Ever wonder how people are able to make food for $1 or less per serving? It starts by cutting out the processed foods and learning to use inexpensive kitchen staples to create inexpensive meals. Good planning and preparation can mean big savings at the grocery store.
The items that we have on hand are what determine how far our food will go. Filling your cabinets or pantry with a few useful staples can be the difference between a trip to the grocery store each and every week versus once or twice a month. Stocking just a few choice items is all you need to create wonderful meals.
1. Flour. Flour is a starter item for many recipes. You can add it to some water and make gravy in the pan for many meat dishes. Flour is used to make bread (biscuits, rolls, loaves) and to coat chicken. It can also be used to coat a round or square cake pan to prevent the cake from sticking. Of course, one of the favorite uses for flour is in cookie recipes that make scrumptious desserts.
2. Rice. Rice is a side dish, but it doesn’t have to be plain. It can be jazzed up with veggies to accompany dinner. Ever tried sweet rice? Just add evaporated milk and some sugar to a bowl of rice and warm it in the microwave. It is a tasty treat for after dinner. Another popular dessert is rice pudding. Rice can also be mixed with leftover meat and a cream soup to form a casserole. One of my favorites is to mix cooked rice with black beans and salsa, let sit over night. This makes a great filling for burritos or tacos.
3. Pasta. There are many different pasta choices and all have great uses. Manicotti (See freezer recipe below) can be stuffed with tomato sauce and cheeses. Macaroni can be used to make a creamy salad and also is great combined with cheese or spaghetti sauce. Spiral pasta is used in many different pasta salads. Spaghetti can be used in a casserole topped with cheese or in the traditional way with tomato sauce and meat.
4. Spices. There are other ways to season food besides salt and pepper. In fact, many spices taste better than salt. Even diehard salt-a-holics won’t miss the salt in foods if other seasonings are used. Cayenne pepper, chili powder, nutmeg, cinnamon, oregano, and garlic powder are all useful tools in your flavor arsenal to give foods a fresh new taste.
5. Beans. There go those beans again. Beans can top your salad (edamame), make an awesome dip (black beans), and go well with grilled foods (baked beans). They provide a good source of protein with very little fat. Beans are good in soups, stews, and over rice for a simple yet filling meal. One of my favorites is lentils, they are very inexpensive and provide a simple yet filling meal.
Do you have these staples in your kitchen? You can probably think of several more that will enhance your pantry and save money. Start with these and grow your own list of basic kitchen staples that are versatile and economical.
What You Need:
Manicotti pasta shells
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves – minced
1/4 C olive oil
3 C cooked ham, chopped
1 C grated Parmesan cheese, divided
6 T butter
6 T all purpose flour
3 C milk
2 C shredded Swiss cheese
How to Make It:
Place the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
Add the onion and garlic.
Cook until tender about 5 minutes.
Remove from the heat.
Add the ham and allow to cool for about 15 minutes.
Stir in 1/2 C of the Parmesan cheese.
Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box.
Drain and allow to cool.
Place the butter in a large saucepan over medium high heat.
Cook until butter becomes foamy looking.
Carefully stir in the flour.
Cook 3 minutes until it begins to bubble.
Be sure to stir continuously so the flour doesn’t burn.
Carefully pour in the milk.
Stir continuously until the sauce begins to thicken.
Stir in the Swiss cheese until smooth.
Place 1/4 of the cheese sauce into the ham mixture and stir.
Fill each shell with the ham mixture.
Place enough cheese sauce to cover the bottom of a large glass baking dish.
Place the shells in the cheese sauce.
Pour the rest of the cheese sauce over the top of the pasta shells.
Place in the refrigerator to cool.
Once cool wrap with the freezer wrap and freeze for up to 2 months.
When ready to cook thaw the dish overnight in the refrigerator.
Uncover and cover with the 1/2 grated Parmesan cheese.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Bake casserole for 1 hour or until heated completely through.
This dish is great to make ahead and freeze, just put it in the refrigerator to thaw in the morning and you have dinner ready to go in the oven when you get home that night!