Noodle-Roni - Feed the Family for $2.40

When I was growing up, my mother frequently made what she called "Noodle-Roni." We all loved it; it was filling, tasty, and even something we craved when we were ill or had eaten too much junk food. Little did I know at the time that it was something Mom fixed when our finances were running low.

These days, my slightly modified version of Noodle-Roni is a hit with everyone in my family - even my picky eater. We love it any day, but especially crave it if we are tired or ill. (It's packed with vitamin C!) And just as when my mother made the meal, Noodle-Roni is cheap to prepare. It's also mostly made with shelf stable foods, making it easy to stock up on ingredients so we can cook it anytime we desire.

My mother used only 4 simple ingredients: white flour large elbow macaroni, a large can of tomato juice, several heaping tablespoons of margarine, and - if we had a little extra money to put into the meal - ground beef.

My version also only contains 3 or 4 ingredients, but uses more healthy (and filling) ingredients - including:

* 13.25 oz. of whole grain pasta (we like either Barilla's whole grain pasta, which is 51% whole wheat, or Barilla PLUS, which also contains whole grains); usually I buy penne, rather than large elbow macaroni, because it's easy for me to find in stores, but still does a great job of holding the tomato juice in it's tube-like shape. (Cost: $1 or less.)

* 46 fl. oz. 100% real tomato juice (Cost: $1 or less.)

* about 5 tablespoons of real, unsalted butter. (Cost: $.40.)*

* about 1/2 lb. Ground beef (optional) (Cost: $1.49 or less.)

Total Cost (without meat): $2.40 (with meat: $3.89)

Serves 4 very hungry adults.

To make Noodle-Roni:

1. Fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until just tender.

2. If you will be using ground meat, brown it in a skillet. Pour off the fat.

3. In the meantime, pour the tomato juice into a large saucepan and place over medium heat.

4. Drain the pasta and return to the pot. Add about 5 tablespoons of butter. Pour the now-warm tomato juice over the whole. Stir until all the butter is melted. If using ground meat, stir it in now.

*You can use less butter - or no butter at all - but the flavor of the dish will be tremendously impacted.


  1. My mom made "macaroni and tomatoes." I loved it so much, even as a kid! She used her fresh garden tomatoes that she had canned. It was simply just the macaroni noodles with some salt and enough of the canned tomatoes as you wanted. This reminded me of that a lot. :)

  2. We used to eat something like this when I was a kid too but it involved real butter and cumin (and salt and pepper). I highly recommend adding a bit of cumin if you enjoy a little heat. :D