Vegan Meals

My oldest son has decided to become a vegan. He rarely ate meat before and never dairy so we thought it might be a good idea.  Boy, was it hard to find budget friendly meals for him!

Here is a great recipe he found on his own and we tweaked to make sure it was cheap and would fit his tastes.

Ingredients

2 avocados, pitted and diced – 4/$5 (Anahiem or Hass are in season)
1 clove garlic, minced – $1.98 can
Juice of 1/2 lemon – $0.99 bottle
1/4 cup unsweetened soy milk – $2.99
1/4 cup water
Salt, to taste
Red pepper flakes, to taste
4 halved cherry tomatoes as garnish (optional) – 2/$5 clamshell
2 cups cooked pasta – $1.00

Total – $11.96 – Makes 3 servings – $3.99 per serving!

Instructions

  • Combine the avocados, garlic, and lemon juice in a food processor. As the mixture is blending, add the soy milk and then the water. Add more or less water depending on your desired consistency.
  • Add salt and red pepper, to taste.
  • Toss with your favorite cooked pasta and serve. Add tomatoes for garnish if desired.

Enchiladas

I’ve been trying to find a delicious enchilada recipe that won’t cost much to replace the old one I had that just takes too much money for one thing.

I found a great blog called Broke Ass Gourmet that has a LOT of budget recipes that my kids and I would love, so I tweaked a recipe from them into something I knew my kids would eat.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 15-oz can black beans, rinsed and drained $0.79
  • 10 corn tortillas $1.19 OR 10 Flour Tortillas $1.39
  • 2 cups shredded jack cheese $1.99
  • 1 small bunch cilantro, chopped–1 tbsp reserved for garnish $1.00
  • 1 10-oz bottle salsa verde $2.00
  • 1/2 white onion, chopped $1.00
  • 1 clove garlic, minced $1.98
  • salt and pepper to taste Pantry
  • olive oil Pantry

Total $10.59 – servings 10 – $1 per serving!

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 6″x8″ rectangular pan with olive oil and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine beans, onion, garlic, cilantro, salt, pepper, half of the salsa and 1 cup of the cheese.
  2. Fill the tortillas one by one with about 1/4 cup of the filling each. Lay them seam-side down in the pan, arranging them as necessary to fit them all. Pour the remaining salsa over the rolled tortillas and sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top of the salsa. Cover the pan with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes with the foil removed until the cheese is bubbly and lightly browned.
  3. Serve garnished with additional cilantro.

 

Delicious Schnitzel

I lucked out in that my MIL gave me a several pork chops she bought from Hy-Vee (apparently Kansas City had a huge sale that my area did not).  So I thought Schnitzel would be a great use of them since they were the smaller, breakfast type of chop.

Have you ever had Schnitzel?  It might be my absolute favorite way of eating a pork chop (paired with Spätzle and gravy it is divine!)

 

Ingredients:

4 Thin Porkchops                                            $9.99 for 9 = $4.44

1 Large Egg                                                      $.99 a dozen = $.08

½ Cup Flour                                                     $1.46 a bag = $.09

1 cup Breadcrumbs (not Panko!)               $1.91 for a one time use box *sale*

 

Total      $14.35 if you need to buy everything new =  $1.49 a serving

 

Instructions:

  1. Set a medium saucepan on the stove over medium heat. Add some oil or spray to the bottom.
  2. Pound the pork chop as thin as possible. I usually fold it into saran wrap and pound it with the smooth side of my mallet, until about ¼ inch
  3. Coat in flour
  4. Dip into the egg
  5. Coat in the breadcrumbs, shake off the excess so it is nice and crispy!
  6. Set in pan for about 6 minutes on each side.
  7. YUM!

Pair with potatoes, pasta, veggies.  Anything!  Fast, easy, delicious.

Quick Chicken Fajitas

Chicken is on sale at Hy-Vee the last few days, ($3.99 for 2.5 lbs of Buckley’s Frozen chicken) so I’ve been coming up with easy, quick, cheap meals to make my pounds and pounds of chicken in my freezer.  MY favorite type of food is Mexican food so, of course, I’ve got to have fajitas in the mix!

This meal takes 5-10 minutes to prepare and 20 minutes to cook. It is a one pot meal so not a lot to clean up. And it makes around 6 (7 or 8 if you are frugal with your chicken, but I like mine PACKED) servings.

