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Recipe Ideas? Please Help!

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 
Hi All,

First off as a new member I would like to say hi to everyone! I am really excited to join the community but I am in need of some help! I love to cook but I am still fairly new to it and could always use some more help and suggestions. My friend recommended the below E-Book on “how to feed a family of 4 for less then $200 a month”. It’s a great book however, it doesn’t have a variety of recipes and I could use some more ideas. Would any members happen to have any recipe ideas that wouldn’t be that expensive to make? Also, let me know if anyone has tried any of the recipes in the book and if they were worth making. I appreciate all you help and let me know if you need any additional information. Thanks again!!

Ebooks Blog Archive Great Budget Recipes Your Family Will Love
post #2 of 8
Having now skimmed the cookbook, I couldn't eat from it.

There are some ideas with merit, but it relies on things I don't have and would have to purchase. Dedicated freezer, canning gear, vacuum sealer. And a fairly good sized dedciated space for storage which I also do not have. So there is a significant up front cost to the recommendations in that book depending what you own.

Even foodstamps offers more money for food for a family of four than $50/week. The author claims to be able to feed the family on $0.56 per person per meal. But the book only talks about dinner. No lunch, no breakfast. So I have my doubts about what is really being spent.

When the author says the average family of four spends $600 per month on food that breaks down to $1.70 per person per meal over the course of a month. They're doing quite well food cost wise.

There are some worthwhile shopping tricks in the book, but they take time and travel to achieve. There are lots of trade-offs to be considered in pursuing that path and the return on that time isn't there for me. My food costs per person per meal range from about 0.95 to about 1.35 and people spending more money than I am think we eat better than they do. And we do too.
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
post #3 of 8
Without knowing what you like to cook and eat, and what your skill level is, it's hard to make effective recommendations.

You can pick up a fairly recent edition of Joy of Cooking in almost every used bookstore and large thrift shop for a couple of bucks -- and at least save money on the book. Joy is one of the great recipe sources for preparing meals at all price points for American cooks. If you want a new copy, please use the link at Chef Talk to go to Amazon and buy one.

Most generic ethnic cuisines are "peasant" oriented and can be prepared very inexpensively. If you like "spicy," books on Mexican and Indian foods might not be amiss.

Budget conscious cookbooks may or may not reflect the current reality of pricing in the United States. The increase in oil prices, combined with farm policy, ethanol policy, producers' responses to (previous) long term low meat prices, etc., combined to nearly double the cost of such low cost staples as flour, inexpensive beef cuts, cheese, dairy, etc., while leaving the costs of other foods less affected. A cookbook written as recently as 2005 is out of date and out of touch when it comes to food costs. Still, even if the cents don't add up quite right, the advice is probably mostly good when it comes to costs.

Things change, and you have to adapt. For instance, in my part of the country it's less expensive to buy (decent) smoked bacon or pork belly than to buy a ham hock. Consequently, if I want to make something like greens or beans or pea soup where I would have used a ham hock -- I'll use something less expensive.

Recipes are more than costs though. They're food. It's got to taste good. And if you're cooking for a family, it has to be healthy as well.

If a family cook has a collection of twenty or thirty main dishes which the family actually enjoys -- not counting hot dogs, balogna sandwiches and so on, that's enough variety to carry her (or him) through. But, the more and better the recipes the merrier. Vast works.

Once you've learned to cook, the best way to control costs while turning out interesting food is to let the markets determine your menu. The larger the repertoire of dishes you're confident about, the more flexibility you have to buy on sale. A large part of the journey to becoming a good cook is the dynamic relationship between the markets, your menus and your skills
. The world's best chefs, cooking in the world's best restaurants are always looking for bargains. So, why not you?

As long as you're here, I might as well mention Chef Talk as a source for recipes. If you keep your requests focused and ask for things like "budget conscious enchiladas" instead of things like "do you know some inexpensive recipe?" you'll get much better replies.

Speaking of enchiladas -- although cheese intensive, they're still a fairly inexpensive way to put something delicious on the table. Shall I tell you the trick? Yes? Don't "soften" the tortillas in enchilada sauce. It makes crumbly, mushy enchiladas. Instead, soften the tortillas in hot oil; and mix the filling with the least amount of sauce necessary to keep it moist. Only lightly sauce the uncooked enchiladas just as your about to put them in the oven. Finally, reserve some heated sauce to dress them when they're on the plate. That way the tortillas retain their integrity -- just like in a good Mexican restaurant. Your family will wonder how you did it.

