Friday, October 16, 2015

Don't hate on Hamburger Helper!

We've all been there. The clock strikes 5:00pm and we are still looking in our cabinet trying to decode a dish to feed our starving families. Shoot... sometimes we don't even make it into the kitchen at 5:00pm - sometimes it's more like 6:25pm... guilty!

Frequently the act of frugality is often associated with the idea of cooking everything from scratch to save money. But this is not necessarily the case. While the word "frugal" can mean different things to similar people the outcome is always the same: Saving money. Now there are some people out there that believe that making all meals from scratch to be not only less expensive but healthier for you as well. While the healthier factor is likely true the "less expensive" factor is not always. My perfect example is: Hamburger Helper!

There are four reasons why this boxed meal will always be close to my heart:

Making this skillet dish requires 3 ingredients (in addition to the box mix of course): Ground beef, milk and water. These are items we tend to try to save money on everyday and usually have on hand already so no inconvenience there! 

Preparation time - you cannot beat a 20 minute cook time from pan to plate. 

Price: Cheap. The typical shelf price at Walmart is around $1.58 per box but many grocery stores in my area (and I'm pretty sure all over the country) will quite frequently put every variety on sale for $1.00 each and I have even seen them as low as $.79! There are constantly coupons out there whether they are printable from home or a tear pad at the grocery store which is usually around a $.20 per box discount too which makes it even cheaper.

Variety. There are so many options you could have a different one once a week for a few months before repeating. Don't forget the chicken or tuna varieties!

Whenever I whip up a box for dinner last minute I almost always use a boxed potato mix with it because if I'm gonna go boxed meal... I go all out! It's hard to beat 5 minute potatoes. Boil up a canned veg and you have dinner in literally 20 minutes. BOOM!

Now, it's not the healthiest meal but I do think it's better for you than an ordered pizza and much better for your wallet too. I always have a shelf in my cabinet dedicated to Hamburger Helper because even though I meal plan... something always seems to go off course and I need these to keep me on track! Like tonight... allergies hit our house hard and the last thing I wanted to do was stand around in the kitchen cooking. Hamburger Helper to the rescue!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Scalloped Potatoes with Ham ($.69 per serving!)

Scalloped potatoes are a favorite in our house. Papa Woody goes weak in the knees over a good cheese sauce. Since it's so easy... I indulge him every once in awhile! 
Sometimes I'll make standard scalloped potatoes as a side but tonight I felt like doing a one dish recipe so I threw some ham in there and it was delish!

Here's what you'll need:

8 medium russet potatoes (approx. $1.50)
1 lb fully cooked smoked ham ($1.75)
4 tbsp butter ($.25)
4 tbsp flour ($.05)
3 cups milk (approx. $.40)
8 oz Velveeta ($1.50)
2 tsp prepared mustard ($.05)
Garlic powder
Onion powder

Boil your potatoes as is until fork tender or cook in the pressure cooker (my preferred method!) but don't peel them first. After they've been cooked, allow the potatoes to cool so that you can handle them. I like to boil them early in the day so they are ready for use when it's time to prepare dinner.
Peel the cooked potatoes and cube them. Cube up your ham and set aside. 
Now you are going to make your cheese sauce which is super simple and super yummy. Start by melting the butter in a sauce pan. Once melted, slowly add your flour and whisk over med-high heat for 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in your milk a little at a time to avoid clumps. turn down to med-low to avoid scalding the sauce.
Whisk in mustard. Season the white sauce with salt, pepper, onion & garlic powder to taste. Add in cubed Velveeta and whisk to melt. Taste and season again if necessary.
In a 9x13 pan, lay out cubed potatoes. Pour half of the cheese sauce over the potatoes. Top with cubed ham then top with the remaining cheese sauce.
Cover and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Uncover and bake another 10 minutes. Let sit 5-10 minutes before serving! Makes 8 servings for only $5.50. That's only $.69 per serving!!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Mama's Cheesy Chicken Spaghetti ($1.35 per serving!)

Here's a recipe that I've seen many versions of just floating around the internet. I've even eaten it once at a relative's house but the dish that I recall was suuuuper thick and suuuuuper cheesy in a not so good way - yes, it is possible to have too much cheese (blasphemy!). I wanted to do a pasta dish tonight for supper but didn't want to go Italian which is the obvious route so I decided to tweak this dish a little. I scoured the web for a whopping 15 minutes and couldn't find a recipe that looked right. So what's a mama to do? Make it up as I go!  A little of this, a little of that... some more milk... a little more cheese. Took a little longer than it should have but now that I know what works it should go much faster next time!

This is what I came up with:

12 oz dry spaghetti noodles ($.79 on sale)
4 boneless chicken thighs (approx. $3.00)
1/4 cup butter or margarine ($.30)
2 cans cream of chicken soup ($1.25 on sale)
1 can Rotel, mild ($.97)
8 oz Velveeta ($1.50 on sale)
3/4 cup milk ($.27)
Salt & Pepper

In a large pot, boil chicken thighs in salted water for about 15 minutes until fully cooked. Remove chicken and chop into pieces but do not discard the water. Boil the spaghetti noodles in the chicken broth until cooked through. Drain and dump water but do not rinse the pasta!
Use the same pot to melt the butter and saute the chicken for a quick minute. Add in the Rotel and cream of soups. Sprinkle with salt & pepper and maybe some garlic or onion powder if you're feeling a little more flavor! Once heated through add in cubed Velveeta and heat over low until cheese as melted. Stir in milk and season to taste. Add in the spaghetti and toss to coat. Serve it up! Big 'ol Pot that easily feeds 6 for only $8.08. That's only around $1.35 per serving!

**You could probably do a full 16 oz box of spaghetti noodles and easily stretch this to 8 servings. I did a 12 oz box and it was still pretty saucy but I didn't want to cook more pasta just to add to it!