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rockstargrrrlie's avatar

Do you have any ideas for making fabulous meals on a low budget?

Asked by rockstargrrrlie (887points) October 13th, 2008

I am currently producing a micro-budget independent film in Tallahassee. Currently, the other producer and I are living in the production office/apartment alone, but in the coming days seven other people will be coming to stay with us (including two actors and the director). I’m working on a meal plan right now for the coming week that would be both yummy, cheap, and easy enough to make. If anyone has recipe suggestions for cooking interesting and fun meals while on an amazingly low budget for about 10 people, I’d really appreciate it! I’d also love any dessert/baking suggestions you have!

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38 Answers

poofandmook's avatar

one of my favorite super-versatile cheapies, as long as you’re not vegetarian, is a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken from the store. You can get one from anywhere between $5—$7 in most grocery stores… get 2 or 3, pick all the chicken off, and store it in the fridge. You can use the chicken for salad toppings, chicken salad, chicken soup, casseroles (which is also a super cheapie thing… noodles, canned cream-of-something soup, some frozen veggies, and the chicken). You’d be really surprised how far those chickens can last you.

gailcalled's avatar

Sauté chopped onions and garlic in olive oil, add beans (red, black, white, black-eyed), corn, brown rice, barley, tomatoes,red or yellow peppers, greens, spices and broth in suitable order for expandable soups.

EmpressPixie's avatar

Buy in bulk if you can.
Be your own butcher: usually whole chickens cost less than those already cut up. Get a knife and go at it—they aren’t hard to cut up. I promise. And the feeling of a job well done is fantastic.
Remember that simple can be delicious.

Baking suggestion:
Fruit crisps. Whatever fruit is the cheapest, chopped up with oatmeal, brownsugar, butter, and flour to make a crust on top. Stuff it in the over until it bubbles. I will get you a more exact recipe in a moment.

Food suggestions:
Rice, lentils, sausage, and onion.
Make the rice, cook the lentils, caramelize the onions (chopped), and cook, crumble, and drain the sausage. Mix everything together (leave out sausage for vegetarians). Top with apple cider vinegar.

If you have a crock pot, crock pot meals are usually cheap. Dump carrots, onions, potatoes in with a large hunk of meat and a half cup of wine and let it cook all day. Serve over rice.

bpeoples's avatar

Eggs in Purgatory:

- Make your own tomato sauce (basically tomatoes simmered for about 30 minutes+)

- Poach very fresh eggs in the tomato sauce and serve over toast, spooning tomato sauce over the bread.

Tasty, nutritious, and cheap!

susanc's avatar

lurve to empressP for “caramelize”. With 2 “a’s”.

cooksalot's avatar

There’s always the classic meals like, chili, stew, chicken soup. I like to make things like Portuguese Bean Soup that can feed a crowd and have leftovers for lunch the next day. Portuguese Kale Soup also can feed a crowd and doesn’t take that much to make. Another Hawaiian favorite is Shoyu Chicken. One of my favorites is called Chicken Long Rice. If you want I can post these on my blog later after we’re done with our book work.

jvgr's avatar

A really good cut of meat for slow-cookers is blade steak.
Not fatty or full of gristle, cheap and it gets very tender in slow cooking.

susanc's avatar

Try to have a big salad at every non-breakfast meal to alleviate all the starches I suspect you’ll be using for padding. Make a homemade vinaigrette instead of buying bottled dressing. Tastes better anyway. Use brown rice because it’s more nutritious.
If you make a cake, even from a mix (gasp), substitute yogurt for water – it tastes more intriguing and gives you extra protein. Also, add raisins, nuts, additional spices e.g. allspice, nutmeg, cardamom – so that the “cake” part of the cake gets exciting. For frosting, mix brown sugar,nuts, a little salt,and butter (or that good stuff that’s part butter and part oil called Smart Balance), heat up on top of the stove and spread between layers and on top, and maybe broil for a few seconds till it bubbles up….
Find big bags of fresh fruit. Keep it where people can see it.
Shop at a farmer’s market if you can.
There is a very cool book out called Extending the Table – recipes from all over the world which are expandable and use cheap ingredients – by Joetta Handrich Schlaback. If you can’t get it, pm me and I’ll send you my copy ‘cause I’m not extending my table much right now and I can get one later.

janbb's avatar

Chili – Brown 1 or more lbs. ground beef and chopped onions together. Add 15 oz. (or more for crowd) canned tomoatoes, 1 (or more) cans dark red kidney beans and 2–5 tablespoons chili powder. Cook about an hour. Serve over rice. Even better served the next day.

Tuna casserole – Boil onions, carrots and button mushrooms. Drain most of vegetable water and add 1 can cream of mushroom soup (or more for larger amount). Add frozen peas and canned, drained tunafish. Serve over boiled rotelle and pass grated cheddar cheese. Cheap, easy and good.

