Cheap Eats- by Foxfier


Cheap Eats- by Foxfier

Keep meaning to do this, so snagged quotes from the comments in one of the recent blogs to spin off of; they’re down at the bottom after my blather, and I’d appreciate if folks would share their own tips, tricks, must-haves or recipes.

This started with the “Challenge”: feeding four for less than twelve dollars.

I would, sadly, fail this challenge; I can’t cook for less than about 8…. although twelve dollars is rather extravagant for a normal meal. I am using Walmart as a baseline, because they are pretty much everywhere, are almost always on a bus line and have fairly consistent pricing for staples.

I would suggest as a bare minimum when cooking for a family and don’t want to go insane, that you have a rice cooker, an oven, a baking dish, a stove-top, a large/high sided frying pan (can double as a pot), a knife that is not a paring knife and a cutting board. Tin foil is also handy, as are plastic baggies. The quality you can get from a goodwill is acceptable, although you might prefer the slightly higher cost of Walmart just to be sure it will last. I am quite sold on the value of the multi-purpose “automatic” rice cookers which will function as a slow cooker, a steamer and generally have settings for at least white and brown. Our 7 person family has a 4 quart/20 cup Aroma Pro Plus that set us back $40 at Costco, and I’d advise a similar rice-steam-slowcooker over a traditional crockpot. (This is nearly heresy for my family.)

For spices, I would go with salt, pepper, garlic salt, lemon pepper and an Italian Seasoning mix; these are each 50c at WalMart, although you should probably get the huge 75c salt container if you have a salt shaker. If you can get it, the dried ranch mix in a big spice container is also very nice, though closer to five bucks. Decide how much it is worth to you.

For oil, canola is a good low-flavor, general-purpose oil for everything from using to make a cake to frying eggs. I like to have olive oil for savory uses, although it costs slightly more and I actually like the olive flavor of non-extra-virgin, non-cold-press oil.

If you are going to cook with butter, either have room in the freezer or get salted, it keeps it from going off as quickly. Likewise, eggs are an inexpensive protein that can sit in the fridge and not go off for weeks. (At $3 for a five dozen box vs 80c for a dozen, this can matter.) Cheese that is going to be cooked with can be frozen, which is very nice when a store has a sale on the two pound bags of shredded cheese for less than tastes-like-plastic block cheese. Frozen veggies are awesome, and canned veggies are often fresher than you could ever get at a store for heated applications, as well as being partly cooked already– if you just got home, are tired and don’t want to wait for an hour plus while dinner cooks, this is awesome.

If a recipe calls for pork, you can use chicken, and the other way around; their flavor profiles are very similar. (In not fancy talk: if it tastes good on chicken, it will probably taste good on pork.)

Beans are very inexpensive, but both take some planning and most types must be boiled as part of the cooking; they have a toxin that can make you ill at worst, and tastes nasty anyways. I tend to get around this by following the “quick soak” instructions on the back of the bag, then draining and freezing the results for use in slow cooker recipes. Canned beans are best for anything that has a short cooking time.

An inexpensive way to add flavor is to make any water you add into broth; in practice this means adding as much broth powder as the recipe would call for to match the water you’re using. You can also substitute the broth powder for salt in savory recipes.

If you are cooking very small meals, you can sometimes save money by doing freezer meals (this is a post series of posts all of its own—there’s a reason we own a chest freezer) using the larger, less expensive containers and breaking them down into single servings before freezing.

When buying store brands, just get one or two cans. Sometimes they’re awesome. Sometimes you’d rather go hungry. (This is my reaction to every inexpensive cheese I’ve tried, honestly– including Kirkland brand. Bandon or Tillamook loafs, Lucerne shreds for us.) If you find a store brand you like, keep an eye out for sales and stock up.

Don’t be afraid of buying in bulk when it’s something you use. Sure, the 20lb bag of rice is kind of obnoxious to pack in, but you only have to do it once in a while.
Make sure that the prices are actually cheaper– I’ve noticed that the bulk rice in the Mexican isle here is more expensive than the cute little WIC eligible bags in the primary isle, by weight. Since I usually shop when dead tired but my phone has a calculator, I just divide the price of the little one by how many pounds are in it, then multiply by the pounds in the big container. If the price you get is lower, buy the little container; if the price you get is higher, buy the big container.

Ramen cups are about 12c each if you buy a box of six, for an example of “bulk” that is more like “what you’d be buying anyways, but all the same flavor”– add an egg (20c) before microwaving and putting a serving of frozen veggies to one side (.40c at ~5 per 1lb bag which sells for between $1.40 and $3, depending on what veggies you can stand) makes a generous lunch, for less than a soda. If you need more flavor I really love adding about a half a teaspoon of Quoc Viet Foods Thai Tom Yum Flavored Soup Base, $8.25/10oz, costing about 7c.

I mentioned rice twice already, so here’s a quick translation guide:
Long grain rice is usually enriched (added nutrition- that’s good) and it’s what most Americans grew up thinking of as “white rice.” It is very nice for using as a bread substitute and serving similar to mashed potatoes.
Medium grain rice sticks together much nicer, and is generally identified as “sushi rice.” It is very nice for making rice balls (oni giri, in Japanese) in the very simple method of mixing the still hot rice with whatever “salad” type sandwich filling you feel like. Egg salad, tuna salad, etc. You will want plastic gloves for this, and aim for a size no bigger than half as big as a baseball. There are lots of suggestions for fillings that you can find by searching for “oni giri”– we had smoked oyster with cheese, also cheese and pickle, last week; it was really good. Eat hot; wrap leftovers in plastic to store in fridge, very crumbly if not hot.
Brown rice has not been polished– the thing that held it to the stalk is gone, but the skin remains. (for lack of a better way of putting it) This makes for higher fiber and greater structural integrity; very handy if you’re going to be using it in a slow cooker, not so good if you are eating in twenty minutes. The texture can be an issue, even after hours of cooking.

Generally, you don’t have hours to cook, unless you’re setting up the slow cooker in the morning Pasta is easy, but I always find the boiling water to be a pain– so I’ll do things like make a pound (or two) of rotini in one evening, according to the directions. (Although I use garlic salt instead of plain salt in the water.) Drain, add half a stick of butter per pound into the bottom of the pot, and dump the pasta back in. Stir until the butter is melted and spread all over the pasta, sprinkle with a little garlic salt, Italian seasoning or anything else that complements the dishes you’re going to do. It can now be refrigerated in a sealed container up to a week without any changes, which means you are actually only cooking whatever sauce goes with it; Walmart’s Alfredo sauce is rather good for using with the “chopped broccoli” (that’s the stuff that has a lot more of the stalks than the tree looking bits), add in a bit of leftover meat if you’ve got it. Slicing or chopping is a good idea to get the flavor spread out more; if you are going without meat, cheese (mozzarella is our go-to, due to the kids loving it) is a good bit of protein to make it much more filling.

On to the meal ideas!

Now, recipes:
From Wayne
Hmm… we could be generous and still come in under budget really easily:
2lb chicken leg quarters (1 leg quarter each): $2
2 bags generic stir fry vegetables: $2.50
3 bags generic cauliflower to make mashed cauliflower: $3
Add another very generous $2 for the meal contribution of some condiments, seasonings for the meat, butter and milk for the mashed cauliflower.
Total: $9.50 and it is also low carb so maybe the father can do something about his Type II diabetes.

From Kevin
For this experiment we’ll need grits, and egg or two, and a can of salmon. Salmon and grits – yum. Also cheap.
Breakfast for supper can also be cheap. Then there’s fried cube steak and gravy, served with rice and garden peas. Don’t like fried? Try making pressure cooker cube steak and serve with the same sides.

From d
College. Egg & Cheese toasted sandwich. Got tiring, but 14 meals (Brunch & Dinner) 7 days a week. Today’s cost that is <$20/person. Cheddar cheese is the most expensive item. For variety, leave off the egg for grilled cheese.

From wyrdbard
1lb pork, diced, $2/lb.
1 can Cream of Chicken Soup. $1 if the store is high priced.
3 cups rice over estimating at $0.50
1 onion, very large $1
Spices at a generous $0.50
In a couple of years I anticipate that just feeding our family of 4 one meal (growing boy who’s looking to take after the VERY tall Scotts side of the family, and his sister who is a portable hole will be using a fork by then.) There might be enough for me to take for lunch the next day. Up the rice to 5 or 6 cups? Yup, left overs for certain. So $5?
Addition from Foxfier:
If you swap in pork chops, mix the soup with half as much water as you’re supposed to, mix that with the spices, onion and rice, put it it in the bottom of an oven-safe dish and lay the pork chops on top then cover with tin foil and bake an hour at 350, it’s “no peek pork chops.”
Cheap, reheats nicely; you can either mix in a bag of frozen mixed veggies ($1.50) or have a salad on the side. I have five of these sitting in my freezer right now as “it’s three, I don’t want to cook, just chuck it in the cold oven and it will be done by 5” meals. Re-used foil baking pans, too, so if it gets too nasty I just throw the mess away.

From B. Durbin
I do “ramen with stuff in it” for the kids. Two packages ramen, one with the “Oriental” flavoring (which Top Ramen is renaming “Soy”—and that honestly never occurred to me it was the flavor), a heat-proof bowl and a cover. Boil water, pour over ramen (no spice packets) and cover. Fry up a little ground beef with one spice packet and some onion powder; scramble a couple of eggs. Throw some frozen peas and corn into the bowl with the ramen; drain once heated. Mix in beef and eggs and serve immediately.

377 thoughts on “Cheap Eats- by Foxfier

  1. I make slow cooker tomato sauce. Three cans of stewed tomatoes, half a bunch of carrots chopped, half a bunch of celery chopped (usually center part with all the leaves), two medium to small onions, bulb of garlic crushed
    sautee the onions in garlic in butter/oil till soft. Toss into slow cooker with other vegetables and tomatoes. Cook on high for four to five hours or even over night.
    About a couple hours in add italian seasoning generously (about two table spoons I think), for extra bite two to three dried chili peppers (seeds included…). Let sit for a little longer. Bring out immersion blender and puree the batch. Add one can of tomato paste and stir in thoroughly. Add a tablespoon of dried basil here as well.
    Let cool and portion out. Makes a LOT. Great for small containers for simple meals and also makes an awesome meat sauce (four cups sauce one pound raw ground meat, cook and done.)

    I find the tomato sauce goes great in gravies with just a couple spoonfuls or over something else. Stores forever in the chest freezer.

    1. I was amazed how much better making your own tomato sauce is than the pasta sauce in jars they sell. I have taught three lazy friends how easy it is to make your own sauce that tastes better, and is cheaper, than premade.

      1. Had the deep freeze open and with the seat of the pants recipe(how I usually cook basicially) it yielded twelve cups + of sauce. Freezes great and gets better. Used the same recipe last year to make lasgna and had a tray of veggie lasagna that finally got used a couple weeks ago. Girlfriend thinks it’s a killer sauce and great for everything pasta related.

      2. Another great trick with tomato sauce for pasta is add a little cheap red wine. My mother used Pail Masson burgundy.

        4 cups chopped yellow onions

        3-6 garlic cloves to taste

        1/2 tsp each of cheyenne pepper powder, rosemary, dry oregano, dry basil, coarse ground black pepper

        2 small cans tomato paste (Red Pack for choice)

        2 large cans whole plum tomatoes (or crushed if you prefer a smother sauce, or mix em up) (also Red Pack for choice)

        4 cups campbells beef broth condensed (about 3 cans)

        2 cups red cooking wine

        6 Tbs olive oil

        In a durch oven, brown the onions and spices together in the oil, until they are beginning to caramelize, add the garlic (burns faster than the onions), wait a very little, and then deglaze the pot with the wine.

        Add the tomatoes, beef stock, and paste, stir well, and then turn off the burner and put the dutch oven, covered, in a 200 degree oven for at least three hours.

        Up to 4 lbs of browned and drained ground chuck may be added before putting it in the oven, if meat sauce is desired.

        Ages well.

        1. And, please, NEVER use “cooking wine”. It’s outrageously expensive and doesn’t taste very good, to boot. I second buying a large jug of burgundy (cheap and has the qualities you want by adding red wine to your dish).

          And adding a cheap wine to your cooking sauce is almost always a good choice.

          1. Best line I ever heard (paraphrased mind you) about cooking with wine was , “If you won’t drink it, don’t use it to cook with.”

            1. “If you won’t drink it, don’t use it to cook with.”

              Keep the stuff you like to drink for drinking, unless you have seriously subtle taste buds and money to burn. I’m only a normal, so I buy the cheap four-packs of quarter bottles (under $10) of merlot and champagne from the wine section of my grocery store for cooking with. I could go with a big bottle of something, but this way the wine doesn’t get vinegary before I finish the opened container. From my notes from the nice people at Cooks Illustrated, who can get waspish about things in occasion:

              Best wines for cooking
              Red Wine (Cook’s Country 2/2009)
              Save the expensive wine for drinking. Although one or two tasters perceived greater complexity in the pan sauces made with the $30 bottles, the differences were minimal at best; wines that cost $10 and under are usually fine for cooking.

              Stick with blends like Cotes du Rhone or generically labeled table wines that use a combination of grapes to yield a balanced, fruity finish. If you prefer single grape varietals, choose medium-bodied wines, such as Pinot Noir and Merlot. Steer clear of oaky wines like Cabernet Sauvignon

              Avoid cooking wines sold in supermarkets. These low-alcohol concoctions have little flavor, a high-pitched acidity, and enormous amounts of salt, all of which combine to produce inedible dishes.

              White Wine (Cook’s Illustrated 11/2005)
              Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio may taste different straight from the glass, but how much do those distinctive flavor profiles really come through once the wines get cooked down with other ingredients?

              In our tests, only Sauvignon Blanc consistently boiled down to a “clean” yet sufficiently acidic flavor, one that played nicely with the rest of the ingredients. Differences between the wines were most dramatic in gently flavored dishes, such as risotto and beurre blanc. In contrast, all five wines produced similar (and fine) results when used in chicken chasseur, no doubt because of all the other strong flavors in this dish.

              Sherry was too distinct and didn’t fare well in these tests, but dry vermouth was surprisingly good. In fact, its clean, bright flavor bested all but one of the drinking wines. And at $5 a bottle (for Gallo, our top-rated brand of vermouth), you can’t argue with the price.

              1. If you won’t drink it, don’t use it to cook with.

                Keep the stuff you like to drink for drinking, unless you have seriously subtle taste buds and money to burn.

                Doesn’t need to be great wine or your favorite variety—the cheapest drinkable version will do. But if it’s not drinkable, don’t cook with it either.

          2. I think the advantage of a bottle of “cooking wine” is that you don’t have a jug of wine hanging around in the pantry for people to be snide about.

          3. When I first started cooking I read that most cooking wines have salt added. Why one might add salt to wine I did not know. I looked it up, the practice makes it marketable in stores not licences to sell alcoholic beverages.

            I would advise using an inexpensive drinkable wine instead.

