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

Go here to sign up for a chance to win a copy of the $5 Dinner Mom Cookbook.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas Week Menu Plan & My Cheap MealsTo Do List

I don't know about you but it has finally snowed, the relatives have descended upon our house for the holidays and I am trying to cook for an army. On top of that, we've abruptly decided to buy the bare minimum and dig into our freezer because it is FULL with waaaaay too much food. It's not frugal to freezer burn chicken.

So the goal is to feed everyone from our food stash on short notice and not end up with dessicated turkey a la the Christmas Vacation movie (remember the scene where Beverly pretends to eat the turkey but actually flings it to the floor with a quick flick of her fork?).

My head is spinning! Too much to do! Too many mouths to feed!

Here's the meal plan thus far:

Breakfast: Pretty much self-serve; yogurt, cottage cheese, oatmeal, toast, fruit, juice, coffee etc... I will make some eggs and sausage here and there for everyone a few times and I think I promised my husband some pancakes.

Lunch: Salad with cottage cheese or chicken salad and selection of leftovers. Hubby will get chicken enchiladas to take to work.

Pasta w/ Italian sausage and sauce
Christmas Eve Dinner
Christmas Day Ham and leftovers from the night before
Split Pea soup (will probably feed the freezer or go into next week)
Asian meatball soup (a new recipe)

So here's the cheap meals to do list: The Asian meatball soup requires a lot of chicken stock and the chicken enchiladas as well as the chicken salad both require chicken. I can throw some chicken in the crockpot and be working on three meals at the same time. That will be Sunday. From a cost perspective, I'm using buy-one-get-one bone-in chicken breasts from the freezer. Cost about $3.

Monday I will actually make the Asian meatball soup and call to reserve the Christmas ham.

Tuesday dinner will be pasta with Italian sausage.

We do a traditional Eastern European Christmas Eve dinner which uses a lot of beans. Those need to soak on Wednesday and I need to run out and pick up the Christmas ham. Wednesday night will be day 2 of the Asian meatball soup. I have hamburgers on hand if we run out of soup or the recipe is a dud.

Thursday my husband is the cook and makes food from the homeland. I call it fish 'n' beans. It's a bit of a strange combination for my American palate, but actually quite tasty and a great Christmas tradition.I also hope to make an egg and sausage casserole for Christmas morning. Maybe some cinnamon rolls, but we'll see.

Friday we have a Honeybaked ham (via gift certificate) along with leftovers from the night before.

Saturday I will use the hambone to make split pea soup. Some will go into the freezer and some we'll eat that day.

Sunday I'll probably end up making pizza and maybe throwing some kielbasa and kraut into the slow cooker/crockpot.

And I think that's our Christmas week menu plan. I'm tired just thinking about it! How are you holding up in the kitchen this holiday season?

Now I'm off to watch some Chevy Chase Christmas Vacation. Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

And the Winner is.....Drum Roll Please


Woot! Congratulations Lisa.

You have won a copy of the Family Feasts for $75 a week.

Please email me your snail mail address at netwriterm AT g-m-a-i-l DOT com.

You have 3 days to claim your prize.

Thank you to everyone who entered! I wish I could give all of you a copy but the budget just won't let me do it. As much as I loooooove books and sharing books, I have to bow to the law of 'food before books.' Don't worry, we'll do more frugal cookbook giveaways in the future.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Cheap Meal Book Review: Family Feasts for $75 a Week by Mary Ostyn - Plus Win a Free Copy

I have read Owlhaven off and on for years and it was Mary's cookbook that finally got me to leave a comment on her blog. The book is an excellent primer on how to cook economically for a family. Really and truly excellent. So much so I want to give someone a copy (read on for details).

I've been reading frugal cookbooks for a few months now, this is the best one I've found--which is why it's my first book review on this blog, the other ones are kind of annoying to write about because I wasn't happy with them. Lets take it chapter by chapter, at least for the first 4 chapters, shall we?

Before we start, I want to point out each chapter ends with a checklist of action items that gives you organized marching orders. Family Feasts is not messing around and will truly help you get serious about saving money on groceries.

Chapter 1 sets the rationale and asks what you would do with an extra $100. To which I say, Mary, I need an extra $500 a month, but I guess we all have to start somewhere. There's a quiz at the end of the first chapter that will help you identify your frugal strengths and weaknesses. The score also tells you which parts of the book will likely be the most helpful for you--which is kind of neat and provides a customized reading experience tailored to your needs.

Chapter 2 is full of basic shopping information. Even though I know most of it, the lists are great in this chapter. There's a pantry list and a list of seasonal veggies and fruits.  Each aisle of the grocery store is broken down and dissected until you know exactly where to save money. This would be an excellent chapter for someone out on their own for the first time.

Chapter 3 introduces what Mary calls 'Guerilla Shopping'. Here she gets into the nitty gritty of keeping a price book, sales and coupons. Her  gradual approach on the price book is appreciated because I've been avoiding this chore for a long time, overwhelmed by the sheer size of the task. I also like her stance on coupons which is, they aren't all that great unless you like to eat highly processed food full of sugar and fat. Whole foods don't usually have coupons so health conscious eaters shouldn't worry too much about coupons.

Chapter 4 delves into meal planning and the logistics of food prep. There is a hold-your-hand process for meal planning in this chapter. If you are lost when it comes to making a menu, this chapter will help you beyond your wildest dreams.

After the fourth chapter we get into recipes and my only criticism of the book, which is the use of lemon/lime soda in a handful of recipes as well as the use of corn syrup. Those particular recipes can be easily modified or avoided, but I was a little surprised to see such chemically laden bad-for-you items serving as base ingredients in a recipe. Also, pictures of each recipe would have been great.

On the positive, Mary includes a world of flavors in her recipes. There's Korean and Ethiopian food alongside American favorites. I happen to really like Ethiopian food and look forward to trying some of those recipes. (If you like Indian food, you should like Ethiopian. They aren't the same, but similar in flavor.)

Here are some of  the recipes I want to try after reading this book.

Mary's granola
Cream cheese Pinwheels
Chicken and Apple sandwiches with melted cheese
Spicy Chicken Enchiladas
Pork Chops with Apricot Sauce
Spinach Frittata
Korean Barbecued Beef
Spicy Ethiopian Beef in Green Pepper
Ethiopian Sloppy Joes
Orange Chicken
Chicken Cacciatore
Slow cooker white chicken chili
Southwest Beef Chili
Chinese chicken salad
Thai beef salad
Southern Style Fresh Cabbage Salad
6 week bran muffins
Soft rich brownies
Baked chicken Kiev
Stuffed French Toast Strata
Ginger and orange glazed baby carrots
Asian Ginger Dressing
Slow cooker white bean, sage, sausage soup

So if that sounds good to you and you would like a free copy of the book, leave a comment. Tell me how you're staying afloat in the rising tide of food prices.

Entries for this drawing will be accepted until midnight 12/15/09. We will announce the winner on 12/16. Only one winner, chosen at random, will be announced. Winner must live in the US and provide a mailing address within 3 days of the winner announcement.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Cheap Grocery Shopping - Tips that Save Money on Groceries

This post has moved to our new home Cheap Meals, Good Food. Please stop by and say hello.

Photo credit: Alvimann via Morguefile

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Meal Planning 101: A Guide for the Lost

This post has moved to our new home; Cheap Meals, Good Food. Follow the link to learn more about meal planning.