Saturday, March 3, 2012

Sloppy Joes

A few weeks ago I braved the rain with the three younger kids to go to Save Mart.  I rarely shop at any grocery store except WinCo, but that day, it was worth the trip.  They had asparagus on sale for $0.99/lb. and ground beef for $1.97/lb.  We love asparagus, but I rarely find it below my $1/lb. limit for produce.  So when I find it at such a great price, I buy it, and I buy a lot of it!  See last week's post about freezing asparagus here.

So I had the boys help me pick out my six pounds of asparagus, then we headed over to the meat department.  I grabbed a chub of ground beef and was about to put it in my cart when some clearance stickers caught my eye.  There was a whole section of fresh ground beef with $2 off stickers!  I was ecstatic!  Instead of buying ground beef for $1.97/lb., I was able to buy ground chuck for quite a bit less! 

A lot of stores will use %-off stickers to mark down their meat.  Even with the markdowns, I rarely find meat within my $2/lb. spending limit.  The fact that Save Mart uses $2 off is way better for us consumers if we’re savvy about it.  Keep in mind that the most savings will be found on the smallest packages.  If a package of meat starts at $3 and is $2 off, that’s a savings of 66%!  If a package starts at $5 and is $2 off, that’s only a savings of 40%.  My rough mental estimate is that I ended up paying about $1.60/lb. for ground chuck!  (Just remember to use or freeze your clearance meat right away.)

Last week I pulled a pound out of the freezer and turned it into sloppy joe’s.  The recipe I use came from a church cookbook my mother-in-law gave me when we first got married.  It is really simple, really quick, and really tasty!  The best part?  It costs me well under $3 per batch!

Just out of curiosity, it went to Lucky to see how much canned sloppy Joe sauce and seasoning packets cost.  Manwich Sloppy Joe sauce cost $2.29 for a 15.5 oz. can.  This is enough sauce for one pound of ground beef.  The generic brand, Valu Time, was much more reasonable at $1.59 and was on sale for $1.39.  Assuming a great deal on the meat, this isn’t much more than what it cost me, but their directions don’t call for onions.

I then went to the seasoning packet aisle.  All three packets I found called for 1 pound of ground beef and a 6-oz. can of tomato paste.  McCormick’s 1.31 oz. packet was $1.39 and Lawry’s 1.5 oz. packet was $1.79.  Sunny Select was much more reasonable at $0.48 for a 1.31 oz. packet, definitely the most cost-effective.  But I’m not a seasoning packet type of cook, especially when I can easily make the sauce with ingredients I already have on hand.

An added bonus to this recipe is that you can make it in large batches and freeze it!  If you are planning on freezing it for a long time, zip-top freezer bags work better than plastic containers.  You want to avoid air contact with the meat. 

Sloppy Joes
1 lb. ground beef
½ large onion, chopped
¾ c. ketchup
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. mustard
1 Tbsp. vinegar
1 tsp. salt

Brown ground beef and onion.  Drain off fat and return to pan.

Stir in remaining ingredients; simmer about 5 minutes.

To save time, I measure sauce ingredients into my
measuring cup while the beef browns.

Serve on hamburger buns, open faced on toasted bread, or over brown rice.

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