Homemade “Turkey Helper”
First some preaching- it makes me gnash my teeth in frustration when I am reading (or hearing) some account of living through hard times and the narrator talks about Hamburger Helper (the boxed convenience food) as a way to get through those hard times. Hamburger Helper may seem like ‘slumming it’ to some people, but a frugal meal it really is not. It’s a convenience food.
Convenience foods almost always cost more than the from scratch version because you’re paying somebody to do the prep work- in this case, collecting a small portion of noodles, some heavy chemicals, and putting them packets or pouches within a pretty cardboard box. If you have the money for that and don’t have a problem with all the fake ingredients in that foil seasoning pouch, then there’s nothing wrong with using the convenience. But there is something wrong about spending more money than necessary and mistakenly thinking that was a way to save money.
You can make a very similar dish and twice as much of it for much less.
I adapted from the More With Less Cookbook. It serves 8
2-4 cups of diced cooked turkey (or saute 1 1/2 pound ground beef)
2 t. salt
1 t. pepper
2 T. onion, very finely diced
Add to the meat mixture 1/2 to 1 cup of leftovers or canned or frozen vegetables your family likes- this can be peas, mushrooms, green beans, cooked mixed vegetables- whatever your people will eat and you have on hand. Mix and match the veggie leftovers from Thanksgiving.
Meanwhile, cook 2 cups of dry noodles, or use four cups of cooked noodles you have on hand from a previous meal (leftover macaroni and cheese sounds nasty, but actually, it’s quite good in this).
If you like, mix the cooked noodles in with the hot meat mixture and sprinkle with about 2/3 cup of cheese, cheddar, parmesan- whatever you have and your family will like.
You can make an equally delicious but very different dish if you replace the gravy with 1 1/2 cups canned tomatoes (stewed, crushed, whole, chopped, whatever).
Stir this well, mashing down the tomatoes if you need to , and continue to heat. Season to taste (I’d cook the noodles with beef bouillon added to the water)