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Feeding a family of 4 with cheap recipes. Any ideas anyone? :)

Hello everyone! I'm new to the forums but been a long time reader of recipes, etc. I just joined to find out from you awesome chowsters of great cheap recipes! I already know how to make different types of ramen noodes, mac n cheese among mashed potatos, beans, rice, vegetables, soups. I'm looking more of what are great cheap recipes with ground beef and chicken especially crock pot recipes! I do make chili every now and then and sloppy joes. I'm feeding myself, my husband and my 6 year old twin sons. Thanks for taking the time to read this cat's post! :)


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  1. Use chicken thighs in a slow cooker, which should be less expensive than breasts. I make a stew wirh skinless bone-in thighs, Mexican chorizo, onion, peppers (poblano and others) and hominy.

    5 Replies
    1. re: GH1618

      Check out this thread for $10 and less meals. Great ideas.


      1. re: foodieX2

        I have cooked chicken breast in a crockpot before and it turns out good but never knew thighs would make a great cheap way of cooking :) Thanks for that GH. Plus I just read on that thread there Foodie, I appreciate that link!


        1. re: KatnipCooking

          don't buy "thighs", buy "leg quarters"; where I live you can get 10# for .79/# on sale. Take a good knife and go right through the joint to separate, or just leave whole. I take off the skin as the joint area skin is loaded with gobs of fat. yuck. But quarters are 1/2 the price of thighs, or less.

          1. re: toodie jane

            Where I live, bone in thighs and quarters are the same price, usually around 99 cents a pound. Same for whole chickens.

            Adding that I live near Denver.

    2. I don't know if it falls into "cheap", but the ingredients certainly aren't fancy and my kids love my chicken burgers. Plus, I can assemble and freeze them individually wrapped for cooking. My almost 11 month old loves them fairly simple and we eat them jazzed up.
      I use 2 lbs white meat ground chicken and combine with a tablespoon fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. ( That's what I give the kids) I make patties and then press the patties into panko bread crumbs on the outside. I don't put breadcrumbs in them.
      I cook them in olive oil ( or oil or your choice) on the stove top until they are cooked through- firm.
      For us, I use the base recipe and might add garlic, soy sauce and ginger if we're eating Asian chicken burgers. I might top with a dusting of sesame seeds and teriyaki. I've done it with a bit of monterrey jack, sliced avocado and salsa on top too.
      There's a lot you can do with it...but the best is the idea that I can make different sizes depending on who its for, and pop out however many I might need to defrost fairly quickly.

      6 Replies
      1. re: MRS

        Hmmm chicken burgers. I never done that before. For the white meat chicken, Do you use a chicken breast to make into into patties? Cause this recipe sounds delicious! Especially since I got some panko bread crumbs and regular Italian bread crumbs. I plan to try this! Thanks! :)


        1. re: KatnipCooking

          I use packaged ground chicken- it's easier to use, a bit finer texture and I can often buy it on sale. That said, if you wanted to run chicken breast through a food processor, I don't see why that wouldn't work. You just want it really ground/fine so the taste is smooth.
          They are so super easy to prep. And then I wrap each one in cling wrap tightly and then keep freezer bags full of them.
          Let me know what you think!

          1. re: MRS

            Defiantly will! Thanks for letting me know what kind of chicken and recipe! :)


            1. re: KatnipCooking

              Just FYI the structure of the ground chicken is quite different than other ground meats I have worked with. Also, I don't like the texture when it's cooked but others quite like it. I just thought I'd mention in case you noticed a big difference from other meats. Also beware it is quite sticky :)

              1. re: fldhkybnva

                True about the texture. Good thing to mention. That's why I put the panko on the outside- kinda holds it together better.

        2. re: MRS

          I make these chicken burgers all the time. My husband LOVES them with the peanut sauce. I don't feel the need for the sauce and would rather put the calories toward something else. They are great on the grill or cooked in a pan.


