Need a laugh? Money saving dinners...

Bumblebeez SC Zone 7February 19, 2009

This article was in our local paper yesterday. I think most here could teach the columnist a lesson or two. My favorite part was about the Hormel roast beef dinners.

Here is a link that might be useful: Frugal dinners

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Bumblebeez, what a hoot! I almost gagged at what the writer considers food. Would not be hard for me to pass up many of their meals and consider fasting!

On the other hand, when all else fails, I can be satisfied with a fried egg sandwich-on homemade bread (egg from our hens). A bit biased.

Wonder how much of the writer's income goes to 'indulgences' that could be allocated to the real food budget. From past advisory work, it has always amazed me what some folks think of as weekly nail salon visits, full spectrum cable service, daily starbucks,etc...

Grainlady may have some comments that are sure to give pause to a few for whom cooking from scratch is a foreign language.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2009 at 4:20PM
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I guess everyone has to start SOMEWHERE. The point is that they're making the effort and seeing results. Maybe before long they'll learn how easy it is to make tuna helper without the helper. LOL --Ilene

    Bookmark   February 19, 2009 at 5:54PM
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HAHAHA - that IS a hoot! One person's frugal is another person's YIKES!!!!

I'm MOST horrified by their using UP the pantry foods. In this day and age stockpiling is money in the bank! Not to mention emergencies. Every dimes worth of food I have in storage is earning more interest than my checking account.

I have a pantry in my kitchen about the same size as the picture and there's little in their that you'll find in mine. Anyone surprised? I do have canned goods in storage in the basement, but they are considered "emergency food" at our house and are generally donated to the local food bank.

Homemade bread
Homemade brownies
Several kinds of nuts vacuum-sealed in canning jars
Chia Seeds
Dehydrated apple slices (home dehydrated from free apples)
Sucanat (a "natural" sugar)
Coconut Oil
Agave Nectar
Morning Moo's whey-based milk substitute
Homemade dehydrated soup mixes
Homemade Granola
Spices/Herbs (many home-grown)
Popcorn (bulk - not microwave)
Maple Syrup
Maple Sugar
Dried Egg Noodles (homemade)
Dried Spelt Penne
Dried Spelt Spaghetti
Homemade chocolate pudding/cocoa mix
Homemade vanilla pudding mix
Dried Black Beans (for instant refried breans)
User-friendly amounts of rice, soft white wheat, hard white wheat, split peas, lentils, navy beans, black beans, oat groats, pinto beans, rye, triticale, spelt, kamut

Blueberrier1 - I'll gladly take that egg sandwich (LOL).


    Bookmark   February 19, 2009 at 6:28PM
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I'm not as amused. One person's waste is another person's frugal. I don't cook like the columnist, but then I don't cook as many whole foods or store bulk foods like Grainlady either. I think if the columnist is taking steps to conserve money then she is going in the right direction. She is using more convenience foods which is cheaper than a meal out. Personally, I probably wouldn't want to eat much of what she mentioned, but I can still applaud her effort. If someone wanted to help out, they could probably leave a few suggestions in the comments section of that article.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2009 at 10:55PM
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Well everyone is entitled to think as they like. The columnist thought she was making great headway into being frugal, and she stuck to her budget. I don't live her way but found it interesting reading none the less. Take what you want from the article - if you find it funny, great, if you don't , great, it was a look into someone else's world - take it or leave it.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2009 at 12:08AM
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Chemocurl zn5b/6a Indiana

Maybe before long they'll learn how easy it is to make tuna helper without the helper. LOL
I gotta admit...That's me too!

I did learn that I can easily substitute other 'stuff' in place of the tuna in tuna helper. My bad. I use ground beef, cooked chicken, whatever, and add in a can of peas oftentimes.

I'll admit, my pantry looks a good bit like the one in the pic, but do well at least at some things.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2009 at 12:49AM
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Bumblebeez SC Zone 7

Sure everyone is different and we all eat/like different things and plenty of us don't raise our own beef or mill our own grain...or even bake bread and yes, she is taking small steps in the right direction but it still is so different from classic frugal tips I've read all my life (tightwad gazettes for example) and everybody chooses how to save money
in the way that suits them best- but I still think it was funny! For what she spent on the hormel dinners she could buy a roast and make three times as much roast beef with au jus and it would probably taste a lot better too.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2009 at 9:03AM
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Yeah, it is funny in that she thinks she is saving money with the items that she buys. Buying prepackaged food costs more then if you were to buy the meat itself and make more meals for your family out of it. You are right there, bumblebeez. Plus prepackaged is not as healthy for your family with all the crap that is put into it. Definitely not my type of cooking. She needs to check this forum for real money saving tips! NancyLouise

    Bookmark   February 20, 2009 at 10:03AM
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Chemocurl zn5b/6a Indiana

Taken from the link
3. The restaurant craving will go away. During the first week, all I could think about was Zen Sushi's half-price Mondays; Beckley BrewHouse sweet potato fries and strawberry salad; Urban Market's Cajun shrimp and pico mango quesadillas and any place for pizza.

