What is the cheapest meal you have and how is it prepared? I need the required ingredients and a description of the taste. I am a Nigerian in Michigan, U.S.A. I arrived 5 weeks ago. Thanks for your urgent response.
By Oluwatosin from MI
I don't eat meat, and my food budget is very small, my favorite cheap meal is rice and peas. You can make a big pot or a little pot depending on how many you need to feed. You use a serving of peas for every serving of rice, I wish I could be more exact with the amount of ingredients. I cook my rice with a couple of veggie broth cubes, I add onions, garlic, or basically any aromatic vegetable I have. Sometimes I only have garlic, sometimes I have peppers and tomatoes, but you can use whatever you have on hand. I cook everything together and I add some oil or butter and a little more salt or pepper if it needs it. Its so simple, but it fills your body with warm, good food. If that doesn't sound tasty, I find a lot of ideas on this website. http://www.hillbillyhousewife.com/category/recipes It contains many low cost and tasty recipes. Welcome to America, :) I used to live in Michigan, it's a beautiful place.
The easiest meal I make is using my crock pot. Put chicken breasts in the pot, pour a can of cream of celery or cream of mushroom on top and let it cook throughout the day on low or high if you want it cooked a bit sooner. The chicken is always fall apart moist and delicious. You can add some onion soup mix in, some vegetables like broccoli or cauliflower and serve over rice or egg noodles. My family loves it with corn muffins.
Peanut butter sandwiches are a cheap source of protein, no cooking needed. Eggs can be made any way you like. Rice and beans make a complete protein. Cook a large pot and eat for days. I don't eat red meat. Chicken is versatile and inexpensive when on sale. What did you eat in Nigeria? Can you make similar things here?
Tuna Noodle Recipe
Cook a bag of noodles in pot of water and drain.
Add two cans cream of mushroom soup to the noodles in pan.
Add three cans tuna drained of liquid.
Add a can of peas drained or half bag of frozen peas.
Add half a jar of mushrooms(no juice) as an option.
Add one half stick of margarine.
Cook until all is hot and stir to mix well.
Serve. Lots of leftovers for other meals.
Description: All soft food and creamy
one bag of mixed frozen vegetables
one can tomato juice
one pound of browned and drained ground beef
one onion diced up
two cans seasoned diced tomatoes
Add hot sauce to broth if desired.
Cook altogether in large pan until onions are clear and soft stirring often to prevent sticking to pan.
Pour into soup bowl and serve with saltines or peanut butter sandwich. Lots of leftovers for other meals.
Description: Can be mild or spicy depending on taste. Full of flavor and good on a wintery day. Healthy eating.
I understand a budget. Here are some ideas I do.
Homemade sushi. The Noris is cheap and you can fill it with whatever you wish. I use brown rice instead of sushi rice (healthier and cheaper. I buy in bulk.) Fill it with shredded carrot, some avocado, cucumber, and fake crab. I also use left overs, shredded chicken, pork, stuff like that. Easy lunches and easy to roll too. Comes out to a couple of bucks per meal and has all the nutrients needed. Make all snacks. Granola bars, etc. You get triple the amount for 1/2 the price of store bought.
http://www.joyfulabode.com/2008/04/ ... h-fructose-corn-syrup-in-these-bars/ Buy over ripe bananas on sale at produce market and freeze to make banana bread/muffins. Can control sugar.
I don't use canned soups either for the same reasons. Homemade soups are easy and CHEAP!! Make vats of stocks and freeze, then you have a base. Freeze small ends, and bits of veggies. Collect enough to make a veggie stock. Buy chicken and beef bones from the butcher. Can get lots for very cheap. Healthy soups are easy and very affordable and you can use amount of salt you choose. Spaghetti and chili too can freeze. There are only 2 of us in the house, so make lots and take advantage of the freezer. Just a few ideas.
Hi, and welcome to America. I think it is so brave to move to another country! The first meal I thought of was cabbage and noodles. It's hard to describe the taste. I think it's delicious. The meat is savory (I like to use breakfast sausage, and I like Bob Evans brand, but buy the cheapest) and the cabbage is naturally sweet. The ingredients are all fairly cheap, and it makes a big pot that warms up well. If you need to make it cheaper, you can leave the meat out, and just cook the vegetables and noodles.
The ingredients are:
1 large onion
1 head of cabbage
1-1 pound bag of egg noodles
1 pound of sausage, ground meat, or bacon
peel and chop the onion. Cut the cabbage in quarters, and cut the core out. Then cut it into slices or chunks. Break the meat up and brown it in a large pot. When it is getting brown, add the onion and cabbage, and cook over medium heat, stirring occassionally to keep it from sticking. When the cabbage is starting to get wilted, add a cup of water, and cover the pot with a lid. When the cabbage is nearly done, cook the noodles according to package directions. Drain the noodles, and stir into the cabbage mixture. You can add a hot pepper, if you like things hot.
