Beef Stew with Coffee: 60 cents a serving

I’ve learned that Sunday afternoons seem a good time to cruise the marked down meat aisle at my local Safeway. I do this to save money, but I have to admit there’s some challenge I enjoy, having some meat added to my menu at the last minute. I typically go the grocery store with a list, based on the weekly loss leaders but if the marked down meat looks good I get that instead, causing some last minute menu changes. This week I picked up a couple of good-looking pork chops, some beef already cut up for stew, and a nice looking steak. All were marked down $2 of the normal price, leading to decent net costs. The sell-by dates gave me enough time to cook and/or freeze the meat.

I’ve seen many recipes that call for adding a cup of coffee to beef stew, supposedly an old cowboy trick. I finally tried it last night since I had the beef stew meat. Following is a rough guess as to what I put in the stew, which came out really good! I would have easily substitued a parsnip for the potato, whole carrots peeled and chopped for the baby ones, broth or even just water for the wine if you’re not into cooking with alcohol, and so forth. Stew, of all recipes, should be crafted from what you have on hand. Cooking time is flexible. Stew doesn’t suffer much from cooking more rather than less.

Beef Stew with Coffee

  • pound beef cut in cubes
  • 1 Tbs oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 cup coffee
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup or so baby carrots
  • 1 stalk celery, sliced
  • 1/2 cup peas (I used frozen)
  • 2 cups water, optional

eat the oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Brown the beef on all sides, sprinkling with salt and pepper. Remove the beef with a slotted spoon so the oil stays in the pot and add the onions and cook 5 minutes or so, stirring often until soft. You may need to turn down the heat for this.

Put the beef back in the pot and add the coffee, red wine or broth, thyme, and bay leaf. Note: if you’re really tight on money, use water instead of wine or broth.

Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for 1 hour or so. Peel and dice the potatoes and add them, the carrots, the celery, and the peas. If everything is not covered with liquid, add enough water (or broth or wine) to cover everything, then bring back to a simmer, cover and cook another 30 minutes or so, until the potatoes and carrots are tender.

I served this with corn bread. We got 6 servings out of this, dinner for the three of us plus breakfast (!) and a snack and there’s one serving left over. The breakfast indicates a high ranking on the kid scale to me.

I’m not good at calculating the exact cost. I spent $2.20 on the beef. I know that in other parts of the country you can’t see spending that much on stew beef but in the SF Bay Area this is a deal. I’ll try to go back and figure out the cost of the other ingredients. Of course, the wine adds a bit but I do like to cook with it when I can. The carrots I got on sale for $1/bag and used about 1/4 of them. In hindsight, I could have added more. The kids loved the carrots. The potatoes were .10/pound and 2 would weigh…? I don’t know. It was .99 for a 10 pound bag and there were at least 20 potatoes in the bag so let’s call it .20. I’m not as good at this as CheapEats. And I don’t have my calculator handy. Oh, and I used cheap red wine, of course. 1 cup is about 1/6 of the bottle maybe? Gee, does anyone know a web site where they calculate this stuff? I like the idea of figuring it out but need a reference that says if onions are $x/pound, 1 onion costs $x on average. Peas were $1/bag.

Hmmm… maybe $2.20 (beef) + .25 (carrots) + .20 (potatoes) + .75 (wine) + .25 (peas) and .20 (? an onion) = $3.80/6 = somewhere between .50 and .60 cents a serving.



  1. Anonymous says:

    This sounds really interesting, I’m going to give this a go. Does it taste good with minced meat too? My husband has recently been made redundant and so I searched on google on cheap cooking for ideas to help stretch the budget and found your great site.


  1. […] starts with more tender meat so doesn’t require hours of cooking.  Then there’s the beef stew with coffee, which was really good.  And for a more upscale version you can try Kay Scarpetta’s beef […]


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