Cooking for your self from scratch, or even sort of from scratch, is the key to saving money! Better for your health too!
You know I really love to cook as does my honey. I also love saving money. The easiest way to save money in a short time as we have witnessed is by cooking your own food from scratch. This year we are saving money by not shopping , or at least not shopping like we had been previously at the grocery store. We have been eating from our pantry ,freezer and cupboards. We stock a vegan and gluten free pantry due to our dairy allergy and honey’s wheat and gluten allergy. We end up eating lots of ethnic foods and love to experiment with new ideas. So I have been asked to tell you what is it that we actually eat? The key here still is and will always be to keep it simple and delicious with an ingredient list that is not too long and all the items can be purchased at the local grocer. Since my son told me to post recipes that include meat,”he said that will make your great recipes available to all people”. That statement is a real truth and good advice too. So I am reaching into my simple go to ideas that make up the 7-14 menu ideas I go to when the refrigerator has no leftovers and neither honey or I have the time to spend in the kitchen. These ideas most times do not require a recipe and can be made with the pantry staples, or at least what I consider to be staples in my pantry.
1. packages of taco seasoning mix or your own ho-made version .To make a vegan version of tacos use textured vegetable protein or soya chunks (found at the Indian Grocery stores) mushrooms or for the meat eaters a package of ground beef . Add a jar of salsa , ho-made if you have it ,enchilada sauce ,soft corn tortillas or the crunchy variety and if you are lucky an avocado or two. Add a pot of cooked rice and this makes anything from taco’s ,enchiladas ,burritos or a bowl of rice with toppings (bowls as they are called have become popular recently at the fast chains and so easy to recreate at home)
2. a couple jars of spaghetti or pasta sauce. spaghetti or other pasta noodles your choice with some extra seasonings ,Italian, garlic, parmesan(vegan or regular) ,tofu, mushrooms ,meat of choice or just more vegetables with your sauce. spaghetti and pasta casseroles see my rice cooker versiohttpn://www.carensnotebook.com/?p=1497
3. Frozen vegetables, a variety,such as a mixed vegetable medley,greens(kale,chard,collards), broccoli,cauliflower,peas,beans and corn. We eat vegetables for breakfast with a grain (usually rice) , so of course vegetables make a show in every meal for us ,we are plant exclusive. Our latest vegetable mixture includes , but is not limited to, kale, carrots, onions, rutabagas, potatoes tossed into my instant pot with smoked paprika, salt, garlic and onion powder. If I have a brave day for breakfast I add a little chipotle powder as well.
4. seasoning blends such as seasoning salt,Italian herb blend,garlic and onion powder , and vegetable bullion cubes or powder makes any food just that much more interesting with the shake of a jar. Using Indian spices such as curry powder,garam masala,tumeric and coriander certainly are a wonderful to work with once you get a cookbook on Indian cooking. Anupy Singla “Vegan Indian cooking” is a good place to start.
5 a bag of rice two is better, brown and white,since at times one is more appropriate than the other. Rice vegetables and a simple sauce is a meal here very often. Rice pudding is a great healthy breakfast too. Goes well in salads too.
6. different types of pastas . Make a favorite casserole or pasta and sauce look and taste like a whole new dish without any extra work . Add vegetables and a protein source of choice and wow! it’s dinner possibly in the time it took to cook the pasta. See my one pot recipe , it works
7. grains other than rice, quiona ,millet, polenta , oatmeal and more that I can’t think of right now. Quiona is a whole protein so just add your choice of fruit or vegetables and you have got it licked. We had a dish in New York City that has become one of my favorites . It probably cost of at least 45 dollars for the dish there. It was just plain polenta cooked and served with a variety of mushrooms made into a gravy over the top. I now add greens to this but it is the best and really cheap and easy. Oatmeal well what more can I say about that. I just tried teff too, another whole protein and an ancient grain. Wasn’t sure on the cooking of it and ruined it the first time. We still mixed with rice and black lentils and ate it. Mix some of the new grains with others in a minimal approach to not scare off the family from trying something new.
8.pizza crusts,or a crust mix. We have to eat gluten free and so I guess we eat a pizza a couple of times a month . It takes certainly more time than calling for a carry out ,or doing a frozen pizza, but real food is a family event and after a while you get used to having conversations in the kitchen while working with food and it really becomes fun. We all seem to bounce around without colliding too much and the conversation makes the time fly.
9. legumes such as lentils, and beans in different varieties. Beans should be a staple ingredient in every household without exception. They are so healthy with lots of B vitamins and protein. If you start slow, by eating 1/2 cup and day and work your way up the gas will not create a problem. We cook our own beans. Soaking them overnight then starting with fresh water to cook them in and a 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda will also help. Beans and lentils fit well in soups ,stews,chili’s and Tennessee corn pone too.
10. nuts,nut butters, and seeds, just a handful will go a long way to help tide you over till dinner time or for a snack with some fruit. We once in a while like the whole nut butter and jelly piece. Almond or sunbutter are better choices than peanut butter ,as most have so many additives and can cause problems. Sunflower seeds are wonderful in salads or to replace the high priced pine nuts in pesto. I used them to make my fakin parmesan sometimes too.
11.applesauce,dried fruits applesauce is used in place of oil for baking with great success and when apples are not in season … well you get the idea. Dried fruits what a sweet treat to replace candies or cookies
12.yogurt, and non-dairy if you can. We used to be able to get whole soy yogurt and it is gone. But we make our own now, not quite the same but works well in cooking and to make a creamy yogurt cheese. It really can be make under the sink as my honey says. No, but I have made it just by warming the oven a few minutes and them leaving the light on in the oven and wrapping the yogurt dish in a towel for 4 hours or until it sets up. It worked ..I love fruit and yogurt or applesauce and yogurt.
13.cereal, a boxed variety or oatmeal or another whole grain cereal . We grew up on cereal and sometimes we need that fix. But it can make a great snack but not really all that cheap. If you can eat oatmeal ,(we cannot)it is a cheap breakfast cereal made overnight in your crock pot and is filling. Add new ingredients, like cocoa powder,cinnamon,vanilla, I’ve seen a recipe for oatmeal served like grits with a cheezy sauce too.
note: this list is not your average , because we eat with the seasons and in the winter having fresh fruit is not on our menu. We use our own frozen fresh fruits and vegetables which we preserved and ate the rest fresh in the summer months . Now we have fruit salad from frozen fruits,freezer coleslaw and root crops from the cellar. Winter shopping consists of mushrooms ,taco shells,coconut milk,chocolate,pastas,rice,beans,cilantro(it is cheap and doesn’t retain its flavor when frozen),avocados and the occasional lemons and limes. Shopping at farmers markets and doing pick your own for fruits and veggies in summer fill our freezers and canning jars.
Note: Honey really is trying. Tonight we had his great fried rice which he put rutabagas in the rice cause he knows I like it and that we need to use it up cause our cellar will get warm soon…at least I hope so spring just has to come before too long…right?