There are times when we need to save a little money on groceries and times we need to save a lot! Here are a few inexpensive and REALLY inexpensive meals.
We live about 3 1 /2 miles outside a village with one traffic light. I love that tiny village and so this casserole is named in its honor. This isn’t the least expensive dinner but you’ll probably have some leftovers.
Chicken in the ‘ville Casserole
o 1 whole chicken (about 3 lbs.)
o 1/2 cup water
o 1 cup apple cider vinegar
o 1celery stalks
o 1/2 onion, quartered
o 3/4 teaspoons salt
o 1/2 teaspoon spice mix (recipe below)
o 1/4 teaspoon pepper
o 1/4 teaspoon poultry seasoning
o 1package long-grain and wild rice mix (6 oz.)
o 1/4 cup butter or margarine
o 8 oz. sliced mushrooms
o 1/2 cup green onions, chopped bunch green onions, chopped
o 8 oz. sour cream
o 1 can cream of mushroom soup (10 1/4 oz. can)
o 1 1 /2 cups buttery crackers, crushed
o 1 can French-fried onions (6 oz.), crushed
o 2 tablespoons butter, melted
o 1/8 teaspoon paprika
o Pinch garlic powder
- Combine chicken, water, vinegar, celery, onion, salt, spice mix, pepper, and poultry seasoning in a large Dutch oven.
- Bring to a boil then reduce heat.
- Cover and simmer until chicken is cooked through, about an hour.
- Carefully remove chicken and allow it to cool.
- Pour the broth through a fine mesh strainer reserving liquid and discarding solids.
- Cook the rice according to package directions substituting the chicken broth for water (adding water if necessary to reach the correct amount of liquid) and omitting butter.
- Discard the skin from the cooled chicken and shred. Be careful to remove all bones.
- Preheat oven to 350°
- Melt the butter in the Dutch oven over medium heat.
- Add the mushrooms and green onions, sautéing until tender.
- Add rice, chicken, sour cream, and soup.
- Lightly spray a 3 quart casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray and spoon in chicken mixture.
- Mix crushed crackers, French fried onions, paprika, and garlic powder together to combine.
- Add 2 tablespoons of butter and mix until dry ingredients are coated with butter.
- Sprinkle the chicken mixture with the cracker mixture.
- Cover and bake for 30 minutes then uncover and bake 5 – 10 minutes more until crumb topping is browned and casserole is bubbly.
Spice Mix: 1/4 teaspoon each of the following: turmeric, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, ground cloves, and fenugreek. Mix thoroughly and store in an airtight container for up to 3 months.
The day before payday is usually pretty tight so this vegetable soup is a good go-to meal. If you’ve got some leftover chicken or beef just toss it in!
Day Before Payday Soup
- 2 cans of cream of mushroom or cream of chicken soup
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 10 baby Yukon gold potatoes, cut in half
- 4 or 5 large carrots, chopped
- 3/4 cup peas
- 3/4 cup whole kernel corn
- 3/4 cup fresh green beans, broken into bite size pieces
- Pour soup into large pot.
- Add milk and whisk until blended.
- Add potatoes and carrots.
- Simmer until potatoes and carrots are still tender crisp.
- Add peas, corn, and green beans and simmer until heated through.
Serve with a tossed salad
This soup was served after services at the (nearly) Mennonite church we attended decades ago. This is the family size recipe.
After Church Soup
- 1 onion, chopped
- 4 tablespoons of butter
- 3 cups cooked white beans (I use Great White Northern as they hold their shape well but any white bean will work)
- 1 can diced tomatoes, drained
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 4 cups milk
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Baguette or other crusty bread, cut into bite sized pieces
- salt and pepper to taste
- In a large pot brown chopped onion in butter.
- Add beans, tomatoes, garlic, and milk.
- Bring just to the boiling point.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Top with bread chunks and serve immediately.
If you have a little leftover chicken, turkey, or other cooked meat you can add it to the soup.
Chicken is still relatively inexpensive and this is a great make-ahead meal. Assemble the chicken and freeze. When you want to serve it just allow it to thaw completely and bake as directed in recipe.
Saucy Crispy Cheddar Chicken
- 4 large chicken breasts
- 2 sleeves buttery crackers
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 cup milk
- 3 cups cheddar cheese, grated
- 3 teaspoons fresh parsley, minced
- 5 ounce can cream of chicken soup
- 1 tablespoon sour cream
- 1 tablespoon butter
- Cut each chicken breast into large chunks.
- Crush the crackers in a zipper bag or in a food processor fitted with a metal blade.
- Pour the milk, cheese and cracker crumbs into 3 separate pans.
- Toss the 1/4 t salt and 1/8 t pepper into the cracker crumbs and stir the mixture around to combine.
- Dip each piece of chicken into the milk
- Press the chicken into the cheese
- Press the cheesy chicken into the cracker crumbs and press it in.
- Spray a 9×13 pan with cooking spray and lay the chicken inside the pan.
- Sprinkle the dried parsley over the chicken.
- Cover the pan with tin foil and bake at 400 degrees for 35 minutes.
- Remove the tin foil, bake for an additional 10 minutes, or until the edges of the chicken are golden brown and crispy.
- Combine the soup, sour cream, and butter in a medium pan, whisking to combine.
- Cook over medium high heat, stirring constantly until the sauce hot.
Serve over the chicken.
My Aunt Penny always added shrimp to this pasta dish but for an inexpensive version you can serve the pasta and vegetables without the shrimp.
Aunt Penny’s Penne Pasta
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes
- 8 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
- 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 4 cups fresh spinach
- 1/2 cup marinara sauce
- 12 ounces penne, cooked al dente
- 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
- In a large skillet with a lid, heat olive oil over medium-low heat.
- Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until garlic begins to soften. Do not burn garlic!
- Add in mushrooms, tomatoes, salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes or until mushrooms begin to soften.
- Add in spinach and cover skillet.
- Let spinach wilt for 2 minutes.
- Remove lid, and stir in the pasta sauce.
- Remove the skillet from the heat, and let rest for 5 minutes. This is critical so yogurt doesn’t curdle during the next step!
- Stir in the Greek yogurt, and then add the cooked penne. Vegetables are coated.
- Heat until just warmed through.
Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese if desired.
Serve with a salad and crusty Italian bread.