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Mar 24, 2011 01:41 PM

What is your "go to" meal when there is too much month left at the end of the paycheque - past or present

Food prices are rising - I don't know anyone who hasn't been hit these past few years trying to do more with less.

I'm from a family of six children - very limited income.. I am most in awe of mom (in her mid 80's now)
in how she made tasty meals - and find myself going back to them often.

hamburger meat pie - especially cold the next day dipped in ketchup
leftover hamburger buns, broil with slice process cheese and strip of bacon
meatloaf with bread stuffing...

home made fries wrapped in bread with ketchup and salt
or fried egg sandwich with french fries

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  1. Spaghetti tossed with olive oil, garlic and whatever grating cheese is around--a beaten egg tossed in or a fried egg on top would be a bonus. And don't forget the cracked black pepper.

    14 Replies
    1. re: escondido123

      Absolutely. At Big Lots and local supermarkets, you can find really great pasta (including whole wheat) for 2 for a dollar sometimes. Sometimes with a little butter, salt and pepper, sometimes olive oil and garlic, depending on what I have. Tossed with any leftover greens if I have them til wilted.

      1. re: escondido123

        My version of this is just plain spaghetti tossed with a high quality butter, sprinkle with truffle salt and grated fresh parm. I'll eat this even at the beginning of the month it's so good.

        1. re: SpareRib

          I would eat that cold at midnight from the fridge!

          1. re: SpareRib

            truffle salt and fresh grated parm... compared to my grad student budget you have too much "paycheque" at the end of your month!

            1. re: mattstolz

              LOL! So right on target... I certainly don't begrudge anyone their money, but high quality butter, truffle salt, and freshly grated parmesan are not the items on a poor person's grocery list.

              1. re: KailuaGirl

                Well, I decided to do the math to see if my fancy-sounding dish was actually more or less expensive than a less-than-fancy -sounding pasta dish.

                1/2 lb Pasta (I buy mine at Giant when they are on sale for $1 each): $0.50
                Kerrygold Butter at $3.99 per pack - I use about 1oz per 1/2lb pasta: $0.49
                Fresh Parmigiano cheese (1/2lb for $8.99 from Giant) - 1/2 cup grated : $0.56
                Truffle salt (averages $25.00 for 3.5 oz on Amazon. I purchased mine
                over 2 years ago and have only used about 2/3 of it. Generously served
                you would get about 150 servings per 3.5 oz). $0.16

                = $1.71 for 2-3 servings.

                1/2 lb pasta $0.50
                1/2 jar of Prego Ragu from a jar $1.25
                No cheese - you can't afford it, you're over budget!
                = $1.75 for 2-3 servings.

                So, I guess you can take your pick, truffle pasta or Prego! I know what I would rather eat for under a dollar per serving. (All prices based on Giant prices available on-line in DC metro area.)

                1. re: SpareRib

                  hahaha while i love your reasoning here (its pretty comparable to the reasoning i like to use when budgeting), comparing your dish to pasta with regular butter, the green can of parm, and table salt might lead to a slightly different outcome!

                  1. re: SpareRib

                    Wow. I've still got some money left on my Xmas Amazon gift card so will look at truffle salt. I wonder if they sell that at Trader Joe's? I live in Hawaii, where there is no TJ's, but a friend in Seattle makes regular TJ's gift baskets for me, usually including sea salt. Maybe I can switch to truffle salt for a change. :-)

                    1. re: SpareRib

                      While per serving this comes out cheap, it's still not a cheap meal to make because we hav to first have $25 to spend on the truffle salt. For me, that's a week and half's groceries most of the time.

                      Of course, for those who can afford to splurge on the truffle salt during more flush times, it's a great meal. But I think the problem with comparing it with pasta with tomato sauce is that it doesn't provide the same kind of nutrition. Not that a jar of prego poured over pasta is the most well rounded of meals but atleast it provides some veggies and so I could eat it a few times a week if it came down to it. when money was really tight and still feel like I was getting a decent meal. This dish, while delicious to me seems more like a side dish to go with some veggies and meat than as an entree. But then, I'm pretty fussy about getting a well rounded meal no matter what the budget.

                      That being said - a block of parm is most definately something I keep in my fridge at all times, even on my tight budget. I buy an 8 oz piece probably no more than 3 times a year and use it very sparingly. Just grating just a tiny bit of it over my plain pasta with sauce kicks it up several notches and makes it feel less like an 'end of month broke' meal

                      Just for fun I calculated my average cost for a plate of spaghetti.

