Mock Beef Stroganoff

With all of the discussion about eating on a limited budget (with the governor of Oregon eating on a food stamp budget, and the Eat Local Challenge focusing on eating within a certain budget), I did a lot of thinking back to those times where I was young and poor and had to feed 2 people on a monthly budget of $105.

Eating on a very low budget can get very boring for a while. There’s only so many times you can eat hot dog and macaroni and cheese, or boxed mashed potatoes and gravy, or ramen, or spaghetti with sauce before it gets real boring, real fast. So early on, I experimented with different things, trying to replicate the taste of more expensive dishes on a limited budget.


Hence, the invention of the “mock beef stroganoff”. For all intents and purposes, it tastes just like the real thing. It’s beefy, creamy, and has a mushroomy vibe going on. And it’s super easy to make. And cheap, too. Simply prepare 2 boxes of beef Rice a Roni, toss it with a pound of browned ground beef, and one prepared packed of McCormick Hollandaise sauce. Back in the early 90’s, this meal cost $2.79 to prepare (.99/lb for ground beef, Rice a Roni on sale 2/$1, and .79 for the sauce packet), and fed us for 2-3 days. These days, it’s a bit more expensive to prepare ($2.99/lb for 90% lean ground beef, $1 per box of Rice a Roni, and $1.39 for the sauce packet, along with about .70 worth of butter), but at around $6 for 8 or more servings, it’s still very economical. I still make it from time to time (even though I can afford to make the real thing now) because of the comfort factor associated with this combination.

When money is tight, what kinds of things do you whip up from ordinary grocery items that most people don’t give a second glance to? I’d love to know!

7 thoughts on “Mock Beef Stroganoff

  1. sher

    That looks yummy! I crave things like that from leaner times too. Foods we used to eat to save money, like rice and beans, are still enjoyed. Now, I often prepare them because thyey’re quick, as well as filling.

  2. Indochick

    The problem with cheap and quick cooking nowadays involves tons of unpronounceable ingredients, including partially hydrogenated oils (=trans fat) and flavorings. Unfortunately, budget food are usually processed food, that is canned food, packaged food. My roommate told me about those days when he was so poor living on minimum wage he could only afford cheap, quick/easy to make food. Apparently, those very food, which were supposed to keep him alive for another day of work at minimum wage, were the cause of his gallstones problem. Years of fats and inorganic substances from the food he ate took a toll on his gallbladder. If it’s not because of extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice flushing, which cost him equivalent to 4 meals during his minimum wage days, he would have had to pay thousands of $$$ on gallbladder surgery or even removal.

    My money saving food is fried rice, which I can fix with frozen veggies, eggs, garlic, red pepper flakes, chopped tomatoes, salt and pepper, and a little oil to stir-fry all ingredients before adding the rice. It’s quick, healthy, and filling.

  3. donna

    Looks really good, but where can I find rice a roni stroganoff, cannot find anywhere.

  4. michael

    Lots of homemade food.. when i was out of work i baked all sorts of bread, which got served with all sorts of homemade soups (good po-folk food).

    Also tended to do stir fry a lot and used whatever meat i could find cheap. Things like steamed greens or brazed cabbage (cabbage hearts have tons of flavor and are great in just about everything and people throw it away) got a lot of play in my house.

    Tomato sauce and pasta, Jambalya and rice.. pretty much what started as tradtional po-folk food was all fair game.

    I did my best to avoid eating junk. It’s not as hard as people say.. just need to be smart and dig out the cookbook. It does take some time, but a lot of cooking can be done at once and saved for the week.

    I’d say that now that i’m sucessfull, i eat worse at home because I have money to go out and eat well.

  5. Kitty

    When rice-a-roni stroganoff disappeared from the shelves several years ago, I actually wrote the company, and they informed me that they had retired the flavor and did not intend to bring it back into production in the foreseeable future. We ate it at least once a week when I was a kid, and I loved it. I can still remember the taste. All I can hope for is that they come to their senses and re-introduce it.

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