Best Meals on a Budget
We’ve done many articles in the past on creating a meal that is delicious and fits within a budget. As I look back on all the great ideas and recipes we’ve presented in past issues I thought it would be fitting to highlight some of the best tips and recipes over the years that do the best job of offering budget, cost saving ideas for gluten-free meals.
#1 Use lower cost ingredients or minimal ingredients
Choose recipes that don’t require a ton of ingredients or that don’t require expensive cuts of meat. This can really go either way. You can choose a great cut of meat and minimally season it – after all – sometimes a great cut of meat really doesn’t need much more than kosher salt and pepper. Pair it a salad or a simple side like mashed potatoes and sautéed green peppers and you have an easy, inexpensive meal. You can also pick a less expensive meat, like hamburger, and create some delicious menus like the following:
- Hamburger Stroganoff
- Ground Beef Soup with Cilantro & Ginger
- Burgers with Grilled Pineapple
- Italian Meatloaf
#2 Minimize portions
It’s easy to fall into a habit of piling on larger portions of rice, potatoes and so forth and accompanying it with a big piece of meat, fish or chicken. Before you know it you look down and your plate is mounded with a ton of food that you don’t necessarily need! Not only do larger portions increase your grocery bill but they also increase your waistline. Now, I’m willing to minimize my portions but I’m not so happy about sacrificing quality in order to accomplish a smaller grocery bill and smaller waistline. One of the things we have done that works well and still leaves everyone satisfied is buying less meat but still buying high quality. For instance I will purchase 2 medium size filet mignon steaks and we will split those 2 steaks among my husband and I and our 2 children. This still gives each adult about 4 oz. of steak which is plenty and it also makes us all happy because it’s still delicious. The same concept works well for other meats, chicken and fish as well – just cut things in half. It may sound, at first, like you will walk away from the dinner table still hungry but after only a few meals you will adjust (I think it’s really more of a psychological issue than a physical issue). Accompany each protein portion with a salad and/or vegetable and a small portion of starch and watch the grocery bill shrink and your belly as well!
#3 Making good use of leftovers
I make a big effort in my house not to serve the same thing over and over again. For one thing, I get bored cooking the same thing again and again (and I have a feeling my family would get bored eating the same thing as well). I also think that by trying new things you open your family up to new things (especially if you have kids) and it also makes making dinner a fun and creative experience. This past month, I’ve managed to make some delicious entrees – and unlike most months, I’ve tried to really take advantage of leftovers and turn them into something new and exciting as well. Taking advantage of leftovers ends up saving you money in the long run since you usually have the “star” – most often the meat or protein in the dish which also happens to usually be the most expensive part.
Since most of the second night’s meal is based on what is leftover and what I happen to have on hand in the kitchen – I’d like to share the concept using leftovers instead of actual recipes. I think by doing so, it will get your creative juices flowing and get you on the right track of making use of what’s on hand and turning it into something as special as the original meal.
|Chuck Roast with Wine & Porcini served with Carrots and Mashed Potatoes
||Shepherd’s Pie (leftover cubed chuck roast combined with onions, celery and leftover carrots – warmed with sauce and topped with mashed potatoes then baked until hot and bubbly)
|Glazed Ham with Mashed Potatoes and Steamed Asparagus
||Baked Macaroni & Cheese with Ham
||Split Pea Soup with Ham
| Roast Chicken with Roasted Potatoes & Brussels Sprouts
||Chicken Fettuccine with Spinach & Basil
||Egg Scramble with taco meat, salsa, sour cream and tomatoes
And/Or Baked Potatoes with Taco Fixin’s
I really like maximizing meals like this – it is so much better than having to clean out the fridge from leftovers of really good stuff that have gone to waste simply because no one wants the same thing twice. The message here is simple – be creative and identify what you have on hand that would transform your leftovers into something equally as delicious – so much so your family won’t even know that it started with leftovers.
- Chef Jessica