Inexpensive recipes for needy

St. Louis County, MO(Zone 5a)

Hi everyone! You are all so good at cooking, I just know you will be able to help me. Our group at church is working with one of the grade schools in our area that has a large population of low-income families. We've taken care of warm clothing, but want to make sure the tummies of the children are full with warm food at dinner time.

My part is to put together 14 or so easy/fast recipes using inexpensive foods such as rice, beans, noodles, veggies and small amounts of meat or other protein source. Most of the parents work several part time jobs and aren't home for long recipe cooking. We are collecting crock pots and plan to hold a cooking class for 5th graders and a parent to teach them how to use them, and how to use dry beans and to cook rice instead of buying instant, etc., so some of the recipes should be able to be cooked in a crock pot.

Any suggestions you have are greatly appreciated. Thank you all, and gentle hugs. Cathy

Plano, TX

red beans and rice-inexpensive, easy, healthy and can add little bit of smoked sausage for meat

St. Louis County, MO(Zone 5a)

Thanks Linda, that is a great suggestion.

Danville, IN

Crock pots are a great idea to promote and educate on how to use. A real time-saver for parents who work!
I would suggest showing how to use inexpensive cuts of pork to make pulled pork. Always a hit at our house.
Also, educate how to slow-cook a chicken, turkey legs, etc. A lot of the cheaper a.k.a. tougher cuts of meat can be so delicious cooked in a crock pot.

There are lots of crockpot recipe books out there. Perhaps it would be good to purchase them along with the crock pots for the families.

As a retired upper-elementary teacher, I can tell you that the kids will love to learn to cook, especially when they get the reward of eating what they make and helping their families.

Good luck.

St. Louis County, MO(Zone 5a)

Thank you for your input H, some of the others thought 5th grade was too young for meal cooking, I pushed this issue, between crock pots and microwaves, it should be plenty safe. My kids were all cooking by then because that's when I went back to work full time.

Lee's Summit, MO(Zone 6a)

Get some Ramen noodles and add chicken, beef, hamburger and spaghettie sauce or any sauce - it's hot, nutritious, easy and ready in a few minutes! I just made a dish for my Grandson - his request: a package of shrimp flavored Ramen noodles, a can of cream of chicken soup, a cup of milk, bring all to a boil and there you have it!

Baltimore, MD(Zone 7a)

This is one of my favorite casseroles. It makes a large batch--not sure if this is really
in the "cheap" category--look at it and see if you want to take any shortcuts.
One ham Steak will provide enough ham for this....or you can buy a cheaper cut of ham...

From: Gitagal

6-8oz. (dry) elbow, bow knot, or any other small macaroni
(cooked per directions and drained)
4-6 Tbsp. Butter or Margarine
4 eggs
1 ¾ cup light cream or 1/2 and ½
½ tsp. Salt
¼ tsp. Pepper—or to taste for both
1 tsp. Dry Mustard
½ tsp. Paprika
3 cups good, cooked ham in ¼” dice
1 ½ cups shredded, sharp Cheddar Cheese
1 onion—minced
1—10oz. Pkg. Frozen peas (optional) for color

Cheese Crumb topping (recipe at the end)

***Have all dicing and shredding done ahead of time!*****
In a 9x11x3 casserole dish (or similar)—(half a disposable foil pan works great):

--Put drained, hot macaroni into the casserole pan.
--Toss cooked macaroni with the butter/margarine.
--Lightly beat eggs with a small amt. of the cream. Add all seasonings and whisk
until well incorporated. Add remaining cream.
--Mix the ham, onion and cheese into the macaroni and pour cream mixture over
the top.

--Sprinkle top with cheese crumb topping. (Can be frozen at this stage).

--Bake in a 375degree oven for 45min.-1 hour until firm and bubbly.
--Serves 8-10.

Combine ½ cup shredded, sharp Cheddar Cheese with 2-3 Tbsp. Of fine, dry bread crumbs and 2-3 Tbsp. of melted butter/margarine. Sprinkle over casserole.

Note: Do not fill pan to the top. This may bubble over as it bakes.

***This freezes VERY well. To use, thaw out in the fridge and bake as usual.

Baltimore, MD(Zone 7a)

Here's another one--in the sweets category.
This is unbelievably good!

(from Gita)

1-Line a cookie sheet with foil—the non-stick (“Release”) works great.
Can also use Parchment paper.

2-Line pan with a single layer of Saltines—all touching-solid.

3-In a saucepan, melt together:
--1 cup butter/margarine (or mix of)
--1 cup sugar ( I use less…maybe 2/3c.—too sweet!)