            1. You don’t really appreciate how much salt is added to those things until you taste one right out of the bottle. Oh. My. One day I thought, “I wonder how this tastes compared to wines I would drink?” BAD IDEA. Imagine mixing wine 50/50 with soy sauce, and you have a fair notion of it. GAH.

              1. This must be a particularly American practice. In the later Harry Potter books, Professor Trelawny is mentioned as getting drunk on cooking sherry. There is no way in hell someone could drink that much of the stuff in American stores.

                1. cooking sherry is JUST cheaper cherry. I just bought a bottle of cheap california port because there’s a stew where I should use port and I’m certainly not using the bottles that START at $45 for an “okay” port here.

                2. Maybe it’s only in the grocery store, because Erma Bombeck mentioned it in her books– sort of like we’d mention someone drinking cough syrup. Which is also quite hideous, so maybe it’s just sheer desperation.

    2. I do the same – a number 10 can of crushed tomatoes and some other ingredients from the Pioneer Woman’s recipe for marinara – then part it out into freezer containers, and voila; pasta sauce for whatever purpose.

    3. Noting this… we’re attempting tomatoes this year. We’ll see how it goes, and what the rapid flurry of canning will look like.

    4. Forget canned tomatoes for us; there’s a local farm that has U-Pick at something absurdly low (this last summer was 30¢/lb; minimum 100 lbs because they weigh your car.) This is because they’re a premium provider and have to plant much more than they need so they can meet their sales targets—and it’s more profitable to just let folk do their own picking than it is to pay people to glean for their stand. I pick several gallons of sauce tomatoes and my husband makes sauce from scratch—honestly, we need another stock pot so we can double-batch (or if we use the crock-pot, triple-batch.)

      While I miss having my own garden (maybe I can get all the work done that I need to do to be able to rebuild it this summer—because I want to do it right this time), the presence of this U-Pick means I’ve been less worried about it than I had been.

  2. For a demonstration speech at a training conference years ago I made a dessert to serve the class.

    Easy no bake cheesecake (I think it’s on the cream cheese package, too)

    1 package cream cheese (softened)
    1 package vanilla pudding mix
    1 16 oz tub of sour cream
    1 graham cracker crust
    1 can cherry pie filling

    mix cream cheese, pudding and sour cream until smooth, pour into graham cracker cust, top with pie filling and chill.

    I’ve used blueberry pie filling as well.

    1. If you chill some before adding the pie filling you’ll be better able to keep it all on top.

      (My first gift cookbook from my mom has her no-bake cheesecake recipe written in the front cover. 🙂 )

  3. Cheap tasty pasta. Takes about 20 minutes. No idea what it would cost in the US but it easily meets the $12 limit for four. Prices from walmart online in California

    You need
    A saucepan, a spatula and a frying pan
    Pasta – Penne is good but really who cares. Assuming hungry about 1 lb. If not $12oz. $1.06 for 1 lb penne
    1 Can tomatoes $0.98
    2 Can sardines in oil ($2.88 for 3 = $1.92)
    Some combination of
    Garlic $1.48 for 3 – you need about half of one so $0.25
    Onion $0.38 for one (but cheaper to get a bag)
    Zucchini $0.54 each (again probably cheaper if you buy a bag of 5 or more)
    Bell pepper $0.98 each (tricolor bag may be cheaper)
    Total $6.10 but you probably can skip either the pepper or the zucchini

    Remove the outer skin of the onion and the garlic and then chop. Wash and slice/dice the zucchini and bell pepper (remove the inner with the seeds form the pepper too)
    Fill a saucepan with water and start it heating to boil
    Pop the sardine cans and pour some of the oil into the frying pan and start heating that.
    In a minute or so dump the sliced veggies into the pan and fry them for ~5 minutes
    At this point (more or less) the water will have boiled so add the pasta to it. Set timer for however long it takes to cook the pasta (~10 minutes usually)
    Fully open the cans of sardines and add them to the frying pan. Crush the fish so you have a mix of sardine and veggies.
    After another ~5 mins open the tomato can and dump that into the mix. Once the entire mix is bubbling again turn off the heat.
    When the pasta is cooked (a couple of minutes later usually), drain it and add to the frying pan. mix everything up and serve

    PS yes you could replace the veggies with pasta sauce but IMHO its better to have freshly cooked ones

    1. The “fajita mix” from the freezer isle is red, green and yellow peppers with onion chunks for between $1.20 and $1.80.

      1. I found that the frozen pepper and onion mix is good for making a frittata. Just make sure you have cooked off the extra moisture before adding the eggs.

        1. My grocery store carries a “cajun mirepoix mix” which is diced peppers, onions, and celery, and that’s frequently my go-to veggies for adding to various skillet recipes.

          1. *runs and writes the @#$@# word down*

            Do you realize how hard it is to find “mire quah” when you’ve only heard the bleeping word?

            1. Heh. And FWIW, a traditional mirepoix is two parts onion, one part celery, and one part carrot. Food Network was fun to watch when the kids were young.

              1. Alton Brown mentioned it when he was going over his “vegetable trinity” for various types of cooking, IIRC pointing out you can identify the ancestry of a style by looking at what they use as their mirepoix.

              2. The Daughter, who has always been a most picky eater, still loved the Food Network, most particularly Good Eats. Why? Alton Brown would explain the science behind the cooking process, and he did so in the most amusing ways. She also would grab my copies of Cooks before I could get them, take them off and read the science articles there.

                1. Several of our unscheduled science classes have been due to me being lazy and using Good Eats as a “science” bit…and the kids remember.

                  1. I’m watching for the return of Good Eats this year. Alton Brown announced it at Dragon Con last fall but no release date yet…

          2. Sometimes referred to as ‘the holy trinity’ of French cooking, the classic mirepoix is made of 2 parts onions, 1 part carrots and 1 part celery.  In Louisiana’s Arcadian cooking this became onions, celery and green bell pepper used in a 1:1:1 ratio. 

      2. The point of the recipe is really to use whatever veggies are cheap that are fryable. Go to the store and see what’s available. Fajita mix sounds ideal in places where that exists

        1. During summer, if I can find a reliable farmer’s market (haven’t for our location now, and the last one, the reliable farmer’s market had moved) I do all our vegetable shopping for $20 for the week. Usually had $50 in meat. Summer is far cheaper than winter.

      3. My daughter recently (with some help from my wife in terms of shopping) did the $12 challenge using fresh meat and veggies, nothing frozen/canned. Her answer was chicken fajitas … 2 onions, 4 bell peppers, chicken tenders ($4 worth) a little shredded cheese and tortillas. (Pantry: pepper, oil for cooking). Given my wife found a good deal on the chicken (Aldi, < $2/lb), she fed far more than 4…

  4. “Italian Enchiladas”
    1 pkg 20 small flour tortillas – $2 (There will be some left over)
    15 oz cup Ricotta cheese $2
    1 8oz bag shredded cheese $2.50
    1 can spaghetti sauce (Hunt’s garlic & herb by preference) $1
    1 box frozen spinach $1.25
    1/2 onion $0.25
    1 egg (optional) $0.15

    Finely chop onion. Thaw spinach and squeeze out as much water as practical. Sautee onion in a little oil or butter until translucent, add spinach. Heat, while stirring until the mixture is no longer wet.
    In a bowl, combine Ricotta, spinach/onion mixture, egg & 3/4 of the shredded cheese.
    Coat the bottom of a baking dish with a little sauce. Place a large spoonful of cheese mixture on each tortilla then roll them into fat tubes. Place seam side down just touching each other in baking dish. Spread sauce over the tops, then top with remaining cheese.
    Bake 20 minutes @ 350° F

    1. And I wondered what I was going to have for dinner tonight…. Will probably swap out the ricotta with cottage cheese though. Cheaper and such.

  5. I am using Walmart as a baseline, because they are pretty much everywhere, are almost always on a bus line and have fairly consistent pricing for staples.

    It has been years since The Daughter took me to Anime Central in Chicago.
    When there we had reason to make a run to Walmart.  At the time Chicago had blocked Walmart from the city.  So Walmart, not to be shut out of a sizable market, built a super-mega-Walmart just over the border of city limits.  It was easily (across the street) accessible from the city by both rail and bus lines.  Sure it cost money and was a bit of a hassle to get to and from the place, but the convenience of one stop shopping with the lower cost and the generally reasonable quality of the goods and produce more than made up for that.  The place was doing a booming business. 

    1. You can often tell what cities have really high sales tax by looking for a Walmart *just* outside of the City Limits sign. 😀

      1. Gotta be careful, though. Cities like to annex areas next to them, when they can. I expect Walmart execs check that out verrrrrrry carefully.

        1. Yes, they do– frequently over local objection, too.

          But if a city does do that, then they are forced to accept the WalMart that is there, instead of getting to make all kinds of demands.

          1. They did that here… to prevent Wal-Mart from having a liquor store. A weirdness of Minnesota I’m still not used to, after living in Wisconsin for so long. Yes, WI has liquor stores… but you can get hard liquor (not necessarily GOOD, however) at a significant number of convenience stores. MN? You need to go to a bar, to a liquor store, or settle for 3.2 beer. Sheesh. At least they FINALLY figured out that Sunday is not an Utterly And Completely Magically Different Day and allow Sunday sales for a time.

            1. Eh, the no Sunday sales was actually practical at one point– when everybody works all week long, rather hard, making it so you couldn’t go get more in the middle of your day off meant that a lot of trouble got headed off. Sort of like “after hours” liquor laws in the UK.

              That situation, needless to say, does not currently exist.

          2. I’m pretty sure the Walmart outside Chicago is in a suburb, not unincorporated land. A bit harder to do an annexation when there’s another government involved. OTOH, it’s Chicago, Jake.

            1. That is a popular trick– especially since Walmart can then fund the incorporated suburb’s legal fight to avoid being taken over.

        2. Some cities are now land-locked. Philadelphia, for example, is confined within the county boundaries which form the city boundaries.

  6. Cooked rotisserie chicken they sell at grocery stores are a bargain.

    And I started to really learn how to cook about four or five years ago and one thing I remember being surprised by is how much meat is on a pork shoulder.

    Also, it is cheaper to buy herbs and spices at bulk store rather than plastic containers they have at grocery store.

    1. I will check the deli counter for chilled rotisserie chicken from the day before. Half price (so about $6). Debone and store about 4 cups of meat. Save the bones in the freezer for stock making. Typically a raw whole chicken will go for about $6-$7 on sale.

        1. I should note that I am using Canadian pricing versus American pricing. Big difference as someone else has noted up above. Example a 400 gram block of cheese will cost about $5-$6 for the budget brand….Dozen eggs will cost about $3 -$4 .

    2. The Costco rotisserie chicken is a great deal. We’ll cut one into breasts and legs and get a couple of dinners out of one.
      Their ground beef chubs are a good deal for us. We’ll make 1/4 pound hamburgers out of the full bag and grill them all and freeze.

      1. We cut them into roughly 1 lb chunks for freezing. Thaw for goulash, thaw for do-it-yourself hamburger helper. Thaw for spagetti. Thaw for hamburgers. I need to make up a ‘just pop it in the oven’ lasagne.

        Note: If you’re in a area that has Braums. I was surprised at how inexpensive their sausage was. Their one pounder was only about ten cents more expensive than the per pound price at Sam’s club.

          1. They now have small markets in most of their stores. All the produce/meat/eggs are at the same quality as their milk. They’ve been expanding slowly. Ice Cream and milk are still their primaries. They added cheese and eggs first, and have been slowly expanding over the last 20 years.

    3. I like my chicken hot, but the day-old cold is good if you don’t want to deal with bones, or plan to make a cold dish anyway.
      I quit cooking my own when found out the raw bird cost as much as the cooked one.

    4. The Spice House (like Penzey’s, but unlike that idiot Bill Penzey they are adamantly not political) has spices in sizes from a half jar to bulk at much better prices than the grocery store, and a much broader variety than WalMart.

      1. I recommended The Spice House myself earlier in a comment on this article 🙂

        I agree with being turned off by Penzey’s blatant political messages in their advertising email. I got so fed up with it I am boycotting them and went looking for another source which is how I found Spice House last fall. My wife and I find the quality better at SH as well.

      2. If I remember right, the owner of Spice House is his brother!

        And from the drama-waves coming off of the ads, I’d guess that they don’t share beers at the family parties, if you know what I mean.

        1. Blink blink. Does a bit of research. They are related! Spice House is owned by the elder daughter and her husband while Penzey’s is owned by the younger son Bill Jr.

          Jr started his own mail order company in the late 80s and Sr sold The Spice House to his daughter Patty in 1991. Jr opened his first store in 1994.

          Spice House has 4 locations all in Chicago/Milwaukee aand grinds and blends on site daily.

          Penzey’s has dozens of locations across the country and ships prepackaged spices to them.

          Interesting differences in philosophy between the two.

    5. If you use them up, bulk herbs and spices are a good deal. However, the herbs in particular lose flavor after 6-8 months. Buy smaller sizes if you don’t use the bigger ones. Spices like whole cloves, peppercorns, nutmegs, etc store longer. All seasonings except salt need to be kept in a dark place.

      A cheap meal we used to make in college. Make a package of mac and cheese. Dump in a drained can of water pack tuna, a can of cream of mushroom soup, and a bunch of frozen peas. Mix well. Eat.

  7. I make my pasta in the microwave. I use a plastic rectangular container. I dump the pasta in, add broth to cover. Cook the required number of minutes and done. I use store bought broth. Hubby buys a six pack of qt size chicken broth. We usually have the money but not the time. Our kitchen is all about the convenience. We use disposable plates/bowls and cutlery. We usually only have to wash cookware and bubbas.

      1. I find they are worth it. For freezing raw meat and storing long term. Like purchasing it cheap and portioning it out into sizes you use. I also buy lots of cheese when I go to Costco and cut the blocks in half and vaccum seal before putting in the back of the fridge. Cheese sealed like that keeps for a year. This way I only use half a 900 gram block at a time (costs $10 for Black Diamond brand versus the $5 400-450 gram block of noname brand).
        For anything else it’s not really feasible. One I got came with a bottle sealer and marinading tub. Then again I got the cadillac version. There are cheaper versions as well and different brands. I go through a roll of bags once every 6-8 months maybe more. Big box at Costco costs about $40 with two rolls of different width and a bunch of premade bags.
        (remember, Canadian pricing and YMMV)

        1. It seems it would depend on how and how much you use it. Just like the slow-pot or bread-maker, if you use it daily it is highly worth the cost and if you use it once in a while it is just eating your storage space.

          If you like to buy sides of beef and put up portions it is probably more than worth while, if all you ever buy is hamburger probably not.

      2. I have a vacuum sealer and it is totally worth it. I buy meat from an old-fashioned meat market the next town over, once a month, and then part it out and seal. Also – very good for sealing up the second serving when I do an entree and freeze for later. Freeze in a one or two-portion container, then pop our the frozen block, vacuum-seal, and there is a ‘boil in bag’ meal for the next time I am too tired to cook. It works out well on that basis alone.

