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Inexpensive/Cheap Homemade Meals


heichmanron
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RE: bread machines, they are frequently very cheaply priced at thrift stores. But I wouldn't pay any amount for one if I were in the position to economize on food. You can bake great bread with your own two hands, no need to spend any of your food budget on an electrical appliance. Try Nick Malgieri's recipe for rosemary focaccia: it stirs together in a bowl, has a relatively short rise, and is foolproof. No kneading required. Thick enough to split for sandwiches, and it can be cut into portions and frozen for later use.

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Some people mentioned quiche...but even better might be frittatas. Quicker by not having to make a crust, and bakes much more quickly.

I would not spend from a very limited budget to buy a bread maker...yes, it'll take a total of your time hands-on that a bread maker won't.

However I would definitely recommend a Pressure Cooker because it will save you both time and money, both in food costs and in fuel. Unlike some others here, I recommend a stovetop one, rather than electric.

Rice and dried beans as so many have mentioned. And with a pressure cooker, you have a bean meal from dry to ready in 45 min. Most of that hands off time

Good Luck. If you said what you're studying, I missed it. What's your major?

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Some people mentioned quiche...but even better might be frittatas. Quicker by not having to make a crust, and bakes much more quickly.

I would not spend from a very limited budget to buy a bread maker...yes, it'll take a total of your time hands-on that a bread maker won't.

However I would definitely recommend a Pressure Cooker because it will save you both time and money, both in food costs and in fuel. Unlike some others here, I recommend a stovetop one, rather than electric.

Rice and dried beans as so many have mentioned. And with a pressure cooker, you have a bean meal from dry to ready in 45 min. Most of that hands off time

Good Luck. If you said what you're studying, I missed it. What's your major?

Frittatas sound like a good idea too, definitely easy, I was thinking of doing that, but setting it like you set a custard (baine marie in the oven).

I agree about the bread machine, although it seems like a lot of people get added value from them, most of the bread I consume I grill on the spot.

I make several batches of dough every week in my food processor, freeze most of them after they rise and I deflate them, keep one in the fridge. Every morning I tear a piece off of the dough, flatten it out and grill it over my stove until it puffs up like a pita, when I run out of dough I just defrost another batch.

The freezing doesn't seem to have any ill effects on the dough and fresh baked pita every morning always beats loaf bread in my mind (it also takes me only about 5 minutes to make two pitas, so fast too).

I'll think about getting a pressure cooker, right now I definitely can't afford to spend the $100 it would take to get, but with a little smart planning I'm sure I can save up some, that way I'll have some more time to do my work.

Speaking of my work, I'm doing my degree in aerospace engineering and I have to say, the science based books on cooking make so much sense to me, I love "Modernist Cuisine" as well as the associated science movement in the culinary arts.

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Eggs are definitely great for inexpensive meals. Later, I've been making carbonara - egg yolks, a little cheese, a little milk and pasta. I at other things that I might have on hand (I know that's not traditional) like pancetta, chorizo or even asparagus. If you have fresh pasta, I like to fried an egg (yolk still runny) to put on top, with a little cheese, toasted breadcrumbs, olive oil and seasoning (salt and pepper usually, some chili for spice if you like).

Ground meat is another budget friendly item. Mapo tofu, zha jiang mien, chicken tsukune (usually with ramen), variety of dumplings, etc.

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It wasn't clear in your original post whether or not you are home while you are doing all this research, or whether your kitchen time at home is limited. I find the best ways to eat for cheap AND save a little time are as follows:

Cook large vats of soup or stew once or twice a week. That way you have lots of leftovers. Use meat as an accent rather than a main course. Good quality meat simply costs more than good quality vegetables, grains and legumes. We eat meat about twice a week or maybe three times--not to save money but just because we prefer eating less of it--but it definitely saves money unless you are buying bulk meats from dubious sources. Make food that can be easily adapted for a different meal the second time around. For instance if you have beans over rice one night, buy some flour tortillas and lettuce and make burritos the next night, with maybe a small amount of meat. One trick I use with soups is to make the starch separately and then combine it w/ the soup at the last minute instead of putting it directly into the soup pot. The main reason is that rice or pasta in soup gets overcooked in the pot and tastes much better if put together at the end, portion by portion. Another advantage is that this allows you to add rice to the soup one night and noodles or barley or whatever the next night. Minestrone lends itself to endless varieties, vegetarian or with some type of meat, and is great with additions such as a little grated cheese or pesto.

I don't own a pressure cooker or even a crock-pot. When I lived in New Mexico many kitchens had a simple cheap electric crock pot that was used while people were at work and could change a cheap cut of pork into a tender basis for beans or pozole or by extension any soup. Soups are very forgiving and a great way to use inexpensive vegetables such as carrots, onions, cabbage, greens, etc. If you have a few hours once every other week you can easily make your own stock, freezing some, and then making soups is a breeze. A few novel ways to use eggs: spaghetti frittata (uses less eggs), egg drop soup, chopped hard boiled egg as an addition to potato salad along with a variety of crunchy veggies. Cheapest, fastest, easiest salad: apple, celery and walnuts with a mustard vinaigrette. Hope there is something helpful here!

