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Cheap & Healthy (or not) Eats! Share?

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by dbell1, Jan 27, 2011.

  1. dbell1

    dbell1 Well-Known Member

    Inspired by the Taco Bell thread.

    I'm all for trying to save money and eat healthier. Raising a teen and having his friends drop in, I've started making homemade pizzas, shopping the sales and making fresh food.

    So - tell me your secrets. What's a great, cheap eat for you? Healthy is good, money saving and potential for leftovers is better...

    Spill? :watch:
    deltask8er and (deleted member) like this.
  2. Andrushka

    Andrushka Well-Known Member

    Beans,chili,soups,large pots of pasta and sauce,fried rice,stir fry.Cook a whole chicken or turkey and use the leftovers in other things.Same with pork or a beef roast.
  3. numbers123

    numbers123 Well-Known Member

    turkey is usually good for leftovers. chilli is great, but my chilli usually goes fast
    lagansa - i can never make just a little - even trying to cut down, I seem to make 2 large 13x9 pans.

    My dil and niece belong to a cooking group. The first Saturday of the month, they get together with 10 of their friends and each brings enough of a receipe to share - to make frozen food for the month. 12 people = 12 frozen meals. A nice way to have different meals, yet only "invest" in one receipe.

    Making homemade soups is a good way to extend a meal.
    *Jen* and (deleted member) like this.
  4. Buzz

    Buzz Well-Known Member

    I have so many bad eating habits but occasionally I do make my own stuff and eat healthier. I love making my own fries by cutting the potatoes into big wedges and tossing stuff like chilli, garlic, cayenne powder, parsley flakes or whatever else I feel like and then bake. I usually shake and bake some seasoned chicken legs and thighs. Of course serve with a healthy serving of ketchup!!! Yeah I know really healthy menu, :EVILLE:
  5. Andrushka

    Andrushka Well-Known Member

    Buzz,steam a bag of broccoli and you're good to go lol
  6. numbers123

    numbers123 Well-Known Member

    meatloaf is also to make ahead and freeze. I used to make homemade meatballs and freeze them in portions suited for our family pasta night. I think that with bread crumbs, eggs, other seasonings - 1 pound of hamburger or sausage would make approximately 40 meatballs. Then I baked them before freezing.
  7. Prancer

    Prancer Strong and stable Staff Member

    If you'd like to have something easy on hand to feed teenagers, I recommend these Freezer Burritos. They're easy to make, easy to heat up, and just the kind of thing that most teenagers love.
  8. Angelskates

    Angelskates Well-Known Member

    Urgh, I hate having such a small freezer! (But Holley gave me a chilli recipe that was awesome!)

    Beans are great, as well as tomato-based sauces that can be used with pasta, meats or pizzas.
  9. Cyn

    Cyn Well-Known Member

    I have a recipe for homemade hamburger stroganoff that is to die for.

    Granted, it sounds like it would be something like Hamburger Helper redux, but it's not - it's not expensive, it's made from scratch, it has all kinds of good stuff in it, the recipe makes a ton of it (since there's just two of us I separate it into batches of three servings and freeze what we don't eat the first night), and it makes a great midnight snack :D .

    If anyone is interested in it, I'll be happy to either PM or post it :)
  10. Aceon6

    Aceon6 Hit ball, find ball, hit it again.

    I've started saving the last bits of roasts (beef or pork) and throwing them in the freezer. When I have enough, I chop the bits in a Cuisinart and use for meat sauces, chili and lasagna.

    When ground turkey or ground beef is on sale. I'll buy extra, pre-brown it, and freeze it in 1/2 lb. packages, frozen flat and thin. It cuts the prep time for sloppy joes or skillet dinners in half. Like Cyn, I have home made versions of most of the popular shortcut meals.
  11. Jenny