      3. I buy a whole sirloin or a whole pork loin from Costco and make stew meat out of it. Vacuum packing is -awesome- for this purpose, keeps the meat from freezer burning for a long time. Throw out one bag of meat because of freezer burn, that’s a lot of the cost of your vacuum bagger right there.

        I should mention that meat is fantastically expensive around here. I buy the sirloin at $8.49/kg at Costco, the whole thing is $50 some-odd dollars. Sirloin steaks at Foodland are over $18/kg, so is stewing beef. Supermarket is double the cost or more.

        Cutting and vacuum bagging is a pain in the butt, and totally worth it.

        1. Pork loin can be sliced into “chops” if you don’t want to cook it whole for some reason. I keep a couple in the freezer, usually from the BOGO sales.

        2. Meat is cheaper here. Stew beef is among the cheapest, and toughest. That makes it a natural for a pressure cooker or slow cooker.

          Fajitas started with the same philosophy. Traditionally, fajitas uses the flank meat, cut in strips – across the grain, IIRC – and quick fried. Flank meat is tough, which is why it was cheaper, and how you cut the meat made it easier to eat.

      4. For us they have been. We vacuum seal quite a bit, usually meat but also cheese. It adds at least a year to shelf life in the freezer.

        1. I personally wouldn’t seal either chicken or ground beef that way. Your salmonella may vary.

          1. To my knowledge, the only thing that vacuum sealing does for something you put in the freezer is reduce freezer burn. Salmonella is something to worry about AFTER the food is thawed.

            1. I thought the concern was potentially getting a slurp of raw meat while straw-ing the air out.

            2. Or before it goes in the freezer, say while you’re sucking on a straw trying to get the air out of a bag of drippy chicken or ground beef….. 😎

        2. Or if you’re not likely to use it very often (the bags are a bit more pricey than those for an electric sealer) you can go a step up and get the Ziploc vacuum hand pump and the associated bags with the ingenious little valve in the side.

        1. Ours was fairly cheap, too, on Amazon. And it’s worth its weight in gold. I haven’t lost frozen meat to freezer burn since we started using it, two years ago.

      5. They’re worth it to us. We get Costco meats—ground beef and pork shoulder, slow-cooker all day and pulled to shreds—and portion them out in weighed amounts. No freezer burn, so they last pretty well forever, and we also have an immersion circulator, and vacuum sealers are pretty much essential to make those work. Immersion circulators, BTW, are how steakhouses can have steaks out fairly quickly and cooked to a safe rare, if that’s what the customer wants. It makes amazing tri-tip.

      6. I use my vacuum sealer for portioning out meats from Costco, as others here mention. It also gets used for sous vide cooking.

  8. Incidentally, most of these recipes are getting printed out as we speak.

    This comment is meant to replace going “yum!” every thirty seconds.

  9. Why would you use garlic salt and lemon pepper, if you have plain salt and pepper on your shelves? I use garlic powder and lemon peel; if I want those flavors I can get them without being constrained to add in salt and papper that I may not want.

    My ideal inexpensive meat is whole turkey thighs, when I can find them. Boil them in distilled waters for about three hours, and you have ready-to-use meat that you can use for various dishes (we cycle between fajitas, garam masala curry, and turkey “pot roast”)—and after you’ve recycled the water through two or three sets of thighs (freezing it in between) you have a truly amazing stock.

    1. It’s quicker to get the “right” taste with lemon pepper and garlic salt*, and the lower demand parts stay flavorful for longer in the mix. I don’t even have the salt and pepper shakers on my frequent-use shelf, they’re in the cupboard to be put on the table when needed.
      I could spend a couple of dollars for the lemon-only in a size that would be used, and I do have dried garlic because we use it as more like a vegetable…or I can spend 50c every few months for the amount I actually use.

      *both because of the proportions and because of when they’re added; salt at the beginning, pepper towards the end.

      1. I seem to go through lemon peel faster than a lot of the other spices on my shelf, though not as fast as ginger. Garlic powder goes fairly fast, too; I’m going to need to buy more sometime this month. The spices that I use slowly include anise, cardamom, cloves, dill seed, mint, paprika, sumac, and thyme; the only thing I use dill seed for, for example, is potato salad.

    2. I have discovered the joys of good mail order spices. is now my go to place to buy. They grind things freshly every few days and package to ordered (even if you go into the store front). The price is usually cheaper than supermarket and the quality is vastly superior. One warning, they do a lot of restaurant orders so the bigger sizes are BIG! A home cook will usually want one of the smallest, your not buying oregano to make 200 plates of spaghetti every day after all 🙂

      Also a pepper grinder is fairly cheap as are whole pepper corns and fresh ground pepper is a world of difference from pre-ground ‘pepper’ that has been sitting on a supermarket shelf for months.

      1. Second the pepper grinder. After discovering that the built-in grinder on my peppercorn container was not particularly durable, I got mine from a local odds n’ ends store for $1.99. Only thing wrong with it is it looked like someone’s 2-year-old used it as a finger painting project. Five minutes of hot soapy water & a little elbow grease and we were golden.

        1. Pepper mill is great. I finally went electric to save the monotony and the wrist pain (*especially* from the built-in one). They’re a little more, but very helpful. IMHO

  10. I will buy boxed and canned food from Walmart, but I’ve had issues with their meat and produce. For those I’m more inclined to go to Costco or Kroger. The latter in particular tends to have attractive sale pricing on those items.
    Around here boneless pork chops sell typically for $2 a pound while a boneless pork loin can run 99 cents per pound. Careful application of a sharp knife and you’ve (pun intended) cut the cost of your chops in half.
    Monday afternoons are a good time to check the meat department, especially if the store had a slow weekend. That’s when they will mark down, sometimes to half price, items they over stocked.

    1. This. Some of their fresh produce, like sweet corn, looks terrible. My wife goes through the sale papers, and there’s one store that consistently has lower meat prices.

      1. Our area there isn’t really a great option for produce– Albertson’s (kroger/safeway/etc sister store) is notorious for their stuff going bad basically the day after you buy it. I don’t know what the heck they do, but the bagged cabbage manages to be sour in two days, even when there’s a week plus left on it, and don’t get me started on the apples.

        I’m usually been on the tail end of the supply chain, so most of my veggies for cooking will be frozen or canned.

        1. it got rough for a lot of customers (and stores) when the conglomeration disease hit. Up here, there is little difference because of it, but I think suppliers in the area are down to two.
          Great Lakes or Super Value. And, yeah, we are at the end of the chain. everything seems smaller, and lower quality when dealing with fresh produce. It annoys the local bigot when I and the other fellow who moved from Texas to work here how we miss good fruit, or beef or fresh seafood. Though, it was a change for seafood when I moved from NOLA to DFW. The shrimp were smaller, the crawfish as well, and they cost more.
          Forget about both being fresh up here. Frozen is it and good luck finding anything from the gulf. China and Vietnam mostly.
          In Burleson, TX. you once had a choice of Walmart, WinnDixie, Kroger, Albertson’s, and Bransom’s. You could run over to Mansfield and Cleburne as well and get Tom Thumb (also now part of Albertson’s).
          WinnDixie closed before I moved there in 2004, changed to Brookshires for a bit then closed fully. Walmart is walmart and some folks ain’t settin foot in the place. Kroger (had been my choice often) and Albertson’s eventually became about the same and people who were not happy with one, soon became unhappy with both (this was me). Even though they were different companies they both were too alike and quality seemed to drop on meat and produce.
          Bransom’s, now City Market, not a part of Kroger’s CM stores, (when they started to sell alcohol, Old Lady Bransom had them change the name of the store. Uses Parade store brands) it’s a two store family owned operation and while small, had a good butcher, and okay prices. Still doing good business last I was there. Even when I lived in Alvarado I’d often stopped into the store. Aldi’s put in a place, but I found little that appealed to me that made it worthwhile to stop. Good prices though if you liked what they did have. Then HEB put up a store at the edge of town. They expanded it twice since then. I think it is supposed to be an HEB+ soon.
          Also, just out of town were two IGA stores, but they changed to Brookshires, and the one in Joshua relocated to a bigger Full Service style store with Gas, Pharmacy, Full Deli etc. and did okay. The other was in Alvarado, and it was my local choice when I was in Alvarado. There was a Davids in Alvarado as well, but just before I moved it changed to a Brookshire Brothers (they bought out David’s . . . Brookshire Brothers spawned the bigger Brookshire’s. Both are Tyler Texas grocery chains, long story. Same family, different companies). I think the people who can’t walk all the way to Brookshire’s is the only reason the place in Alvarado survives. For a time both used the same store brands, and David’s was higher for the same things. Brookshire’s has its own branded stuff now. The Tom Thumb in Cleburne got bought out by HEB when Albertson’s decided to build a store on the North edge of town and was the only 24hr store in the HEB chain until they in turn built a bigger store. The Thumb in Mansfield still survives I think, but it might be an Albertson’s now. There was talk of that occurring. There was an Albertson’s just across the highway from it and it closed so maybe not. There are, I think 2 more near the Mansfield Arlington borders.

          1. Aldi’s is good for German food, kefir, sometimes great breads, and paleta ice cream with fruit. Produce is also good but limited selection. (Good carrots for cheap prices, for some reason.) Good cider in the Fall.

            1. I second that recommendation for Aldi’s Apple Cider (non alcoholic) in season. Much better than supermarket brands and cheap. Straight from a good orchard is better but costs 2 to 3 times as much.

              The other thing they have good version of are basic chocolate bars, especially one of the best white chocolate bars I’ve found. They only use cocoa butter, not cheap replacements like coconut oil so you get a better mouth feel.

            2. Apparently the other Aldi brother owns Trader Joe’s in the western states. Bought it off the guy who created it for “the overeducated and underpaid” (college professors looking for something other than standard supermarket fare.)

        2. There was (note tense) a store here that was supposedly great for meats, but I couldn’t stand to shop there. Every time (and I do mean every time) I walked in, I was assaulted with the odor of rotting produce.

    2. For a while they had good stuff, meat-wise for the area (when I was in Louisiana and first in Texas) but then quality dropped and the prices didn’t, though the “Manager’s Specials for near expiration meat was great for cheap pricing. Though you needed to go in at early times. 1am to 5am or it was likely gone or picked over to uselessness.
      Up here the local chain, Jack’s, is way better and often cheaper for meat than the Walmart, but most beef offered is Certified Angus so not as cheap as it could be. They do have “In Store Specials” that are simply USDA approved “value’ beef most of the time, but it is not a true a “regular” offering, so it can not be there when I am shopping. I really miss HEB. HEB often had “discount” meat (not Angus, not ‘top’ quality, just USDA approved and often tasted better than their top of the line) like thick cut ribeyes in family packs for under $5/lb. Jacks has a good combo Beef/Pork ground meat that I like and is down around $2.79/lb and makes good burgers or tacos or rice dressing, or yeah.

      1. I’m still in mourning for moving away from Saar’s. It was the immigrant store– no fancy cuts of meat, but good quantity and I liked the quality.

        1. Jack’s quality is okay, but can be pricey.
          Everything up here is alike in that almost all of them are getting store brands and most produce from Super Value, so about every store has Everyday Essentials and just a more or less same selection (well, less and even less) There is a local supplier, Great Lakes, but it too uses Everyday Essentials for “Store Brands”and Jack’s I think stopped using them, going with SV in Green Bay, but they do use a lot of local sources for some things. like greenhouse lettuce (hydroponic iirc) potatoes, onions, and when in season corn, apples, etc., but there is no real different selection of grocer chains here. There is an Aldi’s, a Walmart, and the locals with SV brands. Woodman’s in GB (well, actually Howard) is Shur Fine, and they have a Maijers now, but I was quite unimpressed when I went there. Festival foods there is SV, and there is a Pick and Save or something but when I see its prices on meat and produce, I haven’t seen need to go in and look.
          Other locals are Lee’s (Peshtigo and Oconto) and Gary’s (Wallace and Stephenson) but they are not close enough to be convenient for me, and are all smaller. Gary’s is supposed to have good quality meat but not enough of an incentive to go 16 miles out of the way to shop. I go to woodman’s because I can save enough and get some brands I like cheap enough to warrant driving almost an hour, and I tend to go other places in Green Bay at the same time (nearest Home Depot, Fleet Farm, Office Depot, etc). I knew it when I moved, but it does irk me sometimes.

      1. I’m really glad we don’t have sales tax. Wholesale food outlets sell to the general public, and we usually hit Cash & Carry every week.

        We just got a 17 pound butt for $1.70 a pound. We use it for the pulled-pork recipe from the old Melissa d’Arabian’s 10 Dollar Dinner shows. Rather than cut and paste, here’s the basis for 4 servings:

        We usually don’t use the crock pot for anything else, but it’s a perfect match. The pork bits are cubed to begin with, and we’ll go to town with forks to pull them. We’ll get 4 to 6 2-person servings from a batch, and it freezes well.

        1. No idea for Cash & Carry; what little beef we get is hamburger from Costco. The Fred Meyer prices seem to match what Sarah is seeing in Denver. (As I recall.)

      2. Sarah, I’m about all twisted with jealousy at that price, which is far below what I’d pay for ground pork over here Down Under. Granted, the places I’ve had to live in aren’t particularly good for cost of living (something we don’t have much choice about) but sometimes the prices are such that I daydream occasionally of homesteading (which, honestly, would be more work than I could manage myself.)

      3. Your mileage will vary by store, time of year, what the local competition is doing, etc. From the local Jewel/Oslo online weekly ad (March 7-13, 2018, Evanston store)
        Bone in split chicken breasts, value pack, $0.99/lb
        The rest of their online prices may be above that threshold with the exception of some of the buy one, get one free deals.

        1. I’ve never seen a Jewel/Oslo in CO and our chicken breasts, unless on sale, start at 2.99 (My buy point for them is 1.99. I’ve never seen any chicken but whole legs for 99c. Not for ten years.)

          1. Jewel-Osco is a brand of Albertsons for the IL area . since the late 90’s Looks like they use the Albertsons and Safeway names in CO.

    3. I’ll buy canned/boxed stuff from Wallyworld, but their produce and meat looks horrid. I’ll walk next door to Sam’s Club and buy it in bulk and it’ll be cheaper and last longer. I usually buy my meat and produce at one of the local grocery stores (there are 3 chains in the area, but only one has good selection of both meats and produce). But even among the one chain I buy from there is quite a variation between stores.

      1. I’ll buy canned/boxed stuff from Wallyworld, but their produce and meat looks horrid.

        Their meat looks bad because the NLRB allowed just the meat cutters (10 workers out of 300 at the store) at a Wal-Mart a vote to join a union. Rather than let the unions get their nose inside the tent, Wal-Mart centralized their meat cutting and ship it to the stores already cut & wrapped. I don’t buy it either

          1. Yup! Sam’s Club still cuts their own.
            Their imitation crab @ 2.98/lb is also a great deal. I use it with some veggies (usually zucchini, onions & mushrooms – but whatever’s on hand usually works) & a couple Lipton/Knorr noodles & sauce packets to make a cheap 1 pot meal.