2-3 Tbsp oil of any sort

1 pound of chicken breast, cut into strips (the bags are 2.5 lbs so about half) $2.00

1 Vidalia onion (Aldi sells bags of onions for $0.99) $0.25

1 red bell pepper, cut in strips

1 yellow bell pepper, cut in strips (Aldi sells a package of 3 red, yellow, green for $1.99) $1.99

1 green bell pepper, cut into strips

1/4 cup water

1-ounce package of fajita seasoning (Aldi has kits but Hy-Vee brand makes a seasoning that I really love!) $0.69

1 package of tortillas (at least 8 count) (Aldi sells Casa Mamita Flour Tortillas – 8 count) $0.69

any toppings you desire, guacamole, cheese, sour cream

I’m pretty bland and, while I might add cheese, I don’t usually add extras.

Technically, it’s $0.70 a serving on these!  Of course, adding guac and cheese would jump the price but unless you are adding A LOT of extras, the price per serving will stay under $2.00

Instructions

  1. Heat up the oil then add chicken over medium heat for about 3-4 minutes until browned. Remove chicken but keep the oil and juices.
  2. Add onions and saute until soft and caramelized; about 6 minutes
  3. Add peppers to the pan with the onions and saute for 5 more minutes.
  4. Add the chicken back into the pan.
  5. Add water and seasonings and cook for about 3 minutes. Place mixture in tortillas and serve. Top with extras.

YUM!

Meatloaf Mondays

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Mondays aren’t always for meatloaf but these days the kids are always asking for one recipe in particular. What they don’t know is that they are eating a TON of Vegetables. This moist, delicious recipe freezes quite well and is exceptionally easy to double and keep for another time. Or make the recipe early and pop it in the oven straight from the freezer for about an hour and a half. Or put it in a cupcake tin and make several little meatloaves to eat small portions when needed.

The prices listed are for Aldi, February 2017.

Ingredients

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Total Prices – $19.39 – 8 Servings – $2.42

A lot of these prices are for more than what is needed and some of the items are staples that will already be bought. Most blogs don’t include the pantry. This makes it seem like the meal costs less than it actually does. If buying everything mentioned here, this recipe can make 3 time the amount of meatloaf mentioned. Making it 24 servings for just under $20.

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  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
  2. Combine almond milk, ketchup, onion, green pepper, parsley, minced garlic, and black pepper in a blender and blend until a smooth liquid.
  3. Combine ground beef, ground turkey, eggs, rolled oats, and milk mixture in a bowl until thoroughly combined.
  4. Transfer mixture into a 5×9-inch loaf pan. If the recipe is doubled, place in a 13X9-inch pan.
  5. Bake in the preheated oven until a meat thermometer inserted into the center of the meatloaf reads at least 160 degrees F (70 degrees C), about 2 hours. Meatloaf may still look pink inside due to ketchup.
  6. Pair with mashed potatoes and turkey gravy for a delicious meal.

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Delicious Chocolate Cake

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Sometimes, we really need something sweet and decadent to make our days better. After scouring the internet for something delicious and cheap, poke cakes really stood out as something yummy and not nearly as expensive as a store-bought cake.

To keep the cost down, skip the condensed milk and stick with some delicious, creamy instant pudding.

  • 1 box Baker’s Corner, Devil’s Food Cake Mix 18.5 Ounce – $0.69
  • 1/2 cup Carlini Vegetable Oil 48 Oz. – $1.59
  • 2 Gold Hen Grade A Eggs – $0.69
  • 1/2 Cup Water
  • 1/2 Cup Friendly Farms Sour Cream 16 Oz. – $0.99
  • 1 box Mr. Pudding Instant Pudding Mix, Chocolate – $0.29
  • 1 1/2 Cup Almond Milk original, vanilla or unsweetened 64 oz. – $2.49
  • 1 pint Heavy Whipping Cream – $1.39
  • 1/2 Cup Baker’s Corner Baking Cocoa 18.6 Oz – $1.49
  • Chocolate Syrup to Drizzle – $0.99
  • 1/2 Cup of Baker’s Corner Chocolate Chips 12 Oz. – $0.99

Total – $11.60 – 12 servings – $0.97 per slice

Of course, several of these items should be a staple in the pantry and that should also off-set the cost.

Instructions:

Combine cake mix, eggs, water, oil, and sour cream in a bowl and mix until combined. Bake cake in the oven according to the directions on the box. (350 degrees for 25-28 minutes). Once completely baked, use the back of a wooden spoon or dowel rod to poke holes in the cake. Add milk to pudding mix and pour on the cake once it is cool. Put the cake in the refrigerator for 1 hours to chill. Once the pudding has set, whip heavy cream wit a mixer for several minutes. Once it starts to set, add the baking cocoa and continue to whip until it firmly sets up. Spread on the cake and drizzle with chocolate syrup and sprinkle with chocolate chips.

