Cheap Meal Ideas for a Family of Three

Written by pat olsen
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Meat is expensive, but vegetables are more economical by volume. We should eat at least five servings of vegetables and fruits each day. Here are thrifty tips, plus three inexpensive meals, that will stretch the budget and include just what your body needs.

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Buy it on Sale

Coupons are like money in your wallet, so sort and save them. Compare the loss leaders in the weekly market ads. Loss leaders are the outrageously low prices that entice shoppers to a store. Plan your menu for the week and hit each store for their bargains. Double your savings at the stores that offer double coupons.

Chicken Stir Fry

Chicken is the big winner in the protein department when it's on sale at about 60p per pound. Including skin and bone, buy about 1/2 pound per adult. Cut chicken into cubes. Make a marinade of 1/2 cup of orange juice, 1/4 cup of soy sauce, 1/2 cup of ketchup and 1/4 cup of apricot preserves, plus one minced garlic clove. Marinate the chicken for an hour in the refrigerator. Assemble a mixture of shredded carrots, snapped green beans, broccoli cut into small bites, rough chopped onions and sliced mushrooms. Sauté chicken mixture in 1 tsp of canola. When almost done, add the vegetable mixture and keep cooking the ingredients until the veggies are tender crisp and the chicken is thoroughly cooked. Serve over rice. Cut orange slices for dessert.

Cooking Once, Serving Twice

Buy a ham roast and bake it for Sunday supper. Make a ham and potato casserole from the left overs, plus at least three sandwiches for lunches. Whenever you can get your protein to stretch over a second main meal, you are being a smart and economical cook and it always tastes brand new to your family.

Ham and Potato Casserole

A single ham steak will make a satisfying meal for a family. Cut the steak into cubes, removing fatty bits. Chop a large onion and sauté until just wilted. Boil three large white potatoes until barely fork tender. Cool, peel and cube. Slip in some diced celery and a cup of fresh or frozen peas. Make a cream sauce in a small saucepan from 1 tbsp of butter blended with 1 tbsp of flour. Brown for a few minutes until the flour begins to toast. Whisk in a cup of 2 per cent milk and blend until you have a cream sauce. Double the recipe for more sauce. Stir in the ham, potato and vegetable mixture. Place in an 8" x 8" pan and bake until golden and bubbly--about 20 minutes. Serve with a garden salad and a wedge of melon.

Meatless Once a Week

Try to eat at least five servings of vegetables daily. Make them the focal point of the meal and you can sneak by with far less protein. Try vegetarian recipes. Replace meat with beans, legumes and soy products. Never let your vegetarian meals be bland and colourless.

Vegetarian Pizza

Use Boboli or cut a loaf of French bread lengthwise in half. Spread on a small bottle of pizza sauce. Heap with bits of onion, broccoli, red or green pepper and slices of mushroom, or any other type of vegetable you like. Dust with 1 tsp of Italian spices. Brush on 1 or 2 tsp of Italian dressing for extra flavour. Sprinkle on 1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese. Bake until the vegetables are crisp tender and the cheese is bubbly golden. Serve with a bowl of sliced bananas and strawberries topped with 2 tbsp of vanilla yoghurt.

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