      2. That’s why I really miss the Sam’s Club on our side of town. Before it closed last month, I could literally walk back and forth between it and WalMart and buy whatever was the best buy in either store. Now going to the remaining Sam’s Clubs all mean going out of our way, so we have to plan ahead to go to them. No more running over while doing other errands just to see what samples they have and what they might’ve cut the price on.

  11. On salmon and grits: You cook the grits per the instructions on the bag. For the salmon, you dump the can in a large skillet, stir in egg and about half a can of water (you don’t want it thick, but you don’t want it soupy, either), salt and pepper to taste. Canned salmon’s already cooked, so bring to a simmer and cook until the egg is done. Serve over grits.

    My wife adds the following: In the skillet, first put some oil and a bit of flour, cook that (sounds like she’s making a gravy), add the salmon, egg, and pepper and stir. To this she adds some onion.

    1. Your wife is in fact making a roux, the cajun term for a cooking thickening agent consisting of equal parts fat and flour cooked until you remove the raw flour taste. The longer you cook it the less it will thicken, but the more it will impart a brown and nutty taste to whatever you add it to.
      If you want to thicken a sauce without additional color or taste you can use a slurry of corn starch and water for that purpose.

      1. Which is what my wife (and all her Chinese relatives) do, sometimes using arrowroot instead of corn starch.

      2. I learned to do that for a particular dish, and the roux included anchovies. It’s probably the most complicated dish I make – thinly sliced, floured and lightly browned chicken breast fillet, the pan with the leftover flour coating cooked with a bit more flour and mashing the anchovies in to make the base of the sauce, then slowly mixing in white wine and lemon juice to make the sauce in question. The chicken is placed in layers in a deep baking dish, the sauce poured over it as each layer is put down, and then baked. I don’t know what it’s called, so we named it Pastor Hall’s chicken, after the American pastor who taught it to me in Paris.

        1. Hmm. I wonder if that could be simplified by the use of Worchestershire sauce (which has anchovies but not the lemon.) Probably not exact, but possibly a similar flavor profile.

          I like the name Pastor Hall’s Chicken.

  12. The $12 challenge is harder in Canada but still doable – we have supply management/marketing boards here that keep prices high on dairy, eggs and poultry. It is ridiculous system that makes basic foodstuffs cost more than should.

  13. Thanks for mentioning that about butter. A lot of recipes today call for unsalted butter, so unless someone uses a lot, it could go rancid.

    I’m not against buying in bulk, but everyone should keep in mind if they have space to store it. If so, that’s great. If not, it can be a headache.

    I really like a pressure cooker. Not only can they cut cooking time, but they can make tougher, cheaper, cuts of meat tender. The “instant pots” are expensive, but the stove top are cheaper.

    1. A number of years ago a noted financial advisor was telling families to begin their investing plan by stockpiling food when on sale. Buy canned goods in bulk and store them under your bed if you have to. If you couldn’t afford to purchase by the case just buy a few extra of the shelf stable things you knew your family would eventually need.
      Of course the real trick was to capture the savings which requires a tight fist and a solid budget. Otherwise the pennies saved simply trickle through your fingers in a myriad of ways.

      1. Speaking of that tactic– this is also how you make a good bugout bag/emergency food supply.

        I highly suggest something like the Roughneck boxes from rubbermade, sized based on your situation (strength, storage) and in addition to food have one of those cute little propane stoves for camping, and a CO2 detector.

          1. We have an instant grill stuck in the bottom of ours from an end of season sale, but the propane really is a better idea if you need to move it… one of those things where you need to think about your situation.

            1. We have a little two-burner propane camp stove that we take with us on our outdoor sales events. I’ve figured that if the electricity goes out, I can take one of our folding tables from our business out on the patio, set up the camp stove, and cook on that.

              Note to self: get more propane bottles. We started on our last one at our last outdoor event, and tornado season is coming.

              1. For home use might I suggest a 20 pound propane tank like those used for gas grills. Get an adapter hose that connects from the tank to the small bottle fitting on the camp stove. Instead of a couple of cooking sessions the bigger tank will last you a week of meals.

              2. We went with a “Coleman fuel” lantern and cooker. The fuel is just naptha; generic brands will work, but be aware some of them are highly odorized for some reason. The little disposable propane bottles are expensive here, and the BBQ tanks are both expensive and a hassle to have refilled.

          2. I make sure I have an extra propane bottle at all times for my gas grill with a side burner.

      2. Knew a friend who did this when we were both young and broke, and she quit smoking. The money for the cigarettes went first into the gas tank – as in, she’d put what the budget could spare into the gas tank, then scowl in great concentration and add exactly the cost of the pack of cigs on top of that, so she couldn’t afford ’em if she broke down and changed her mind.

        The first result: she no longer had to worry about running out of gas on the way to and from work. When the gas tank was too full to hold the next “pack of cigarettes”, she went to… I think the electric, but it was one of the utilities… and paid a pack of cigarettes extra on the bill, until it was caught up and all the late fees paid off. When the bills were caught up, she started buying extra food…

        Only person I know who was calmer and less stressed when they quit smoking!

        1. Brilliant strategy – could apply to kicking any bad habit and using the money elsewhere.

      3. If you have an LDS Storehouse / Home Storage Center in your area, you can buy #10 cans of many grains and dried food items for quite cheaply, considering they are sealed and many have shelf-life of up to 30 years.
        Mormons are the original preppers, after all. 😉

        You don’t have to be LDS to use the centers, unless policy has changed recently.
        Sarah: the Denver storehouse is on the north side of town, just inside C-470, west of Chambers Road.
        3233 Fraser St, Aurora, CO 80011

    2. The pressure cooker is the Lazy(tm) Cook’s best friend. I’ve got two, and periodically replace the rubber-ish components as they harden up over time.

      If they have a steaming rack/tray, then put four cups water in the pot, put whatever you’re cooking in a steel mixing bowl, lock the lid down and turn on the heat.

      Once it’s done, the bowl comes out, I stir the food, maybe add some chopped tomatoes to beans, etc. and have dinner. No need to scrub out the cooker, just pour out the remaining water, drain and done.

      1. I recently used our Instant Pot for the first time to hard-boil eggs. And just as planned, they came out of their shells with no problem. This has been an issue for me for a while, so I now have a preferred method for hard-boiling. (Cheap eggs, so some of them cracked and came out weird, but not a bad ratio.)

    3. Keep your butter in the freezer until needed. I pull a stick at a time out of the freezer. That way you can get unsalted.

      Also, if you don’t have a pressure cooker, save up for an instant pot. I love mine. It also cooks rice, slow cooks, sautes, etc.

  14. Pasta can be a good cheep and quick meal option.  

    This is not so much a recipe as an all-purpose guide to a vegetable/ tomato sauced pasta I often prepare.  The Spouse is on limited carbs so we have to be a bit careful on that front.  I don’t digest meat, so The Spouse will add a few meat balls or some chicken on the side when we sit down to eat.

    When shopping I will check the green grocer section of the market to see vegetables they have that look attractive — in quality and price.  (If you have a garden* all the better.)  Zucchini and yellow squash both work well for this.  In mid-winter I am likely to utilize bagged frozen vegetables.  I have regularly use chopped broccoli or cauliflower.  I have tried frozen cut green beans, but I it preferable to cut them in half for this purpose and that is a bit more work.  Peas, green or chick, aren’t bad, you might add onions, and some people like carrots.  The pieces should be small bite sized, big enough to retain integrity, but at the same time you want to be able to eat them with your pasta without having to resort to a knife at the table.

    Use somewhere between a half cup to a full cup of whatever vegetable(s) you have chosen per person.

    Saute your vegetable(s) in a small amount of fat of your choice.  I prefer using a good olive oil when I can, but that is pricey.  Our family likes garlic a lot, so I often add generous amounts.   Cook until the vegetables are nearly done to your liking.  

    Add a half cup of tomato sauce per person.  (If you have it a splash of red wine can be added at this point.)  When thoroughly heated either mix in cooked pasta, or serve on top of pasta. 

    If you wish, serve with your choice of grated cheese.  For those fortunate enough to have a basil plant, a garnish of fresh slivered basil sprinkled on top will really kick it up a notch. 

    * Re: Gardens  While you have to lay out a bit of money up front preparing and planting a garden and they do require steady ongoing work, gardens can be a great way to keep costs down.

    1. Oh, yes, thank you Foxfire for reminding me of the frozen mixed bell pepper and onion mix. It works really well for this.

      Having been frozen the peppers and onions will release a good deal of moisture, just make sure you saute it long enough that you have reduced that moisture. I found that this lends a really rich flavor to the sauce.

      1. After about the tenth time I only had time to work with the peppers I’d bought a day or five too late for them to be edible, I went to frozen. 😀

        1. Yeah, well, after writing about it I went down and made the pasta with sauce version using a spicy tomato sauce, red wine and frozen bell peppers and onions for lunch. It was very good. Thank you again.

    2. Our cheap & quick meal is pasta with olive oil and parmesan, and has been since we were broke. One note: if you have a functioning fridge, fresh parmesan is actually cheaper than dried, because you need far less to get the same degree of good flavor and the block lasts for months in the cold.

      1. I used to make that, but with the family taste predilections I would add garlic, so it would become aglio olio.

        While a hunk of Parmesan is an investment, I too, have found it is more flavorful and has a better texture.

        Our cheep go to is ten packs of Oriental (now soy) flavored Ramen bought when on sale – a 10 pack for a dollar. I particularly like it with an egg and a scallion. Sometimes I add a minced or pressed clove of garlic and grated ginger root*. The Spouse liked a bit of hot sesame oil and a few spinach leaves, but can no longer enjoy ramen because carbs**.

        *We have an international grocery where we can find fresh ginger root of excellent quality at inexpensive price. The root can be stored pealed and cut into useful sized chunks packed in a clean jar and covered with sherry. Keep it in the fridge. Use it in recipes calling for fresh ginger root. We have never had it spoil before we used it all.

        **High Protein, low carb and controlled fats is a particular challenge when watching budgets.

        1. If the Parmesan should get moldy before you finish the chunk (Sam’s Club chunks are pretty big), you can just wash it off with dish soap (rinse well). That trick doesn’t work so well with softer cheeses.

  15. This Recipe can be used as a meal for many, or a series of small meals and snacks.

    “Chili Bun” Chili

    3 lb chub of Ground Beef or Ground Chuck
    Water, as needed, to cook the meat down in (1 cup or more)
    Buns/Bread/chips/corn chips/tortillas as preferred

    Dry Ingredients (these can be altered to taste, with a little experimentation)
    Combine in a small bowl or cup prior to cooking
    1 teaspoon of salt
    1 Teaspoon of pepper
    5 teaspoons of paprika (preferably a type with flavor)
    5 teaspoons of chili powder
    (dried or fresh finely chopped onions optional)

    Wet ingredients (tomato products are sold by weight, and are typically about 3 oz by weight per 2 oz by volume)
    24 oz (by weight) bottle of Ketchup (about 2 cups – but you can find the bottle for $1 many places without having to measure)
    10 oz (by weight; roughly 3/4 cup by measure) of Tomato Puree (about 2/3 of a can, for a 15 oz can)

    Instructions: Brown meat with water, to separate the meat.
    When cooked thoroughly, remove from heat, drain off water/grease completely, and return the meat to low heat.
    Stir in dry ingredients, as the meat warms back up after draining.
    After the dry ingredients are stirred in, and you can smell them starting to cook in with the meat, add in the wet ingredients. Continue cooking until the chili is hot, reducing to simmer/warm to thicken up or keep warm during serving.
    You can cool any remaining after the first meal, and refrigerate for a week or more, or freeze for several months. Makes 12-24 servings, depending on usage. To reheat, remove the amount to reheat from the storage bowl, put into a microwave safe bowl, cover, and heat for 1-2 minutes, stopping stirring half-way through (or heat up in a small pan on a stovetop). Makes an excellent easy-to-fix snack for children capable of using a microwave.
    (note: the original recipe called for 9-10 lbs of ground beef, 70 oz of ketchup (5 14oz restaurant bottles!), and everything else scaled up accordingly, as it was chili bun/chili dog sauce for 1 night for a 1970s Drive-In Movie concession stand)

    Serving suggestions: On hot dog buns for “chili buns”, with or without wieners. Also good for Chili-cheese fries. Can be used as a mild taco meat for those who dislike strong seasonings, including over corn chips or tortilla chips with cheese (or add salad fixings for a taco salad). You can add beans for the non-bun suggestions, but it keeps better if you keep them separate and only add them when reheating smaller amounts taken out of the main batch).

    The 3 lb. of meat version costs about $8-10 plus buns/chips, or less if you have some of the stuff on-hand ($6-10 for the beef, depending on if you can catch it on sale; $1 for the ketchup, About $1 for the puree(with a can having about 1.5 uses), plus the 4 spices where each cheap bottle is good for a half-dozen or more batches). The bread/chips will cost another $2-3 per batch (you’ll need more than one bag). One batch will produce the initial meal (2 buns per person for 4 people), plus 2x or more as many servings as quick meals or snacks over the next 7-10 days (if it lasts that long before being gobbled up). The variations that you can use the meat for means that you can have chili buns one day, chili cheese fries or a taco salad another, nachos for movie night, etc. using it for 1 meal every day for a week, with little repetition, unless you want repetition. I used to use the recipe to make lunch meals for work, for 1-2 weeks of 5-day work weeks, microwaving the stuff at work and putting it on buns, and eating with a baggie of chips. That averaged out to less than $1.50 per meal, plus whatever I was drinking from the vending machine.

  16. We’re gluten allergic/intolerant (really, not the trendy type), so we have to be really careful what we get. ($SPOUSE’s allergies are such that going into the bread aisle in the supermarket is painful; I can take ordinary soy sauce, but that’s my upper limit.)

    Amy’s has a line of gluten free foods, for breathtaking prices and limited selections. We use the Bette Hagman cookbooks. Sunday is Pizza day; we start at 4PM and the pizza goes in the oven around 45 minutes later, depending on how much the dogs interfere. 🙂

    There’s a rice bread that we do. Rice flour (some storebought white, some homeground* brown), tapioca and potato starch. The latter two are sold by Bob’s Red Mill. In Oregon, these are sold by Cash & Carry, considerably cheaper than mail order. Californians might be able to get these through the Smart & Final stores (part of the same group). We get the Xanthan gum in the obscure food aisle at the Kroger affiliate, or some times at Sherm’s Thunderbird. (SW Oregon, he also runs Food4Less in Medford.)

    C&C have the white (and brown) rice flour in stock. We get a 50 pound bag and keep it in an airtight container. We’re just finishing the big bag of Pinto beans; $SPOUSE says “no more big bags”.

    Speaking of Sherm’s, their house brand cheese is quite good, I rate it at the Bandon level. No frills groceries, good food, and decent prices.

    (*) We bought a Kitchenaid mixer when we moved to Oregon. It’s needed some servicing, but the mechanically inclined can find the parts and instructions. It’s actually designed to be repairable. The grinder is a little bit coarse, but Good Enough. Not cheap, but these are going strong after 14 years.

