No matter what day of the week you come over to my house, there’s a good chance you will find some ground beef both in my fridge and in my freezer. It is inexpensive and a great way to make some quick meals in about 15 minutes.
My big time-saving trick when it comes to ground beef is to go ahead and brown it as soon as I get back from the store. I just season it with a little salt and pepper while it cooks, then allow it cool and store it in the fridge.
When dinner time comes around and I am in a rush, I use the already browned ground beef to make:
Just heat the meat in some tomato sauce while the pasta boils. Serve with garlic toast.
Heat and season the meat, scoop into taco shells and top with lettuce, tomato, cheese and a little sour cream. Serve with refried or black beans.
Quick Beef and Vegetable Soup
Add the ground beef to a stock pot along with several cans of vegetables (we like green beans, tomatoes, corn and lima beans) and some beef broth. Bring to a simmer and allow to cook for at least 5 minutes or until you are ready to eat. The longer it simmers the better the soup will be. Serve with some bread, cornbread or biscuits.
Quick and Easy Chili
Heat your ground beef in a pot with 2 cans of chili beans and a small can of tomato sauce. Add salt, pepper and chili powder to taste. Serve with tortillas or corn chips.
I always include at least 2 dishes that include precooked ground beef or chicken in my weekly meal plan to use on days when I know we are busy. It’s a great time saver as well as frugal. If this is something you are interested in, take a moment to read a conversation I had with my good friend Christine about family meal planning here.
If your family budget is stretched just about as far as it will go, and who’s isn’t, you need some proven tools to stretch your money even further. One of the methods most of us use to squeeze a few more pennies out of our paycheck is to cut back on the grocery bill. Let me introduce you to your new best friend; superbly nutritious and wonderfully delicious, the Black Bean.
If you find yourself wandering through the aisles of your grocery store, searching for something to make for dinner that won’t rob you of your last dollar, mosey on over to the black bean display and check out the price. Read the label and you’ll learn that black beans are loaded with nutrients like protein, iron, calcium, and potassium, and they are high in fiber, and low in fat and sugar, so they really offer a lot of bang-for-your-buck. With those kind of credentials, it is obvious that black beans should be a staple in every household, frugal or not. So, let’s think up a few simple and delicious meals to create using your new best friend… the black bean.
1) Simply Delicious Four Bean Soup
You’ll need 1 can each of black beans, garbanzo beans, butter beans, and navy beans, drained but not rinsed, and set aside. In a large pot, pour 2 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil, add 1 cup finely chopped celery and 1 cup diced onion. Cook over medium to medium low heat until celery is a little transparent and tender. Then, add 1 clove garlic, minced, crushed, or grated, and cook for just about a minute. Add 1 small can fire-roasted diced tomatoes and 1 small can chicken broth. Simmer slowly for about 20 minutes. Give it a taste and add salt and ground black pepper to taste. You may also want to sprinkle in some hot red pepper flakes if you like a bit of spice. That’s all it takes and it’s ready to eat, and healthy, too.
2) Beans and More Beans Salad
Like any salad, you want to use a variety of color and textures. Choose solid beans, like black beans, butter beans, garbanzo beans, kidney beans, waxed beans, and the like for a nice mix of colors. Drain and rinse all the beans and put them in a big bowl. Now, you want to add some nice crunchy texture and more color. Be sure to add some sweet onion, or green onion with the tops, some beautiful chopped sweet red pepper, finely chopped celery, maybe some chives, a little parsley, dill perhaps, or whatever herb you have that sounds good, and top it all with a drizzle of a good vinaigrette dressing like Paul Newman’s Own Balsamic Vinaigrette. Give the salad a good, but gentle, toss so all the ingredients are distributed. This is a surprisingly easy and flavorful recipe and makes a really refreshing salad. Even the kids will enjoy this salad, which is great because it’s loaded with nutrition.
3) Under a Minute Black Beans and Taco Sauce
My daughter actually created this recipe and, although it may appear a little strange at first, it certainly has its merits and has made me a true believer in sometimes simple is best. You’ll need to drain and rinse your canned black beans, being sure they drain thoroughly and you don’t end up with water in your bowl. After your canned beans are rinsed, pour them into a bowl and simply top with any favorite taco sauce, like those little leftover ones we seem to accumulate from getting take-out. Mix the taco sauce in gently but thoroughly, give it a taste test, add more taco sauce if you like, and enjoy! You just have to trust me on this one. It makes a great side dish or after school snack, and is loaded with nutrients that you don’t get in a lot of other snacks. You can also use taco sauce you have in your refrigerator, or even a bit of salsa. Just don’t overdo the sauce. You want the flavor of the salsa or taco sauce to enhance, not overwhelm the black beans.
4) Black Bean and Celery Cottage Cheese Salad
Creating salads that use black beans is a great way to add another nutritional element to any meal. This salad is almost a meal in itself. Start by putting a 1 cup scoop of cottage cheese in a serving bowl, and sprinkle a little salt and freshly ground black pepper on top. Drain and rinse a can of black beans, being sure they drain well. Top the cottage cheese with about 1/2 cup of the black beans. Add about a handful of chopped celery on top and you have a great, crunchy, creamy lunch that’s packed with protein, calcium, iron, and fiber. Did I say this was almost a meal in itself? It IS a meal in itself!
5) Whatcha Got Black Bean Burrito
If you have a few staples in your pantry you can whip up this simple and nutritious burrito. You’ll need a flour or corn tortilla, heated if you like, placed on a plate. Drain and rinse your black beans thoroughly, then start building your burrito however you want with whatever you have in the kitchen. I add my black beans first, then some diced tomatoes, leftover rice if I have it, a little onion, lots of shredded cheddar cheese, a little sour cream or cottage cheese, some chopped parsley or cilantro if it’s in the refrigerator, some leftover fish is nice, and whatever else I have to use up. Depending on how my stash of leftovers is, I go a little heavier on the black beans and lighter on the other stuff. Then, sit down with your bottle of taco sauce or salsa, and enjoy!
These are just a few of the countless ways to enjoy cooking and serving the incredibly nutritious and inexpensive black bean. You can see why I’ve befriended black beans and added them to my pantry staples. The five meal ideas I’ve given here can easily be built upon to add your own personal flair and create black bean dishes that you can call your very own family favorites.
Please stop by often and share your own frugal ideas for living.