        3. I wouldn't put anything but chicken thighs in a crockpot. A crockpot will destroy white meat chicken.

          For a crockpot: pork butt, beef chuck pot roast... That's all I can think if since I hate crock pots.

          Roast a chicken. You can make 2 or 3 meals out of one.

          1 Reply
          1. re: C. Hamster

            "It will destroy white meat chicken if you leave it in too long."

            It's great if you can monitor it and pull it out in 3 - 5 hours.

            Which does not work AT ALL if you are doing it and leaving the house to work.

            That's why some folks put it in frozen - it's an easy way to crockpot it and still have it edible after 8 - 10 hours.

          2. One of my favorite blogs is http://budgetbytes.blogspot.com/. She has some really tasty recipes that are also cheap, and gives the cost breakdowns too. Obviously costs vary by area but overall I've found her numbers (she lives in New Orleans) to be pretty close to what I pay here in Colorado.

            One interesting thing she did recently was have a recipe for this shredded beef in a crockpot: http://budgetbytes.blogspot.com/2013/... and then gave 4 different recipes that use up that one recipe of shredded beef (those are linked in the post).

            4 Replies
            1. re: juliejulez

              This blog is splendid! Works for what I need as well plus the shredded beef looks delicious :) Thank you!


              1. re: juliejulez

                I love this site as well and sometimes just browse for ideas.

                1. re: juliejulez

                  Me too. Love the blog and her recipes are great.

                  1. re: SilverMoth

                    Yeah! So far from looking at this blog, I got many ideas to give a try when I go shopping for ingredients! :)


                2. This may be too obvious but just roast a whole chicken and do the carving yourself. There are hundred of ways to spice it, make pan sauces, roast it with seasonal vegetables, put it on a bed of couscous, serve it with a side salad, etc.

                  If your family is getting too old to feed with a single chicken roast two of 'em. Use the leftover pieces and the bits you slice off the carcasses for chicken salads for lunch. And of course save the bones and vegetable scraps for stock to ramp up the flavor of future soups and sauces for basically free.

                  16 Replies
                  1. re: nokitchen

                    Whole roast chicken is a great idea. SO and I are a big eaters so a small-ish chicken of 3 lbs feeds 2 of us but it's a big meal and the bones are great for stock....which I plan to make as soon as I remember to save them instead of tossing them.

                    1. re: fldhkybnva

                      When you clear the table after dinner, just dump the carcass into your crock pot. Cover with water, and let it run on low overnight. In the morning, put a colander over a soup pot in the sink, pour all the crockpot contents into the colander. The soup pot is now full of stock.

                      Congratulations, you have homemade stock with a grand total of 2 minutes work. :)

                      1. re: tzurriz

                        Great, thanks. I once read that it's best to make stock with unflavored meat, is this true? My usual chicken is a Zuni-style with just salt and herbs. I imagined it would make a great stock but then read that article about the best ingredients for stock. Any simple roast chicken (e.g. lemon or herbs) is probably fine for stock right? I plan to roast a chicken in the next few days so will just plop it in. Do you freeze it?

                        1. re: fldhkybnva

                          We use any roast chicken carcass, at all. My husband smoked a chicken for Mother's day and I turned that carcass into stock. (I label that one smoked chicken stock) - and use it for more intensely flavoured applications, like gumbo.

                          I freeze mine in quart ziplock bags, but there are countless threads here on chowhound about freezing stock. I usually get 4 bags of stock out of one crockpot batch (1 carcass, minus leg and thigh bones).

                        2. re: tzurriz

                          I roasted a chicken last night and did just as you suggested and woke up to the wonderful smells of chicken stock. I usually use Kitchen Basics stock which is pretty dark yellow, but this stock is probably light to medium yellow. Do I need to concentrate it at all or can I just start using it as my go to stock? I use a lot of chicken stock so it would be great to not have to buy it nearly every few days. Have you ever tried this with leftover steak bones for beef stock?

                          1. re: fldhkybnva

                            If I it doesn't have enough flavor you can reduce it. Mine is hit or miss. Sometimes it is good and gets gelatinous in the fridge and other times it stays liquid.

