and pecorino cheese)
                                                                                                                    w/bread and salad

                                                                                                                    or a baked potato bar w/salsa, cheese sauce, and mushroom gravy as choices
                                                                                                                    accompanied by sauteed garlic spinach

                                                                                                                    1. the wonderful Peg Bracken has a chapter in the "I Hate To Cook" book on putting together a satisfying, hot meal for one, which easily fits this topic. As she put it, the basic technique is to put something on, over or inside a potato, rice or good yeast roll like an English muffin. Many versions of eggs; veg, etc in a sauce, canned items like soup or chile. She suggested making a Column A, Column B sort of chart so you wouldn't end up nutritionally deprived or ruin your budget with take out or delivery food because you're bored of the same ol', same ol'.

                                                                                                                      12 Replies
                                                                                                                      1. re: meowzebub

                                                                                                                        This reminds of a fellow I once knew, a vegetarian, who, for over a year, what he ate for dinner was a baked potato and a large salad. Of course, he varied the greens and veggies in the salads.

                                                                                                                        This way, he never had to think: "What will I have for dinner" and it was inexpensive and he enjoyed it.

                                                                                                                        I have a recipe for a Turkish red lentil soup that's really delicious. Just red lentils, chicken broth (cheaper made w/water and almost as good), chopped onion, garlic, carrots, tomatoes, olive oil, regular and hot paprika. At the end, you melt some butter in a pan and add some dried mint, swirl around and add to the soup.

                                                                                                                        1. re: walker

                                                                                                                          Could you share the actual recipe? For some reason lentil soup never works out right for me.

                                                                                                                          1. re: Pia

                                                                                                                            This came from a beautiful cookbook I got from the library:


                                                                                                                            I've made it several times, last well, freezes well, very comforting. I always double the recipe but here I'll just do it as written. Indian stores have great prices for these red lentils -- they taste so much different from the brown lentils.

                                                                                                                            Red Lentil Soup with Sizzling Mint Butter

                                                                                                                            Heat 2 T olive oil over low in large, heavy saucepan.
                                                                                                                            Stir in 1 lg onion, finely diced, 1 carrot, finely diced and 2 cloves (I do more!) chopped garlic. Add 1 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp hot paprika and 1 tsp regular paprika and saute about 7-8 minutes.

                                                                                                                            Stir in 1 T tomato paste and cook 1 minute or so. Add 1 cup (7 oz) red lentils and 1 1/2 quarts chicken stock (can use water, instead) and bring to boil. Cover and cook on med. for 20 min, stirring now and then. (I cook it longer than 20 min.


                                                                                                                            Add 1 good tomato, seeded and chopped and s & p and simmer at least 20 min.

                                                                                                                            When ready to serve, put soup into bowls. Heat 2 oz unsalted butter in a small pan until it foams, then add 1/2 tsp regular (sweet) paprika and 1/2 tsp dried mint. Swirl this into each bowl and serve with fresh lemon wedges. (I just add it all to the big pot of soup.)
                                                                                                                            (The fresh lemon makes a big difference, imo.)

                                                                                                                            Let us know how you like it.

                                                                                                                            1. re: walker

                                                                                                                              Perfect -- all ingredients I have in my depleted pantry! Thanks, I will report back when I try it.

                                                                                                                              1. re: walker

                                                                                                                                Wow! This is a sibling separated at birth to Indian masoor dal (red lentil) recipes, including the tarka step!

                                                                                                                                  1. re: walker

                                                                                                                                    it's a really fast dance with origins in the persian empire, performed wearing soft leather shoes with gold embroidery. it has been adapted in the west, and can be performed to the tune of "do the hustle." like, "do the tarka!"

                                                                                                                                    alternatively ;-)), it means essentially tempering spices in fat. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaunk

                                                                                                                                    >>>"""Chaunk (Hindi: छौंक; sometimes spelled chhaunk, chounk, chonk, chhounk, or chhonk, or pronounced chhawnce; also called tarka, tadka, bagar, phoron, or phoran or popu( పోపు ) in Telugu ; and often translated as tempering) is a garnish and/or cooking technique used in the cuisines of India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, in which whole spices (and sometimes also other ingredients such as minced ginger root or sugar) are fried briefly in oil or ghee to liberate essential oils from cells and thus enhance their flavors, before being poured, together with the oil, into a dish.
                                                                                                                                    Chhaunk is added at the end of cooking, just before serving (as with a dal, sambar or stew), or else prepared at the beginning of cooking, before adding the ingredients to a curry or similar dish.<<<

                                                                                                                                1. re: walker

                                                                                                                                  My family -- even the picky 3-year old -- enjoyed my bastardized version of this recipe. (Yes, I was one of the guilty ones on the "I'm incapable of following a recipe" thread -- I really did intend to follow it to the letter, but my excuse this time is that we just moved and I haven't located everything yet.) I left out the carrot, used ancient supermarket paprika instead of differentiating between sweet and hot, and left out the butter/mint step which I'm sure would have made it even better. And we didn't have a lemon so I squeezed in half a lime. Still, it turned out very tasty and I'd make it again -- maybe I'll get a little closer to the real recipe next time. Also, as you noted, 40 minutes wasn't quite enough cooking time -- I think more like 50-60 minutes is better for this. Thanks for the recipe!

                                                                                                                              2. re: walker

                                                                                                                                Water vs. broth. There is always a homemade version, which does not have to cost anything. Any time that I cook veggies, I always drain off any of the cooking water, or vegetable juices and pour it into a small container which I keep in the freezer. Since there is usually more than one container of frozen "broth" in the freezer, it is easy to defrost and use for any recipe. The variety of flavors from the different veggies work well in recipes, at zero cost, and lots of flavor. I always use my homemade "broth" in soups, and would not consider using commercially available broth.

                                                                                                                                1. re: inthekitchen

                                                                                                                                  +1. I always have a collection of broth like that in my freezer, too. My Mom and grandmother did the same.

                                                                                                                              3. re: meowzebub

                                                                                                                                Okay, I know this is an old thread, but I'm enjoying it! So glad to know someone else still loves Peg Bracken. One of her books (I think it is "A Window Over The Sink") has the best crumpet recipe ever.

                                                                                                                                1. re: tonifi

                                                                                                                                  I love Peg Bracken - she wrote a number of books, and had a marvelous sense of humor. Her stepson, Jack Ohman the political cartoonist still lives here in Portland. He wrote a wonderful article about her after her death a few years ago. My family loves her "Cockeyed Cake", a mix in the pan cocoa-based cake. Effortless, and so delicious.

                                                                                                                              4. Love the thread.

                                                                                                                                Michael Chiarello has a white bean waffle recipe that I think could work with a couple of simple swaps (veg oil instead of olive, and regular salt in instead of the fancy salt). Tacos would be good-- you could make tortillas or buy corn tortillas and fry them. I like beans and a soft boiled egg, but skillet fries veggies are great too, or meat if it's in the budget. Ditto injera, fry bread, or crepes-- very versatile. Not sure if you'd feel comfortable serving nachos for dinner, but that's another option. Lo mein or fried rice might work, if you keep the relevant ingredients around. I always like samosas and chana masala. I second the suggestion of grits. I think I paid $1.22 for a can of them at Walmart. If you find ground meat for cheap, chili's a super-cheap meal.

                                                                                                                                5 Replies
                                                                                                                                1. re: jvanderh

                                                                                                                                  Have you made the white bean waffles? They have been in my to-do stack since he made them on whatever morning show he was on and did them. I really liked the idea of those and need to move them back up in the list.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: decolady

                                                                                                                                    I think I googled 'what's the difference between pancake and waffle batter' and tinkered with it a little bit, so I could make it into pancakes (I don't have a waffle iron). I poured hollandaise over them, I think. Even with all my modifications, they were awesome.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: jvanderh

                                                                                                                                      I've been toying with the (not novel) idea of cornmeal/polenta waffles.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                                        Interesting. I've never had them, but I like polenta.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: jvanderh

                                                                                                                                          there are a few recipes to be found even on CH in that section

                                                                                                                                2. This is one of the latest recipes I've found that I love. I think it should come in within the price range and is substantial enough to leave your guests feeling that they have been well fed.


