How to Feed Your Family on a Budget with Smart Shopping and Simple Recipes
I am the oldest of 5 boys. I have grown to have an appreciation of what my parents went through trying to feed us, as I am now the father of 4 boys of my own. They are all grown now, but when they were teenagers, they all ate like farm hands. My oldest is the only person I have ever known to be ejected from an all you can eat buffet for eating too much. In our home, the refrigerator became a supplement to the air conditioner. Needless to say, over the years, I have learned to be very imaginative and exceedingly frugal in creating meals that could fill the caverns my sons called stomachs. So, let me share with you a few things I have learned over the years.
First, lets start with buying meat. If you have a troop of carnivores like I did, meat is a dietary staple. A vegetarian meal would have evoked a mutiny in our house. So, I needed to find ways to serve meats that didnÂt require taking a second mortgage. One favorite was chicken. For some reason only known to the chicken producers, leg quarters were cheaper than a whole, uncut chicken. Go figure. They are also generally sold in large family sized bags of 8 to 10 pounds. Cutting these to separate the leg from the thigh would yield enough bird to make 2 meals with. Pork and beef were also common in our house. But it was uncommon for us to prepare them whole. More often than not, they were cut up into strips or cubes, which made them go further. We also used copious amounts of ground meat as well. However, this was usually in the form of ground turkey rather than beef. Mainly because it was no more expensive than beef but had far less shrinkage. I also tried to buy meats in as large a package as possible. The cost per pound was less and the package could be divided for multiple meals.
Next come the veggies. I always prefer garden fresh, but based on what I grew in the backyard garden, it wasnÂt always an option. For instance, I never grew potatoes. They are cheap and I preferred to use my garden space for more expensive items. The trick with fresh produce is to not buy more than you need. That giant bag of carrots may be a great deal, but if they donÂt get eaten, they go bad and that was a waste of money. Also, never keep veggies in those plastic bags from the store. They hold in the moisture and will accelerate their going bad.
Now for a few cooking hints. CampbellÂs soup is your friend. They have a wide variety of cream soups on the shelf. These make great bases for sauces to create meals from. No need for ingredient-laden recipes or expensive sauce packages. Throw in a couple of cans of cream of something and you have a meal the family will gobble up like vultures. A word of caution. DonÂt use the cheap brands for this. They break down easily and you will end up with mushroom flavored water. Pastas are great for meals on the cheap as well. They are loaded with carbs, which kids burn like fuel in an Indy car. They are great filler and can make a skimpy meal stretch a long way. And lets not forget about the lowly potato. Baked, boiled, fried, mashed, scalloped, au gratin, there is virtually no end to the different methods of preparing these little guys. They are cheap to buy and keep for a long time if kept in a cool dry place.
So, let me leave you with an example of a dish I make using these concepts. We call it ClaraÂs recipe. DonÂt have real name for it, so we named it for a friend that shared her recipe with us.
Cube a small beef roast into 1 inch squares and dump into a crock-pot. Add to this enough condensed cream of chicken soup to cover. Set the crock-pot to high and cook for about 4 to 6 hours or until the beef is cooked through and the juices have mixed with the soup to create a sauce. At this point add salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder to taste. When this is ready, cook up some egg noodles and serve the meat sauce mixture on top of the noodles. This is an easy and cheap meal that will feed an army.