                            1. re: melpy

                              OK, perhaps I'll give it a check when I get home to see if the consistency has changed and perhaps give it a taste. I was running to work so I had to throw it in the jars and go quickly. It looks similar to most "chicken broth" which I have bought in the past but rarely use now because I love the Kitchen Basics stock. Either way, it's such a great method and I'm sure I'll use it a lot.

                              1. re: fldhkybnva

                                If you want a really rich stock let it go in the crockpot with the bones all day instead of straining it in the morning. I usually leave it at least 24 hours. Also if you add a tablespoon (no more!) of apple cider vinegar it will leach more of the minerals out of the bones and into your stock.

                                1. re: weezieduzzit

                                  I see, thanks. I still have the chicken bones I wonder if I could plop them back in :)

                                  1. re: weezieduzzit

                                    I'll have to try that apple cider vinegar tip!

                              2. re: fldhkybnva

                                Taste it and decide if it is concentrated enough for you. If you want a darker color, toss in an onion skin next time. :)

                                I've never tried it with steak bones, but I have used standing rib roast bones and that works wonderfully for beef stock.

                                1. re: tzurriz

                                  Thanks. I threw it back in the crockpot last night for another 12 hours. It's in the fridge now while I'm at work and I'll test it out later tonight, thanks for the tips it really was easy. I did add the apple cider vinegar although I think a bit more than you said as I added it twice when I forgot I already did and the bones at the end did in fact nearly disintegrate.

                                  1. re: fldhkybnva

                                    The only bad thing that too much vinegar does is impart a vinegar flavor to the stock. Worst case scenario you use the stock in something that benefits from a vinegar taste. :)

                                    1. re: weezieduzzit

                                      Indeed, and as a freak-of-nature vinegar addict (I really do just choose meals sometimes because of large doses of vinegar) I'll probably love it.

                                2. re: fldhkybnva

                                  if you re-roast the bones before making them into a stock, it will be more richly flavored. Also, tossing in fresh aromatics like garlic, onion and celery will help. Don't forget the salt and a splash of vinegar to extract calcium from the bones. Strain the finished broth and reduce by simmering till reduced in volume by 1/2.

                              3. re: fldhkybnva

                                I love my mother's chicken salad recipe from the 1950s. After roasting a chicken, take the leftover meat off the bone and cut into bite-sized pieces. Add a diced stalk of celery, finely diced onion, celery seed, mayo, a splash of fresh lemon juice and a handful of cashews. If I make a larger quantity, I only add the cashews at the time of serving. Otherwise, they turn mushy. I love to toast an English muffin, place chicken (or tuna) salad on a muffin half, top with whatever cheese I have on hand and place under the broiler. Yummmmy! This is an easy, quick item to make when friends drop by unexpectedly...the tuna salad version, not the chicken salad. Always have cans of tuna from Costco on hand and English muffins in the freezer so it's very easy to do.

                            2. Hi Katnip, Welcome to Chowhound. I sincerely hope you are able to find the help you want here. I suspect you will. Ok, there's a website called hillbilyhousewife.cm that has a basic menu to feed a family of four for 75$ per month. It's basically an emergency menu, and she uses powdered milk, a lotta beans, etc. but what I see is that you can make substitutions appropriate to your budget, e.g. use regular milk, more meat, and so on. It's a good base guide and it's meant for people who are REALLY struggling, but it's a nice template. At any rate, you've gotten great suggestions here, and I bet you'll get more.

                              1. My mom used to feed 6 of us on a military NCO budget. Mostly she was a fan of using a pound of ground beef, which turned into "goulash" (the macaroni, tomato, onion, and ground beef kind, not the real stuff), spaghetti , "cowboy gravy" which is white gravy with hamburger meat which she would serve it with mashed potatoes, and meat loaf.

                                At some point we discovered tacos, (although at that time I don't think there were preformed shells, so you had to fry your own).

                                Also breakfast for dinner is good--fried potatoes and eggs, or pancakes.

