Frugality was supposed to be an ongoing theme with my blog, but has recently gotten tossed by the wayside because of big ticket ingredients like the spareribs and leg of lamb. And wow, my monthly grocery budget has reflected that. So for this meal I wanted to get back to the cheap. Which I totally did.
By using food I already in my cupboards and making the most out of sales (I love you, circular) and coupons, #42 cost less than $10.
Here is the breakdown of ingredients and cost:
I also had the following FREE items–bread (which came from the underground bread trading ring), ground turkey (from previous BOGO), and brownie mix (from the buy 2 get 3 free Duncan Hines super-duper sale).
These are the items that I purchased at Safeway specifically for #42:
- Zucchini on sale for $1/lb. 2.2 lbs = $2.20
- Parsley $1.29/bunch = $1.29
- Bag of salad mix on sale for $1/bag = $1.00
- Bulk carrots $.79/lb for .39 lbs = $.31
- Red onion $1/lb for .66 lbs = $.66
- 2 cans tomato soup at $.79/can = $1.58
- 2 vanilla ice cream cups $.59/cup = $1.18
- Whipped topping 1 tub = $1.50
For a grand total of $9.72!!!!
And that’s especially impressive because I have gotten a dinner for 2 out of it, a lunch for me and I froze 2 more servings of the stuffed zucchini. Also there were the extra meatballs that went into a sauce was used for 3 more servings. (I might even have some extra sauce that I froze. I can’t remember. I cooked this a while ago. But I digress). So with what I bought specifically for #42, I got at least 8 servings for under $10. Call me the Frugal Gourmet. Or not. Things got bad for the Frugal Gourmet at the end.
And now my timeline (keep in mind that I made the brownie pie and carrots the day before–but more on that later on).
6:00: turned on the oven and put the water on to boil.
6:25: once the water was boiling I put the zucchini into the water for 10 minutes. In the meantime I chopped the parsley and onion and grated the cheese.
6:35: I placed the zucchini in a colander to cool down.
6:40: I cut the zucchini in half and put them in cold water to cool even further. I also put the slices of bread into milk (instead of water) to soak.
6:48: I used a spoon to carve out the center of each zucchini half and then placed the halves on a rack upside down to drain.
While the zucchinis were settling I chopped the zucchini pulp and combined all of the filling ingredients (I want to note that #42 states explicitly season to taste. And thank the Lord that it did because this was going to be a really bland filling if I didn’t augment it with some extra flavor. I went the Italian route and added oregano, basil, garlic salt, and black pepper).
I filled the halves with the meat mixture, formed the extra meatballs, and covered the zucchini with the tomato soup/water mix.
7:09: The zucchini was in the oven and baking. I had a bit of time here to spare so I cleaned all of the kitchen items used in the prep of #42.
7:40: I put on a pot of water to boil for my Orzo, which, according to the box, takes 9 minutes to cook. At this point there were 15 minutes left on the timer for the zucchini.
7:45: I decided to bump up the temperature of the oven with 10 minutes left. I wanted to make sure that the turkey was thoroughly cooked.
7:53: With 3 minutes left on the timer, I amp up the oven even more. I wanted it to brown a bit. Just a smidge before 8pm, the water came to a boil and I dumped in the Orzo.
8:08: The Orzo is done, drained, and I can plate.
8:15: DINNER IS SERVED!
I don’t think that this was one of my better photographs. That sauce is pretty sad looking, and my brownie ‘pie’ is unadorned. I got pretty close with the tablecloth, though.
So, onto my review of #42:
This was okay. I had never done a stuffed zucchini before so I don’t know if this one was particularly good or bad. But I do know that I prefer a stuffed pepper or stuffed cabbage. Zucchini is so bland and the filling was (as directed in the recipe) so bland, and the sauce was bland, and it was on tiny bits of bland pasta…wow, I’m making this sound horrible. It wasn’t horrible. Just not the best work that Dinner is Served! (and me) has done.
I don’t think the meatballs turned out poorly. They have been good in tomato sauce on pasta in the meals I have made post-#42.
First things first, the brownie pie was just brownie mix baked in a pie pan. I am sure that there are Brownie Pie a la Mode recipes out there, but I did the easiest thing and plopped vanilla ice cream and whipped topping on a big, round brownie.
More interesting were the carrots…these were a tasty little surprise. I did a search for marinated carrots and came across this recipe for Easy Pickled Carrots. Easy is the key word there. I had all of the ingredients (carrots aside) in my cupboards and I had a mason jar from some locally produced peach chutney that I purchased through Arganica.
My only modifications: cutting the recipe in half and julienning the carrots. #42 did specify Julienne carrots, after all. So I used one of the best kitchen inventions ever: the Julienne peeler. Oh, and I opted for the dill instead of anise or fennel, because I had dried dill on my spice rack.
Anyway, I made honest to god pickles And they were pretty good. In the future I think I would add some heat to the carrots and make them more akin to a Chinese pickle, but they turned out well in this application and they were pretty to boot.
I think I might try pickling some other vegetables (when on special, of course) using this same recipe. And to make it diet-friendly and zero points (for all you WW aficionados out there), you could substitute Splenda or Activia (no, that’s the Jamie Lee Curtis yogurt) or Salvia (no, that’s what Hannah Montana smoked in a bong). OH! Truvia–is that right? Whatever. I’ll probably still use sugar because it’s already in my kitchen.
I like it on the cheap.