    Jenny From the Bloc

    • Get a freezer if you can - I just bought a small one for $150 so I now have triple the freezer space (with my fridge) and can take advantage of half price bags of fruits and veggies.
    • Use your AirMiles card or the like - many people seem to think they are just for trips or cashing in for blenders, but we always convert our points to grocery certificates, and the result is about $400 a year. Better yet, because most of my AirMiles use has been concentrated on one store, they've decided I'm preferred customer, so I get extra bonus points and coupons all the time.
    • Plan ahead as many have said - one chicken can stretch to several meals, and making double the chili and similar dishes is a great help. When I'm chopping veggies and herbs, or grating cheese, I always do extra, and then they are ready in the fridge or freezer when I need them.
    • Prepare foods yourself - it takes just seconds to wash and chop your lettuce, grate your own cheese, slice mushrooms, etc - usually cheaper, and less handled by machines and who knows. Myself, I find such tasks therapeutic, and if you have good cutting boards and a really good knife, it's that much better.
    • Invest in good herbs and spices - I buy from The Spice House, and their stuff is of such high quality that you actually use less - and no need for packets that have more filler than flavour.
    • Waste nothing - it's amazing how many dollars go into the garbage because we don't get around to eating things and they go bad, or we think something is useless. On a chicken for example, we rotate it as we roast, so that the back and thighs turn out as nicely as the breasts - we end up picking it to the bone instead of throwing out half of it because it's unappetizing. Hubby is picky about his broccoli and doesn't like stems - so I freeze them and they become cream of broccoli soup. If you have to buy a giant bunch of cilantro, then plan several Mexican and Indian meals that week so you don't end up throwing half of it out.
    • Grow if you can - even just my herb garden has paid hugely, especially the perennials. Always fresh, totally organic, never any waste. Talk to FSUer mkats if you think you can't garden where you live - I'm amazed by what she's been able to pull off in a dorm room! I also grow cayenne peppers and bay leaves in summer, then just let them dry out to use all winter. Bay leaves in a jar simply don't compare!
    • See if you can get your son interested in cooking - tell him it's very appealing to the babes :) Lots of benefits in the form of help in the kitchen, new meal ideas as he discovers what he likes, less money spent by him on fast food while he's out.
    • Take your lunch (and coffee and breakfast) to work - when I worked in an office, I would make my lunches for the next day at the same time I made dinner, so efficient, less waste, better for me, and far less money spent.
    • Focus on healthy snacks - always have veggies and homemade dip handy, cheese cubes you've cut up yourself, nuts that you may have flavoured (gather a few recipes), edamame that you can steam, etc. Most prepared snacks cost a ton of money, and the cost creeps up fast. Plus again, better for you!

    And of course, try not to break your egg cups, because the cost of Delft does add up! ;)
  12. Southpaw

    Southpaw Saint Smugpawski

    I can't rave about a Crock Pot enough. It's so easy, it takes very little effort because prep time is minimal and you don't have to stand over the stove, and you can use cheaper ingredients and STILL get a healthy meal out of it. There are not so healthy recipes out there, involving cans of Cream of Mushroom soup and whatnot, but it's just as easy to make big batches of healthy food that can be frozen for another day.
  13. Andrushka

    Andrushka Well-Known Member

    Oh btw you can also easily hide yellow squash and zucchini in spaghetti sauce and chili.I've done it with my boys who have already reached the age of rejecting veg and they never noticed lol
  14. Jenny

    Jenny From the Bloc

    Here are two easy cheap recipes we use all the time:

    Broccoli Spaghetti

    Halfway through boiling a pot of spaghetti or pasta of choice, add a few handfuls of frozen broccoli.

    Meanwhile, season a few tbsp of olive oil in another pan with red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, garlic (dried minced, fresh minced, powdered) or whatever you like. Once the spaghetti/broccoli is drained, toss it into the oil to coat. You can add extra oil or a scoop of the pasta water to adjust the texture to your liking.

    One the plate, top with grated old cheddar or any other cheese you like.

    This is hubby's go-to meal when I'm not around, and if I am, I just eat the broccoli and cheese. It's a great meal for a teen boy (or a 46 year old man!) because he can fill up on pasta, get the goodness of broccoli and the protein from the cheese, and it's easy, cheap and healthy.

    Martha Stewart's Tomato Soup

    I must've posted this a hundred times on various threads, but damn it's good - think Campbell's canned, only better :)

  15. barbk

    barbk Well-Known Member

    Make your own hummus -- incredibly cheap, and often better than the stuff you can buy in the store.

    Dried beans cook up very nicely in the crockpot or in a heavy covered pan on the stove.

    If you drink coffee, consider buying one of the one-cup plastic filters, and making it a cup at a time. Not tossing several cups of coffee a day saves a bunch given the price of good coffee.

    Buy food in the bulk aisle and buy pretty much just what you need for a given recipe. It is cheaper per pound, and gets you what you need without waste. I have no problem buying a small handful of walnuts and one of cranberries for our salad.

