30 June 2008

Frugal food - main meals

Last week a number of readers shared their frugal food ideas, with costings for the ingredients. If you're like the rest of us and trying to keep within your grocery budget, these recipes will hold you in good stead.

I have included a link to each readers' blog if it was included with the recipes. Thank you for sharing, ladies.

from Alexandra (no link)
Beans and Rice

Prices in USD. I did the best I could with the metric conversions.

1 onion, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper (capsicum), chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup (approx. 180 g) raw white rice
1-2 cups (approx. 230-500 ml) cooked red or black beans, drained
1 14 oz (400 g) can tomatoes (any kind), drained, liquid reserved
Enough chicken broth to make 2 cups (500 ml) with the liquid from the tomatoes
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp mild chili powder, or a few dried chiles, soaked in hot water and pureed
1/2 tsp ground coriander (optional)
1 spoonful tomato paste (optional)
1/4 lb (1/8 kilo) smoked sausage, sliced

Heat oil in a heavy pan with a lid. Saute onion, pepper, and garlic until soft. Add sausage, spices, tomatoes, tomato paste; cook, stirring, until the tomatoes have dried out a bit. Add broth, bring to boil, stir in rice and beans. Cover and cook over low heat 30-35 minutes or until rice is tender and liquid absorbed. Serves 3-4.

Beans-$0.50 (using dried beans at $1/lb); sausage-$0.63; onion and garlic-$0.40; bell pepper-$0.30; rice-$0.30; seasonings and stock cubes-$0.40; tomatoes-$0.54. Total $3.07.

from Gothelittle Rose

Food Group Glop (my own recipe)

1lb hamburger - $1.99-2.15 on sale

2 cups white rice
(or substitute with white/brown rice and barley mix) - Estimated $.50

1 bag frozen veggies (Sweet corn, mixed veggies, or broccoli mixes do especially well) - $1.10

1 10oz package of extra sharp cheddar cheese - $2.50

I start the rice cooking, often putting in a couple bouillon cubes and/or spices. Then I brown the hamburger, add just a tiny dash of milk, and add the cheese, shredded, by handfuls, mixing it until the cheese appears to 'disappear' and the hamburger 'drippings' turns yellow. I mix the vegetables and hamburger-cheesey mixture all into the rice and stir it all up together.

Feeds 6-8 for roughly in the neighborhood of $7!

from Juanita (no link)
You cant beat fish cakes for a warming dish and a frugal one too.

Cook some potatoes in water - 3-4 med ones.Drain and mash up and add 1 can drained tuna or similar fish. We pay $1.30 for a can. Add a sauteed chopped onion. Salt and pepper and chopped parsley ( we have in garden). If mix is a bit mushy add some breadcrumbs (I make my own) or some flour to stiffen a bit. Form into patties and fry in a med frying pan in some oil or butter. Takes around 3-4 minutes per side. Take care not too not move too much as they can break up a bit. You can also add any herbs or flavourings you like to make them spicy or more tasty. Even different veges and other main ingrediants.
They would cost around $3 at a guestimate.
Pumpkin soup is also very good. Saute onion, add chopped pumpkin, stock and water. Simmer till pumpkin is soft. Blend or mash up. Add water or milk to thin down. Season with Salt and pepper and you can add spices etc if you like. I buy pumpkin at the local market and its around 3$ for a big pumpkin. This can make a really big pot of soup. Also freezes well. So the soup itself would cost around $3-$4 for the pot.
Very nice on a winters day. We can also cook on our wood burner so I often cook our soups and casseroles on the fire.

from Dani (no link)

Carrot Fritters.
2 tablespoons plain flour 40c
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 clove garlic, crushed 10c
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
3 spring onions, thinly sliced 30c
2 eggs, lightly beaten $1.20
3 carrots 30c
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 spring onions, thinly sliced length ways to garnish 20c
yoghurt to serve 15c
Combine flour, cumin, garlic, parsley and spring onions in a large bowl. Add eggs. Mix well to combine
Coarsely grate carrots. Squeeze out excess moisture. Add to egg mixture. Season.
Heat oil in a large fry pan over medium heat. Fry up as fritters with 1/4 cup to each fritter. Cook in batches for 3 minutes each side until golden.
Serve topped with yoghurt and garnished with spring onions.

