Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Magic Meatballs ($0.85 per serving)

It's a brand new year, and that means it's time to try NEW things... including new frugal recipes. Get ready to add a super-delicious-family-favorite-inexpensive meal to your recipe arsenal.

This one is a guaranteed hit!

Let me start by giving you a little background on this dish: Years ago, when I was first introduced to this recipe by my mother-in-law, I was skeptical... to the point of pep-talking myself into eating it.

So not my thing.

Sweet and sour-type sauce? 
I thought chicken and pork had claim on that territory.

I was prepared to be thoroughly unimpressed and weirded out by the first bite.

Boy howdy, was I ever WRONG!

These meatballs were delicious, and upon my first introduction to them, I ate an embarrassing amount while furtively casting glances at the people around me to see if they were noticing just how many of those meatballs were magically disappearing from my plate. I couldn't help it! Those things were pure magic, I tell you! So magical, were these meatballs that all the kids cleaned their plates (there may even have been some plate-licking involved).

If you try one new recipe this year, let this one be it. It's low cost, it's delicious, it's budget friendly, kids devour it, and it's a cinch to make (seeing as how it can be semi-homemade if you choose). You'll be so glad you gave it a try!

Magic Meatballs
Printable Version

(Note: I prefer to make my own meatballs to avoid additives, but the cost of buying pre-made bulk meatballs from Sam's or Costco vs. making your own is about the same. Fresh pineapple works well in this recipe, and if you can find one on sale for $1.50 BUY IT! You can also add diced green pepper to the sauce, or double it if you're a sauce-lover.)

*Serves 12

1/2  bag (6lb.) frozen meatballs  (I use 3 lbs. of homemade meatballs)
2  cups brown sugar
1/2  cup low-sodium soy sauce
2/3  cup white vinegar
1/4  cup cornstarch
1  (20 oz) can crushed pineapple (fresh works too)
6  cups steamed rice

In a medium saucepan, whisk the sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, and corn starch together over medium-high heat until it begins to boil. Add the can of pineapple (including the juice). Reduce the heat to medium-low,  and allow to simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Empty half of a bulk 6 lb. bag of frozen  meatballs (or use 3 lbs. of homemade meatballs) into a large pot on the stove. Pour the sweet and sour sauce over the meatballs, cook on medium heat until the frozen meatballs are heated through.

Steam 2 cups of dry rice. Serve the meatballs over the steamed rice. Store in an air-tight container. Freezes well.

~ Savings ~

Cost Breakdown:
7 lb bag brown sugar - $5.05 = 378 T = $0.015/T = $0.48
15 fl. oz. soy sauce - $1.42 = 30 T = $0.047/T = $0.379
2 gal. vinegar - $3.58 = 32 C = $0.112/C = $0.075
35 oz. cornstarch - $2.48 = 124 T = $0.020/T = $0.08
20 oz. can crushed pineapple - $1.24 = $1.24
6 lb (96 oz.) meatballs - $14.98 = $7.49
20 lb. long grain rice - $11.86 = 50 C = $0.237/C = $0.474

Total Recipe Cost: $10.21
Cost per Serving: $0.85


  1. I haven't made it through your blog yet, (just started!) so I'm sorry if this is unnecessary. I have had a hard time finding a good meatball recipe and am not willing to feed my daughter the store bought ones, would you mind sharing your recipe sometime? Thanks!

    1. Hi Jesse. I'm sure at some point I'll get around to doing a "real" post about my meatballs, but here's the rundown so you don't have to wait for said post:
      2 lb ground beef
      1 egg
      1 cup bread crumbs
      1/4 cup minced onion
      1/3 cup milk
      1 1/2 tsp salt
      1/4 tsp pepper

      From into 1- 1 1/2 inch balls. Bake on a large baking sheet at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes until no longer pink inside.

      Hope that helps! Thanks for stopping by. :)

  2. Thanks for asking Jesse, I was wondering the same thing This recipe has all the makings of delicious dinner and I'd rather use my own meatballs as well. I agree, I am going to enjoy this site as well. Thank you Andrea!


  3. Do you think this would adapt well to a crock pot?

    1. If you made the sauce in a saucepan first, then poured it over meatballs to heat in the crockpot, then yes. I just don't know if the sauce would prepare itself well in the crockpot since it uses cornstarch as a thickening agent. If you are using homemade meatballs in the crockpot, be sure that you use plenty of binder (breadcrumbs, eggs, etc), as they will be more prone to falling apart. Hope that helps!

  4. Why the second pot? I'm not seeing the purpose.
    Also, I know you just had a baby (Congratulations!) so it'll likely be awhile until I hear back from you.
    Also, I recently had a baby (he's 4 months) so it'll likely be awhile until I remember to check for a response.

    (Edit: there is a "notify me" button! Woo!)

    1. Hi Sheena,

      I suppose I just like to cook up the sauce in a small pot. No real "purpose." Just how I do it. :) You could totally do this in one pot. Congrats on your baby boy! I'm lovin' my little man. I you give this recipe a try, let me know what you think. Thanks!

  5. Just wondering at what point you freeze it? Totally prepared, or do you freeze the sauce and meatballs separately?

    1. I freeze it after it has been totally prepared. 😊


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