Add a scoop of ice cream and dig in!

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Breakfast of Champions

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Mornings can be hectic for most families. Trying to get kids off to school and people to work can be a hassle. While cereal and cold milk can work for a while, it turns into a dreaded meal after several months. A great decadent alternative to cereal is overnight oats. They are quick, easy to prepare the evening before, and delicious. Overnight oats are exactly what the title says, oats soaked overnight. They usually consist of oats, yogurt, and milk with an endless supply of toppings available.

Our family enjoys berries as a topping more than anything else, but berries can be expensive so it is important to buy them during sales and while in the season. Since these yummy treats can be made many days ahead of time (as long as they are stored in an air tight container), we make ours 2 weeks at a time.

To make 2 weeks’ worth, you will need:

  • 2 plain Fit and Active 32 oz. yogurt tubs – $1.99 apiece
  • 1 container rolled oats 42 oz. – $2.49
  • 1 Almond Milk original, vanilla or unsweetened 64 oz. – $2.49
  • Blueberries 6 oz. – $2.99
  • Strawberries, 16 oz. pkg. – $1.75
  • Raspberries, 1 pint – $1.99
  • Blackberries, 1 pint – $1.99

Total – $17.68 for 2 full weeks (14 servings) of breakfast and/or snacks – $1.26 per serving

 The recipe is really fantastic and easy.  It is equal parts yogurt, milk, and oats (1/2 cup to 3/4 depending on the size of the container) mixed together. The milk can be substituted with whatever milk you like. Layer the yogurt and fruit into an airtight jar and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. Some people enjoy adding 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla to the yogurt mixture, also.

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The Slow Cooker Can Be a Friend

One thing I tell people who don’t have the time or people like me who just don’t want to spend a lot of time cooking, “use the slow cooker.” Those delicious, albeit sometimes tough, cuts of inexpensive meat can become amazing, tender, delicious morsels.

When using the slow cooker, don’t choose recipes that need a lot of preparation. There are tons of recipes out there specifically for the slow cooker, but many can be adapted for it also. If you want a meal that needs prep after the meat is cooked, consider slow cooking the meat throughout the day and setting it up right before the meal. Or even cooking the day before and storing in the fridge for an easy setup.

If it is hard to set everything up in the mornings, put everything in the cooker dish, cover it, and store it in the refrigerator overnight. Then, simply remove it from the fridge as soon as you get up and turn it on right before you leave.

Slow cookers don’t need extra oil or fat. As long as there are liquids, the food will not burn to the sides or bottom. The fat on meat will not go away so you want to trim it, too. Be careful with the liquids, though, they don’t reduce, and don’t thicken, meaning you don;t need much and you will probably want to place chicken and other poultry on a stand or aluminum foil balls so it does not sit in the liquid and become squishy.

Try to choose recipes where most of the food can be added in the very beginning. Every time the lid to a slow cooker is removed, it loses some heat and the water rolls off the top. So don’t check on it constantly or worry about stirring often. Usually, the only things that will need to be added at the end would be pasta and rice.

If the recipe is not meant for a slow cooker, here are some times to help set it up.

  • 15 – 30 mins, cook it for 1 – 2 hours on High or 4 – 6 hours on Low
  • 30 mins – 1 hour, cook it for 2 – 3 hours on High or 5 – 7 hours on Low
  • 1 – 2 hours, cook it for 3 – 4 hours on High or 6 – 8 hours on Low
  • 2 – 4 hours, cook it for 4 – 6 hours on High or 8 – 12 hours on Low

Don’t Be Scared of Chicken Thighs (And Other Inexpensive Meats)

Being on a budget doesn’t mean you have to cut out meat and proteins completely. It just means you need to be smarter about the types of meat you eat. Also, try buying meats that you can braise like pork butt. The cheaper price does happen to coincide with a larger time investment to make the meats tender but we will talk about ways to get around this issue when the time is a crunch.

One trick to making the money last is to buy a whole chicken. Buying bone in thighs can be less expensive but the whole chicken offers many more possibilities. The meat can be roast and served as a meal on its own or cut apart and used for several different meals. And the bones can be kept and cooked down to make a delicious broth that can be used in many other things.

Lamb Shoulder Chops are a great rich flavor that can be relatively cheap. The trick is to pick the shoulder and not the prime cuts. These pieces are often larger than the rib and lamb chop and the chewy texture can be tenderized quickly.