If you could let us know what kind of foods you like and what your cooking skills are, it would help. Do you have enough pots and pans to cook a few things at the same time? Or just one of two, limiting what you cook and how much. I hope that someone here in the States is helping you with shopping and everything else. Bless you, and much luck to you.
If I were you I would start with food similar to what you are used to cooking in Nigeria. The larger grocery stores would probably carry that. If your budget is really tight I suggest you first look for a "Shop and Save" or "Aldies" type store. You will need salt, pepper and red pepper, sugar, flour, coffee and tea if you drink it and cooking oil. You don't say if you are an accomplished cook or just starting out. These are basic items. Next go to the library near you and get a card, or just look in the cook books section and find one on economical cooking. Eggs are always good and inexpensive and can be fixed many ways. Rice comes in many forms here but your best bet is to buy it in bulk (large bags cheaper than small boxes).
I also welcome you to America! Not knowing what sorts of foods you like makes it difficult to share recipes so if you let us know what you like (like what kind of fruits, veggies meats, pasta, soup, spices, etc.) we can give you oodles of recipe ideas and you won't end up making food you don't like that ends up being thrown away. I have hundreds of really good tested recipes and many of them are really inexpensive and am more than happy to share some with you if you let me know what to look for. :-)
I also know you're going to get homesick at times for your native dishes so here's a link of Nigerian recipes that have been adapted to foods we readily have available here in America:
With all that being said, if you like chicken you might like this simple recipe. It takes awhile for baking but it's really tasty without being overwhelming:
Extra Celery Stuffed Whole Chicken
1 whole chicken, giblets removed
6 cups stale bread, torn in pieces including the crust
6 tbsp butter
3 cups celery, diced
2 tbsp onion, chopped
1 tsp dried sage
1 tsp salt
1 cup chicken broth
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in large saucepan and add celery and onion. Cook while stirring until soft and yellow. Add bread and seasonings and toss together until well mixed. Allow to cool. Add the liquid and mix lightly. Stuff in to the dressed chicken and bake for 2 to 2 1/4 hours, or until juices run clear when piercing with a fork.
I am looking for quick, easy, inexpensive dinner ideas.
Shelly from Perry, FL
There are a few things to have around which are invaluable for creating the bases of many dishes. Also, knowing how to prepare a gravy or cream base from scratch will save you a lot. Some of these things can be found more cheaply at a store like WINCO which has food in bins, or at Walmart or similar discount stores.
Knorr bouillon cubes, both chicken and beef, can be found for about 75 cents at Walmart, sometimes you might have to look in Mexican food area. Get one box of chicken, one of beef. These cubes are soft, break easily, which is handy because they are so strongly flavored, you may need only a partial cube.
In the soup area you can find store brand onion soup mix, two to a box. Get one box.
In baking area, get one box of cornstarch. Invaluable for making gravy, cream sauces, and fresh pudding.
Pudding and cinnamon toast were the first things we learned to cook in home ec.
If possible, buy real butter when it's $2 a pound or less. It has such good flavor, it makes food taste really great, and margarine is basically colored shortening. Think about it. Use a spoon of oil with a spoon of butter for butter flavoring for sautes to stretch it.
If you can, find one pound package of quick rise yeast at WINCO, Costco, or your nearest restaurant supply store. Put in large plastic bag and zip, will keep in fridge for over a year. More about that in a bit.
The best dried fruits I have found are at Walgreen's in their food section for 1 dollar a box: raisins (good for lots of reasons), dates, prunes, all can be chopped into cookie recipes. Apricots make great jam, especially one box apricots, one box dried pineapple. Soak in water to cover in covered bowl in fridge for up to a week. Grind in blender, simmer with couple of cups of sugar, until looks like jam, will thicken a bit, so stop short of final consistency. Put in jars, cover and keep in fridge. Use one at a time. Won't spoil unrefrigerated taking just one out at a time.
If you can find it, one package of ranch dressing that requires buttermilk: DOESN'T HAVE IT IN IT.
Read the side of the cornstarch box and learn how to make a smooth cream sauce, starting with the light one. For a cream (milk actually, as for tuna helper type meal) based casserole, you will need two cups of sauce.