4- Stir continuously over low heat until partially caramelized and pulling away from sides and bottom. (wood spoon works best)

5- Carefully pour/spread this over saltine layer….( I use the wood spoon to drizzle it over the hot base, then spread it even with a soft spatula).
Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. (The butter mixture will melt and soak
into the Saltine crackers forming a crust)

6- Remove from oven and immediately spread a 12oz. Package of Chocolate Chips over the hot cracker base. The chips will melt. If not melting—put back in oven for a bit. Then use the spatula to spread the chocolate—covering everything evenly.

7-Sprinkle top with your choice of chopped nuts or candy Sprinkles—or whatever..
I like Pecans—but some may prefer Walnuts.

Cool. Then cover pan with foil and refrigerate!

8-When completely cooled, break into pieces (like Peanut Brittle) and store in airtight cookie tins.

***These are beyond yummy and totally addictive!

Here's a yummy soup that is really inexpensive to make...

"Special Potato Soup"--

2-3 stalks celery, sliced
1 medium onion, chopped (I like onion--so I used two!)
2 tablespoons butter, melted (I used bacon drippings)
6 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed (I used 8)
2 carrots, sliced (or more--depends on size)
3 cups water (I used low-salt, fat free Chicken Broth/stock)
5 chicken flavored bouillon cubes ( I did not use--see above!)
3/4 teaspoon seasoned salt (did not use!)
1/2 teaspoon dried whole thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed (I have fresh in my garden. Also added Onion Powder)
dash of garlic powder
dash of pepper
2 cups milk (I used 2 cups 1/2 and 1/2 and made the rest up with milk--OR
You can also use 1 can Evaporated milk + water)
1 cup (4 oz) shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Saute celery and onion in butter in a large Dutch oven until tender.
Add next 9 ingredients; cover and simmer about 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Remove from heat and mash vegetables with potato masher or put through blender or food processor.
Add milk and cheese. Cook, stirring constantly, until cheese is melted. Yield: 10 cups.

(comments from me after I made the second batch)

I have made it twice now...using my cast iron Dutch oven.

Of course--I tweaked a few things here and there--like, I browned some diced bacon and used that fat instead of butter to brown the onions and celery in. Put the bacon bits back into the soup at the end and also some diced, smoked ham. (Seems they just "belonged!")
I also added a few other spices...Onion Powder--a bit of Caraway seed and fresh Rosemary from my garden.
Bought some low-salt, fat-free, home-style Chicken Broth. Added no extra salt to the soup--lots of pepper.
I did not use a processor--just my masher and gently mashed everything in the pot with that. The soup was a bit chunky--but SOOO good!

The second time I used half-and-half.
The first time i did not have it--so used some Evaporated milk+ water. Second batch was much better.+++


St. Louis County, MO(Zone 5a)

Thank you Gita and Kay, very good ideas and easy to make.

Plano, TX

i think hearty soups are the healthiest and very inexpensive
minestrone has lots of veggies, can use a little meat or none and is very filling--i like to make it from scratch but i know there must be super easy recipes using canned veggies etc---i think it depends on how easy you want it to be

also --is there an ethnicity that you might want to think about?

St. Louis County, MO(Zone 5a)

Linda, this area has a wonderful ethnic mix, so I'm trying to add a little of each. Minestrone sounds wonderful, I might even make some for dinner, haha.

Plano, TX

what are some of the ethnicities? i love ethnic foods and i think teaching the kids both their own and other ethnicities is important

St. Louis County, MO(Zone 5a)

We have middle east, bosnian, areas of africa (recent arrivals,) hispanic, caribbean and asia, isn't this wonderful? It has been hard for the school to meet some of the language needs, but the children pick up on things so fast.

Bolingbrook, IL(Zone 5a)

There are a number of books out that are called "5 ingrediants or less" or 3 or 4. These cookbooks have many recipes that are good and just right for working parents wanting to fix a hot meal when they are tired or short of time. Also I am sure there are recipies like that on line.

St. Louis County, MO(Zone 5a)

Thank you for that suggestion, I'll do a search for those.

Plano, TX

i like the idea of very few ingredients for 5th graders cooking--the simpler the better

St. Louis County, MO(Zone 5a)

My daughter's friend sent a recipe, it sounded awful to me but it was tasty. I would make it with low-salt soup. My grandkids loved it:

Tater tot casserole:

One pound of ground turkey thawed but not cooked
One pound bag of frozen mixed vegetables
One can Cream of Chicken soup thinned with
One half cup skim milk
One pound bag of tater tots
Optional: cheese

She greased a 9x11 pan
Crumble the ground turkey in the bottom of the pan (uncooked)
Top with the frozen vegetables
Pour the soup over the top of the vegetables
Put one layer of tater tots on top

Cook at 425 for 35 to 45 minutes. Check after 25 minutes. If the tater tots are getting too browned, turn down to 325 to finish cooking.

Top with american cheese triangles or sprinkle cheddar cheese on top. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

I would describe this as similar to a chicken pot pie, kid style.

