Monday, July 27, 2009

Weekly Menu July 27-August 1

The money has been a bit tight lately but my cooking spirit still burns. This week I actually made 2 different lunches (one from stuff I was barely able to afford and another with stuff I already had in the kitchen). I'm gonna have to cop out on the breakfast and just get a box of poptarts or something.

A simple meal that can last for several eatings and I was able to get it together fairly cheap. In fact nearly everything I used (except for the ground chuck which I'll explain in a bit) was picked up at my local Dollar General. For those who don't know its a chain of stores in the Southern US that sells a lot of the name brands for cheap (the trade-off usually being smaller portions) and generic stuff (under the name Clover Valley) for really cheap.

1 can of Tomato Sauce (50 cents)
1 can of Diced Tomatoes (50cents)
2 packets of McCormick Spaghetti Sauce Mix ($1 each)
Minced Garlic ($2 but I already had it in the house. You can always use Garlic Powder.)
1/2 White Onion ($1 but I already had it in the house. Onion Powder could be used in its place.)
2 lbs of ground chuck* (From the local grocery store at about $2 per lbs)
Desired amount of pasta cooked and cooled ($1.45)

First I browned the ground chuck in a skillet seasoned with crushed red pepper, black pepper (I was very low on red so I added some black), Italian Seasoning (prepacked mix of Oregano, Rosemary, Thyme, and Basil), and sea salt. Once that is done drain away the grease and set aside. Time for the sauce.

Now you can just follow the directions on the Sauce Mix (which originally calls for Tomato Paste but you can use Tomato Sauce in its place and reduce the water) pack but I chose to hook it up a bit with the white onion (which I chopped up and sauteed in butter and sea salt to soften it up first, I hate hard crunchy onions in spaghetti), Minced Garlic, and Diced Tomatoes. Once you get it all mixed up the directions will require you to simmer the sauce for 10 minutes so in that time you can go ahead and get your pasta of choice (I used wheat spaghetti noodles) cooking. After the sauce has simmered you can add in the ground chuck from earlier and your done with that.

After the pasta is finished cooking drain it in a collander and rinse with cold water to make it easier to handle (remember I'm not eating it now I'm storing in containers to eat during the week) and place in containers. Then add the desired amount of sauce on top and there you have spaghetti lunch.

Chicken Soup:
Okay I know its the hottest time of the year but I had taken out two boneless skinless chicken breasts to add to the spaghetti in case the ground chuck wasn't enough. Well the chuck was enough and I had to do something with them so I decided to take out 4 more breasts and make soup.

6 Bonesless skinless chicken breasts ($7 at Walmart)
1 16oz. can of Swanson low sodium chicken broth (already had but they cost about $2 if I recall)
1 random bag of frozen veggies I had in the freezer (don't recall the price but it was a mixe of potatoes, onions, carrots, and celery)
2 stalks of celery (not sure of the price it was some my dad bought earlier in the week)
1 cup of uncooked rice
Seasoned with:
Sea Salt
Black Pepper
Onion Powder
Garlic Powder

Basically all I did was clean the chicken and cut it into chunks, wash and chop the celery, and tossed everything in my crockpot except the rice (after adding the chicken broth refill the can with water four more times and pour it in the pot) and turn it on. After about 2 hours I added the rice. This is actually still cooking as I type this. As the rice absorbs water you may have to add more so that your soup does not turn to stew (or you may want this to happen depending on your tastes).

Well there you have this is what I'll be eating for lunch (and a few dinners) this week. I need to find some new recipes to try....

* - I'll bet you're thinking, "Danny that's pretty pricey why not go with ground beef?". Well here's why. When you go to the store and look at ground beef vs. ground chuck I'm sure you notice that beef is cheaper than chuck and the reason that is is because ground chuck has a higher meat/fat ratio than ground beef. This means that when you cook it in the skillet the ground beef is going to leave behind more grease that has to be drained out meaning you are left with less meat. So in the end while the ground beef is cheaper than the chuck when you cook them you will be left with about the same amount of meat but the chuck will have less grease to drain away.