                                I agree with the other posts about using chicken thighs in a crockpot. I'd brown them, toss them in the pot with some tomatoes, onions, and spices, and let 'em go.

                                1. Eggs are your friend. Learn to make frittatas & stratas, which can be made ahead and include a wide variety of other ingredients.

                                  Also, as a protein source, high-protein cottage cheese (the best brand is Friendship (especially the whipped version), followed by Daisy) can be worked into soups and casseroles to dramatically improve the balance of fat-carbs-protein at the fraction of the cost of flesh.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Karl S

                                    Indeed, we love eggs in our house. They are quick and easy and you can make dishes in varying sizes depending on how many are present for dinner. Also, they allow for a lot of variation and are a good way to use up other ingredients.

                                  2. As an alternative to chili made with ground beef, you can use ground chicken to make a white chili -- no tomatoes, but made with chicken broth, corn, white beans, onions, jalapeno (I've got a recipe somewhere but I don't make it often so can't do it by heart.)

                                    6 Replies
                                    1. re: masha

                                      Masha, I would love to have that recipe. Hope you find it and will be willing to post it.

                                      1. re: Wtg2Retire

                                        elie krieger has a great, healthy recipe for white chili that you can get on foodtv.com that calls for ground turkey. its so easy and so tasty. make it every winter!!!

                                        1. re: Wtg2Retire

                                          Here you go:

                                          1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, chopped in food processor (or finely with a knife)
                                          4 tsp olive oil
                                          1 onion, finely chopped
                                          2 cloves garlic
                                          1 red & 1 yellow bell pepper, chopped fine
                                          2 tsp chili powder
                                          1 tsp cumin
                                          2 cans of chicken broth (14-15 oz each), topped off with enough water to equal 1 qt liquid, total
                                          2 cans (15 oz each) white beans
                                          1-1/2 tsp dried oregano
                                          1 can chopped green chilis
                                          1/4 cup corn meal
                                          1 tsp Tabasco or other hot pepper sauce
                                          Chopped cilantro
                                          For garnish: grated cheddar or jack cheese, and tortilla chips

                                          1. Add 2 tsp olive oil to large pot, over medium heat. Sautée onion, garlic, sweet peppers, chili powder, and cumin for about 5 min.
                                          2. Add remaining olive oil and chicken, and sautée for another few minutes.
                                          3. Stir in broth, beans, oregano, salt, chili peppers, and corn meal. Bring to a boil. Then reduce to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes.
                                          4. Stir inTabasco and cilantro.
                                          5. Garnish with cheese and chips

                                          1. re: masha

                                            Thank you so very much. It sounds delicious. I would like to share with my granddaughters if you don't mind.

                                            1. re: Wtg2Retire

                                              Not at all. It's actually a recipe passed along by a friend after I'd enjoyed the dish at her home. And I don't think it was originally hers either.

                                              1. re: masha

                                                My granddaughters will enjoy it so. Thank you again.

                                      2. In addition to roasting a chicken, you can also poach a chicken w/ onions, carrots, celery, seasoning. Remove the meat when cooked and add the carcass back in and simmer. Strain after a few hours. You've got stock and cooked chicken meat where you can:

                                        1) make chicken white bean chili (add hominy, green chiles for a posole like twist)

                                        2) add noodles and veg and chicken for chicken noodle soup

                                        3) add dumpling dough and to make chicken and dumplings

                                        4) make chicken pot pie

                                        Oh, if you eat pork, this recipe is good and lasta for days. Use boston butt/pork shoulder instead of pork loin.


                                        Serve over rice, as tortillas/tacos, over salad. If your family likes chipotle, it's along those lines.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: chowser

                                          ...and here's a thought: while roasting or baking one meal, cook something else in there! Toss in some baking potatoes, then next day do stuffed or twice-baked; or add some broccolior cauliflower florets, carrots or kale leaves.