Southwestern, OH(Zone 6b)

Instead of spending the cash to buy a book, maybe print out then copy the recipes you collect and either stick them in a binder, or if you have the machine at school that will soft bind them, do that. heck, if worst comes to worst, just hole punch them and use those plastic wire ties to hold them together.

I'll try to dig up a few for you, but this one I love, it makes a hearty soup I don't think they should be chopping the onion or garlic, but maybe a parent could do that the night before for them?

Crock Pot Posole

o 2 14-1/2-ounces cans golden hominy, drained
o 1 4-ounce can chopped green chili peppers, undrained
o 1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
o 2 cloves garlic, minced
o 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts and/or or thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
o 1 14-1/2 ounce can tomatoes, undrained and cut up
o 2 14-1/2 ounces cans reduced-sodium chicken broth
o 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
o 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
o 2 tablespoons snipped fresh cilantro
o Fat-free dairy sour cream (optional)


Place hominy, chili peppers, onion, garlic, chicken, tomatoes, chicken broth, oregano, and cumin in a 3-1/2, 4-, or 5-quart crockery cooker. Cover and cook on low setting for 5 to 6 hours or on high setting for 2-1/2 to 3 hours. Stir in cilantro. Garnish each serving with fat-free sour cream, if desired. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Southwestern, OH(Zone 6b)

Chicken & White Bean Soup

1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast cut into bite size pieces
1 cup Chicken Broth
1 cup Picante Sauce (Salsa will work, or just tomatoes with chillies)
3 cloves garlic
2 t. cumin
1 cup dry white beans ( I use great northern)
1 can whole kernel corn
1 onion

Stir the chicken, broth, picante sauce, garlic, cumin, beans, corn and onion in a 3 1/2-quart slow cooker.

Cover and cook on LOW for 8 to 9 hours or until the chicken is cooked through.

Southwestern, OH(Zone 6b)

Crock Pot Beans

1 pound dried beans, such as black beans, kidney beans, black-eyed peas, great northern beans or pinto beans
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
5 cups hot water

They can soak the beans overnight, or rinse well before putting into crock pot.

Put everything in slow cooker and then pour in hot water. Cook on low 8-9 hours or high 3 to 4 hours.

St. Louis County, MO(Zone 5a)

Thanks Melissa, those sound easy and yummy.

Baytown, TX(Zone 9b)

This is a big favorite of my families:

2 lbs of diced chicken breasts
1 pkg of Pillsbury pie crusts (in refrigerator section)
2 cans of Veg-all (drained)
2 cans of Campbell Cream of Soup (your choice)

Cut the chicken breasts in to cubes and place in skillet with just enough oil fry until done. Drain Veg-all and add to chicken. Mix in soup and a little milk to make creamy. Season to taste.
In a deep dish pie pan spread out one of the crusts. Now add chicken mixture.
Cover with second pie crust crimping the edges. Bake at 375 degrees for 1 hour or pie crust is brown.

The last time I made this I spread out the pie crust in a 8" square pan. It did not look very special but the left overs disappeared the next night.

Southwestern, OH(Zone 6b)

That sounds really good Sandy.

Cathy you're welcome... I'd be lost without my crockpot, I use it a lot, it makes my evenings go much smoother after I get home from work. :) I just need to find some more less meaty recipes. ;)

St. Louis County, MO(Zone 5a)

You've all been such a help, thanks. Melissa, we wouldn't eat many nights if it wasn't for the crock pot. Your comment gives me an idea, I think I'll look for vegetarian crock pot recipes.

Goldthwaite, TX(Zone 8a)

Here's an easy soup that we like, and it would still be nutritious without the sausage.

Crock Pot Black Eyed Pea Soup

1 1/4 cup dried black eyed peas, uncooked
8 ounces spicy sausage links, cooked and chopped
8 cups water plus 8 tsp chicken bouillon granules or cubes (or 8 cups chicken broth)
1 onion, chopped
1 cup carrots, sliced
1 cup celery, sliced
2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
hot sauce for serving, if desired

Pick out broken or discolored peas. Rinse, cover with water, and soak overnight. Drain.
Place all ingredients except hot sauce in a 5 to 6 qt crock pot.
Cover and cook on low for 8 hrs or on high for about 6 hrs. Add water if needed.
Ladle into bowls and add hot sauce to taste.
8 servings

Recipes -- Mostly Quick and Easy

St. Louis County, MO(Zone 5a)

Thanks Pat, the ingredients all look like things that are not too expensive and filling.

