Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Open up: Chili and cornbread

This isn't from scratch, but just a quick example of a tasty meal that requires little more than opening some packaging. Yes, of course we would all like to eat organic home cooked meals at all times, but I am here to show you how it is possible to eat cheap with some variety!

Start with a can of Chili and a box of Jiffy cornbread mix.

Corn Muffins:
Follow the directions on the box. Now, I hate crumbly cornbread. I'm already a hot mess without having to brush crumbs off my top. My little secret is to add 50% more milk or water than the box suggests. It makes them more moist and less thirst inducing. Everything else remains the same.

Open up a can of chili and heat it up on the stove. You can use any kind of chili you like. I used Ralph's Chili with Beans. I added water because I thought it was a little pasty thick. I wanted more of a soup chili than a topping chili.

We put the hot corn muffins right into the chili. It was delicious.

Cost Breakdown:
Can of Chili (Ralph's): $1
Corn muffin mix (Ralph's): $0.33
= $1.33/2= $0.67 a person

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Wino "Fancy Pants" Steaks

A friend gave me 2 bottles of wine at a dinner party. We didn't end up drinking it, and I discovered I didn't like it. But, being both cheap and considering dumping booze nearly a sin, it's been sitting on my counter. I marinated a roast in it. But I wanted to try something new and I had a couple of steaks to dress up. I've heard and read about wine reduction sauces. My mom is a great cook and she works at Richard's Farm Restaurant.

I turned to my old friend Google and began a search. I had decided on a dinner of steak with a red wine reduction sauce, baked sweet potatoes and green beans. I looked at several red wine reduction sauce recipes and got a general idea of what to do and just made my own version.

Baked Sweet Potatoes:
I'm still working on doing mulitple steps and having everything done at the same time. This should have been my first step.

1. Preheat oven at 400 degrees. Wash sweet potatoes and puncture them.
2. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 45 -60 minutes.
3. Cut open and garnish with butter and brown sugar.

Wine sauce
Olive oil
Fresh Garlic; chopped (You could use the minced kind in the jar)
Diced onion (I used the dehydrated kind you buy in the spice aisle)
Red wine

1. Heat saucepan on the stove
2. Add a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Heat the oil.
3. Add chopped garlic and onion. Let the garlic and onions carmelize.
4. Pour wine into sauce pan. (I think it was about 2 cups. I don't make it a habit to measure when pouring wine.)
5. Add a couple pinches of flour to thicken the sauce as it reduces.
6. Boil until the mixture reduce to 1/2, maybe a little more. Stir occaisionally.

I covered the steaks lightly with a rub of olive oil, salt and pepper. As they were thin steaks, I only cooked them 1-2 mintues on each side.

Green Beans
Let's not pretend. I opened a can of green beans and nuked them with some diced onion mixed in.

Cost Breakdown
Steaks: $2.10 (Ralph's Manager Special)
Wine: $FREE.99 (You could pick up a bottle of 2 buck chuck and drink the rest)
Baked sweet potatoes: $ .34 (1/3 of the $1 bag from 99 cent store)
Green Beans: $1 (Ralph's)


$3.44/2 = $1.72 a person

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Cheap, easy and fast never tasted so comfy

Hey all -

A quick little post reminding us again that there are often things in the house that can make a great meal. I heated up a can of Campbell's Chunky Beef and Veggie Soup and made 2 grilled cheese sandwiches for me and Zell. Fast, easy, cheap. All things I had in the cabinets or fridge.

Before you run to the store, double check all the stuff you "don't have to eat" in the house. It will probably surprise you.

Sloppy Cost Breakdown:

The soup was probably from the 99cent Store. We all know how I love that place.
4 pieces of bread - 7 grain loaf cost $2.50 ish (yeah, day old bread!)
2 slices of cheese - a 16 piece package was on sale at Ralph's for 2/$4

Soup - $1.00
1/4 loaf of bread: $.63
2 slices of cheese: $.25

= $1.88/2 = $.94 a person

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sometimes, You Get What You Pay For

It is unfortunate, but sometimes this is true. For example, I bought one of those put-the-soap-in-the-handle dish sponge things at the Dollar Tree. I used it today and not only did it not work, it fell apart and changed the color of the dish water. So, the lesson is, if it looks cheap, feels cheap, and is actually cheap - don't expect much out of it.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

There's NO food in the house!

The Grinch left a crumb that's even too small for a mouse! I think we've all had this thought - it goes hand in hand with "I have NOTHING to wear."

My church has been doing a series called RESET the last few weeks (click the RESET button for more details). It is a lot about finances and the recession etc. We were reminded of what the definition of "being rich" is - having more than you need. This has hit home for me. I'm so guilty of running to the store to pick up stuff when I feel like it, even if I am doing so in a cheap fashion. So, I went home and reorganized my cabinets and fridge and decided to commit to making a meal out of the smorgasbord of things I had.