    Look for marked down meat (due to expire in the next day or so) and cook it that day. My grocery store will give a refund if it turns out not to be good, and the meat is almost always just fine. After holidays, look for big savings on ham or turkey -- Last year my grocery store offered lovely bone-in hams for 49 cents a pound after Christmas. I bought two, and had them cut up one of them in to smaller pieces, and then froze everything but what we wanted right then. It made for great meals at an unbelievable cost.

    Andrushka -- how exactly are you hiding the zucchini and yellow squash in the spaghetti sauce? (I like them, but Mr. BarbK doesn't.)
  16. skatemommy

    skatemommy Well-Known Member

    There is a restaurant supply store here in town. I can get a bag of 40 jumbo sized Ball Park hot dogs for what a small package of 8 sells for in my local grocery store. Also the same for mini-franks which I make in the crockpot with BBQ sauce for an appetizer. If I am having a party I'll buy their jumbo size containers of potato salad which are the price of a 1lb at the store.
  17. Andrushka

    Andrushka Well-Known Member

    Cut it up really,really small and take off the peeling that way it shows no discernable color. ;)
  18. Jenny

    Jenny From the Bloc

    I was never big on zucchini until last summer - what made it for me was grilling or roasting it with other veggies. Cut up zucchini, peppers and onions into chunks, toss with a bit of olive oil and herbs and/or spices and salt, and set in a pan on the BBQ while you make everything else, or put it in a pan in the oven. You just need to poke them a bit to see when they're done to your liking, and near the end you can add whole cherry tomatoes - when they start to split, they're done. Very nice with a little romano cheese sprinkled on top, and you can also toss it with pasta.

    Speaking of, a dish that never fails us, is super easy and has received many compliments is baked tomatoes. Toss cherry tomatoes with fresh snipped parsley, grated parmesan and pepper (you might not need salt because the parmesan is salty) in olive oil and bake in the oven or BBQ until the tomato skins star to split. Simple as can be, but yummy!

    And here's another one while I think of it - thick seasoned potato slices - parboil a bunch of potatoes, skin on. Then, slice them about a quarter inch thick. In a pan with a little olive oil heavily seasoned, saute them until they started to crisp up in places. Toss in a few chives or green onions at the end if you like, and serve sour cream on the side. You can also toss the parboiled, sliced potatoes in a bowl of oil and seasoning, then put them on the grill to brown them up a bit and bake in the flavour - when you do them on the grill, you can do them from raw as well if you have time. The seasoning we love best for this Milwaukee Iron Seasoning, but you could easily use tex-mex, chili powder, steak spice, or even Asian seasoning blends, or anything else you like.
  19. PDilemma

    PDilemma Well-Known Member

    You can buy low sodium condensed cream soups that aren't so unhealthy and use them for lots of easy recipes --esp. for just two people. Stick two pork chops or chicken breasts in a casserole dish, dump a can of cream soup on top (whatever kind you like) and bake at around 350 for an hour or so. Serve with noodles, sliced roasted potatoes, or rice. I have also baked both with onions, tomatoes or tomato sauce, barbecue sauce, etc...Basically, anything that sounds good to you and will keep the meat moist as it bakes and flavors it.

    A super easy crock pot recipe I used often when I worked full time is to take two cheap steaks, pour in one can mushroom soup and one can onion soup, turn it on low and dinner is ready when you get home. You could do it with more meat for more people, I'm sure. Again, eat it with noodles, potatoes or rice.

    I am a big fan of roasting a chicken or even a small turkey and using it for multiple meals. Very cheap. My parents gave us a roaster that makes it even easier. And you can save and freeze the broth for soups.

    Soup is another cheap and easy meal. I make chili and veggie soups without a recipe. Potato soups are great, too, and there are tons of easy recipes online. For just two people, soup can be two or three meals or used for lunches to take to work.
  20. dbell1

    dbell1 Well-Known Member

    I've got a small freezer and am in love with it. When money gets tight right before payday, I've instituted 'live out of the freezer/off the shelves' nights. The other night, I gave them popcorn shrimp for dinner. Son went 'you got paid?' :lol: I went "nope, found the box under the frozen rolls". :p I buy stuff on sale, try to combine it with a coupon and that's what we use. Some nights, it's actually cheaper to have steak than chicken. I also love going to BJs for staples. They have the Perdue thin cut scallopini chicken breasts. Get it for $3.59 a lb. rather than the $6.50 they charge in the stores. I keep a few out for that week's dinner and freeze the rest.