Warm potato salad is another good meal. Try a Spanish style salad of room temp rice with roasted red peppers and tuna, celery and peas. Make hash with leftover potatoes and leftover meat.

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Some people mentioned quiche...but even better might be frittatas. Quicker by not having to make a crust, and bakes much more quickly.

I would not spend from a very limited budget to buy a bread maker...

Frittatas sound like a good idea too, definitely easy, I was thinking of doing that, but setting it like you set a custard (baine marie in the oven)......

.....I make several batches of dough every week in my food processor, freeze most of them after they rise and I deflate them, keep one in the fridge. Every morning I tear a piece off of the dough, flatten it out and grill it over my stove until it puffs up like a pita, when I run out of dough I just defrost another batch.

The freezing doesn't seem to have any ill effects on the dough and fresh baked pita every morning always beats loaf bread in my mind (it also takes me only about 5 minutes to make two pitas, so fast too).

I'll think about getting a pressure cooker, right now I definitely can't afford to spend the $100 it would take to get, but with a little smart planning I'm sure I can save up some, that way I'll have some more time to do my work.

Speaking of my work, I'm doing my degree in aerospace engineering and I have to say, the science based books on cooking make so much sense to me, I love "Modernist Cuisine" as well as the associated science movement in the culinary arts.

Frittatas: you don't need to bother with the Bain Marie...just shove it in the oven for a few minutes in the same skillet you started it in, on a high rack - top 1/3 of the oven.

You already have the bread thing solved admirably. I'd like to know more about that, if you have the time to share. Do you make a pita dough? Or just any bread dough? I'd think you wouldn't get the puff without the pita dough, but I don't know...love the pinching off a piece & grilling it...fresh hot bread every morning! Yum! Do you use a grill pan, or just over the flame?

Aero E...great major! Where are you in school, if you don't mind sharing? Our family has lots of ties to Purdue.

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My ultimate cheap meal is bolognaise sauce. These are its virtues:

It is inexpensive and you can throw whatever leftovers you have in it. Everything you need to make this sauce is cheap - canned tomatoes, mincemeat, carrot, celery, onion. Suitable leftovers - chilli, any type of cheese you may have, most types of meat, most types of vegetables, beans, mushrooms. If I had to, I could make a batch of bolognaise sauce for less than $25 and it would last me for seven days.

It is convenient. I make my sauce in great big batches and freeze it in little plastic containers. That way, if I am pressed for time, all it takes to get dinner ready is to boil up some pasta and microwave the sauce.

Bolognaise sauce is versatile. You can use it in: pasta bolognaise (spaghetti, linguine, penne, farfalle, etc) and lasagne. You can put it between two slices of bread with some cheese and make a jaffle. You could pour it on baked potatoes and hot dogs.

I started making batches of bolognaise sauce when I was a student 20 years ago. My recipe has evolved, I no longer need to save every penny, but I still enjoy the convenience of it.

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There is no love more sincere than the love of food - George Bernard Shaw
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Back to Jayme's getting 'dog' bones for free and using them for soup. Not likely to happen anymore. We have to pay for dog bones and they ain't cheap.

I always keep my eyes open and always check the meat section of the supermarket whenever I go. You can often find 'Soup Bones' for 50 cents a pound. Sometimes, although rarely, the 'soup bones' are actually short ribs. When I first discovered this, I went on quite a roll of discoveries at the same supermarket over a period of a couple of weeks. I'd stop every evening on my way home from work and would find some sort of unlikely deal about half of the time. Either they had hired a particularly clueless butcher, or I stumbled into the middle of some sort of mislabeling scam.

I think we usually read about the value of making a friend of your local butcher. But perhaps we should also be learning the methods of the clueless or corrupt ones. God knows the supermarkets have an almost endless bag of tricks they use on us.

But to get to a point in Katie's post, I suspect that the amount of chicken carcasses that are thrown in the trash daily in the U.S. could make many of us cry.

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Back to Jayme's getting 'dog' bones for free and using them for soup. Not likely to happen anymore. We have to pay for dog bones and they ain't cheap.

I think we usually read about the value of making a friend of your local butcher. But perhaps we should also be learning the methods of the clueless or corrupt ones. God knows the supermarkets have an almost endless bag of tricks they use on us.

Knowledge is power. I checked the local supermarket for every cut of pork derived from the pork shoulder, and the prices for same. Now, sure, you're going to pay less if you buy in bulk, and more if you buy only a little bit and there's labor involved, but the price for whole pork shoulder was $1.87 a pound, it was $5.99 for diced pork shoulder (although they labelled it something else). But there were more than a half dozen different cuts in between, all comprised of the same thing, just cut slightly differently.

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Bread Machine, shmed machine! No need to shell out money for another appliance if you are on a budget.

Making basic bread can be extremely easy, especially if you go the no knead bread route

Edited by Twyst (log)
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Hi there.

You might want to check out this thread for some ideas.