    1. Oh yes, second the recommendation for the Aroma rice cooker. I had to modify the old Rival(?) for altitude, and it would still boil over if not watched like a hawk. We have the small Aroma and it’s set and forget, once we got the water/rice ratio the way we wanted it.

    2. Here in Texas, a complete line of the Bob’s Red Mill items are carried at the Big Lots chain. I cannot for the life of me figure out why…

      1. Bob’s has a good line of gluten free products; without the gluten, you need something to act as the binder, and xanthan gum is usually the preferred choice. Exotica, like sorghum and tapioca flour, are also covered.

        I’m not sure, but my suspicion is that gluten intolerance started to get more prevalent when artisanal breads became a thing. Those use higher gluten wheats, and I think it’s pushed some people over the edge to intolerance. There is the “I’m cool” factor, but for us, it’s eat GF or do without carbs at all (or spend quality time in the hospital).

        There’s a couple of other players in the GF supply market; Arrowhead is/was big, but Bob’s has been expanding a bunch in the past decade.

        Bob’s also has a full line of regular products. It’s never been cost effective to buy mail order from them, but 3 of the food places we shop at keep a line of Bob’s products on hand. Quality is really good, and the prices aren’t terrifying.

      2. Ooh, I can guess!

        Big Lot’s supply chain is that they get the stuff that didn’t sell– Bob’s Red Mill stuff fluctuates a lot, so I bet they have to prepare their orders when they don’t know what is actually being ordered.

        If you’ve got a deal with BigLots to sell at 85% of the usual price, but they only get “whatever is left,” every body wins.

        Grocery store in my home down has an owner who gets the most awesome stuff this way– has the pies they make in Spokane for the best prices in the state, because his order consists of “I buy whatever nobody on the rest of the chain wanted.”

        1. Yes, that’s it exactly. Also how places like TJ Maxx and Ross work for clothing.

          P.S. Going to college in Spokane was when I realized that the reason most kids didn’t like their vegetables was from what they were exposed to. Growing up in the midst of vegetable farming gold (and having a father whose garden kept us in salad all summer long, no lettuce, just everything else) meant that I had a skewed idea of what was available to most people. It was a big disillusionment to see what was in the stores.

      3. Bob’s Mill is at Big Lots in Denver metro also, but the actual items are variable.
        There is usually some kind of contract between suppliers and discounters for “near to sell by date” items, and they are often exclusive (eg, BL is different from Ross is different from Tuesday Morning’s in re vendors).
        I buy Harry & David Truffles at TM for half-price whenever they have them — I like to stock up on the necessities.

    3. Sempio (Korean brand) makes a really good soup soy sauce, its ingredients being water, soy bean, salt. Period. Finding it, on the other hand, might be a bit tricky.

      1. We use San-J Tamari. No wheat. I think I should get the no-salt type, since I seem to be more salt-sensitive than I thought. [sigh]

    4. An acquaintance has real, full-on food allergy (to beef, make up your own comment/quip/joke) and explains to restaurant staff:

      “This is NOT ‘I don’t like it.’ This is ‘There WILL be an ambulance at your door.'”

      1. I’m not sure it was lobster that put me in the ER a few decades ago, but I have no desire to test that hypothesis.

        $SPOUSE has to get out of places like the bread aisle before she stops breathing. My intolerance takes a day or so to manifest, but it makes up for the delay with sheer disgusting symptoms.

        1. A lot of allergy doctors can test your blood for reactions to some of the more common allergens. You might ask them to test for shellfish, just to make sure.

          1. Yes, I had the tests done some years after that incident. IIRC, I’m allergic to oysters, but not other shellfish. Playing the events in memory (about 30 years ago), it could have been something else. I had gone to a sprint car race and with all the crud flying, might have been stung by a wasp and not noticed. (They sold goggles to the spectators, and they were really needed.) Still, it’s not a food I really like, and I’m happy to give it up. Same with oysters.

            My last wasp encounter was 10 years ago, and painful, but not life threatening. I did carry an epi pen for a few years, before the prices rocketed.

  17. Ramen. Every day when I would come home from high school I would have either a bowl of Cheerios or a package of Ramen, modified as follows: 1. one raw egg stirred in at the end of cooking. 2. Remove from heat and add dash of white pepper, dash of sesame oil, dash of soy sauce, and dash of rice wine vinegar. If you want to get fancy, throw in a little spinach or one chopped spring onion. And, yes, of course, use the packet of spices.

    Bone broth. Save carcasses for bone broth, which is full of collagen, and gives you food for brain and bones. You can find the Nourishing Traditions method on line. I find pigs feet at the Spanish super market to ensure the collagen.

  18. Recipe? What’s that?

    Ok, throw a couple scoops (about eight cups) of lentils in the slow cooker. Fill it with water-6 qt. Turn it on high for three hours. After a couple hours, come back. Six cups of brown rice and twelve of water in the pot, boil gently for an hour. Get Grandpa to wash and snap the asparagas-three bunches, currently on sale for $1.29 each, and cook however you like it. To your lentils, a few minutes before dinner, add curry, sliced almonds, dried chopped onion, and raisens. Take the nine-year-old’s portion out before adding raisens because that kid’s weird-he likes cooked grapes but not raisens-and he’s going to pick then out anyway. I’d guess about a half cup each of curry and dried onions, maybe more curry. A couole cups each of almonds and raisens-kids said it needs more raisens.

    We got two meals for ten. No idea what the cost is-I think rice is about $14 for 25# and lentils about $11 for 25#. Except the asperagas. No leftovers there: eleven-year-old finished it off after dessert! (Look, the others are normal food picky. That one . . . if I let him, he’d eat nothing but plain veggies. The entire family looks at him funny.)

    1. That’s the real goal of “learn to cook”– being able to just do something, and it’s edible at the other end.

      But recipes are a good way to have a start, and then you get a “feel” for them if you do it long enough.

  19. Politicians often try to feed themselves on the money that Food Stamps allocate, and inform us they have found out it is impossible to eat nutritious meals on a Food Stamp budget. Here is one example from Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA), who represents Oakland and Berserkeley in Congress. The budget in this example is $4.50 per person per day. Join Members of Congress, Take the #SNAPChallenge

    This morning, I went shopping for the week on the SNAP budget. Getting your budget down to $4.50 a day is complicated. You need to try to make sure you have enough protein, limit your sodium, and find good vegetables. If you have special dietary needs, like diabetes or an allergy, there’s even more to think about.

    Agreed. You need to budget your money carefully. An impulse purchase of $3 for a piece of cake will not do.

    First, I went straight for the crackers. They’re cheap, they last a long time, and they’re portable.

    That was not a cost-effective purchase. I priced Saltines @$1.80/ lb for a store brand. You can purchase a pound of flour @ ~30 cents/lb, or whole wheat flour @ 60 cents per pound for a store brand, and make your own bread. You can purchase a bread machine at a yard sale or CraigsList for $10-$15. ( I got one for $5.) With five minutes preparation, you can have homemade bread much cheaper than purchasing crackers, and also much tastier.

    Next, I find canned tuna , canned peas, and a box to make tuna noodle casserole. You can buy the noodles separately, but the boxes are cheap. But, most of them require butter and milk, two things I don’t have a budget for.

    Canned tuna @ Wal-Mart at $3.20/lb. Why don’t you purchase chicken instead, which can usually be purchased at $1-$1.50/lb? ( I know a Mexican grocery where you can purchase chicken parts for 50 cents/lb.) Similarly, you can save money by cooking from scratch. Packaged stuff is invariably more expensive than cooking from scratch. You can purchase a gallon of milk for around $3, which can last one person a week. That would be 43 cents a day, well within a $4.50 a day budget. (Wal-Mart sells a gallon of milk for around $2.60). Your claim that milk is outside your budget is ludicrous.

    Beyond that, I find eggs with six to a carton, not 12, which is helpful.

    Eggs are a good addition to a lower cost food budget. I eat a dozen eggs a week. I don’t see the point of purchasing only a carton of 6, as eggs last for weeks. If you eat one egg a day, a carton will last about two weeks.

    I made sure to add an apple (the smallest one in the bunch, they’re calculated by the pound), a small onion, and a can of lima beans.

    Why not buy a package of onions? They are usually cheaper that way. At a local store, onions are $1 pound, but only 60 cents a pound in a 3 pound package. I use about 3 pounds of onions a week. Beans are a lot cheaper if you purchase them dry and cook them yourself. Is cooking a skill beyond the capabilities of a member of Congress?

    I try hard to get some more fresh fruit and vegetables, but they’re out of my price range.

    I purchase cabbage @ ~50cents/lb, and incorporate two heads of cabbage a week into my cooking. Anyone who claims that fresh cabbage is beyond the price range of a $4.50 per day food budget is not very competent at planning meals- even if you spend $1/lb for cabbage. Carrots are also a good value. The bigger the package, the cheaper.

    Canned vegetables have too much sodium, but they’re cheap.

    Tomato paste @ Walmart is a better value than fresh tomatoes, with not a lot of salt. Fresh vegetables aren’t beyond your budget- see my cabbage comment.

    Canned fruits have too much sugar, but they’re cheap.

    Fresh fruit purchases are better in-season. For example, grapefruit is a better value from February-April. You can usually find a package of fresh apples or oranges at a good price.

    Will you join us in the SNAP Challenge and add your story?

    There are two basic criticism of your food purchases. The first criticism is that you are not planning to cook from scratch. Poor people are quite capable of cooking tasty, nutritious food from scratch- they have done so for thousands of years. Second, the SNAP allotment is for a month, which means that one can purchase more than $4.50 per day- you just are limited to averaging that for a month. That means that a purchase of a gallon of milk, which I can get for under $3/gallon at Wal-Mart, is a perfectly feasible purchase under the SNAP program.
    I very much doubt that your mother or your grandmothers would have had a problem purchasing and cooking food for a month within an average expenditure of $4.50 (current dollars) per person per day.

    1. Without a bread machine, bread making turns into a time sink. It’s been a while, but two four loaf pan sized loaves took me four hours from start to finish. True, I’m cleaning up the kitchen during rise and cooking times, but it’s still four hours. When I factored in the cost of electricity, I wasn’t beating the cheaper brands of bread.

      OTOH, there’s a reason quick breads were popular. It look a lot less time to make biscuits using baking powder. Here our bread was usually corn bread, which can be a nutritional trap unless it’s first made into hominy. IIRC, you can get this type of meal in the Mexican section, but don’t know how it compares to flour.

      1. Yes, making bread by hand can be a time sink. A bread machine is also good for quick breads. I often use a variation of Sopa Paraguaya. (trans,: Paraguayan soup) .

        The way I do it is to add to an ordinary cornbread recipe. I saute an onion. For seasoning, I add garlic and paprika to the skillet while sauteeing the onion. When cool, add to the cornbread mixture. I add some hot peppers- use as you see fit. (I have a jar of cooked serranos soaking in vinegar.) Add a drained can of corn to the mixture. Cheese if you want.

        For protein punch, some soaked TVP is an option (1/3 cup dry). Soak first. I purchase for $2/lb at a local store., but realize it is usually more expensive.

        1. Cornbread is one of those things that apply to different things, in this case all involving cornmeal.Locally, cornbread is like a thick doily, made with a think corn meal batter and pored on a hot, greased, round, cast iron griddle. The kind that rises and is baked in a pan is called corn pone. However, what we call corn pone my wife calls cornbread.

          My wife and her family like to add sugar. Sweet corn pone just doesn’t take right to me. Some at work put cracklings in it and call it crackling bread. Don’t care for that, either. Just plain cornbread or corn pone for me.

          Supposedly changes in grinding made a difference in it, and how it rises and tastes, and there may actually be period documentation for this. However, once you go seeking stone ground corn meal, it sort of defeats the purpose of low cost cooking. That said, my parents still have some in the freezer that they ground at a neighbor’s mill.

          1. My understanding of what you call corn pone- and what I call corn bread- is that sugar is added in the North, but not in the South. I prefer without sugar.

            For another variation on corn-based stuff, consider tortillas. In the US, they are very thin and rather tasteless. In Guatemala, the tortillas I have eaten in homes are thick and actually taste like corn. I suspect that Mexico is somewhat in-between, though what I remember of tortillas in Mexico is basically the thin tasteless stuff we see in the US.

            1. When it was just $SPOUSE on a gluten-free diet (mine developed, oh well), we used a bread machine. When the power glitched in the middle of a run, the batch went into the garbage and the machine into the trash. We were getting a lot of glitches; still get a few, but the power situation has improved. Still, it isn’t great.

              The standard bread is the rice-based one I mentioned earlier. We’ll do two batches (actually, I’m at the sink cleaning the relevant stuff as we go). Once everything has risen (true yeast bread), it goes into 3 silicone loaf pans. These are keepers; Wilton pans lose their coating too quickly. OTOH, they’re great for small parts in the shop. 🙂

              Looks like for 3 loaves, it takes about 1 hour to get the bowls of dough, maybe a half hour to get them in the oven, and a half hour to slice the bread. The dogs insist on doing a QA check; two paws up.

              That’s the general bread; used for salmon cakes and eggplant parmesan. An almost identical version of this bread works for a thick crust pizza. We normally do a thin crust version.

              My breakfast slice is a 4 flour raisin bread (garbanza-fava, tapioca, sorghum and cornstarch). It’s kind of expensive, but a batch will last 4 weeks. Considering Udi GF plain white bread ranges from $6.00 to $7.00 for a 1 pound loaf, it’s worth it.

              No way we’d do either of these without the Kitchenaid stand mixer. It can be done, but we’re not going to try.

            2. There’s also the question of sweet milk vs buttermilk. Same thing for biscuits.

              1. I’d like to find churn buttermilk, which I’ve had (byproduct of homemade butter from cream) rather than that ‘cultured’ stuff. Infected, say I. $HOUSEMATE disagrees with me. I say that cultured buttermilk cannot go bad (it’s already there) but can only go worse.

          2. Locally, cornbread is like a thick doily, made with a think corn meal batter and pored on a hot, greased, round, cast iron griddle.

            My father would cook some really thin cornmeal-based “pancakes” on a griddle. They were thin and crispy. I don’t believe they had eggs- just cornmeal and milk/water. We usually had them with syrup. For the life of me, I can’t remember what we called it.

          3. The change, which occurred at the same time as the switch from stone grind to steel grind, is that the modern corn meal is the equivalent of white rice – the husk & germ is removed, so it’s far more shelf stable, but it’s also lacking the oil and a lot of the nutrition. When coupled with the standardization of corn breeds, folks complained that it also lost a lot of the flavor.

            I can’t speak to the last, but I can tell you that ground corn I’ve had from Africa was noticeably less sweet and more parched tasting, and it went rancid months before American corn meal would.

      2. Bread machines are wonderful. I got one for five bucks at one of the local thrift stores, back in ’08 (it would’ve been ten bucks, but I got it on half-price day), and I’ve used it off and on ever since. (Back in those days, we’d troll our local thrift stores on a regular pattern for sf/fantasy books to resell at cons and online, but now that books sell so poorly, we just don’t go to the thrift stores as often).

