Try these great stew recipes for a frugal meal

Frugal Stews

by Liz Linderman

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In the "old" days, when you were served stew for supper, it meant that Mom was hoping she could stretch the leftovers to make one more meal. Those were hard times. Well, guess what? For many families and singles, too, we've got hard times right now! And though stews have been elevated in recent years to almost gourmet status, thanks to the discovery of European menus and enterprising chefs, they have become a favorite. Not only at home but also in restaurants, fancy and not-so-fancy, there are countless and multiple versions of this ubiquitous meal. Here's to the discovery of economical, yet always-tasty dishes, using one pound of meat, poultry or fish to serve four.

Using meats like pork, veal, lamb or, of course, beef, and even fish and seafood, the lowly stew results in a host of delightfully savory dishes. Add the usual vegetables like carrots, peas, potatoes and onions in any amounts you favor. But also, you might try mushrooms, cabbage, zucchini, broccoli, dried apples, apricots, prunes, raisins, dried cranberries, pineapple, even sweet potatoes and dried cherries. Obviously, don't use all at the same time but to harmonize with different meat or seafood ingredients. Explore the broad gamut of spices, liquids, and wines. There are many that you will want to experiment with, but take this move slowly with sparing amounts and with many tastings.

Let's start out with the most familiar stew:

Beef for All Seasons!

To your usual beef stew, add red wine for your liquid, mushrooms and cabbage in addition to your other familiar veggies, a pinch of cinnamon, a teaspoon of sugar, a pinch of allspice and about two cloves of garlic, minced and a fistful of chopped parsley.

C'Mon, Be a Lamb!

Although it's often called Mutton Stew, don't use mutton. It tends to be tough and gamey. Use only spring lamb for this almost-Irish Stew. Cook up your typical veggies until soft but not mushy. Cook maybe 10 minutes on medium heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from pan. Brown lamb cut in cubes in hot oil for about five minutes. Add apples, raisins, small pearl onions, salt, and pepper. Cook for about one to two hours on medium to low heat until lamb is tender. Your liquid here could be chicken broth, apple juice, dry white wine, or even water.

Chicken Little - or Big!

Start out with your basic veggies. Now here's where you can substitute. Instead of white potatoes, cut up peeled sweet potatoes. Cut up chicken in larger pieces. Brown in hot oil until golden. Sprinkle with at least a tablespoon of garlic powder and two teaspoons of salt and pepper. Choose chicken broth as your liquid, or try pineapple juice or sherry wine. Add canned pineapple chunks. Fresh pineapple is a bit too tart. Dried cranberries are an interesting touch. Try them in the broth.

Fishin' for Something Swell!

Although fish and seafood are first cousins (shrimp, scallops, crab, even lobster), they don't always swim in the same ocean. This means that they can take on different veggies, liquids, or spices. Long time cooking doesn't rate here. Most fish and seafood like a quick hop in the skillet, a fast turn, and then a heating up for about 15 minutes over a low heat. So, cook the veggies first only until tender. Add the fish or seafood; again cook until tender, only about five minutes on either side. For the liquid, sherry wine is divine or try a fish stock (usually available in gourmet food stores). If not, try a cup of New England clam chowder, diluted with a cup of water. Perfect things to add in include lots of onions, a bay leaf, a teaspoon of fresh lemon juice, basil, thyme, two cups of peeled canned tomatoes, or substitute tomato juice for the above mentioned clam chowder.

I Veal So Good!

Ah, yes, veal! You might think it's nuts to take a pound of wonderfully expensive veal to make into a stew, right? But listen up. A pound of veal with a bounty of veggies, spices, and wine can easily turn into a marvelous meal for six! Cook up your basic veggies until soft, adding portobello mushrooms cut in thin strips and thin strips of zucchini and red pepper. Leave out the potatoes. You're going to serve angel hair pasta with this. Sherry wine is the foremost liquid for this kingly dish. Roll the cut up veal in breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Brown lightly in hot oil. Add your veggies and wine and heat on medium heat only until hot, which is about a mere ten minutes.

These are only a sampling of the delicious stew varieties you can create with an adventurous spirit and different stew ingredients. So "Here's Stew Ya." Enjoy!

* All measurements are arbitrary depending on individual tastes and quantities to be prepared.

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