Cooking on a budget these days with extremely high grocery prices can be a bit like pulling a rabbit out of a hat when you’re not David Copperfield. Grocery prices are through the roof and only getting higher.

I remember in 1969, when I first got married and my grocery budget was $15 a week (and that wasn’t the Dark Ages). Ha! That’s when your dollars went a lot farther. Most of my meals used ground beef, but there was some chicken and the occasional pork chop.

I think I’ve been on a budget for my whole life. Sometimes I think I was born on a budget, or at least I was born into a family that was on a budget. My mother and grandmother always had to be conscious of how much they spent on everything, not just our food.

My grandmother always raised a good sized garden. In the summer we ate a lot of vegetables. I loved vegetables then and love them even more today. If I had good fresh vegetables all of the time, I think I could be a vegetarian. Granny canned everything she could, and that always helped during the winter months. A jar of canned tomatoes was mixed with a lot of thing to put together an inexpensive meal. One of my favorites was always vegetable soup with or without meat. We ate a lot of “beans & taters”. So did most people in this area. I still love soup beans, cornbread, and fried potatoes with onions. You can’t beat it!

I’ve told you before that I’m no expert, but I too have pulled many a meal together with little money. When you’re a young mother with two kids to feed and little money, you learn to perform miracles of sorts.

I do recall a time when I would buy a whole round steak (yes, a whole one). I’d put it in the crockpot with a couple of cans of golden mushroom soup and let it cook all day while I was at work. We’d come home to a good hot meal. I don’t think they even sell a whole round steak any more; it’s in much smaller pieces. Meat has become something that I drop by and visit at the grocery store and fondly recall when I could afford to buy it. Fresh vegetables are almost as expensive as meat.

I can give you some tips on what I’ve done through the years. You have to become a smart shopper these days to snag the best buys.

Buy in larger portions. I don’t mean you need to shop by the truckload, but you do get better buys in everything if you buy in larger quantities. Buy meat in larger packages, cook what you need and freeze the remainder for future use. When you buy items such as potatoes and onions, buy in a large bags instead of loose items. Potatoes and onions keep a long time, and the difference in price is substantial.

Buy on sale and use coupons. Look at those sale papers and make a shopping list of what’s on sale and what you need. Stock up on items like canned vegetables when they’re on sale. I always buy the canned tomatoes and beans when it’s buy one get one free. Look through your newspapers for the coupons. I used to be an avid “couponer”. That’s when stores would double and even sometimes triple coupons. I haven’t seen stores do that for a long time, but coupons can still save you a few dollars.

Buy store brands. I have a few products that I prefer a name brand, but I have learned to buy store brands in many items. This tip alone will make a big difference in what you spend at the grocery store.

Buy at your local farmers’ market. Here in Rogersville, we have a local farmers’ market in the First Baptist Church parking lot each Tuesday and Friday morning.

Look for markdown items. I always look through the marked down meats. Many are good for that day or the next. They may still be good for the freezer. Monday is a good day for looking for mark downs after the meat cases have been filled for the weekends.

Where are the best buys in proteins? Ground beef is not the best buy in the store that it used to be, but it’s still cheaper than steak and seafood. There are thousands of great recipes using ground beef. My second favorite budget friendly protein is canned salmon. Again, it may not be “cheap”, but it’s cheaper than many alternatives. My third choice is the smoked sausage and kielbasa. I love this in a lot of recipes such as cooked cabbage & kielbasa or fried peppers & onions with kielbasa. Turkey is also an often looked over protein that is budget friendly especially when on sale.

I’m giving you three main dish recipes and also a dessert that I consider budget friendly recipes. I’ve had all of these recipes for many years; anywhere from 30 to 50 years. I love all of these. The first is for a quick and easy lasagna. This came from Carol Woody many years ago. My daughter and I had been in a bus wreck, and Carol brought this to my house. The second is a recipe for salmonettes that came from Hints From Heloise many years ago. The third is an Italian turkey noodle casserole that came from Weight Watcher’s many years ago. The dump cobbler is a recipe is a recipe that I had before I got married in 1969 It’s an oldie but goodie!!

If you have any questions, comments or requests, feel free to contact me at mammawcas@gmail.com. I’d love to hear from you.

As always, enjoy!

Quick Lasagna

1 pound ground beef

1 can sliced mushrooms

1-15 ½ ounce jar spaghetti sauce

1-15 ½ ounce jar spaghetti sauce with mushrooms

½ cup chopped onion

½ teaspoon garlic sat

1-8 ounce package lasagna noodles

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

16 ounce carton cottage cheese

2 to 3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Brown meat, drain off fat. Stir in next 5 ingredients. Simmer for 10 minutes. Cook lasagna noodles with salt & oil; drain.

Spread small amount of sauce in bottom of 13 x 9 inch pan that has been greased. Put layer of noodles, then layer of sauce, layer of cottage cheese, and layer of mozzarella. Repeat layer ending with mozzarella. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Salmonettes

1 can of salmon or tuna, drained (14-16 ounces)

1/4 cup liquid from the salmon or tuna

1 egg

½ cup flour

Pepper to taste

1 heaping teaspoon baking powder

Fill a medium skillet halfway and preheat. Drain the salmon or tuna, saving 1/4 cup of the liquid. Put the fish in a medium bowl. Use a fork to break it up until flaky. In small amounts, add egg, flour, and pepper. Blend it until just mixed together. DON’T over mix or let it sit!

Use one level iced-tea spoon or table spoon to scoop up the mixture, and another spoon to shape it into an egg shape. Drop into the hot oil and watch carefully. They brown quickly. Drain on paper towels and serve.

Italian Noodle Casserole

1 pound lean ground beef or turkey

3/4 cup green pepper, chopped

3/4 cup onion, chopped

2 ½ cups tomato sauce

3/4 teaspoon garlic powder

3/4 teaspoon onion salt

3/4 teaspoon oregano

½ teaspoon black pepper

2 ½ cups wide noodles–cooked & drained

½ cup Parmesan cheese

1-8 ounce can sliced mushrooms, drained

Brown meat and add onions and peppers. Cook about 5 minutes. Add tomato sauce, seasonings, mushrooms and cooked noodles. Spray casserole dish with non-stick spray. Fill with noodle mixture. Top with Parmesan cheese. Cover with foil. Bake for 35 minutes. Let stand for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Dump Peach Cobbler

1 cup self-rising flour

1 cup sugar

3/4 cup milk

1 stick margarine

1 large can sliced peaches

Sift flour into 2 quart casserole dish, add sugar and milk. Stir until smooth. Met margarine in saucepan and pour into center of batter. DO NOT STIR. Pour peaches with juice into center. DO NOT STIR. Bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes or until done.

Note: May substitute any canned fruit. I have also used canned pie filling such as apple or cherry. This is still one of my favorite desserts even though it’s so simple. Delicious with ice cream or whipped cream on top.