Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Gourmet or Otherwise on a Shoestring: 10 Budget-Friendly Family Favorites

Recently several friends have expressed an interest in making meals at home that cost less. Long before the economic picture became so grim, I devoted myself to figuring out inexpensive meals for my growing family. This is the first of an article in two parts. In the second article I present 10 more options that are meatless, since even those of us who aren’t exclusively vegetarian can trim our budgets and waistlines this way. In this first part, I share ten of our favorite dishes with meat, poultry and seafood. Most I estimate as costing us around $1.00 per serving. Contact me if you would like my recipes or variations.  For additional ideas, check out my recipe page and weekly menu plans.

1. Roast Chicken
Cook with carrots, onions and potatoes. Add a green salad to complete the meal if you like. Use the bones to make broth and the leftover chicken in soup or sandwiches.  For an Asian twist, try this recipe: Slow-Roasted Vietnamese Chicken.

2. Ground Turkey and/or Beef Soft Tacos or Taco Salad
Stretch your meat by adding a can of kidney or black beans. Serve with salsa, shredded cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and avocado chunks if you like. Making your own tortillas adds fantastic freshness and saves money (if you can afford the time).

3. Chicken Pot Pie
The chicken can be leftover or boiled and cubed chicken breasts, to which I add mushrooms, peas, potatoes and carrots. Other vegetables can be put in too. Sometimes I add leftover vegetables. I always make the crust from scratch.

4. Chicken Gumbo Soup
Serve with grilled cheese sandwiches.
I used to buy a kind of frozen mixed vegetables that included okra, sweet red peppers, and onions. Now I buy these separately, omitting sweet peppers, which can be expensive.

5. Chicken and Wild Rice Soup
Serve with baked potatoes and/or deviled eggs, BLTs or ham sandwiches. I mix and match other kinds of rice with the wild rice (and leave out the cream) to cut the cost down.

6. Burgundy Beef with Egg Noodles
Some recipes don’t call for potatoes, but they can be added to make it filling without using as much meat.

7. Simple Sloppy Joes
I have never bought the canned sauce, because it is so easy to mix my own, thanks to an easy recipe from my husband that uses ketchup, worcestershire sauce, with onions, shallots, and ground meat. It tastes great with ground beef, lentils, turkey, or venison.

8. Chicken Kebabs
When squash is in season, our kebabs cost less. Chicken and onions are the only essentials, to which I add zucchini, mushrooms, yellow squash, eggplant, peppers, or what have you. Serve with rice, baked potatoes, or pasta salad. I sometimes make a peanut dipping sauce for the chicken.

9. Dogs in a Blanket
When I find hot dogs without nitrates in the nearby stores, I stock up (Oscar Meyer now has several natural choices).  Wrapping hot dogs in homemade dough is quite tasty and cheap.

10. Seafood Risotto
This is an unlikely budget meal, but scallops can be had for about $4 a pound at Sam’s Club. Or you can use shrimp ($5 a pound) or mixed seafood ($3 a pound). The trick is buying inexpensive medium grain rice ($1.08 a pound), rather than Arborio. And I don’t bother with cheese, as stirring the rice in butter and broth makes it “creamy” enough—and more affordable!

Dec. 2010 Update:  I'm linking this to RHOK's Things to Make for Dinner list this week.


Baloney said...

Chicken pot pie is a staple for us - but I'm lazy and use the pillsbury refrigerated crust.

The Southern Family said...

Thanks for sharing these great ideas with us today at the RHOK!

aka Mrs. Sinclair

Dawn said...

We use ground turkey for most things now.

Great list of recipes.

Thanks for linking up with The RHOK.