budget-minded minestrone

Eating healthy is expensive. The hubs and I have been working on a budget and trying to track our expenses. We gave ourselves a generous grocery budget because we decided at this point in our lives eating healthy, varied, and often organic meals was important to us. Yet we admit that when we have to start buying diapers, that priority will likely change. But for the time being, the hubs supports me wanting to cook with fresh and fun ingredients that cost more than subsidized Cheetos and such ilk.

ministrone with parm (2)

But even with that generous budget, we went over… substantially. This blew my mind.  I really try to plan our meals. Sundays usually entail me sitting down with my cookbooks and a notepad where little arrows swap meals around avoiding food waste. “Okay, so the mushrooms are about to turn so we’ll have mushroom risotto tomorrow night and then Tuesday I’ll make minestrone to use up the kale, cabbage, and celery with enough leftover for lunches.”  And while we try to buy organic, hormone/antibiotic free (or local where it’s used when needed and not as a standard process), which is undoubtedly more expensive, we try to off-set the expense by having meat only a few times a week, instead opting for more vegetarian meals.

I know I’m not the only one out there who spends more than they want on groceries, so I’m going to start adding a new category of posts into this blog. Budget-conscious recipes and weeks worth of recipe links to assist you in avoiding food waste while still eating healthfully.

ministrone close

So to kick things off here’s a recipe that takes very little time, thanks to a pressure cooker, and uses up the celery in my crisper that’s not so crisp anymore. In fact you can put just about any veggie in this meal. You can also use bacon, frying before the onions, for a more robust, extravagant flavor. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, fret not. There are a million recipes out there that are just as economical on your stovetop or even in a crockpot. While this recipe can easily go vegetarian, we found a beef shank on sale, an already budget-friendly cut of meat.

Budget-Friendly Minestrone

about 6 servings

Ingredients:

1 medium onion

2 cloves garlic

2 medium sized carrots

3 small red potatoes sliced and chopped

1/2 small head of cabbage

2 small stalks of celery

1/2 cup frozen peas

at least 1 15 oz can of crushed or diced tomatoes. If you want more broth, use more. If you have extra tomatoes you need to use up, chop em and throw em in.

1/4 teaspoon rosemary

1 teaspoon parsley

1/4 teaspoon oregano

3 cups chicken broth

1 lb beef shank (you could definitely get away with using less, or none if you added more potatoes and/or rice, lentils.)

1/2 cup elbow macaroni (minestrone typically uses ditalini pasta, but elbow macaroni is usually cheaper. We upped the nutritional value by purchasing whole wheat.)

Parmesan cheese* for topping. optional.

Directions:

Chop, dice, mince the veggies to your liking. Smaller veggies will cook faster.

Saute chopped onion in a little olive oil in the pressure cooker on medium heat. On my model this is the “brown” setting.

Once the onions are soft and a bit caramelized, add the garlic, carrots, potatoes, cabbage, celery, undrained tomatoes, chicken broth, and spices. Submerge the beef shank.

Lock the lid and bring to low pressure. Cook on low pressure for 15 minutes. (If you are not using a pressure cooker,

Quick release the pressure. Remove beef shank and allow to cool a bit. Once you can safely handle the meat, remove the bone and cut meat into bite sized pieces. Return the beef to the pot. Stir in the macaroni and peas.

Lock lid and bring to low pressure again. Cook on low pressure for 5 minutes.

Release the pressure, add any additional seasonings (salt, pepper, more rosemary, whatever) to taste and grate parmesan on top of each serving. Enjoy!

Tip:

*Unless you need over a cup of shredded cheese, never buy Parmesan pre-shredded. It stays fresh longer in a block, is much more economical, doesn’t have additives to prevent sticking and spoilage, and it melts better. Plus, unlike other softer cheeses, it is a breeze to grate. It may be worth it to buy other cheeses pre-shredded if you don’t have hours to spend on nearly slicing your fingertips off.

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