Thursday, April 30, 2009

2 of our Faves

One thing that I've learned for this challenge is that I have no idea how much I paid for the stuff already in my pantry. I go to the grocery once a month and try to get everything we'll need for the whole month (except for things like bread and milk which we go through a lot of in our house). Anyway, I cut coupons and compare prices between brands and stores to get the best deal before I go shopping, but then I forget!

We also tend to buy things in bulk. We love our local Sam's Club. I can buy soups I use for cooking or frozen breads and lots of other things I use. Some of the prices I put on my recipes are what my local grocery store sells them for, not necessarily what I paid.

So here it goes:

1) Taco Bake - This on my husband loves. It serves us both at supper and then him twice again during the week for lunch leftovers. If your kids are picky like mine, use the leftover tortillas and cheese to make quesadillas.

taco sauce 1.50
90/10 hamburger meat 3.49
8 count pkg tortillas 1.98
cheese sauce 3.49
1/2 c onion, diced ??
1/2 c green pepper, diced ??
Shredded cheese 1.98
Rice 1.29
Total $15.93

Brown the hamburger meat with the onion and green pepper. Drain. Add the taco sauce and half jar water. Simmer for about 5 minutes. Add half jar cheese sauce (I use Tostitos queso). In round pan, layer tortilla, meat sauce, shredded cheese. I use 4 tortillas total. End with meat sauce layer. Top with remaining cheese sauce. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes. If you let it sit for a few minutes it will cut and serve easily. We usually serve with Rice-a-roni chicken fajita rice.

2) Cheese Tortellini with Chicken in Roasted Red Pepper Sauce (This is a favorite with my girls! Once again, it provides one supper and at least 2 lunches for K. This is quick and easy to fix. It's a staple for soccer night!)

Frozen Cheese Tortellini 3.49
Refrigerated Cooked Diced Chicken 2.99
Roasted Red Pepper Alfredo Sauce 2.49
Frozen Garlic Bread 2.69 (8 slices)
Total $11.66

Cook pasta as directed and then drain. Heat chicken and sauce until warm. Toss pasta with chicken.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Thai Fried Eggplant with Basil

First, let me apologize ... I hate setting the challenge and then not participating. I had inlaws in town for most of the month of April and it was hard to venture out and try something new let alone keep track of a budget. But, you all did great and proved to me that I should quit griping about my grocery bills!

I wanted to, at least, get one post in this month to share a couple of things ... even though I wasn't posting recipes I did do a couple of things this month to cut back on grocery bills now and in the future. First, with the help of my father-in-law, I started composting. It is amazing how much you can cut down on your trash by composting ... after only 1 month my bin is full and I can't wait to use that liquid gold soil on my garden this fall. In Arizona, you get 2 growing seasons in fall/winter/spring and unfortunately, I didn't take advantage of it last fall ... but I'm hoping to this next fall.

Second, my inlaws gifted us a small lemon tree when they left, which we planted in our backyard alongside our grapefruit and orange trees this past weekend. I'm hoping this provides lots of culinary inspiration in a few months.

Thirdly, I planted a strawberry pot full of culinary herbs that I have been using all month and has been a great thing to have especially if you only use a dab of this or that. I've tried this several times in the past without success and the trick I have found is to install a root watering stem in the center of the pot and it will keep everything watered nicely and hopefully provide several months of culinary enjoyment.

And, finally here is a link to a new recipe I tried last night. I haven't been able to get past the Basil Eggplant and Tofu dish at a local Thai restaurant here so I set out to try to recreate the dish using this recipe and I have to admit it came out pretty darn close to the restaurant version. I did not use the bell pepper nor the cornstarch mixture but added tofu. Here is the cost breakdown:

3 medium japanese eggplants = $3.50
12 oz. tofu = $.86
1 medium onion = $.50
3 Thai or serrano chiles = $.25
Thai basil leaves - had some thai basil in my garden
Jasmine rice - $1.00

Total $6.11

The sauce ingredients I had on hand since I cook a lot of thai dishes. I was shocked to see we could make a restaurant quality meal for a little over $5.00. I admit you have to be into Thai vegetarian dishes to appreciate this one but if you are, it's a keeper.

Cheesy Beef and Rice Casserole

I modified this recipe.
I like that it uses only 1/2 lb of beef, which keeps the cost down. I made it with Original Rotel and it made it way too spicy for my Minnesota-bland 3 year old. Next time I'll make it with mild Rotel and just add red pepper at the table.
We used the leftovers to make burritos.

