Sunday, November 21, 2010

Eating cheap, yet restaurant quality, while prepping for the holidays!

Today I was watching the Food network (another addiction of mine!) and was watching this fabulous lady making some recipe and how it only cost $10 to feed 4 people. TEN DOLLARS for ONLY 4 people! I about had a heart attack! In a house full of boys, one fast approaching his teenage years (next year), they would break me easily after a week, heck a few days! I have HUNGRY boys, my youngest is no different either. In fact, he probably eats more than the other two combined some days! It got me thinking about my date night with my son too and the "gourmet" macaroni I paid an arm and leg for, which got me thinking.

So, here is how I fed my guys two meals today and it probably averaged out to a little below $10 for two meals and over 4 servings per meal. I think that was great!

My breakfast came about from a mistake yesterday, actually! I had intended to make a roast but, in my haste at the grocery store I forgot not only the seasonings but the roast! It was a really bad week for forgetting things! Well, I didn't even notice as I had a butcher paper wrapped mass in the refrigerator. So, I went about my business peeling and cutting up my carrots, potatoes and an entire onion into chunks to put into the crockpot.  By the time I added the garlic, I suddenly realized I had no seasoning. No biggie, I can make my own, then I realize the the butcher paper wrapped mass in the fridge is several packages of bacon that my mother had passed on last time I saw her, not a roast!

I looked at my gorgeous pot full of chopped veggies and garlic and was not going to waste it. I salt and peppered it, covered it and let it slow cook for most of the day. At the end of the night, I drained the veggies dumped them into a bowl and added a bit of Italian seasoning and gave it a gentle toss. Making sure that all the seasoning had been thoroughly mixed and I let it sit a bit to cool off before shoving it back into the refrigerator. My husband was the one who covered it though last night and of course snuck several bites of it and was hooked.

This morning, I came out and fried up some of that bacon from my mother. Once cooked, sat it aside to drain and made several more batches (bacon is a BIG deal in my house!! Then drained some of the grease from the pan but, not all of it. I forgot throw in the green & red peppers and mushrooms as my sons beckoned me to another room several times but, I would definitely recommend adding them. Then I threw in the veggie mix from the crockpot the day before, salted and peppered it. Then broke up the bacon into chunks (chunks I think make the guys think that they are getting way more than they really are) and added them to the mix once it was thoroughly heated through. Not a great pic but, look how good it looks! Hash from a crockpot!

The great thing is from here I did two things. One, I was able to LOAD some plates. Which was great as they only had one plate, veggies and protein always make bellies fill full, so I had leftovers. Two, I took the leftovers and filled some soft shell taco wraps with a heaping spoonful or two (depends upon the size of wraps you have around the house), then I topped with some cheese and rolled them up and froze some of them for later use and stored the rest in the fridge to be used for breakfast tomorrow or lunch! How great is that?! I still had some leftover and stored that bit in a sandwich bag for another day (When I could add an couple eggs to it and it becomes almost an entirely new dish, yet again!) Several uses for one meal! As I said before though, I think a little green/red peppers and mushrooms would've been great! 

I never ever, thought of using a crockpot for helping out with breakfast before but, you can bet I'll be doing it again! 

For dinner, I was still feeling wiped out and I confess a TV dinner was looking good for everyone! The mother in me though, knew that the last week of me being sick had not made for good meals and this week was going to go by much the same way with the Thanksgiving prep. So, I got my very tired, achy bum off the couch and headed to the kitchen. A box of Velveeta shells and cheese was peaking at me from one cupboard and the sick me once again, was saying YES! Which turns out was a GREAT idea. 

I threw them in some boiling water then the mommy guilt took over and I knew I couldn't just set that in front of everyone. So, I hauled out my two favorite things, garlic salt and Italian seasoning. I seasoned the boiling water and noodles very well. 

I cooked that bacon my mom brought as it's not going to keep forever. Sat it aside to drain. In the bacon grease I threw a whole bunch of mushrooms and some actual chopped garlic. While they were cooking up, I pressed paper towels to the top of the bacon and then ripped them into chunks. 

Then when the noodles were done and drained, I added that yummy mess above to the macaroni and LOOK what you get: 

Trust me when I say that the picture does not do it justice! They actually fought over it tonight!! It was too funny and I must say, even I was surprised by how good it was! 

The leftovers are going to be my little cheesy pot pies in the next day or so. Simply cut out some puff pastry into circles big enough to fill a muffin tin circle. Make like a mini pie crust, fill them with the leftover macaroni mix (I always add a little extra cheese here), then top with another circle and press the ends of the crust and top together, as you would a pie crust. Put in some slits to vent and shove into the oven. Cooking time really depends upon how many you have but, usually no more than 350 degrees for more than 20 or 30 minutes, just long enough for it to heat all the way through and for the crust to cook up nice and flaky. 

So, here is the rough tally for both meals shown here: 
1 lb of bacon     $1.60
1 box of macaroni  $2.50
1/2 pckg of mushrooms  $1.25
potatoes (about 6) averages out to something like $.50
carrots about the same as the potatoes but, we'll say $. 75
onion about $1.00 
garlic cloves...mere change really. 

Total cost for 2 meals in one day: $6.60!!! For two meals serving at least 4 and none of it fast food, TV dinners, or completely from a box. You really can't beat that. The great thing is that you can add fresh veggies to either meal, and it would still be under $10 for two meals! 

So, as this week passes by with rocket speed, take a minute to think through what you have at the house, you don't have to feed everyone from a drive through to make a quick meal, nor do you have to do a TV dinner or anything straight out of a box really. You can be more cost effective if you simply just add to what you've already got! 

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