If you are a meat and potatoes kind of family (or person-husband is, I’m not), I’m sure that the increase in foods has really hit your budget in a hard way.
I’ll go out on a limb here and sound like my mom when I say, “I remember when I could get a pound of meat for $1.99.” Now I’m lucky to find it that cheaply on sale. When I do, I stock up our freezer so much that you can’t open the door without some type of frozen animal falling on your foot. But when it’s good and it’s cheap, you have to buy it.
For a while I ran out of dinner ideas. I was struggling to use leftovers for some other form of dinner. My oldest daughter complains that we “eat too much chicken” (that’s because I love chicken) and both she and my husband “want more meat.” Of course, they aren’t in charge of budgeting for groceries so they don’t understand that not every night can be meat night.
Just before we moved from California I posted that I had gone way, way, WAY over on our grocery budget that month. I believe I politely declined to share by how much! Yet when I looked at the number staring back at me from the credit card statement I realized that an overhaul on our eating habits was desparately due. Basically, if it was a treat it was purchased last if we had the money in our budget; if it didn’t get bought the first time I stopped at the store then we went without it for a week (unless it was a necessity, like milk, in which case I stopped ONLY for that product); and if it had at one time walked the planet we were cutting back on eating it, because meat and potato meals were killing our wallets.
Then I did what every good cook does: I got creative. I started flipping through my cookbooks and I came upon this one realization: Almost every type of meat or animal product could be turned into soup.
Think about it: Chicken noodle, cream of chicken, ham and beans, minestrone. This meant, of course, that if I created one meal of meat per week I could then use the leftovers, toss in some veggies and have soup: Cheap, easy, and it wouldn’t break the bank. Now each week we have one or two dinners of soup made from leftover meats that we ate earlier in the week, and I eat soup for lunch at least once a week.
At first I wasn’t sure the family would go for it, but they have. In fact, I think they kind of enjoy having one dinner that is a little lower key.
If you’ve forgotten about that childhood food, its time to become reacquainted. To save money on the weekly budget, I still purchase the meats when they are on sale. This week I bought a roasting chicken for 99 cents a pound, served it for dinner one night with mashed potatoes and lima beans, and then cut off the rest of the meat from the bone, saved the stock and made soup the next night. For the soup I used:
three celery stalks
onion (half, chopped)
I sauteed these, then added the broth, some additional water, the noodles and cooked until the noodles were about done. Then I tossed in the chicken. You can also add frozen peas if you have them around the house.
Over Christmas I made a ham. The ham was fifteen dollars and it fed five of us. I then used the leftovers as lunch meat for the week, made another meal from the remaining leftovers, and then boiled the ham bone, picked off the meat that was left and made bean soup. For the bean soup I purchased:
package of bean soup mix
I followed directions on the bean soup package to make the soup.
The great thing, of course, is that the stock for most soups is the same : celery, carrots, onion and garlic. You can purchase one bag of each to make enough soup for several weeks.
Some other soup ideas from foods you’ve made throughout the week: minestrone, vegetable beef, sweet and sour pork, cream of chicken, chicken and rice. Get creative! If you have some great soup recipes please share!