Rutland , MA(Zone 5b)

here is something that should provide two meals for the price of one.

buy either a bunch of fresh vegetables or a large bag of frozen vegetbles at discount stores such as BJ's or Sams club. a tthe same stores you can also pick up a package containing two chickens, a box of rice and cans of beans

take one chicken out of the package andremove the gizzard and neck etc and wash the chicken with cold water and then pat dry.

prepare the fresh veggies or he frozen ones and put half the amount into the bottom of a slow cooker. put the chicken on top and add a 1/2 cup of water and cook on low for about 6 hours.

life the chicken from the crock pot and remove the skin then shred the chicken and put it back into the pot and mix it with the vegetables.

use a laddle to scoop out the "chicken soup"

for the "other" meals cut the whole chicken in half and roast in the oven until cooked.

after they have cooled take one and remove all the skin and. cut up the meat into small cubes. add some chopped celery and some mayonnaise and you have a nice chicken salad sandwichs.

using the other half of roasted chicken as part of a rice, chicken and bean meal.

remove the skin and cut up chicken into bite sized pieces. buy a few cans of different kinds of beans and a box of rice. cook the beans with their juices in a pot and make the rice according to package directions. when the rice is done, add the beans and the chicken and stir well. you might want to add a few cups of chicken stock to make more servings.

St. Louis County, MO(Zone 5a)

Thanks Herbie, very good suggestions.

waukesha, WI(Zone 5a)

Try the Goodwill or any used household items store for Crockpot cookbooks....some of these recipes sound really good!

Plano, TX

patrob your recipe gave me an idea for my hoppin john leftovers--turn them into soup
i turn leftover chili into soup but hadn't thought of using the last of the hoppin john that way

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

Cathy, one of my kids' favorite recipes has always been Sausage, Rice and Beans:

1/2 pound bulk sausage (we like hot, but you might want to start with mild or mix it half hot/half mild, depending on the tastebuds)
1 1/2 cups rice
3 cups water
2 cans chili beans, drained

Brown sausage; drain if it was really fatty (you need a little grease but not much). Add rice, water and drained beans. Stir well; cover and cook 12-14 minutes on medium heat (watch to make sure it doesn't cook down and start sticking.) Serve with any veggies - my favorite is coleslaw, since it's a nice creamy cold complement to the hot and spicy main dish.

I liked it because it stretched a little meat a long way, especially when my boys were teenagers and ate like they had two hollow legs. I still like it for that reason - but now because we are I am trying to reduce the amount of meat in our diets, and add more vegetables and fiber.

Bolingbrook, IL(Zone 5a)

Terry is that regular rice or instant rice? I always had the idea that regualr rice needed to be cooked longer than that. It looks like a good easy recipe.

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

Regular rice - it'll cook in 12-14 :-) Brown rice will take much, MUCH longer though.

St. Louis County, MO(Zone 5a)

Thanks Terry, that is a perfect fast recipe.

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

Cathy, I'm happy to share! I was given the recipe a long time ago by a non-cooking friend (it was her one-hit wonder, I think :-) Anyway, I always keep the ingredients on hand when I need a quick dinner that offers a lot of complex carbs and helps fill up hungry children and adults.

Irving, TX(Zone 8a)

Here's one you can modify to make it less expensive...maybe cut back on the meat.


1 1/2 pounds ground chuck
1/2 cup onion
2 cups macaroni or egg
2 cans tomato sauce
1 can corn, drained
Cheddar cheese, shredded

Brown beef and onion then drain grease.
Cook noodles according to package directions.
Combine beef, noodles, tomato sauce and corn;
heat until hot.
Top with Cheddar cheese.

Sandra :)

St. Louis County, MO(Zone 5a)

thanks Sandy

Cleveland,GA/Atlanta, GA(Zone 7b)

Or substitute ground or minced pork which is less expensive than beef. One pound of meat should be enough for a dry pound of noodles in a budget recipe. You have the cheese contributing to the protein component too. If you cool the mixture and add egg or temper the egg with the warm ingredients so it won't curdle, you can add extra protein for very little money. An egg or two will not be detectable other than that it will act to bind the ingredients under the cheese. Instead of draining and discarding the corn liquid I'd use it to supplement the liquid required for cooking the noodles. It will add flavor.

St. Louis County, MO(Zone 5a)

The added egg is a great suggestion, something I have never thought to do. Thanks!

Midland, TX(Zone 8a)

This is very simple and surprisingly good. We learned to make this at Girl Scout camp when I was 10, and I made it for my family many times thereafter--with my mother nearby.

Camp Fire Goulash

1 lb. ground beef
1 can Campbell's Vegetable Soup (the original kind--not the "hearty")

Brown the ground beef and add the soup (undiluted). Simmer until thoroughly heated. Serve over noodles or mashed potatoes.

I still make a jazzed up version of this sometime. Saute some chopped onions in butter before adding beef. Add soup plus some frozen corn, tomato paste or ketchup, Kitchen Bouquet, Worcestershire Sauce, garlic salt, sometimes some green beens--serve over mashed potatoes. It's like an upside down Shepherd pie.


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