Friday, October 30, 2009

Dirt Cheap Meals

The following recipes have been gleaned from the internet:

Amish Haystacks

Brown 1 lb. ground beef. Add a jar of spaghetti sauce. Prepare the following:

Crushed crackers
Cheese sauce (could make a white sauce and add a little cheese or just melt cheese with milk.)
shredded lettuce
onions, peppers, tomatoes, etc as available and desired

Assemble haystacks as follows:

1-2 spoonsful of crushed crackers
Large spoonful rice
handful of lettuce
Meat sauce to cover these layers
Assorted add-ins as desired (onion, pepper)
Cheese sauce drizzled over the top.


This one's cheap and easy!

8 oz can tomato sauce
15 oz can diced tomatoes, not drained
about 1/4 to 1/2 of an onion (to taste)
seasonings to taste (I use cayenne pepper, Chili Powder, and Italian Seasoning mix)
2 zucchini, sliced and halved
15 oz can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
15 oz can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
15 oz can corn, rinsed and drained

Bring first 5 ingredients to a boil in a saucepan (all ingredients and amounts are "to taste"). Cook on low for 10-20 minutes (until zucchini and onions are tender). Add beans and corn. Cook until heated through.

We serve this with shredded cheese, fat free sour cream, and Marie Callendar's cornbread from a mix.


I find that the cheapest and easiest meal to make is to just cut up what ever veggies I have in the fridge and stir fry them and serve with rice. If you eat meat, just thinly slice some and cook that first (a chicken breast or a steak can go a long, long way in a stir fry). This is good for those vegetables you just don't know if they're going to make it much longer :D (I usually have lots of those). Season with soya sauce or any favorite seasonings. Not really a recipe, but a cheap, easy and versatile meal that doesn't take long to make.


I do a big crockpot of dried beans (cook overnight with *plenty* of water) and in the morning add a can of tomato sauce, some chopped garlic and onion and chili spices.

this makes a ton, so one night we serve over rice, one night with crusty bread, one night over pasta, brown some ground beef and stir in one night, shred some leftover chicken into it, serve with grated cheese, thicken it up and spoon over salad for a taco salad, thin it out for a taco soup. . . the variations are endless. It also freezes well so you don't have to feel locked into eating it *every* night. . .


we make a pot of chili one night (simple recipe, kidney beans, meat tomato sauce, diced tomatoes corn etc) the next night when there's just a little left I adda can of tomato sauce a couple more cans full of water and make soup (any extra beans or cooked rice can add to it)

When you do stir fry cook lots of extra rice and use the leftovers for fried rice.

my staples are rice dried beans chicken thighs ground beef simple baking ingredients and frozen broccoli and green beans


buy the biggest roast you can find (and cook lol)
day1: pot roast with roasted vegetables (carrots potatoes onions) your goal here is to pack them with the veggies w the meat more as a side dish serve with biscuits or rolls
day2: use part of the beef to make barbeque sandwiches add green pepper more onion and mushrooms serve with a green veggie and orange slices
day3: use beef to make stroganoff (this takes very little beef) sourcream mushroom soup peas worchestershire sauce and egg noodles serve with mashed potatoes and peas
day4:harvest soup use half of the stock and 1/2 cup of the chopped beef can of v8 or tomato juice macaroni noodles carrots corn peas cabbage potatoes northern and black beans whatever veggies you have left in the freezer this should make a huge amount so you'll have leftovers.
day 5: beef gravy over rice last bit of beef and last of stock mix with cornstarch season serve with broccoli and fruit salad.


Well...everyone's idea of dirt cheap is different, but one of our favorites is Shepherd's Pie. Here's our version:

1 lb ground turkey
1 can cream of chicken or mushroom soup
1 can corn
bunch of mashed potatoes (I usually make this when we have some leftover)

Pretty much, you just ground the turkey, mix it with the soup, drain the corn and put it on top, top that with the potatoes and then the cheese. Bake it at 375 or so for about 20 minutes...if you make the mashed potatoes especially for this, they are already hot, and then you don't need to cook it so long.