Both can be expanded almost infinitely to feed a crowd.

marinelife's avatar

Pasta is usually popular with most everyone. For the sauce, mix some diced vegetables including onions, red bell pepper, zucchini, (or broccoli or asparagus), mushrooms (crimini—also called baby portabellas) sauteed in olive oil, add a little cream and grated parmesan cheese for pasta primavera. If the budget allows, you can add shredded chicken meat.

Enchiladas can take you a long way. Buy soft flour tortillas. Bake a chicken (season with lime juice and garlic) and shred the meat. Place the meat in the tortillas and spoon on a little green or red sauce (available in bottles at the store). For even fancier use a sauce with some chipotle peppers for a smoky flavor. Then cover with grated monterey jack (or pepper jack for kick). Roll up the tortillas and place seam side down in a 13×9x2 casserole dish (spoon sauce on the bottom first fo enchiladas don’t stick). Spoon the remaining sauce over the tops and sprinkle with more jack cheese. Heat in a 350 degree oven until sauce is bubbling and cheese is melted. Serve guacamole or salsa with chips to accompany and a dish of sour cream.

pathfinder's avatar

The Roast pork with herbs By Ctibor Pelikan.We need half kg of good pork.The pork is packed on the top with fresh herbs and lemon cure.The herbs are cut on small bits and mixed with lemon cure and salt.After that we are put the mix on the pork.When is it in the owen the temperature witch we keep is on two haundred.We roast that one hour and half and more.When the pork is ready than the taste is briliant and the colour in side the pork is litle bit pink plas the juci.

Judi's avatar

Corn bread and beans is an old poor girls yummy and healthy choice. If you’re feeling a little richer, buy a ham hock or a little bacon and simmer it with your beans.

cyndyh's avatar

I was just thinking of red beans and rice, Judi. :^> You put some sort of cheap pork in the beans when you’re cooking them from dry beans (not canned). They smell great while they’re cooking, too.

cooksalot's avatar

I put up all the recipes I suggested, except the Shoyu Chicken. I have to get my recipe recorded first since I pretty much play that by ear just like the Chicken Long Rice, but I found a similar recipe online. Go ahead and click on Dollar Friendly or just look in the food category.

gailcalled's avatar

I had an accidental fabulous lunch, which can be expanded indefinitely. I had already prepared a large pot of brown rice and barley.

1 C of grains, 1/4 C salsa, 1/4 cup black beans (canned) 1/4 c. frozen corn – nuke, season.

maybe_KB's avatar

-Rice (2.00)
-1 bottle Stir-fry Sauce (3.49)
-2 bags Grilled Chicken Strips (3.50ea)
(near lunchmeat)
-1 bag of Birds Eye Frozen Vegi (1.99)
a Sprinkle of Sesame seed
4 x portions Enjoy $10.98

surlygirl's avatar

try looking here: budget recipes.

obviously, you may find your ingredients cheaper somewhere besides whole foods. but it is nice that they’ve got a per-serving price for each recipe.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

For a crowd like that, you need to think in party mode. A turkey dinner is very economical for a crowd, as is a spiral ham and rolls (with sandwich fixings and chips on the side). An assortment of pizzas with salad and breadsticks would work for one meal.

kruger_d's avatar

Hearty soups, stews, and chilis as a main course are a great meat-stretchers and are comfort food. Serve with french bread and raw veggies. Most taste even better if you make them the night before, which makes for quick meal prep (assuming you have plenty of fridge space.)

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

I always get great mileage from a spiral cut ham from Krogers. First night is ham for dinner with mashed potatoes and two veggies. Then ham sandwiches, then bits of ham get chopped up in quiche, then the bone goes into the soup pot for lentil soup. The cooked bone goes to the dog next door.

Raggedy_Ann's avatar

My mom used to take Rice-a-roni, prepared using the directions on the box and mix in browned hamburger and canned french cut green beans. I made this one time and added almonds and some soy sauce.

Judi's avatar

Don’t eat rice -a roni! My daughter just bought a box and there was a giant bug head in it!! She said it was like it had been cut off in a machine!!

Raggedy_Ann's avatar

Makes sense. I probably wouldn’t either. There are other “box mixes” like that on the market. Some with noodles instead of rice. I don’t see what that wouldn’t work.

IBERnineD's avatar

I am a poor college student and one of my most popular recipes is my pseudo-meatball sandwich:
Whole Grain bread
Chicken Patties -the breaded ones work best (you can buy a bunch in the frozen section)
Monterrey Jack Cheese slices
Ragu Meat Sauce

Just toast the bread, put mayo with crushed garlic on one slice place the chicken patty and cheese on top, then cover the other side with the meat sauce. Serve with extra meat sauce for dipping!