                                          Making your own sprouts (fast, super- cheap and E-Z) is a good way to get kids eating veggies. They're Mega-Rich in vital nutrients--all the viatmins and minerals are that run their vital organs.

                                        2. Quick question for you- You don't have to get specific, but I'm wondering where you might live. We have Costco, BJ's and a Restaurant Depot near where I live and the quality is very good for proteins and produce ( most of the time) and the prices are too if you think about how each package would be divided and used.
                                          If you have a big enough freezer, you could get cheaper cuts of meat/chicken/pork and even seafood such as salmon. Then you could portion it out or make things with these items to really stretch it out and freeze so you have them handy.
                                          I apologize for not being familiar with "bulk" shopping not in the Northeast.

                                          1. Your freezer is your friend. I have a small chest freezer, and buy meats when they are on sale and freeze them. I bring the big packs home and break them down into small freezer bags. Saves a lot of money on meat -- why pay $4.99/lb for pork chops when I can buy them for $1.99/lb on sale and freeze them? I do the same for chicken, and ground turkey. Steaks and seafood are always bought fresh -- we don't freeze those.

                                            Shop sales. Plan your meals around what's fresh and in season so you pay less. right now, asparagus is in season, as is corn. Incorporate those into your meals instead of out of season veggies. Same with other items -- don't pay $3.99 for a jar of pasta sauce when you can find it on sale for $2. then buy 2-3 bottles and keep them on hand. That way, you spend $6 for 3 jars instead of $12.

                                            Recipe wise, you can do a lot of inexpensive things. For an easy crockpot recipe, buy a pork butt (on sale!) and put that into your crockpot. Cover with a bottle of BBQ sauce and cook on low all day. Remove the meat, shred it with 2 forks (it should fall apart!) and put it back in the crockpot for another 30 minutes or so. Serve on buns for BBQ pork sandwiches. I also do this with chicken sometimes too. Chili and stews are always easy to do in a crockpot too.

                                            My kids love fajitas and tacos. I use sliced chicken breast for fajitas and ground turkey for tacos (we aren't big ground beef eaters). I always have frozen bonesless skinless chicken breasts in the freezer, so I defrost partially, then slice into thin slices (it's easier to slice when partially frozen). Slice up onions and peppers, and heat up a big pan over high heat (I use a wok). Add your onions and peppers, with no oil, and cook for a few minutes until they develop some charred spots. Remove from the pan, then add some oil, and your chicken. Cook until the chicken is done and the water has dried up. Then add your seasonings -- I do taco seasoning from Costco, with extra red chili flakes, cumin, and a squeeze of lime. Mix the veggies back in, heat through. Serve in flour tortillas with salsa, guacamole, sour cream and cheese. (Leftovers can be made into quesadillas for school lunchboxes too!)

                                            17 Replies
                                            1. re: boogiebaby

                                              I agree that its all in the shopping. Using the store's rewards card deals and coupons I did 2 shopping trips this weekend, on the first I spent $38 but saved $91, on the second I spent $24 but saved $78. No bread, grains, rice, or potatoes, either, since I eat low carb paleo. And no processed foods- just meat, veggies and dairy. There's at least 3 or 4 weeks of meat in our freezer now, I'll just have to fill in with veggies and milk every 7-10 days.

                                              From reading a lot of couponing sites it looks like people in other parts of the country do a lot better than I do, I live in a very expensive area and stores here don't double coupons.

                                              1. re: weezieduzzit

                                                Our stores don't double coupons and almost all the coupons are for processed food. I do my best and spend between 40-90 a week depending on what I buy.

                                              2. re: boogiebaby

                                                I think I need to invest in a chest freezer. I have no idea how it's possible but our freezer is packed full and so it's hard to cash in on sales when they happen. Is there a size you recommend? Although I know it depends on family size and what not.