    This is my favorite 'stretch the budget' soup recipe. http://recipes.calputer.com/olive-garden-pasta-e-fagioli-recipe.html

    I toss in extra low sodium V8 after cooking and it makes dinner for 2 nights and lunch for me for the week. :D

    One thing I need to investigate is the Whole Foods bulk spice area. Read somewhere that it's much cheaper than buying the bottled spices..
  21. PDilemma

    PDilemma Well-Known Member

    Another way to use up those big bundles of fresh cilantro is to get a bunny. Most of them can't get enough of it. :)
  22. IceAlisa

    IceAlisa discriminating and persnickety ballet aficionado

    I make and freeze my own pasta sauces, usually with dried or fresh mushrooms and eggplant.

    I also recommend making your own salad dressing--I really don't like the store bought stuff and throwing together a dressing where you can control the ingredients takes just a few minutes.
  23. ITA. Same for soups -- canned soup never enters our house for use a soup or an ingredient. The condensed ones contain way too much sodium and fat (even most of the "low sodium" are really just "lower sodium"), and you can put together your own sauce in little time and with much more delicious results. And for homemade soups, not only is it fun and creative, the results are soooo much tastier.

    Mind you, some people still prefer the taste of processed foods over real food with natural ingredients. It's baffling to me, but there's a reason it's a multi-gazillion $ industry.
  24. BigB08822

    BigB08822 Well-Known Member

    We found a really great and cheap specialty meats place nearby. We bought a meatloaf for $8.00, a package of fresh frozen broccoli for $2.00 and a premade thing of mashed potatoes for $4.00. This made us each a sizeable dinner and had enough leftovers for a lunch for each of us. The cost per serving was only around $3.50! Not bad, at all. Tonight we are trying a stuffed chicken (stuffed with broccoli and rice!) with some purple hull peas we bought there. It will be a little more per serving because of the chicken but we are using bread we have in the freezer as our 3rd side so that cuts the cost. We are going to be shopping there a lot as we are not good cooks!
  25. Kruss

    Kruss Not Auto-Tuned

    I recently invested in a food slicer. It was about $100, and I now save a bunch of money and, at the same time, maintain healthier lunches.

    I buy roasts on sale, season and roast them in the oven, then refrigerate them until firm. Slicing them is a breeze, and I then package them (maybe 5-6 slices at the time) in freezer bags with a spoonful of broth to maintain moistness. These serve us well for homemade lunchmeat. They're extremely filling on sandwiches - we actually feel as though we've eaten more of a meal with this sliced meat than with coldcuts from the deli.

    So far, I've done sirloin tip roast, thick chicken breasts, ham roast, and turkey breast (boneless). When you consider that these items at a deli can run up to $8 PER POUND, spending $12 to $18 for a 4-5 pound roast really stretches the dollar. I also made my own French Dip sandwiches with sliced roast and a little au jus.

    The trick of freezing them individually like that works out well - as we finish or nearly finish one bag, I grab another one out of the freezer and put it into the fridge to thaw. It's ready for the next day's lunches, and I can control how much is in the fridge without any of the meat spoiling.

    I've also used the slicer on potatoes. I thick-sliced some potatoes, brushed both sides with olive oil, seasoned them, and roasted them in the oven until brown (sometimes crispy). Homemade "fries" of a sort, and the olive oil absorbing into the potatoes make them moist and flavorful, and are a healthier alternative to butter, sour cream, etc.

    The slicer is supposed to work on bread, but I haven't tried that yet. I have used it on cheese, but it's really hard for me to find large blocks of cheese at the store (most are thin blocks that don't yield many slices). Still, block cheese that you slice yourself is much less expensive.
  26. dbell1

    dbell1 Well-Known Member

    Kruss - it's a small world, I bought that exact slicer for my ex bf as a birthday present. He loved the thing. My dad had a slicer, I'd buy 1/2 a boneless ham to bake and he'd steal it to make sandwiches. :lol:

    We do breakfast for dinner here sometimes too - last night I made waffles with bacon on the side. Used 1/2 the bacon with dinner and saved the other half to make bacon cheeseburgers tonight. I hate store made burger rolls, so I buy a big bag of ciabatta rolls from BJs (12 for about $4.50) and we use them for sandwiches, burgers, garlic bread... Now I'm off to find a recipe to make them at home and see if we can do it cheaper. :shuffle:

    Anyone have a recipe for homemade ranch dressing?
    Kruss and (deleted member) like this.
  27. Jenny

    Jenny From the Bloc

    Another vote for a meat slicer!

