It occurred to me today as I was fixing biscuits and gravy for lunch, that I really do some things a lot differently than most people. (And no, I don't cook lunch everyday, but we were out of leftovers and bread for sandwiches.) I see most recipes calling for a pound of meat to feed four to six people. When our family was smaller, I followed these recipes exactly because I was just learning to cook. But now, I see those recipes and I adapt them to feed our family of 10 (well, 9 solid-food-eaters), often with leftovers, without using more meat. No one really needs as much meat as is typically served in our country these days, anyway.
For sauce-based foods like pasta dishes and gravy, I simply use more of the 'sauce' ingredients and keep the amount of meat the same. It's hardly noticeable once the sauce is mixed with the pasta or the gravy is on the biscuits. Same strategy in casseroles--I can usually get away with doubling all the ingredients except the meat, and the dish will still be delicious. Dh sometimes says something, but usually he doesn't even notice.
In dishes like this one where the meat is meant to be the 'star', I'd trim the meat into smaller portions before cooking. For instance, the above recipe calls for 4 chicken breasts to serve 4 people--I'd definitely cut the chicken breasts in half first. Those frozen chicken breasts I usually buy are huge! One-third of a large one is plenty for my kids, and a half will fill me up. I'd just serve it with it's sauce over rice, noodles, couscous, or even mashed potatoes/hash browns for some items. Add a veggie, salad, and biscuit or roll, and you've got a satisfying meal.
Serving plenty of side dishes with your meal is a budget-stretcher as well. Things like biscuits or rolls, raw or steamed veggies (with or without sauce or dip), fruits, salads, pasta and rice will fill your people up and satisfy them without using so much meat, saving you money. Keep things super-nutritious by using part or all whole wheat flour to make your breads from scratch. We use plenty of canned fruits and veggies (as well as some frozen) to help stretch the more expensive fresh stuff, but I try to make sure the kiddos get at least one serving of fresh produce per day, supplemented by canned/jarred items, juice, and dried fruit. This helps me cut down my trips to the grocery store, too, which is the number one way to cut down on spending!
I've got some other ideas to share--check back in a couple days!
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