Monday, August 13, 2012


Ever since I've become dedicated to shrinking my grocery budget, I have spent some time reading blogs about frugal living, inexpensive cooking, etc.  No matter the blog, I can't help but feel like an outsider looking in.  I didn't understand why at first (I figured it probably had to do with Jesus or something) so I just ignored that uneasy feeling, hoping to find an inspirational recipe or two amongst the "blah".  After a few days of browsing, I finally realized what it was that other bloggers were selling: self-deprivation.

Take, for example, the Hillbilly Housewife's $45 $70 "emergency menu" for four.  Rice, beans, rice, beans, rice, beans, oh, look kids!  Toast!  If we didn't buy alcohol or soda, we would spend less than $70 a week (even if we had two kids and an empty pantry), but we would still find ourselves eating well by buying inexpensive cuts of meat and semi-seasonal (or frozen) produce and by eliminating convenience items (boxed mac and cheese on a budget, Hillbilly Housewife?  Really?).  "But you don't need meat to be healthy!" the vegans are screaming.  Though that may be true, I need meat to avoid feeling miserable and deprived at mealtimes--and considering that I'm not exactly a carnivore at heart, I can only imagine that other Americans feel the same way.

This has led me to wonder, why all the beans?  Is there some sort of happiness to be gained by denying oneself deliciousness?  Or do people really just not "get" how to take their favorite recipes and give them inexpensive makeovers?  Just in case it's the latter, I'll share one of my favorite budget recipes that is super easy.  An added bonus: you can make this meal from scratch or it can quickly be prepared using leftovers from a weekend pot roast!

Cottage Pie

1 lb ground beef, browned and drained (or 1 lb cubed leftover pot roast)
1 batch onion gravy (or 1 1/2 cups leftover pot roast gravy)
2 cups frozen peas and carrots (or 2 cups leftover pot roast veggies)
4 cups mashed potatoes (fresh or leftover, warmed if cold)
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, divided

Preheat oven to 400*.

Mix mashed potatoes with 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese; set aside.

Mix the beef, gravy, peas and carrots together in a 9x13 pan.  Spoon Parmesan-mashed potatoes over top of meat mixture and then spread evenly to cover.  Top with remaining Parmesan.  Use a fork to make the top uneven and jagged so that it will brown more nicely.

Bake approximately 30 minutes, until the gravy is bubbling around the sides and the peaks of the potatoes are browned.

Cool at least 10 minutes before serving.

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