Help with budget cooking

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Assistant Cook
Jan 16, 2014
Southeast Missouri
Right now we have 10 ppl (4 adults and 6 kids) living in our house with only 1 income and its getting tough. We are stockpilers so we have been getting by but I am tired of eating the same things over and over lol.
So I am looking to find some new recipes or new ideas of what to cook.
Hello and welcome to DC. Give us an idea of the ingredients available to you and what you cook now so we can help.
I love to cook and used to do a lot of it, first off. But lately I have just been cooking what I can easily and cheaply cook in bulk. Stews, soups, chili, beans. This is getting very monotonous. Ingredients, you name it (except for those very rare things lol) and I probably have at least a little of it.
Generally, meat will be your most expensive ingredient. Consider pasta dishes-mac and cheese, pasta with tomato sauce, American chop suey/goulash, etc.
Yes, pasta would be my next thought. You could make a big casserole with diced onions, green peppers, zucchini and Italian sausage with penne or rigatoni and spaghetti sauce, or tortelloni with roasted butternut or acorn squash. Serve with a big green salad or green beans with diced tomatoes and garlic. Homemade bread is really easy to make and much cheaper than buying it.

Hope this helps.
Are you a member at any of the warehouse clubs? Seems a family you're size would be suited well for a Costco or Sam's membership.
Personally, I think Costco blows Sam's into the next world, but thats just me.

Membership is $50.00. I bet you recoup that in as little as two visits with a family that size.
They also have a $100.00 membership that provides more incentives. You should look into this.
Food in bulk and high quality at Costco.
Right now we have 10 ppl (4 adults and 6 kids) living in our house with only 1 income and its getting tough. We are stockpilers so we have been getting by but I am tired of eating the same things over and over lol.
So I am looking to find some new recipes or new ideas of what to cook.

I went looking---- cheap and easy recipes. Well------ it was disappointing because some of the recipes weren't cheap at all (one had salmon, one had lamb you get the picture.)

And not all were easy. But you might google "cheap and easy" and see if at least some of those recipes are a match for you.

Here is one that depends a bit too much on 'un-healthy' eating but, again there could be many there that fit you.
100 Delicious, Dirt-Cheap Recipes for the Starving Student -

Recipes for starving college students? - Home Cooking - Chowhound

When I HAD to cook cheaply (but liked food too much) I relied on recipes from ethnic sources. (They aren't all 'strange'! LOL) Tacos are ethnic, do you know?;) Made with beans and cheese and corn tortillas they give you a complete protein meal.

Since some of the adults don't have a job right now------ there's plenty of time to cook pinto beans the 'long way' ---- which makes refried beans even cheaper. :)

So---- let the Internet be your friend!

There's no need to reduce the pleasure of good food just because times are tough right now. A little imagination and a little preparation is all that's needed.
I used to make a dish I called Mexican rice back in my early 20s. Now, I know it's not really "Mexican" but it's good, pretty cheap, easy and fast to make.

1 to 1-1/2 pounds ground meat, I'd buy whatever was on sale, but if it's really fatty you'll have to skim some of the grease.

1 bag of frozen mixed veges - just buy a store brand

Large onion and 4-6 cloves of garlic, chopped

2 cans of chopped tomatoes with juice

Salt and pepper

Chili powder

white or brown rice as you prefer - I don't remember the quantity for that many people, been a long time since I cooked that quantity

water for rice - about 1 cup less than what directions call for. You can use chicken or beef broth if you want, though I'd do about half water/half beef broth so as not to overpower.

Brown the ground meat, removing some of the grease if there's a lot, add the onions and cook until soft, add the garlic and cook for a couple of minutes. Add chili powder to taste (more or less amount you'd use for chili) and S&P. Stir. Add rice, stir until mixed well. Add liquid and tomatoes, bring to boil. Add veges and cook for about 15 minutes. If you are using brown rice, let it cook for a little while before you add veges since brown rice takes longer to cook than white. Taste, adjust seasoning and serve.
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I used to make a dish I called Mexican rice back in my early 20s. Now, I know it's not really "Mexican" but it's good, pretty cheap, easy and fast to make.

I used to make the same thing only with sausage-----might depend on what's cheapest on the day hamburger vs bulk sausage.

When I wanted to splurge (!) I used Cocktail Lil Smokies in a rice dish similar to yours, only without the veggies.
A bit of cooked season hamburger can stretch a long way if you have rice, taters, beans, pasta, flour, etc. and the dishes don't have to be the same thing over and over. For years I've cooked up the whole big package of hamburger from Costco (you can buy yours locally), seasoned it up with onion, garlic, salt and pepper. Package it up in freezer bags, skimpy or generous. From there you have a base for tacos, burritos, spaghetti, dirty rice, spanish rice, SOS, taco pies, sloppy joes and the list goes on and one. There's no steak dinner in the plan but filling meals happen.
A freezer is your friend.

