Cheeseburger Macaroni

Yesterday we were out all day until 4:00, which didn't leave us many options for dinner.

Some nights you just want an easy dinner. Something quick and simple and packed with sodium. I'm thinking of those handy boxes where you just add meat and cook everything in one skillet.
I'm sick of those.
So I thought I'd try something better.

Cheeseburger Macaroni
You need:
* 2-3 cups cooked macaroni noodles (or other fun noodle shape)
* 2-3 tbsp tomato sauce (or 1 tbsp tomato paste)
* Processed cheese product (Velveeta)
* milk
* corn (or other veggies - we tried broccoli last night since we were out of corn)
* 1/2 lb ground beef (1 whole pound is better, but we're really trying to stretch our dollar and half is enough for just the four of us)
* seasonings (basil, oregano, onion)

Brown the beef (seasoned with salt & pepper). Add a couple spoonfuls of tomato sauce (any kind will do). Add some seasonings such as oregano, onion, basil (if your sauce is on the plain side, add extra). Pour in a little milk (you will add more as you melt the cheese to balance) and add two big thick slice of processed cheese. Stir it around, add more cheese and milk, until you have a nice sauce and enough to coat your noodles. Add noodles and corn, mix it up, serve it up! :)

Macaroni           $0.25
Beef  (1/2lb)      $1
Cheese              $1
Corn                  $0.33
Milk                   $0.35
Tomato Sauce    $0.10
Total:                        $3.03
(Served 4)

(This price breakdown is based on my most recent purchases of these items: $1 for a bag of macaroni and using only 1/4 of that bag, 1/2lb of beef at $2/lb, 900g cheese product purchased for $5 using about 1/5 of package, half a can of corn niblets purchased for $0.66, using only one cup of milk $5.78 for 4L, and just two spoonfuls of a $.50 can of tomato sauce - though I only ever use leftover sauce I already have open in the fridge).

Wheat Crackers

IMG_4553bI love Wheat Thins. They're such a delicious snackysnack. Anytime I can get them at a good price - I stock up.

I recently came across a recipe for making your own! And since I'm out of my favorite junk food, I thought it'd be worth a try since I already have the ingredients sitting around!

It tastes very much like wheat thins. Actually, dead-on. And I'm pretty picky - I would notice.

Here is the recipe I used to guide me from The Baker Chick. If you want a more detailed recipe and instructions, I highly recommend reading her article.

Now, I didn't have any butter - so I used some of this Tenderflake Golden Vegetable Shortening I picked up awhile back. It seemed to work fine. Also, I forgot the vanilla. Again, it was still good!

All you have to do is mix wheat flour, sugar, salt, paprika and cut in the butter/shortening with a pastry cutter. Add water and mix. Roll it out real thin, cut squares with a pizza cutter. Bake at 400. Easy peasy. A little tedious, but if you're craving wheat thins definitely worth the time! They were a huge hit in this house - all gone in minutes. I need another batch.

(After doing a price breakdown I realized it isn't much cheaper than buying a box on sale - not when you calculate the effort this takes. However, since I already had the ingredients around it was worth it. And I won't mind doing it again when a craving strikes.)

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Borscht PhotoIn my last CSA box we got a lot of beets. I look forward to beets once in awhile. I'm not the biggest fan of beets, however. What I am a fan of is borscht. And chocolate beet-cake, but we'll get to that later.

Borscht is delicious. Hearty. And super cheap to make. Basically you just need beets, cabbage, carrots, sausages (optional, but to me they make all the difference), and some tomato (diced, tomato paste, a little of both...). Shred, cook, bam - dinner. Delicous cold-killing dinner. (Our entire family came down with a nasty cold over the weekend. This was so simple to make that I still managed to whip it up on my sickest day.)

I loosely followed this recipe from
However, I did make some changes.
  1. I omit the potatoes - there's enough going on already
  2. More diced tomatoes - Why not use the whole can? Our cans are 28oz. I tried starting with just half the can, then thought "what the heck" and dumped the rest in
  3. Less tomato paste - Maybe because I'm using so much more diced tomatoes I felt it wasn't necessary. I started with about 2tblsp or so of paste, then added another 2 or so. (It's hard to gauge since I store it frozen and tube-shaped ... perhaps I'll demonstrate that in another article -- but I used 4 "slices" which are about a tbsp each, maybe less.)

  • Sausage (about a pound)
  • Cabbage (about half a head)
  • Beets (3 should be fine)
  • Carrots (again, 3 is good)
  • Garlic (yes, 3)
  • Onion
  • Tomato Paste
  • Diced Tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp vinegar
Basically this recipe is just a throw-everything-in-the-pot and simmer. But in case you'd prefer order over chaos, here's what I did. First, brown the sausage in a big stock pot. Add onions, cook 'til tender. Add diced tomatoes and water (at least another can-ful). Shred carrots and beets, add to pot. Make sure there's enough water to cover. Cover and simmer until the beets and carrots are soft. Add garlic and tomato paste. Simmer a little more. Add shredded cabbage, cover and simmer until soft. Taste it! Add more t.paste or whatever else you think it needs. Add about 2tbsp of vinegar for a little tang. Don't forget your salt and pepper! Serve this hot with a big dollop of sour cream (optional, but delicious).

This makes a really big batch. It easily fed our family of four. We had some for dinner, a little leftovers for lunch, and still had enough to freeze for another dinner.