Yes, I'd say the writer has come a long way in improving what was spent on food eating out so much. She has made a step in the right direction anyway.

I thought #2 was really a hoot!
2. Don't run out of dog biscuits. By mid-month, we were feeding our terrier mutts, Xena and Noodle, odd treats from the pantry. (Guy fed them sugar cones.) The day I gave each half a hamburger bun, Noodle sought revenge by eating an entire stick of 100-percent cocoa butter for chapped hands.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2009 at 12:52PM
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The point is, they're NOT eating out. And they're TRYING. Oh, how I wish I could convince my grown son to cook at home -- anything! -- instead of going for fast food. Fast food's not expensive compared to restaurant food. But still, you can cook that hamburger at home for a lot less, and it really doesn't take any more time to do that than it does to get in the car and burn the gas to go order something. He doesn't see it that way. He lives alone and doesn't stay around home a lot. He and his buddies are always working on an old car somewhere, or an old truck. He doesn't like to grocery shop, likes his kitchen to be clean but doesn't like to clean it, doesn't want to have to plan ahead any. He has a small chest-type freezer. I'm not sure what's in it.

I've thought about making him up some "home-made hamburger helper" kits. He could just buy a pound of hamburger and the rest would be there. Only one pot to clean. I hesitate though, because he thinks I already offer too much advice and he just nods his head down and looks at me out over his glasses, like, "Here she goes again..."

    Bookmark   February 22, 2009 at 1:50PM
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Well I can say that I would rather buy Hamburger Helper( store brand of coarse) Than to spend my money eating out. This time last year me and the kids were eating out two or three meals a day.... Now that my DH is not working on the road anymore we might eat out at a restaurant once a week and we still do eat off of the value menu a little during the week as we are so busy. I am starting to make more meals from scratch and not using as many convenience foods. I guess that I would rather splurge and buy the convenience foods than to go out and spend $30 to $50 eating out. I can make store brand HH, with a half pound of ground beef, veggies, bread and fruit for a little under $4.00.....and to me that is still money in the bank.
I guess we can say to each their own.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2009 at 10:08PM
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When I was working and DH wasn't, he would use Hamburger Helper, bought when it went on sale. It was him and me and two teenaged grandsons then. The guys really liked it. And I guess it was OK. Certainly filling. It calls for a pound of hamburger and I thought that was a bit much, so I asked DH if he would add extra noodles or macaroni by about two cups. We didn't notice a difference in taste and one package was enough to feed us two old people and fill up the boys. It's not a horrible choice, it's meat and pasta, although the stuff in the 'flavor pack' might be questionable. Serve a vegetable or a salad with it and you're certainly as well off or better for the meal than if you bought fast food.

Now that I'm retired, I cook most of our meals 'from scratch', but I don't see anything wrong with using Hamburger Helper. It's a step in the right direction.

I make goulash (we call it 'slumgullion') using 3 cups elbow macaroni, the equivalent of 1 can diced tomatoes and 1 can water (or if you have a quart of home-canned tomatoes, like I do, use that), a chopped green pepper, a chopped onion, salt and pepper, added to a pound of hamburger that has been cooked and drained. I cook my pasta separately and add it after it's cooked, but I imagine you could add more water and cook it all together, like you do the Hamburger Helper.

I make hamburger stroganoff using a pound of cooked, drained hamburger, about 4 cups of dry egg noodles, 1/4 C. ketchup, 1 tsp. chili powder, about 1 and 1/2 to 2 cups of homemade cream of mushroom soup (which is nothing but a 6-oz can of mushroom ends and pieces, liquid included, and about a cup of chicken or beef broth to which I've added 2 Tbsp of cornstarch and about 2/3 cup of dry nonfat milk powder). If the kids are grossed out by mushrooms, you can leave them out and increase the broth, or whir them around in a blender with the liquid till they're not recognizable. I generally cook the noodles separately. When all of this is mixed together and hot, turn off the fire and add about a cup of sour cream, kefir, or buttermilk and mix well.

Cheeseburger Macaroni is a little harder to make from scratch economically because of the cheese involved. Which is a shame because kids love the taste of cheese. Hamburger Helper and those boxes of macaroni and cheese have powdered cheese, which is cheaper for them to produce. I haven't yet found a powdered cheese that will duplicate the taste. Of course you can make the dish using real cheese or Velveeta, but if you're trying to throw together a low-cost meal, that would put it over the top. (if anybody has a cheap source or a method, chime in!)

