Macaroni and cheese meals are frugal wonders. They start with an inexpensive convenience food. The results are nutritious, tasty, and homemade hot dishes.
Buy the cheapest generic or store brand boxed macaroni and cheese you can find. Start by making it according to the package directions.
If you are really short on grocery money, substitute water or broth for the milk. You can use less, or even leave out the butter. Or, you can substitute olive oil, vegetable oil, or even bacon grease for the butter.
Improve the macaroni and cheese by adding other ingredients. The recipes on the box give you some ideas. But, you can create your own frugal meals using leftovers.
Add bits of what you have. These add-ins give it extra flavor. They add proteins, vitamins, and other nutrients. And, they make it something different. The add-ins change it from the same old, same old boxed food to your homemade casserole.
Add meat to give it more protein. I use about 1 cup of meat to a box of mac and cheese, but you can add more or less, depending on what you have.
Our family favors adding leftover sloppy Joe meat or taco meat. My husband is a bacon lover and therefore likes it when I add a couple slices of crumbled bacon.
Macaroni and cheese meals are perfect ways to use leftover cooked meats. Dice or cut it into small pieces. All of these work: chicken, turkey, roast beef, roast pork, round steak or other beef, pork chops or pork steaks, ham, meatloaf, corned beef. It doesn’t need to be a lot, just enough to add some flavor and protein.
Canned meats go a long way in macaroni and cheese and therefore make it a frugal meal. Consider tuna, salmon, canned beef and gravy, or corned beef.
You can also add couple of cooked hotdogs, bratwurst, or other sausages. Slice them into coins before adding to the cooked mac and cheese. This is a good way to serve sausages when there aren’t enough for everyone to have one.
You can also add a couple slices of bologna, salami, or other sandwich meat. Dice it before adding it. I like to brown it in a frying pan first for extra flavor.
Grate bits of cheese that has dried out and add it. You can also increase the protein by adding beans. If you like hard cooked eggs, try dicing a couple and adding them to your mac and cheese.
Add vegetables – canned, frozen, or fresh. This is the perfect way to use up a tablespoon or two of leftover vegetables. It’s also a good way to use excess garden produce, such as zucchini or tomatoes.
I typically add about a half cup of peas, corn, carrots, or green beans to macaroni and cheese meals. Celery, green or red bell pepper, green chilies, and onion add flavor and nutrients.
Leftover Chinese food makes a great addition to mac and cheese.
You may also like adding about a quarter cup of spaghetti or pizza sauce, or salsa. These tomato based foods are high lycopene and other phytochemicals.
Instead of buying the expensive frozen macaroni and cheese or the kind with special cheese sauce, add your own touches for tasty frugal macaroni and cheese meals.