Frugal Foods...thrifty cooking, budget menus, cheap eats, money saving kitchen tips, and help for cutting your grocery bill. Follow along with our everyday eating as we share how we eat well for less.
Parmesan cheese can take a ho-hum entree or side-dish up a level. A generous sprinkle amps the eye appeal—and flavor--of leftover casseroles, salads, soups. or vegetable dishes. It only takes a little, so even using fresh Parmesan, it is pretty frugal. But, for convenience sake, we usually use the dried parm that comes in a green shaker-top canister. By the way, some of that in the shaker cannisters is real, 100 percent cheese. But, some of the shaker cannisters have a Parmesan cheese topping that also works fine.
Flip through cooking magazines as a reminder that most foods can be combined. And, as a reminder that dishes don’t need to include traditional ingredients. I just saw a recipe for a slow cooked, soupy concoction with turkey, lima beans, and sweet potatoes—that they called “chili.” That’s quite a stretch from the spicy stew with ground beef, red beans, and tomatoes that comes to mind when I think of “chili.”
Add leftover beans to soup inexpensively up the protein content. Try this with minestrone, chili, or vegetable soups, or those with other beans in them.
Leftover baked beans? Mash and season to make a for dip for crackers or chips or vegetables. Or, heat and mix with melted cheese or cheese sauce for a nacho dip.
Leftover meatloaf? Cut it into smallish chunks. Add it to gravy -- either homemade or canned. Beef, mushroom, and brown gravy all work well. So does canned cream of mushroom soup, thinned to gravy consistency. Serve over potatoes, rice, or egg noodles.
Leftover baked beans? Add to chile con carne, use for fillings in enchiladas, burritos, and tacos, add to casseroles, or add to soups. You can also add them to sloppy joe or barbecue sandwich meat.
Leftover meatloaf? Crumble it into bite size pieces. Add it to pasta sauce and serve over spaghetti or other pasta. Add in leftover vegetables, too.
Update on the tip for freezing gallon jugs of milk! We've recently noticed that when we put a full, unopened gallon of milk in the freezer, the jug springs a leak in the handle. It doesn't happen with all brands. They have apparently redesigned the plastic gallon milk bottles, using thinner plastic or another change that weakens them. The solution is to open the jug and take out about a cup full of milk, before putting the jug in the freezer.
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Our food should be our medicine and our medicine should be our food. ~ Hyppocrates
Morning Mix Cereal: "Morning Mix" -- another name for corn flakes, o's of oats, cinnamon flavored squares, and a few granola clusters all dumped into a large glass jar when the boxes are close to empty. Of course, you can use whatever dry cereals you have. We keep a jar going all the time, adding to it whenever we get close to finishing the box or bag of cereal. When the jar starts to get full, we eat this custom mix instead of opening a new package.
Save Money When Buying Meat: Split up "Family Size" or "Economy Size" packages of meat for different uses. Buy the large, family packs of pork chops. Most stores put the pretty ones on top and the not-so-pretty ones underneath. Use those top ones to fry and have with a pork chop dinner. Cook the others in a slow cooker with BBQ sauce or with sauerkraut as you would pork hocks. Or, just cook them and then take the bones and fat out, leaving nice little pieces of great pork that you can use in chile verde, cook with rice, add to casseroles or baked beans, etc.
Big Savings Buying Fruit on Sale: How much can you really save by waiting for fresh fruit to go on sale before you buy it? We bought sweet, dark cherries yesterday. The regular price rang up at over $14. The adjusted to the sale price, they were only about $5.00 That's $9.00 savings on only one item.
Label Your Frozen Foods: Label the containers you put into your freezer with the date and contents. I use a white board erasable marker. It washes off when I wash the container.
Frugal Foods from Baked Sales: Sometimes it makes more sense to buy something already made than it does to make it yourself. Case in point are the baked goods from fund raiser bake sales.At a recent bake sale, I bought a loaf of date nut bread for $1.75. There's no way I could have purchased the ingredients for that price. Coupled with milk, it made a fine and frugal breakfast for us. You do need to watch, because at some sales, the prices are outrageously high. Many times, though, you can get some frugal deals.
