Friday, October 21, 2011

Guest Post: Ultimate Meal Stretching

With many of us trying to save money we need to stretch those box meals a little further. For our family a simple box meal just doesn’t feed all five of us. I like to have leftovers for little face and me for lunch the next day. It is easier to decide what we will eat and I don’t have to make a big meal just for two people.

I would like to share with you a few ideas I have for adding flavor to boxed meals without adding sodium. The sodium content of these is amazingly high. I try not to feed these to my family very often, but they are better than buying fast food for five of us. I will do it in a pinch.

The best thing to add to any meal is an onion. I can purchase these for $0.49 lbs at Sprouts. So I am only adding $0.49 extra cost to my meal. I usually use ½ or 1 onion chopped and sautéed . This adds not only lots of flavor but around a ½ to 1 pound of food to the meal. The kids don’t even know it is in there, since most boxed meals have onion powder. Adding onion ramps up the flavor and increases the vegetables for the meal. My kids don't do veggies so I have sneak them in when ever I can.

I also like to add carrots, especially to higher sodium meals. This will help decrease the salty taste in a meal. I will add around 1 or 2 peeled and either shredded, pureed or finely chopped . This is around ¼ to a ½ cup of carrots. What a sneaky way to enter extra veggies into the kids meals and they don’t even know. I like to add carrots to Sloppy Joes too. We just need a little more to make it stretch to feed all of us.

Corn is the next best thing to add to a meal. I find it goes well especially with Mexican dishes. I try to buy frozen when I can. Otherwise just open a can and pour it in. I like the cream style corn with the Asian Rice a Roni. Use the water from the can for the water to add to the dish. This will add just a little more flavor than just regular water. I will also save the water from the corn and use this for soups later.

Try adding peas to a meal. If you or your kids don’t like the taste of peas, try pureeing them and add that to the meal. You won’t see them or taste them either. I like to add peas to fried rice and canned soups.

Beans can be added for extra protein to any dish. I like black beans for Mexican dishes. Sometimes I will add both corn and black beans to help stretch a meal.

Try adding a little of two or three of the above mentioned vegetables to each meal to see what you can come up with and not change the taste too much. This is a fun experiment to try with your family. Try other vegetables you like to see what other combinations you can come up with. Look at the box and see what dehydrated veggies are already in there and add the real thing. This is a great way to stretch a meal for just a few pennies per meal.

Amy is married to a great husband and is the mom of three wonderful children. Two of which are her own, a boy and a girl, and a stepson. Her goal is trying to feed the family and all necessary needs including diapers for $60 a week. Stop by her blog Pounds4Pennies to watch her on her journey for frugal finds.


Anonymous said...


Great Post and Gayle is Amazing!

Stop by and read us sometime

Blessings to all

Ceuson said...

This is a great post. Whether I use a box or an existing recipe, I always want to get leftovers for lunch and more veggies.
I've added zuchini to meals this way. It is so bland that it doesn't impact the flavors. And it shreds or chops well. We even slice it up and add it to pizza with the salami and pepperoni. The best part is, it's FREE in the summer!

Roxie700 said...

I too do not use these kind of meals real often. That said, there are some in my pantry. Some nights things just do not go as planned and a quick meal is needed. Like you said, sometimes there is just not enough food in the box to feed the whole family of 4. I will add some extra water and about an extra cup of noodles etc. to the meal while it cooks.
I often time use less ground beef than called for in box directions. It calls for a pound. I will often use 12 ounces of meat.
I too add extra vegetables to the meal too. Carrots are good, but tomatoes and others work too.