1/2 pound beef - $1.00
1 cup chopped onion - $0.25
1 cup chopped red bell pepper - $0.50
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained -$1.00
1 (4.5-ounce) can chopped green chiles, drained -$0.50
3 cups cooked brown rice - $0.75
1 cup sour cream -$0.50
1/2 cup sliced green onions $0.25
1/4 cup skim milk - $0.25
3/4 cup (3 ounces) reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese - $0.75
1.Preheat oven to 375°.
2. Cook first 3 ingredients in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until meat is browned, stirring to crumble. Add water and next 6 ingredients (water through chiles); bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes. Uncover and simmer an additional 2 minutes. Remove from heat; set aside.
3. Combine the rice, sour cream, sliced green onions, and milk in a bowl. Spoon rice mixture into a 2 qt baking dish. Top with beef mixture; sprinkle with cheese.
4. Bake at 375° for 10 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
I served with homemade bread ($1.00/loaf), sliced vegetables ($1.00) and strawberries ($1.00).
Total = 8.75

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Mediterrarean Chicken and Brown Rice Casserole


I did sparkpeople a few months ago, and they sent me an email with recipes for meals under $10. That was right around the time this challenge started, so I clicked the link to see what it had.

It had a couple that I will definately try, but this version of chicken and rice casserole really caught my eye. I know it was suppose to be healthy, but feta, sun dried tomatoes? It just seemed to have a lot of flavor.


I ended up making it on sunday. It did take awhile to put together because I had to cook the rice, then the chicken and the sauce. Again, I got 2 totally separate meals out of it, each meal will give us 2 dinners.

The brown rice made it a pretty hardy diet meal. I actually used 2 pounds of chicken, so there was lots of protein. I liked the feta in it, but could have even used less. Mark did not like the feta. The sun dried tomatoes gave it some nice flavor, but I bet you could sub black olives and never know the difference. The only thing I would really change is the spinach. Next time I would use fresh spinach that I cooked down in the sauce. Maybe there was too much of it, but it just seemed overpowering.


All in all, not bad. It definately didn't taste healthy or cheap, but it may not actually be either. Let's add it up.

$23.88 to serve 14; $1.71 per serving; $6.82 to serve 4
Prep time: 15 minutes Cooking Time: 45 minutes
Yields: makes 14 one-cup servings
2-3 large boneless skinless chicken breasts or
6 small ones (about one pound) - 2 lbs $4.00
1 1/4 cups feta cheese, crumbled - $6.00
6 cups cooked brown rice - $1.50
1 10 ounce package frozen spinach thawed - $2.00
and squeezed of excess liquid
1 28 ounce can tomatoes, diced or whole - $2.50
with juice
1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes, chopped finely - been in my pantry forever, who knows
4-5 garlic cloves, chopped finely
1 1/2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup grated romano cheese - used italian blend - $1.00
salt, pepper, basil, and oregano to taste
Put olive oil in large pan and add garlic Turn on heat to medium. When the garlic
has started to soften, add chicken and cook for about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes,
turn heat to low, cover and let simmer for 20 minutes or so. Remove chicken
breasts and set aside to cool. Add sun dried tomatoes and herbs to the tomatoes,
and chop chicken into bite-size pieces. Add the rest of the ingredients except for
the romano and mix thoroughly. Place in a large baking dish and sprinkle with
grated romano. Bake for 25 minutes or until cheese is brown on top.

= $17.00 / 2 +$8.50 per meal. Not bad!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Chicken and Rice Casserole

Okay so my husband LOVES this. It is super easy, but it does take awhile to cook. We didn't have any Onion Soup mix. We found a substitute recipe online which saved us even more $$!

For the Lipton Onion Soup Mix:
2 tsp onion powder, a pinch of curry, sugar, celery salt, pepper, and garlic salt. We also used Beef Stock instead of water.

Chicken and Rice Casserole
About 1 1/2 lbs of chicken $3.29
1 can Cream of Mushroom Soup $0.69
1 can water
2 C minute rice $1.82
Onion Soup packet

Grease casserole dish. Combine rice, soup, water and soup mix, then pour in dish. Set chicken on top. Sprinkle with paprika and lemon pepper and a couple pats of butter.

Cook at 350 for 1-1 1/5 hours. Check periodically to add water so the rice doesn't get too dry.

I forgot to take a picture, but here is one of the three Tupperware I made to take to lunch in the upcoming days. I served it with steamed broccoli and carrots.
Chicken, Soup, Rice, and Beef Stock = $6.80
Broccoli and Carrots =$2.00
TOTAL = $8.80!!

Monday, April 20, 2009

It's like Kerri's, but cheaper!

Box of Tony C's Red Beans and Rice: $1.59
1/2 pkg of turkey sausage: $1.25
TOTAL: $2.84

This is for you GJ - I love you man.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Beef and Barley Hotdish

We learned about Hotdish in Minnesota. I first thought they were referring to a warm plate. Not so much. Hotdish usually has a cream of something soup as a binder, so this isn't technically a true hotdish. And, if it was a truly Minnesotan meal, it would have been served with bars.
This recipe is modified from The Great Minnesota Hotdish by T. Millang. The Rotel was my addition - and made it much spicier than a typical MN-bland hotdish. It also made it too spicy for my kids, so I would probably tone it down if I make this again.

