Sunday, January 03, 2010

Tighten the belt - Suck in the gut

Our family (of 4 now that Tofer is on his own) has a very small budget for food this month. We entertain quite a lot and we like to eat good, so I set out on a quest. My task seemed simple enough; Find meals that could be made for pennies that were healthy, tasty and filling. For those of you, who like me, are trying to create meals out of thin air, here is my January menu.
I knew there were going to be lots of beans/legumes, noodles, rice and other grains this month. All are cheap, all are filling and most (if prepared correctly) are healthy. My recipe search began with these things as a base. My only other criteria was that no recipe could have exotic ingredients, or rare ingredients (though I do have some on hand that not everyone would have, I think), and they couldn’t use any meat that wasn’t already in my freezer. (I’m 90% vegetarian, but my family is not, so I try to please their taste buds too). I had organic burger, fish, chicken and roast & not a lot of any of them, so they would have to stretch too. I took stock of my pantry next. Most of the ingredients were already there!!
I had lentils, red beans, black beans, navy beans, pinto beans, red lentils, & split peas. Cous cous, penne, soba, egg, rice spaghetti, rice shells, brown rice Orecchiette, vegetable orzo, quinoa curls, farfalle, and lasagna. Quinoa, polenta, oatmeal, flax, pine nuts, farina, almonds, chick peas, wheat germ, & brown rice. YAY! I would need to buy Jasmine rice, potatoes, cornmeal, and spelt flour for the recipes I had amassed. I would also buy fresh produce, milk, cheese, eggs, coffee and some frivolous things such as crackers, whole wheat tortillas, coconut milk, & egg roll wrappers!
Now for the menu!

This is what I cook most. I try to make sure there is enough made to have leftovers for lunches.

Spicy Shredded Chicken Soup (I won't be using canned stuff this recipe calls for, and we'll leave the corn out altogether.)
tortilla chips
We like SPICE. I always seem to have Sriracha sauce, cayenne, dried red pepper flakes, JalapeƱo slices, and other things to spice up a recipe.

White chili (again, no canned goods, and no cheese)
Corn muffins
Because our menu is limited, I didn’t want “same-o - same-o” meals. I could have done chili, spaghetti, shepherds pie, etc… but I want my family to enjoy coming to the table and for it to seem like the quality hasn’t changed even though the budget has. White chili is a great way to change up the ordinary, but still get the mileage it offers to a budget!

Stroganoff (I had a can of mushroom soup, so I'll use it, but normally I make this without it)
Lemon butter green beans
This is a compromise. I won’t eat the beefy stroganoff, but my family hates green beans (??? - what is not to love about green beans?)

Egg rolls (I don't use a recipe.  We shred Napa cabbage, onion, carrot and sometimes sweet red pepper for the filling.  I squeeze a quarter of a lemon over it and mix it with a bit of fresh ground pepper... roll it up in a wrapper and deep fry it in ex. virg. olive oil)
Lemon and garlic noodles
I have only recently begun making these little gems! We all love them and there are never leftovers. They are gluten free, vegetarian, and easy!

Enchilada Casserole (No recipe here either.  I use browned burger, spices, refried beans, minced onion, and crunched tortilla chips.  Mix it together - put it in a 13x9 pan, pour tomato sauce over it and add a bit of shredded cheese or queso to the top and bake it til it is heated through.)
Green rice (only thing I change is the broth.  I use vegie)
We love Mexican food, but this month I can’t afford all the cheese and guacamole and sour cream… This way we get the yumminess that is all things Mexican, but that fills us up and doesn’t break the bank!

Quinoa Black Bean salad  (you'll have to scroll down the page.  I won't use corn.  and I add hot peppers)
Bulgogi wraps and sauce (what they don't tell you about are the vegies that are seared along side the bulgogi - mushrooms, cabbage, green onions, peppers.  I don't have Kimchi, so I won't use it. I don't care for Mirin so I'll use a white sherry that is in my cupboard.)
I spent two summers in South Korea and Bulgogi was a staple for each meal. Bulgogi means ‘fire meat’ . It’s basically spiced beef strips wrapped in lettuce leaves with other vegies and dipped in a sauce.

Green Cous-Cous
Dijon Chicken (I leave out the sugar.)
Basil, Tarragon and green olives mixed with couscous and pure cloudy olive oil. Mmmmmm!