                                                                                                                                  Pasta dishes like Spaghetti Carbonara aren't very expensive to make - but I don't feel those dishes are really complete without a glass of wine to go with them, which makes the overall cost much more (especially at Canadian liquor prices). The first time I went into a liquor store in the States I thought I'd died and gone to heaven, everything is so cheap there) . I don't feel like Indian food needs alchohol to give it that finishing touch, just a nice glass of milk, tea or coffee, or a Lasse will do nicely and not break the bank.

                                                                                                                                  Also, when I was a student, many years ago, one of the most wonderful meals I remember was a Zuppa alla Pistou made with loads of fresh vegetables and served with a beautiful loaf of fresh homemade bread hot from the oven. It still makes my mouth water thinking of the aromas of the soup, and the fresh bread with butter melting on it. It's a hearty vegetable soup/stew that should satisfy hungry "burly dudes" and be healthy enough for the nursing mamas too. - again pairs nicely with a glass of cold milk to go with it and keep the beverage cost down. I do love my wine, but some meals really are fine without it. I think for me the hardest part would be think of meals that feel complete/like nothing is missing without the wine - and these are two I am happy with.

                                                                                                                                  edited to say: I"m not sure the link is complete - it's the "Red Lentils & Sweet Potato Curry with Spinach" from the Dinner with Julie site.

                                                                                                                                  1. I don't know if any of you like to cook together, but it's fun to make your own corn tortillas. Get some masa harina, add a little water (and salt, if desired) according to the pkg directions, then roll into balls and press in a tortilla press. Have two comals or cast iron skillets going and let one person handle those to cook the tortillas, stacking them under a towel. With two skillets, 20 tortillas should take 20 minutes. For 10 people, you may need 40 tortillas because they are small as a rule.

                                                                                                                                    While that's going on, toast some pepitas on another burner, then puree them in a blender with some canned tomatillos, garlic, onion, cilantro, chicken broth, and a mild or hot pepper. Pour this back in the skillet you toasted the pepitas in and let simmer.

                                                                                                                                    Let each person top a couple of tortillas with some roasted butternut squash (you can do this the day before and reheat), a sprinkle of cheese and the sauce.

                                                                                                                                    We just had this for dinner and it was delicious. The pepitas add some protein and contribute a nice nutty taste that makes the sauce really rich. I didn't price it out, but I think it was wicked cheap, too! The pepitas can be expensive unless you get them at an ethnic grocer, and don't forget to toast the butternut squash seeds and use those, too.

                                                                                                                                    I don't use a recipe for the sauce because you really need to taste as you go.

                                                                                                                                    5 Replies
                                                                                                                                    1. re: Isolda

                                                                                                                                      sounds delish! some cotija sprinkled on there would be great, too.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: Isolda

                                                                                                                                        I just bought a tortilla press today and I'm definitely going to do this! I love the idea of butternut squash and cotija cheese. Maybe with some black beans too.

                                                                                                                                        Do I have to use masa already made, or can I make my own from cornmeal? Cornmeal I've got, masa I'd have to buy.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: LauraGrace

                                                                                                                                          probably something for another thread, but what does a tortilla press cost these days?

                                                                                                                                          1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                                            Got mine at the Mexican grocery for 12 bucks, and it would be equally effective as a weapon of self-defense against an intruder, if I could lift the dang thing over my head! Super heavy cast aluminum.

                                                                                                                                      2. I'd say that gnocchi is in the "cheap but impressive" range. I prefer recipes that just use flour and russet potato (no egg)....serve with a brown butter and garlic sauce or a simple tomato sauce.

                                                                                                                                        You could also make with orange flesh squashes, though I tend to prefer the texture of gnocchi made with the "drier" (less moist) starchy vegetable.

                                                                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                                                                        1. re: 4Snisl

                                                                                                                                          I can make gnocchi with other things besides mashed potatoes? I think you just changed my life. Do you have a basic recipe that you follow? (is it just flour and squash puree?)

                                                                                                                                          1. re: jvanderh

                                                                                                                                            Basically, yes! This is the recipe I started with as inspiration:


                                                                                                                                            However, I added a slight drizzle (maybe a TB) of extra virgin olive oil to the dough. I kneaded quite a bit of extra flour into the dough(sprinkle, knead, repeat, repeat....) until it was smooth and soft, but not sticky. I had a friend show me how to make potato gnocchi, so I tried to get the dough as close to that texture as possible! I think letting the squash cool (aka having a lot of water coming our of the squash) helped.

                                                                                                                                            Then.....and this is probably becoming something other than gnocchi at this point....I scoop off little bits, roll around into a ball, and the roll each one forward on the tines of a fork until I've got a flatter, curled-around shape. To me, this is preferable to the more squat shape of many gnocchis I've had, but like I said, perhaps I've made something entirely different at this point. But it sure is tasty.... :


                                                                                                                                            Hope it works out for you!

                                                                                                                                            1. re: 4Snisl

                                                                                                                                              Thanks so much-- I can't wait to try it :-) I appreciate the tips, and a flatter gnocci sounds good.

                                                                                                                                        2. I would take a ramble thru here


                                                                                                                                          It's given me lots of inspiration.

                                                                                                                                          1. WOW, y'all! Thank you so much for all these amazing ideas! I've got a list going.

                                                                                                                                            I'll try to update after the first week and let everyone know how things went.

                                                                                                                                            1. I often make Asian dumplings / pot stickers from overstocked veggies in the fridge. Make my own wrappings with the help of a hand-cranked pasta machine and a little flour.

                                                                                                                                              Grate or thinly chop the veggies, microwave it until all softens up. Season (salt, white pepper, sugar, soy sauce, SESAME OIL - very important, corn starch). 1.5 cups of flour will give you about 30 wrappers. I like my skin very thin so I roll it all the way to #6. Assemble the dumplings and cook them.

                                                                                                                                              1. Mujadara is a favorite of mine. I like to serve it on a big platter with a squeeze of lemon juice, a mound of cooked spinach in the middle, and a ring of chopped cucumbers and tomatoes around the edge. If you've never had it, be advised that it sounds dull but it is INCREDIBLE

                                                                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                1. re: antepiedmont

                                                                                                                                                  Mujadara is wonderful! Your method of presentation sounds great, tasty plus adding a little much needed color. I regret all the years I wasted thinking this dish would be boring...

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: antepiedmont

                                                                                                                                                    I can't agree enough with the recommendation for Mujadara. I like mine with lots of caramelized onions and some plain yogurt. Leftovers make for a great take to work lunch (but keep the yogurt on the side until you're ready to eat).

                                                                                                                                                  2. Since you mentioned it, I'd say give some serious thought to making bread for most or all of these meals. A nice bread will make a basic dinner really special and filling. Cook's Illustrated has a wonderful split pea soup... serve with some crusty bread and you'll come in WELL under $1 per person. (Maybe save up the extra $ and you can buy some meat every now and then!) You can do an impressive panini for pretty cheap... check out websites like Panini Happy for inspiration. Spaghetti with a vegetarian sauce (e.g. pomodoro or amatriciana), with garlic bread.

                                                                                                                                                    Or buy a small amount of local/organic ground beef and make a thick batch of chili. Server over potatoes with cheese and sour cream.

                                                                                                                                                    Homemade pizza or calzones can have inexpensive toppings/fillings (cheese, spinach, broccoli, tomatoes).

                                                                                                                                                    1. Didn't see if it was already mentioned:

                                                                                                                                                      Refried beans on tortillas.
                                                                                                                                                      Roast whole chickens use every bit of it all week long.
                                                                                                                                                      Ground beef seasoned and formed in 3oz patties fried up - 2 pounds makes for about 8-9 burgers, add in cheapest buns in the store and some home fries made from scratch.
                                                                                                                                                      All kinds of soup but seafood based ones.
                                                                                                                                                      Eggs eggs eggs. Top everything with a fried egg: toast, rice, stew, etc.
                                                                                                                                                      Pancakes and french toast.
                                                                                                                                                      Using a book such as Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes to make great home bread with no kneading, no special equipment. I make a daily freeform loaf which makes every cheap meal real special.

                                                                                                                                                      1. If you want to eat meat cheaply, go for the non-trendy offal bits...

                                                                                                                                                        1. I'd do a zuni chicken, sans bread salad, using a supermarket cihcken. I recently bought some on saie for .59 cents/lb and .77cents/lb during the past 3 weeks. Served with rice or potatoes.

