Thursday, November 6, 2014

Homeschooler Spotlight: Stretching the Food Budget with Throw-Together Stove-Top Casseroles


Welcome to Homeschooler Spotlight. Each week I feature a different homeschooler and her blog. This week is Karen from Tots and Me. She's sharing how to stretch your food budget with throw-together stove-top casseroles.






Karen is a homeschooling mom of 4 young children, ages 7 and younger. Lessons in her home have been relaxed and fun, bringing in elements of Montessori, learning trays and other hands-on activities. She loves to share activities, crafts, and snack ideas with other moms of young children. You can find her over at Tots and Me, where she has several different opportunities for you to share your ideas with her weekly linkups.

You can also find Karen on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.



I love being able to stay at home and homeschool my four children. It is such a blessing, though it can get quite hectic and there are times we do find ourselves struggling to make ends meet. When you combine busyness with lack of funds you come to a place where you have to find ways to make quick meals while making your food stretch. I'm sure there are other mom's who find themselves in this same predicament. Am I right?

Today I wanted to share with you my Throw-Together Stove-Top Casserole Ideas. 



We have been having quite a few of these stove-top casseroles lately. As we have been having them so often, I have been attempting to change things up a bit each time we have them to avoid getting tired of them. 

When we go grocery shopping we try to always purchase a variety of meat either on sale or from our local Save-A-Lot. We also buy a variety of canned vegetables, though we do get fresh as well. Next, I stock up on a variety of cream soups. Of course, we also have to have some pasta and rice. Lastly, if we can afford it, we will get cheese. 

First of all, for the meat/chicken/fish:

Beef roast
Chicken thighs
Boneless skinless chicken breasts (we stock up when it is on sale for $1.99 a pound)
Ground beef or turkey (if on sale)
Canned meat 
Canned tuna fish

I will cook the fresh meat (roasts or chicken) in the crock pot in either chicken broth or beef broth made from water plus bouillon cubes. This first day we are able to have a meal with the meat/chicken and potatoes, pasta, or rice with a veggie.  This will leave left overs for another meal. If I don't have any left over meat I will take the ground beef/turkey out of the freezer and fry it up or used canned meat. 

Next, let's move on to the grain. 

The majority of my casseroles are made with rice. When I make the original meal I will always make double the amount of rice so I will have leftovers. However, if we don't have any left, it is quite quick and easy to make some up for the casserole. I've also been known to use left over pasta, though these end up more soupy because I like to reheat the pasta in additional broth.

Now for the vegetable. 

Everyone will obviously have their own favorite vegetables, however, I wanted to share the ones I find work the best in these casseroles. If I am really low on time, I opt for canned veggies, either green beans (cut or french style), carrots, or corn. However, if I have time and have some fresh broccoli or cauliflower on hand, I love to cook some up and throw it in the casserole.

We can't forget the soup.

Each casserole needs two cans of cream soup plus a splash of milk. Our favorites are cream of broccoli, cream of mushroom, and cream of chicken (in that order), though I have found that cream of celery pairs quite nicely with the tuna fish.

Add some cheese.

We really do like cheese in this house. If we have any, I will toss some in and let it melt. My favorite for casseroles is Sharp Cheddar as Mozzarella gets too stringy and I prefer to keep it for pasta dishes or pizza.



So, the next time you are in a hurry, just grab some left over rice or make up a quick batch (2 cups of water to 1 cup of rice made with 1 tbs of butter and 1 tsp of salt). Toss your choice of soup in with the rice, add a splash of milk, and start heating it on medium/low while you prepare the meat (shred/chop/fry up/etc.). Cook your vegetable if needed. Toss the meat and veggie in and continue to heat through. Add in the cheese if you have any, stir occasionally, and when it is nice and melted check to make sure it is heated through, then serve up your dinner.
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