Hi there! It’s Week 2 of Cheap Eats already! If you are new to this series, HERE is the introductory post. To see all posts in the series, click on the tab under the blog header at the top of the page labeled Cheap Eats.
Let’s start with the menu this week. I’ve included links to recipes if available.
Tuesday– Baked Potatoes with Ham and Broccoli Cheese Sauce
Two loaves bread 1.76 lunches, snacks (my kids love toast)
Toothpaste .85 I didn’t want to make a separate trip to another store!
5 lbs Cutie oranges 6.00 snacks, lunches
Dozen eggs 1.25 gotta have eggs, right?
Did you notice how many things on the menu this week were made from scratch? The potato topping, breadsticks, homemade bread, gnocchi, soup, meatballs, mac and cheese. Learning to cook from scratch is one of the best things I have ever done. When I first got married, I couldn’t cook at all. Really. As a single college kid, I ate oatmeal, toast, frozen burritos and quesadillas. My roommates can testify. Over the years I have learned how to bake bread and follow recipes and you can too.
So what are the benefits of cooking from scratch?
1. It saves you money! Homemade bread costs maybe 25 cents vs. a few dollars for a comparable loaf at the store. Making a roux sauce is cheaper than canned cream soups. Frozen meatballs are very expensive per pound compared to buying ground beef and shaping the balls yourself. And gnocchi would be a food I could not afford if I didn’t make it from scratch.
2. It is healthier. There are no preservatives and you can control how much fat, sugar, and salt are in your food.
3. It tastes better.Nothing beats homemade bread topped with home-canned jam. That’s just the way it is. Our burgers went from good to amazing when I started making homemade buns.
4. It makes your house smell great. A sauce simmering on the stove or fresh baked anything and you will have neighbors stopping in to see if they can come to dinner!
At first, I was really intimidated by baking bread especially. But now that I’ve been doing it for a while, it takes hardly any time at all. I use my bread machine to mix everything, so I literally add ingredients, turn it on, then come back an hour later to put the dough into the oven. It hardly takes any time at all.
Cooking beans from scratch is another area that’s easy and can save quite a bit of moo-lah. I bought a pound of black beans for just a little over a dollar, cooked them in the crock pot with water until they were soft and ended up with enough beans for six meals. I used them in our Navajo tacos last week, the BBQ salad this week, and I put four bags in the freezer. A can of black beans is .68 cents around here and the bag of dry beans made at least 8 cans worth of beans. That’s a lot cheaper! And it’s not any harder to pull a bag of beans from the freezer than it is to open a can. By cooking a lot at once, it doesn’t increase your work load by much.
I don’t cook everything from scratch. I buy canned spaghetti sauce and cheap-o store bread for lunch sandwiches. I buy canned soup. This week our chicken sandwiches were the frozen patties I bought last week and didn’t use. Hello. I am not super woman. I do what I’m willing to put the extra time into and cut corners with stuff that doesn’t matter as much to me or is not as big of a price difference. Let’s keep it real, right?!
Just one last thing for today…the recipe I used on our baked potatoes.
Homemade Cheese Sauce:
This recipe starts with a basic roux. It is such a versatile sauce. I use variations of it all the time!
4 TBSP butter
4 TBSP flour
2 cups milk
cheese (1-2 cups)
salt and pepper to taste
garlic powder to taste
onion powder to taste
dash hot sauce or Worcestershire sauce
Melt butter in saucepan. Add flour and stir until combined. Add milk and whisk until smooth. Add cheese and spices, then stir continually so it doesn’t burn. When the sauce reaches the desired thickness, you are done!
All I did for our potato topping was add cooked, chopped ham and frozen chopped broccoli and heat through.