                                                                                                                                                          Also black beans and rice would be a great meal imo. It's all in how you season/cook the beans.

                                                                                                                                                          1. Maybe to add to the challenge aspect, you could have all the guests come armed with something from their fridge that might be getting old. combine all the different veggies into a pasta or risotto.

                                                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                            1. re: cassoulady

                                                                                                                                                              Mmm Stone Soup, or in this case pasta or risotto :-) If there are any littles in the party it would be extra nice to read the story to them. Even though mine are no longer little we still do Stone Soup every year for Winter Solstice, delicious and a fun tradition.

                                                                                                                                                            2. How about soba noodle salad in peanut sauce served with homemade veggie spring rolls? Wraps are cheap, cabbage is cheap, soba is cheap...all delicious!

                                                                                                                                                              1. I used to make fritattas a lot. 12 eggs, vegetables and cheese of choice, a little milk or cream (or not), S&P made enough to fit perfectly in a 12" skillet. I just bake it, rather than starting on the stovetop. Use your nicest looking skillet, as you can serve from it, too.

                                                                                                                                                                I have recently been on a "beans" kick. I cook up a pound of Navy Beans, Great Northern, or Cannelli. Rinse, stick in a dutch oven (I use either LC or AC), add water to about an inch above the top of the beans, bring to a boil.

                                                                                                                                                                Then lower the heat to "barest bubbling simmer" and add some fresh sage or thyme from those packets the produce section (or not, if you want to save money). If you prefer fresh basil, skip the sage and thyme at this stage, and add fresh basil just before you serve.

                                                                                                                                                                After beans have cooked for an hour, add salt to taste. You need more than most people are probably comfortable putting in. Let the beans cook another 30 minutes to an hour, and taste test for doneness. It usually takes 2.5 hours from boiling point before the beans are completely cooked.

                                                                                                                                                                You need to check the beans for doneness, though. Some batches are older and drier, and this affects cooking time. I DO NOT SOAK OR PRECOOK BEANS. You can if you want to, but I found it made no difference. I may have to cook them a little longer, is the only consequence of not soaking.

                                                                                                                                                                To my taste, beans can sometimes seem done when I'm tasting them from the pot but still be a little lumpy when I serve them. This takes time to get used to. Know, however, that IT IS BETTER TO SLIGHTLY UNDERCOOK BEANS THAN TO OVERCOOK THEM. I don't know what happens exactly when they overcook, but they take on the texture of fine concrete.

                                                                                                                                                                Okay, now you have your most important choices to make. When the beans come out, I toss them in a little olive oil and Parmigiano-Reggiano. And I add fresh diced tomatoes (no need to skin or seed). Taste for salt, and add pepper. Obviously you can use a less expensive cheese, and skip the olive oil. And if you're doing this in the fall, you'll want to substitute a vegetable.

                                                                                                                                                                Hope this helps, and if you have any questions, please let me know.

                                                                                                                                                                1. If you're willing to make your own pasta, you can come in under budget making a delicious mushroom lasagne. You can blow your wad on the mushrooms and cheese. One of my cookbooks has a fabulous recipe: it is simply layers of pasta, mushroom filling, and bechamel w/lots of parmesan or romano cheese stirred in. There's no pricey mozzarella or ricotta in the recipe. The mushroom filling consists of olive oil, minced onion, garlic, a tiny bit of minced prosciutto (or pancetta), but you can omit the meat altogether, as I have on occasion, mushrooms (you can use all button or a mix of whatever is available/affordable), sage and rosemary for seasoning, a bit of canned tomato, some wine. Reconstituted dried porcinis (just a bit) and the(well-strained) soaking water really give the mushroom sauce depth. (If you want to skip the wine, you could try using some brewed coffee or even chicken broth in the sauce (which isn't very saucy, more like a thick mushroom ragu.) I'll look for the recipe if it interests you.
                                                                                                                                                                  This is hearty and filling, absolutely delicious.

                                                                                                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                                                                                                                    i doubt that this is the proper place to post this, but i just want to say that i just found chowhound and this is the most fantastic website ever. i have been reading it for a few hours every night this week, its quite addicting. i too have been searching for healthy, easy meals and ideas. i have just started to cook recently, and i love it.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: joshhead

                                                                                                                                                                      Welcome aboard, joshhead--and, yes, I'm afraid CH is addictive. But there are much worse addictions.
                                                                                                                                                                      Whatever your tastes and cooking style, you'll find a world of ideas here.

                                                                                                                                                                    2. Man that's rough. You may have to stretch the tuna on this one and I grow lemons and mint, so it's not much of a problem for me to make this a $12 dinner.

                                                                                                                                                                      Linguine Con Tonno
                                                                                                                                                                      1 package pasta
                                                                                                                                                                      1 can tuna packed in olive oil (I only use imported and the tuna belly, but I'm sure there are cheaper versions like Iberia)
                                                                                                                                                                      3 T capers
                                                                                                                                                                      Juice of 1 lemon
                                                                                                                                                                      1/4 c fresh mint leaves
                                                                                                                                                                      2 T olive oil

                                                                                                                                                                      Boil pasta with salt according to package directions. Place remaining ingredients in food processor. Take sauce and mix in with pasta. I add a little butter. Sprinkle with parmesan and red peppers, but I think that might take you over the $12 budge depending on what kind of cheese. You could always just keep the peppers and parmesan that you get from pizza places.

                                                                                                                                                                      You can't taste the tuna. It's a very fresh and flavorful pasta. I got it out of a Sicilian cookbook that I purchased from Cook's Library. My husband can't stop eating it. He'll stand over the pot and stuff his face.

                                                                                                                                                                      6 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: jindomommy

                                                                                                                                                                        Is my math wrong here? 1 package of pasta serves 4-6 and I need to serve 10-12 for $10-12. Sounds delicious, though!

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: LauraGrace

                                                                                                                                                                          Oh....you have to double the recipe. I've seen pasta on sale for $1.50. I forgot to add that you need to keep the pasta water. Always keep the pasta water to help smooth out the sauce. BTW...you can make the sauce in the time it takes to boil the pasta. It's a true winner of a recipe. I can't find the book. It's got pictures of figs on it. The book also had an amazing recipe for a sweet and sour cauliflower pasta that I'm sure would come under the $12 budget.

                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: jindomommy

                                                                                                                                                                          to cut costs, you could also swap out the tuna for some white beans -- canneloni or navy or even chickpeas...

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: jindomommy

                                                                                                                                                                            What kind of red peppers? Roasted in olive oil, or just plain raw red peppers? I don't see them on the ingredient list. That tuna belly that you're talking about, do you order that from someplace? My local Wal-mart doesn't carry that, or anything near that quality. Sounds yummy, though.

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: jindomommy

                                                                                                                                                                              >>""You can't taste the tuna. ""<<

                                                                                                                                                                              huh? don't you pay extra for good tuna just so that you can taste it?

                                                                                                                                                                            2. This is an awesome thread to try to wrap my head around. What immediately came to mind for me was picadillo (Cuban ground-meat./veg. hash) served with steamed rice, black beans with lime and cilantro, and sauteed bananas. 12 people, @ 3 ozs. actual ground meat per portion (with other vegies and sauce, the portion of the finished dish will be much heartier per person)=36 ounces meat, or 2&1/4 lbs. roughly (you might up it to two and a half, just for the pot). At 1.99 per pound on sale, your meat will run you around 5 bucks: the beans, rice, bananas and extra "makings" for the picadillo can't possibly come to more than seven dollars. A delicious vegetable stew would also be nice: onions, garlic, celery, zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant, corn, green beans, carrots, cubed potatoes, served w/ quinoa or orzo and bread. Chicken legs are always cheap and could be braised off for the meat, which when stirfried with onion, ginger, garlic, hoisin, grated carrot, beansprouts, iceberg (GREAT in a stirfry) would make dynamite lettuce wraps which you could serve with (sorry) fried rice or panfried noodles w/ egg scrambled in. Enormous stuffed baked potatoes with sour cream, chive or green onion, and bacon: the mix-ins would be your biggest expense, and you wouldn't need much of them. Those with a green salad would be a great meal for cheapski. And a stuffed french loaf (thinly sliced onion, tomato, zucchini, mushrooms and cheese, sauteed and stuffed into a long loaf, baked and sliced, is delicious. And a delicious classic southern dish that can certainly be a main: stewed green beans with smoked turkey wings/necks and sliced onions, a huge potful cooked down for a couple of hours - really - with cubed potatoes steamed on top during the last half hour or so, served with cornbread or biscuits. You can also add tomatoes to this to stew into it; it's very savory and a big bowlful makes quite the meal. And finally a recipe so strange, yet worthwhile, that I'm just going to brave it and post: drained canned tuna, cooked in a crockpot with bbq sauce and served over toasted buns. I know, I know......but there is absolutely no fishy or weird flavors around this. People assume (and swear) that it's the most tender pulled pork/beef they've ever tasted. Those and some corn on the cob: voila, dinner.