Total $2.65 serves 4 so 67c per serve

from the Tin House

Swiss Onion Tart

for the pastry:
1 cup plain flour
1 cup SRF
pinch salt
125gm butter (1/4 lb)
cold water
wizz in a food processor and line an 8inch fluted tart tin. Blind bake for 12 minutes.
(cost for pastry: 80c)

for the filling
2 tbl oil (20c)
3 med onions sliced ($1..ours are homegrown)
1/2 cup sour cream (50c)
2 eggs (50c)
1/2 cup finely grated swiss cheese (eg. gruyere)(80c)
cayenne pepper (5c)

heat oil in pan and add onions. Cook, stirring often over a low heat for 15 mins or until onion is lightly browned and very tender. Spread over pastry base.

Whisk sour cream and eggs until smooth. Add cheese and stir to combine. pour egg mixture over onion and sprinkle lightly with cayenne pepper. Bake for 40 mins at 180C (350F) or until filling is set.
Cost of tart: $3.85

Serve with garden salad: even a purchased bag of salad will cost $3 - ours is garden fresh.

So - fully costed if you have to buy everything: $6.85
if you don't: $2.35

from Kristi in the western reserve

I find it challenging to figure out the prices because I used to cook for 5 with leftovers and now it's only for me, with leftovers. This meal is a good and cheap one but my vegetarian son won't eat eggs so he won't eat it.

This would serve 3 to 4 I think. Or two people twice.

Hungarian Stacked Potatoes. (Rakott Krumpli)

Boil six good sized Idaho potatoes and six eggs.(You can do this in one pot.) Make a blend of one cup of sour cream thinned with about 1/2 cup of milk.
When the eggs and potatoes are done, peel them. In a casserole baking dish put one layer of potatoes, one layer of eggs and salt and pepper. Pour some of the milk mixture over it. Continue til it's all done. Bake at least 1/2 hour at 350degrees Fahrenheit. (About 175 C.)

I would serve this with a salad or steamed vegetable. In this case, a pound of steamed broccoli.

Potatoes about $1.00
Eggs. 1.00 (I buy organic eggs for $2.00 from a neighbor.)
Sour cream about 75cents.
Milk about 25cents.
Broccoli $1.50
Total about $4.50.

from Desley (no link)

Lentil and Vegetable Cottage Pie (AUS $)

1 tbs olive oil (18c)
1 onion, finely chopped (30c)
2 celery stalks, chopped (53c)
1 large carrot, chopped (22c)
2 tsp crushed garlic (10c)
250g tinned diced tomato (25c)
2 tsp mixed herbs (20c)
1 cup (250ml) vegetable stock (85c)
400g can lentils, rinsed, drained ($1.09)
800g potatoes, peeled, chopped ($1.00)
100g unsalted butter (50c)
1/2 cup (125ml) milk (16c)
2 egg yolks (27c)
100g grated cheddar (90c)

Preheat the oven to 200°C. In a large pan, heat oil over medium heat and cook onion for 1-2 minutes. Add celery, carrot and garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add pesto, pasta, bay, thyme and stock.
Simmer gently for 15 minutes until vegetables are cooked. Stir in lentils and season, then transfer to a 1.2-litre baking dish. Meanwhile, cook potatoes in boiling salted water until tender.
Drain and mash. Stir in butter, milk, yolks and cheese. Spread over lentil mixture and roughen top with a fork. Bake for 15 minutes or until bubbling and golden.

Total Cost: $6.55. Per Serve: $1.64.

from Lorisdoris

It is called Monday Macaroni and uses up leftover meat and vegetables (1 cup of each.) Because the meat and vegetables are leftovers, I did not include them in calculating the cost of the recipe. The entire recipe costs about $2.25 US to feed 6 to 8 people.

Monday Macaroni

* 2 Tablespoons butter (17¢)
* 1 Tablespoon olive oil (28¢)
* 2 minced onions (80¢)
* 1 cup finely chopped cooked meat (leftover, so already paid for)
* 1 small can tomato purée or soup (75¢)
* 2 teaspoons minced parsley (minimal cost - free if you garden)
* bit of bay leaf (minimal cost)
* 1 cup cooked vegetable (leftover, so already paid for)
* 1 cup meat stock (free if saved from cooking liquids)
* 8 ounces uncooked macaroni (25¢)

Cook the macaroni according to package directions. Sauté the onion in the butter and olive oil until yellow and soft. Add the meat and cook 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato purée, parsley and bay leaf. Simmer 15 minutes. Add vegetables and stock. Pour over macaroni and stir before serving. May sprinkle with grated cheese if desired.

Serves 6 to 8

from just trying to be green

Well, I know I'm unusual, but my largest meal is breakfast. The rest of the day I just kind of nibble along while I'm working outside, and I don't really have a dinner.

So here's my recipe for buckwheat pancakes- we eat them with bananas, maple syrup, and local raw honey.

1.5 cup milk ($5.50 a gallon)
2 tablespoons butter ($2.75 per pound)
1 large egg (free for us, but $3.75 for a dozen)
1 cup buckwheat ($1.75 per pound) (or combination oat flour and buckwheat)
2 teaspoon baking powder ($2 for way more than we use in a year)
1.5 table spoons honey (or 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, $3.95 per pound)
.5 teaspoon salt ($3 for way more than we use in a year)

Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. In a separate bowl, combine egg and milk. Melt butter and honey together, add to wet ingredients, then mix everything together. Pour by 1/3 cup fulls on to a medium heat frying pan, flip when the bubbles near the edge stay open.

Top with what ever you'd like. Fruit, honey, maple syrup, jam.

from earthly jane

Nacho Spuds:

6 potatoes ($.25???-$2.49 for 5lb bag) sliced fairly thin (not so thin they fall apart when baked)
3-4T butter ($0.20)
sprinkle with cumin and s&p

*toss to coat with oil and seasoning, spread out on tin foil covered baking sheet, back on top shelf of oven on 400 for about 30 minutes or until done (you'll want them a little crisp.

1 lb ground turkey or beef or chicken ($1.75)
3 T cumin ($0.10-$1.00 for the whole container)
1/2 cup water
1/2 jar of salsa ($1.00)
-brown meat, add seasoning, salsa and water, let simmer until it starts to get thick.

Top baked sliced potatoes with meat mixture. Shut off oven.

Top with 1-2 cups of cheese ($1.00) Stick in (turned off)oven until cheese is bubbly.

Top with black olives ($0.50 can)
1 green onion ($0.15) and sour cream ($1.00)

We serve with lettuce salad and vinegar and oil dressing.

Serves 6 @ around $8 for everything.

from toria

Tomato & tuna pasta - very cheap to make, with ingredients I always have stockpiled.

One can tomatoes (49c at Aldi)
One small can tuna - ($1.50)
one onion - (30c)
1 tbsp olive oil (10c? we buy in bulk)
1 bag pasta (59c)

Heat the oil, slowly saute the chopped onion for about 5 minutes - soften the onion, don't brown.

Add the can of tomatoes, turn the heat up & cook for about 10 minutes. Flavour with some pepper to taste.

Drain the tuna (I think one packed in olive oil tastes better in this dish, rather than one packed in water), flake it slightly with a fork & stir into tomato mix. Toss in some chopped parsley if you have some available in the garden. Cook for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, boil a pot of water, toss in the pasta & cook.

Drain pasta, serve with the tuna/tomato sauce.