For a tuna type (or you could use one chopped chicken breast, etc) casserole, saute 1/4 or more cup onion, and set aside. Boil some pasta, about 1 1/2 cups dry, and drain. You can add 1 cup frozen veggies of any kind to this boiling pasta and cook it all in same pot if you'd like. Put in same pan as sauteed onion, set aside. Make 2 cups light cream (bechamel) sauce in another pan. Basically 2 cups fresh milk, or 1 cup evaporated milk and one cup water, or reconstituted dry milk and the appropriate amount of cornstarch dissolved in a little bit of cold water or milk.
TIP: Heat your milk to pretty warm but not boiling on stove. Have cornstarch ready to whisk into it, by dissolving it into liquid, whisk into preheated milk and it will thicken quickly. Keep whisking until it is smooth and remove from heat.
Assemble: Tuna, drained, pasta and veggies, cream sauce. Next, creativity: If you have it, add one
teaspoon of ranch dressing powder. It will taste almost identical to tuna helper. Or you could use salt, pepper, and grated cheese. Or 1/4 cube of chicken bouillon and some salt and pepper and a splash of Louisiana hot sauce or one to three drops of Tabasco, or Worcestershire. Taste after you add each ingredient to see when you have it right.
You can see you could make mac and cheese with just pasta, sauce and grated cheese, seasoning to taste. You could substitute pre-boiled potato slices for pasta and make scalloped potatoes, with or without grated cheese. Any of these can be browned/baked further in oven if you like.
Believe it or not, you can take pieces of plain white bread and crumb them in blender and put in pan to oven dry at 200 degrees for crumb topping. Don't season because you can make apple crisp with cinnamon and sugar, or season as for meat.
If you wanted to make a mushroom base, make cream sauce, add piece (very small) of beef bouillon cube and a thinly sliced and chopped single (one only is all you need, really) med-larger mushroom.
Gravy in a pinch can be made with one bouillon cube, about 2-3 cups of water, two tablespoons of cornstarch dissolved in cold water (use some of above water), heat bouillon and thicken. You can substitute a bit of milk for a creamy chicken gravy or, if making a stroganoff dish, substitute 1/2 milk for water, and at last minute stir in couple of tablespoons of sour cream. A good ingredient to keep on hand.
The best way to save money is to keep people out of the kitchen between meals, by saying dinner is coming in 45 minutes. Cook from scratch. Here is the best, last tip. Plan for everyone to have one medium size serving of good nutritious, balanced meals. Bake rolls and bread for filler.
Find a recipe for milk bread/rolls. Use that instant yeast. Let rise only once if in a hurry which means
knead very well, shape, let rise until double, bake. Won't be as fine, but will be similar in texture to biscuits. But not as fattening, because biscuits use both shortening (very fattening, seems to go right to the hips) and butter afterward, whereas rolls have protein from milk and only 1 Tablespoon of oil or butter in recipe, then the topping afterward. Rolls or homemade bread smells so good, and feels so good.
Bread machines can be found for $10 or less at garage sales, and really do work. If you can't find a book, remember this: liquids, then flours, YEAST LAST, IN A DIP IN THE FLOUR. You can use them just to do your kneading for you if you want.
Make a basic bread dough, with water, flour, salt and yeast for pizza. Knead, let sit 10 minutes, shape very thin on a pan which you've sprinkled with a teaspoon of cornmeal. Oil top of pizza dough lightly. Find a pizza stone at a garage sale when you get around to it. Let dough rise as high as you like your dough to be. Preheat oven to 350 before you roll it out and bake it 5-7 minutes. Take out and set aside and turn off oven.
In pan, put 1 small can tomato paste, one small can tomato sauce, a lot of chopped fresh garlic and a couple tablespoons of water, and your preferred/available Italian spices. Basil, oregano, Italian spice mix...
pinch of salt, pinch of sugar, and tiny pinch of red pepper flakes. Over medium heat, stir and simmer for a while, making sure doesn't burn. Adjust salt and sugar. Shouldn't need more than 1 tablespoon sugar.
Assemble anything you want on top to the side, and begin: sauce the pizza dough as desired, add ingredients such as green pepper, mushrooms, meat of any kind, or not, green onions, olives, whatever is around you think would be good on a pizza. Cheese it as desired. It will be good, I guarantee you. Bake in 400 degree preheated oven until done as you like, just like for take home pizza, but remember, the crust has already been started, so watch it after 10 minutes. Can be as simple as a cheese pizza, or elaborate. It will be filling and tasty.
For soups, use bouillon or onion soup as base, add what you have, and in end throw in rice, or potatoes, or pasta (store-bought or homemade) or dumplings. Of course on soup night, make bread.
Learn how to make fruit pies.