As stated earlier meat is an expensive item in food costs. Look for deals in larger pieces then cut them up yourself and freeze them in sizes you'll use.

Turkey is cheap right now. Buy a bird and cut it up into meal size portions.
From one bird you can freeze the legs separately as with the thighs, wings, and breasts.

A grinder is also helpful. You don't need a powered one as hand grinders can be found cheap. Sure they're more work but they get the job done. A grinder allows you cheaper burgers & sausage plus you can use those smaller scraps of meat left over from butchering.

Don't forget to save your bones to make stock.

Best of luck in feeding your large group. These times call on all of us to economize as best we can.
Some good advice above. I would add to buy rice, pasta and flour in bulk. Also stock up on good cheap meat substitutes like lentils. You can make a very yummy spaghetti bolognese by substituting rinsed red lentils for half the ground beef (hamburger beef). Round it out with lots of chopped veggies. You can do the same with shepherd's pie and even with burgers and taco fillings. They not only end up cheaper, they're also healthier.

Obviously look for goods on sale for the freezer, and don't overlook the Asian supermarkets in your area, if you have any. We can get a wide array of whole fish very very cheaply at the fish counter of our local Asian store. I don't always recognize the names but googles helps and I haven't come too badly astray too far. They're also good for cheap veggies.

Remember that you don't have to eat meat every day. Vegetable based meals are often cheaper than meat based, and can be yummy and wonderfully healthy. Look at some recipes for vegetarian chilli.

If you can't always make sensible use of the very large volume packages in the likes of Costco, team up with another family in a similar situation. Go shopping together and stock up on all the things you both need or like. Than split the bill and the goods when you get home.

Try to avoid buying vegetables/meats/fish etc that are packaged in or with sauces, These always cost more than foods you buy separately and add to yourself. And the ones you do yourself are often nicer!

Learn to make good use of kitchen staples like tins of tuna, salmon, sardines and herring, They are cheap, healthy, and can be part of some very yummy dishes.

I am sure you will get a myriad of other wonderful ideas to help you with these cgallenges, pmokac, so I will leave it to them to carry on.

I know it's not easy but you're asking the right questions to get through it all.

Good luck and take care,
I'm not sure what cheap is for you, I try to stay within a budget of $35.00/week, about what an individual would get on food stamps. Most weeks I make it, some weeks I don't. I try to use 80% of my budget for the basics I need that week, if it can wait a week it comes off the list. The other 20% is used for bargains that come along and also to replace pantry items.

I like to go with one major meat purchase and one minor meat purchase each week. I use the major purchase to fix a traditional Sunday dinner type feast and then use the various leftovers from that for meals throughout the week. I prefer things that contain bones so I can use them as the basis for stock to make a pot of soup. I look for sale items like a roasting chicken, pot roast, pork loin, ham etc.... I use the minor meat purchase to provide a little variety. It could be hot dogs, kielbasa, chicken parts, ground beef, almost anything.

Try to cook from scratch and eliminate as many convenience foods as possible.

Have breakfast for dinner once or twice a week.

Make things like salad dressings from scratch. Nothing complicated, your own house dressing! When I was a kid it was ketchup and mayonnaise, today it is oil and vinegar.

Eliminate waste. Use your freezer for short term storage of leftovers.

Swap out things like deli meats for egg salad or tuna salad.

Do some simple baking so the troops have a treat or two each week or save out a couple of bucks for an inexpensive treat.

Learn to make your favorite take out foods from scratch. A homemade pizza costs less than $5.00 at home and $10.00 to $15.00 plus tips from a fast food place.

Most of all don't develop a "poor" attitude and start buying things just because they are cheap it will just destroy the morale of your family.
I am so grateful that you all have taken the time to give me a few ideas. We have always been the stockpile family (preppers if you will) and I am so so happy for this b/c it has helped us out tremendously. I guess my biggest complaint is the monotony. I cook from scratch more often than I don't and love doing it when I have time. 2 of the adults have gotten jobs (yayyyy) but won't get paid for 2 weeks so I am going to make my check from today stretch as farrrrrrrr as I can.
Chili is cheap and SO versatile! You can have chili (make a huge vat) have left overs or make it again because it's cheap... Eat it on baked potatoes, make baked fries and have chili fries (kid favorite and healthy with bakes fries), you can out it on a homemade pizza dough! My new favorite thing omg! I had it on vacation and it's so good... Cheap and easy and you can eat it over and over! You can toss some hotdogs in it for lunch or eat it with chips... We had lots of chili growing up! Good luck and awesome job making it work!
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