I think that one of the secrets to super cheap eating is that sometimes (as in at least once a week), you eat a meal that is intensely cheap.
Dutch babies (otherwise known as German pancakes) are the perfect fit. Generally made with eggs, milk, flour, and a bit of butter, a pan-ful can usually be made for about $.50. They can be topped with savory toppings like sauteed greens or mushrooms. Or sweet things like syrup, powdered sugar or fruit.
(oh, look, it's like a 3-eyed strawberry monster with creepy blueberry teeth--and this is what happens when i try to pose my food)
These are even more exciting because they use whey. Okay, so that's only exciting if you make homemade yogurt or cheese. (Note: If you don't have whey you can absolutely use regular milk in these.) If you make yogurt or cheese (and this crock pot Greek yogurt is as stupid easy as they come), you will know that after all is said and done you have a bunch of whey. Now some of those foods (like crock pot Greek yogurt--shameless 2nd plug) are so cheap to make that throwing out the whey is not a terrible financial crime, but whey does carry with it some of the proteins and calcium from the milk. And sometimes it feels a shame (and a waste) to just toss those nutrients out. And yet, if you've ever made yogurt or cheese, you know that you can be just drowning in whey. What to do with it all? This is just one idea. And it's a good one--it doesn't feel like you're subbing in whey at all. If feels like it was born to be made with whey.
And cost? This meal comes up to about $.12/serving. And, yes, that is what I mean by a super cheap meal. I will confess that a serving of Dutch babies might not fill you up (depending on how big/hungry you are), but two servings (at $.25) would more than fill me up, plus they leave plenty of wiggle room in the budget for a side of fruit, salad, nuts, or whatever.
Dutch Babies with Whey
adapted from Smells Like Brownies
Makes 1 10-inch skillet of food
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
eggs: .30, whey (free, but milk would be .10), flour: .10, butter: .15
-This is for a 10-inch skillet. I only have a 12, so I added an egg and upped the whey and milk by a couple tablespoons each and that worked.
-You must use a skillet that is oven proof.
-If you'd like you can double this and make it in a 9x13 inch pan.
2/3 C whey (or milk)
2/3 C flour
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp butter
Preheat oven to 450 (yup--hot). As it preheats, put the butter into the pan and let it melt while the oven heats.
Mix together eggs, whey, flour, and vanilla. (A few lumps are no big deal.)
When you're butter is melted and your oven is HOT, pour the batter into the pan, right over top the butter (some of the butter will likely come to the top of your batter--that's okay).
Bake for 15-20 minutes (I pulled mine out at 17). This is going to puff up into a crazy puff monster and the edges will brown. You'll know it's ready when the edges are brown.
Take it out of the oven. (Note: Don't forget to use a hot pad. Maybe that sounds like a no brainer, but when you see a pan, sometimes you just grab the handle because it's, well, a pan. This pan handle is 450 degrees. For the love of epidermis, do not grab it without a hot pad.) It will immediately deflate like this (see that butter up top).
Cut and serve. We served this with some lemon butter (1/8 C melted butter, 1/8 C powdered sugar, 1-2 Tbsp lemon) and fruit. (Note: The lemon butter will add $.45 to the cost of your meal.)