                                                1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                  Never had a chest freezer and always had plenty of room to shop the sales for meats, etc., and freeze and hold in the freezer compartment of our fridge. But, our freezer is used for little else -- no convenience foods like frozen pizzas or microwaveable entrees, and no home-cooked meals made in advance to hold for later consumption. Other than various raw meat, fish, and poultry frozen in meal size portions, the only thing in our freezer are a few bags of frozen vegetables, ice cream, coffee beans, bread products (bagels, tortillas, burger rolls, etc.), and a very small number of items stashed in the freezer to prevent spoilage when they are near the end of their fridge life (berries, chicken broth, leftover pancakes or waffles).

                                                  And, if the goal is shopping the sales to save money, you need to factor in the energy consumption of a separate chest freezer.

                                                  1. re: masha

                                                    We don't use it for any of those things either, perhaps I need to go through it and see if some random things are hiding in there. I imagine there are a few gallons of ice cream leftover from the holidays a very looong time ago which never are touched and I'm holding on to for some unknown reason.

                                                    1. re: masha

                                                      Ditto. We had a normal sized fridge with ice maker and were almost entirely meat and broth. A few bags of frozen veg, and perhaps a couple pints of ice cream. No need for a cheat freezer unless you are buying a side of beef or wholesale chickens or you hunt and have various items stored. Save your money and electric bill.

                                                    2. re: fldhkybnva

                                                      We bought our chest freezer before we even had kids! I wanted more room to store meats -- I buy most of my meats at Costco, or on sale from my grocery store in the larger packs and break them into smaller packs when I get home.

                                                      We actually got our chest freezer at Costco too. We paid $179 for it. It's not huge -- I couldn't tell you how many cubic feet it is, but it's about 4 feet long and 2.5 feet wide maybe. Not huge, but good for what we use it for. In hindsight, I would have gotten an upright freezer instead of a chest freezer because they are easier to keep organized. I have to dig for things sometimes when they fall down to the bottom.

                                                      1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                        We're probably going to buy a freezer this fall before hunting season gets underway, but going to do an upright. I feel like things would get lost in the bottom of a chest and it'd be a pain to have to dig through everything on top to get to something that's on the bottom. They cost a bit more though.

                                                        But, I do what weezie described, buy meats etc in bulk. I do mine at Costco most of the time since even after sales their meat is cheaper than the regular store, and higher quality. Poultry has gone up so while my store used to put chicken breasts on sale for $1.99/lb, lately it's only been $2.49. So I'd rather buy the stuff at Costco that's $2.99/lb because it tastes way better than the store stuff. At the beginning of May I spent $160 at Costco, and what I bought will last me longer than just May and some of that includes non-food items (this last trip included batteries and dog treats). I buy sodas there too, their prices are miles better than even the sales at the store with coupons. Because I have my protein staples already purchased, all I have to buy at the store is produce and the stuff I use for my breakfast and snacks, namely yogurt and granola, and a few non-grocery items like shampoo. So far this month I've only spent $120 on groceries at the regular store, and I don't even use that many coupons other than the digital ones the store puts out to load onto my store card, which do not double.

                                                        1. re: juliejulez

                                                          That is what we do. I buy ALL meat on sale or from Costco and we eat meat mostly from the freezer so we can eat what we want when we want and still take advantage of the sales. Meat keeps very well if wrapped properly. It is colder than the normal freezer attached to a fridge. Be sure to label well and rotate what you have. Every couple months or so we do a casual inventory of what we have. What needs to be eaten or replenished.

                                                          We also make freeze meals, freeze homemade bread, cake, nuts, jams,veggies from the garden, food I have made in bulk like sauce or pot stickers, tamales... It is packed to the hilt, but really organized.

                                                          And stocking the house - we buy in bulk there too BUT only the things we actually eat. No buying things just because they are cheap.

                                                          1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                            There are only two of us and I have 3 freezers! Seriously....we use ALL of them. The one in the kitchen is just for small, often used items like ginger root, Parmesan cheese rinds, dog food, ice cream, frozen peas, small jars of different types of milks, a pound of butter, etc.

                                                            We have a chest freezer just for meat purchased by the side or on sale.

                                                            A big separate upright freezer for everything else. I freeze alot! I don't do any make ahead meals, but I do freeze leftover items to use later.

