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Budget Cooking

By Adlen W. Robinson

Food prices, along with just about everything else, continue to rise. One of my friends suggested I share some budget friendly recipes that still taste great.

When feeding your family on a budget, there are some basic things you can do to keep costs down. First and foremost, plan, plan, plan. Nothing sabotages a budget faster than shopping without a list and a concrete plan for the weeks’ menu.

Begin your menu planning session by taking an inventory of what you already have on hand. If you have a deep freezer (something I highly recommend), keep a clip board nearby with a list of what is inside. Also remember to clearly label and date what you put into your freezer. If you shop at the regular grocery store, make sure you plan your menu around their weekly specials. If pork chops are on sale, put that down for dinner one night. If your family eats boneless chicken breasts frequently, and they are on sale, consider stocking up.

Coupons are great if you have a good system for keeping them organized and what you buy is cheaper than the generic brand. The internet is also a great source for coupons.

Bulk buying is great for big families, but you can also go in with another family if you want to get the bulk bargain without all of the bulk.

Once you have your weekly menu plan, make your list and then stick with it. If possible, do not shop with young children since they may distract you from your mission, as well as talk you into buying things that are not in the budget.

Here are some budget friendly recipes that I hope you will enjoy!



Ground Beef is always a winner when it comes to budget friendly cooking. Besides being versatile, ground beef is an ingredient that pretty much everybody likes—especially children.

Here is an easy casserole type dish that costs very little and is a crowd pleaser. Try this instead of your usual taco filling on taco night. Or, use it to top nachos.

Beefy Enchiladas

1 pound ground beef
1 onion, minced
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon chili powder
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon onion powder
1 can condensed tomato soup
2 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup sour cream
¼ cup cilantro, minced
4 large flour tortillas
1 small can red or green enchilada sauce

Cook ground beef over medium-high heat along with minced onion until ground beef is done and no longer pink. Drain. Return meat and onion mixture to pan and add cumin, chili powder, garlic and onion powders. Stir in tomato soup. Remove from heat and stir in 2 cups of the cheddar cheese, sour cream and cilantro. Put one fourth of the mixture into a tortilla and roll up. Place stuffed tortilla in baking dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Pour enchilada sauce over and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 20 minutes. Serve with chips and refried beans.



Sausage Pepper Pasta

1 pound pasta, such as ziti, penne, or other tubular shape
1 pound turkey sausage (or other type of Italian sausage) cut into small pieces
1 onion, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 red or green peppers, seeded and chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons thyme, minced
2 tablespoons fresh basil, minced
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to package until al dente. Meanwhile, heat skillet over medium high heat. Add olive oil. Add turkey sausage, onion, and pepper, cooking until onion and pepper are cooked, about 10 minutes. Stir in garlic, red pepper flakes, thyme, and basil, cooking another minute. When pasta is done, drain well. In large bowl, combine pasta with sausage pepper mixture, and sprinkle with Parmesan.


Tuna Salad with Pasta

1 pound pasta, shells preferably
2 cans tuna of your choice
½ cup green onions, minced
¼ cup parsley, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup mayonnaise
3 teaspoons
Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup grape tomatoes, cut in half
Iceberg lettuce

Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, drain tuna well. In large bowl, combine tuna, green onions, and parsley. In small bowl, mix together mayonnaise, Dijon, salt and pepper. Stir mayonnaise mixture into tuna. When pasta is done, drain well, and rinse with cold water. Drain very well, then combine cooked pasta with tuna mixture. Stir in tomatoes and serve on lettuce.


Serve this either over pasta or rice.  

Creamy Mushroom Chicken

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 onion, minced
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup dry sherry or dry white wine (or use chicken stock)
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
½ cup sour cream
¼ cup parsley, minced
Salt and pepper to taste

In large skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add chicken and onion and cook until chicken is almost cooked through, about 12 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook another 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook a minute more. Remove from heat and pour in dry sherry or wine. Return to heat and cook until liquid is almost evaporated. Stir in mushroom soup and thyme and heat to boiling. Remove from heat, stir in sour cream, parsley, salt and pepper to taste.



This is the kind of recipe that serves more as a guide. Feel free to add whatever vegetables you have on hand.  

Summer Vegetable Soup

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1  onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 yellow squash, sliced
1 zucchini, sliced
2 teaspoons fresh oregano, minced
Chopped fresh basil , minced
6 cups chicken stock, heated
8 ounces pasta shells
1 can petite diced tomatoes

In soup pot melt butter and saute onion and garlic. Add carrots and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Add squash and zucchini. Season with oregano, basil, salt and pepper. Add hot chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Add pasta, tomatoes. Simmer until pasta is cooked through.

Adlen Robinson’s Food column is published in every Friday’s newspaper. Adlen’s “Home Matters” column is published in the Lifestyles section of Sunday’s newspaper. As always, Adlen welcomes reader tips, suggestions and comments. Please email her at  or write to her at the newspaper.


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Copyright (c) 2008 Adlen W. Robinson. All rights reserved.