Dressing it up!

With today’s economy the way it is, and jobs being lost in both the private and government sectors, many are not buying foods like they used to.

Many are now starting to make meals from scratch to save money - which to me is the best thing to do. Not only is it cheaper, but it is much healthier. Just think of it - when you die you will have to be emblamed if you eat better. Keep eating all these pre-packaged, sodium-packed and preservative-filled foods and you won’t need to be embalmed - the process has already started.

Ok - I may be stretching it a bit - but a VERY tiny, itty-bitty bit. But it’s one way to get a point across.

This thread has been created for those that are interested in BETTER and CHEAPER home cooking.

If you are the “I’m always in a hurry with no time for prep work” type cook - there will be recipes shared for making some of your store-bought items in your very own kitchen - less MSG, better flavors, better-for-you meals.

Will you save money? Of course! Have you noticed lately the prices of the foods in the supermarkets? Hey - what about these great coupon deals you get in the coupon section of the paper these days?

I’ll start with food prices. For instance - a friend of ours has little ones who like snacks quite a bit. Thankfully they like fruits and veggies and they don’t eat as much junk foods as other children. But they do enjoy a meal that is made by Banquet with chicken tenders, mac and cheese and a brownie thing. Not much in there - but just enough to satisfy them. These little gizmos used to cost $.88 each. Not bad. Not worth it - that’s for sure. Now - with everything going up - they are averaging $1.00 to $1.19. for the price of one she can make two homemade with larger portions of chicken and mac and cheese.

Speaking of mac and cheese - since those lovely little boxes came out years ago they’ve gotten quite pricey for what you are getting. And the portions are getting smaller. I’ll get to portions later - I’m still on a roll with prices.

How excited I was to find third-rate lettuce on sale at the supermarket for $1.49! No - I didn’t buy it - I wouldn’t want a rabbit to eat that crap - it was BAD! But the average head of lettuce was $1.99 for so long and now I just know it will be higher soon. Tomatoes are going for $3.99lb or more. Unless you want the vine-ripened HYDROPONIC Frankenstein tomatoes grown in chemicals instead of soil. No thanks.

Those of you that know me, know that I am an “adopted” gram to 2 little lovies. I pack their lunches daily for school. Amazing what they like to take at times and the prices of it now. For instance - little Slim Jims - used to be 5 in a box for $.88 - now there are 4 in a box for $1.00. Those boxes of mini-muffins used to have 5 or 6 little muffins in each pouch - and they had 6, then 5 and now 4 pouches per box - but now with 4 or 5 muffins. And the price is higher!

Mini-candy bars had 10 to a pack for $.88 - now there are 8 to a pack for $1.19 (or more). Small bags of chips or snacks that I would pack on occasion - those things are up to $1.29 each! Those adorable little packages of cookies - 4 or 6 cookies to a pack - a buck apiece.

Canned goods, staples, meats, produce, grains - you name it - smaller packages, less pounds/ounces, more money.

Which leads me to coupon shopping. Like it’s worth the time clipping the darn things these days. We have stores that will not take coupons (Aldi’s, Save-A-Lot, etc.) and we have those that will even double your coupons - up to $.99. Sounds good, huh? Yeah, right.

First of all - where are all those $.35 and $.50 coupons? Oh - that’s right - they are now $1.00 off coupons. And you now need to buy THREE or more items to use it. Think about it - 3 items, smaller in size and weight, and prices higher than ever - what are you saving?

I don’t like the higher prices - but I would prefer to have a company raise the price of the food items and leave the sizes alone! Half-gallons of ice cream are only 56 ounces. I’m waiting for them to hit 48 ounces! I’ve noticed more pint sizes in the stores lately. Dang expensive! The so-called pound packages of bacon are only 12 ounces. One pound packages of polish sausage are only 12 to 14 ounces. And so on and so on…

For many it’s time to tighten the belt. Time to stop eating out - time to start making more homemade and economical meals.

No problem with the restaurant recipes - we have tons here on RSN!

So let’s “dress up” some of our foods - s-t-r-e-t-c-h those meals to fill those tummies and make tasty dishes our families will remember for years to come.

Let’s share some economical, tummy-filling, and good-for-you meals!

Here’s one that is economical -
(makes you think about the Great Depression of the 1930’s!)


1 medium onion, minced
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
3 cups shredded cabbage
1/4 cup chopped cabbage
3 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups diced potato
1 (14 1/2 ounce) can evaporated milk
Minced fresh parsley (for serving)
Dash of paprika

Cook onion slowly in the butter until golden. Add cabbage to the onion with the water, salt and potato. Cook until tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

Add milk and reheat, but do not boil.

Serve sprinkled with minced parsley and a dash of paprika.