I really hope you give this a try. It's somewhat simple, fairly fool-proof, and definitely delicious.

Cost Analysis

Sausage           $2.50
Beets               $0.83
Carrots            $0.18
Cabbage          $1.03
Diced Tomato  $0.89
Tomato Paste   $0.50
Onion              $0.07
Garlic              $0.03
Vinegar            $0.02
Total:                        $6.05
(8-12 servings)

(This price breakdown is based on my most recent purchases of these items or for CSA vegetables on sale prices in store:
 $10 for a large bag of frozen sausages using 1 pack out of 4 for $2.50, beets and carrots I'll estimate using 1lb even though I'm sure it was less - 3lbs of beet can be found for $2.50 or less, I last bought a 10lb bag of carrots for $1.88,  I buy cabbage at .69/lb and this recipe uses about a pound but just in case and to account for the giant stem that doesn't get used I will estimate for 1.5 pounds, onion I will estimate at a max of 6oz and the last time I bought onions outside the CSA was for $1.88 for 10lbs, the garlic I used was a gift but a pack of 3 costs less than $1 and each head contains at least 12 cloves, a liter of vinegar is $1 and there are at least 67 tbsp in a liter. I did not calculate the sour cream, it is entirely optional.... but delicious).


            Hello!  Sorry I've been away for so long.  Tragedy struck my family in April and since then I've been pretty distracted.
            However, our current financial status has changed so drastically that I've been motivated to restart this blog. I'd like this to be more of a journal documenting our journey through a waning pantry. Sorry, that sounds bleak. We are not starving - hopefully this blog will prove that. What I mean is - I'd like to document all the meals and other such recipes and trickery that I'm implementing to save as much money as humanly possible. Also, there will be times when I have to make-do with what we have on hand. I'd like to share these stories. Because it's encouraging to know how much we can do - even with so little.

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Preparing for the Good Food Box

So I've officially resumed my bi-weekly subscription to our local CSA, here called the "Good Food Box."
I will post tomorrow with photos of my newest haul & some of the past ones I hadn't yet mentioned. :)

But today, however, is the day I prepare for such a large influx of produce. I need to sort out what I already have and somehow "deal with it."  Today's cleanup was very simple. I still had the celeriac from the last box,  some limp celery, and some onions nearing their end.

Now I'll introduce what I typically do with leftover and scrap veggies.
I freeze them.
Yeah, nearly all of them. Now.
I always froze onions, celery, and peppers. Onions & peppers mostly for convenience, celery because for awhile I just couldn't use it all (though that is less of a problem these days with kids who like celery for a snack).  I used to immediately chop and freeze half of my celery. It still works well in any cooked dish (casseroles or soups, for example). Now I have a different approach. When/if I have celery that is a bit limpy, it's time to freeze it.
Here's what I do with the celery.
  1. Chop off the very bottom, pull all the stalks apart and wash them.
  2. Cut the stalks to about 4 inches long and freeze those for stuffing inside a roast chicken. 
  3. Tear off all the leaves and toss or compost (or if you're really feeling thrifty, dry them...)
  4. Put remaining bits and pieces into a giant freezer bag.


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Stuffed Peppers

I found this recipe I had hidden away in a "recipe box" online. I don't remember ever trying it before, but it sounded good so I gave it a shot. The whole family loved it so much, it's become a regular menu item! Though, with a few alterations, of course.

For a family of four (two adults, two minis):
  • 3 green peppers
  • 2-3 pork sausages 
    • alternative: season ground pork with garlic, onion, oregano, salt & pepper
  •  tomato sauce 
    • any old kind will do fine, last night I used leftover spaghetti sauce
  •  mozzarella cheese
  •  rice (here I used 3 cups cooked basmati rice)
Follow the jump for more instructions

Foaming hand soap!

When my firstborn was potty training, we bought him Kandoo soap. Not cheap. Apparently you can buy refills, but I haven't seen them anywhere we normally shop.
We've been out of liquid handsoap for ages. As an alternative we've been using bar soap in the bathroom and dishsoap/water mix in the kitchen pump.  It's been working, but I really wanted some proper liquid soap. Finally, we picked up a big bucket at WalMart.
I read somewhere than foaming hand soap is the same as regular, it's the pump that makes it foam. So I thought I could use the same cheap soap to refill the kids' pump. Well, it works! Not as simple as just adding soap, though. It needs to be diluted. I used about 1 part soap to 3 or 4 parts water. (It's hard to say exactly, I just kept testing it until it felt right.)

I started writing this post last year and never published it. Since then I've read many other bloggers claim they do the same with their favorite soap, body wash, and even shampoo! I had an old bottle of my favorite (and expensive) body wash sitting in a drawer. I just didn't have the heart to use up the last of it. There wasn't even really enough to pour out onto a loofa. So I filled the bottle with water, swirled it a bit, and added that to one of my foaming dispensers. It worked great! There was plenty of soap, it foamed nicely, and best of all it smelled fantastic!

With this discovery I will never buy foaming hand soaps again (not that I ever did except the Kandoo). Also, it's a great way to use up miscellaneous small bits of liquid soap (including hotel soaps).

So now I have two foaming pumps. I keep one in the bathroom with diluted generic liquid hand soap, but the one in kitchen is mine. In that I use my favorite scented soaps, just for me.

So give it a try. You'll be glad. :)

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