After hours of lounging on the couch watching Food Network’s Sandra Lee on Sandra’s Money Saving Meals, I had the epiphany “Hey, I can do that” moment. With my new found enthusiasm for finding a bargain, I trekked over to my local grocery store and challenged myself to only spending $10 on ingredients to produce a nutritious and satisfying dinner for two.
When most TV personalities attempt an endeavor like this, they end up using hoards of items from their endless “pantry.” However, in my case, let’s just say my pantry is far from desirable. Sure I might have the basics like butter, milk, sugar and flour, but for this challenge I tried to stay true to my promise of only spending $10 by not adding elaborate ingredients that your average household would not likely keep on hand.
The only pre-planning that I did was looking online for any coupons for the store that I was going to go to. I am not cut out for TLC’s Extreme Couponing, but I enjoy a good coupon every once in a while. Who doesn’t enjoy saving a buck or two every now and then? Many grocery stores have coupons online, club cards or daily specials that allow shopping on a budget to be much easier. For example, Safeway allows you to load coupons onto your club card online for use when you are in the store. This is a great way to get even more savings than just the club card price, which is already cheaper than usual.
My plan when I first walked into the store was to check out the produce section and see if I could spot any sale items that could add pizzazz to my dish without breaking the bank. I immediately spotted bell peppers and onions, which were both less than a dollar each. Based on these items, the idea popped into my head to make roast beef sandwiches on Hoagie rolls with a side salad. In order to do this I picked up the following in the produce department:
Green bell pepper $0.99
Yellow onion $0.59
Red leaf lettuce $1.39 (cheaper than a salad bag and I already had dressing at home)
Following the produce purchases, I know had $6.53 left to spend on cheese, sandwich rolls and roast beef. In the lunch meet section, I found sliced roast beef on sale and in order to save more money, I bought a small chunk of mozzarella instead of the pre-shredded kind. It might be more work to slice it, but is both fresher and less expensive. Here is how I spent the rest of the money:
7 oz Roast Beef $3.79
Hoagie Rolls $0.67 (Pack of 6 for $2)
Mozzarella $2.00 (16 ounces for $5)
14 oz diced tomatoes My pantry
Oregano My Pantry
Shockingly, I happened to have a small can of diced tomatoes and oregano in my pantry. However, if you do not have these items, cans of diced tomatoes are generally under a $1 and herbs and spices are inexpensive when purchased in bulk. A tablespoon or two of dried oregano (one of the cheaper herbs) purchased from the bulk section will probably be less than $0.25, yet are a flavorful addition.
Now that I had all of my ingredients, it was time to start cooking! Here are the steps for preparation of my Roast Beef Sandwiches and Side Garden Salad:
1. Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add thinly sliced onion and bell pepper to the pan and sauté for about 5 minutes or until softened and browned.
2. Coarsely slice the roast beef and add to another sauté pan along with the 14 ounce can of diced tomatoes. Stir and heat over medium heat until warm and almost boiling.
3. While the roast beef is heating up, prepare the side salad but washing and chopping the head of lettuce. Slice the cucumber and add to the top of the salad. Pour on the desired amount of salad dressing and thoroughly combine in a large serving bowl.
4. When both the roast beef and the onion and pepper mixtures are done cooking, take out the hoagie rolls and fill them with roast beef topped with onions and bell peppers. Sprinkle with a little bit of dried oregano and top with large slices of mozzarella cheese. Place the open faced rolls in a casserole dish and put under the broiler for a minute or two in order for the cheese to melt and become nice and browned around the edges. Remove from the casserole dish and serve immediately alongside the Garden Salad.
The combined total for this meal was $9.93, which means that it was a success for both my wallet and my taste buds…and I even had $0.07 left to spare as well as leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch!