5 Money-Saving Menus Under $5

Serve your family our budget-friendly menus. (Try Meatloaf With Green Chile-Tomato Gravy tonight.)
Mary Allen Perry

When our editor asked the Foods staff to come up with five meals that would serve four people for less than $25, we wondered if such a challenge was even possible. At $1.25 a serving, the prospects seemed slim--but with a little planning and some smart shopping, we surprised everyone with family-pleasing favorites such as baked chicken and pan-fried pork chops. Of course, supermarket specials change regularly. 

BUDGET-FRIENDLY MENUS
 Serves 4

 Menu 1:
 Meatloaf With Green Chile-Tomato Gravy
 Garlic Mashed Potatoes
 Sautéed Squash and Carrots

 Menu 2:
 Cornmeal-Crusted Catfish Nuggets
 Oven-Roasted Potatoes
 Lemon-Apple Coleslaw

 Menu 3:
 Lemon-Garlic Roast Chicken With Sautéed Green Beans
 Cornmeal Pudding

 Menu 4:
 Baked Chicken Breasts
 Pasta Pancakes and Gravy
steamed fresh broccoli

 Menu 5:
 Pan-Fried Pork Chops With Onions
 Fresh Spinach-and-Apple Salad With Cinnamon Vinaigrette
 Cheddar Cheese Grits

 

Money-Saving Tips and Tidbits

  • Family-size packages of meat and poultry are usually less expensive, but bigger isn't always cheaper. Check the unit pricing on the bar code stickers to find out if it's really a bargain.
  • Seasoning blends, rather than separate jars of dried herbs and spices that are seldom used, save both time and money when cooking. To learn more about the different flavor profiles available, visit Web sites such as www.spiceadvice.com, www.lawrys.com, and www.mccormick.com.
  • Make the most of every purchase. Limp vegetables that are past their prime can still add terrific flavor to soups and stews. Instead of using a conventional rack when roasting meats or baking chicken, line the pan with a row of celery and carrots. Freeze overripe fruit for smoothies. Cube less-than-fresh bread and rolls for salad croutons, or give them a whirl in the food processor and use as a coating for chicken or fish. Top off a casserole with crushed cereal or crackers.
  • Bypass the expensive meats in the deli counter and bake your own turkey or ham. Even for a small family, they're a good investment, especially when on sale for under a dollar a pound. Freeze extra portions in zip-top plastic freezer bags to use in salads and sandwiches, or any of your favorite recipes that call for chopped cooked turkey or ham. The same goes for chicken. One whole roasted chicken will yield about 3 cups of meat. Remove the meat from the bones when still warm, and freeze in zip-top plastic freezer bags.
  • You can save even more on groceries by pairing coupons with store specials. In addition to the Sunday paper, you'll find coupons from supermarkets and manufacturers on the Internet--just enter the words "grocery store coupons" into your favorite search engine. Some sites transfer the coupon savings directly to a frequent shopper card.

 

This article is from the February 2005 issue of Southern Living.