I needed to make something for dinner last night. Money is tight. I’d say right now, but honestly, money is always tight. There’s this thing with my money flow that I always have just enough, just in time, but the definitions of “enough” and “in time” are the definitions of my Goddesses, Ancestors, and Guides, and I’m not always comfortable with their ideas for what those mean. I’m not homeless, I don’t worry about immediate starvation, but I sure would like to have some more padding in the bank account than I do.
I had to work with whatever was in my kitchen. No ordering out, no Instacart, not even a quick trip to the Save-a-Lot.
Luckily, I’d had some big blessings through the previous couple of weeks, and the cupboards and fridge are relatively well-stocked.
I’m only cooking for two of us: My husband and I live by ourselves with our (currently) 17 cats – a mixture of fosters and permanent residents. Cooking for two, of course, adds additional challenges, since a lot of recipes and foods are packaged for families of 4 or more. That’s not an insurmountable challenge though – leftovers are GREAT for those days you don’t have the energy or desire to cook anything.
One of the blessings was coming across a bunch of marked down pork sausage rolls last week at Save-a-Lot. They were about to expire in the next day or two, but were marked down from something like $3.99/lb to 99 cents. Almost expired meat is good to toss in the freezer, but you have to be ready to use it as soon as you thaw it. Don’t pull it out of the freezer and into the fridge and forget about it for a few days.
Jars of spaghetti sauce are part of my staples – I always keep several stocked, and buy more when I find them on sale. I’m not fussy about brand, unless I notice a brand tastes horrible, then I’ll never get it again. Mostly I stick to the same stores and get their generics, or name brands if I catch a killer sale.
Pasta is another of my staples. Noodles of all sorts. Spaghetti, elbow noodles, bowtie noodles, etc. Again, stock up when they’re cheap regardless of brand/type. I know how to make my own noodles, but that’s a pain in the ass and I’d rather spend my time on other things like plotting to smash the patriarchy on Facebook and weaving magic through my life.
Not that making noodles can’t be magical – it can be VERY magical. It’s just not my favorite thing to do, and I try to avoid things that aren’t my favorite as much as possible. Luckily, I have a lot of favorite things to fill my days with. Like the aforementioned patriarchy smashing, but also, plant-tending, devotional work, contemplative studies, and magic-making.
Cheese is another staple. I DO really like making cheese – and I’ll share some cheap and easy how tos in future posts, but I don’t really have the equipment to make as much cheese as I actually use. So I keep stocked up on a LOT of it.
Last night’s dinner pretty much threw all of that together into a pan on top of the stove, similar to a goulash, but with a different flavor profile and a fuckton of cheese.
Cheap and Easy One-pan Elbow “Lasagna”
- 1 lb elbow macaroni noodles
- 1 lb pork sausage Mild, medium, or spicy to your preference
- 1 jar spaghetti sauce If you make your own, great. Store bought is absolutely fine.
- 1 c cottage cheese
- 1 c shredded mozzarella cheese
- ¼ c powdered parmesan cheese
- 1 can sliced mushrooms Optional
- In a large pan (stock pot, dutch oven, or similar), bring 6 cups of water to a boil.
- Add noodles and continue to boil for 10 minutes or until tender.
- Drain noodles and leave in colander.
- Add pound of pork sausage to pan, and brown over low to medium heat.
- Drain grease from pork sausage and return to pain.
- Add the jar of spaghetti sauce to the pork sausage in the pan. Stir.
- Add mushrooms and cheeses.
- Bring sauce, meat, and cheese mixture to a bubble.
- Add noodles, stirring.
- Heat on medium for five minutes.