Budget Friendly; Rice and Beans

Featured

Rice and Beans with Baked Chicken

One bag of dry black beans, cooked according to bag directions

A third of a bag of frozen peppers and onions

chili powder and cumin to taste

Rice, two servings

one cup chicken broth

one tbsp Sofrito

one large chicken breast, or two thighs

one packet Sazon seasoning

1/2 cup salsa

I cooked the entire bag of beans, then divided them into one cup portions, which will ultimately make two servings of 1/2 cup each. I froze all but four servings, and cooked the remaining with chili powder and cumin.

I cooked two servings, half a cup dry, of rice in chicken broth and a tablespoon of sofrito. I used my rice cooker, but you could cook it in any way you want.

I let the chicken sit for a few minutes with the Sazon seasoning, then placed on a baking sheet and spread with salsa. I baked at 375 F for about 15 minutes, until the internal temp read 165.

I don’t think we could discuss budget meals without talking, at least briefly, about rice and beans. It is one of the most common suggestions when you start looking into inexpensive food, and I think it deserves at least a short discussion. I don’t intend for either ingredient to make regular appearances in this series.

The thing with rice and beans, is you have to get creative with them. I would never tell you to cook plain rice and plain beans and that be the entire meal. You have to add seasonings and spices to them both, and I normally serve them as sides with something else. This week, I made chicken baked with Sazon, rice cooked in chicken broth and sofrito, and black beans cooked with onions, bell peppers, chili powder, and cumin. 

Along with being creative with the flavors, I have found dry beans take some practice. The first time I made them, I don’t think I let them cook long enough, and they weren’t very good. Of course, the next time I overcooked them, and they weren’t very good that time, either. But now that I have more experience, I do think they are a great pantry staple. I’ll probably never solely rely on dry beans, as they do take some planning and forethought. Lately, I have cooked a bag of dry beans, served part of the pot in that week’s meals, then froze the rest in one cup measurements in freezer bags. 

Rice has nearly as many cooking methods as varieties. It might be fun to experiment for a while, until you figure out exactly what you like. I find a good rule of thumb is to use chicken broth, normally in the form of the “Better than Bouillon” paste that I always have on hand. In the past, I’ve added ginger, garlic, sesame oil, sofrito, spices, salsa, and frozen vegetables.

There are also a ton of cooking methods for rice. You can boil it in a saucepan, cook it in a pressure cooker, or use a rice cooker. I think the absolute best kitchen gadget is a rice cooker. You can find them really inexpensive online or at a store like Walmart, and they are so useful and easy, I really think they are worth the money. When I first got one, my family was skeptical, but it has turned into one of our most used kitchen appliances (behind my coffee maker, of course).

A note on cost, yes, rice and beans are really cheap to cook. But they are not a meal unto themselves (unless you just really want to only eat rice and beans). They are budget pantry staples because they are really versatile, so they can be served with chicken, sausage, pork chops, nearly anything. My two favorite meals are chicken baked with salsa and Sazon with rice and beans cooked with peppers and onions, and smoked sausage with red beans and rice.

Budget Break Down

Rice; $1.49/32 oz = $1.49/ 20 = $0.07/serving

*I found varying information on how many servings of rice are in one 32 oz bag, and went with the smaller number of 20.

Dry Black Beans; $1.49/16 oz = $1.49/14 servings = $0.11 /serving

Frozen Chicken Breast; $7.99/ 3 lb = $7.99 / 6 = $1.33/ serving

Frozen bell pepper and onion; $1.39/ 12 oz = ($1.39/ 3)/ 14 = $0.03

Sofrito; $2.49/12 oz = $2.49/ 10 = $0.25

Sazon; $1.29/ 1.41 oz = $1.29/ 17 = $0.08

*this number may not be totally accurate. I don’t remember exactly how many packets are in the small boxes, as I usually get the largest box I can find.

Salsa; $1.29/ 16 oz = $1.29/ 8 = $0.08

Total; $17.43 = $1.95/ serving

Budget Friendly; Shakshuka

Featured

I have two new series I’m starting, in addition to the Lessons in the Kitchen series and seasonal meals. One is healthy meals that follow the “Healthy Plate” model, and the other is a Budget Friendly series. Today’s dish I almost couldn’t decide which series to put it in, since it could work in either one. I eventually decided it works best in the budget series, and has the benefit of being very healthy. 