        Most recently, I got given a whole box of finger bananas that were *very* ripe. There’s only so many bananas you can eat in a day before you start getting Issues. So I found myself a bread-machine banana bread recipe off the Internet (had to go with quick bread, since it’s been long enough since I’ve done yeast bread that I’m not sure the yeast is still good) and started making loaves as fast as I could get the bread pan washed at the end of a cycle. I even gave a couple loaves away (one to my dad when we stopped at his place, and one to a friend who gave us crash space at her place on the way to a convention). I took two to meetings of our local science fiction club for the refreshment table, and both times they were big hits. I’ve got one loaf left, and we’ll see if I still have it when next month’s meeting rolls around.

        1. Bananas freeze well for banana bread purposes – they turn black and go mushy when thawed, but since you’re mixing them in anyway, this just means they’re lump-free!

          1. Peel the bananas, mush them up in a ziploc bag, use as soon as you thaw them in bread or smoothies.

            1. Why thaw the bananas before making a smoothie? Put ’em in the blender still frozen with your other ingredients and get a milkshake like consistency.

      3. It takes longer over all, but I’ve had luck with sourdough over a weekend. It’s 20 min here and there, and we wind up with more than we can eat in a week by the end of it. (Still working on portioning, and things to do with stale bread). We were working out a way to do it on week days with only the baking time being a long duration requiring anyone present. (Hand mixing took about 20 min.)

        1. Stale bread ideas. More methods than exact recipes.

          1) Bread Soup. Tomatoes, onion, celery, etc, broth, Italian herbs, cooked until the tomatoes break down some and veg is soft, stir in chunks of stale bread and cook for another couple minutes. Bread breaks down some and thickens the broth but isn’t a solid anymore.

          1.5) cheating bread soup. Jar of spaghetti sauce, jar of broth/bullion, herbs, warm up to serving temp and toss in bread.

          2) Breakfast Casserole/Egg Strata. Eggs, milk, cheese, cooked veg and cooked breakfast meats, stale bread. Let sit for a few hours to overnight in fridge. Poor into greased baking dish and top with a bit more cheese. Bake until eggs are set, it’s golden brown and delicious, and usually it has puffed up from internal steam. I can find my more exact recipe for this if you want but I just eyeball it these days after making it for 30 years 🙂

      4. I bake bread without a bread machine almost every weekend. Throw everything (3 cups flour, 2 Tbl oil, 1 tsp salt; proofed 1 tsp yeast, 1 and bit cups water, 1 Tbl sugar) in the Kitchen-Aid mix for 8 minutes @ 2 (after everything combines; if you start at 2, flour flies everywhere). Set the dough aside, wash the mixing bowl, spray w/oil, put the dough back in, cover w/plastic wrap. Go do something else for 45 to 60 minutes. Uncover, smash it down, recover (depending on what “something else” was, washing hands first is probably a good idea). Go do something else for 45 to 60 minutes. Spray two bread pans, split dough, cover w/oiled plastic wrap. Go do something else for 45 to 60 minutes. Preheat oven w/frying pan in it to 425. Put loaves in oven and throw a handful of ice cubes in the frying pan. Go do something else for 25 minutes.

        The small amount of yeast, second rising, and ice are very important at altitude.

        Hands-on time is about 20 minutes. Yes, bread machines are easier, but I can’t get a decent crumb (that’s the word for texture, right?) in Denver.

    2. Tuna used to be a good go-to cheap meat.

      It isn’t, and you know why?

      Because the Dems insisted on applying all the same restrictions on the US areas that had major tuna canning, and they couldn’t afford to operate anymore. (IIRC, it had to do with how much they were paid, and how they were taxed on benefits like taking a case home under the table but everybody knew, plus some operational stuff.)

      About a third of my parish’s families had at least one economic refugee from that epic bit a-hole action. I can remember tuna being 25c a can when I was a kid, now it’s a good price at under a dollar.

      1. Canned mackerel sells for about $1.80 for a 15 ounce can at Wal-Mart, making it the current low cost canned fish solution. Where I live, Wal-Mart is about the only store that stocks canned mackerel.

              1. Speaking of, I discovered that oni giri CAN be frozen, and microwaved!

                Need to be wrapped totally in seaweed, though, they really crumble.

                Two of my tuna salad riceballs usually take two minutes to warm up; from frozen, three works, and tastes good.

    3. Why not buy a package of onions?

      We both know that she is working hard to shop like a total moron, so that she can “prove” it’s impossible to live on.

      It’s not glamorous, but scrambled eggs are cheap, easy and good for you– and even in the dozen-pack, that’s 80c a dozen. Three bucks for five dozen.

      Ain’t nobody that’s too busy to cook an egg in the microwave– so she’s got to totally ignore it.

        1. Pity the poor staffer who had to go juggle the directives to “Be believable, but make darn sure the bill totals significantly more than $12.”

          Wait, nobody believes that the politician did this shopping themselves, right?

    4. How did she get $4.50 a day? I just looked it up, and the monthly SNAP benefit for a single person is $192/month, or about $6.40/day. That’s a big difference!

      1. Is it just me or is the SNAP benefit intended as supplement to one’s food budget? As in, helping out as opposed to supporting?

        If somebody is entirely dependent on government benefits they’ve got problems greater than food budget.

        1. Yes, SNAP was intended as a supplement.
          For another idiot politician taking the Food Stamp challenge, here is Hizzonah da Mayah uv Feenix. Phoenix Mayor Attempts To Live On A Food Stamp Budget: ‘I’m Tired, And It’s Hard To Focus.’

          By day four, Stanton noted that he was “tired” and “it’s hard to focus” after leaving the house for work without time to scramble eggs or eat a decent breakfast:

          Which is why you are supposed to eat a decent breakfast. Can’t blame SNAP for your inability to function as an adult and eat a decent breakfast. From Hizzonah Da Mayah’s diary:

          “I’m facing a long, hungry day and an even longer night getting dinner on the table, which requires making EVERYTHING from scratch on this budget. It’s only for a week, so I’ve got a decent attitude. If I were doing this with no end in sight, I probably wouldn’t be so pleasant.” :

          Poor boy, having to actually do some of his cooking. At least Hizzonah Da Mayah is aware that survival on Food Stamps requires making things from scratch, a realization which is apparently beyond the capabilities of Congressperson Barbara Lee.

          1. Ayup – I went and looked it up; SNAP stands for Supple-effing-mental Nutrition Assistance Program. Who knew that Supple-effing-mental meant “basic needs” in gummint-speak?

            I don’t even want to get into what “assistance” seems to mean.

          2. The esteemed mayor inexplicably seems not to have heard of that recent innovation that, here at Casa AuricTech, I refer to as “hard-boiled eggs.*” Evidently, Hizzoner has never prepared Easter eggs. Worse yet, he may have prepared Easter eggs without cooking them first. The horror…

            *Technically, what I prepare are steamed eggs. 6 eggs in an electric food steamer takes about 20 minutes to prepare, plus a couple more minutes to cool off under running water. While the first half-dozen are cooling down, the second half-dozen can be cooking in the steamer.

            1. I found, after looking around the interwebs for a way to hard-boil eggs that would allow the shell to come off easily, that steaming them for 12 – 15 minutes does the trick. (At sea level anyway)

        1. Ah! Apparently SNAP is indexed to the cost-of-living. That doesn’t change the main point, though: the amount of money given to people then is equivalent to $6.40/person/day today. I’m really not impressed by politicians and activists whining about how low that is!

          1. One thing to remember about “cost of living” is that the government, in order to lie properly, excludes food and fuel from the inflation rate calculation to obscure the fact that prices for both are rising faster than claimed inflation due to nonsense like the ethanol mandate.

            1. Government statistics, like post-modern journalism, are more about what is concealed than what is revealed.

            2. oh they do include Food and Fuel if they ever go down or hold steady while everything else goes up. Then they don’t give out COLAs because Food And Fuel went down/held steady. Food and Fuel jump in multiples (like when 0bama took office gas was $1.87 average and soon was $3+) and everything else goes up just 2.5% then you get a COLA based on the 2.5%.
              When Gas dropped to $2.50 due to fracking, and food held somewhat steady, and COL supposedly only climbed 2.3% or so, due to people not buying much because economy, no COLA because gas dropped and food held steady.

      2. The $4.50/day, $1.50/meal number comes from the AVERAGE SNAP benefit. The assistance (yes, ASSISTANCE, not “We’ll pay for everything.”) is based on the idea that people will spend SOME of their own money on food. Truly poor get the full $190.

        Politicians and lib-tards trying to shame you use the lower number to make it harder.


        And poor/lower middle class people can STILL beat it. Which is when they start in with “But SODIUM! And SUGAR!”

    5. SNAP Challenge? That’s not a challenge, that’s daily life right now. As much as I dislike having to rely in it, that’s what’s feeding my family right now. Between SNAP, the local food bank, and what the youngest son brings in from his part time job, that’s how our family eats.

      It’s easier than she thinks IF you use your brains instead of assuming that everyone that needs that assistance is an idiot.

      1. Well, y’know, this kind of thing is difficult when you’re out of practice. She should probably have just assigned the task to her chef.

      2. It’s easier than she thinks IF you use your brains instead of assuming that everyone that needs that assistance is an idiot.

        Exactly so. Some years ago in an online discussion, I pointed out that when one does the cooking, it isn’t difficult to eat well- if not opulently- on a SNAP/Food Stamp budget. I got the reply that the poor shouldn’t be expected to cook for themselves. As if the poor have been going to McDonalds or KFC for the last five thousand years. 🙂

        1. If the poor cook for themselves there is grave risk of them learning to become less dependent on Proglodytes, thus denying the mascots who let Progs feel good about themselves. As we proceed in our reading of Thomas Sowell he will explain how Progs require mascots and foster the bad habits which keep them dependent.

          1. I saw it last month. According to that doofus, Food Stamps/SNAP benefits should be increased for the substantial proportion of the population that cannot afford a skillet or a knife.

          2. That’s how this started, with mentioning that fisking on a post about a Larry Sowell book last week. 🙂

      3. Is there a King Foods distribution center in your area? It’s a faith-based organization similar to what Angel Food Ministries and SHARE Foods were in the 90’s and 00’s. You buy a box of food with a preset menu, and all the participants’ money is pooled so they can leverage bulk buying and get everyone food for less. Two weeks after the buying deadline, you go to the church and pick up your box.

        I’ve been missing Angel Food ever since it got closed down (apparently some of the people running it got caught with their hands in the till), and I just found out about King Foods at the Lenten soup supper this past Wednesday (several of our area churches do an interdenominational activity every year at Lent in which six churches take turns doing a soup supper and hosting a church service on Wednesday, except for the Wednesday of Holy Week, since almost all the churches have their own observances that day). I’ve put my money in for the basic box, and I’m looking forward to picking it up.

      1. Speaking of “in your neck of the woods”, there’s apparently a wild green in California referred to as “miner’s lettuce” that is a desirable salad green in Europe and entirely ignored here. Ignored by the most foodie-laden state in the Union, probably because it grows in the foothills naturally and not in the coast. It’s early-growing, laden with vitamin C, still tastes good once it’s flowered, and I’ve had some—it’s very juicy, almost bell pepper in its crunchiness. I like it, but I’ve never even seen the seed for sale here.

        1. If it’s not currently distributed by Big Ag, it’s likely any attempt to market it would result in a flurry of bills declaring the plant to be endangered/protected, or “invasive” and illegal to transport.

          1. Nah, that’s always the claim when various ag groups (or invasive species fighters) try to stop a fad, and then when/if they get to push ahead with the fad it turns out that the plant is insanely invasive and/or destructive, a the twits who pushed for it never have to do anything.

            See also the reaction of neighboring similar growers when one of the “organic means I do no disease or pest control” folks move in, spread well known diseases among the neighbors, then get to walk away without undoing even a fraction of the damage they’ve done, much less paying for it.

  20. I use a pressure cooker and bread machine every week. Very useful. They are not expensive- especially if you purchase them used.

  21. Small Nesco countertop roaster
    Random chunk of cheap meat (eg. pork $1.98/lb.)
    Random veggies, rice, dry bread, or nothing at all
    Onion soup mix and other flavorings
    2 cups water
    300F degrees
    Go away for an hour (or two if the meat was frozen) and it’s food.

    Not all big block cheese is bad. The Cache Valley brand Walmart has in bulk is really good (both flavor and texture, and doesn’t spit a lot of oil when melted), and freezes gracefully for any use. (Sam’s Club used to have good big-block cheese, but recently changed suppliers, and.. yuck. Worse than Costco’s.)

    1. The block cheese is very much a matter of taste– my husband likes Kraft, the kids don’t; my husband and the kids like velveeta, I’d rather go hungry.

      And about half of my slow cooker recipes start out “meat and onion soup mix.”

      1. Need to look into the cost block cheese vs shredded again. Remember when our cheese came from a hoop on the meat counter of a small grocery, purchased by the pound. Cheese = cheddar. That was it. We grated our cheese with a device where you put in the slice and turned the crank. No skinned fingers. OTOH, there was some slight waste.

        Now you can get all kinds. Mozzarella has half the cholesterol as cheddar, and some are about as sharp as mild cheddar. Never considered freezing cheese. Some goes on sale here, and it would be a good way to keep until needed.

        I haven’t had good results with block cheese in the refrigerator. One, after it opened, developed something that caused a gas to build up in the ziplock bag. Never saw that before, and out it went.

          1. Evidently straw particles of hay/straw are what carry the li’l germs that make bubbles in Swiss cheese. As the manufacture became ever more clean… the bubbles started to go away. But stuff ‘evolving’ gas in a sealed refrigerated pack? That’s whole lotta NOPE.

  22. Oh, if you grew up on MJB-brand rice, can’t find it anymore, and wonder why all the plain white rice tastes so bland?

    Their secret was that MJB’s “white rice” was jasmine rice.

    World of difference.

    1. Apparently I have a certain expression when I encounter this …travesty… that looks like rice, has the mouthfeel of rice, and all the flavor of nothing. The first time I encountered the stuff, I complained about the total absence of flavor for DAYS. It shorted out my brain to have something in my mouth, being eaten, that it was identifying as rice, and have no TASTE.

      I tried adding salt, but no, it was ’emptiness and salt.’ I even tried making myself super hungry one day, attempting ‘hunger is the best sauce’ method, and nope, nothing stopped the ‘THIS IS WRONG!’ reaction.

