Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Delights of Tuna Noodle Casserole

Fresh fruit and veggies at a local French market
- it was a feast for the senses.

Ok, everyone - I expect some of you might not have put "delight" in the same sentence as "tuna noodle casserole." However, if one is attempting to feed oneself on $1.64 per day, tuna noodle casserole takes on a whole new cachet. Adapted from the soup can label, here's my version of this 50s classic:

1 10 3/4 oz. can condensed cream of celery soup
1/2 cup milk (I mixed evaporated with regular milk for a creamier taste)
1 whole summer squash, cut into small die
2 6 oz. cans tuna packed in water, drained
2 cups farfalle pasta, cooked and drained (about 1/2 of a 12 oz. package)
pepper to taste
cumin to taste
parmesan cheese

Total cost for four servings: $2.87 from grocery list yesterday + approx. $1.00 in
                                          milk/cheese/seasonings = $0.96/serving

Cook pasta according to package directions. In a separate bowl, mix the soup, milk, squash, and tuna. Add the drained cooked pasta, and season with pepper and cumin to taste.

Pour into a 1 1/2 quart casserole dish. Top with parmesan cheese (about two palmfuls will do) and cook in a 400 degree farenheit oven for about 20 minutes.

I could definitely have added another cup of vegetables, and will should I make this again. To me, the cumin and parmesan took this somewhat bland dish to all kinds of flavorful. For an extremely limited budget, I thought I did alright with this dish. And I have the left-overs for later meals.

I was truly appreciative of the comments on yesterday's post. I absolutely agree with Andrea's comment about attempting to save money on food when one has dietary restrictions. I am incredibly lucky to be able to eat just about anything.

One comment I wanted to address was the rice and beans argument - if one buys rice and beans, one can buy more and therefore stretch the food dollar. Let me take each in turn: first, the beans. If I wanted to eat all those beans, this might be a good idea. However, my palette (as well as my body) appreciates protein from chicken and fish (although I do like beans, just in limited amounts). Obviously, fish was out of the question because of cost. I thought I did pretty well with my chicken purchase, especially since I'm going to get additional meals from it next week. I definitely made my decisions not only on price, but on palette and preference as well, to the extent I could. :)

Now, the rice part: has anyone taken a peek at rice prices lately? In fact, it was less expensive and provided more variety to buy two twelve ounce packages of pasta (on special for $1.00 each) than to buy the smallest bag of rice (which was huge, for $1.98, and most of the rice bags were well over $2.00 each). I was absolutely amazed at how expensive rice had become! I could have traveled to another store where rice was sold in bulk and attempted to buy bulk rice in a less expensive amount (although I'm uncertain of bulk rice prices at the moment). But that would have meant more time, and planning, and travel. On just this one task.

I'm glad for the comment (thanks so much katiemckinna!) because it underscores something I have tried to instill in both students as well as others - poor people lead difficult, complicated lives. In many instances, the poor are forced to logistically work around all kinds of obstacles that people with more means never need to face.

Below you can see a photo of this morning's breakfast. It was rather tasty. I'll provide the recipe for it tomorrow. I'm not certain if I'm strictly feeding myself on $1.64 a day (the equivalent of one British pound) - but I'm coming darn close. 


  1. Hi, thanks for your update. This is an interesting week. I'm really enjoying your posts. You're really doing a great job stretching your food dollar. I agree with your point about the difficulties the poor face, although I don't quite see the connection to my comment. Admittedly I haven't been around Mama Troll's blog too much, so maybe I'm missing some information.
    Keep the posts coming, though!

  2. What a classic. We used to make that all the time at home; good ol' comfort food.

  3. I like tuna casserole. I make it occasionally and my mom still makes it often. We use cheddar, mushroom soup, and English peas. I'll have to try it with the Parmesan and cumin.
    We eat beans and rice a lot, but here in Louisiana you HAVE to have sausage in the beans. I use turkey or chicken sausage usually and I use brown rice so it's probably not especially cheap to make. I've always found it very hard to eat both economically and healthily. Breakfast looks tasty!

  4. Hahaha. I can certainly understand one's aversion to beans, palette or otherwise. :-)

    I happen to really like beans and I'm in the process of learning how to make them from dried. Which is why I know the price. ;-)

    I think this is a great project and am looking forward to the rest of the week. :-)

  5. Good luck with this very challenging challenge. Lining up "eating well" and "spending little" is not easy!