Thrifty Ground Beef: Get the family pack of ground beef. Fry up hamburgers patties one night for dinner. Fry the rest of the burger, breaking it up into pieces as you do. You can keep clean-up to a minimum by using the same pan for both. The scrambled beef is good to use casseroles, tacos, chili, etc.
We are living in a world today where lemonade is made from artificial flavors and furniture polish is made from real lemons” ~ Alfred E. Newman
To me, breakfast is my most important meal. It's often the meal you play a game on. I make sure I have oatmeal, milk, and fruit. It's the fuel you use to hopefully do your best, so eating right is a big part of being a professional athlete. I wish I paid more attention to it earlier in my life. ~ Andrew Luck
There is one thing more exasperating than a wife who can cook and won’t, and that’s a wife who can’t cook and will. ~ Robert Frost
Strength is the capacity to break a chocolate bar into four pieces with your bare hands – and then eat just one of the pieces. ~ Judith Viorst
Statistics show that of those who contract the habit of eating, very few survive. ~ Wallace Irwin
Our food should be our medicine and our medicine should be our food. ~ Hippocrates
Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon. ~ Doug Larson
I'm frugal. I'm not a very acquisitive woman. I never waste food. If you prepare your own food, you engage with the world, it tastes alive. It tastes good. ~ Vivienne Westwood
It’s so beautifully arranged on the plate – you know someone’s fingers have been all over it ~ Julia Child
I try to keep hard boiled eggs, peeled and ready to eat, in the fridge. They are perfect for those mornings we need a quick breakfast. With a piece of toast or a granola bar, a piece of fresh fruit, and a cup of milk, a complete breakfast is on the table in a jiff. And, if we are extremely rushed, they can be eaten on the go.
If you are making potato salad or macaroni salad, and run out of salad dressing, substitute tarter sauce. It has a lively, tangy flavor. It often already has dill weed, pickle relish, or minced pickles in it.
When ground beef is on sale for a reasonable price, we buy a large package. I cook up the entire thing into sloppy Joes. I then freeze it in Tupperware containers. Besides using it for sloppy Joes—barbeques, as we called them when I was a kid—that mix is good for all sorts of things: tacos, spaghetti, chile, burritos, stuffed peppers, goulash, Spanish rice, nachos, etc.
When I cook pasta, I cook a large batch. It is then ready to have for salads, to use as a side dish, to add to soup, or to turn into a main dish. I do the same thing with white rice and brown rice.
Freeze extra milk. When we have freezer space, and milk is on sale, we buy extra. If the jugs are filled way to the top, we may open them and take out about a cup. But, most of the time, we just put the unopened gallon or half-gallon plastic jugs straight into the freezer. I try to give the jug an occasional shake during the thawing process. I’ve heard that milk can’t be frozen, but we’ve never had a problem with it.
Mix cultures and call it fusion! Here’s an example from a recent lunch: Indian rice, Chinese General Tso’s chicken, and Honduran pastelitos. The chicken and pastelitos were leftovers from lunches out the previous days. The rice, I cooked from scratch. Not the most frugal way to create a meal, but certainly thriftier than not using those restaurant leftovers.
Smorgasbords are a thrifty option, especially if eaten at home. I don’t mean going to the buffet and getting an order to go. I mean serving a smorgasbord of leftovers. We pick and choose, depending on our personal preferences, from what’s set out for the meal.
Steamed rice, grilled Italian sausage, scrambled eggs, toast, milk, and oranges for our frugal breakfast this morning. Even at full prices, it would have
Eating in courses isn’t just for fancy restaurants. It’s a great way to make sure the foods that need to be eaten first actually are eaten first. Hors d'oeuvres, appetizers, salads, and soups are great ways to serve the foods I want eaten first.
Menu planning—it’s something I usually don’t do. However, when I have an excess of perishables, menu plans help me prevent waste. Once in a while I find myself with lots of bread products. Other times, it’s produce. Sometimes, it’s just an accumulation of things gathering in the refrigerator. Writing out menus helps me prioritize what I need to use first.
Fried apples, caramelized with a drizzle of pancake syrup and a little butter. Yum! My husband likes something sweet for breakfast. These fried apples
Clean our your produce bins. The crisper drawer in the fridge, the potato bag, the fruit basket…wherever you store your produce, go through it. Check for anything that’s gone bad and get rid of it. A bad piece can cause all of it to go bad faster. Pull those pieces that are looking a bit wrinkly or overripe and use then soon. It’s a good day to make salad, soup, cooked fruit sauce, or a stir fry.