My grandsons had a little electric sandwich maker and they made a lot of grilled cheese sandwiches with it. They normally eat so much cheese that I buy the 5# package of sliced American cheese at WMT. (Some of those smaller packages are "cheese food", not cheese, anyway. Anytime each slice is wrapped in plastic to keep it from becoming a blob, you've got fake cheese). I open the big package and separate the block into about 4 chunks and then put those in ziplock bags. If it was just the old guy and me, I'd still buy it, and just freeze all but one of the bags. I've frozen it before, when I got a really good deal on it and bought extra, with no loss of texture or flavor.

What this comes down to is, you don't want to send your kids to bed hungry. You fill them up however you can. Gourmet cooking is lost on kids and is not inexpensive. It's wonderful if you can afford it but when jobs are being lost and people are living off their savings is not the time to be buying shitake mushrooms and fancy cheeses.

All that said, I wouldn't feed my dog stuff out of my pantry as treats. For one thing, you don't want your dog to get a taste for sweet things. Dogs don't really HAVE to have treats. BUT, most of them will do the happy dance while you're popping popcorn. I know one dog that will get excited if you just say the word. Or there are lots of recipes you can use to make home-made treats using simple things. If you save the fat from chicken broth or from frying hamburger and use that in the recipe, it adds extra flavor they love. When I cook a chicken, I cook the fat, skin and bones in water to cover in the crockpot all night after I have removed the chicken from them and poured off the first broth. This makes another good batch of broth and it softens the bones till they crumble between your fingers. After I have drained off this second broth, I put the bones and skin that's left into my food processor and whir it around till it's the consistency of canned dog food. Some of this can be added to the dog biscuit dough, or given as a treat in the food dish by the spoonful.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2009 at 8:23AM
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Sometimes people can go a little overboard in any direction. I like Carl Sagin's quote "If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe"

Frugal IS in the mind of the beholder. There's those who think that a free pedicure on the world cruise is frugal. Others think that spending anything is unconscionable.

I agree with Grainlady that everyone should have a pantry of staples in the house. To me that just makes sense. Basic common sense. I disagree however in never using it. How many people have a stockpile of duct tape and bottled water from the y2k scare? I believe you have the pantry, then use and replace. It's your own mini-store. Go "shopping" there and use until you need to stock the shelves. If you don't do that you're back to going to the store needlessly and that costs money. Throwing away and yes donating doesn't earn you or save you money. Donating is of course a good thing but we disagree on the method.

Given today's society, "semi-homemade" is a good thing in my mind. A lot of people are afraid to cook. We've done our kids a real injustice by not teaching them some basic life skills, like how to cook, balance a checkbook, use credit responsibly, etc. To me, buying hot dogs, store buns and potato chips and having at home is preferable to yelling your order into a clown's mouth. People would shudder at my meal tonight. While at the store I hit the deli and got sandwich meat, good multigrain bread, some potato salad and cole slaw. And BTW, what's with people who believe the taters in salad should be crunchy??? But I digress. I fully realize I won't make a $100 a month budget eating like this but it's cheaper than eating out. And I doubt anyone who believes they always cook from scratch meet $100/month food budget either. The writer had some good points.

There's going to be debates on what actually is cheaper. There's valid points on trade off of time. A family of 5 or 6 working together surely would be able to do more than a single person or a couple who are still working. The author however made valid points that I think several of you missed. That is you can get along without the fast food joint, the coffee shop and the like and spend less.

I also liked the point about you can make mistakes when cooking and it's not always the end of the world. In the end is it edible? And isn't that one of the main things?

And I liked the comment "I am tempted to apologize for liking Tuna Helper and buying processed foods and taking cooking shortcuts. But I still struggle with the planning and the cooking, so this is good for now." When I moved into my first apartment, one of my favorite meals was of all things, fish sticks and (yes, instant) mashed potatoes. It took me so many years to get the knack of making real mashed potatoes that weren't gummy or hard so good instants (and there are some that are good) were a very acceptable substitute. Sadly, today you can't get a decent fish stick! But again I digress.

I also liked the comment about meal planning and avoiding the "what should we do for food tonight" problem. We all know what trouble that can cause.

Convenience foods are nothing new. How do you think Columbus made it across the ocean to get lost? He didn't have live cows being butchered onboard, a planter growing wheat and ovens to bake bread. Cowboys in the cattle roundup certainly made use of convenience foods. Care to know what the military eat at times?

I will say, it isn't the best article in the world. But there's a lot of valid points in there, and to be amused by it is fine. Laugh at it if you want. That's fine. But I think you only do yourself an injustice to miss the points being made. All boiled down, we have the same intentions, just different needs and methods to arrive at the destination. And I for one will give kudos that they made $100 monthly budget and came in actually under budget. Again I say, frugal is in the mind of the beholder.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2009 at 1:55AM
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