Monday, October 22, 2012

Cheap Eats: Mexi Macaroni

Can you feed four for under $5?
When Sweet Living Magazine, gave us a challenge to come up with a meal to feed four for under $5, we have to admit, we didn't know what we were going to end up with. Easy enough to throw together a packet of pasta and a can of tomatoes, but making something tasty, flavorsome and appealing is quite hard on a budget. Whilst walking up and down the isles of the supermarket many protein and meat options were off limits as they blew out the budget. However beans and pulses fill you up, are cost effective and versatile. I know you are probably thinking that these ingredients are more suited to vegetarians or people who don't have a huge appetites but believe us, both the men and the kids in our lives were impressed. The beans were the star of the show, they thicken the sauce without needing to add more expensive ingredients such as tomato paste. They came from the "Delmaine" range and were large butter beans in a rich sauce and even better they were on special. 

Top tips for budget shopping
  • You need to get products on special, our butter beans were 69c, reduced from $2.35. Quite often tins of tomatoes are on special, so buy up in bulk as they are useful in all sorts of budget dishes (pastas, stews, soups, slow cooked meals). Also seek out the largest tin as they are often cheaper and the excess can be frozen.
  • When checking out the food on the shelves ALWAYS look to the bottom of the shelf - that is where you will find the cheapest options, generic brands or less common and reasonable products.
  • It's hard to make a cheap meal that contains meat, but if you can get some cheap sausages, they would be great chopped up and mixed in with this meal. 
  • Make more than you need, so it can be frozen and used for another family meal at a later date.
  • Dried herbs and spices might seem expensive to buy at the time, however they can go a long way for many meals if you choose right. We added a teaspoon of smoked paprika, that gave this meal a real gutsy kick. Other good spices to buy are chili powder, great for bean or meaty dishes and if you like your meals to have a kick. I often use premixed Moroccan seasoning which contains garlic, turmeric, paprika, chicken extract to name a few, I shake it over chicken, potatoes, or roast vege, or even to season rice or couscous.

Toasted breadcrumbs and garlic sprinkled on top (poor mans parmesan), 
would work brilliantly with this dish.
Mexi macaroni 
Serves 4 adults
What you need:
1 onion (16c)
1/2 can of 800g homebrand tomatoes (80c) 
1 can of corn ($0.95)
2 cans of Butter Beans (69c x 2)
1 x packet of Macaroni (95c)
1 teaspoon of smoked paprika 
2 teaspoons of Moroccan seasoning (or similar, or even just a whole chili simmering in the sauce) 
2 teaspoons of oil ( we used olive because thats what we had, but any cooking oil will do) 

= $4.24 (+ spices and oil would make this up to $5) (NZ Dollars)

How to make
1. Chop and sauté the onions until soft and add the smoked paprika and Moroccan seasoning. 
2. Add the tomatoes and simmer for about 10 minutes on low.
3. Add the beans and simmer for another 10 mins on low. 
4. Add the corn and warm through. 
5. Don't over cook the sauce as the beans will go mushy.
6. Boil the water and add salt and cook the macaroni according to the packet. 
7. Stir the sauce through the pasta and serve. 
8. Garnish options - grated cheese (if you are feeling flush), chopped green herbs such as parsley, chives or coriander or toasted breadcrumbs and garlic which is actually called poor mans parmesan.

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