Like you, I have a VERY LIMITED kitchen, however it's not because of income. Rather, I have a very small space to work with, about 6' x 7' in size. In terms of kitchen equipment -- it's a 6 quart stock pot (with steamer insert), a medium sauce pot, a small sauce pot, a non-stick frying pan, a Dutch oven, a cookie sheet, and 3 Pyrex baking dishes. Forget having a food processor -- there's no room, and the nearest electrical outlet is above and to the right of the stove. No room for a blender, food processor or microwave. My next "to get" toy will probably be either a mortar and pestle or a mandoline. This is an extremely low-tech kitchen.

In terms of what is achievable, the only thing you have to worry about is your imagination. In the past year, I have made/cooked/baked:

* fresh-baked bread
* homemade pasta
* buttermilk biscuits
* cardamom-pear butter
* tomato confit
* tortilla española
* salade lyonnaise
* salade parisienne
* all manner of Italian vegetable dishes -- patate e fagiolini (potatoes and green beans), stufato di verdure (vegetable stew), melanzane alla parmigiana (eggplant parmigiana), minestra di scarole (escarole soup, with crispy garlic bread)

none of those are expensive, despite their occasionally fancy names.

dinner tonight will be rajma (kidney beans cooked in the style of northern Kashmir, over rice). despite what folks will tell you, a pressure cooker is not necessary for things like beans and legumes. :wink:

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Also: polenta is great, if it hasn't been mentioned yet.

Exceedingly simple: cornmeal, water, salt, pepper, butter, cheese.

You can have all sorts of things with it, from a long-cooked beef stew, or with slow-roasted vegetables. Pour the polenta into a square or rectangular dish, let it firm up overnight. Then in the morning, cut it into squares and fry with butter or oil. Serve with a tomato sauce, or with a poached egg, or a little grated cheese on top.

It goes a long way.

One other thing I'd like to add: are you sure you're using ALL of your vegetables? and by "ALL", I literally mean every part of the vegetable, right down to the parts you would normally throw away. So much of what is trash is actually food in another form.

For example:

Cauliflower leaves (the outer leaves) can be transformed into a salad or simmered in lightly salted water, then cooked with garlic, olive oil and peperoncini along with other greens for a vegetable side dish.

Beet peels can be transformed into vinegar, which you can use as part of a vinaigrette.

Leek greens are delicious braised, or as part of a gratin.

Chard stems can go into vegetable stock or you can braise them, turn them into pickles, or transform them into a dip (similar to babaganoush).

Potato peels can be remade as potato chips.

Celery leaves can go into celery salt, in vegetable stock, or as part of a battuto.

Freeze corn cobs or asparagus trimmings to make corn stock or asparagus stock respectively. Or use the "milk" obtained from corn cobs in ice cream.

Oven-dry citrus zest and use them in sauces, as a garnish or in granola.

Transform green pepper cores into a relish; goes well with sandwiches or with egg dishes.

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Indy Rob, my vote goes to clueless. Generally, with the corrupt ones, the spoils don't make it to the case, only to 'certain friends'. At least with 'clueless' there is no malice involved! :D

"Commit random acts of senseless kindness"

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One other thing I'd like to add: are you sure you're using ALL of your vegetables? and by "ALL", I literally mean every part of the vegetable, right down to the parts you would normally throw away. So much of what is trash is actually food in another form.

For example:

Cauliflower leaves (the outer leaves) can be transformed into a salad or simmered in lightly salted water, then cooked with garlic, olive oil and peperoncini along with other greens for a vegetable side dish.

When we make cauliflower soup, we often just throw the leaves in ...

 ... Shel


 

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One other thing I'd like to add: are you sure you're using ALL of your vegetables? and by "ALL", I literally mean every part of the vegetable, right down to the parts you would normally throw away. So much of what is trash is actually food in another form.

For example:

Cauliflower leaves (the outer leaves) can be transformed into a salad or simmered in lightly salted water, then cooked with garlic, olive oil and peperoncini along with other greens for a vegetable side dish.

When we make cauliflower soup, we often just throw the leaves in ...

Cool.

My point is to try to think of ways to do more with what's considered trash, so that you end up minimizing the amount of money that gets sucked down the drain. This lesson is applicable to just about anyone, from people like me who aren't limited by income to other folks, like the OP. Even with $50/5 days, if you maximize your vegetables, you can create building blocks out of whole cloth that you can use to make the next meal.

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Trader Joe's and a few places always have free coffee and free food samples, go and eat for free. LOL!

Serious now. Watermelon rind is delicious.

dcarch

Chilled Watermelon soup. Don't throw away the tough ends of asparagus and leeks. Blend them into the soup.

watermelonsurfclams_zps41a56060.jpg

Sauteed watermelon rind. Don't throw away the tough part of beet stems. They get tender, just cook them longer.

codwatermelonrind_zpsa854f31c.jpg

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I can't go to both Costco and Whole Foods in the same day...get too filled up on snacks at either one to eat for the rest of the day!

However, I'm such a sucker. Their tastings definitely work with me...I buy lots of things I probably wouldn't otherwise. LOL!

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