I'm a cheapskate and everyone who knows me knows it. I'm the weirdo in the grocery store with the calculator blocking everyone's way in the bread aisle. I hold up the line at the front when I tell the cashier I changed my mind about the 4-pack of tuna because it turns out 4 individual cans is a better deal. I talk to myself the whole way through my shopping trips which has earned me more than a few odd looks, but it's part of my process. It's not easy finding the best deal on everything, every time, but it's worth it.
Take this slow-cooked pot roast recipe for example--it will serve six people for less than twenty dollars. After the initial 15 minutes of preparation, there's nearly no work involved and best of all, using even a few tips from Alex Grey's Chef Secrets will bring the cost of this recipe down even further!
Super Simple Pot Roast
- 3 lb Boneless Beef Chuck ($11.25)
- 1 lb carrots, roughly chopped (69 cents)
- 1 medium sweet yellow onion, roughly chopped (68 cents)
- 8 oz white button mushrooms, quartered ($1.77)
- 1/4 cup canned plum tomatoes with juice* (23 cents)
- 1/2 cup celery, cut into 1/2" pieces (15 cents)
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil (6 cents)
- salt and pepper (negligible)
- 3 bay leaves (10 cents)
- 1 tbsp dried thyme (5 cents)
- 1 (4") sprig fresh or a pinch of dried rosemary (5 cents)
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled (7 cents)
- 2 cups canned vegetable stock (98 cents)
- 1/2 cup red wine (80 cents)
- 1 tbsp Better Than Bouillon beef base** (25 cents)
To finish sauce you will need these additional ingredients:
- 1 cup canned vegetable stock (49 cents)
- 1 tbsp Better Than Bouillon beef base (25 cents)
- 1/4 cup condensed cream of mushroom soup (24 cents)
I make this pot roast without potatoes (which tend to get mushy during the slow-cooking) and serve it over rustic mashed potatoes.
- Pour wine and vegetable stock into large crock pot, set to LOW heat. Whisk in 1 tbsp BTB beef base. Add garlic cloves, bay leaves, thyme, rosemary, celery and tomatoes and cover.
- Heat 1 tbsp vegetable oil in large frying pan over med-high heat. Fry onion, carrots and mushrooms until they begin to develop a nice golden brown color (approx. 5 minutes). Season with small amount of salt and pepper and add the vegetables to the crock pot.
- Add 1 tbsp vegetable oil to the frying pan and heat. Cut the boneless roast into quarters. Do not trim any fat off--it will break down during the cooking process and contributes much flavor to this recipe. Season the boneless chuck roast with salt and pepper and place all pieces in an even layer in the frying pan. Sear until the outside has a crisp, golden brown crust, then turn the pieces and repeat for all sides (approx. 5 minutes).
- Use tongs to transfer the seared chuck to the crock pot. Shift the vegetables so the meat is at the bottom of the pot below the level of the liquid.
- Deglaze the frying pan--spoon a small amount of cooking liquid into the frying pan and scrape the bottom and sides of the pan with a spatula to loosen any fried oil and meat scraps. Pour the contents of the pan into the crock pot--this fatty, meaty goodness is packed with flavor!
- Cover the crock pot and continue heating on LOW for 4-5 hours.
- At around 4 hours, remove crock pot cover and skim fat from the top of the cooking liquid (this is my dog's favorite part--I mix the removed fat into his food). Test the consistency of the meat--it should be tender, but not falling apart.
- Remove the meat from the cooking liquid with tongs or a slotted spoon. Cover and set aside. Remove the vegetables from the cooking liquid to a small bowl separate from the meat and cover.
- Pour the remaining cooking liquid into a medium saucepan, add 1 tbsp BTB beef base, the condensed cream of mushroom soup and 1 cup of vegetable stock. Whisk together and then add in the cooked chuck roast. Heat on med-high approximately 1 hour to reduce and thicken the sauce. This will also finish cooking the meat to fork-tender.
- When sauce has thickened and the meat is falling apart, add the vegetables back in and heat through (5 minutes). Serve on top of or alongside mashed potatoes or other starch.
Pot Roast recipe serves 6. Total cost per serving: $3.00
**Better Than Bouillon is a fairly inexpensive semi-liquid flavoring paste (similar to bouillon). It can be mixed with water to be used as a substitute for cooking stock. It comes in beef, chicken, seafood, vegetable and other flavors and it is sold in small jars in most major supermarkets. It can also be purchased online from Superior Touch. It must be stored in the refrigerator after opening. This is the best alternative to homemade stock that I have found--it saves me a ridiculous amount of time and effort in the kitchen.
Buy Better Than Bouillon in Tucson at these fine retailers:
AJ's 2805 East Skyline Drive
Safeway 9125 East Tanque Verde
Fry's 555 East Grant Road
*During winter when quality fresh tomatoes are scarce and expensive, canned tomatoes are an excellent alternative. I use Tuttorosso canned tomatoes at home--they are intensely flavorful, so each can stretches through several recipes.