The Daily Blog

Use What You Got, aka Shake What Your Mama Gave You

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When you cook on a budget, it’s all about using what you got, when you got it. You have to take advantage of those “extra” ingredients left over from last week and build meals around them using items from your pantry.

As a budget cooker myself, these are practices that I lean heavily on. Without them, we often wouldn’t have enough cash left to make it to the end of the month (or the middle of the month…). Sometimes this means that wed repeat a meal from a week or two prior, just so we can get away with not spending any more money on groceries. Last night, we were meal-repeaters as we try to stretch the food budget until our next paycheck on the 15th (tomorrow!). Luckily for us, it was an awesome meal to repeat!

We had Stromboli again last night and it really was an awesome budget meal. I had all the meat and cheese leftover from when I originally made it (during Week 6), I had tomato sauce leftover from our Fried Ravioli meal (from Week 7), and I had all the ingredients to make dough – flour, yeast, sugar, water, salt, and olive oil. All I had to buy was an onion and a red bell pepper (which cost about $3.00 total).

My husband started the dough while I was still at school (it takes about 3 hours total – around 30 minutes active prep, 2 1/2 hours inactive prep) and then when I got home I simply sauteed the veggies, constructed the Stromboli, and slid it into the oven! Probably 30 minutes of prep time for me, and then 30 minutes in the oven (and we even got the dishwasher unloaded and all the dishes washed and loaded while it cooked!), 10 minutes to do the final kitchen clean-up and leftover pack-up, and I was off to bed around 9:30 with some free time to boot. Before I forget…guess how many lunches we got out of this meal? 4! For a meal that cost us $3.00, we got 6 servings out of it for a grand total of…. 50 cents per serving.

So…to recap on our repeat Stromboli night: Budget? check. Speedy? check. Delicious? check. Leftovers? check. check. check. check.

Now that the Stromboli ingredients are all used up I need to get one more meal out of my pantry items since it’s still only the 14th . For tonight, I think I will make Barbecue Chicken Pizza….I have the dough, since last night Jason made three large dough balls and we only used two of them. I also have BBQ sauce, scallions, cheddar, parmesan, and fresh mozzerella. What I don’t have is chicken or red onion (and I’m thinking some cilantro would be mighty fine, too…). To buy those three items will cost me less than $5.00, so – BBQ chicken pizza is on the menu for tonight! You’ll see it on the Week 8 Menu – provided all goes according to plan, of course. 🙂

With a little creative thinking and flexibility, you too can cook great meals while stretching out your food budget. And now for the question of the day: What are your favorite budget meals? And how do you stretch out your food dollars?