                                                                                                                                                                              7 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: mamachef

                                                                                                                                                                                Oh oh oh. My mama did a version of that green bean - potato thing on canning days because we needed something that could mind itself while we worked. She used bacon and onions to season, beans from the garden, and whatever ugly potatoes we had on hand. It's just one of the *most* satisfying things. Yum. Good call. It's definitely going on the list.

                                                                                                                                                                                Big baked potatoes is a great idea. Question -- most of these meals will be after church for me and some of the crowd -- can I bake the potatoes in the oven at a lower temp, do you think, since I'll be out of the house for a little under two hours?

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: LauraGrace

                                                                                                                                                                                  Bake them at 350 or hotter, then turn off the oven and leave them inside. They will still be hot after a couple of hours. I prefer baking them at 400 - James Beard recommended high heat and prolonged baking, which turns the flesh just under the skin a toasty brown so they taste like roasted potatoes from the caramelizing of the sugars in the potato. The skin does not burn. You CAN do them longer on lower heat but you'll get more flavor Beard's way. If you find the potatoes have cooled too much just turn the oven back on for 5 minutes.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: greygarious

                                                                                                                                                                                    Ooh, you could do a baked potato bar with different toppings: broccoli and cheese, chili, butter and sour cream, taco meat... the options are endless.

                                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: LauraGrace

                                                                                                                                                                                    So glad you know and like this one. Just be positive to serve it with plenty of swayt tay.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: LauraGrace

                                                                                                                                                                                      Just a note on baking potatoes slowly. I sometimes bake my baking potatoes, wrapped in foil in my oven on 200 -250 for 4 hours. I use big Idaho bakers, usually from Costco. Hope this helps.

                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: mamachef

                                                                                                                                                                                      Another variation on the green bean/potato stew is Fasolakia (Greek): onion & garlic sauteed, add canned tomatoes, a layer of thickly sliced potatoes, a layer of green beans, then a layer of parsley or dill. Let it cook at a lively simmer for one hour and serve with good bread and feta cheese (the cheese could really be omitted or replaced with a dollop of yogurt if you can't find feta cheap locally).

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: hennybee

                                                                                                                                                                                        I do believe I would walk over coals for this. I'm definitely making it at home this week. Thank you so much, hennybee!!

                                                                                                                                                                                    3. Polenta topped with poached eggs or roasted whatever veggies that are on sale is something I tend to use fairly often. These make easy vegetarian dinners and what we often prefer.

                                                                                                                                                                                      When you do opt for a rice and beans meal, don't forget about a Louisiana favourite: Red Beans and Rice. I have adapted my family recipe to be vegetarian and cooked in a crockpot. But you can certainly make it with a leftover ham bone, if you have one handy that needs to be used. Red Beans and Rice is a standard around here, whether or not we are on a budget.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. Japanese Curry Korroke with veggies and rice.

                                                                                                                                                                                        It's just mashed potatoes mixed with curry powder and veggies (I like the frozen variety versus the canned, peas and carrots being my favorite). Shape the potatoes into little flat ovals, roll in flour, then egg, then panko (Japanese bread crumbs). Deep fry until golden in oil and serve with steamed rice and katsu sauce (see recipie if you cannot find in store or prefer to make yourself).

                                                                                                                                                                                        Not the healthiest, but it's fun! You could add additional veggies and even a protein. Spinach and carrots sauteed with soy sauce and you can quickly pan fry firm tofu and glaze with teriyaki sauce.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Katsu sauce:
                                                                                                                                                                                        2 tbsp. sugar
                                                                                                                                                                                        2 tbsp. soy sauce
                                                                                                                                                                                        2 tbsp. worcestershire sauce
                                                                                                                                                                                        2 tbsp. ketchup
                                                                                                                                                                                        Mix together.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Have fun!

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. Oh... serve my famous "grey meat" special"... i.e. I always buy what it is in the clearance pile, mostly poultry, and then from there make dinner, or lunch or breakfast... for instance last week I bought (3) turkey breast for $3.00 each and (1) chicken for around $2.50. So Turkey dinner, turkey hash, turkey sandwich, roasted chicken and finally turkey/chicken soup... all for about $20.00 for a week for two people... I do this week in and week out. I do keep a well stocked pantry and herb garden. Most of everything during the week cooked in the crock pot.

                                                                                                                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Tonyettehill

                                                                                                                                                                                            While I am quite sure that I would do something very similar to this idea during serious budget times (like, right now for most of us), I'm equally sure that I would NEVER ever reveal to anybody the original name of the recipe. I'm sorry, I'd have to make something up. Haven't thought of it yet, but when I do I'll be sure to post it.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: mamachef

                                                                                                                                                                                              take a cue from "éminence grise" and call it "revered special dinner." ;-).

                                                                                                                                                                                            2. Great post! I cook for a family of 5 on a tight budget and could talk forever but looks like you've got a lot to sort through. So I'll throw in a "use up leftovers" recipe thats our go-to!
                                                                                                                                                                                              Tortilla pizzas! Cracker-crisp pizza crust with versatile toppings!
                                                                                                                                                                                              Get your oven as hot as you can (450-500). Ideally you wanna use a pizza stone but if cooking for a crowd then you can do a couple of these on cookie sheets. Spread a super thin layer of leftover tomato sauce, tomato paste, leftover pesto, leftover BBQ sauce, whatever is appropriate to your other toppings. Top pizzas very sparingly with leftover crumbled sausage or chicken, and whatever already cooked veggies you have in the fridge. Got a scallion or shallot lying around? Thinly slice that and top your pizza! Really you can use ANYTHING as a topping so long as it doesn't need to be cooked.
                                                                                                                                                                                              Use whatever cheese you have on hand- I'm a big fan of deli-sliced provolone because it's convenient, always on sale, and works well on both Italian or BBQ-style pizza.
                                                                                                                                                                                              Its important to keep the toppings super thin or you'll have floppy pizza! Once your oven is nice and hot put in your pizza and turn on the oven light. If I had to give cooking time I'd say 5 minutes but you really need to watch these.
                                                                                                                                                                                              To elevate the finished product top with fresh herbs like basil or cilantro. Or arugula is quite chic on pizza these days.
                                                                                                                                                                                              Not only is this as cheap as you want it to be but it's FAST too. Hope this helps.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. I don't think there has been a mention of the overlooked, relatively unloved chicken liver. A few times a year I need a chicken liver fix, floured and sauteed in the fat of a strip of bacon, on toast with a little cream gravy. So inexpensive. With a few frozen peas, I'm under a buck.

                                                                                                                                                                                                11 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                                                                                                                  That actually opens up the idea of all kinds of "creamed ______ on toast"! So thanks!

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                                                                                                                    I have never had chicken livers but I think I'd probably love them... Do you just ask the butcher gor some? Or do you save them from your whole chicken?

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: iheartcooking

                                                                                                                                                                                                      the grocer usually has pint tubs alongside the fresh meat, usually runs less than 2 bucks a pound

                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: iheartcooking

                                                                                                                                                                                                        I buy them in pint containers at a local grocery for a little over a dollar per pound.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                                                                                                                          I thought I was coming in high, but it's been about 6 months and I'm out in the el cheapo sticks, no idea where iheart is.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                                                                                                            You and I were typing similar answers at the same moment, yours posted first. This has happened to me before - it's a good thing I'm not a gunfighter!