Makes 6 servings

Hamburger Helper

  1. Brown one pound (more or less) of ground beef in a skillet.

  2. Stir in 2 cups pasta or 1 cup rice or 2 cups slices potatoes (dried
    is fine) and 2 cups water (use one cup if using fresh potatoes),
    1/4 cup butter or margarine, and one of the sauce mixes below.


Use macaroni and 1/4 cup of this mixture.
4 1/2 cups dehydrated cheese
2 2/3 Tbls powdered milk
2 2/3 cups flour
2 tsp onion powder


Use noodles or potatoes and 1/3 cup of the following mixture. Stir in
1/4 cup sour cream just before serving. (1/4 cup fresh or canned
mushrooms may be used instead of dried, but put them in when you cook,
not when preparing the mix for storage)
4 cups powdered milk
4 cups flour
2 cups minced onion
1 cup beef bouillon
1/4 cup onion powder
4 cups dried mushrooms
2 Tbls celery salt


Use wheel shaped pasta, one can tomato sauce and 2 Tbls of Italian
seasoning or 2 Tbls of the following mixture.
1/4 cup crushed basil
1/4 cup ground oregano
2 Tbls garlic powder
1/2 cup parsely

In a hurry - try some make-aheads:


8 boned chicken breasts
2 c. butter cracker crumbs
1 c. Parmesan cheese
Salt to taste
2 t. Italian seasoning
1 c. melted butter or margarine

Cut chicken breasts into 1 1/2-inch pieces. Combine crumbs, cheese, salt and Italian seasoning in shallow dish; mix well. Dip chicken in butter; coat with crumb mixture. Place on baking sheet. Chill, covered, for several hours if desired. MAKE AHEAD TO THIS POINT.

Bake in preheated 400* F. oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

serves 4 to 6


1/2 lb. broccoli, chopped
1/2 lb. carrots, chopped
1/2 c. chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 T. margarine
2 T. soy sauce
1 t. celery seed
1/2 t. dillweed
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
7 eggs
1 1/4 c. milk
1 lb. Monterey Jack cheese, grated

Saute broccoli, carrots, onion and garlic in margarine in skillet or microwave until tender. Add soy sauce and seasonings. Pour into greased 3 qt. casserole. Chill in refrigerator for several hours if desired. MAKE AHEAD TO THIS POINT.

Combine eggs, milk and cheese in bowl; mix well. Pour over vegetables. Place casserole in larger pan of hot water. Bake in preheated 350* F. oven for 55 to 60 minutes or until set.

Serves 6


2 T. melted butter or margarine
1/2 c. flour
Salt to taste
1/4 t. pepper
1/4 t. dry mustard
1 c. milk
1 1/2 c. shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
6 eggs, separated

Combine butter, flour, salt, pepper and dry mustard in saucepan; blend well. Add milk gradually. Cook until thickened, stirring constantly. Add cheese. Cook until melted, stirring constantly; cool. STIR A SMALL AMOUNT OF CHEESE SAUCE INTO BEATEN EGG YOLKS; (TEMPER) STIR EGG YOLKS INTO CHEESE SAUCE.FOLD GENTLY INTO STIFFLY BEATEN EGG WHITES. Spoon into 6 buttered 1-cup souffle dishes. Freeze until firm. Store, tightly covered, in freezer. MAKE AHEAD TO THIS POINT.

Bake in preheated 350* F. oven until puffed and golden.

Serves 6

“Almost Hamburger Helper” Mix
A few resealable plastic bags made ahead of time will save you time as well.

2 cups nonfat dry milk
1 cup corn starch
1/4 cup beef bouillon powder
2 tablespoons onion flakes
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons dried parsley
1 tablespoon garlic powder

Mix the ingredients together and store in an airtight jar.

Attach the following recipes to the bag:

Chili Mac:
1 lb ground beef, browned and drained
1 c water
1/2 c macaroni noodles (uncooked)
2 cans chopped tomatoes
1 T chili powder
1/2 cup mix
Combine all and simmer 20 minutes or until macaroni is cooked.

1 lb ground beef, browned and drained
2 c water
1/2 c mix
2 c uncooked egg noodles
1/2 cup sour cream
Combine all except sour cream. Simmer 20 minutes or until noodles are tender. Stir in sour cream and serve.

Potato Beef Casserole:
1 lb ground beef, browned and drained
3/4 c water
6 potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1 c frozen mixed veggies
1/2 cup mix
Combine all and simmer, covered, until potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove cover and cook until excess water is evaporated.

Quick Lasagna:
1 lb ground beef, browned and drained
1/2 c mix
1 onion, chopped
2 c water
16 oz tomato sauce
3 c lasagna noodles, uncooked, broken in bits
1/4 c parmesan cheese
2 c mozzarella cheese, shredded
Combine all except mozzarella in large skillet. Bring to a boil, let simmer for 15 minutes or until noodles are cooked. Top with mozzarella. Turn off heat and let cheese melt.

