Special of the day: Dinner on a Dime and Ways to Save at the Store

07 Nov Special of the day: Dinner on a Dime and Ways to Save at the Store

Ginger Beef Stir-fry with Baby Corn, Red Pepper and Water Chestnuts

          Heading into that holiday season characterized by money evaporating before your very eyes, wouldn’t it be nice to save a few dollars in your grocery budget here and there? Well, of course it would. It’s Special of the day to the rescue this week with Dinner on a Dime and Ways to Save at the Store suggestions and two meals you’ll throw together in no time without breaking the bank.
Being budget-conscious when it comes to cooking can be accomplished easily if you keep a few basic principles in mind. Here for you is a list of rules to consider if you’re aiming to be thrifty at the market:
1. Eat what’s in season. Fruits and vegetables that are in season typically taste better and cost less. Get to know which fruits and vegetables are in season in the fall, winter, spring and summer and buy what’s at its best throughout the year. By doing so, you’ll be taking advantage of best taste and value.

2. Make entrees that use meat as an accompaniment, not a main event. Scanning your grocery store cash register receipt for the highest-priced items purchased can be revealing. Meat items are often expensive. An easy way to cut costs is to think of meat as one ingredient in an entrée, not the one and only ingredient. An example would be using sliced steak in a stir-fry loaded with fresh vegetables as opposed to serving a steak as the stand-alone entrée.

3. Plan ahead.  Mapping out a meal plan a week at a time can save you money by cutting down on take-out and order-in foods you might fall back on when you don’t have a plan for dinner. Pay it forward by thinking of piggyback meals that use one main ingredient to create two meals in a row. For example, serve roasted pork tenderloin for dinner one night that yields leftover pork to make into spicy chimichangas the next.

4. Serve dinner on smaller-sized plates. A simple way to save both money and calories is to serve dinner on smaller-sized dinner plates. The full plate will look like more food even when the plate is actually smaller.

5. Use grocery store flyers to see what’s on sale and shop accordingly. Use Wednesday’s paper full of ads and coupons to your advantage by planning meals that use ingredients on sale and clipping coupons for items you normally buy.

6. Buy in bulk if the price is good and you can utilize large quantities of the ingredient. Buying items in bulk that you know you’ll use a lot of during the holidays can be a wise money move. Most price tags displayed below grocery items list cost per unit so it’s easy to figure out if you’re getting a good deal by purchasing items in larger quantities.

7. Stock up on old standbys. If you stroll by and see canned tomatoes or other imperishable staples on sale, stock up and save while you can.

8. Be resourceful. Using leftovers in a variety of ways will stretch your food budget and keep family members excited about what’s for dinner. Expand your horizons by using leftover meat to make quesadillas, soups, sauces, stir-fries, sandwiches, casseroles…the sky’s the limit!

Putting money back in your pocket for holiday shopping to come is this week’s Special of the day: Dinner on a Dime and recipes for Open-Faced Chicken Divan Sandwiches and Ginger Beef Stir-fry with Baby Corn, Red Pepper and Water Chestnuts. Happy cooking (and saving)!

Open-faced Chicken Divan Sandwich

Open-Faced Chicken Divan Sandwiches

(Serves four for next to nothing)

1 large bunch broccoli

4 whole wheat English muffins

2 tbsp. butter

1 tbsp. flour

2/3 cup milk

¾ tsp. curry powder

1/8 tsp. Kosher salt

10-ounce can white chicken meat in water, drained

1 cup cheddar cheese, grated

Preheat oven to broil.

Steam broccoli in pot of simmering salted water for about 5 minutes. Drain into colander in sink.

Toast English muffins and lightly butter.

Heat butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. When melted, add flour and whisk until smooth. Add milk, whisking and cooking over heat until slightly thickened. Add curry powder and salt, whisking to combine. Add chicken and cook until heated through.

To serve:

Set toasted English muffins on baking sheet. Top with curried chicken and arrange steamed broccoli on top. Sprinkle with grated cheddar cheese and broil in preheated oven until cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve hot. Enjoy!

Ginger Beef Stir-fry with Baby Corn, Red Pepper and Water Chestnuts

Ginger Beef Stir-fry with Baby Corn, Red Pepper and Water Chestnuts

(Serves four for dinner: a perfect example of using meat as an accompaniment, for cost savings)

½ pound tri tip steak

1/3 cup soy sauce

3 tsp. cornstarch

2 tbsp. oil

½ tsp. fresh ginger, peeled and minced

1 sweet red pepper, sliced into thin bite sized strips

7-ounce can baby corn, drained

8-ounce can water chestnuts, drained and sliced

Crushed red pepper flakes, optional

Freeze steak for about an hour. Remove from freezer and slice in very thin strips.

Whisk soy sauce and cornstarch together in medium glass bowl. Add steak strips, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Remove steak from refrigerator and bring to room temperature before stir-frying. Heat oil over medium heat in large stir fry pan or wok. Add steak and stir fry briefly (2-3 minutes). Add ginger, red pepper, corn and water chestnuts stir frying to heat through. Serve hot over rice. Garnish with crushed red pepper flakes, if desired. Enjoy!

Sydne George is a food journalist specializing in recipe development, food writing and food photography. She can be reached at sydnegeorge@hotmail.com . Sydne’s recipes from “Special of the day” are archived at http://sydnegeorge.com/blog/.

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