A Budget Balanced Meal

I've longed to make a certain recipe for a bit over a year now.  Last week I finally did.  It  came about as the result of a leftover makeover.  I thought about each ingredient as I put the recipe together: Broccoli.  I was using stems and a few florets that I steamed together.  I have been guilty many times of not using the stems as I've planned to do but this time, I did use forethought and steamed them while steaming the florets for a meal.  I had a few florets left and chopped the stems up with them.  There was the broccoli called for in the recipe and it was using up every bit of that food.  Not bad thus far.

Croutons was the next ingredient.  I make these using leftover slices of bread, those too small to make toast or a sandwich and the end pieces.  I generally put the cubed bread in the oven when I have it on to bake something else.  I remove the item that was cooking, set the pan of bread cubes in the oven and turn off the heat.  Generally within an hour or so I have a pan of croutons.  So this ingredient too was inexpensive.

I knew the recipe called for two different salad dressings:  Blue Cheese and Ranch.  I'd just made up a half recipe of  Ranch dressing over the weekend.  John prefers Blue Cheese or French.  The Ranch dressing wasn't  likely to be finished before spoiling.  No hardship to use it up to avoid waste.  The Blue Cheese dressing is more pricey.  I was cautious about using that ingredient.

In fact, from here the recipe and my made up version were widely variant.  I did not want to use half a jar of that dressing in my recipe!  That would have increased the cost by $2.  The recipe also called for 6 eggs...Nope wasn't going to do that either.  That was another $.50 in cost.  8 ounces of shredded cheddar...Uhm nooooo...Cost $1.79.  This simple little recipe meant to use up a variety of things leftover was now escalating into the $4 range, a per serving cost of about $1 each serving.  No, I just failed to see the economy in that!

Now I've shared that I seldom know the cost per meal I serve or even the cost per serving of any recipe, but common sense helped me this time.  Had this been a main course, $1 per serving is not too far a reach, but it was meant to be a side dish.  I decided at this point expertise was going to have to come into play over recipe.  Eggs are generally meant for binding in a strata type recipe.  I knew from past experience at altering these types of recipes that 6 eggs are just not necessary.  I decreased the Blue Cheese Dressing by half and used milk in place of it.  A thinner liquid by all means but it worked just fine and I did have the egg for thickening the liquid.  I added 1 beaten egg, and half the cheese called for.  In the end, my Broccoli Strata total cost came in somewhere closer to  $1.80 for four servings.  Still a little high but far better than $1 per serving.  And this was a half recipe I was making, not a full recipe!  By the way, the Strata set up just fine and tasted awesome.  Even the leftovers were good.

As I planned menus last week, I looked at several recipes.  Many I'd have loved to try or make once more, but I couldn't...They weren't part of my budget balanced meal plan.   I found myself looking at recipes and meal plans overall differently... All because of  that  silly bit of leftover broccoli I wished to use!



Lana said...
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Anonymous said...

It's great that you were able to make the strata you had wanted to make, and even better that you could change it to be more economical and it still worked.

Sometimes I do price out things, sometimes I just use up food----even if I have made something that cost a bit more, I always console myself that it surely was cheaper than going out! It always feels so good to use up the little odds and ends from the fridge and cupboards. I do that a lot--just buy food and then cook, instead of purchasing ingredients for certain recipes. Once in a while I buy specifically for a recipe, but that tends to happen a lot more for holidays, or when I am doing a cooking recipe for the girls--they don't roll with the punches the same as I do because of lack of cooking experience. I am working with them on substituting, but usually have them make any recipe exactly as written first, before messing with it. Then, they are usually successful as long as they read the entire recipe.......

DebbieG said...

Don't you love when things come together and you have the things that you need on hand to make it. :)

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