This serves our family of 2 adults & 3 children (who only like a small amount of the sauce but will demolish a huge amount of pasta to make up for it) for just under $3. To serve a few more people, just add an extra can of tomatoes; to serve lots more you will also need to add more tuna.

from Rose

Split pea soup
1 kg split green peas soaked in cold water 8 hours ($2.28)
2 medium onions diced (50c)
2 large heavy carrots peeled and sliced (40c)
½ bunch celery sliced ($1.85)
1 litre vegetable stock ($2.79, less for homemade)
salt and black pepper to taste

Drain peas and rinse until water runs clear.
Add all ingredients to a very large stock pot plus another litre of water.
Bring to a rolling boil then a low simmer for 1 hour 15 mins.
Use a stick blender to puree all.
Reheat and serve 4.

from Paula

Here is my recipe for frugal mostly vegetable chili. We love it with a garden salad.
(Canadian Prices)

1/2 pound ground turkey ($1.50)
1 large can tomatoes ($ .69)
1 large can kidney beans ($ .49)
1 large can white beans ($ .49)
2 large onions, chopped ($ .50)
2 green peppers (capsicum), chopped ($1.20)
1 large carrot, grated ($ .20)
2 cloves garlic, minced ($ .10)
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. hot sauce (more if wanted)
1 tbsp. olive oil

Saute onions, peppers in olive oil until translucent. Add ground turkey and brown. Add remaining ingredients except canned beans and gently simmer for 1 hour. Add canned beans and simmer additional 15 mins. Taste and adjust seasoning and chili powder.

Serve with a green salad. ($2.50)
Serves 6

Price: $5.17 or $.86 a serving without salad
$7.67 or $1.27 a serving including store bought salad

We can actually get 8 servings out of this recipe.

from Ashley

My recipe – usually have this for lunch all the time – but now I love it for dinner as well.

Summer Salad – (for 2)
40 almonds ~ 90 grams ~ 1/5 pound @ $6/pound = $1.20
2 cups Spinach (squashed down) ~ 1/3 bag @ $4.99/bag = $1.67
½ cup tomatoes (or from your tomato plant) ~ $ 0.90
1 Tbsp Rice vinegar ~ 14ml ~ 1/35 bottle@ 4.99/bottle = $0.14
½ cup broccoli ~ ¼ head ~ ¾ pound @$1.5/pound
¼ cup Raisins ~ 1/8 pound @$2.99/pound = $.39
Grand total = $5.8/ 2
I also add some cooked and cooled potatoes when I am really hungry or some left over meat if I have some. The almonds really fill you up though.



  1. Rhonda Jean, this is really great, but I saw right away that I had a flaw in my recipe for Hungarian Stacked Potatoes. After you peel the eggs and potatoes you must slice them fairly thinly. I think experienced cooks would know this, but maybe not if they've never seen it. Layers of whole eggs and potatoes would not be too good!

  2. Thanks so much for sharing these Rhonda & all the contributors. Tamara

  3. Thank you for these recipes - plus all the other things I enjoy in your blog :-)

    I wanted to make a suggestion re frugal cooking that I haven't seen mentioned in any of your posts but is really worth trying. It's called heat-retention cooking/ haybox cooking, but I tend to refer to it as my magic basket! In essence it works on the same principle as a slow cooker, and is especially good for things that like slow simmering like soups, casseroles etc. You start your pot on the stove and when it's boiling nicely you make sure the lid is tightly closed and transfer the lot to a well-insulated container, leave it alone for two or three times the normal cooking time and come back to find your meal ready and waiting. It works marvellously for me, saves money on electricity and gas and means that I can use the cheap, tougher cuts of meat. The best thing is that a haybox can usually be made from things already lying around the home. Mine is a unwanted basket recovered from a friend, insulated with cushions filled with old fabric scraps and covered with an unused blanket. You could equally try an old thermos chest or, as the name suggest, hay in a box!

    I'm sorry this is not more coherent and precise, but I hope you get the idea! The web will provide a lot more detailed instructions than I can. All I know is that it works...


  4. I made the lentil and cottage pie this evening - delicious! Thank you for this, I look forward to trying more of these soon.


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