Welcome to Day 1 of Eats on the Cheaps! A Sunday series dedicated to feeding lots of people, healthfully and cheaply.
Goal: make as many meals as possible, with as few ingredients as possible, and in the fastest, cheapest fashion. My plan is to focus in on one main ingredient each week.
Week 1: Great Northern Beans (or any white bean!).
After spending two hours on the most amazing grocery list of ALL time (stay tuned for next week’s post!), Enchanted Mama brought up a good point – what about all the food already at the house?
I know personally I have a whole cabinet chock full of good intentions that have never been turned into meals. One of the keys to cheap eating: fighting impulses. I am absolutely one to go to the grocery store on Sunday and pick up food for the next two weeks and then halfway through week one, lose all motivation and go out for sushi. Result? $100 or more spent at the grocery store, $30-$50 eating out, and a lot of food going bad in the fridge before I ever get around to making it.
So, we decided to create, create, create out of the cabinets.
Thus, this week’s eats total cost: $7.18 (I did need a few small things from the store!).
Disclaimer: Meals were made for three dinners with lots of leftovers – not quite a week. BUT there were several meals-worth of ingredients at the house that couldn’t be made in advance. These are noted as well. Also: these meals fed everyone except me because they do have meat in them. If I had had my choice, I would have made all meals vegetarian by simply subbing in smoked tofu or not using meat at all and using veggie stock instead of chicken. Feel free to substitute as you see fit!
Main things I found in the cabinets and fridge: cabbage, carrots, onions, sweet potatoes, nearly-bad bananas, ham, mozzarella cheese, 1 can Great Northern beans, chicken stock, a Tuscan Bean soup mix, diced tomatoes, and sliced mushrooms.
Items picked up from the store: 2 frozen pie crusts, 2 cans Great Northern beans, and 2 Thin Boboli pre-made pizza crusts. I absolutely could have made pie and pizza crust from scratch, but chose to save time and go the pre-made route.
2 ready-made pie crusts
2 cups skim milk
1 cup any type cheese (I used Mild Cheddar)
1/2 package Julienne ham strips
1 can sliced mushrooms drained, rinsed, and pressed dry with a paper towel
1 onion cooked down until “melty”
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 tsp Marjoram
1. Preheat oven to 350 F and set pie crusts out on top of oven to begin to come down closer to room temperature.
2. Whisk eggs, milk, salt and pepper, and marjoram together. Stir in all other ingredients.
3. Split egg mixture between the two crusts. Note: We used the cheap pie crusts which are pretty shallow – if you are making these yourself or getting deeper pie crusts I would add 2 eggs and beef up the cheese, ham, and veggies.
4. Bake at 350 F for 30-40 minutes, until top is golden brown and middle jiggles only very slightly. A little jiggle is alright because the Quiche will still set up a little as it cools, but too much jiggle means it’s still egg goo in the middle!
Refrigerator Soup (with meat)
1 onion, sliced thin
4 large carrots, sliced thin
1/2 head cabbage, chopped
1 sweet potato baked, cooled, and cubed
1/2 package Julienne ham strips
32 oz chicken stock
1 can Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
Tuscan White Bean soup mix – this could EASILY be replaced with another can of white beans and some extra seasoning!
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup skim milk
1. Saute onions for 3 minutes. Add in carrots and cabbage and saute for 2 minutes. Add 1/4-1/2 cup water (enough that whole bottom of the pan is covered, but not so much that the veggies are sitting in a pool). Cover and let steam until carrots are near-soft. Remove lid and let remaining water steam out. Add ham and lightly fry.
2. Combine veggie/ham mix, sweet potato cubes, stock, beans, soup mix, and seasonings in a large stock pot. Bring to a light boil. Lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
3. Turn off heat. Stir in milk and serve! Note: we added the milk as an afterthought because the combo of soup mix and chicken stock was a little too salty (Sarah did all the taste-testing for me! That’s the worst part of being a vegetarian – preparing dishes that you have no idea if they’re palatable or not). It could easily be omitted if yours is fine, but does add a nice creamy consistency!
Refrigerator Soup (Vegetarian)
I actually made this for B and I last week – I’m new to smoked tofu, but have absolutely fallen in love with it. The flavor is pretty intense, so use sparingly. This soup is everything that ham and navy beans was in my childhood!
