During the holidays large gatherings of family and friends for meals and fellowship can easily blow one's grocery budget. For families already living on a very tight budget, the expense of special meals and traditional treats can really add to one's financial stress. It is so sad, but very true, that some families must choose between a traditional Thanksgiving and/or Christmas meal(s) and gifts for their children or even paying one or more utility bills. I remember all too well that there was a time when our family had to make those sorts of tough decisions.
I generally try to keep my Frugal Feasting Friday meal suggestions under $2.00 per serving. However, I realize that with Thanksgiving only one week behind us and Christmas only 3 weeks ahead, there are families who simply can't afford $2.00 per serving meals if they are going to enjoy traditional celebrations. So, today I am sharing a meal that cost less than $1.00 per serving and packs a TON of flavor!
(adapted from November 2011 Taste of Home Magazine, pg. 43)
4 1/2 c. water
1 tbsp. bacon grease OR oil OR butter/margarine
4 carrots, sliced
1 onion, chopped
2/3 c. dried lentils, rinsed
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
2 tbsp. minced fresh parsley OR 1 tbsp. dried parsley
1 tbsp. brown sugar OR 1 tbsp. white sugar & 1tsp. molasses
1 tbsp. vinegar
1 clove mined garlic OR 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 tsp. dried dill weed
1/4 tsp. dried tarragon (optional)
1/4 tsp. pepper
salt to taste
In a stock pot, saute the onions, carrots in bacon grease over medium high heat until the onions begin to turn clear; stir in the garlic. Add the water and lentils and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat; cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until the lentils are tender. Stir in remaining ingredients; and return to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes to allow flavors to blend.
Spicy Oven Sweet Potato Fries
3 medium sweet potatoes
2 tbsp. olive oil OR cooking oil
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
Peel and cut sweet potatoes into wedges. In a large mixing bowl combine oil, sugar, chili powder salt & pepper. Add the sweet potatoes and toss to coat. Place seasoned sweet potatoes onto a baking sheet. Bake at 425 degrees for about 12 minutes, turn and continue to bake for another 10-12 minutes or until fries are tender. NOTE: I prefer to place my oven fries on a baking rack placed over my baking sheet - thus, I don't have to turn the fries mid-way through the baking process and they come out crispy on both sides.
Best Dinner Rolls
(adapted from Taste of Home magazine, November 2011 pg. 61)
These really are the BEST dinner rolls ...
1 c. whole wheat flour
3 1/2 to 4 c. all-purpose unbleached flour
1/4 c. sugar
1 tbsp. active dry yeast OR 1 pkg. active dry yeast
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. milk
1/2 c. water
2 tsp. butter
1 egg, lightly beaten (optional)
Toppings, below (optional)
In a large bowl, combine whole wheat flour, 1 c. all-purpose flour, sugar, yeast and salt. In a saucepan, heat the milk, water and butter to 120-130 degrees. Add to dry ingredients; beat on medium speed for 3 minutes. Add 2 eggs; beat on high speed for 2 minutes. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft, sticky dough. Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl and turn to coast dough. Cover with greased wax paper and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. Punch down . Turn onto a lightly floured surface; divide into 24 portions. Shape into balls. Place the dough balls in two 13in. x 9in. greased baking pans (12 each). Cover with greased waxed paper and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes. If desired, brush lightly with beaten egg and sprinkle with desired topping(s). Bake at 375 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pans to wire racks to cool slightly serve warm. NOTE: You may freeze 1/2 of this dough in a zip lock bag and thaw for later use. After thawing allow to rise, punch down and proceed as directed - dough that has been frozen will take about 2 hours to rise the 1st time.
Makes 24 servings.
*2 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese and 1/2 tsp. dried minced garlic OR garlic powder
*2 tbsp. chopped sliced almonds, 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, 1/2 tsp. dried basil, 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
*1 tsp. poppy seeds, 1 tsp. kosher salt, 1 tsp. dried minced garlic, 1 tsp. sesame seeds, 1 tsp. dried minced onion
NOTE: Get creative with your toppings. If it's summer time and you have aromatic herbs growing in your garden, substitute fresh herbs. Don't have dried minced garlic, mix fresh minced garlic into the egg wash. You can also shape these rolls into rosettes, twists or other desired shapes for visual appeal.
Estimated Cost Breakdown:
Lentil-Tomato Soup - $0.41 per serving
Spicy Oven Sweet Potato Fries - $0.39 per serving
Best Dinner Rolls - $0.19 per serving
Total Cost Estimate for Entire Meal: $0.99 per serving
Disclaimer: The recipes for Lentil-Tomato Soup and Best Dinner Rolls have been adapted from recipes found in the November 2011 issue of Taste of Home magazine. For some reason I never follow recipes exactly as directed, adding my own "spin" or techniques that I think enhances the flavor profiles or nutritional value. If you'd like the recipes exactly as published, please visit www.tasteofhome.com.