I forgot another - so here it is. . .

when chicken parts go on sale, I buy a big family pack and make chicken soup. we eat that with noodles, rice, whatever for 1 day, then freeze the rest. (don't put the startch in the big pot, 'cause it won't freeze well.

then, you have your chicken. remove it from the bone and use in dishes that call for cooked chicken. . . I do different ones each time, but I've done stirfrys, quesadillas, mexican bean soups, chicken bbq pizza, different salad themes, ie: asian (cashews and mandarin oranges)

this makes it go pretty far. . . and you still have soup in your freezer to pack full of whatever veggies are cheap for you the next week (try potatoes and cabbage. it's better than it sounds!)

Oh, and if potatoes are cheap for you, you can use them as a base to spread out other things. It's a nice break from rice and pasta all the time. . . we've had them under stews, as well as a traditional "topped potato" with cheese and brocoli. this last one is a good accompaniment to a thinner chicken soup (like if you haven't packed it full of veggies and rice)


Ramen noodles are usually dirt cheap and you could sub some pasta for the ramen if pasta is cheaper for you. Some of these recipes are kind of out there but I have found a few unique ways to dress up ramen here.

I cannot recall where this came from, I think it was a book I checked out from the library. We have used it a few times when there is food in the cupboard but I draw a blank on what I can make with it.
Choose ONE from each of the following categories:

Any pasta OR rice OR Grain

SAUCE 1 can plus 1.5cans additional liquid
Cream of any soup OR sauce (tomato, spaghetti etc)

PROTEIN 1lb raw or 1/2c cooked
Any meat OR Tuna OR eggs OR beans OR Tofu/TVP

VEGES 2 Cups canned or raw

1-2 C cheese stirred into sauce

Choose one from each category, put all into a skillet and season to taste. Bring to a boil then simmer 30 minutes
OR mix all ingredients, put in a casserole dish and cook at 350 for 1 hour.
(if using dried beans I would cook them prior to this)
There really is endless variation here and though I made a few dogs (tomato soup/rice/tuna/celery mess comes to mind) it is easy to come up with something for the ingredients on hand or always on sale at the store that the family will like.


I'm in love with Tater Soup, Veggie Soup & Tuna Casserole. I could eat all three of those every day of the week!!!
I'm NOT a scratch cook. IF I can't open a can & pour in a pot or stick in the oven, I don't COOK. Lazy I reckon.

I've seen different ways to make tater soup. Some just use taters & onions, others add in carrots. I like mine plain with taters and what my grandmother calls Pappy Bread, it's a biscuit dough, just baked in a bread pan.

Veggie soup, my grandmother just buys cans of veggies & pours in a big crock pot & simmers away. Sometimes she adds meat, but to me, that's NOT Veggie Soup.

Mom makes me the tuna casserole. Boil some maccoroni noodles, stir in a can or two of tuna, add in cooked peas &cooked mushroom soup, (optional) sprinkle some crumbled tater chips on top & bake in oven til desired temp.

We have a store called Sav-A-Lot here & we usually stock up on the can goods as they are dirt cheap. Tho, if you have a garden,that's even better & cheaper :)


I've found you can go a long way on a few simple staples:


When times are lean (and even when they're not) we eat a lot of veggies with rice or pasta. If we can't afford to make pesto for the pasta, I just saute some garlic in olive oil and toss that with the veggies and pasta.

Pancakes or waffles make a cheap meal, I always serve them with fresh fruit, usually apples or bananas.

Burritos are also fairly cheap to make. has a great sweet potato burrito recipe.

And "Skillets" are a cheap and filling dinner. In a skillet, saute onion in butter. Add sliced carrots and potatoes and cook until almost soft. Add zucchini and cook until done. Sprinkle with nutritional yeast and spices. Simple, but good. You can switch up the ingredients and make lots of variations.

We don't buy a whole lot of prepared or boxed foods, but if we're hurting for money, I don't buy any. No Near East cous cous or canned soups those weeks! I find that my $ goes further by buying as much fresh produce as I can. I really can't compromise on nutrition when the grocry budget is tight.


Creamed Hamburger

1 lb hamburger (we use pork sausage)
1 onion chopped
3 T. flour
1-1/2 c. milk (we use soy milk)
salt and pepper (we add garlic powder)

Brown meat and onion. Add flour, then milk, and cook until thick. Season. Serve on rice, noodles, toast, or mashed taters.