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Veggo

                                                                                                                                                                                                              got that right pardner...

                                                                                                                                                                                                              actually my reflexes, eyesight and aim are so bad you'd be fine.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              I wanted to add for iheart since the poster has never had chicken liver before, a little goes a long way. as it's so rich and so high in iron, I can't imagine even wanting a 1/4 lb. per person, maybe even less.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: Veggo

                                                                                                                                                                                                        The esteemed Sam F was a major chicken gizzard booster. I don't see them in my local market but the Asian markets have them. I made stroganoff at his suggestion - it was great, and tasted like veal. They need slow braising, or to be sliced very thin and briefly stirfried.
                                                                                                                                                                                                        They are very economical, as are chicken livers and hearts, but contain a huge amount of cholesterol so keep that in mind in terms of how often you have them.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: greygarious

                                                                                                                                                                                                          oh man, in STL there used to be this wing House London and Sons that did an amazing deep fried gizzards and gravy over dirty rice. a handyman friend would do you odd jobs around your house in exchange for a large order (you'd have to pick it up as it was in a not-so-good area but it was so worth it I'd get two)

                                                                                                                                                                                                          love gizzards.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: greygarious

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Miss the Sam F. And I can get chicken gizzards in some local markets. I grew up on chicken gizzards w/ egg noodles. Had totally forgot how good they are.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: Veggo

                                                                                                                                                                                                            They've been on sale recently here, 2 twenty-oz containers for a buck. I'm sauteeing, I'm chopping, I'm going liver-crazy. The only thing I am not doing is eating them around My Mr., who has delicate sensibilities about 'horrible' things like liver, but can down a pan of tripe at a soulfood restaurant like nobody's business.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          3. http://www.tasteofhome.com/Recipes/Ca... sub a turkey sausage to lower fat and add a few potatoes to stretch it out further. I actually call this poverty stew. it's plain comfort food.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Take advantage of the bulk section for grains/seeds like quinoa and buckwheat that are cheap and uncommon enough to make a low cost meal taste more interesting.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: SuzySkandal

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Good Gawd - Does that sound good Suzy! Thank you for sharing!

                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. Good place to share this -standing at the meat counter recently , saw chicken feet, 88 cents per pound. Meat counter clerk said they had ordered a case by accident last week, and it sold out, so they were back. I know they add nicely to chicken broth, but how else are they prepared? BTW little boys were fascinated with them, and the meat guys told them they were lizard feet --

                                                                                                                                                                                                              7 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: myaco

                                                                                                                                                                                                                I know that they are fried in a sticky barbecue-type sauce though I have never had them. I went to dim-sum in Chinatown with an American-born friend of Chinese extraction. I didn't know what they were and was about to try them when my friend cautioned that they were not to the liking of most Americans because of their cartilaginous texture.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: greygarious

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Thanks. Now I can dimly remember Joyce Chen doing something with them on her TV show years and years ago -

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: myaco

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    they're supposed to have a nicely chewy texture, I too have always thought about giving them a shot.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: myaco

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I have been eating chicken feet for 60+ years. They are high in collagen they make wonderful broth and jelly. My wife won't touch them but my sister and niece enjoy them. They are however not cheap if you buy quality chicken feet as I think they are one of the leading US exports to China.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  PS The feet are essentially lizard feet representing a major genetic clue to bird's dinosaur ancestry.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Moedelestrie

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Yes, when I was at the Tyson factory they mentioned how they used to use the feet for dog food until they realized what a market there was in China. They called them "chicken paws" which tickled our fancy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: coll

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      there was a good market for american chicken feet in china until they complained about dumping and closed it.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                      i can see it giving stock a nice body but tried it at dim sum and was not impressed. cultural thing? i was a little weirded out.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: divadmas

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I use it for stock, but my friend from Chile swears by them deep fried. Not an everyday thing for sure!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                3. Week one: frijoles a la charra and cornbread.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I have a wicked cold and needed something I could cook with ease and confidence. The next lunch is in a couple weeks, and I'm planning to branch out a bit. I compiled a list of y'all's suggestions and it's serving as an inspiration as I plan the next few weekends' dinners.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The frijoles a la charra recipe comes from Homesick Texan and it's a seriously delicious recipe.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Total for 8 servings, including butter for the cornbread and sour cream for the beans: $7.35

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: LauraGrace

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Bulgar Wheat is the "Doomsday Grain Food". It is dry expands when mixed with boiling water,light weight before rehydration, easily stored, cheap, high energy, high fiber, filling, etc. and versatile once you get past the ubiquitious Tabouli, Try it for breakfast hot with honey, milk and or butter, Fry it into cakes with a poached egg on top, or expand salads with chopped tomato, cucumber, carrot or any raw veg, Mix with cheese or sautee with onions, mushrooms, and beef broth for a satisfying easy to prepare dinner, this is our emergency food when fishing/hunting in the Northern Territories, (yellow knife) in Canada; Try it at home it is pretty good!!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: ospreycove

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      bulghur also makes a nice bed for lentil sloppy joes...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: ospreycove

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I love bulgar mixed half and half with barley or quinoa. I have a recipe that I can't locate right now but will look further when I get a little time. If I lost it, I will cry! I am planning on doing rice/whole grain and bean type meals extensively after the New Year, there are so many possiblities of jazzing it up. I used to make this dish for breakfast, but you can just add whatever flavorings you want to make it all-purpose.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: LauraGrace

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        bravo, LG! Talk about taking one for the team. Continued good health and best of luck to you!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      3. kasha
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        vegetarian stuffing
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        home made gnocchi
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        mac and cheese

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. Cheapies that I like,

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Pho, use pork bones and Viet spicing for broth, and garnish with sliced vegs, and very thinly sliced leftover meat or seafood.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Cassoulet, forget the expensive parts like confit, and use lamb shoulder or pork shoulder, and marked down sausage.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Steamed mussels, with home made bread for sopping up the sauce. A tomato base is healthier and much cheaper than a cream finish.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Lentil soup, with good stock and sliced frankfurters added in at the end.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The Pritikin soup/stew: A wide variety of root vegs and pasta, cut to size so they cook in 30 minutes, herbs, tomatoes, and a few thin slices of price reduced sausage or franks.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I never thought vegs could be so good, and don't do this nearly enough.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. I was reminded tonight of how delicious pasta with browned butter and mizithra could be. Extremely affordable. All you need is pasta, butter, parsley and a hunk of mizithra. I also like to add sauteed mushrooms and spinach every now and again.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: soypower

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I think my all time favorite Spanish dish is a ramekin of spinach and garlic (ok uses pine nuts too - there can add the $$) covered with a simple cheese like mizithra and baked.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. I love the blog: http://brokeassgourmet.com/
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I really loved your post, so thank you! I'm feeling inspired to do this sort of theme with my own friends (20's and 30's as well) since most of us have no choice but to be frugal most of the time. You're brilliant!


                                                                                                                                                                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: DishDelish

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Inventive uses for canned pumpkin on that blog!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: greygarious

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Yes, I like how she uses whatever is on hand.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: greygarious

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I was happy to find the pumpkin recipes too-- I just bought a big pumpkin. I made soup last night, but I'm thinking of trying the naan and pumpkin mac and cheese. I don't generally like the texture of baked mac and cheese that starts with a roux, but I think the idea of pumpkin mac with sage butter sounds good.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. My brother and sister in law met while in the Peace Corps in Kenya, and when they came back, taught us how to make ugali (think African polenta that you can pick up with your hands) and chicken stew. It's delicious, and incredibly frugal. I haven't made it in years, and need to resurrect it as a part of our regular rotation! It's delicious, filling, and healthy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. long braised cabbage and carrots and onion from Molly Stevens is cheap and heavenly. can add potatoes and bits of chicken sausage , pork sausage or canadian bacon