I found several meal options in my stores. I decided on broccoli soup with garlic bread and salad. I had bought the can of soup on a whim and forgotten I had it. The garlic bread was leftover in the freezer from another meal, and we had bagged salad in the fridge.

I heated the soup on the stove and popped the garlic bread in the oven. I then threw a little shredded cheese on the soup.

This is what I came up with:

Cost Estimate/Breakdown

Can of soup: $1
Leftover Bread: 1/2 $1.50 box of bread = $.75
1/2 bag of salad: $1.50

Total cost: $3.25/2 = $1.63 a person

So the next time you say "There's no food in the house!" Just take a look and see what you have. You might be pleasantly surprised to see how rich you are.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Bringing the Pub Home

Sooooooooooo...I'm working on this great show at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, How the Grinch Stole Christmas. It totally owns me. Here's the thing: when you work the kind of hours we do, there is a lot of eating out. Which costs money that I don't really have. I decided to stop feeling like I HAD to join the other stage managers when they went out. This means a little more planning, my friends. And sometimes some settling for something that will nourish you, but might not be the most delicious thing ever.

This is not a post about food that is not delicious, not to worry.

This week I bought some ground beef that was on Manager Special. For you snobs out there, listen up! If food is on Manager's Special it just means that they need to get it off the shelves before the sell date. IT DOES NOT MEAN THAT IT IS EXPIRED. In fact, I'm fairly certain that it is illegal to sell food past its expiration date. I mean, don't quote me or expect me to be a witness in court if you sue your local grocery store. I'm just the girl who write a blog about eating cheaply. Not an expiration date crusader. So, use or freeze by the date on the package. When I find a great deal, I'll often choose the freeze option.

I called Zell from work (Hilariously, I was being an extra in a pilot at my other job. I did some phenomenally bad acting which included eye rolling, sighing, and looking irritated that I had just been fired.) and asked him to set out the ground beef to thaw. Mama is makin' burgers tonight! I swing by Ralph's to pick up a few essentials for the meal: buns, sweet onions and beer. I picked up 2 kinds of beer - Winter Moon for making batter for the onion rings and Guinness for some cupcakes I'm making later this week.

To make the burgers:
1 lb lean ground beef
Chips of any sort that are already in your cabinet (I used Vermont Cheddar Wheat thins)
Salt and Pepper

1. Put beef in a bowl. Add a hefty squeeze of ketchup, a lot of worcestershire, about a 1/2 cup of chips/wheat thins and salt and pepper to taste (Except you really shouldn't taste raw hamburger. It isn't good for you. Do not sue me for using the phrase "to taste"). This is another prime example of my "throw whatever I feel like in a bowl and hope for the best" style of cooking. It usually works out well.

2. Mix it with your hands. It's just easier.

3. Fashion into patties and throw on the trusty George Foreman. Or real grill if you are classy.

4. Once cooked to your specifications, put on a plate and add cheese. Let it achieve maximum melty goodness.

On to the Onion Rings:
I started with this recipe (also listed below with my changes in blue) and just riffed off of it.


  • 1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large sweet onions, sliced (I only used one onion.)
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup (Winter Moon) beer (I just poured generously and then finished the beer while I continued to cook.)
  • I thought this was WAY too salty. I added about 2 T of clover honey. I didn't measure, of course, just poured it in.


Mix together the flour, salt, pepper, oil and egg yolks. Gradually whisk in the beer. Refrigerate the batter 3 to 4 hours before using. Slice onions into rings; separate rings and dip in the batter. Deep-fry in batches in 370° oil until golden brown. Ok, so I don't have a deep fryer. It would be bad if I owned one. I put veggie oil in a pot, heat it up and checked the temp. Clearly, use tongs when doing this. ADDITIONAL DISCLAIMER (courtesy of Zell): Do not burn down your house or hurt yourself. This oil will be very hot. Line a plate with several layers of paper towels to soak up excess grease. Put onion rings on plate as they are finished.

I loved Zell's response to the onion rings. "They taste like the ones at the restaurant!"

Your finished meal may or may not look something like this:

Now it is time for our favorite part:

Cost Breakdown
**Please note: these are estimated costs because my receipt is no where near me.

1 lb Ground beef: Ralph's Manager Special $2.67
6 onion buns: Ralph's Manager Special $1.99
1 sweet onion: Ralph's $1.69 a lb/2= $.85
6 pack Winter Moon $6.99





$12.50/4 = $3.13 a person

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Happy hours

A quick link to some happy hours in the area with good specials.