24 oz veggie broth
3 cans Great Northern Beans, drained and rinsed
1 onion, thinly sliced
3 carrots, thinly sliced
1 yellow squash or zucchini
3 stalks celery
1 sweet potato, baked and cubed
1 package smoked tofu, cubed (and pressed if necessary – Nigari brand, what I used, doesn’t typically need to be pressed)
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper
1. Saute onion, carrots, celery, and squash in olive oil.
2. Combine all ingredients in large stock pan. Bring to a light boil, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes. This soup is great to make on the weekend and then eat throughout the week – the flavor just gets better and better!
White Bean Pizza
2 cans Great Northern Beans, drained and rinsed
4 T olive oil
1/4 tsp white wine vinegar
1 T garlic
1 onion, thinly sliced OR 1/2 packet Lipton Onion Soup Mix
1 1/2 tsp white pepper
1 tsp black pepper
1 can diced tomatoes or fresh tomatoes
1 package shredded Mozzarella
2 Boboli Thin Pizza Crusts OR you can make your own
Smoked ham (deli meat) or bacon if desired
1. Preheat oven to 450 F.
2. If using fresh onion, saute down until “melty.”
3. If using ham, slice into thin slices and crisp with a little cooking spray in a frying pan. If using bacon, cook accordingly to crumble and sprinkle on top.
4. Food process or use an immersion blender (what I used) to cream beans, oil, vinegar, garlic, onion (sautéed or Lipton Onion Soup Mix), and peppers. Taste at this point to check flavor and add salt, pepper, garlic as needed. Once satisfied, stir in Italian seasoning.
5. Lightly brush edges of pizza crusts with olive oil. Slather on bean mixture. Top with fresh or diced tomatoes, cheese, and then ham or bacon if using (placing ham on top of the cheese helps it crisp up even further in the oven!).
6. Pop pizzas in the oven and then lower the temperature to 425 F. Bake for 15 minutes, until cheese is melted and bubbly.
It’s amazing what can be created just from what’s in the cabinets! I also made two loaves of banana bread with the near-bad bananas – I used a Weight Watcher’s recipe which was nothing to write home about and I definitely won’t be making it again. Instead of eating sub-par banana bread, I’m turning it into French Toast for B! The pizza was AMAZING, no joke. And I am absolutely going to use the same concept to make a homemade Italian hummus dip the next time I want to impress my guests.
The awesome thing about the Refrigerator Soup, both with and without meat, is that you can put anything in it. Use up vegetables about to go bad, pull out whatever you’ve had in cans in the back of the cabinet for the last several months, add pasta, change the seasonings and make it Cajun or Mexican – it can be anything! It makes a pretty big pot-full, so plan on serving several, eating it for lunch every day with a salad, or freezing half.
Make these recipes even cheaper if you don’t have beans on hand by buying a bag or two of dried beans, soaking overnight, picking out stones, and cooking over the stove.
List of meals for the Enchanted Household this week:
-White bean pizza and, err, cookie dough out of the fridge
-Quiche with fried potatoes
-Refrigerator soup with cornbread
-Quinoa pasta with sauteed onion and zucchini + jarred pasta sauce
-Jambalaya with Butterball turkey sausage
– Grilled chicken and frozen veggies (there are a freakin’ ton in the freezer) – 2 extra chicken breasts made this night and tossed in the fridge for…
– Mushroom risotto with chicken (arborio rice, cream of mushroom soup, sliced mushrooms, garlic, onions, herbs or choice, and cubed chicken will be what is in our recipe, though the link to Food and Wine’s recipe looks amazing!)
Fun Tip o’ the Week: When you have an hour, make several baked potatoes (sweet or white) to have on hand. Cook in the microwave with a tid bit of water, covered in cellophane for about 15 minutes. Wrap individually in aluminum foil with a dash of olive oil and salt and pepper. Bake at 400 F until cooked through, about an hour. Leave wrapped and toss in the fridge. Pull out to eat on the go, for inclusion in soups or other dishes, or to slice up and pan fry a few minutes to have breakfast potatoes anytime!
Longest. Post. Ever.
It’s off to get a run and yoga class in before starting homework for me – wait, homework? Oh, yeah. Last semester of college and all that.
Enchanted cooking, all! Take the tiniest bit of time this lovely Sunday evening for a few quiet, meditative moments before your week starts. And tune in next weekend for Eats on the Cheaps: Quinoa!