A great, cheap alternative to hamburger meat is ground chuck. Ground chuck has less fat and still tastes amazing and tends to have a lower price tag than the sirloin, bison, and other beef cuts. It comes from the primal cut, shoulder mainly with just enough fat to give a great flavor but not enough to be used in those $15 dollar burgers.

Chuck roast, which is a preferred meat for pot roast and beef stew recipes, also comes from the shoulder. These muscles contain long fibers and have a tendency to become tough if not cooked correctly. Long, low-temperature cooking in juices tenderizes the cut and gives it a great beefy flavor without the cost of a typical pork roast.

Flank steak is from a cow’s stomach and has long tough fibers. It’s far more flavorful than some of the more expensive cuts and is a great meat for marinating. The trick with the flank steak is thin slices across the grain and quick sears making sure not to overcook the steaks to keep it from being tough and drying out.

Try to find recipes that use these cuts, or that you can substitute with a cheaper meat to make your money stretch further.

Pay Attention to When You Buy

Cooking with fresh produce is amazing, but it can be expensive. Buying seasonal only makes sense in that case. Just because you can find it in the grocery store, doesn’t mean it is a good idea depending on the time of year.  Look at what’s in season and choose your recipes based on it.

January: Apples, Beetroot, Brussels Sprouts, Carrot, Cauliflower, Celeriac, Celery, Chicory, Clementine, Grapefruit, Jerusalem Artichoke, Kale, Kiwi Fruit, Leeks, Lemons, Oranges, Parsnips, Passion Fruit, Pears, Pineapple, Pomegranate, Potatoes, Rhubarb, Satsumas, Spinach, Swede, Tangerines, Turnips

February: Arugula, Asparagus, Beets, Bok Choy, Broccoli, Brussels Sprout, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Carrots, Celery, Cilantro, Clementines, Dill, Fennel, Grapefruit, Kale, Lemons, Lettuce, Leeks, Oranges, Onions, Parsnips, Pears, Shallots, Sweet Potatoes, Tangelos, Tangerines, Turnips, Rhubarb

 

March: Arugula, Asparagus, Beets, Bok Choy, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Carrots, Celery, Cilantro, Clementines, Dill, Fennel, Grapefruit, Kale, Lemons, Lettuce, Leeks, Oranges, Onions, Parsnips, Pears, Shallots, Sweet Potatoes, Tangelos, Tangerines, Turnips, Rhubarb

April: Artichokes, Arugula, Asparagus, Beets, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Cucumbers, Fava Beans, Parsnips, Rhubarb, Scallions, Spinach

May: Apricots, Artichokes, Asparagus, Broccoli, Collards, Leeks, Rhubarb, Spinach, Spring Onions, Spring Peas, Strawberries

June: Apricots, Beets, Blueberries, Cherries, Corn, Green Beans, Kiwi, Peaches, Peas, Nectarines, Strawberries, Watermelon, Yellow Squash

July: Apricots, Blueberries, Cantaloupes, Cherries, Corn, Crenshaw Melons, Cucumbers, Green Beans, Figs, Nectarines, Peaches, Plums, Strawberries, Tomatoes, Watermelons, Yellow Squash, Zucchini

August: Apricots, Avocados, Basil, Bell Peppers, Beets, Blackberries, Blueberries, Boysenberries, Cantaloupe, Carrots, Chard, Cherries, Chiles, Cilantro, Corn, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Fennel, Figs, Garlic, Grapes, Green Beans, Geen Onions, Kiwi, Lemongrass, Limes, Mangos, Melons, Nectarines, Okra, Onions, Peaches, Peas, Plums, Potatoes, Radishes, Raspberries, Rosemary, Scallions, Shallots, Strawberries, Summer Squash, Tomatillos, Watermelons, Zucchini

September: Apples, Artichokes, Blackberries, Blueberries, Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Carrots, Chile Peppers, Cucumbers, Curly Kale, Figs, French Beans, Garlic, Horseradish, Leeks, Lettuce, Mushrooms, Nectarines, New Potatoes, Peaches, Pears, Plums, Pumpkins, Red Onion, Spinach, Squash, Sweet Corn, Tomatoes

October: Apples, Beets, Blackberries, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Butter Lettuce, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Chicory, Collard Greens, Corn, Cranberries, Cucumbers, Dates, Eggplant, Figs, Grapes, Kale, Melon, Peaches, Pears, Peppers, Persimmons, Plums, Pomegranates, Potatoes, Pumpkins, Raspberries, Sweet Potatoes, Tangerines, Tomatillos, Tomatoes, Watermelon, Winter Squash