If you had to you could live well on fruit pies, oatmeal, omelets, soups, cheese, breads, rolls (try your own cinnamon rolls with raisins and nuts, use milk in dough), as long as you used fruits and vegetables as much as possible. You can use cream sauces for anything: meat, vegetable, cheese, hard boiled eggs, or any combo with or over any carb.
Grow a garden somewhere, even if it's just lettuce or chard, and tomatoes. Grow up (vertical) if you are in an apartment: see web. Get sunshine, make sure you have oil on skin to form vitamin D, or take vitamin D, via cod liver oil capsules, or pills.
These recipes are quicker than you think. Practice the sauces and gravies. Once you've done it 6 times, it's quick. (12/29/2008)
These are all great sounding recipes; however, the canned soups, gravies, bouillons, and many of the sauces have lots and lots of sodium and other things we might not want to be mainstays in our diets. A couple of times a week are one thing, but be mindful of your use of them.
One investment you might want to make (but probably won't need to, if you're like most of us) would be a crock-pot. They will tenderize even the most lean cut of meat and make a great starting point for lots of recipes.
One favorite, is to cook the beef for day one, then cut up/shred the cooked meat. Thicken the juices with flour/water, and put some of the meat in it to serve over mashed potatoes. Day two, add some barbecue sauce (use a light hand) to some of the meat and serve on rolls or with noodles. Day three, (and these days don't have to be in a row--you can freeze the shredded meat) mix the meat with some canned beans or refried beans, roll in tortillas with a sprinkle of cheese, and heat through. Day four, you can do cold wraps.
Whole chickens or legs/thighs are less expensive than chicken breasts, but my family doesn't enjoy dark meat. So I buy bone-in chicken breasts, which I bone (learned to do it with my fingers) and cook for meal one. The skin and bones I simmer as long as I can with a little celery, carrot, onion, and any seasonings I like (for me: poultry seasoning), and make a great soup base. I take any meat off the bones, add any leftovers, and there is the start of soup. Add a can of diced tomatoes and a can of corn and serve with some broken tortilla chips and a sprinkle of cheese for tortilla soup. Add a can of corn, one or two chopped hard-cooked eggs, and some noodles for PA-style chicken corn soup. Or add leftover veggies and rice. One thing I do when I make homemade soups is to cook my noodles/rice/barley, or other such ingredients separately so they don't absorb so much of the broth I worked so hard to make.
At the grocery store I use the low-sodium canned goods. They are no more expensive than the regular.
Thinly slice a sweet onion, and saute very slowly in butter, margarine, or oil. After the onion begins to caramelize (this can take a half hour or more, with occasional stirring), add a tablespoon or so of flour, then I add low-sodium beef broth. Simmer a short while and season to taste--I like a dash of Worcestershire sauce. Place in an oven-proof bowl, add croutons, or toasted stale bread, and a slice of cheese on top. (I like Swiss, he likes mozzarella or provolone.) Broil and serve.
Eggs are a great bargain. Omelets, salads, etc. are great sources of protein.
Hot dogs are another thing we don't want to eat daily....but "wiener hash" is a great once-in-a-while treat. Just saute cut-up potatoes (can be leftover from another meal), and when they're nearly done, add cut-up hot dogs. I also like to cook cut onion with the taters.
Cook potatoes or other veggies in a small amount of water until they're done. Mash or blend until almost smooth. Add back to the pan and add a can of evaporated milk. Season to taste, and you can add shredded sharp cheese if you have some on hand. My family loves this.
Soups are, in general, very frugal meals. There are a million and one recipes online. Served with a good bread, they are a wonderful alternative.
Oh, and one last tip: my bread machine takes the yeast FIRST, then flour, dry ingredients, and liquids LAST. If you do pick up a bread machine without a manual, ask on here and I bet someone can give you the tips! (That is why most bread machine recipe books say "add ingredients in order recommended by the manufacturer.") (12/29/2008)
One of my favorite is a crustless quiche (it's almost like a frittata). I like to bake it in a very large cast iron skillet that's been buttered or sprayed with Pam before adding the veggies and eggs. All you do is beat a dozen eggs well, then add half of an 8 oz bag of grated cheese (I like sharp cheddar) and about 6 or so crackers or 2 pieces of bread in crumbs to the mix (these help hold the mix together). Season with a bit of salt and pepper and add a bit of Italian seasoning that you've crushed (about 1/3 teaspoon). Be sure to add some garlic powder and onions or chives to the egg mix. You pour this egg mix over any veggies you like (chopped broccoli, mushrooms, zucchini, squash, onions cubed, etc).