Don't tell them it was,
post #4 of 8
While I agree with everything Boar d laze just said, above, I wholeheartedly agree with 2 of his suggestions. First, Chef Talk is a great resource for recipes, and not just the forums. The main Chef Talk website is full of great recipes. Also, I think every home should have a copy of "The Joy of Cooking." It is a great resource for the home cook and has a little bit of everything in it. The edition that came out about 10 years ago is not the greatest edition of this classic tome. Look for either the newest edition or one of the many older ones. I recommend the blue covered one (can't remember the edition or year) as that is what I used as a kid. It taught me a tremendous amount about cooking.
post #5 of 8
I have to laugh, sometimes, about what some people consider budget pricing. There's a segment on CBS's weekend morning show called "Chef On A Shoestring." The challange is for the chef to prepare a "full" meal for four on a $40 budget. This usually includes a starter, an entree (but no sides) and a dessert. To my mind, ten bucks for a meal like that is a lot of things, but a shoestring budget it's not.

Something BDL hinted at that can use expansion: Learn how to shop, and how to do basic kitchen tasks. Anyone on a tight budget needs to trade time for money.

For instance, if you buy chicken parts they're kind of pricey. On the other hand, if you learn how to break-down a chicken, you can cut the cost at least in half. If you watch the sales, you can do even better than that.

Now is the time to stock up on turkey, if you have the freezer space. Most places have it on sale, to clear out their overstock from Thanksgiving. F'rinstance, I just paid 58 cents/pound for turkeys the same store was selling a month ago for a buck seventy nine.

As BDL notes, experiment with substitutions, so you can use a less expensive product. His examples are useful. But take it a step further, and compare, say, smoked turkey legs to any of the pork products. Depending on where & when, that might be a less costly way to go.

Another possibility: Explore the world of grains and legumes. They are tasty, filling, healthy, and inexpensive. Especially if you buy them from the bulk bins rather than in the small poly packs.

Take a close look at Asian cuisines. You'll find they most often use animal protein as a flavoring agent, rather than as the star of the show. That's a great way to economize as well, without sacraficing flavor and variety.

It's also crucial, when on a tight budget, to work with a written shopping list. That's the only way to assure you don't go overboard in the store. This doesn't mean foregoing real bargains, or letting what's available help determine the menu. But you'll avoid the "oh, wow, those filets are on sale for only $9.95" syndrome.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
post #6 of 8
Welcome cfb!

You've come to the right place for advice :) Many people here willing to help with a huge range of experience and advice.

Cooking on a budget - I practice it out of necessity and also out of an attitude that you should save money on anything, anywhere you can. That way, when you need to splurge on something once in a while, you've got more chance to be able to do it.

All great advice above. My tips:

Buy generic brands where possible (but do watch the salt and sugar content)

Keep an eagle eye out for specials, but don't drive too far around to chase them all up - you'll just lose on the petrol money and time.

Watch for clearances of almost past-use-by-date goods, but plan to use them straight away, and store them properly.

KYH is right on oriental cooking - its tasty, inexpensive because of minimal use of protein, quick to cook (saves on gas/electricty bills). And healthy!

Buy in bulk where/when possible. Big bags of rice, potatoes, carrots, onions are great. Or split a big bag of produce with a friend and watch the savings happen.

Buy fruit and veg when in season. Most shops supply a wide range of them all year round now, but the prices when out of season can be very restrictive.

Join a shopping co-op (not sure if avail in your area), but they are designed around buying in bulk therefor making the cost per item much lower, and involve a group of like-minded people looking to save $$$$$$.

Plant a veggie garden if you have room (refer to the gardening forum for help there). Even if you have room only for pots, you can plant a variety to save some money.

Freeze food if you have freezer space. Prepare it (lots of info on freezer cooking avail on the net) freeze it, then its quickly ready to go. Make sure to label and date it though - you'll end up with a freezer full of unidentifiable stuff you don't know is ok to use.

Rice, pasta, legumes, all great items which can go far to stretch the budget.

Soups too - make in bulk, use some, freeze some, can be made into a sauce also for another dish. e.g. tomato soup, use as a flavouring in a stew.

Cheaper cuts of meat can be delicious when slow cooked.

Leftovers - freeze them when possible, even if it's just one serve (label and date).

Hope this helps.
Good Luck - Good Cooking!
 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