                                                            I have many items "prepped" and ready to use (like shredded cheese for sauces, compound butters, leftover wine for cooking, etc). I have batches of homemade items like lemon curd, limoncello's, different tomato jams and chutneys. Then there are the flax seeds, duxelles, frozen veg and fruits, cured meats,a few bread items, a wide variety of stocks,and a wide assortment of nuts and flours.

                                                            I go "shopping" in my freezers before preparing meals. It is nice to have all the fruit I need for a quick Sangria,smoothie or dessert. There is no way I could ever keep that much fresh fruit in the house at once without it going bad.

                                                            Freezers don't significantly add to an electric bill at all, compared to many other monthly things you spend money on. It costs waaaay more money to throw away or give away all the unused/gone bad/rotten/forgotten/ uneaten food. For me, cooking almost every night from scratch- it just makes life so much easier.

                                                            1. re: sedimental

                                                              I'm jealous! I would have to give up my Ironrite to get a freezer and that's not going to happen.

                                                              Someday when we don't live in this cute but tiny house.....

                                                              1. re: weezieduzzit

                                                                Ha! I had to google to see what an Ironrite was....pretty spiffy ;)

                                                              2. re: sedimental

                                                                MMM. I want to shop from your freezer!

                                                                One thing to learn my dear readers who are considering a chest freezer: Label even if you think the contents are obvious. Every once in a while something gets hastily shoved in the freezer and I think I will remember. Then my husband and I haul it out and stare at it and ask each other for their best guess. Later... "Ah lamb curry! Yay".

                                                                1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                                  Another suggestion that I do even for my regular freezer, is to keep a written inventory. I do mine in google docs, that way when I'm figuring out my meal plan, I can reference it to see what's in there, and then once I decide to use something, I put down the date I plan to use it so I don't forget and plan to use the same thing twice...which happened in the past since I plan a week ahead. I also do it for already cooked stuff, that way I don't forget, for example, that the manicotti I made a month ago is in there.

                                                                  I can also look at a quick glance to see if I'm running low on something like chicken breasts or ground beef, that way if I see a good price I can stock up.

                                                          2. re: fldhkybnva

                                                            I bought the smallest one Home Depot carries; I think it cost $200 - $250. A bit larger one was the same price but the smallest was good enough for me. COliver on CH said she uses plastic shoe box to put stuff in and that makes it easier to remove.

                                                            Directions tell you to defrost once a year. Ugg. I dread that. I've had mine over 2 years and it does not need it yet. If I had the space and extra $$, I'd get an upright.
                                                            Love that Food Saver from Costco.

                                                            1. re: walker

                                                              Food saver, that's the other thing I "need"

                                                        2. 1. Bean and cheese burritos
                                                          2. Hamburger gravy over baked potatoes
                                                          3. Mashed potato tacos
                                                          4. Lentils w/marinara sauce over spaghetti
                                                          5. Chili Dogs
                                                          6. Chicken and veggie fried rice
                                                          7. Cheeseburgers

                                                          1. When I was feeding 5 for supper, I made dirty rice frequently. It was not authentic dirty rice, but that's what I called it. I cooked ground turkey with onions and then added it to cooked rice. I spiced it up so it had big flavor.

                                                            And I used to find catfish "nuggets" which I cooked in the oven and laid over cooked rice. I believe the "nuggets" were catfish bellies. I don't know why, but they always tasted good.

                                                            1. I saw something cute and practical (and cheap) today. And Kids would love it! Make baked little corn dogs in a mini muffin tin with corn bread and a hotdog or sausage poked into it then baked. It looked like the meat was pre cooked a little before poking into the batter.

                                                              A nice treat for six YOs. Cheaper and probably healthier.

                                                              1. It depends on availability & pricing of ingredients - particularly meats - in your area, but pot roast, pork chops, lasagna, pulled pork, pulled chicken & polenta can all be made in the crock pot.

