We never had Hamburger Helper when I was growing up – not that it wasn’t available, but Mom scorned such things. Luckily, though, we had Vera Heinmann’s Noodle dish so we didn’t feel deprived. For you younger folks, not having Hamburger Helper was like not having, well…Hot Pockets, I suppose.
I don’t know where my Mom got this recipe; I assume from the Des Moines Register. We also don’t know who Vera Heinmann is (if you know, please comment!) but our family has ALWAYS used her name, somewhat reverently, whenever we’ve spoken of this dish. It really was a favorite. Ok, well sometimes we smiled – say it out loud – you can’t help but smile!
This is a perfect example of how a home-made dish often beats out price and quality of a box dinner like a Hamburger Helper. When my kids were young, I was never able to afford the extravagance of the more expensive Hamburger Helper – a quick look at the ingredients was all it took to realize that a few simple vegetables and some noodles were much less expensive than the box with it’s dehydrated and additive full ingredients.
Heinmann’s Noodle Dish is not too fancy but it is downright comforting: Thank you, Vera, whoever you are! This recipe cost me $2.38.
Recipe: Vera Heinmann’s Noodle Dish, serves 8 (or in our family, serves 4)
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 1/2 bell pepper, diced
- 1/2 teaspoon chile powder
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 cups v-8® vegetable juice, or tomato juice
- 2 cups water
- 8 ounces egg noodles, wide
In a Dutch oven, brown hamburger, drain. Add vegetables and seasonings, and cook till onion is tender.
Add juice and water, bring to a boil. Add noodles and simmer until cooked through, about 15 – 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, especially at the end. Don’t stir too much, or you will end up with mush.
If this becomes too dry, add a bit more water.
Let’s talk about how to save money/time on this recipe:
- Use a coupon matching site! One of my favorites in my area is Pocket Your Dollars, but every store has a group of enthusiastic Coupon Matchers. Do not discount the savings! I check their site every week, even if I don’t “need” to go to the store and often find bargains I can’t pass up.
- Follow my 12 Strategies – You’ll see them on the upper drop down menu of every page and how I apply them, below.
- Don’t get discouraged if your prices don’t match mine! Keep shopping at the best prices and your fridge/freezer and pantry will be stocked with sales priced ingredients.
- Read below for additional tips as well as throughout the recipe, for saving time and managing food.
- I generally use my food processor on the vegetables: my kids have gone through stages where they’re a bit picky, so I pulse them and mince them very finely in this recipe. It takes about two minutes to prepare them. Rough chop them first, especially the celery.
- You can also vary your ingredients by season, add more or less, or put in whatever you like. The original recipe called for jarred mushrooms, but we omitted them…put them back in, or saute your own and add if you like them.
- If you do not overcook your noodles and use a heartier one than the egg noodles, this dish can be doubled and frozen.
- Ground Beef: I’ll generally buy the 80/20; it cost so much less. I do drain carefully when I brown for things like casseroles, sloppy Joes or tacos. Every chef I’ve ever seen that isn’t making their own mixes for hamburgers uses this more juicy option. In our area, it’s often half of what you find the leaner versions at. Generally, I’ll find larger quantities on sale: I’ll bring it home and divide up up and freeze. Sometimes I’ll cook it up and then divide it in Ziplocs so it’s ready for a casserole and then freeze. My daughter cuts hers with Texturized Soy Protein for budget and health reasons. My cost for ground beef here is $1.98.
- Onion: Usually cheapest in the fall, I bought last at 33 cents a pound. I generally look for larger bags as they have larger onions; less time peeling. I’ll also stock up because they keep for quite a long time. Do not keep them next to your potatoes, however.
- Whenever I peel my onions, I save the tops and bottoms and skin for my stock. If I only need a partial onion, I’ll often just saute up the whole thing and put the excess in a zip bag in my freezer for a later use. This saves that odd 1/2 onion lurking around in the fridge, getting stronger and drying out. Cost for this recipe: 10 cents.
- Celery: Running through December at my store for $.98 a sleeve. Again, just like for carrots and onions, I’ll save my tips and ends for stock. Make sure you use the leaves as they have a ton of flavor. Cost for this recipe is about 10 cents.
- Bell Peppers: These can vary in pricing depending on the color, and of course, are always cheapest in the summer. There are two types of sales, per pound or per pepper. I usually look for the per pepper pricing; in my area it’s generally cheaper – I’ll then buy the biggest, most gorgeous ones I can find. The peppers are often bagged and sold by a unit price, too. A really good price in our area is about a dollar a pepper, so I usually try to stretch them when I can. They really do add an important flavor ingredient to a lot of dishes.
- When I can get a really good price, I’ll stock up and slice or dice and saute and put them in Ziploc bags in the freezer in quantities I generally use for my recipes, appropriately labeled, of course. They’re generally a bit softer, so I go easy on the cooking process, and make sure to cook only till crisp/tender. Cost for this recipe: 40 cents.
- V-8 juice: Always buy this on sale with a coupon. I usually save the tomato juice from the can when I use canned tomatoes, and keep this in the freezer – so today, I used that instead. Using the V-8 would add a more diverse type of vegetable in the dish. My Cost: Free.
- Noodles: I find pasta on sale all the time at my grocery store for $.99 lb. I, personally, have not paid for any of my pasta for several years. I’ve found by buying the higher quality high protein/low carb or whole wheat varieties I can usually use a coupon, probably because there is such stiff competition between the different brands.
- Quite often you’ll see these at the producer’s websites, usually for 50 cents to a $1.00 each; sometimes I’ll find coupons on olive oil for pasta (and sometimes I’ll find olive oil coupons on the pasta.) My cost for the pasta today: Free – you’ll notice that I substituted a different style of noodle because that was what I had the most of in my cupboard.
Per Serving: 278 Calories; 13g Fat (42.5% calories from fat); 15g Protein; 25g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 69mg Cholesterol; 278mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1 1/2 Grain(Starch); 1 1/2 Lean Meat; 1 Vegetable; 1 1/2 Fat.
Put Your own Spin on It:
- You can vary your ingredients by season, add more or less, or put in whatever you like. The original recipe called for jarred mushrooms, but we omitted them…put them back in, or saute your own and add if you like them.
- The small amount of seasoning lets the flavors shine through – you can certainly up the spiciness and add anything you’d like to flavor this.
- My son likes his with cheese; personally, I think that’s an abomination, but I let it go because he doesn’t know he’s eating veggies!
My Payoff: A 30 minute meal that’s easy and satisfying, cheaper, tastier and better for you than Hamburger Helper, and only a few more minutes longer to make. (I need to do a rant on that convenience food!)
Frugality: Here is the link for $5 Dinner Mom’s Bargain Meal of the Week, where local cooks from all over the country pick an item from their store’s ad, use it in a recipe, and blog about the results.
Last made: October 2011
Discussion: What are your favorite easy hamburger dishes? What are your favorites to serve without relying on boxed dinners?