post #7 of 8
I've had some periods where there wasn't enough money and learned many ways to save on food and make healthy meals.
First of all, vegetarian cooking is very cheap (if you get seasonal stuff). Just avoid the fake meat kind of vegetarian food, like fake soy hamburgers and all that. It's never good like meat, so you might as well eat food that is not supposed to be meat.
I live in Italy, and so i don;t have to go far to find vegetarian food - italian traditional cooking is very heavy on the vegetables and legumes and grains. Italian peasant food is particularly suited to cheap eating. Italy was a very poor country, and only 60 years ago even pasta was considered a luxury item only for holidays for poor people, and peasant food was based on thick soups eaten with bread in them. Now pasta is cheap so that's another resource. You can get a really good balanced meal by making pasta with vegetables (look up pasta with cauliflower, pasta with zucchine, which i've posted here at some point). Also pasta e ceci (chickpeas) and lentil soups (with a sauteed garlic base, lentils, spinach, and served on toasted hard bread rubbed with garlic). These are filling and really healthy. and cheap
polenta with sausage and tomato sauce and baked in the oven with cheese
risotto with zucchine, with cauliflower, with peas, with chicken livers and broth, chicken livers and tomato, with squash
Potato soups, potatoes in every possible way, mix mashed potatoes with an egg and a handful of cheese and bake in the oven in a greased and breadcrumbed baking dish
Make a potato-based quiche - grate potatoes, mix with grated onion. Heavily butter a quiche dish, press the potatoes in well to make the crust - bake blind for 20 min, then fill with egg, milk, cheese and whatever you like (bacon, or a sauteed vegetable) and bake.
Then there are the stuffed vegetables like zucchine, peppers, eggplant, squash - with stuff like old bread soaked in water and squeezed out, crushed garlic, parsley, anchovies, raisins, olives, etc. or sauteed onion.
i could go on....
Get meat rarely, but get GOOD meat, not meat pumped up with hormones and stuff, that is tasteless and cheap. Or get meat that is by nature cheaper, depending on the market. Here pork and chicken are cheaper, but it may be different where you are.
Don';t buy "cheap" products, but buy good versions of cheaper products (better a good potato or cauliflower than a cheap and lousy piece of meat that's just going to fill your pan with water).
"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
"Siduri said, 'Gilgamesh, where are you roaming? You will never find the eternal life that you seek...Savour your food, make each of your days a delight, ... let music and dancing fill your house, love the child who holds you by the hand and give your wife pleasure in your embrace.'"
post #8 of 8
quote=siduri: I've had some periods where there wasn't enough money and learned many ways to save on food and make healthy meals.

This is true for me and my family as well. Growing up, my parents grew most of the foods that sustained us. So we had the bounty of fresh fruits & veggies in season, and enjoyed them canned the rest of the year. Mother worked miracles to provide variety. When our children were small we lived on HubbyDearest's income so I could be at home with the little ones. This was not "easy", but it was rewarding. We didn't have a lot of money for food, but I did have the time to spend planning nutritious meals, and learning various ways to "cook cheap but eat rich". Numerous times, because of an unstable job market, he was unemployed or "sub-employed" and we turned to surplus food or food stamps. No shame in that...the way we look at it is our taxes paid for them in advance. Anyway, the lessons I learned at home served us well during those lean times, and continue today. Putting delicious meals on the table is not so much about what the ingredients cost, as it is how respectfully they are treated in the cooking process. Anyone can boil cheap spaghetti. The trick is to make cheap spaghetti taste better by infusing the cooking water with appropriate herbs or spices, and then saucing it well afterward.

As for "inexpensive" recipes to share, I don't know what you or your family's taste might be. But I can offer some advice. Meat is typically going to be the single most costly food for any meal you prepare. Devise ways to take meat out of the spotlight, and highlight the vegetables instead. Study up on herbs and spices, learn to use them, and also learn what flavors appeal to you and which ones do not. (for instance, I do not care for tarragon, so while I do like chicken, I don't eat tarragon chicken). We eat first with our make the food as visually appealing as possible. Also, begin each meal with a nice salad or some good home made soup. These are typically budget friendly, and help to subdue the appetite, so when the main course is served, less will be needed. There are also ways to make a smaller portion of meat look like more. A 4oz chicken breast, thin pork cutlet or slice of beef can be hammered til it's paper thin (and tender), then filled with savory stuffing, rolled and braised or roasted. It will "look" like a lot more meat than it is, and everyone will be satisfied with the full range of flavors and the delicious sauce, without ever suspecting that you have fed four people with just one pound of meat! Also, instead of having meat with every meal, make one or two nights a week meatless. Notice, I did not say "vegetarian". You can still infuse meat flavors, if you wish, by using broth in the rice or sauce. Just don't make a big deal out of no meat...just do it. If you execute the meatless recipe well, they won't even notice it's not there. Don't be afraid to try new things, however if your children are small or finiky, you may want to avoid any hint that it is a new recipe or new technique. Talk about it as if they've had it before and enjoyed it. :lips:

Added later: Take advantage of the store ads. Most of the supermarkets now have websites where you can find out what is on special. Many markets honor the sale prices of their competitors, which means you may not have to run from store to store. Look for incentives such as double or triple coupons and rebates in the newspaper and online. With all these 'helps' you can feed your family quite well, even on a limited budget, if you plan your purchases wisely.
"The pressure's on...let's cook something!"
"The pressure's on...let's cook something!"
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