1/2 lb ground beef ($1.00 - got a good deal on organic beef that was about to reach it's sell-by date)
1 c chopped onion ($0.30)
2 cloves garlic, chopped ($0.20)
1 c uncooked barley ($0.50)
1/2 c diced celery ($0.15)
14 oz can diced tomatoes, undrained ($0.90)
10 oz can Rotel, undrained ($0.50 - stocked up during a good deal recently)
2.5 c water (free)
salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven to 350
2. Brown beef and drain all but 1 Tb drippings. Place beef in a 2.5 or 3 qt baking dish.
3. Saute garlic, celery and onion in beef drippings until tender.
4. Add all ingredients to baking dish and bake, uncovered, for 1 - 1.5 hours or until barley is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed.

I served with cheese toast ($1.00)

Total: $4.55

Friday, April 17, 2009

Oven-Fried Chicken Chimichangas

So, I don't know if you know this about me or not, but I am a sucker for a recipe with ALOT of positive reviews. This recipe for Oven-Fried Chicken Chimichangas has 521 reviews and 5 STARS!!! WOW!! Might as well be 522 reviews of 5 stars because it is pretty darn good!

So easy too!!

$0.84 2/3 cup picante sauce or your favorite salsa ($3.79 for a 24 oz bottle...I used 5 1/3 oz)
$2.19 1 1/2 cups cooked chicken, chopped (One BIG Chk Breast...the package of 3 was $6.58)
$1.50 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (1/2 of a 2 c bag $3.00)
$0.55 2 green onions, chopped with some tops (about 1/4 cup)
$1.79 6(8 inch) flour tortillas ($2.99 for 10)

$1.50 Rice
$1.69 Refried Beans
$10.06 TOTAL!

I am horrible at this challenge. I feel like I had to do some serious math calculations to get it that close to $10. This is a keeper recipe though!! Lucky for me, my husband is a spendthrift. I did take leftovers for lunch the following two days...

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Keturah's husband here. Some of you think this month is about making a fancy meal for a very low cost. Not me. I think it is about spending as little money as possible so that I can spend even more money on diapers, wipes, butt cream, etc. Ever since we had kids, I find myself eating a lot of PBJ sandwiches. It's pretty much awesome. I take one to work about 3 times a week.

2 slices bread: $.22
2 tbsp PB: $.14 (we splurge on the JIF)
1 tbsp jelly: $.05 (no splurging there).

Total: 41 cents.

Sometimes I eat the crust from the kids' sandwiches too. I don't know how to factor that in.

Now here is a funny story. If you don't know this about me, I work at a high school. Sometimes, parents will bring their kids lunch and leave it for them at the greeter's desk. Fortunately for me, a lot of kids are spoiled and have no concept of money, so they don't go down there and pick it up. So if I just 'happen to be walking by' the greeter's desk around 1:30, I have trained all the secretaries and parent volunteers to peek in all the lunches, select the best ones and give them to me.

Just the other day I had a turkey sandwich, some goldfish (the pretzel ones!), a fruit rollup and a bottle of water. Turns out fruit rollups are really freakin' good even when your 30 something years old. Sometimes there is even Wendy's or Subway down there! It's like a gold mine.

This does not cost me anything. Just a few mintues of my time buttering up the secretaries and parent volunteers a couple times a week.

Chicken Helper

I was inspired by KAJ's post for Hamburger Helper, so we decided to dive right in. After all, sometimes we all need a little* sodium in our diets (*the definition of little is a personal one).

So here it is:

Chicken Helper - jumbalaya style (1.50)
Chicken breasts - 1 lb (2.99)

DH had a salad, but I didn't, so I'm ignoring that cost.

Total: $4.49 (plus lunch the next day)

Not exactly the most nutritious option, but there really are affordable foods out there.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Red Beans and Rice

What could be more economical then beans and rice, am I right?


Found this recipe on epicurious. I was planning on doing something more cajun, but this seemed interesting. I love those one pot meals.

Red Beans and Rice

3 bacon slices, chopped - $0.50
1 cup chopped onion - $0.30
3/4 cup chopped red bell pepper - $1.00
4 garlic cloves, minced $0.10
3 cups long-grain white rice - $0.50
3 bay leaves - who knows
2 tablespoons tomato paste - $0.10
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon hot Spanish smoked paprika (Pimentón de la Vera) (I used mild and a few dashes of chipolte powder_
2 teaspoons salt
4 cups water
1 15- to 151/2-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed, drained (I used 3 cups cooked dried beans) - $0.50

Total - $ that right? I am estimating, but we did get 2 meals out of this. I need to check some of these figures.