                                                                And I couldn't agree more with the egg suggestion. There are so many ways to prepare them, and countless options for seasoning and combining with other ingredients like vegetables and cheese. Whether you opt for a frittata, strata, omelet or scrambled, eggs make for a nutritious, satisfying, budget-friendly meal.

                                                                1. Hi Katnip,

                                                                  One tip for you- plan ahead. It's much easier to stay in your budget if you have a rough idea of your cooking plans. So if you know you're planning chicken for Wednesday, you have time to find it on sale and come up with a recipe

                                                                  Some meals we like- (2 adults, 1 toddler)
                                                                  - turkey or chicken burgers
                                                                  - chili (beef and bean)
                                                                  - rice & lentils
                                                                  - macaroni & meat
                                                                  - pulled BBQ beef (husband loves it, I won't eat it!)
                                                                  - London broil

                                                                  We always have a vegetable and salad on the table as well

                                                                  1. Here's a couple recipes using ground pork. The Sichuan Green Beans call for 1/4 lb. and the Crispy Chickpeas call for 1/2 lb. I serve both with rice. When I buy ground pork with these two recipes in mind, I will divide the meat into fourths, wrap each piece in wax paper, then freeze together in a ziploc freezer bag.


                                                                    1. Since you mentionned ground beef, why not make a shephard's pie? Ground beef, a layer of cream corn, and a layer of mashed potatoes. It`s my son`s favorite and you might have some leftovers.

                                                                      1. When Kielbasa is on sale as it is here this week (buy one get one free) try this recipe. You can use, turkey, pork or beef polish sausage.

                                                                        1. Did anyone mention the cheap and very versatile Potato?

                                                                          Potato pancakes/latkes are about as cheap of a Dinner as it it gets and who doesn't like them? Dumplings, Gnocchis, Potato- salad, fried, baked etc...

                                                                          1. Ever consider planting a garden and fruit trees? We basically feed ourselves (fruit and veg wise) from the garden May thru Oct. and then put up enough to have thru winter (frozen and canned).

                                                                            1. Don't forget to do a vegetarian meal once in a while. They're usually cheaper than meals containing meat. We do bibimbap, black bean burritos, butternut squash lasagna, vegetarian cassoulet and stuff like that on meatless nights. My husband doesn't complain as long as the meal is rich enough!

                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. re: Isolda

                                                                                My husband loves meatless taco/burrito/quesadilla nights!

                                                                                Some favorites-
                                                                                red cabbage and corn slaw
                                                                                Lentil taco " meat"
                                                                                Sweet potato and carmelized onion quesadillas

                                                                              2. Katnip, I am a real bargain hunter, and I can (possibly) give you some more specific advice if I know what markets are around you.

                                                                                Ground beef can be really expensive, unless you get it on sale. (Ditto for ground turkey.) If you have a food processor or a meat grinder of some sort, consider buying pork shoulder and grinding your own ground pork. Whole pork shoulder is generally HALF the price of ground beef, even on sale, and you can braise it in the slow cooker or pressure cooker, you can turn part of it into ground pork, and just keep the extra in the freezer. I use the pork shoulder in tacos, enchiladas, with pasta, soups, and use the ground pork in meatballs, as sausage, etc.

                                                                                Other inexpensive cuts of meat include chicken and turkey (thighs and drums are best in the slow cooker), pot roast, you can use London broil as pot roast (its less fatty, but can still stand in for traditional pot roast), and then consider seasonality. As was mentioned previously, plan your menus around the supermarket loss leaders. Corned beef is cheapest before St. Patrick's, and usually heavily discounted to move excess stock in the weeks thereafter.

                                                                                Ham and frozen turkeys are cheapest right before and right after Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas, often in conjunction with $25 minimum purchases (organize your purchases in $25 groupings, especially if you can take advantage of sale prices on pantry items like chicken broth, which are at rock bottom prices during the build up to those holidays, and make multiple purchases to get multiple sale turkeys). I defrost them with some ice in coolers, then debone them, and repackage them to take as little room as possible in the freezer.