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One Pound of Beef = Food for a Week

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Posted on : 9:02 AM | By : Nic | In : ,

It was definitely a test of frugality this week as I'm trying to save money and challenge myself. When faced with such an unpleasant task its best to make a game out of it. So this week was to try to make a pound of ground beef last as long as possible. In this case, I made it last 6 days which is the limit for me in how long I want meat in the fridge (and that's pushing it).

First of all, it had been frozen in the freezer, and because I knew it was going to have to last for a long while, I used the microwave to thaw it. I didn't always have a microwave but after all of our things came out of storage we found that we actually do own one and it does serve the useful purpose of cooking microwave popcorn. So I have a microwave again that I use very sparingly. I used it to thaw the meat because I didn't want the meat sitting around waiting any longer than it needed to.

At the beginning of the week I planned the leftovers from a single trustworthy Betty Crocker cookbook. This means that I knew what I was going to be able to make out of a meal the next day and I picked those specific recipes simply for their adaptability into something else. The first meal was meat loaf, but I still haven't found any bread pans so I made individual meat balls on a cookie sheet instead. A recipe that made one meat leaf made 6 individual balls. We only at three because the girls split one and we had potatoes and veggies as well. It was a pretty average meatloaf recipe. In the end I was left with three and a half seasoned, giant cooked meatballs because one of my girls would rather go hungry than try something new. We don't eat meatloaf often (if ever, lol).

The next day one of the balls got made into a rudimentary hamburger-helper type dish. I happened to have some cooked noodles from a few days before, but any cooked noodles would work. I threw them in a big pan with the meat, about a cup of soymilk, some salt and pepper, some bulk onion soup mix for seasoning, and some flour to thicken it up. I ended up with no leftovers after that one because everyone liked it so much.

The day after that one of the remaining balls got made into pasta sauce. The sauce was simply diced tomatoes, Italian seasonings, garlic, basil and the meat ball, simmered in a pot until it was all hot and poured on top of some noodles. This made enough that we actually had this twice.

Finally the best meal was the last, surprisingly. It was an adaptation of a Cuban black bean chili. Basically I threw in a leftover bowl of spaghetti, leftover pasta sauce still in the pot, the leftover meatballs, a can of black beans, a little bit of water, a half a green bell pepper, some cumin and garlic and let it simmer for about half an hour. Then I boiled 4 eggs, chopped them up and served them on top of the chili bowls. This made enough for two meals.

Six meals out of one pound of beef, and with the exception of the meatloaf they all only took about 30 minutes to make and only used one pan. So how do you apply this to any week of food?

1. Pick a base ingredient. In this case it was ground beef but you could easily pick chicken or pork or sausage or tofu or whatever you want. Choose a recipe that cooks all of it up at once but keeps it in its basic form without any fancy sauces. For example, chicken could be baked and marinated, but probably not with barbecue sauce.

2. Plan at least three recipes that can be progressions of each other or use smaller and smaller pieces of your base ingredient. Meatloaf->hamburger helper->spaghetti->chili. Or it could be baked chicken breast->pasta->stir fry->chicken wraps. The base ingredient will go much further if it is chopped up and mixed into something else, so if you cooked 5 chicken breasts, use one for the pasta, and the rest for stir fry and then you'll have teriyaki chicken for wraps.

3. Use cheap starches like potatoes, brown rice, and whole-wheat noodles with your base. You should also have at least one vegetable which could be simple garden salad, broccoli, peas or any other traditional thing. The greener the better.

4. Keep track of what is in your fridge and when it should be eaten by. You don't want to make yourself sick with your frugality. Throw things out as soon as you shouldn't eat them anymore.

We managed to go eat 5 loaves of bread in 5 days and I ran across this post from Two Frog Home that reminded me to look for my crock that I want to start sourdough in. Much cheaper and sustainable than buying yeast.

Comments (1)

Wow, I'm impressed by that stretching of leftovers! Good luck on your sourdough!