      1. Snort. Giggle. I did a couple of rounds as a temp at a Humongous Insurance Company which has it’s HQ and main campus in San Antonio. And one of the curiosities that I noted during my periods of servitude there … was that the foods in the various cafeterias had no taste. No matter which cafeteria, or what I chose … it all tasted of nothing. It was some kind of food-shaped, food-colored, bland-nothing-taste-basic-protein. I visualized vast tanks of undifferentiated protein, which was squeezed out, and formed to shape, colored and sauced and glopped onto a plate in the fifteen or so cafeterias the whole length of the half-mile-long main campus.
        Only the sandwich concession in a little anteroom (off the basement or first floor, IIRC) had product that tasted of anything other than bland.
        And yes – I either brought lunch, or visited the sandwich concession, after about the third assignment there,

        1. Oh dear God. That sounds horrible. How the hell did those cafeterias stay in business? Were they ever frequented?

          There was this vegetarian restaurant back when I was youner called Bodhi; it served various meat dishes using meat substitutes – at first, we thought it was great; the texture and flavors were no different from lean cuts of meat (like the meat that what you get in Chinese stir-fries) but after a while, the food quality and flavors dropped to … things that looked like appetizing food, but weren’t.

          1. I suspect that the cafeterias were all on contract with the company whose HQ they were in as a ‘benefit’ to the staff with free or subsided meals.

            Of course I’ve seen some very good company cafeterias as well. When I worked at Motorola they had their own food service division that ran the cafeterias and they were open 24/7 at the time as a legacy of the manufacturing lines that we were shutting down at that location and turning into office space. Decent meals at decent prices but the short over cook during breakfast was a wizard. It was fun to watch him juggling 3 or 4 orders at once on the griddle and have each come out perfectly. Man, now I want one of his fried egg and bacon sandwiches made on a fresh herb and cheese bagel…

            1. The later-years elementary and high school private school I went to back in the Philippines had a few management changes in the cafeteria when I was attending (technically, the high school students could go to the college cafeteria or the elementary one) and for a while, I could only buy the hot dogs, as it was the only thing that would be freshly cooked in front of me. But the management changed, and wow, what a change! The college cafeteria rolled out a menu that was dictated and the recipes were by the institution’s main branch (which had a culinary school for business, thus geared to cafeterias) while the elementary one would start cooking midmorning to have everything ready by lunch, while also having prebought baked goods and some other common cooked breakfast foods for students who got to school too early to eat a proper breakfast. The elementary school’s fried chicken was soooooo good, I miss it to this day.

          2. They were, alas. The campus was so large that it took fifteen minutes to get off of it – walk from your office, to the nearest garage, get your car and drive to the nearest vendor of decent comestibles — and then the same to get back in. Such a hassle that I think most people gave in and brought a lunch. I’m still in awe of how they managed to make food so utterly tasteless.

              1. I know. It must be some kind of dark culinary arcane art – to produce food which looks so good – and is essentially flavorless.

                    1. I was figuring on unsalted batter — the effect was a little reminiscent of the results of forgetting salt in the biscuit recipe — but that does help illuminate how they might have gotten the flavor out of the shrimp, as opposed to just canceling it out.

                    2. Be aware that a zinc deficiency, often a result of a bad cold, can cause food to seem tasteless. I learned this when a coworker, responding to a minor complaint by me about tasteless food, asked if I had recently had a cold. She then told how she’d learned about cold stripping out a body’s zinc reserves when she was waitressing and had tossed away a half dozen tomatoes as flavorless before discovering the problem was with her, not the tomatoes.

                      Other things can cause this, including the food being actually tasteless, of course.

                    3. Huh, I wasn’t aware of that.

                      But in that particular case, I’m pretty sure it was the food.

                    4. Reminds me, the “frying” that’s done on a mesh in the oven so the oils in the food drip out– that takes a lot of flavor, too.

  23. Many years ago I was in a job that had seasonal layoffs, usually mid winter. During the layoffs we got basic unemployment checks. At one point I found myself a week away from the next check, all my bills paid, but only $5 left for food. With that $5 I bought a case of tomato soup and two large boxes of Ritz crackers. I then went down to the local gubmint office and because of my unemployed status received a five pound block of very nice cheddar cheese. By the end of the week I was quite tired of soup and crackers and cheese, and ready for a beverage other than water, but I did not go hungry.

    1. They used to sell Gubmit cheddar cheese by the pound in the military commissaries, until the early 1980s. It was quite tasty, and made very nice mac-n-cheese, too.

        1. Ba-dum-Ching! Thank you, thank you, Kevin will be here all week; make sure you tip your waiter, and try the veal!

            1. Me or Kevin? Probably both.
              Government cheese was a thing back in the ’70s, they bought the stuff up by the ton, a Proxmire boondoggle that subsidized Wisconsin dairy farmers. In fairness, some of the best cheese I’ve ever had, and one time they even had real butter. A bit of that melted over popcorn was a most excellent treat.

              1. I grew up in WI. The idea of bad cheese or butter is a foreign concept. Crappy substitutes are another matter. Even if made with casein, fake cheese is still fake and to HELL with it.

              2. Government cheese? As the Blogfather is wont to say …

                They’ll turn us all into beggars ’cause they’re easier to please
                They’re feeding our people that Government Cheese

      1. My Nana was on food assistance, and thus had Government Cheese. But she couldn’t eat it, so she traded it to my parents for stuff she could eat.

  24. Oh and bread, how could I forget bread? Bake my own. Bag of flour (10lb) costs about $8 (I prefer the brand I get at Costco which is about the same price as the NoName brand). Jar of yeast is about $5 and will last months and months.
    1 and 1/3 cup of flour (use about 1/2 a cup depending on the floor)
    1 tbsp of sugar
    1 tsp of salt
    1 tsp of yeast.
    4-5 cups flour (four cups rounded…)
    Mix warm water sugar, salt, yeast. Let yeast bloom. Depending on the temperature of the kitchen I will let it bloom for fifteen minutes to thirty minutes
    Add two tbsp oil (olive or vegetable doesn’t matter, or none at all)
    mix in the flour until all the water is absorbed and start kneading by hand until you get a big lump of thoroughly mixed dough (about fifteen minutes and most intensive part of the process, great tricep workout)
    When kneaded cover with a damp towel and let rise in a warm space (oven works. Turn it on to 150 while kneading and turn off when warm)
    When it doubles in size (may take about an hour or longer) punch down, quick knead and into a non-stick (or greased) bread pan. Cover and let rise again until doubled.
    If in the oven, remove cloth ( I usually put a piece of parchment paper between the dough and clothe to avoid the cloth sticking) turn oven on to 350 and wait about 45 -55 minutes. Remove to cool, after 5 minutes put on a baking rack.
    Most work done is at the beginning with the kneading, everything else is just hurry up and wait.

    Bread maker? space underneath in the cupboards or on the counter that could be used for better items. 🙂

    1. How long did it take you? It was always a four hour saga with me.

      Tinkered with sourdough once. Never could get a good traditional starter – each attempt looked like a science experiment gone terribly wrong. Did do a variation on something called a friendship bread that used store bought yeast and potato flakes as a starter, and stored in the refrigerator. That jar would get a pretty strong hooch on the top. It would always get to the point where it developed a musty odor when baked, and out it would go.

      Was tempted to try salt rising bread, then learned it uses the same bacteria that causes gangrene and pig belly (nasty disease that’s basically gangrene of the gastrointestinal system), and decided I’d pass.

      1. Takes me about four hours, same as you. Part of my weekend routine of cooking and food prep for the week so it’s not like it’s a time sink. Usually while I am waiting for it to rise and stuff I am puttering around with other stuff.

        1. Regarding time sinks … anything that requires hands and no particular mental effort is greatly enhanced by listening to an audiobook. Cooking, clean-up, gardening, yardwork — all can be made much more enjoyable by listening to an audiobook while performing.

          I do recommend it as a form of re-visiting old books, ones where if your attention is momentarily seized there’s scant risk of missing critical plot points.

          1. It’s simply a matter of taking me away from other things I could be doing. If I’m not going to be doing anything productive, it’s not a time sink. If I am, it is.

            When I baked, I preferred to do it from late fall into early spring. After that, it put too much heat into the house. I can outside for the same reason.

        2. BTW, once I was making bread, and was at the final rising stage when I got called out. Put it in the refrigerator and hoped for the best. Several hours later came in late and decided to bake it while I got ready for bed. Turned out okay.

          1. Yeah, done something similar myself. It will still rise in the fridge, just not as fast and it has to be covered to prevent it from drying out. another thing I do is make a batch of bread dough, let it rise once and then cut it into four sections, balling them up, and then wrapping in plastic and tinfoil to freeze. Each round is good for making one thin crust pizza. 🙂
            Use the tomato sauce I make for pizza sauce, toss on stuff with cheese cook at 450 for 15 minutes usually and dinner.

      2. Oh, and I have had the same issue with sourdough. Just can’t get a decent starter or loaf out of what I have tried. Might be the city I am in.

      3. The prepwork for the ‘five minutes a day’ artisan bread thing, has you making enough dough to last for a week, that is mixed and stored in a large food bucket, though apparently you can use a food processor for mixing, then store the bucket in the fridge. It works a treat, but with my family I have no room for the bucket in the fridge. The longer the dough is in the bucket, the more sourdough-y the taste, I’ve found.

  25. I don’t pay a whole lot of mind to cutting costs like I used to, but this is what I have done lately.
    Lunch for the last week and the coming week is a stewed beef from the discount bin at Jacks ($3 something a pound CAB stew meat, iirc 3.49, maybe 3.79 sale priced as well, almost 2lbs worth), stew veggies ($1.25 frozen bag), broth (woodman’s sale .99 a quart), tossed into a 7 qt. slow cooker, Fiesta Seasonings Fajita blend and Pico De Gallo blend (warning, Fiesta uses MSG a lot) with a touch of Old Bay, after 5 hours added coleslaw (cabbage and carrot .99 a bag at Jacks), and after another hour added tortellini (forget the price of it. Beef&cheese filled, cheapest frozen, on sale at Woodman’s iirc small bags of 11oz). So about $1 a serving or less (A pint twist top container holds it for lunch, including eating it just before additions while making it and dinner, I already got 9 servings from it, easily can get 5 more) and I also always eat an orange with lunch (often a bit pricey up here but on sale last week $1.25 a pound or so), and often a small bag of chips or pretzels (buy the 50 pack and they are cheap per bag) and usually an RC ($2.22 a six pack 500ml bottle at Menards) or a Coke (Mexican 500ml .99ea at Woodman’s or regular HFCS infested, on sale at Jack’s in Marinette 3 six packs for $9).
    Will add rice for the coming week. Just got a hankering for rice.

  26. One note about brown rice: for those of us with Type II Diabetes it has a far superior glycemic index, meaning it is far less likely to spike your blood sugar. Texture is easily accustomed to if used for simple “put under main course” purposes. Make it in bulk, use snack baggies to put up and freeze individual portions, lose it in freezer.

    As for quick cheap … big bags of frozen meatballs are handy for protein. Put a serving (generally six if you’re using the half-ounce size) a serving of rice, a frozen vegetable medley (usually onion & pepper mix) in appropriately sized microwave container, add a splash of oriental cooking sauce (such as General Tso’s) or fajita seasoning sauce, zap and eat. Takes longer to cook than prep and scarcely any clean-up required.

    Time and energy permitting, making all items from scratch and putting them up in the freezer swaps time for money.

    1. Being a half-Chinese household, rice here is not optional. Me being borderline type II meant that we all went to brown rice. Use the same amount of water as for white rice, then add a half more (3.5 cups instead of 3, etc.) and cook. The rice will be closer in texture to white, but it tastes and smells even better.

  27. Easy White Chili:
    -White Beans (cannelini or navy beans work well here)**
    -Salsa Verde (about half a cup – it depends on how spicy and citrusy you want your chili. I use a fire roasted salsa that adds a delicious smokiness and stores well for the next round of chili)
    -Chicken Broth
    -Cumin to taste
    – S&P as needed (can also add some cayenne if that’s your thing)

    *Whether you use uncooked or pre-cooked chicken is up to you. Uncooked is best if you plan to make this in a crock pot.
    ** If you’re soaking, I’d say a cup and a half of beans. If you’re using canned, 3 cans should do it. Drain first, of course.

    If you’re usiing raw chicken, place all of your ingredients in your crock pot with chicken on top and start on high heat, stirring occasionally. When chicken is cooked through, remove from chili, shred with two forks, add back to chili and cook on low for another hour, stirring occasionally and adding salt and pepper if needed. If you start it around noon on Sunday, you’ll have dinner ready by about 5:30. When I cook it for my family (four of us), there is enough for a bowl, some seconds, and lunch tomorrow. When I cooked it for myself during my poor days, it was dinner Sunday night, lunch for a full week, and a few bags to put in the freezer. So, about eight meals or so, all for less than $12, and that’s if I had to buy everything on that list.

  28. If it was mentioned and I missed it, I apologize, but where I’m at, a large jar of peanut butter runs about $6 at the most and can be used in a myriad of ways, the very least being a good snack addition. PB + Banana or Apple = breakfast or snack that will keep me full and running for hours. Best part is even with three other people, that jar will easily last a month.

    1. Oooh, peanut butter tortillas, breakfast of champions! (It’s exactly like a peanut butter sandwich, but less likelihood of finding your bread has gone green to blue.)

      1. I stopped buying bread for that reason – couldn’t eat it fast enough by myself. Homemade banana bread was my alternative. it’s surprisingly cost efficient to make and stores well (if you can keep everyone from eating it right away, that is).

    2. Another good thing about peanut butter is that it combines very well with hot peppers, Just like in Szechuan (Sichaun) cooking- and Mexican cooking. When I was working overseas, the only USA food that I really missed was peanut butter.

      1. Peanut Butter can also be used for Indian, Thai, and African dishes. It doesn’t get enough credit for how versatile it is.

        1. We used to put a little honey in a saucer and dip bread in it as a desert and, occasionally, a snack. I think my parents used to use cane syrup, though it has a stronger taste. Left over biscuits with a hole jabbed it it and filled with cane syrup was a common breakfast back in their day.

          1. Blackstrap molasses on thick buttered bread.
            Doesn’t get much better than that, if you’re a kid.
            I could not eat it now.

    3. Real peanut butter, the kind that has one or two ingredients (the second, optional, on being salt) goes well on apples with raisins on top.

  29. To raise protein and lower total fat content in cream soups whose basic ingredients have plenty of their own flavor try using condensed skim milk. (If you must, serve with a small pat of butter to provide the fat flavor.) I found this worked very well with a number of versions of black bean soup.

  30. One meal that my kids love, and I’ve got other family members hooked on is one that created out of then air in a panic. Imagine 4 kids ages 5 – 10 all deciding they’re hungry. Mom’s not home and has the car. I look in the fridge and see that we’ve got some leftover chicken leg quarters, some butter and a container of grated Parmesan cheese. Did I mention that mom was going grocery shopping? I pulled out a bag of egg noodles and created this:

    Parmesan Egg Noodle Stuff (as the kids named it):
    1 bag medium width egg noodles (other sizes or types of noodles works just as well) cooked as directed and drained.
    Leftover chicken chopped (I’ve used other meats and it’s just as good)

    Melt the butter in the empty noodle pot and add spices.
    Return the noodles and coat with the butter/spice mix.
    Add some of the grated Parmesan cheese (to taste, but with my kids it’s usually a cup+).
    Mix well.
    Add in the chopped chicken and then a little more of the grated cheese.
    Mix and serve.

