What to Make with What's On Sale!

Sounds like a fun game show, don't you think? "What to Make with What's On Sale! And now here's the star of our show…YOU!"

I think it's time to get serious about this proverbial idea of using what's on sale for meal-makings. I just got our latest gas bill, and I owe the utility company $202 dollars. I about died. So, I'll be stealing from the 'ol grocery budget for a few weeks. (This living on Social Security is not for sissies, let me tell you!)

That's the beautiful thing about the grocery budget-it's so flexible. However, I've found that with that flexibility comes a requirement to know how to work a little meal magic so no one knows the budget's being dipped into.

OK, so what's on sale? Pork and Beans. 59¢ a can. (I'll be buying 15 cans.) And here's what to make with what's on sale. See if any of these ideas might help you deal with your utility bills this winter:

First of all, canned pork and beans are OK heated up and served as-is. But you can be sure if I pulled that one, everybody at the table would know what's going on. Thank goodness they can be easily dressed up with a few extra ingredients. We don't want anyone feeling deprived.

We all know we can make a pretty darned good pot of baked beans using canned pork and beans as the base. And that's an attractive idea. Piping hot baked beans served with a side salad and a pan of my best cornbread with homemade honey butter may just satisfy everyone.

But wait, there's more. I found an idea for a terrific stacked meal. You place canned pork and beans in a blender or food processor along with a teaspoon each of minced onion, ketchup, sour cream, and mustard. You blend this until smooth and then layer it over a plate of corn chips. Add layers of diced tomato, shredded lettuce, sliced olives, sliced green onions, shredded cheese, and top with diced avocado and you have what I'm calling "Frito Banditos."

OK two meals taken care of. Next, how about a "Spicy Pork and Bean Salad?" I have a few strips of bacon and about 1 cup of salsa in the fridge and a can of green chiles and a yellow onion in the pantry. There's some fresh cilantro sitting in a glass of water on the kitchen counter. I think I'll fry up that bacon, drain the fat, and crumble it. Then I'll add ¾ cup of diced onion and cook it with the bacon. I'll fold this bacon-onion mixture into three cans of pork and beans and add the can of green chiles. Then I'll fold in ½ cup of chopped cilantro. I'm thinking this will taste best if refrigerated for a while so the flavors can meld.

When it's time for dinner, I'll shred that half head of lettuce lingering in the crisper drawer and serve it in a pretty bowl. Then I'll place the leftover 1 cup of salsa in a pretty little dish and set it on the table for everyone to use as a garnish. The idea is that the bean salad will go atop the shredded lettuce and it'll all be garnished with a dab of salsa (dab being the operative word since there's not much salsa left). I think I'll make baking powder biscuits to accompany this salad. And to round out this meal I'll make a hot fruit compote (using the leftover fruit in the bowl on the table) as a healthy dessert.

And then there's a dish I'm calling "Frugal Frank's Fare." This hearty supper will be built around the on-sale pork and beans and some leftover cooked rice. Thank goodness I found a lonely pound of ground beef hiding in the freezer. So I'll sauté 1 cup of diced onion with 2 cloves of garlic and add the ground beef. Once the beef is cooked through and the fat drained off, I'll add 2 cans of pork and beans and heat it all through. I'll also reheat the rice. The beef and bean mixture will be served over the rice. Simple, healthy, and hearty.

Finally, it'll be "Kitchen Sink Soup." I've always called it this because everything goes in it but the kitchen sink. Anyway, I'll sauté all leftover veggies in a little reserved bacon fat and place them in the slow cooker. I'll throw in a couple cans of pork and beans, and a can of canned diced tomatoes. I'll let this cook on low. Just before time for dinner, I'll add the 2 cups of leftover cooked macaroni sitting in the fridge. What do you think, would a dash or two of Worcestershire Sauce jazz this up? I'll give it a try.

Before I close, I want to draw your attention to an important dynamic of making dinner with what's on sale. It's also about how you serve things. Presentation, remember? Notice above I mentioned I'll be serving the lettuce and the salsa in pretty bowls? I'll likely get out the candles and use the crystal goblets for our water, as well. Little touches, but they go a long ways in saying, "Dinner might be on a budget, but there's no limit to the effort I'd take to pleasing you!"

Anyway, five pork-and-bean-based meals. Not bad. I'll report back and let you know how the natives took to it all.

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  •   www.recipebridge.com
  •   www.cis.jhu.edu

    Alice Osborne
    Weekly Newsletter Contributor since 2006
    Email the author! alice@dvo.com

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