Grecian Lentils (similar to this - but a recipe from a friend adds a 1/3 c or red lentils, a Tblsp. capers, and mushroom broth instead of water.  It is served with a dollop of greek yogurt or sour cream.)
Brown rice with saffron and peppers
Green and red lentils in a lemony broth with spinach leaves and capers. I usually have a little bottle of capers in the fridge. It doesn’t take many to add a little zip to dishes. I’ll be using frozen spinach because I had already.

Apple muffins (There you go Juanita!)
My friend Sara does a version of this with butternut squash that is very tasty, but I didn’t have butternut and I did have carrots, so I’m changing it up!

Lancaster pork roast (nothing really special - throw it in a slow cooker with some spices and let it cook.  Add broth if it isn't making enough to keep the meat moist.)
Potatoes & sauerkraut
We have been blessed with a Mama who has given us organic, grass fed meats. She’s awesome. One of the last times she came she brought a pork roast. I hadn’t used it yet, and now I am so glad! Sauerkraut seems to be another staple. I have a jar in the fridge and a jar in the pantry. Time to use one! My family isn’t a huge fan of kraut, but I am! When I mix it with diced, pre-boiled potatoes and cook it with a little garlic and pepper, they not only eat it - they go back for seconds!

Egg fried rice (I use regular rice - chilled thoroughly!!)
Orange chicken (I have minced ginger in a jar in the fridge, so I'll use that instead of fresh)
Asian noodle salad (I leave out the cahews and the chicken and use rice noodles)

Another compromise! I won’t eat the orange chicken, but my mouth is watering at the thought of this salad and rice!

Smoked Portobello soup (instead of liquid smoke I'll use dried, smoked mushrooms and rehydrate them)
Chive sour cream scones (leave out the sugar and add chives!)
I adore mushrooms! Love - sweet, sweet, love of any dish that incorporates the pungent fungus! LOL! I’ll set some of this aside without chunks of mushrooms for the family though. Their’s will have some beef in it.

Broccoli Pesto Orecchiette (No recipe.  Just steamed broccoli mixed with pasta and pesto.  Pesto is another thing I usually have a jar of in the fridge.These 2 flavors aren't usually paired together, but I like them.  I'll add some toasted pine nuts before serving.)
Grilled Tilapia (I'll just use the dill in the cupboard though.)
I may add a bread or some other side to this meal… not sure… we’ll see when the day arises.

Cajun Salmon Salad ( this is just salmon tossed with cajun seasoning and olive oil broiled for a few minutes.  Served on a bed of lettuce & cucumber with black sesame seeds on top. )
Dirty rice (i'll leave out the sausage.)
A can of salmon in my pantry made me go looking for a recipe that could make it more appetizing. Canned salmon is so gross looking. I wanted a strong seasoning and one that would add color & perk it up! The dirty rice is a typical Cajun dish. Black beans, peppers, onion, and tomato. I’ll let you know what we think of it.

I rarely cook breakfast as our family is no longer on the same schedule with everyone being done with school, working odd hours and having different body clocks.  My breakfast is coffee.  Around 10/ 10:30 I'll have some sunflower seeds, or an orange.  The others may have some form of cereal, toast or fruit.
Lunch is similar.  We have finger foods and leftovers.  If you were to walk in at lunchtime around here you'd most likely see a plate of pickles, olives, sliced cheese, crackers, fruit, greek yogurt, nuts, and some vegies (carrots, cucumber, sweet pepper), or someone pulling out last nights dinner and reheating it!
 There you have it.  Those of you who wanted to know well in advance should be rejoicing!


naomi said...

I am totally stealing some of these! I already made my list for this week but next week will definitely have some of these recipes. Thank you!

Juanita said...

That looks like a really creative and well-thought-out menu!

Any chance you could post the recipe for the apple muffins, please?

Aubrey said...

Um, I love this. Love it. We are living out of the pantry this month due to a stricter budget...thank goodness for the six gallon buckets of rice and beans we keep on hand. But looking at that menu makes me happy and gives me ideas!

Deeapaulitan said...

Hooray!!! We mama's have to stick together! I hope you all get some mileage out of it. That's what I was hoping for in posting it.

As hard as it is, I'm pretty excited to stretch what we have to it's limits and come out still shining in my family's eyes as a good cook! :)

Deeapaulitan said...

Apple muffins coming up Juanita!