November: Apples, Artichokes, Arugula, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celeriac, Celery. Clementines, Cranberries, Dates, Endive, Figs, Garlic, Kale, Leeks, Lettuce, Onions, Parsnips, Pears, Peppers, Persimmons, Potatoes, Pumpkins, Radishes, Rutabaga, Squash, Sweet Potato, Swiss Chard, Turnips, Watercress

December: Apples, Beets, Belgian Endive, Bok Choy, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Collard Greens, Cranberries, Dates, Escarole, Fennel, Grapefruits, Kale, Kiwifruit, Leeks, Lemons, Mushrooms, Mustard Greens, Onions, Oranges, Papayas, Passion Fruits, Pears, Persimmons, Pomegranates, Potatoes, Radicchio, Radish, Rutabaga, Spinach, Sweet Potatoes, Swiss Chard, Tangelos, Tangerines, Turnips, Winter Squash

Fruits and vegetables aren’;t the only foods that have seasons! Eggs, Dairy, and Meat are also seasonal.

Eggs are “in season” during the lighter times of the year, end of Spring into Summer and beginning of Fall. Of course, they are always available during the winter months, however, you can see the jump in prices as winter progresses.

Did you know milk is seasonal? People expect milk all the time, so to remain competitive, conventional farms have to feed the cows with a concentrated feed during the winter months and ends up costing the consumer.

One of the most important seasonal foods behind fruits and vegetables is meat. While a good idea is to choose great inexpensive meat all year long (like chicken thighs!), certain meats, poultry, and fish should only be purchased during their “season”

January: Brill, Clams, Cockles, Haddock, Halibut, Hake, John Dory, Lemon Sole, Mussels, Oysters, Plaice, Scallops, Turbot, Venison

February: Brill, Clams, Cockles, Haddock, Hake, John Dory, Mussels, Oysters, Turbot, Salmon

March: Cockles, Cod, Hake, John Dory, Lemon Sole, Mussels, Oysters, Salmon, Sea Trout

April: Cockles, Crab, Cod, John Dory, Salmon, Sea Bass, Sea Trout, Spring Lamb

May: Cod, Crab, Dover Sole, Duck, Haddock, Halibut, Herring, John Dory, Lamb, Lemon Sole, Mackeral, Plaice, Salmon, Samphire, Sardines, Sea Bass, Sea Trout

June: Cod, Crab, Dover Sole, Grey Mullet, John Dory, Lamb, Lemon Sole, Lobster, Mackerel, Plaice, Salmon, Sardines, Sea Bass, Sea Trout

July: Clams, Cod, Crab, Dover Sole, Haddock, Halibut, Herring, John Dory, Lamb, Lemon Sole, Lobster, Mackeral, Monkfish, Pike, Plaice, Rabbit, Salmon, Sardines, Sea Bass, Scallops

August: Crab, Crayfish, Cod, Dover Sole, Grey Mullet, Haddock, Halibut, Herring, John Dory, Lamb, Lemon Sole, Lobster, Mackeral, Monkfish, Plaice, Salmon, Sardines, Sea Bass, Scallops, Squid

September: Brown Trout, Crab, Cod, Dover Sole, Duck, Grey Mullet, Haddock, Halibut, Herring, John Dory, Lamb, Lemon Sole, Lobster, Mackeral, Monkfish, Plaice, Salmon, Sardines, Sea Bass, Scallops, Squid, Turbot, Venison

October: Autumn Lamb, Brill, Clams, Crab, Duck, John Dory, Grey Mullet, Goose, Haddock, Hake, Halibut, Lemon Sole, Lobster, Mackeral, Monkfish, Mussels, Scallops, Sea Bass, Squid, Turbot, oysters, Venison

November: Brill, Crab, Goose, Haddock, Hake, Halibut, John Dory, Lemon Sole, Lobster, Monkfish, Mussels, Oysters, Plaice, Scallops, Sea Bass, Squid, Turbot

December: Brills, Clams, Duck, Goose, Haddock, Hake, Halibut, John Dory, Lemon Sole, Monkfish, Mussels, Oysters, Pheasant, Scallops, Sea Bass, Squid, Turbot, Turkey

Obviously, some of these things are not correct in other areas of the country or even the world. This is only what is seasonal in the midwest regions. Please look at your local grocery prices and make your decisions based upon your own research. Also, yes, greenhouses and factory farms exist and therefore you can get several of these items all year round without a huge change in price. This is up to you as the consumer, however, please note that the qualities of the produce, meat, and eggs are slightly off.

Have a look at the seasonal items for this month and begin to look for recipes surrounding these items. Try to cut out recipes that involve some of the more expensive out of season items. Of course, not everything can be cut out from month to month but that will be based on what your family is comfortable eating.