American Chop Suey is clearly American, and is definitely not Chinese in nature, so don’t let the name fool you. This dish is a great way to stretch a food budget to get multiple meals cheaply. Over the years, it is a meal we will fall back on when there is too much month left at the end of the money. Please, let us know if you like it.
The basics of this dish are macaroni, ground beef, and tomato sauce. It is really quick and simple to make and is very inexpensive. When we were first trying to start our family, we would make a huge batch of American Chop Suey and eat the leftovers for a solid week. When you only have 20 bucks to eat for the week, it will do the job for two people.
I went shopping to verify the cost of the meal in its basic form. You can do this dish the hard way and spend a great deal of time on it, but honestly, it is just as good the fast, easy way. My wife really loves to make her own tomato sauce and adds things such as bell pepper, onions, and mushrooms. I must admit it is good, but keeping the meal fast and simple has some appeal as well.
Here is the receipt breakdown.
The 3 pound box of macaroni is the store brand, cost $2.19. For this meal we cooked 2 pounds and have 1 pound left over.
1 can of Hunts garlic and herb tomato sauce. I just bought one can because I have a few cases of this product and wanted the current market cost, which happens to be $0.99. We use 1 can of sauce per pound of macaroni. So for our meal we used two cans.
1 pound of 85% ground beef. $4.13 You can use more or less meat as you wish, but a ½ a pound of beef per can of sauce makes the best ratio.
The first night we always have garlic bread, here each loaf was $1.89.
The grand total for the meal is $12.09. (Remember we actually used two cans of sauce.)
If you skip the garlic bread it would be $8.31 for this same meal.
How to make American Chop Suey.
Start by putting a large pot of water on to boil the macaroni. Get the water to a rolling boil and add the amount you will be using, in our case, about 2/3 of the box. Stir the macaroni occasionally to prevent it from sticking to the bottom. When nice and tender, drain the water off and if the macaroni barely fits in the pot you cooked it in, split it between two containers to make the mixing easier.
While the macaroni is cooking, get a large frying pan, add the ground beef. Note: a well-stocked kitchen will have extra items to add to the flavor of the beef so I did not include these items to the shopping list, plus they are optional. I added a good splash of Worcestershire sauce and a scoop of minced garlic. Not really needed, but sure is tasty!
Brown the beef and drain the fat off.
When the macaroni is done, add the ground beef and the sauce. We split the macaroni to make it easier to stir, so we split the beef between the two pots and added a can of sauce to each pot.
It is done. Simply dish out onto a plate. You can add shredded cheese or parmesan cheese to the top if you wish. The kids love to add “Shaker Cheese” (parmesan) to theirs.
As you can see, ½ of the batch we made, or 1 pound of macaroni, ½ pound of beef, and one can of tomato sauce, made enough to feed 6 people two helpings.
The leftovers will be lunch for the wife and I for a couple of days.
One meal, 6 people, 6 dollars, beat that.