Autumn Soup
I use this when I have leftover meat and I want to clean out bits of frozen veggies from the freezer.

meat (we usually use a left over pork chop, steak, or a half lb. hamburger/turkeyburger)
1/2 c. chopped onion
water (it calls for 2 cups but I usually add a lot more!)
celery (I don't add this 'cause hubby hates it)
3/4 c. taters
a can of tomatoes
any other veggie I feel like throwing in.
If I have it, I'll add a dry onion soup mix for flavor

Brown/heat meat in a little bit of hot fat in a kettle. Add onions and cook 5 more minutes. Add remaining ingredients except tomatoes and mix. Bring to boil and simmer 20 minutes. Add tomatoes and simmer 10 minutes longer.

I also do the chicken thing. I'll oven fry chicken one night and while 2 pieces are frying I'll boil the other two. Then I put the broth in a container and the chicken in another and stick it in the fridge. The next night I'll use all the broth but one cup and one piece of chicken to make Chicken and dumplings (I use the dumping recipe on the side of the jiffy box). The next night I'll make Chicken ala King using the last piece of chicken and the 1 c. broth I saved.

Chicken ala King

1/3 c. mushrooms (canned or fresh)
1/4 c. chopped green pepper
1/4 c. butter/margarine
1/4 c. flour
1/2 t. salt
1/8 t. pepper
1 c. chicken broth
1 c. milk or cream (we use soy milk)
1 c. diced chicken (cooked)

Saute mushrooms and green pepper in butter/margarine. Blend in flour and seasonings. Cook over low heat, stirring until mixture is smooth and bubbly (mine gets dry, lol). Remove from heat. Slowly stir in broth and milk. Bring to boil over low heat, stirring constantly. Boil 1 min. Add chicken. Continue cooking until meat is heated through. Serve over toast, biscuits, chow mein noodles or our personal fave... rice.


I almost exclusively buy organic. I find I have more money to buy good food when I stay away from processed food. I also want to buy the best nutrition for my money. We also try to eat things in season. So anyway, here's my list of what we think is important.

We are lucky to have access to:

dry brown rice and other organic rice
dry beans of all sorts
dry legumes
whole grain flours
whole oats
dry popcorn
dry pasta
flax seed

Veggies that keep well & offer good health

sweet potatoes

an important veggie that doesn't keep so well: avocado

Some other cheap fruits & veggies that offer health punch

Swiss chard
Strawberries (in season)
Canteloupe (in season)

Sometimes we eat meat, like organic chicken, but nostly we do not. We also sometimes eat tofu, but mostly we do not, since it is so processed. But it packs a nice protein punch. We tend to eat local organic eggs for our protein needs and some cheese. While we are not vegetarians, we try to live in food harmony. Food is relatively cheap in the US compared to other places in the world. We try to honor that by buying quality food and supporting the organic farmers who have the foresight to care for our earth.

I think some food can be dirt cheap-- like ramen and mac & cheese etc., but for long term health-- for kids and the planet-- we have to be careful. Putting money aside for bulk food purchases of rice and beans etc is more at the onset, but will save money and give good health in the long run.


Roasted Veggie Soup

I put in a glass pyrex oven dish:

Tomatoes (Romas- sliced in half)

Lot of peeled garlic- you can leave it whole

I chop into big pieces- easy and quick!




I put them all in the oven dish, drizzle with olive oil- don't add seasonings yet so that salt doesn't pull water out. You want the veggies to keep their water in so that they carmelize a bit- YUM!

When they are all mushy and smell AWESOME, put in food processor and add seasonings. I add vege-sal, pepper, italian seasonings- all to taste. You can add more olive oil if you like the taste.

It is so yummy as soup can stretch it by serving over pasta, rice, cous cous, quinoa...yummy and easy too :)

Freezes great!


Pizza casserole or in my house "up side down pizza"

layer 1 lb ground beef browned and drained in a 9x13 baking dish, 1 jar spaghetti sauce, 2-3 cups moz cheese in that order

in a bowl mix 1 1/4 cups flour, 2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 cup oil, 3 eggs and 2 cups milk

pour over pizza ingredients, bake at 400 for 30 min or so.

now to make it healthier you can use tvp soaked for all or part of the meat (50/50 is undetectable) and add some good pizza veggies like peppers mushroom zucchini etc w/the sauce layer. I use part whole wheat flour in it.

it's an adaptation of a Bisquick recipe so uyou can use 1 1/2 cup Bisquick in place of the oil and dry ingredients.


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