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!