Our goal is to bring you cooking ideas from mothers across the country.  Today’s Mom’s Post comes from Union Center, South Dakota.  Kacee Thacker is a ranch hand’s wife, a mother, and an advocate for agriculture.   Enjoy this little insight into her life!

BB – Tell us about yourself and where you live, and your family?

KT– I didn’t grow up in ranching or any sense of the word. I suppose I always had the “bug” though from hearing my Dad‘s stories of his childhood growing up with horses, participating in many rodeos and helping at the family run sale barn. I mostly grew up in Michigan, but moved back to Wyoming, where I was born, to go to college. I majored in horses after only “backyard” riding with my friends. I threw myself into a new “culture” and succeeded at some things, and failed miserably at others. Not the smartest move in the world, but I now know it was a means to an end. Working summers in Jackson Hole, taking out trail riders, I met my husband Jeremy. I’ve been following him around ever since. We now have a toddler Caden, she’s just shy of 2. The ranch we are on now is near Union Center, SD. It’s a family owned cow/calf operation with a small well-bred horse herd.

BB– On average what is your estimated monthly food budget for your family?

KT– I usually only make it to town to grocery shop once or twice a month, depending on the season.  Our situation is a little more unique than others since we live in the boonies. My budget is about $400.00 a month. This usually includes the occasional “meal out”. I don’t go out of my way to use coupons, since most of them are brand specific. I’m a sale shopper. When it’s on sale, I stock up especially things that can freeze or are non-perishable.

BB– Did you grow up eating beef?

KT– I did grow up eating beef, it was on the table probably 2-3 times a week. Now, it’s on the menu 4-5 times a week. This is somewhat because we do have a small portion of meat provided through our employment. I do mean small, probably only 50 pounds a year. It’s mainly due to my husband’s love affair with red meat. The other nights we don’t have beef are to give my taste buds a break.

BB-  What advice do have for other mothers about how to adjust their grocery budget to incorporate using more beef?

KT– When times are lean, I look to burger. I try to buy in bulk. Sometimes if you ask the meat department, they have frozen meat that is close to the expiration date. It cooks the same to me. If it comes in large packages, I’ll even thaw it out, cook it up and throw it back in the freezer. Then I’ll season it up and use it for a quick cook meal. I’m not brand loyal and find that by cutting a few dollars and scents by buying “off-brands” I make room for more meat.

BB– Where do you buy your beef?

KT– I try to stay local or “mom & pop” if possible, but when pennies get pinched, I buy where ever is the cheapest. If I were to get good steaks for a special occasion or a holiday roast, then I’d stay with a meat market. Mostly it’s all in how you cook it in my opinion.

BB– What cut do you most often use and what cut do you struggle with most?

KT– I struggle with cuts like ribs and brisket, so I leave those to my husband and his man grill.

BB– What is your favorite beef recipe?

KT– Well I have many favorites and I would love to share my prime rib recipe with you but I would have to kill you directly afterward. 🙂 A favorite of my child hood was my mom’s swiss steak. Crock-pot 101, dump in the meat, onions and tomato sauce. Cook till fall apart good. The husband’s taste is too bland for the average person. So, here’s one I came across recently that was a huge hit with the in-laws.

Meatball Sub Bake

  • 1/3 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 loaf (1 pound) Italian bread, cut into 1-inch slices
  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise (the real stuff no whipped dressing!)
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1 jar (28 ounces) spaghetti sauce
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • In a bowl, combine the onions, bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese. Crumble beef over mixture and mix well. Shape into 1-in. balls; place on a greased rack in a shallow baking pan. Bake at 400° for 15-20 minutes or until no longer pink.
  • Meanwhile, arrange bread in a single layer in an ungreased 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish (all of the bread might not be used). Combine the cream cheese, mayonnaise, Italian seasoning and pepper; spread over the bread. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup mozzarella.
  • Combine the spaghetti sauce, water and garlic; add meatballs. Pour over cheese mixture; sprinkle with remaining mozzarella. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 30 minutes or until heated through.

Makes about 6 servings.

 If you’re like me….my meatballs never turn out right. So occasionally I get some help from the freezer section and buy the pre-cooked ones. Plus it makes for a super quick meal. You can also freeze the entire thing in the prep stage. Start with step 2 and top with pre-cooked meat balls. When ready to use, unthaw, cover with sauce omitting water. Sprinkle with cheese and bake. Easy-peasy.

PS — no matter how hard I try, I can never follow a recipe to the letter. So this one is a good one if you like to color out side the lines like I do (or even just try), since it’s very forgiving.

Estimated Cost of Meatball Sub Bake
** This is a rough estimate.  Costs will change depending on location.
Green Onions $0.30
Bread Crumbs $0.40
Parmesan Cheese $0.20
Ground Beef $2.20
Italian Bread $1.50
Cream Cheese $1.50
Mayonaise $0.40
Mozzarella Cheese $1.05
Spagehetti Sauce $3.20
Assorted Seasonings – $0.20
Total Cost – $10.95 (Serves 6)
Cost Per Plate – $1.82

Thank you so much Kacee for sharing with us!   We encourage you to follow her blog, The Real Life of a Ranch Hand’s Wife.  You can share her blog with your friends and others who want to learn more about ranch life. 

Have a restfull weekend! ~ Anna-Lisa