For those who like quick-and-easy recipes (that are also low-cost), I think I’ve found another one that works really well.
Miss D. and I were in Walmart yesterday, and found they had several packs of carne picada (i.e. chopped beef), sliced thin, on special at $2.48 per pound. It was almost at its ‘use by’ date, so it had to be consumed or frozen at once: but at that price it was cheaper than even the lowest grade of ground beef, so I grabbed several packs. Three went into the freezer, and two (totaling about 7 pounds of meat) were kept out for today’s supper.
I know from previous experience that this cut of meat isn’t particularly tender or high-quality, but it responds very well to extended cooking over low heat. I put it into the slow cooker at about 9 a.m., accompanied by three medium onions, chopped small, and two cans of cream of mushroom soup, made with half the usual quantity of water (the meat juices would make up for the other half). I cooked them on the high setting for two hours, to get things moving, then reduced the heat to low for the rest of the day. By six this evening the meat was fully cooked, tender as anything, and delicious smells filled the house.
I made a side dish of frozen corn, diced tomatoes and chili beans, heated with a little tomato paste to bind them all together, and served everything over penne pasta. The beauty of this dish is that one can customize it any way one chooses. Miss D. added some sour cream to her meat to make it taste just like beef stroganoff, and did without the corn, tomatoes and bean mix. I and our housemate are both big fans of the latter, so we added it with gusto, plus some Cajun seasoning (me) or hot sauce (him). (He said the beef mixture reminded him of squirrel stew, which he also prepares with mushroom soup.)
There was plenty of food to give everyone two big servings (three to our housemate), and I made up several containers to freeze for future consumption. (Miss D. takes them to work with her to heat up – it’s a lot tastier and more nutritious than vending machine food, and much cheaper than buying takeout.) It was a very affordable meal, quick and easy to prepare and very tasty indeed. What’s not to like?
I recommend keeping an eye on the meat display at your supermarket. Our local Walmart puts out almost-time-expired meat once or twice a week, and if one’s lucky enough to get to it before everyone else, one can pick up some real bargains – particularly if one slow-cooks the cheaper cuts, rendering them even more tender than the expensive ones. I’ll be using this meat for the next couple of weeks, and at today’s prices, I’m very grateful for it!