Food & Drink

Twelve for $40: Steak on a budget

By From page A5 | May 16, 2012

While steak may seem like an odd thing to put in a budget menu, the fact of the matter is that cooking on a budget means you have to take full advantage of flavor where you can find it. Less than $10 worth of steak, nicely grilled, will make two delicious dinners for two people. Peppers, onions and asparagus grilled alongside will further increase the flavor and add the odd vitamin as well. If you don’t have a grill, don’t fret — a grill pan on the stovetop works well, or even the broiler.

With two good meals of steak, the rest of the week is heavy on vegetables. The pasta technique below works well with almost any vegetables, so vary to suit your tastes, and your garden or freezer.

Beets are, as always, a bargain, since you get both the greens and the root. I cook mine as soon as I get them: cut the tails and tops from the beets and steam until tender, then refrigerate in their skins (to help keep the moisture in) until needed. It’s a matter of seconds to slip off the skins and slice for salad. Rinse the greens well, pull out any tough stems, and sauté until tender.

The egg dish is a breakfast favorite that works well for supper as well – use up the rest of the corn and any other bits you have around as well as the beet greens.

Planning is everything in sticking to a food budget, and we aim to help you with six days worth of menus, which should feed two adults dinner six nights a week* for around $40. These menus assume you already have some cooking skills, and own a basic reference cook book. Below the menus are tips for cooking, or for cooking ahead. If you see “In the fridge for future meals” then save those items from this meal for later in the week. That’s been included in the shopping list.

*(Everybody needs to go out, or share potluck with friends, or otherwise enjoy life once a week!)

The menu:

Grilled Skirt Steak Fajitas
In the fridge for future meals:
grilled steak
grilled onions
sour cream
pickled jalapenos
Tip: While the grill is going, grill some asparagus for tomorrow. Veggie option? Big portobello mushrooms are my favorite steak replacer. If using, grill extra for Monday night’s salad.

Pasta with Spring Vegetables
In the fridge for future meals:
frozen peas
Tip: Any vegetables will work well with this recipe.

Steak Salad
sliced baguette
In the fridge for future meals:
sliced baguette
beet greens
Tip: Mix sour cream, the liquid from pickled jalapenos and just a touch of oil for a really delicious salad dressing.

Grilled Vegetable Quesadillas
Tip: Just in case – butter 2 tortillas, put grated cheese and half the leftover grilled veg in between them, cook in a fry pan until cheese is melted and tortilla is as brown as you want it.

Potato, Bacon & Corn Chowder
sliced baguette
In the fridge for future meals:
frozen corn

Scrambled eggs with vegetables
toasted baguette

Shopping & Recipes
Our shopping & recipes are scaled for two adults. Increase or decrease as needed to allow for your household. We shopped this list at the Co-op on Saturday. We chose organic wherever affordable (marked “OG” on our list), and picked what we’d use at home – the best value rather than the absolute cheapest. We also assumed you had a few things in the pantry, which were not included in the shopping total. Our total: $39.90

In the pantry:
brown sugar
kosher salt
chili powder
bay leaf
olive oil
red onions, 2
yellow onion, 1
sweet peppers, 2
asparagus, 6 spears
mushrooms, 6
lettuce, 1 head
carrot, 2
avocado,1 ripe
red potatoes, 2-3, small
sugar snap peas, 12
beets, I bunch with greens

Dairy & cheese:
parmesan cheese, 2 ounces
jack cheese, 12 ounces
eggs, 4
sour cream
butter, 1 stick

pasta, 12 ounces
corn, frozen
pickled jalapenos
flour tortillas

skirt steak, 12 ounces
bacon, 2 strips

vegetable broth powder

The recipes:

(Reserve half of grilled steak and vegetables for another meal.)
Grilled Skirt Steak
The ingredients:
12 ounces skirt steak
simple spice rub (below)
2 red onions
2 sweet peppers
Putting it together:
Start coals, preheat gas grill or heat grill pan. Pat skirt steak dry with paper towels. Rub with 1 tsp. Simple Spice Rub per side. Slice onions and peppers about 1/4 inch thick and thread on to skewers. Grill steak over medium high heat 2-3 minutes per side. Cover and let stand 10 minutes while you grill onions and peppers to your desired doneness. Slice steak thinly across the grain. Serve steak and vegetables with warm tortillas, sour cream, cheese, and/or jalapenos.

Simple Spice Rub
The ingredients:
1 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoons chili powder
Putting it together:
Combine and store in a tightly sealed jar.

Pasta with Spring Vegetables
The ingredients:
12 ounces pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup diced onion
6 spears asparagus
6 Sugar snap peas
6 mushrooms
parmesan cheese
Putting it together:
Cook pasta according to package directions. Cut sugar snap peas in 1 inch pieces and add to pasta for last 4 minutes of cooking. If asparagus is uncooked, snap and cut into 1 inch lengths, then cook with pasta for last three minutes of cooking; if grilled, simply cut into 1 inch lengths. In a large skillet, heat oil and add mushrooms and onions and cook until tender. Reduce heat to very low. Drain pasta and add to skillet along with mushroom, asparagus and peas. Toss to coat. Let stand 2 minutes, adding a more oil or a little of the pasta water if it seems dry. Add parmesan cheese to taste and serve.

Steak Salad
The ingredients:
1 head lettuce
2 carrots
1 ripe avocado
4 cooked beets
6-8 ounces grilled steak
Putting it together:
Wash lettuce. Tear and spin dry. Grate carrot and add to lettuce. Arrange on plates and top with sliced cooked beets, avocado and steak. Add dressing to taste.

Potato, Bacon & Corn Chowder
The ingredients:
2 strips bacon
1/2 a medium onion, diced
2 teaspoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 red potatoes, small cubes
3 cups broth
1 cup frozen corn
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Putting it together:
Cut bacon into 1 inch pieces and fry. When crisp, remove from pan and cook onion in drippings 4-5 minutes. Add garlic. Add potatoes, salt, and broth. Cook until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Remove bay leaf and garlic clove. Remove from heat, add corn and let stand 5 minutes. Taste and add bacon, nutmeg, salt and pepper.

Scrambled Eggs with Vegetables
The ingredients:
2 tablespoons minced onion
1 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup cooked greens
1 cup cooked vegetables
4 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
Putting it together:
Heat butter in a frying pan. Add onions and cook until tender. Add greens and vegetables and heat through. Reduce heat to low and stir in eggs. Cook, stirring, until eggs almost done to your liking, then stir in cheese. Serve with toast.

Julie Cross

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