PreparationSauté chopped bacon in heavy 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat until bacon is brown and fat is rendered, about 5 minutes. Add onion, red bell pepper, and garlic; sauté until onion is golden, about 5 minutes. Add rice and stir until coated, about 1 minute. Stir in bay leaves, tomato paste, cumin, paprika, and salt. Add 4 cups water and beans and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and cook until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed, about 18 minutes. Remove from heat; let stand covered 10 minutes. Fluff rice with fork. Remove bay leaves. Transfer rice to bowl and serve.


I paired my meal with coleslaw with a homemade cider vinagrette - about $1.00

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Ravioli with Peas and Tomatoes

The recipe I found, Tortellini with Peas, sound good and cheap. I couldn't find any frozen pasta like the recipe called for, but they sound good to have on hand for a quick meal. I do also always have peas in the freezer.

Basically, my recipe looked like this

$ 3.50 Ravioli

$ 0. 10 2tbsp butter

$ 0. 10 1tsp jarred garlic

$ 0. 75 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

$ 0. 50 1/3 cup peas

$ 1. 33 6 cherry tomatoes, quartered

salt and pepper

Total $6.28 WOOHOO!! Now, this was only for B and I, but another package of ravioli would only bring me to $9.78 :) Pretty good though...depending on the ravioli you buy !!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Baked Ziti

Oh wait, what challenge is this? :)


I used to be really enamored with this recipe, but it is never as good as I think it should be and maybe I od'ed on it a little bit. I still make it because it is easy, the kids like it, and it freezes well. I am guesstimating on the price of the ingredients.


Baked Ziti

1 160z box barilla penne pasta, cooked - $1.25
~3 cups homemade marinara sauce - $2.00
1 32 oz tub ricotta cheese - $3.99
1 "ball" of fresh mozzerella cheese - $3.99
1 12 oz pack organic chicken sausage, sliced BOGO@$4.99 - $2.50
= $13.73 / 2 = $6.87 (this will be 2 dinners for us)

Combine cooked pasta, ricotta cheese, about 1/2 cup cubed mozerrella, 1 1/2 cup sauce in large bowl (or pot you cooked the pasta in). Spread some sauce in bottom of 2 2-qt baking dishes. Spoon in pasta mixture. Top with more sauce and mix in a little. Sprinkle sauce over top. Top with sliced mozerrella. Bake at 375 for about 30 minutes.

Add lettuce salad ~ .75 + dressing ~.25


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Baked Pasta with Tomato Sauce and Vegetables

This isn't a gourmet meal, but it makes a little meat go a long way and is kid friendly.

1/2 lb cooked and drained 90/10 ground beef - $1.50
1 box WW Rotini - $1.25
1 jar spaghetti sauce - $1.00
1 c diced carrot - $0.25
1/2 c diced onion - $0.25
1 diced red bell pepper - $0.50
1 c shredded mozzarella cheese - $0.75

1 small loaf french bread from Costco - $1.00

1. Saute carrot, onion and bell pepper in olive oil until soft and fragrant. Add ground beef and jar of spaghetti sauce, bring to a boil. Simmer 10 minutes or more.
2. Cook pasta.
3. Combine pasta and sauce in large casserole dish.
4. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes.
5. Top with cheese and bake another 10 minutes or until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbly.

Total: $6.50 (and we got two nights worth of meals out of it)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Don't want to peak to early!!

My husband has been wanting to cook this for the blog for as long as I can remember!

$ 2.00 Hamburger Helper... Then he always says, "Doesn't need any help to me!"
$ 0.39 1 1/3cup milk a gallon of organic milk cost me $6.29
$ 3.56 1 lb 90/10 beef

$ 5.99 for corn! WHAT! is that right?!? Did I pay that much?!? Crap, this challenge is tough.
TOTAL!! $11.94

Thursday, April 2, 2009

April's Challenge - State of the Economy Challenge

I apologize for being late on April's challenge. The change over to the new month slipped my mind. This month's challenge is to post recipes that can be made for roughly $10 or under. I'm not going to stipulate a number of servings but try to post things that at least serve 2 adults. I've stewed over how to tally things like herbs and dabs of things but in order to keep it simple here is a generic list of Freebie ingredients:

standard dried pantry herbs including salt/pepper
anything you pick from your own garden (yep, if you went to all that work ... you don't have to count it in your total)
pats of butter or swigs of oil for cooking
a slice of anything ... (like a slice of bread from a whole loaf)


You get the idea I think ... use your best judgement and your best cost estimate. Or share things you do to cut your grocery costs since this seems to be a hot topic lately.

For extra points: Go to your local library and check out a new cookbook for your $10 inspirations!