Sunday, February 14, 2010

We've Moved! New Site Announcement

Hello! Sorry for the long silence. I decided to move this blog over to it's own dedicated domain.

Slight name change too: Cheap Meals, Good Food.

Come on over and visit!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Dinner Deals: Slow Cooker Green Pepper Steak

This post has moved to our new site, Cheap Meals, Good Food. Follow the link for the recipe!

Dinner Deals: Asian Meatball Soup & Some Thoughts on Cookbooks that Lie

This recipe is a showstopper. A light, flavorful soup filled with healthy vegetables. Perfect for a cold winter's night when you want something different and a great 'feed the freezer' recipe. It is adapted from one of the $3 Meals cookbooks, which is a cookbook series that I am conflicted about.

On the one hand, the author can cook. On the other, there is no way the title is telling the truth. For instance, the Chinese cabbage the original version of this recipe called for is $2.99 a pound alone. So right there, you've blown the $3 meal budget.

The "$3 Meals" titles are a marketing ploy which makes me mad since no one has the money in this economy to throw away on cookbooks that lie. Still there are some good cheap meals inspiration in the series. Anyway, I have 'frugalized' the recipe into something just as delicious but much more affordable.


-6 to 7 cups of chicken stock FREE if you use the stock from cooking the 3 meals for $3 recipes.
-Carrots shaved thin with the vegetable peeler @$0.50
-1/2 a bag of string beans from your grocer's freezer @$0.80 (try to get thin, skinny ones for this recipe)
-2 tbsp. Soy sauce @$0.25
-1/2 tbsp. Sesame oil @$0.25 (since a bottle is a $4 investment, try substituting toasted sesame seeds instead if you have those on hand)
-2-3 cloves Garlic, minced @$0.10
-1 tbsp Fresh ginger, minced @$0.25 (mince and freeze the extra for future use)
-Cilantro @$0.50 (Tip: Use the leftovers for a Mexican meal the next night)
-Green onions, chopped @$0.50
-1.5 lbs Ground turkey @$1.50
-1 egg $0.25

Optional ingredients: Chinese cabbage or Bok Choy. The original incarnation of this recipe called for these items but they can get expensive and don't add too much flavor. Further, they make freezing this soup difficult. So skip it unless they are super cheap or you happen to have a Bok Choy fetish (in which case, I bet you probably have more interesting things to do with your Bok Choy than put it in soup).

Serves: 5 assuming 3 small meatballs per person. 6 or more if you have light eaters (although I will warn you that my toddler ate the lion's share of meatballs and demanded more, she loved this soup!)

Cost: $4.90 (more if you start adding in optional ingredients)


1.Make meatballs by combining egg, sesame oil (or seeds), soy sauce, green onion, garlic, ginger into a bowl.

2.Pour stock into a pot and heat on med-high heat until gently boiling.

3.Prepare carrots while waiting for soup to boil. Either julienne them thinly or use the vegetable peeler to shave off thin strips.

4. Form meatballs quickly and drop into the simmering soup. Don't make them too big! Go for the size of a cherry tomato.

5. Add carrots and frozen green beans to pot.

6.Let cook for 15 to 20 minutes until meatballs are cooked through.

7. Serve garnished with cilantro. Note: Be sure to portion out the meatballs carefully or you'll end up eating all the meat and leaving the veggies behind.

Some notes: You will have leftover green onions and cilantro. As mentioned in the ingredients, a Mexican night would be a good follow up to this recipe. So adjust your meal plans accordingly.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Good Things Come in Threes:3 meals for $3 and 3 Recipes for You

The truth is, I am a lazy person at heart. I mean really lazy. So lazy, I actually work at it. Meaning, I try to be efficient and set things up so they require the least amount of work. It's a good kind of lazy.

I have extended this lazy ethic into the kitchen and was pleased with the results this week, particularly in the area of efficiency. Home cooked food doesn't have to mean hours in the kitchen, not if you're smart about it.

I took 2 packages of bone-in chicken breasts bought during a buy-one-get-one sale. Total cost for 4 breasts: $3. Number of meals made: 3. So basically, three meals for three bucks worth of chicken. Not bad. Here's what I did.

Le Menu:

Chicken enchiladas
Chicken salad
Chicken stock for Asian Meatball Soup

(Recipes follow)

Slow Cooker Chicken Stock (makes about $5 worth of broth for under $2)


-Chicken with bones $0 Essentially free assuming you use the meat for a different meal.
-Water $0
Various spices; garlic powder, onion powder, paprika $0.75
Fresh veggies as desired and as available @$0 to $2 depending on what you use/have on hand

Serves: 8 to 10 people if you're just making soup.

Cost: Up to $2.75.

