There are certain things that a mother must teach her children how to do as they start off in a life on their own. Chances are. . . they’ll be financially broke the first few years while starting out. I know that I was. Money was always tight. I have my own tales of woe too. You know - like the stories your dad or your grandpa always told while you were complaining about something? They’d tell you, ”Child, when I was your age, I had to WALK to school 8 miles UP HILL in the SNOW both ways.” I, myself, do remember one week in particular when all I had was a five pound bag of potatoes and no money until the end of the week. I can’t even remember WHY I had a five pound bag of potatoes, but that’s all I had in my house besides your basic condiments. So I only ate once a day and that meal was dinner. After work one night, I’d bake a potato. The next night, I’d mash a couple of potatoes. The next night, I’d fry a couple. You get the drift. There a million ways to cook up a potato and it was pretty filling too. And even after all that, I STILL love potatoes!
Well, my youngest, who has been on his own for awhile now, has hit a little financial slump having just broken up with the girlfriend of five years (Don’t feel bad. It was a damn good thing. Trust me.) thus losing what little income she contributed. AND he’s now having to cook for himself. THAT’S the biggest problem. So last week, we talked at length about how and where he could save money. I was so tickled that he came to me for advice. He wasn’t looking for a handout. He honestly just wanted advice . . . from the “expert”, he said. He knows that I raised him and his brother on a budget from Hell. But the thing is that at the time, he said he never realized that we were poor. He’s proud of his mama and boasts about how I can stretch a dollar around the block. Aaawwhhh. It smacks a mother with pride.
Isn’t he precious?
The first thing that I advised him to do to save money was to quit smoking. Ick! We added up how much he spent on cigarettes over a year’s time and he was stunned. It was about $1000. When he saw that figure, he quit instantly. We’ll see how that works out for him.
The second thing was to stop eating out at lunch everyday. He’s in construction and for the single guys who don’t cook and have leftovers, they always go through a fast food joint for breakfast and lunch. We added that up too and even if he orders off the $1 menu, it’s still a lot of money.
I explained to him some of the different dishes that I used to cook all the time (that he loved) and how cheap they are to throw together. He was stunned. Especially when I broke down how much each dish costs compared to that drive-thru meal. His favorite thing that I make is Cheesy Chicken and Rice. So simple and if you buy your chicken when it’s on sale (which is the ONLY way I buy meat – any meat), it’s really affordable. He was so excited, he went home and made it that night.
I had given him a slow cooker and a few more appliances for Christmas a couple of years ago. I know that may sound like a pretty boring gift for a young man, but hey – I only believe in practical gifts when we’re talking about poor children starting out in life. Yeah, no fancy ipods or video games or such foolishness while you’re struggling to buy groceries. Anyway, he put that thing to good use last weekend. He made the Cheesy Chicken and Rice and then put in containers to take to work with him each day.
Anyway, here is Cheesy Chicken and Rice.
2.5 lb Chicken Breast (any chicken parts will do – whatever is on sale)
2 cans Cream of Chicken soup
1 can Cheddar Cheese soup
That’s all there is to it. Throw all of this into a slow cooker and cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 8 hours.
About a half hour before you’re ready to eat, start your rice. If you use Minute Rice, you only need 5 – 10 minutes. However, I did a price comparison between regular long grain rice that takes 15 – 20 minutes to make and Minute Rice. I was gobsmacked. Regular rice was $.97 per pound while Minute Rice came in at $2.47 per pound. For me, with a savings like that, I think I can spare an extra 10 – 15 minutes. So see what I mean about cheap? PLUS I got the chicken on a Buy One Get One sale which turned out to be $1.80 per pound. Not bad. And if you have coupons for the soup, you’ve got the whole meal that will feed a family of four for less than $7.00. Or in my son’s case, he’ll have a delicious homecooked lunch for four days at $1.75 per day. That’s what one large combo meal costs at a fast food place.
Enough of the shopping lesson. We’ve got to finish up this Cheesy Chicken and Rice. If you have some sour cream in your house, you can add that to the soupy gravy mixture when you’re ready to serve. It adds a certain richness to the gravy. But if you don’t have any at the time, don’t worry about it. It’s totally optional. Thank goodness, because I’d forgotten to pick some up at the store.
And WALA! Yummy and delicious and cheap.
Okay. Okay. This isn’t rice in this picture. You know why? You know that old saying, “When you snooze, you lose”? Well, I snoozed. I made all this and had my boys stop by according to their schedules to eat while I lounged at the pool all afternoon. (The pool is only open for one more week – so sad) They each stopped by, visited me at the pool, ate and by the time I got home, there was no more rice. It was later than I’d planned on eating because it was just so beautiful outside, and I didn’t feel like making more rice. So I whipped out the last resort boxed mashed potatoes. (While I’d NEVER feed those to company, I’m not above eating instant mashed potatoes myself in a tight spot)
I also explained to youngest child about a Pot Roast in the slow cooker. You don’t have to get an expensive cut of meat for a Pot Roast if you’re cooking it in the slow cooker. No – you can get the cheapest hunk of meat that just slightly resembles a roast and if you cook it long enough in the slow cooker, that sucker comes out falling to pieces. So he’s since bought a cheap roast that was on mark-down too and he’ll do the same thing with that tonight when he gets off work. It makes a mother proud.
And the thing is . . . he’s proud of himself. I guess he just didn’t realize that cooking really isn’t that difficult. It was just something that he’d never tried to do. Oh he can cook. You know – Hamburger Helper. He can follow directions well. So I told him that if he can do that, he can follow a recipe. It’s the same difference.
My baby is growing up.