After the holidays, I always have to watch my budget. Between traveling, eating out, and going to holiday events, it makes an impact on my budget. I also have noticed grocery store prices increasing, as I’m sure many of you have noticed, too. I thought since I’m focusing on adding more budget meals in my personal life, ya’ll might like some inexpensive recipe ideas, too.

Shakshuka is a super easy, flexible meal. The most simple way I make it is with onion, bell pepper, tomatoes, eggs, and spices. Usually I add other ingredients (like ground beef or beans) to make it stretch a bit further, and I like to experiment with the spices, too. It’s a great dish to add into your normal rotation of recipes, as it’s simple, inexpensive, and easy to experiment with.

I used canned and frozen ingredients (except the eggs and tortillas), but you could instead use fresh ingredients, of course. I also included beans, but didn’t use dry beans. If I had used dry beans, it would have decreased the price further. You could also not use beans at all, and just have the vegetables and eggs, of course, but it’s a good way to make the meal go further.

I also like to serve this with some kind of toasted bread. This time, instead of toast, I fried a couple of tortillas in a little oil. They were really good, and I’ll definitely serve them with this meal again in the future.

The below recipe makes 8 servings, and it’s a great dish for leftovers. I will poach as many eggs as are needed for the first night, then divide the rest up into containers. Each night I use a small frying pan, heat up the tomato base, then poach the eggs.

The way I made this dish came out to be $10.65 for the entire order. Since I expect this to make eight servings, with one egg and one tortilla per serving, the cost per serving is just $1.11. I didn’t include the oil or seasonings that I used because those are very infrequent purchases. Also, the seasonings and oil are highly customizable. 

Eggs = $1.39 (12 ct) = 0.12/egg

Beans = 2x $1.38 (Dry beans = 1.49/16 oz)

Tomatoes = 2x $1.19

Pepper and Onion = $1.33

Tortillas = $2.29 (20 ct) = $0.12/tortilla

Garlic = $0.50/ head

Basic Shakshuka 

28 oz can of crushed tomatoes

28 oz can of diced tomatoes

8 Eggs

1 Bell pepper

1 Onion

Spices

Saute the bell pepper and onion.

Add tomatoes and spices. Bring to a boil, then simmer until desired consistency (this is up to personal preference, but I like mine pretty thick).

Use a spoon to make wells in the tomato, and crack eggs into them. Poach eggs in the tomatoes for 4 minutes.

Serve. I like to serve it with some kind of toast.

Shakshuka with Red Kidney Beans

28 oz can of crushed tomatoes

28 oz can of diced tomatoes

8 Eggs

12 oz bag frozen diced onion and bell pepper blend

4-5 garlic cloves

2 15 oz cans red kidney beans, drained

1 ½ tsp chili powder

½ tsp cumin

½ tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp Italian seasoning

1 tsp roasted garlic

Saute the bell pepper, onion, and garlic.

Add tomatoes, beans, and spices. Bring to a boil, then simmer until desired consistency (this is up to personal preference, but I like mine pretty thick).

Use a spoon to make wells in the tomato, and crack eggs into them. Poach eggs in the tomatoes for 4 minutes.

Serve. I like to serve it with some kind of toast.

Shakshuka with Red Kidney Beans

28 oz can of crushed tomatoes

28 oz can of diced tomatoes

8 Eggs

12 oz bag frozen diced onion and bell pepper blend (or one fresh bell pepper and one onion)

4-5 garlic cloves

2 15oz cans red kidney beans, drained

1 ½ tsp chili powder

½ tsp cumin

½ tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp Italian blend seasoning

1 tsp roasted garlic

Saute the bell pepper, onion, and garlic.

Add tomatoes, beans, and spices. Bring to a boil, then simmer until desired consistency (this is up to personal preference, but I like mine pretty thick).

Use a spoon to make wells in the tomato, and crack eggs into them. Poach eggs in the tomatoes for 4 minutes.

Serve. I like to serve it with some kind of toast.

Basic Shakshuka

28 oz can of crushed tomatoes

28 oz can of diced tomatoes

8 Eggs

1 Bell pepper

1 Onion

Spices

Saute the bell pepper and onion.

Add tomatoes and spices. Bring to a boil, then simmer until desired consistency (this is up to personal preference, but I like mine pretty thick).

Use a spoon to make wells in the tomato, and crack eggs into them. Poach eggs in the tomatoes for 4 minutes.

Serve. I like to serve it with some kind of toast.