Alpine Style Green Beans

1 pound green beans – trimmed
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup onion – finely diced
1 cup sour cream
salt – to taste
2 cups gruyere or other swiss cheese – grated
1/4 cup bread crumbs

  1. Preheat oven to 350. French cut beans by cutting them in half lengthwise, running the knife down the flat part between the seams of the bean. If the beans are long, cut them at an angle into lengths of about 2 inches. Steam until crisply tender, from 3 to 5 minutes. When cooked through, but still slightly crunchy, remove from the steamer.

  2. In large skillet, melt 2 tbs. of the butter and add the onion. Cook until translucent. Stir in the sour cream and the green beans. Add salt to taste. Mix to coat all ingredients and turn off heat.

  3. Spread mixture into a lightly greased casserole. Layer the cheese over it. Top with bread crumbs, and dot with the remaining butter.

  4. Bake for 25 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the sauce is bubbly. Serve hot or warm.

Country Green Beans

1 lb. fresh green beans, trimmed
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped fully cooked ham
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/4 cup water
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

In a medium saucepan, combine all ingredients. Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until beans are tender.

Mac and Cheese

2 cups marcaroni
1 1/2 cup milk
1 egg slightly beated
1/2 tsp mustard
1 1/2 cup grated cheese

Preheat oven 325 degrees
Cook macaroni until al dente. Place noodles in a greases casserole dish. Mix milk, egg and mustard together. Pour mixture over noodles. Spread cheese into casserole and mix
well. Bake for 1 hour.

Try some “add-ons” to your favorite mac and cheese recipe - or box recipe:
Add each set of suggestions to a prepared box of macaroni and cheese–

cooked/diced chicken + broccoli + 2 t. mustard

cooked ground beef + stewed tomatoes + 1 t. chili powder

cooked ground beef + green pepper + 1/2 c. barbecue sauce

cooked/diced chicken + stewed tomatoes + 1/3 c. green pepper

ham + peas + 1 t. mustard

Italian sausage + broccoli + 1/4 c. red pepper

Grated cheese (in addition to that which is in it)

Do you like chicken and turkey? There is so much you can do with them.

Our local market has chickens on sale this week - so right now I’ve got 3 roasters in the oven. Of course we can’t eat them all - but once cooked and thoroughly cooled (overnight in the refrigerator), I’ll package them up in pieces for future meals - casseroles, warm up in gravy (which I will freeze separate), warm up in BBQ sauce, spaghetti sauce; dice and use in soups, stews, add to pasta dishes - shred for sammies - you name it.

When doing this for the freezer - I just do a basic flavoring - garlic, fresh parsley, kosher salt and pepper. The flavor is great and I can use the leftovers for anything at all.

The disappointing thing about today’s birds - the necks and gizzards (which I love fried) were all chopped up and just shoved in the cavity - couldn’t enjoy those as well. But I cleaned the birds, coated with a light coating of olive oil, seasoned outside and in the cavity - 350* F. till done; and I turn them and roast on the breast side as well.

I’ll take them apart after dinner, the carcasses and skins and wings will go straight into the large soup pot - no skimming! Add chopped onion, celery, carrots and some chicken bouillon - great soup stock. Strain, bottle and freeze. Save some for soup tomorrow - just add veggies and rice or barley or noodles/pasta and some diced chicken. I save the glass quart-size salad dressing bottles - perfect for freezing broth. NOTE: After straining, ladle into jars - do not cover. Place in fridge to cool completely overnight. THEN cap and place in freezer. To use: thaw in refrigerator overnight. use in any recipe calling for chicken broth - and it’s not loaded with SODIUM like canned broths are.

You can always make your own TV dinners as well - portion your meats, taters, sides, etc. in aluminum pie plates (if you have to), cool overnight in the fridge; cover with foil and freeze. Label and date - they don’t last forever - but you can make them ahead for enjoying in a week or so. Pie plates will warm just right in the oven. If you have plastic containers that will go into the freezer and the microwave - that will work too.

One of the most economical meals that most children love is spaghetti and meatballs. Top the spaghetti with toasted buttered bread crumbs to save on the cost of good Parmesan. That is an old Italian trick from back when I grew up in a predominately Italian neighbor in the late 40’s and 50’s.

MEMORIES! I think every Italian family enjjoyed that dish! I still make it today. Any pasta will do for me!

How about dressing up some canned beans?

1/2 cup brown sugar – packed
2 1-pound cans pork and beans
1 teaspoon dry mustard
4 slices bacon – chopped
1/2 cup catsup

Using a 1 1/2-quart casserole dish, empty one can of beans. Combine Big Chief brown sugar and mustard and sprinkle one-half over beans. Top with other can of beans, sprinkle with remaining Big Chief brown sugar mixture, bacon, and catsup.

