Thursday, April 19, 2012

Thrifty Thursday


Today I want to focus on ways to stretch our food bill by developing some meatless meals.  Meat prices have gone through the roof!  I have always tried to purchase meat that is under $2 per lb. I try to get chicken breast at no more than $1.29 per lb.  It's been getting harder and find it at those prices so it's important to use less.

I try to have meals at least 3 times a week that do not include meat.  I'm not talking about being a vegan or vegetarian; just trying to cut back on the amount of meat we use.  So today I thought I'd share some recipes with you that have been a hit here.

Crockpot Macaroni & Cheese

16 oz. elbow macaroni noodles, cooked
4 eggs, beaten
5 cups mild cheddar cheese, grated
3 cups milk
2 (12 oz.) can evaporated milk
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. dry mustard
1/2 tsp. pepper

Add all ingredients to your slow cooker, except 1 cup of the cheese.  Mix well.  Sprinkle reserved cheese on top.  Cover and cook on low for 3 hours until the liquid is absorbed.

Fresh Tomato-Basil Sauce

6-7 vine-ripened tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
5-6 cloves garlic, minced
Salt taste
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup olive oil.

Mix all ingredients, cover and let sit on the counter for 2-3 hours. The juices begin to break down and mix together. Serve over cooked pasta and sprinkle with romano or parmesian cheese.  Serve with homemade bread and a tossed salad.

Pumpkin Soup

6 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 cups pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
5 whole black peppercorns

1. Heat stock, salt, pumpkin, onion, thyme, garlic, and peppercorns. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes uncovered.

2. Puree the soup in small batches (1 cup at a time) using a food processor or blender.

3. Return to pan, and bring to a boil again. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for another 30 minutes, uncovered. Stir in heavy cream. Pour into soup bowls and garnish with fresh parsley.  Serve with fresh bread and a salad.  Better yet, pour into bread bowls!

Vegetarian Fajitas 

2 tsp. olive oil
1 cup quartered, sliced onion
1 cup red, green or yellow bell pepper strips
1 (15-ounce) can black, pinto or kidney beans, drained
1/2 cup frozen whole kernel corn
1 (1.25 ounce) package taco seasoning mix (I make my own)
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup fresh, chopped cilantro
6 (6-inch) fajita-size flour tortillas, warmed (I make my own)

1. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and bell pepper; cook, stirring accasionally, for 3-4 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

2. Stir in beans, corn, taco seasoning, and water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low; cook, stirring occasionally for 3 to 4 minutes or until mixture thickens. REmove from heat; stir in cilantro.

3. Spoon 1/2 cup fajita mixture onto each tortilla; fold in half.

Some other meatless meals I make are:

Vegetarian chili
Mexican stew (stew of pinto beans, veggies, tomatoes, and spices)
Stir fry, using tofu
Honey baked lentils
Lentil soup
Split pea soup

Now I know that some of you are thinking, "My husband will never go for this!"  You have to work with what you have and it's certainly no fun being frugal if you are eating alone! ;-)  So, if your husband is an absolute meat and potatoes man then you can still cut back on the amount of meat you use or find a way to get the best bang for your buck.

Some things I've done is buy the big family packs of meat which are cheaper and divide it into smaller packages before freezing.  Use 1/2 the ground beef you normally would in things like chili and spaghetti.  Cut your bacon in 1/2 before serving.  When I make bacon for breakfast, I cut it in 1/2 before frying and everyone gets 4 pieces, which is really 2 whole slices.  It feels like you are eating more.  I know it sounds silly, but it works!

Homemade pizza is a great way to have meat but keep the amount down.  Whenever I have a couple of slices of bacon left or a piece of chicken breast or a slice of ham, I'll throw it in the freezer.  When I'm making homemade pizza, I'll pull out these bits and pieces and come up with a topping. 

Times are tough lately and developing some basic meatless meals you can make are a way to help cut down on your costs!  I hope you find this helpful.  Experiment on your own with some meatless dishes.  You may be pleasantly surprised at how well they go over!