A while back I mentioned how I like to keep my pantry stocked with essentials so that if I’m in a time crunch or a penny pinch, I know I can have a decent healthy meal Hubs and I can enjoy.
Well today (and honestly this week) was one of those times. Hubs and I are in Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University and on top of already being tight, we’re supposed to stash away $1000 in an emergency fund as quickly as we can. I figured one way would be by temporarily cutting the food budget (cuz you know…that pesky thing called rent has to be paid every month). Which means for me that I won’t be making fancier fun foods for a bit (I got a recipe book for crepes as a wedding gift and I’m dying to try a roasted red pepper and feta one!!!!!).
And so I brought out the big guns (aka. my pantry) and made a dinner that didn’t need to be planned.
Yummy Chicken and Rice that’s easy and cheap. I can’t take credit for this one. This is definitely a recipe on the back of a Cambell’s soup label (though I of course use the off brand soup. Gotta save those pennies!). But it’s one of those recipes every single person on the planet needs to know because it’s 1) easy and 2) cheap (ignore the estimated cost per serving that’s on the website. I have no idea how they figure it costs that much per person. Mine was way cheaper, but I also buy things in bulk).
Here’s the recipe, but I always make it my own (I find that all recipes are either lame, tasteless or disappointing if you don’t add your own personal flair to it). For example, I used garlic powder and italian seasonings instead of paprika on the chicken and rice while it cooked. Suits my taste, plus it makes up for the fact that I don’t have paprika.
But here’s the thing: I always keep some kind of non-perishable base in my pantry (brown rice or wheat pasta), I always have a stock pile of chicken in my freezer, and cream of mushroom soup is always a must.
If you don’t know why cream of mushroom soup is awesome or if you think it sounds disgusting, lend me your ear, my dear. Because that little can (especially the low fat ones) are versatile dinner staples that can transform any meal.
For example with my chicken and rice— all you do is mix the rice with water and a can of soup and bake it with the chicken and whatever seasonings you want. There’s nothing simpler than that.
Tonight I’m making pasta with cream of mushroom soup and red wine vinegar. I discovered that recipe in a magazine when I lived in DC, made it my own, and it was a hit among my intern roommates. The only ingredient I’m missing is the sun dried tomatoes, but I can improvise. You can count on a blog post with the recipe tomorrow.
Cream of mushroom soup is also great in casseroles. Broccoli casserole. Turkey tetrazzini. It really can be applied to most meals and for the cost of the can— which is like between 50 cents and a dollar, you can get four meals out of it.
Now, I don’t eat cream of mushroom soup all the time (or by itself). So please don’t imagine my pantry full to the brim of thousands of cans of this magical cooking ingredient (well, unless there’s a really great sale or something). I mainly just keep 2-4 cans in the back and use them for emergencies.
Think about it: It’s great to have pasta and rice as a staple, but if you have just bland rice and beans or chicken with a side of bland rice every night for a week when you’re in a pinch– your family isn’t going to like you very much and you’re going to get super bummed out. Same with pasta. If your pasta dish is either just olive oil sauces or tomato sauces all week long, it can be discouraging. While tomato sauce is definitely a must-have staple too, having a can or two of cream of mushroom soup can help add variety in a week of pinching pennies.
So embrace the cream of mushroom soup. If you haven’t cooked with it before, give it a shot. If you’re not a mushroom person, try the other varieties. There’s cream of chicken, cream of celery….you get the picture. And the best part? They make healthier versions of them too and since it’s canned, the shelf life is amazing.
You are welcome.