    Badams posted about a wonderful sandwich that's a favourite in Buffalo (and you thought they only ate chicken wings :lol:). "Beef on Weck" is thin sliced beef and horseradish served on a weck roll, which is sort of a kaiser with pretzel salt and caraway seeds on top, and you dip it in the hot jus, with a giant pickle on the side. We can't get the rolls, so instead we toast caraway seeds, crush them lightly and mix them into sweet butter with sea salt, spread on ciabatta, and go from there. It's FANTASTIC - I barely eat meat any more, but this is where I make an exception about once per month.

    We've also used our slicer for chicken to make banh mi sandwiches. I just can't imagine buying pre-sliced or even sliced at the deli meat any more - too salty and preserved, and how long has that meat been there anyway? Yuck!
  28. Jenny

    Jenny From the Bloc

    Yes! This is from Screen Doors and Sweet Tea by Martha Hall Foose, a book I absolutely adore. The measurements are a bit finicky, but in the book she describes how she tested it over and over and this is the one that people loved best - I've made it a dozen times or more, and love it.

    Buttermilk Dressing

    1/2 cup buttermilk
    2 tbsp sour cream
    2 tbsp mayo
    1/2 tsp minced chopped shallot
    1/2 tsp chopped chives
    1/2 tsp chopped parsley
    1/2 tsp thyme leaves
    1/2 tsp cider vinegar
    1/2 tsp sugar
    1/4 tsp salt
    1/8 tsp garlic powder

    It's thinner than bottled dressing, so if you like it thicker, adjust the first three ingredients. All you do is whisk it together, chill for an hour before serving, and it keeps for a week in the fridge.

    Bonus: if you make your own butter (which is remarkably easy), the byproduct is buttermilk, so if you really want to be homemade, start with that. Foose also has a recipe for homemade mayo which is yummy, so more bonus points! Both are easy to make if you have a Kitchenaid Stand Mixer, which I know many of you do :)
  29. Christina

    Christina Well-Known Member

    Cyn, please post that recipe.

    I use my coupons and big freezer to save lots of $$. I buy a lot of pasta, cheap. I don't think I've paid more than twenty-five cents a pound in over a year. If you shop at Target, you can stack manufacturer and store coupons to save a bundle. My :dog: and :dog: get lots of treats, but I pay next to nothing for them doing that.

    Chili is always a favorite - it lasts for two meals, plus chili dogs the next day. And beef stew. Oh, and bbq beef - cheap cut of meat, bottle of cola, bottle of bbq sauce and in the crock pot all day. It will shred and is great in sandwiches.

    I buy meat in bulk at the grocery store. Every once in a while they have the whole top round on sale for $1.99 - I get to tell them how to cut/grind it. For about $25 I will get enough meat for fifteen meals, easy, when you count leftovers.

    I also premake and freeze meatloaf and meatballs. I don't even cook them, just mix up and freeze raw. For meatballs, I chuck them into the pasta sauce and heat for about 30 minutes, until they are at least 165 degrees F inside. I defrost meatloaf and then just cook it that night. I've got meatballs on the stove now......
  30. PDilemma

    PDilemma Well-Known Member

    I make sauces and soups from scratch, ftr, except for occasionally using a can for another recipe. I don't even have a recipe for pasta sauces or most soups or meat loaf/meat balls or lasagna sauce. In fact, I don't have a recipe for most things I make. Or I started with one and changed it up and never look at the recipe anymore--that would be the case with lemon chicken and alfredo and spaghetti carbonara and most stir fries. I think the best way to cook is by taste with as many fresh ingredients as possible.

    Recently, I have made breakfast sandwiches at home. They are much better than what you can buy. I use ham or bacon, cheese and scrambled egg (scramble with milk in a bowl, but don't break it up as you cook it--just cook like an omelet without folding--when you turn the eggs, put thin slices of cheddar on top to melt) on toasted English muffins. My husband doesn't want to go out for them anymore--so beware you may ruin getting to go out for breakfast!

    I have read that it is better to freeze meatballs or meat loaf raw as Christina suggests because the flavor doesn't "hold" as well if you freeze beef or pork cooked.