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. Also assuming that you are haunting the local grocery ads for their weekly sales and coupons......
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Polish Sausage or Poleska sliced up with potatoes and onions. You could throw in a green pepper too. You can get the Hillshire Farms Poleska on sale around here for about $3 ea. They can serve 4 comfortably. But you have to find them on sale. Since they have such a long shelf life, I buy a few when they go on sale and just keep them in the refridge.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. This discussion makes me feel like a bit of a freak (albeit a freak in good company) -- $1 per meal per person has been my default food cost for years! I do eat a lot of beans and a lot of rice, but not always together. Beans, you can sprout (Indian style, with the tiny tails) and they're like a whole new food, usually sweet and non-farty, almost like fresh corn. Or, use besan (chick pea flour) with varied vegetables and spices to make all kinds of fritters. Rice, I like egg fried rice (with a little bacon) for breakfast or any other meal, and rice noodles are always handy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Aside from beans/rice, dairy is good (chowders, "cream" sauces for pasta, a little parmesan in everything). And I eat a lot of questionable pork, but in the spirit of the original post, sheep, goats, and most fish don't lend themselves to factory farming. Half a pound of ground lamb can flavour up an amazing moussaka (if eggplant's expensive, use potatoes -- many Greeks do). A pound of fish or lamb and some curry paste (and maybe a cup of coconut milk) with a whole lot of potatoes, maybe carrots and green beans or peas, and you've got a great curry, maybe with rice or noodles.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        A few more suggestions:
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        --meal-strength hot and sour soup, with tofu and mushrooms discount vegetables and noodles and some egg stirred in just before serving
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        --gado-gado: Indonesian peanut sauce/dip, with crudites or cooked vegetables and hard-boiled eggs, maybe over some rice noodles to finish the meal
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        --curried Stuff You've Never Curried, like beets (with lots of cumin, awesome)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        --pilafs with different grains
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        --warm Greek Salad, made with green beans instead of lame lettuce
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        --grated carrot salad with HotSourSaltySweet dressing (sambal, lime/lemon juice,salt or fish sauce, sugar)... actually that dressing picks up all kinds of cheap salad fixings
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        --cooked vegetable salads, North African style, served warm or room temp

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. Mexican (or other flavored) well-thickened not watery stew made of mostly meat rolled in burritos, alone, protein good with other things, and the extra freezes well for killer left overs when the flavors mingle. We make it with pork, beef, chicken, elk, and ... The one we did last week was an 8 pound pork shoulder bone in with fat cap bought at Winco for $2 per pound - before cooking cut as much of the fat cap off as was able. Before putting in pot brown on sizzling high heat on all sides. Note this is the same piece of meat most people BBQ into pulled pork. Then barely bubbled it for almost 24 hours when meat as still mostly whole covered in liquid the fat would rise to the top - especially on the edges of the pan and we skimmed the fat off about twice an hour. Have to skim fat off less with beef and almost never with chicken. We often also make this with the frozen boneless skinless chicken breast Winco also has for $2 a pound (for the beef or chicken to get tender I usually only slow cook it about 8 hours not the nearly 24 the pork double batch took while wanted this one to take its time). Cooked down until thick not watery as we prefer to take the time to do a reduction sauce increasing flavor as gets to desired thickness (a thickener can be used but we don't do it that way). Sometime would say when stirred about four hours before done all the meat fell apart and the bone came out clean then it reduced. Rolled it into into tortilla shells. Rolled them into plastic wrap and put several in each freezer-grade Ziploc bag. The 8 pound pork shoulder with bone was really about 6 pounds of meat and resulted in over 20 large nearly all meat burritos. They are big and a full meal eaten whole or I usually cut into half for two smaller snack-like meals with other things later (I try to eat more than four small meals a day). I often use the same oversize flour shells Reser's Fine Foods uses for their large 10 oz frozen burritos as the factory is near me (we stuff ours a little more than theirs also). Can be re-heated at home or on the go, taste great and good for you if use quality basic non-processed ingredients. The shell is the worst health-wise part and like the whole wheat and other kinds of shells now (thinner, tougher texture, hold together better, and healthier for us if eat a shell). We often eat the meat alone without the shell - very good on / with / in salads. The meat if alone can be frozen into serving portions by filling Ziploc-like plastic bags. I fill bags easily alone using a wide mouth canning jar to hold open the top of sandwich, snack, or quart-sized bags if used. Shhhhh don't tell anyone how you make your version - or about the specific combination of fresh healthy vegetables used in your slow never-overheated thick stew around the resulting tender braised meat. This takes a few times to get right then quickly became our favorite way to prepare most any inexpensive meat. We make it a bit different each time based on what is fresh, available, and affordable.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. This is one of my favorite meals, and cheap.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Saute a big onion slowly till caramelized. Salt well. Cook some French lentils in water or broth with a bay leaf. Boil some eggs till they are just between hard and soft boiled. Saute some greens with garlic and olive oil. When the lentils are done, drain (reserve some broth), stir in the greens and enough broth to make mildly saucey and top with the onions and quartered eggs.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            This is delicious--much more than the sum of its parts:


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I'm planning to make this this week:


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: loraxc

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              The cabbage-carrot-poached egg thing I linked to above has become a huge favorite. Really, cabbage is quite amazing in terms of nutrition and cost. Another recent fave at our house: caramelize a large onion, then add sliced cabbage and sautee till soft and browned. Boil up a giant pot of egg noodles. Mix just-cooked with cabbage and onion. Add dill or caraway to taste. Top with toasted nuts or feta. My kids adore this.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Also, bubble and squeak. Boil and mash potatoes, mix with sauteed cabbage. Season. Make into patties, coat lightly, pan fry. Serve with yogurt/horseradish sauce. Or you can go Indian with this and use green peas, lemon juice, and Indian spices instead of cabbage. Again, loved by kids and cheap.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: loraxc

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                And for a change of pace, bok choy instead of cabbage. Not too expensive if you get at an Asian store.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I like the patty idea, I've been eating Dr Praeger veggie burgers (with tzatziki lately on a ww pita) and looking for homemade veggie burger ideas. I was thinking bulgar but mashed potatoes sounds pretty darn good.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. Lentil tacos on frybread (well, for the health-conscious frybread is optional, you can do tortillas).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Frybread is a lifesaver when I'm looking to feed my kids' friends - my recipe is basically 4 cups flour, 2 T baking powder, about a T of salt, plus 2C milk. I just stir it all together and let it rest for a few minutes, then give it a quick knead (I actually prefer to leave this very "rough") then dump it on a flour-dusted counter. I cut it into 12 equal pieces, roll them into rough balls and let them rest again for a few minutes while the fryer warms up. I press and pull and essentially manhandle them into roughly 5-6 inch discs before slipping into the fryer.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              The lentil mixture depends on how vegetarian you feel like going - I generally use a pound of ground beef that gets mixed in. So I brown beef, about 1/2 an onion, chopped, a few chopped garlic cloves, and about 10 slices of pickled jalapenos from the ever-present jar in the fridge (fresh are obviously great). Then I dump in about a cup (maybe a cup and a half?) of brown lentils, and cover with water. I'm sure there are actual directions for cooking lentils that involve precise measurements - do consult those! Then I season to taste with chili powder, cumin, Mexican oregano and beef base and cook down. When they are cooked but not mushy, I give them a light smash with my potato smasher to help tie the texture together. As you can tell I am not afraid of fat, so I don't bother with draining the meat or adding it at the end - I like how it becomes part of the overall dish, not a meaty afterthought. YMMV

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              With sour cream, lettuce, tomato, pico de gallo and really whatever you think of, they are so good and SO cheap.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. If you live near a ethnic fish shop you can often get less favoured and sustainable fish for low prices. When we lived in the city I could get small mackerel for $1.50 - $2 per pound, and large native freshwater fish for $2 - $3 per pound. The mackerel were about 7 ounces and the larger fish was about 2 pounds.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                With the mackerel you could have a Japanese style dinner, with asian greens and rice, or a Mediterranean style meal with tomatoey rice and seasonal vege stew/salad. Keep the heads and bones for fish stock.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I never cooked the larger fish but it would probably be nice in a stew or roasted with some strong seasoning, as the flavour may be muddy. Potatoes or rice, and some veges and you've got dinner for 10.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. About one or two years ago, two teachers tried this for about a month, then reported it to the news. However they mentioned they lost about 10# a piece and became vitamin deficient in the process.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  As of all of America, they posted a blog of their success: http://onedollardietproject.wordpress...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. Make pizza from scratch. If the word gets out about how good and dirt cheap it is Domino's is in trouble. I'd estimate no more than $1 per person if you stick with veggie toppings like onion, garlic, basil, etc. Mine was ugly and misshapen, but always well received.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Pzz