Next, bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees for about an hour (give or take 10 min). It's done when you can put a knife in and it comes out clean (like a cake). When it's done, put the rest of the cheese on the top and melt it for a few minutes, then sprinkle chives or green onion slices on the top for color.
* This is easy and inexpensive (there's no meat, but you can add ham or a little bacon), and it's good for you...but high in fat. If you want to lower the fat content, remove half (or more) of the egg yolks and add 2 or 3 extra whites to make up for it. You can also use low-fat or no-fat cheese. If you take out some of the egg yolks, you won't be able to tell the difference. It'll taste the same, just less cholesterol! (12/30/2008)
This is one of my favorite recipes, it's very inexpensive and quick, and if you have a small family like mine, you have plenty of leftovers.
Saute 1/2 cup each of finely chopped onion, celery, and carrot (I pre-chop all my veggies when I have a little time on the weekend) in 1 tablespoon of oil and 1 tablespoon of butter. Add one package of john morrel, small chopped ham and cook for 5 mins. Add 2 tablespoons of flour, and cook for 2 more minutes. Add 5 teaspoons of chicken bouillon granules and 8 cups of water (or use 8 cups of Swanson chicken broth). Add one 32 ounce bag of frozen diced hash brown potatoes and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and cook until potatoes are tender. Take off heat and add one cup of heavy cream or half-and-half.
This soup is wonderful just as it is, but you can make many substitutions, ie:
-Add one bag of shredded cheddar cheese
-Use crumbled bacon instead of ham (I use one jar of real bacon bits)
-Use frozen tiny salad shrimp (2 bags) and clam juice instead of chicken broth. (2 bottles clam juice, the rest plain water.)
-Add one can rotel, can of mexi-corn, and use chicken instead of ham, use cheddar cheese, and omit the cream.
I have made every variation of this soup, and my family and friends love all of them. (12/30/2008)
Amounts depend on how many people you are feeding, but let's say for 4 people:
I like celery salt, garlic salt, or Mrs. Dash to season it.
I cover the chicken with the other ingredients, and cook in a small glass casserole dish, something with a lid, or you can use foil, on 350 about 30 min, just until the chicken and potatoes are done. If you use a different cut of chicken, like dark meat thighs, cut the butter back.
This can also be done in a crock pot, just be sure the potatoes go in first and the butter is on top. I have also used fresh mushrooms, celery, and zucchini in it. This one is hard to mess up, and uses all the "staples" I carry on hand and recommend for any budget household. (12/30/2008)
I have two quickies that are pretty inexpensive and use things you might have laying around the kitchen. Both have been pleasers in our household.
For a quick hot sandwich, layer cheap deli ham with sliced cheese-the kind that comes individually wrapped-in a crock-pot and bring to temperature on high (about a half hour), then turn down and cook for maybe two hours til ham is tender. Serve on buns. My family especially likes the pepper cheese, but I have used the Swiss or plain old American. Great for a potluck too.
For a quick and cheap white sauce for pasta, melt 1/4 cup butter in pan, add a 3 ounce package of cream cheese and let melt. To this, add 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (the cheap stuff out of the green can) and add about 1/4 cup milk, half and half, or whipping cream. I like to serve it over bow-tie pasta. It's amazingly good for how little goes into it. (01/01/2009)
For a quick meal on a cold day, I make a pouch of Lipton Alfredo noodles and at the very end throw in a package of flaked imitation crab and heat until warm. Serve with a salad. Fast, cheap and easy, and it tastes like you spent more time than you really did. (01/06/2009)
I am on a budget (getting laid off and all) but still like to eat as healthy as the budget permits. I like to get a couple cans of tuna, mix with a can of black beans (don't drain the beans), pour it in a skillet and add a can of rotel undrained also. Put on corn tortillas with some cheese and lettuce is really good! I also always check the grocery ads before I go and see which store has sales or good prices on meats and stock up. That seems to help me when money is low, I have good meat and just have to get little things. Hope that helps! (01/06/2009)
I take crescent rolls (the cheap can kind), unroll them, place left over or boiled chicken and frozen broccoli, with a little salt pepper and garlic powder, inside roll them up place in a pan. Pour can of cream of chicken or cream of celery, whatever I have on hand and bake as directed. Then when almost done, put some cheese on top. Whatever I have on hand. It's very filling and good. (01/26/2009)
Cut a package of Hillshire Farms Polish Sausage into rounds and put in pan. When they start to brown, put in a package of frozen stir-fry vegetables or whatever veggies you like. Then put in a little bit (1/4 cup or 2 tbs) of Kikkoman Terriyaki Baste and Glaze. Serve with or without rice. Quick and yum! (09/09/2009)