Time: 6 hours in the crock pot. Maybe 40 minutes processing time once it's cooked.


1. Put the breasts in the crock pot and cover with water.

2. Add onion powder, garlic powder and paprika in whatever amount looks good to you (if that kind of recipe freedom freaks you out, go for 1 tbsp each). You could also add veggies like carrots, onions or celery. Whatever you normally use for stock.

3.Cook on low for 6 hours.

4.Take out the chicken and set aside to cool.

5.Strain the stock.I used a thin dish towel over a small ceramic bowl. (See below for some pictures.)

This is the set up for straining the stock. Bones on the left. Stock to be strained in the middle. A thin towel over a bowl on the right for straining.

Here I am squeezing the last of the strained broth from the towel. Look at the golden broth I am left with--looks yummy, no?

6. Debone the chicken and shred the meat if you plan to use my menu. If not, carry on with your own recipe.

Half the meat goes for chicken enchiladas and the other half goes for the chicken salad. Here are the recipes.

Cheap Chicken Enchiladas


-shredded chicken @$1.50
-jar of generic salsa @$1.50 (Enchilada sauce is okay too, we avoid it due to an unfortunate association with the stomach flu.)
-jar of black beans @$0.85 (You can use dried beans or refried beans, whatever you have on hand. We had a lone, stray can that needed to be eaten.)
-10 tortillas @$1.50
-shredded cheese @$1.80

Total cost: $7.15

Serves: Yields 10 enchiladas which serves 5 if everyone eats 2 enchiladas. 6 or more if you have some light eaters or serve with a substantial side dish.

Time: Approximately 30 minutes, start to finish.


1.Preheat oven to 350F.
2.Put roughly 2 tablespoons each of chicken, beans and salsa in each tortilla.

Note: Ration out the salsa so you don't need more than one jar for this recipe. You want enough salsa left over to put on top of the tortillas.

3.Roll tortillas up and place in pan.
4.Top with salsa--approximately 1 to 2 tablespoons of salsa per tortilla.
5.Cover with cheese
6.Bake for 20 minutes or so until cheese is melted.

Cheap Chicken Salad


-3/4 cup of Mayo @$0.75 (I kind of eyeball the amount and add mayo until it's to the consistency/flavor I like.)
-Shredded chicken $1.50
-Pickles, diced @$0.20
-Small onion diced @$0.25

Optional Extras

-8 slices bread @$1.60 if store bought @$0.80 if homemade
-Lettuce (organic) @$1.00
-4 slices Cheese @1.00

Note: You can spice this recipe up and add other stuff if you wish. This is a very flexible recipe that should be personalized. Consider this recipe a blank canvas. To cut costs, eliminate extras like the lettuce and cheese. Or use one piece of bread per person or nix the bread altogether and serve on a bed of greens. I often eat this on a Wasa cracker with some cheese.

Total cost: $2.70 for the chicken salad alone. $6.50 with all the optional ingredients.

Serves: 4 to 5 people.

Time: 15 to 20 minutes.


1.Mix ingredients and serve on bread, lettuce, or crackers as desired. That's it. A one step recipe.

How's that for lazy? Pretty good I think!

The aforementioned Asian Meatball Soup recipe will be forthcoming as this post has become way too long and the soup deserves its own post; it's that good. Yum!

How many meals can you make with one cooking session in your house? I'm looking for ideas and recipes!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Two Week Meal Plan for Cheap Meals

We continue to work on cleaning out our freezer and I just spent an hour putting together our 'cheap meals' plan for the next two weeks. If some of the new recipes turn out, here's what you have to look forward to on the blog for content.

NOTES: Unless otherwise indicated, side dishes are always a veggie of some kind.  We currently have peas, green beans and lima beans in the freezer. Salad is also a popular side.

Oh, and you can thank my toddler for the plethora of meatballs. That is one of the few proteins she'll actually eat.

Aside from Italian sausage and some ground turkey, all meat will come from our freezer.

1.Lemon garlic chicken
2 Barbecue chicken
3 Hamburgers
4 Asian meatball soup
5 Italian sausage Rigatoni
6 Taco salad or Asian salad, depends on our mood!
7 Kielbasa and kraut in the slow cooker
8 Hamburgers (again!)
9. Chicken with a raspberry balsamic vinegar reduction sauce
10. Teriyaki meatballs
11 Angel food ministry steaks
12 Angel food ministry pork roast --Mandarin orange pork roast recipe
13  Green pepper steak in the slow cooker with rice on the side.
14. Cornish game hens from Angel Food Ministries with garlic, rosemary and lemon.
15. Pizza

So that's our 2 week plan. What's cooking on your end?

The $5 Dinner Mom Cookbook Giveaway

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