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      This is likely untrue but my friend in Guadalajara once said "If you can't make a Mexican dish for less than a dollar a serving, it is definitely inauthentic."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: gregsamsa

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Well, it helps if you're in an area with easily obtained and inexpensive Mexican ingredients!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I agree there are many Mexican dishes that can be made very inexpensively (and we make our share). But if you're not in an area where some of the ingredients are popular, chiles and avocados and cilantro can get more expensive.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. I think I accomplished a $1pp meal today with Pozole Rojo. Some pork neck bones with a bit of meat on them ($1.79), a can of mexican hominy ($2.99), dried ancho chilies (.99), cilantro (.50), 1/2 cabbage (1.29), radishes ($1), a lime (.25) and an avocado ($1). From the pantry I used several garlic cloves, a couple bay leaves, some cumin, black peppercorns and a couple of cloves. Had some leftover queso fresco in the freezer (making it not so fresco), and some tortilla chips to serve with the finished stew. It was hearty, nutritious and delicious and served 5 people with lots of leftovers.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I found that the dried peppers, hominy and lime were much less expensive at the mexican market, and the pork neck bones came from the chinese grocer.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      14 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: soypower

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            the hominy seems expensive, but the limes and cilantro are cheap, compared to prices here.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I pay those prices too, not at a regular grocery store but a local, sort of ethnic place. It's a chain, not a tiny little place or anything. It makes a world of difference.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: coll

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                maybe it is just that i haven't bought hominy in a while.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                growing up, i'd eat warmed-up canned hominy with butter and salt on it. i love that flavor and texture.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I'll check out the price of hominy this weekend, I was thinking of picking some up for the first time anyway. I'm trying to do a "flexatarian" kind of diet with whole grains, I know there's lots of carbs but I'm counting overall calories too, curious to see what happens.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: coll

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    coll, weight watchers is what i follow (er, loosely). free veggies, fruits (for the most part) and limited carbs and protein. hominy is one that may be limited, because of the natural corn sugar. there are a couole of variations in a WW recipe of a "free" soup. the mexican and italian versions that i've had tasted really, really good and were very satisfying. http://kitchen-parade-veggieventure.b... i recommend them to anyone, WW or not.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    hominy is also good sauteed in the butter, so that it gets a little caramelized. mmm.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I was planning to start my hominy journey with pozole, I've been doing 2 or 3 different soups a week. Partly to save money but really to drop a few lbs. Not losing much weight though and afraid I'm doing it all wrong. I'm counting my calories now on sparkpeople, so we'll see if that helps.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The recipe you have here is very close to one I'm making this week, an old favorite of mine that I call Zuppa di Scarole. A bit of barley, but mostly escarole and mushrooms, fennel or bok choy, with some diced tomato (I like to use Rotel) and all the other usual soup add ins. I sometimes call it Diet Soup because I seem to loose a couple of lbs if I eat it for a few days in a row! I make this a couple of times a year when escarole is on sale for 99 cents.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I get the mexican style hominy at the tienda in my neighborhood. It's a huge 29 oz can. The limes always seem to be 4 for $1 at the tienda no matter what season...The other stuff was on sale and I only counted 1/2 the cilantro which was .99 for a bunch.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: soypower

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  soypower, sorry that i was a little obtuse (and more than a bit lazy) in my initial comment about interesting prices. LOL.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  cilantro -- ok. yes, a bunch in my regular grocery is 99 cents (sometimes up to 1.29). at the ethnic groceries, a bunch is 59 to 79 cents.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  i was also thinking that you may have had a big honkin' can of hominy!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  limes have been more expensive around here, though, but they are the commercial persian limes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  looked today here at the giant grocery…. hominy is $2.29 for a 20 ounce can, but that is not an ethnic store. i'm thinking that shoppers' food warehouse and local hispanic shops should be cheaper.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  …maybe ….

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  now i have hominy on the brain. '-).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    if you want hominy at a better price, buy it dried. As with beans, much cheaper.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: magiesmom

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Texture is also better, but it's a huge PITA.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I got my 29 oz can, it was $2.19. Pozole here I come! They did also have #10 cans but there was a skid in front of it so I didn't look.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. For anyone still reading this thread, there's a great blog called Poor Girl Eats Well that hovers around $1 per serving. Some of her dishes are more expensive, but she always mentions the price. http://www.poorgirleatswell.com/

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: PinotGringo

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I got back to the (very cold) house this morning, opened the (Christmas last month) charge card bill, stuck a cup of cold coffee (yesterday's pot) in the nuke, and felt sorry for myself for about two minutes. Then I made myself a pan of polenta for breakfast...water, a splash of milk, salt, three tablespoons of cornmeal, a pinch of brown sugar, and whatever bit of tasty fat you have...a bit of butter, a spoonful of sour cream..this morning I used the last little smear of creme fresh left in the tub (most of it was used during our fancy-pants Boxing Day open house...). All better. Sometimes the ability to make something nice that is also cheap is very comforting. That being said...when I have exhausted my pasta & rice idea, I like to make either hash (lots of veg...parboiled potatoes and carrots, brussells sprouts, onions, mushrooms, whatever was in the 'reduced' rack at the store) and some meat or seafood if I have leftover. Poached eggs on top make it fancy...OR...reduced rack vegetable ragu (mixed veg, a can of diced tomatoes, lots of garlic) over cheese polenta...use whatever ends & bits of cheese are hanging around in the cheese drawer. I am loving this thread, I hope it goes on forever. (Neck bones! Why did I never think of using neck bones for chili and posole? Brilliant.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. Just made my version of a Cuban soup for o-so-cheap.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Braised 2 pork shanks (previously well browned) with bayleaf, half an onion and pepper for about an hour and a half, let it cool down aside and kept the broth. Take the skin and bones off (put in frezeer to make another broth!), shred the meat (put aside half of it for tomorrow's dinner -TACOS-.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                .Sauté a diced onion, then add a diced carrot and some diced sweet potato. Throw in a minced hot pepper and some garlic. Add cumin, oregano, onion powder, salt, pepper, some tomato concentrate. Deglaze with some sweet vinegar (or beer). Add in 2 cups of cooked black beans and a ladleful of the delicious cooking liquid. Add the pork broth and let cook for maybe 15 minutes. Add the shredded pork meat and a handful of frozen corn. Cook 10 more minutes, blend half of it if you prefer. Could add some bell peppers, leeks, carrots or fresh tomatoes...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                With pork shanks at $2 a pound, it makes around 6-8 large meals (counting the tacos), and even more if you add to the lot the delicious pork broth. NICE.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. Not sure whether this has been suggested, but if you want to include protein into a few of your meals, buying whole chicken is usually a good idea. Essentially, a whole chicken can make you 3 meals:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  (1) Using the breasts, slice the meat and add to stir-fry, pasta, salads, etc.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  (2) Using the legs, debone the meat (reserving the bones for later) and make a stew, curry, etc.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  (3) Using the remaining carcass, make chicken soup and pair with homebaked bread, for example

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  If you really wanted to stretch it out, you could use just one of the breasts or legs at a time and come out with 5 meals.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  In Toronto, a whole chicken from a reputable butcher and farm would go for around $13. Divide that by 3 meals for $4.33/meal or by 5 meals for $2.60/meal. That still gives you a lot of room to play with as far as putting together sides and accompaniments.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Also, if rather than looking at your cost per meal you look at it from an average cost per meal, that might give you the freedom to splurge a bit on one or two meals per week and then eat more frugally the remainder of the week. So you could do roast beef one night for the big eaters/carnivores in the group, and the rest of the week you could do vegetarian dishes or more simple preparations. What this would also allow you to do is to buy a big hunk of roast beef, for example, serve modest portions for one dinner, and save the remainder for open-faced roast beef sandwiches the next day, or use the remainder in a stew, or whatever. Don't forget that you can always use leftovers to supplement the next meal and thereby save you some money there as well.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Another recommendation would be to buy less popular parts of the animal, like oxtail for example. Oxtail is used a lot by the Chinese to make soups and stews, and also by those in the Caribbean to make curries. The Argentinians do a great red wine braised cow tongue preparation, and the French do a killer braised pig trotter (the Chinese also have a version of this as well).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  (By the way, it may sound like I'm a carnivore and I am trying to push that agenda, but I assure you I read your concerns about the source of the meats you consume and I respect that. I just thought I would provide you with additional ideas on how to incorporate meat into your meals to give you more options for balanced menus.)

