My last $25 Shopping Cart trip combined with my accidental farmer’s market $25 Shopping Cart from last Sunday (which was so amazing I should have written another post) has given me a LOT to work with for the next couple of weeks. I’m so proud of what I was able to do with just $50 that I don’t even know where to start! Fortunately, work has been SO extremely hectic and there’s been so much other crazy stuff going on in Kimberland that I have only been inspired to do the bare minimum (for now; I have HUGE plans for the weekend). The other night I came home, peered at all the possibilities in my kitchen and created a simple, yet tasty dish that costs a lot less than it sounds like it would.
The ingredients are all very ordinary, everyday ingredients that anyone can find. Pasta, chicken breast, some mushrooms & chives, a little butter & leftover wine, even a few sweet peas that I still had hangin’ around… none of this is rocket science, but put together it becomes a delightful little dish. And when all is said & done, it only takes about 30 minutes to prepare; definitely something that one can pull off after a long day at work. This is a prime example of what I mean by buying whole ingredients vs. pre-made meals. Sure, those frozen pre-made meals can be pretty darned convenient & tasty (because they’re loaded with a ton of sodium, but I won’t focus on that today), but their serving sizes are far too small for the amount of money you’re paying. Not to mention the fact that the selection is pretty slim, regardless of which brand you’re buying. With a nice selection of whole ingredients like meats, veggies, grains and pastas, you can create a wide variety of dishes that will make many more servings, and you won’t be spending that much more.
In fact, you can actually save money this way! Consider buying a pre-made bagged frozen pasta dinner “for two” for every night of the work week for a couple of weeks (and I’m being nice and not including weekends). At $5 to $6 a bag, you’ve just spent the same amount of money as I did for a ton of ingredients that will make dishes yielding 3-4 servings that will last me a couple of weeks or more. Would you rather spend $50 for 10 days worth of small dinner portions, or spend the same amount on ingredients that will create a much larger variety of meals, including dessert? Sure, this could involve some chopping here & there, but the end result will be far healthier and much more satisfying for the palette and the soul.
Farfalle & Chicken with Mushroom-Chive Sauce (makes 3-4 servings; total cost per serving: $1.95)
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4-6 oz. white mushrooms (about 8-10), sliced
1/2 c sweet green peas
1/4 c finely chopped chives
2 t butter
1 T olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 c white wine, divided
Salt & pepper to taste
Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Drain, drizzle with a small amount of olive oil to prevent it from sticking, and set aside. Cut the chicken breasts into 1 1/2″ chunks. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet and add the garlic. Brown the garlic for about 1 minute until golden brown and fragrant, then add the chicken breast chunks. Sprinkle lightly with salt & pepper and cook over medium heat until the chicken is no longer pink inside. Remove the chicken from the pan & set aside.
Keeping the pan at medium high heat, deglaze the brown bits in the pan with 1/2 cup of wine. Add the butter & cook until melted, then add the mushrooms. Reduce heat to medium and cook until the mushrooms begin to soften. Return the chicken to the pan, add the peas, pasta and remaining wine, and cook for about 4 minutes, or until everything is heated through. Remove from heat and toss in the chopped chives, mixing everything together until completely coated. Serve with a nice salad or on its own, and enjoy!