Sunday, January 25, 2009

Stretching Meats and Adding Volume to your food

I have a family full of very hearty eaters. Putting a pound of meat on my table with a vegetable and a bread would be gobbled up quickly leaving my husband and boys looking for a second dinner. This left me looking for frugal and healthful ways of stretching our meat and our budget. Here are some of the ways that I have found to add volume and sneak in more nutrition in my family's food:

Soups and stews are always good ways to stretch your budget. I often have a large crock pot of soup cooking on Saturdays. I go through my fridge and freezer for leftovers and vegetables that need to be eaten. These are great with a homemade bread. These make the house smell divine!

Rice is a fantastic way to plump your dinners. The possibilities are endless. I always use rice combined with ground beef or turkey to make tacos and burritos. Another family favorite is fried rice. This is the ultimate frugal dish. Add a few tablespoons of oil (sesame is the best but anything that you have on hand would work) to a large skillet add your veggies (any leftovers, frozen peas, carrots, onions etc.) also add in your left over meat and rice. Then crack and egg and add 1-2 tbsp. soy sauce to taste, ginger if you have any. Get wild and crazy with this, there is no wrong way to make this and it is always very filling.

Pasta is a guilty pleasure mine and also another great way to make a large filling dinner. Go ahead and stir your pasta sauce into the noodles and not on the side. This helps our family out, they tend to get a little heavy handed with the sauce ladle. Add pasta to soups and stews to make more filling.

Potatoes, who doesn't just love potatoes. Potatoes often fill a void when making soups and stews, but also they can be added to casseroles and even served as the main course with a veggie and meat filling. I like to buy small beef roasts when they are on sale, put it in my crock pot and then load in the potatoes, carrots, onions and any other suitable veggies that I have on hand. This along with a nice crusty bread will put a smile on a big burly mans face. (OK, well at least for my big burly man it does:)

Beans, beans, beans. I use to turn up my nose to beans, but I have found them to be a delicious, healthy, and filling way to get the most out of my food dollars. Once a week I cook a large pot of beans with a small piece of smoked or salt cured meat and spices with a homemade bread. Beans are also very versatile and can be used in soups, stews, salads, casseroles, main dish, stirfrys, and the list goes on and on...

Oatmeal can also be used to stretch meat. You can add it to meatballs, stir in a handful while browning ground beef. I often add it to meatloaf. If you don't tell your family it is there they will never notice!

Well this is one way that I stretch our hard earned food dollars. What do you do?

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