MrsShifter's avatar

they have low cost / budget recipes and you can just change the ingredient quantities to feed 10

avalmez's avatar

season stew meat then boil until tender
remove all but a small amount of the water
add cream of mushroom until meat is completely covered; bring to boil then simmer until flavors are combined (check seasoning)
prepare boil-in-a-bag white rice
place about a cup of rice on plate
cover rice with meat and cream of mushroom
voila! a cheap but classy looking dish that tastes great!

Response moderated
YARNLADY's avatar

Please update us, how did it turn out?

zookeeny's avatar

Scones – cheese, sultana, bacon etc – a basic batch made daily is quick and cheap and filling and can be made sweet or savoury. Tofu/chicken, stir fry veg and rice, soup with pasta in it has filled me up many an evening when I was a student on a budget, serve bread with each meal to bulk it out. Icecream – always a nice desert :) You could set a challenge for each actor to come up with a budget meal and then all vote at the end in a kind of funny oscars award ceremony – best meal on a budget, best looking meal on a budget, best tasting meal, best evening entertainment and meal on a budget etc. Mind you your probably going to all be too busy to do this but it might build a strong group bond with the shared experience etc and it divides the work and gets lots of creative minds on the job of coming up with meals on a budget.

jazmina88's avatar

use ground turkey instead of beef. for chili, burgers.
Pasta, salad.

SmashTheState's avatar

It’s about two years too late to help you, I know, but for the benefit of anyone else who may be reading this, I recommend a slow cooker or a crockpot. It’s the easiest, cheapest way to eat healthy meals, and I say that as someone who has lived in grinding poverty for the last 25 years.

Want soup? Throw almost anything in your crockpot that you would normally toss in the trash—leftover celery tops, carrot and potato peelings, trimmed fat and bones, broccoli stems, etc.—add some water and whatever spices you have handy, and then let it simmer for 12 hours. That’s it. You now have healthy, delicious, and virtually free soup. I literally couldn’t live without my slow cooker.

laureth's avatar

I like slow cookers too, but almost everything I ever put in them turns out to be an overcooked disaster. I realize that the optimal use is to figure out what would taste good in a soft, overcooked state, but that usually (for me) ends up being “cheap tough meat” and little else. Thanks for the broth idea – I’ll try it (probably in the Fall, when it’s crockpot season again). :)

YARNLADY's avatar

@laureth For me it’s crock pot season now, with the temps in the triple digits, there’s no way I’m going to turn on my oven. I crock potted a roast and a large chicken the last two days, with practically zero heat in the kitchen.

laureth's avatar

Sounds wonderful! We like to do the salad thing as much as possible, because those are light and cool.

gailcalled's avatar

@SmashTheState: I hate my 3.5 qt. slow cooker and have mastered only steel-cut oats. I can never get the ingredients, amount of fluids and time to come out right.

What size is yours?

SmashTheState's avatar

@gailcalled I have two, a smaller one which is about two litres, and a much larger one which is about six litres. I’m not sure what you’re cooking in your slow-cooker, but it sounds like you may be using too high heat. Most slow-cookers have two settings, low and high. You want the high setting only for meat, to destroy any dangerous parasites or bacteria. For everything else you should be using the low setting. It takes so many hours to cook anything that it’s hard to overcook things that way. You’ve got leeway of at least a couple of hours.

dindinbaby's avatar

The ultimate cheap dinner:
Get whatever cheap steak you can find in the grocery store (charcoal, patio, blade) and slice it thin (it helps if it is partially frozen). Brown quickly in a skillet. Make a packet out of foil and place the browned steak strips, 2 ice cubes, and ¼ of a seasoning beef ramen noodle packet for every person you intend to feed (4 people = 1 packet). Cook on a medium grill or in oven 30 minutes until tender. Meanwhile, prepare the noodles (½ a brick per person) by boiling them for 3 minute then draining and dressing them with a little butter/olive oil and soy sauce. Saute or grill green onions (optional) until tender crisp. This will feed a person for under a dollar a serving. I lived on this for years. I think I’ll make it tonight!

Kardamom's avatar

If you have a crock pot you could make chili (with cornbread) and bean soup and chicken soup and stew and pulled pork and potroast. If you have vegetarians you can make lasagne, enchiladas, and spaghetti with salad and garlic bread, and bean burritos and quesadillas and sides of coleslaw, green salad, pasta and potato salad. Have bread and peanut butter and jelly and chips on hand. For breakfast you can make big casserole sized fritatas or quiche and have several huge boxes of cereal and milk. And a selection of fruit: bananas, oranges, apples. Plus coffee and tea.

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