As you may recall, when money’s tight, ground beef is my besty. This entire pan of lasagna rings in at about $13 and feeds 6 people (or, in our case, 3 people for dinner and 2 really hungry people for lunch the next day) So, with a little extra math for salad and diet coke, I can fill my belly with delicious lasagnatation for about $3.50. Just try to spend that on dinner anywhere. Spoiler alert: Gross.
Here’s the breakdown:
|Ingredients||Amt. Needed||Unit Price||Cost Per Oz||Extension Cost|
|Canned Tomato||15 oz||1.59/(15)oz||.11||1.59|
|Pine Nuts||1 oz||24.99/lb||1.56||1.56|
Q Factor: .12
Subtotal w/ Q: 13.90
Recipe Cost: 13.90
Cost per portion: 2.32
(Q Factor is a recipe-costing term for the extra stuff you use in a recipe that you don’t necessarily want to cost out every time, like salt and pepper. Usually, I just pick a figure that will make my equation a nice round number that’s somewhere around 15 cents. It’s not precise, but it still helps to factor it in.)
This all confirms my belief that a little menu planning and proper ingredient utilization can allow a family to eat WELL with QUALITY INGREDIENTS for less than they would pay for fast food or prepackaged foods.
This recipe calls for farm-fresh eggs, locally-sourced beef, fresh mozzarella, toasted pine nuts, fresh local basil, and grated REAL Parmigiano Reggiano. You could certainly source these ingredients differently and arrive at a similarly nutrititional, filling, flavorful meal for EVEN LESS MONEY.
One money-saving option is to use walnuts instead of pine nuts or to omit the nuts altogether (it’s just an extra flavor step that I love in meatballs, lasagna, and meatloaf, but it’s not necessary.)
One option that embraces convenience but still keeps cost manageable is to use a store-bought marinara sauce. There are some really great options available these days
Making yourself familiar with the real cost of food is an important step in wrangling the food budget. Next to bills, my largest household cost is definitely food, so it’s important for me to know precisely where that money goes.
In preparing to teach a Food Budgeting class for work, I learned even more tricks for how to keep one’s budget on a leash. I may not always practice them (sometimes convenience wins, let’s be honest,) but being equipped with the resources to manage my own finances is something that has rocketed me into the world of adulthood (you know, sorta) and made me feel much more confident about building a home and a life.
Stay tuned for more Budget-friendly recipes and suggestions – I’ll be posting “Single and Starving” updates once a week for anyone who wants to ‘Suze up’ his or her family budget.
Single and Starving Lasagna
1/2 box (8 oz) Lasagna Noodles
1/2 lb. ground beef
1 oz. pine nuts, toasted and chopped
2 tsp. “magic sprinkles”
1/2 lb. ricotta
1/2 lb. mozarella, shredded
2 oz. Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
1 (15 oz.) Can Tomatoes, drained
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, smashed
1/4 oz basil, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and assemble all ingredients and equipment.
Heat a saute pan over medium high heat with a splash of olive oil. Add ground beef, and cook thoroughly. Add pine nuts, and mix to combine. Season with salt, pepper, and magic sprinkles.
Combine ricotta, mozarella, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and egg in a mixing bowl. Reserve a handful of the moz and parm to top the lasagna. Season mixture with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, saute onion and garlic in olive oil until transluscent. Add tomatoes, magic sprinkles, salt and pepper. Taste to check seasoning. Saute for about ten minutes. Turn off heat, and stir in chopped basil.
Once all of the lasagna components have cooled, begin layering them in a baking dish, starting with tomato sauce and then adding pasta, ricotta, more sauce, beef, and repeat until the lasagna is completely ‘built.’ Top with mozarella and Parmigiano-Reggiano, a drizzle of olive oil, and bake for about 45 minutes, or until golden, bubbly, and otherwise irresistable.
Package up the leftovers when all’s said and done, and the next day, a delicious lasagna lunch awaits!
What’s your biggest Food Budget obstacle? For me, it’s soda. No matter how nutritionally deficient they are, I MUST donate a chunk of paycheck every week to the diet coke relief fund. Dr. Oz, Ginger, and a host of other right-thinking confidants have regularly advised me against it. But if it’s good enough for Colicchio, it’s good enough for me….