Sweet potatoes. I think of them as a fall vegetable, but the grocery store here had them on sale in July. They were a manager’s special, priced for clearance. I’m talking whole sweet potatoes from the produce department, not the canned kind. At a dollar a bag, we bought several bags full. Some of them were perfect, and I saved them for baking. But some were rather odd, uneven shapes, and a few were starting to shrivel at the end. I tossed all of these less than perfect ones into my electric pressure cooker and steamed them. When they were done and cool, the skins slipped right off. I packaged the cooked sweet potato meat into Tupperware containers and froze it. It is now ready to use in casseroles, stews, and pies, or to heat and serve with a pat of butter and a shake of cinnamon.
Sour grapes! They looked so plump and pretty, but, oh, those green grapes were sour. I saved them by adding them to a fruit salad. Mixed in with bites of sweet, fresh pineapple and chunks of crisp apple, the grapes were fine. I didn’t use a sauce or dressing on the salad. It was simply the fresh fruit stirred together and chilled. What’s more, it made a colorful—red, green, and yellow--side dish to the sandwiches we had for lunch.
You know how fast food hamburgers feature a special sauce? Your sandwiches at home can do the same thing. It’s easy. It’s thrifty—downright cheap. A spicy-sweet sauce, with a bit of tang graced today’s pork loin sandwiches. It made them moist and delicious! I started with about a tablespoon of hot pepper jelly that was left in the jar. To that, I added about a teaspoon of plain yellow mustard, a tablespoon of mayo, and a tablespoon of steak sauce—those are guestimates, not actual measurements. I stirred it all together, and slathered it on the bread.
What’s faster than fast food, and frugal, too? Pressure cooker one-pot meals. A cup of liquid, a cup of rice, and whatever vegetables and/or cooked meat are handy, plus some spices go into my electric pressure cooker. I push the rice button, and let it do its thing. A half hour later, I have a hot meal, ready to eat. I don’t have to watch it, or worry about it – during that cook time, I can be relaxing or getting done something else that I need to do. And, unlike getting meals at fast food restaurants, there’s no going out to get it, no waiting in line, no wrong orders, and no cold food by the time I get home. What’s more, I can limit the salt.
I don’t like gourmet cooking or “this” cooking or “that” cooking. I like good cooking” ~ James Beard
He who distinguishes the true savor of his food can never be a glutton; he who does not cannot be otherwise ~ Henry David Thoreau
Go to the farmers market and buy food there. You'll get something that's delicious. It's discouraging that this seems like such an elitist thing. It's not. ~ Alice Waters
Food is not just eating energy. It's an experience. ~ Guy Fieri
Food is not about impressing people, it’s about making them feel comfortable. ~ Ina Garten
As for butter vs. margarine, I trust cows more than chemists. ~ Joan Gussow
Leftover pork loin is good for all sorts of quick meals. Slice, cube, or shred it. It’s excellent for making burritos and BBQ pork sandwiches. It makes a great addition to quiche, frittatas, and egg bakes. Add it to spaghetti or rice casseroles. Make a pork and stuffing main dish with it, or add to tamale pie.
Apple sauce! Today, I get to delight in the sweet, spicy aroma of slow simmering apple sauce. Last week, the Manager’s Special in the produce department was a bag of apples for 99 cents. They were smooth, shiny, crisp, Gala apples. We loaded several bags full into our shopping cart. My husband and I looked at each other, and without saying a word, added several more. We’ve been eating these apples raw every day for nearly week. But, they are so big, that we often just share one. I noticed this morning that a few of them are loosing their shine. So, it’s time to make apple sauce. I opt for simple. I wash, core, and roughly chop the apples, and put them into my slow cooker. I add some spices and about a cup of water, and let them slowly cook all day. I had a homemade spice mix with cinnamon, allspice, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves that I used today. If that wouldn’t have been handy, I’d have just poured in some cinnamon. This will be so tasty, and so much cheaper than buying cans, cups, or jars of apple sauce.