We all have our speciality dishes - those that we serve at great family celebrations, our favourite foods, meals that hold special memories for us, easy go-to meals that save us time and, of course, those thrifty meals that help us stay on track with our budgets and therefore living true to our values. One of my thrifty meals is this one - chicken and vegetable casserole. It's easy, delicious and it won't break the bank. The added bonus is that it freezes well.
We bought these chicken drumsticks at Aldi for $3.72 - that is enough to do Hanno and me for two meals. When we see bargains like these, we grab a few packs because they store well in the freezer and we know that sure as eggs, they'll be used for this recipe or others.
The basis of the meal is chicken and vegetables and the vegetables can be anything you have in the fridge. I used onions (I use onions in everything I cook), carrots, celery and mushrooms, but it could just as easily have been parsnips, zucchini, potatoes and pumpkin/squash.
- Remove the skin from the chicken.
- Brown the chicken in a pan with olive oil, salt, pepper and paprika - as much or as little as you like. Take time browning the chicken because this is when you'll add a lot of flavour and that rich brown colour.
- When the chicken is brown on all sides, add the vegetables and brown them as well.
- When you've got some good colour in the pan, add two level tablespoons of plain/all purpose flour and stir in. When that takes on some colour as well ...
- Add 2½ cups of water and stir in well. You can add chicken stock if you like but I tend to think it's a waste in this dish because you're using chicken on the bone - the slow cooking of that makes its own stock.
- Bring the pan up to the boil while you're stirring.
- When the sauce has thickened, add some herbs - I used parsley but you could use chives or thyme as well.
- Pour your meal into an oven-proof dish, put the lid on and put it in the oven.
- Cook on 170C/340F for an hour.
- Serve with rice.
This meal would have cost about $5.50 to make from start to finish. It is enough for four people, or for us, two meals. That's $1.37 per serve for a nutritious, tasty meal cooked from scratch with no preservatives. It think that's real value for money. If you made up a small pot of rice pudding and served that warm with some canned peaches or apricots, you'd easily feed a family of four a healthy meal for $10.
The trick with these cheap meals is to buy those meat or chicken specials when you see them. You don't have to eat what you buy immediately because it's great having these cheap protein portions in the freezer ready for an afternoon when you have time to make up a delicious casserole.