                      $0.08 1/6 lb pasta (I stock up when pasta goes on sale for 50c/lb)
                      $0.28 - 1/6 of a quart jar of home canned crushed tomatoes (a quart jar holds 1.66 lbs of tomatoes purchased at $1/3 lbs)
                      $0.10 - a tiny bit of finely grated parmesean
                      $0.05 - assorted other items from my space cabinet - purchased from the ethnic stores
                      = 49 cents for 1 serving with cheese!

                      Of course, other than the pasta, I make this 6 servings at a time, refrigerate or freeze and boil my pasta fresh for each meal. This was an interesting exercise though. I rarely calculate cost per meal or serving, but my goal is to stay under $1/meal most of the time. Of course, I make up for staying this far under by splurging on cans of artichoke hearts every now and then and eating them in a single sitting.

                  2. re: mattstolz

                    OK, so real parmesan is never cheap, but there are pretty fair domestic "parmesans" that don't cost much. And real pecorino romano is less than half the price of real parm. Some people join Costco just for the bargain cheeses. Truffle salt I don't know about, but I keep a tiny bottle of truffle oil in my fridge. Expensive? Yes. About $20. But you only need a drop or two in a dish, and that bottle keeps forever refrigerated. I get several years and literally hundreds of meals out of it, so I think it's a bargain, considering how much I love the flavor.

                  3. re: SpareRib

                    I love my truffle salt - huge flavor boost for every thing. And I didn't pay but $15, and I still have half the container left after two years.

                    1. re: SpareRib

                      My version is spaghetti tossed with butter, salt, and a grating of nutmeg. So good, no need for cheese or truffle salt, it would ruin it!

                    2. re: escondido123

                      We make something similar--1 pound (weighed before cooking) spagetti with most of the water drained but enough left behind so it is a little "soupy", 1/4 pound of butter, about 4-6 beaten eggs (I have chickens so I can be flexible with that) but no black pepper (just because I don't like it, but give me crushed red pepper in spagetti sauce or on pizza anytime). On top of that, we add the grated cheese in the "green can".

                      1. re: escondido123

                        I used to make the same. Sometimes to change it up I would add grated ginger and a touch of soy sauce

                      2. My go to meal anytime, but very economically, is Chinese soup noodles. I always have chow mein style noodles in the freezer and cans of low sodium chicken broth on hand. Toss in whatever stray veggies and meat/tofu leftovers you have et voila!

                        1. A good book on this topic is "Good Cheap Food" by Miriam Ungerer. The balck beans and rice from it did it for us many a time. The book's cheap now too!

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: buttertart

                            I used to own this book! I don't know what happened to it. I remember the recipe, Spaghetti Marco Polo in it.

                            Yes, it is an interesting cookbook.

                            1. re: sueatmo

                              You can get it again for $4.00 or so including shipping. I enjoy Miriam Ungerer's style.

                            2. re: buttertart

                              Great book - lots of good economical ideas. You can buy the book used on Amazon.

                              1. re: MARISKANY

                                I like the tip about if you cook meat you always have fat to cook in. Her other books are also fun. Love her tone.

                              2. re: buttertart

                                Love that book! I've made a lot of her recipies.

                              3. Aloha caseygirl:

                                Roasted potatoes w/ rosemary.
                                Scrambled eggs w/ last night's leftovers.
                                Spicy lentil soup.
                                Spinach wilted in bacongrease.
                                Whatever I've caught or shot.
                                Fruit from the tree.
                                Root veggies from the cellar.
                                Onion soup.


                                3 Replies
                                1. re: kaleokahu

                                  . spinach in bacongrease...oh yeah! brings back the bread fried in the bacon grease that we always had a bowl of in the fridge. - God in Heaven - "gotta love "your roots" its who we become ..I don't think i could eat that now... while not that I'd admit (ha) ..

                                  1. re: caseygirl

                                    Ooooh, caseygirl, be careful:

                                    One of my fav sandwiches to this day is a good baguette, split and buttered with a little bacongrease, broiled for some brownness, and then a little mayo and mashed avocado. Bacon strip on top optional, depending on budget and lipid level.


                                    1. re: kaleokahu

                                      ok, I admit... I'd do the fried bread - however your version sounds much better!

                                2. Lentils and rice, spaghetti with (cheap) oil and garlic, butternut squash lasagna, bibimbap, basically anything meatless