Today's post is all about cooking on a budget! Things have been, for several reasons, a little tight in our budget this month. My husband and I both working for a college dining service and, therefore, hit times where our finances get a little tighter due to lack of work when the students leave campus. This month was one of them for us. So, I used a couple key strategies to making it through. First off, I bought things on sale. The main place I check for this is in the meat section. The reason I start there is because that's usually where my menu planning has to start. So, why not look to the sales to base my recipes off of. Plus, I can get the best deals there a lot of times since the protein and fresh produce are usually the bulk of my grocery bill. I am blessed to have a large pantry and upright freezer so, I often buy in bulk or take advantage of 'buy one, get one' offers. Getting two anything for the price of one is awesome on any budget. I scored a great deal on an Angus beef bottom round roast so I knew I was either going to slow roast it in the oven or put my slow cooker to work. This is another budget saver. Cuts of meat that you would roast take a little longer and a little planning, but they are tougher pieces of meat and therefore cheaper. With a little TLC and taking the time to slow roast it, you can do wonderful things taking a 'tough' piece of meat and making it incredibly tender.
The other thing I took advantage of this week was shopping in my own pantry. I purposely didn't find a recipe and make a list and go shopping for that recipe as I usually would. I, instead, used what I had and found and tweaked a recipe to work for me and what I had on hand. Just so happens, since I was off that day, when trying to figure out what to serve with it, I was able to do the same with the side dish. I took a suggestion from a Facebook friend, thanks again Nicole, and luckily, I had all the ingredients on hand. This helps my budget in a few ways. First, I'm not spending more money on product when I already have useable product on hand. Second, considering the closest grocery store is 15 minutes away and gas is $3.49+ a gallon in this area, I didn't make an extra run to pick up something I didn't have. Third, I avoided the impulse buying that inevitably occurs once I get in the store.
I'd also like to share with you a site that I came across this week and that is Foodily.com. I'm extremely excited to have found this site and I think it may be my best friend in finding recipes to accommodate my budget in the future. It allows you to enter in ingredients you have and ones you DON'T have or don't want to use and then searches all over the web for you. So you can easily get ideas for recipes for the food you already have, or don't have.
In short, with a little time searching for sales and the perfect recipes, and a little creativity adding this ingredient or taking another out, you CAN cook dinner TONIGHT! Also, use your networking. Facebook, is not used, in my eyes, for purely socializing. Yes, it's great reconnecting with old friends and being able to reach out to people so easily, but it's also a place for finding recipes and sharing recipes amongst others cooking at home just like you! So, enough of me rambling, here is my latest recipe for Slow Cooker Roast Beef adapted from a few other recipes found mostly at http://www.cooks.com/ and, for the side, Parmesan Baked Potatoes made as recommended by a friend.
Slow Cooker Roast Beef (with Carrots, Mushrooms, & Tomatoes)
Adapted from many recipes, mostly from http://www.cooks.com/
2-4 lb. any cut of beef for roasting
1/4-1/2 cup flour
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 pkg. dry onion soup mix
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
8 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 can Cream of Mushroom Soup (I used low sodium variety)
1 lb. baby carrots
Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Coat roast in flour and sear roast in olive oil, turning on all sides to brown. Meanwhile, mix the soup mix, tomatoes, mushrooms, and soup in the slow cooker. Once browned on all sides, set roast into mix in slow cooker and spoon some of the mixture over the top of the roast. Add carrots along the sides of the roast. Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours.
Parmesan Baked Potatoes
6-8 Tbsp. butter
1/2-1 cup grated parmesan
About 2 1/2 lbs. any potatoes, I used Red Potato
Salt & Pepper (or other seasoning), to taste
Preheat oven to 350F. While oven preheats, place butter in a 13x9-in baking dish and put in the oven for a few minutes just to melt the butter. Wash and slice potatoes into 1/4" rounds, leaving peal on. Sprinkle half of the cheese all over the melted butter in the bottom of the pan. Layer half of the potatoes in pan. Season liberally with salt and pepper. (Next time I'd like to also try garlic powder or Mrs. Dash Garlic & Herb seasoning or other spices to kick it up just a little bit. Don't get me wrong, very yummy as is but I'm married to an Italian and we LOVE garlic!) Layer the other half of the potato slices. Sprinkle with remainder of the cheese and season, again, with salt and pepper. Bake in preheated oven until tender and golden (but not browned). This will depend on your choice of potatoes. The red potatoes took about 40 to 45 min.