Bake uncovered in slow oven, 325º for 1 1/2 hours.


1 ea Env. Recipe Soup Mix; *
24 oz Baked Beans; In Tomato Sauce
1 ea Apple; Medium, Chopped
1/4 c Brown Sugar; Packed
1 T Prepared Mustard

  • Use either Onion, Onion-Mushroom or Beefy-Mushroom Soup Mix in this

In large saucepan, combine all ingredients. Cook, uncovered, over medium
heat, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes.


In a 1 1/2-quart casserole, combine all ingredients. Heat, covered, at
HIGH (Full Power), Stirring occasionally, for 12 minutes or until
bubbling. Let stand, covered, for 5 minutes.


1 Tablespoon chopped onion
1 Tablespoon butter or margarine
1 can (1 lb. 5 oz.) pork and beans
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 Tablespoons tomato catsup

Saute onion in butter until tender. Combine onion with remaining ingredients in a greased 1 1/2 quart casserole. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 1 hour 15 minutes. Makes 4 servings.

more on beans:

1-2 pounds ground beef
2 16-oz cans pork & beans
1 can kidney beans, drained
1 can butter beans, drained
1 can tomato soup or tomato puree
1 cup brown sugar
1 package Lipton Onion Soup Mix
1 teaspoon yellow mustard

Brown meat in 1/2 cup water. Mix all ingredients together in a
large casserole. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees F. until desired


2 (28 oz.) cans pork and beans
1 (15 oz.) can tamales
1 small onion, chopped
4 slices bacon
4 T. brown sugar
4 T. dark corn syrup

Chop bacon into pieces and fry until crisp. Add onions; drain. Put
beans in saucepan; add syrup and brown sugar. Mix in onions
and bacon. Heat until steaming. Cut tamales into pieces and add
to beans. Heat in a skillet or place in baking dish in oven until hot.


1 lb. hamburger, fry and drain
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. minced onion
1 c. applesauce
1 t. prepared mustard
1 c. ketchup
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine above ingredients with 1 large or 2 medium cans pork and beans. Bake 1 hour in 350* F. oven.

Cheesy Franks-N-Beans Casserole

9 slices bacon – crisp
32 ozs pork and beans
1/4 c brown sugar
2 tbsps Dijon-style mustard
3 tbsps worcestershire sauce
8 frankfurters
8 slices processed American cheese – cut in strips

Combine Beans, brown sugar, mustard and worcestershire sauce, mix
well. Slit franks lengthwise, arrange 4 strips cheese in each. Pour
half of bean mixture into 1 1/2 qt. baking dish, arrage 4 franks on
top of beans. Place 3 slices bacon between franks. Repeat, arrange
remaining 3 slices bacon on top of franks. Bake 30-40 min, or arrange
in crockpot and heat on low for 8 hours…

Coney Island Casserole

1 (1 lb, 1.3 ounce) package refrigerated large corn biscuits
2 cups chili - leftover - with beans preferred
1/2 (16 ounce) package hot dogs, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup chopped onion

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove biscuits from package and lightly press into the bottom and slightly up the sides of a lightly greased 9x13 inch baking dish. Place biscuits in oven and bake for ten minutes.

In bowl, combine chili, hot dogs, cheese and onion.

Remove biscuits from oven and top with chili mixture. Return to oven and continue baking for an additional 12-15 minutes or until biscuits are golden brown and filling is hot.

Corn Dog Casserole

2 cans (16 ounces each) pork and beans
1 package hot dogs, sliced into rounds
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons mustard
1 package (8.5 ounces) corn muffin mix
1 cup grated cheddar cheese

Combine the beans, hot dogs, brown sugar, Worcestershire and mustard. Pour into a lightly greased baking dish.

Prepare the muffin mix according to package directions. Add the cheese. Drop by spoonfuls onto the bean mixture. Bake at 350 degrees F for 40 minutes.

How about kraut and ham, weiners or bologna?

Just rinse your kraut and place in casserole dish, top with cooked ham pieces, sliced weiners or chunks of bologna. Sprinkle with black pepper, salt and caraway if desired.

If you have leftover pork, chops or ribs - use them.

Can be prepared on the stove top.


2 tablespoons butter or margarine – softened
1 1/3 pounds potatoes – (4 medium) cut into 1/8-inch slices
4 hot dogs – (2 ounces each) cut into 1/2-inch slices
1 tablespoon flour
salt and pepper – to taste
1 cup lowfat milk

Spread half the butter on bottom of 12-inch nonstick skillet. Layer half the potato slices then half the hot dog slices in skillet. Sprinkle with half the flour. Dot with half the remaining butter. Season with salt and pepper. Repeat layers, ending with salt and pepper. Pour milk over. Bring to simmer over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook until potato slices are tender, about 20 minutes. Uncover skillet and simmer until sauce thickens, about 7 minutes.