Making a meal for the family on a food stamps budget is no easy feat, especially when you want to include tastiness and nutrition in it. But our series called $5 Family Dinners takes the guesswork out of the equation, and will give you plenty of money-saving, belly-rubbing options.
The Meal: Cheesesteak Sloppy Joes
Who doesn’t love Sloppy Joes? It’s a meal that lets you dive right in and get messy, and is hearty enough that you feel satisfyingly full after. There’s also a vegetarian-friendly version, too, so nobody is left out of this $5 Family Dinner. But the best part is, it only takes minutes to get ready.
What You’ll Need
- 1 lb. ground meat: Medium ground beef (or chuck, depending where you live) has the most fat, but also provides unparalleled flavor. Some families prefer something a little leaner, so (extra) lean ground beef or ground turkey is a healthier alternative.
- 1 green pepper: Take the seeds out, and then cut it up into little squares. How big you want the squares depends on your personal preference, but you can’t really go wrong on size.
- 1 15-oz can of tomato sauce: You’re going to be adding seasoning to the dish, so skip on the fancy expensive cans, and just get a regular can of tomato sauce.
- 2 tsp. minced onion: If you like a lot of onions in your meals, go ahead and increase the size of this portion. But if you don’t, then stick to 2 tsp so you can still get the richness of the onion flavor. And if you really don’t want any onion chunks in your Sloppy Joes, then stick to powdered onion.
- 1 tsp. minced garlic: Grocery stores sell garlic already minced, but it’s a lot less expensive if you take the one minute to mince it yourself. And it’ll taste better.
- 1 tsp. vinegar: You may be thinking this ingredient is weird, but its acidity helps balance out the other ingredients.
- 1 tbsp. mustard: Make sure not to use powdered mustard, but the regular kind out of a bottle.
- 1 tbsp. brown sugar: Again, this one might seem weird, but it interacts splendidly with the other ingredients. It’s also important to get brown sugar and not white.
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 4 buns: Whole wheat is the healthier choice, but go for whatever’s on sale. And if you look for discounted, about-to-expire buns, you can save even more money. Once you toast the buns, you won’t be able to taste that they’re not out-of-the-oven fresh.
- 4 cheese slices: Your best bet is to go with a melty cheese like mozzarella or provolone, but if something else is your favorite (like cheddar), then by all means use your favorite cheese. This is a family dinner, not a final examination at Le Cordon Bleu.
What You’ll Need to Do
- Cook the ground meat over medium heat until it’s brown. You really don’t need to add oil or butter to it, as there’ll be enough fat in the meat to grease the pan. You may want use a seasoned cast iron pan for this, though, as that does the job the best. Depending on how firm or soft you like your green peppers, you can add them in with the ground meat (soft) or cook them in the next step (firm). Once they’re done, take the ground meat out, drain it, and sit it on a plate for the next few steps.
- Add in all the rest of the ingredients into the pan except the buns and cheese, mix them together well, and put it on low heat for five or 10 minutes. Keeping a lid on the pan will help retain the steam, which is an added bonus for this step.
- Once those have simmered with each other for a bit, add the ground meat (and possibly green peppers) into the pan. Let it simmer for another five or 10 minutes.
- Toast the buns, then ladle the meat mix onto the buns, and then top with a slice of cheese. The heat from everything will melt the cheese in about 30 seconds.
- Serve to your family.