Monday, July 20, 2009

Dinner on a Budget: Mac 'n Cheese Meals

This week’s “Dinner on a Budget” is brought you by Kraft’s Velveeta Shells and Cheese. Okay, not really, but it is one of my favorite ways to stretch a dollar, or a dollar and fifty cents to be exact.

There are literally dozens of ways to turn a simple box of macaroni and cheese into a delicious dinner for your family. Whether you feel like a cheesy soup or a bubbly casserole, your taste buds (and your wallet!) will never be disappointed.

First, start with a basic box of mac ‘n cheese. Personally, I like using Kraft’s Velveeta Shells and Cheese mix because the cheese sauce is already made and I prefer shell pasta over elbow macaroni. However, they run about $1.50 a box, so I tend to buy them only when I have coupons that make them 50 cents to $1 a box. You can also use cheaper variations of macaroni and cheese…most grocery stores sell them for 40 to 60 cents a box.

Next, pick your main meat ingredient. Literally anything from ground beef, to steak strips, to shredded chicken, to cubed ham can be used. You’ll need about a pound per box of mac ‘n cheese. If you want to make the meat stretch you can definitely use as little as half a pound. I tend to use less shredded chicken (about a cup) for recipes, but more ground beef. It balances the flavors better, I think.

Finally, pick your fillers. This can include anything from veggies (broccoli and carrots are some of my favorites), beans, salsa, extra cheese, and more. You’ll want to add extra milk, sour cream, or water to get to the consistency you desire.

Mix together, season as desired, and voila! An easy, delicious meal that can be made for as little as 75 cents a serving!

And for starters, here are a few of my favorite Kraft recipes:
(If you want to view the recipes larger, just click on the images)
Since I’m less of a “recipe-follower” and more of a “recipe-adapter” I used my own taco seasoning mix (chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper, onion powder), Fritos instead of tortilla chips (it’s what we had), about half the cheese the recipe called for, and leftover packets of Taco Bell salsa. It was delicious! Oh, and the directions to “layer” the dinner can be followed loosely…it’s just as good all mixed together.

This is supposed to taste a bit like a real cheeseburger, and although I’m not a fan of cheeseburgers, it was really good! I didn’t have green onions on hand, so I skipped those, but they probably would have added a nice kick to the dish. I've discovered that I’m not a big fan of tomatoes in pasta dishes, so I probably won’t use them next time.

This dish was perfect with the ingredients listed, but don’t follow the directions exactly if you cook this. A large skillet won’t hold everything…use a medium to large saucepan instead. Also, if you want the broccoli and carrots to be tender either cook them separately or cook the dish longer than it calls for. But if you like them crunchy, the cooking time is perfect.

1 comment:

  1. I also do the same thing. Macaroni and cheese are kids favorite. What you add is nutritious and tastes good with the macaroni and cheese. I also have added peas, canned tuna, carrots, broccoli and hotdog slices. It is definitely economical and quick.