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Juniper

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Also keep in mind that meat/chicken/fish are not the only sources of protein...beans/legumes have only gone up in price SLIGHTLY over the years, whereas m/c/f prices have shot up dramatically. Just saying....and sorry if I am repeating what others have said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. As the oldest of seven and a former 'earth mother' who ground my own wheat and bought brown rice in 50- to 100-pound bags, I've been cooking in quantity on the cheap more than 50 years. I once traveled cross-country with a band and during our initial rehearsals, cooked everything in a popcorn popper, including rice with vegetables and split pea soup, because the stove didn't work in our rehearsal space and we were pooling our pennies.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    A few hints: Buy in bulk, especially grains, beans, flour, cereals and spices whenever possible. Always on hand: Beans, split peas, lentils, bulghur, dry milk, several kinds of flours, buckwheat groats, brown jasmine or basmati rice, and whole grain pastas and cereals, plus cans of tomatoes, clams and tuna. I also stock dried shiitakes and other items from small Asian groceries, such as soy sauce, coconut milk, rice noodles, curry mixes, black bean garlic paste and sesame oil. I always keep potatoes, apples, winter squash, sweet potatoes and onions.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I have three kinds of sourdough in the refrigerator, including buckwheat sourdough for pancakes. The other two are for bread; one my sister brought back from France and the other is reputed to be from the Alaska Gold Rush. The freezer always has low-fat smoked sausage, hamhocks, smoked turkey wings or legs and turkey bacon for seasoning.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Some favorites: crockpot lentil or split pea soup, black bean/feijoada, chili, posole, tamale pie using bulk polenta, kashka varnishkes, potato soup, clam chowder, Asian curries, chicken and dumplings and vegetable or chicken soup.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: skamama

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      skammama, I bow down before you.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Holy Moly what a great thread, but long.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Can we have a button for 'I like your post'?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: skamama

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Funny you are "ska mama" because that reminds me of a show my husband did the sound for years ago. It was Jimmy Cliff, and when his crew unloaded their equipment, the biggest trunk of all was full of rice, beans and vegetables for their Ital meal. It was treated with the same respect as their musical equipment, and their chef received the highest respect of the entourage. And yes, we were invited to partake; it was so, so delicious, I remember years and years later.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. A few years ago Pillsbury hyped something called an Impossible Pie (see online, lots of instructions). Basically this was a crustless quiche that could be modified to have just about anything in it---plenty of of vegetarian versions like Broccoli & Cheese. A small amount of Bisquick gives the Impossible Pie form and substance.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Querencia

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Back in the 70s I made Impossible Pie all the time. I had a giant box of Bisquick recently so I made one and it was such a disappointment, so doughy. Don't know if it was me or them.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. Watch the grocery store weekly ads (which are mostly online now) and see what the loss leaders are then plan your meal around those. Also, don't ignore the ad flyers available in large markets. This past Christmas season our local ran in their flyer for four or five weeks a coupon giving $10 off on a ham if you bought another $20 worth of groceries. Thus I got half a ham for $4.38, baked it, cut it all up, food-processed a huge amount of it for a party ham salad, cubed the rest to go in future scalloped potatoes, saved some odd bits to cook with cabbage, and cooked the bone with three pounds of Cuban black beans to make ten pints of beans to go in future meals of Black Beans and Rice (and whatever meat or chicken).

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Querencia

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            That's when I stock up on meats: Italian types around Christmas, turkey on Thanksgiving, leg of lamb and ham at Easter, and steaks on Memorial Day or Fourth of July. Then stick some in the freezer to last all year.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. Keep an eye on weekly drugstore ad flyers as they sometimes feature food items for less than the same item costs in grocery stores. CVS and Walgreens have recently sold cans of tomato sauce for 17 cents and their milk is almost always cheaper eg $1.99 gallon when it's $3.79 at the market. Also, haunt the dollar stores. Mine recently had cans of sour pie cherries for $1 that were over $4 at the food stores.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Querencia

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Walgreens is great for all baking products, like pie fillings or cornstarch, they are on sale at least once a month.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. DESSERTS: 1) Meringues or a big meringue tart take 3 egg whites and a cup of sugar, nada mas. 2) Jello is out of fashion but is great for using up fruit that is getting ratty---just no raw pineapple or kiwi or the jello won't jell. A treat for kids. 3) Bread pudding---uses up bread---throw in a few raisins if you have them. 4) Rice pudding, ditto. 5) If you have access to cheap or free apples, peaches, or berries, a hot fruit cobbler ekes out a skimpy meal---just rub a little flour, sugar, fat, and salt together, put it on top of the fruit, and bake.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. CHICKEN AND DUMPLING NOODLES
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Should feed 5, double for 10.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2 1/2 quarts water, with other ingredientsw and enough chicken leg 1/4s to make a well flavored stock. After stock is made remove chicken and debone.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                MOM’S DUMPLING NOODLES [thick noodles]

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                DUMPLINGS: (if you want to freeze some to have on hand, don't double recipe more than once, just make double recipes.)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1 egg, beaten
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2 cups all purpose flour and enough cool chicken stock for a stiff dough, start with one tablespoon of stock.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Put beaten egg into center of flour and pour broth into egg and stir into flour until you have a stiff dough.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Pinch off dough the size of a biscuit, sprinkle flour on wax paper and place the piece of dough on wax paper. Roll out very thin and cut into strips, then cut strips into desired lenght. Or cut into 1 inch squares

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Let dumpling sit at room temperature for 3 or 4 hours until they dry. [You can also use them freshly made if in a hurry]

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                You may want to add some sauteed chopped onion, celery, carrot, garlic etc. to the broth before adding dumplings. To use dumplings drop a few pieces at the time into boiling broth/stock, keep broth at a boil so dumpling/noodles don’t overwhelm the broth as they will stop the broth from boiling if not at a rolling boil. Add pieces of cooked meat of your choice after adding the dumplings. Cook covered at a simmer for 30 minutes or so until noodles are to your liking. After one meal of this it will be on your must have list.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. I would like to point something out to people. Serving rice and beans with a salad and bread would be possible but fairly difficult to do for $1 per serving at prices today. If you could do it on a regular basis, a family of four would still have a food budget of $84 per week or about $360 per month. That's without snacks, desserts, household stuff like laundry detergent, toilet paper, shampoo, etc.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. 1 pound box of orzo--cooked in milk and add dried herbs, salt, and garlic to your liking...before serving stir in about 1/2 cup parmesan cheese. ~$2

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    wilted spinach with garlic, salt, and pepper--$4 for 2 bags

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    baked whole chicken or ~2 pounds chicken quarters --rub with herbs, salt, and pepper and then stick it in the oven until done. ~$5-6

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: chrissy1988

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      dried beans are high now-drought last year wreaked a fair proportion of crop.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: divadmas

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Divadmas, I was a little skeptical about what you said until last week when I saw that the price for a pound of dried green split peas jumped from 68 cents per pound to 88 cents per pound (Walmart). Still a good deal though for a pound of protein, fiber and other nutrients, though!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Val

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I've been noticing too, there are no dried beans or legumes under $1. It's always something.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: coll

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            split peas at local supermarket were over $2/lb. have seen sale price of $1.49lb for dried beans. washington state.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: coll

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Aldi might have 2 lb bags for under $2. . . but don't quote me on that.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: chrissy1988

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Try cooking the orzo in chicken broth then make as above. Or cook in more chicken broth, add pieces of cubed chicken cooked in chicken broth, then lemon rind strips with the white cut out and scallions cut. It's like a soothing Japanese soup. Can add soy sauce individually.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        3. IF you have one near you, everybody chip in and buy a designated person a Costco card. They'll even let you add a "relative" or two. DO NOT impulse buy but get meats and chicken (including organic if they have it at the time--mine always does), what organic produce they have, bread, rice (brown), beans, etc. in quantity. If you're serving 10 it's the way to go and the stuff is very fresh--a rubberband around the open rice to keep it inside and it will last long time.