    For variety, you can mix in frozen or canned (drained) veggies. Even making the chicken from scratch, rather than leftovers, it still comes in under $10 for the meal, and it’s good for lunch (or breakfast for the kids) the next day.

  31. Stephanie O’Dea has a website – a Year of Slow Cooking – that is full of slow cooker recipes, and one of her recipe books (More Make it Fast, Cook It Slow) has all the recipes categorized by how much the ingredients cost when she wrote the book up (under $5, under $10, etc.) (She’s a gluten-free household, so the recipes are gluten-free or with notes to make it so.)

    Personally, I have marked up More Make It Fast, Cook It Slow, because I find her recipes a little too sweet, but otherwise it’s been a source of 14? 15? recipes in the standard rotation. (She had small children back when she tested the recipes; the skew to sweet and not too spicy makes perfect sense.)

      1. I know, right? She did a challenge of a year of slow cooking every day (That was when I originally found her), and it was fun to follow along on the flops and the successes. She actually tested & modified recipes before writing the cookbook based on comments from other folks trying it, too.

    1. And for fast and cheap, fried rice. For years, mine turned out in a tasty but terrible mess. The keys to making good fried rice are: 1.) use day-old rice, or at least let the stuff cool completely first. Fresh hot rice mushes into a paste. 2.) cook the scrambled egg first, remove to a plate, add more oil, then cook the veggies in order from slowest-cooking to fastest-cooking, then add the rice and egg in. 3.) Use more oil. Add oil for the egg, oil for the veggies, and you may need a extra oil to coat the rice & keep it from sticking to the pan. It’s okay; fat makes you feel full.

      For vegetables – I use either a bag of frozen veggies ($1.99 when not on sale) or some celery and onion, and other veggies if I have anything left in the fridge – from long shreds of cabbage to small diced bits of carrot. Or both! Depends on how much I’m making.

      These days, given carb sensitivity, I may skip the rice part entirely – or cut up a cauliflower head on the cutting board into rice-sized bits (the food processor is faster and easier if you have one.) When added in about 3-4 minutes before the rice, that’s enough time to cook it into al-dente rice simulation. If you do that, just make sure it doesn’t get crowded in the pan, because it’s going to give off a lot more water. Dumping the stuff currently in the pan in a bowl, adding more oil, and cooking in batches is always an option.

    2. “Sweet and not too spicy” sounds about my speed. The toddler has a significantly higher spice tolerance.

  32. One interesting detail about eating cheap is that powdered milk is now more expensive than fresh milk. It used to be half the price of fresh milk. I used powdered milk in soups, coffee, smoothies, or to make yogurt, which made it palatable

      1. We get powdered nonfat milk on sale (when possible) and use it for breads and pizza dough. We keep it in an airtight container and it’s never gone bad for us. Haven’t had fluid milk in the house since we’ve had houseguests. Um, 2016.

        Fred Meyer (Kroger in the Pac NW) has yogurts (and yogurt-like Carbmaster) as a loss leader; $0.40 for a 6 ounce container. Greek yogurt is considerably more expensive, but I’m not used to it. This is Good Enough.

        1. Greek yogurt is considerably more expensive, but I’m not used to it. This is Good Enough.
          Greek yogurt is more expensive, but a better value than regular yogurt when comparing cents/gram of protein.

          1. I’ll have to look at the numbers. Greek is running (I think) about 2X the price than the CarbMaster stuff we usually have.
            When I’m doing one of my medical trips, Greek is the only yogurt at the hotel’s breakfast bar. I’ll snag one for lunch, too.

            1. Go to an ethnic market specializing in Middle Eastern foods – they generally carry some excellent brands of yogurt. Abali brand is the best – rich and flavorful. It’s the most like what I used to purchase in Greece.

              1. Excuse me ma’am, I’m from rural south central Oregon, what is this “ethnic market*” you speak of? 🙂 🙂 🙂

                We have some Asians (very few Japanese; Tulelake Detention Camp isn’t that far from here and memories linger), but vanishingly small numbers of ME people.

                For yogurt, it’s going to be national or regional brands. I assume Tillamook yogurt is good; I like their cheese, but we usually go for Fred Meyer/Kroger..

                It’s a wider mix west of the Cascades, but my trips over there generally involve medical procedures and followups.

                One of my bosses (interning at a steel products company) was named Ulysses, but that was before most anybody heard of yogurt.

                (*) Mexican mercados don’t count; they’re mainstream.

                1. And here you hit on an interesting point — some options for shopping just plain are not available in regions of the country and the experience shopping at some of the national stores are not the same in all regions.

                  A couple of people mentioned that the vegetables are not particularly nice at their Walmart. I find that our nearest Walmart Greengrocer usually has the best produce.

                  A whole world of less expensive spices, vegetables, herbs and various ‘ethnic’ foods became available in my area when an international mall and grocery. We can often find that the vegetables are better in quality and price there than anywhere else. I haven’t gotten into the habit of going there regularly. May not, it is a little out of my usual travels.

                  1. I saw regional differences when I had to fly back to Chicago for a family emergency. In 1986, November produce in California was good quality, for a so-so price. In Chicago (at a major market), similar items were much poorer quality and more expensive.

                    In 2014, I saw something similar for yogurt. Fred Meyer (Kroger) yogurt was $0.40 for a 6 ounce cup. Nothing special, but decent. Walmart yogurt in Chicago, similar quality, but $0.85. OTOH, the local independent market had decent Clementine mandarins for a good price. One of the better brands, too.

                    Near May 5th, Cash & Carry have bulk spices appropriate to the season. Their house brand is actually quite good for smaller quantities. ($SPOUSE is surprised at how much dried cayenne I use, though fresh cayenne was way too hot for me–so much for growing them. Oops.)

          2. If you have a very fine mesh sieve – or, if you have a spare coffee filter to line your sieve or colander – then making greek yogurt is as simple as adding putting the plain yogurt in the sieve, covering with something so no curious cats can get at it, and letting it sit for an hour so the whey drains out. Since I’m usually using it in a recipe right after, I usually just do this in the sink – if you’re keeping it for a long time after, you might want to do it in the fridge.

            Pioneer woman suggests cheesecloth, thick paper towels, or a clean tea towel, covering the top with same, then stacking a heavy weight on it. Me, I just used a coffee filter and longer time because it’s what I had.

            1. Ah, I’ve run into that as “yogurt cheese”. Made some of my own until life got in the whey.

  33. I’ve got a few cheap and relatively easy recipes that have been working out fairly well the past few months.

    Split Pea soup:

    1 – 16oz pkg of split peas
    about 6oz of mirepoix-style mixed vegetables (onions, carrots, celery), typically from a 12oz frozen bag
    about 4 oz of diced potatoes (frozen, canned, or fresh), if available
    1 or 2 slices of bacon cut into pieces, or about 1.5 oz of bacon bits
    spices to taste (garlic, cayenne pepper, paprika, pepper, etc.)
    9 cups of water

    Toss it all into a stock pot, bring it to a boil, and keep it boiling (not merely simmering) for 40-60 minutes

    Beef Stew:

    About 1 pound of stew beef
    About 16oz of stew vegetables (carrots, celery, potatoes, onions – usually from 32 oz frozen bag)
    Optionally, a small quantity of diced tomatoes or small tomatoes that have been cut in half
    Oil or butter
    Black pepper

    1. Mix flour, pepper, salt, paprika, and garlic in a large bag
    2. Put a little butter or oil into the bottom of a stock pot and turn on the burner
    3. Toss the raw stew meat into the bag, shake the bag to coat the meat.
    4. Place the coated meat into the stock pot and brown the meat.
    5. Add water to stock pot, bring to boil, stirring every few minutes
    6. Add vegetables, return to boil
    7. Simmer for about an hour
    8. If the stew isn’t thick enough, add some flour and simmer for a bit longer, stirring frequently.
    9. Serve by itself in a bowl or on a plate over rice, noodles, or mashed potatoes (quinoa might also be a possibility)

    1. *chuckle*
      About a pound of one and 16oz of the other, huh? What if you get those measurements reversed?

  34. Since I don’t live in the US, I won’t make suggestions based on price. But I’ll share my recipes:

    A common poverty earner back in the Philippines is the ubiquitous lugaw shop – or rice porridge, or congee. A big pot of the stuff is easily made with rice essentially expanded four times over with broth made with cheap chicken necks, or bones. Adding meat, tofu, vegetables, etc as topping, results in varied meals. Tubong lugaw = ‘easy profit from low investment.’

  35. Cream chicken: 1 can cream of chicken soup, mixed with water or milk. Chicken pieces to feed – skin on is cheaper and more filling, but as you like. Salt, pepper, seasonings to taste. Bake @350 for ~45 minutes or until the chicken is done. Serve with chicken rice-a-roni and whatever frozen/canned veggies you like. Also works with cream of mushroom soup.

    Mushroom steak: brown an onion with the cheapest steaks you can find (usually round or chuck, but even those are getting expensive. May work with cube steak, haven’t tried it.) Add 1 can cream of mushroom soup and mix with 1 can water. Season to taste – again, salt, pepper, whatever else sounds good – and simmer for ~30 minutes, flipping the steaks as needed. Serve, as above, with chicken rice-a-roni and veggies.

    Chicken florentine: pound flat sufficient chicken breasts to feed and coat with seasoned panko (or crushed club crackers). Pan fry until breading is golden and the chicken is done. Top with chopped spinach (I would always cook a whole block of it) and shredded mozzarella and cover until the cheese is melted.

    Chicken fettuccine alfredo: cook 1 pkg fettuccine according to pkg directions & drain. Meanwhile, dice ~1lb chicken and season to taste (salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, italian seasoning, and I especially like some red pepper flakes here). Pan-fry until nearly done, then add chopped frozen spinach to the pan and cover. When noodles and meat are done, add meat to noodles and mix over med-low with a jar of alfredo sauce until the sauce is warm.

    I’ve got others, but those are what come immediately to mind.

    1. That is very close to my mother’s default recipe for guests. Her chicken in wine sauce involved chicken parts baked in a bed of rice which included white wine and a creamed soup can. (No, the actual can wasn’t cooked.:) ) It was soo easy and always got rave reviews.

      1. Hm. I like the idea of baking the rice with the chicken, but have a feeling that would get it dubbed “casserole” (and therefore bad) around here. Those first three recipes? Totally stolen from my MIL. 😄

        1. Take the chicken off the rice and put it on a separate plate to serve. Nobody will ever know.
          What happens in the kitchen, stays in the kitchen.

          The rice gets all the flavor from the chicken fat (that’s schmaltz, BTW – it was rendered and used a bread spread in Europe back in the day, being thick and sweet).

          You can do it with pork chops also, but add a can of condensed cream soup to the rice and water, 1 can IIRC — any online recipe site will have a recipe.

        2. My issue with ‘casserole’ is that, despite claims otherwise, it tends to be paired with ‘tuna’. If you like it, fine. To me? Stinky cat food.

  36. Foil meals baked in the oven are pretty easy. Chop some veg, chop some meat, add some seasoning, bake for about 45 minutes, serve over rice.

    Thai curry- go to an Asian grocery, and get a container of curry paste, couple cans of coconut cream, and a bottle of fish sauce. The general method for making curry is to stirfry about two tablespoons of paste in oil until fragrant, then add the meat and cook together for a little bit, then add the coconut cream and heat to a boil, then reduce heat, add veg, and simmer until everything is done. Depending on the type of curry, you may or may not add a couple tablespoons of fish sauce with a teaspoon of sugar with the coconut cream. Serve over rice. It’s a pretty forgiving dish, so feel free to play around.

  37. Potatoes are a simple staple. Wash, then stab a russet a lot with a fork so you have lots of holes. Rub with oil, sprinkle with course salt, and bake directly on a center oven rack at around 220c for 45min-hour, depending on the size. I usually serve it as a side instead of pasta, along with a mix of steamed veggies.

  38. Spaghetti Carbonara

    1 lb. spaghetti (I prefer angel hair pasta – cooks faster.)
    1 onion, diced
    Garlic powder/garlic salt
    Bacon (precooked crumbles fine; omit entirely if budget doesn’t permit – just use butter)
    4 eggs
    1/2 cup parmesan cheese (pregrated is awesome, just keep your salt content in mind)
    black pepper

    1. Start a pot of water boiling to cook the pasta (follow directions on box.)
    2. Dice and cook bacon and onions. If not using bacon, add enough butter to sauté onions.
    3. In bowl, mix eggs, cheese, pepper, and garlic powder/galic salt.
    4. When pasta is cooked, drain, and then add to pan with onions (Or, if your pan is too small, dump the pasta back in the pot and add the onions & all the tasty grease.
    5. Stir to coat, adding more butter if needed (or olive oil, if you have it) so the pasta doesn’t stick to itself. (Better yet, if you know it’s going to be needed, dump the butter in before adding the drained pasta back, so it’s already melting as the pasta hits it.)
    6. Dump the egg cheese mixture in.

    If the pasta has cooled just slightly, the cheese melts and egg doesn’t immediately turn into scrambled eggs, and it’s really creamy. If the pasta is too hot, it’s still tasty. If the pasta is too cold, the egg doesn’t cook to creamy, and the microwave turns it into scrambled egg & pasta that’s still tasty. Serve with some microwaved veggies.

  39. One of the big things with cooking is -ease-. If it isn’t easy, you’re not going to do it.
    Instant Pot. Throw in rice, meat, frozen vegetables and water. Ignore for half an hour. Then eat the nice stew. Feeds four dinner tonight and lunch tomorrow. For when you Just Don’t Feel Like It.

    Personally, I’m lazy. I hate cooking. But I’m cheap too, and I hate wasting money on eating out. So I buy meat and rice at Costco for cheap, I throw it in this Instant Pot thing, and I save a fricking ton of money. A couple weeks of not eating out pays for the pot. Pocket the rest.

    Instant Pot Phantom Grub:
    1/2 cup of white rice
    1 pound or so of whatever meat you have, be it chicken, beef, pork or fish. Frozen, fresh, doesn’t matter.
    1/2 cup frozen peas
    1/2 cup frozen corn
    1 bay leaf
    4 cups of water
    Turn it on and come back when it beeps, let the steam out, and eat.

    You can make it amazing by adding bones, herbs, searing the meat before adding the water, adding mushrooms, onions, shallots etc but you don’t have to. Just the bare minimum will get it done. Don’t like rice? Try potatoes, they work well too.

    Phantom Curry
    As above, but sear your meat with a tablespoon or two of curry powder, olive oil and an onion before putting in the water.

    It isn’t Top Chef, but on a cold day it’ll do.

  40. Totally unrelated to cooking, the Parkland police FINALLY released (let the Miami Herald put some reporters to reviewing them and put up clips) the 911 calls and the officer’s radio transmissions on Thursday; not sure if the radio is edited, and the author seems unaware of the department’s interesting policies, or that there was an off duty Coral Springs cop on site. (which would be the logical place for the description of the shooter to come from, if it’s not in the 911 calls– which it should be, if they have all the 911 calls, and that doesn’t make sense, we know the off duty cop called, in)

    Story states that from the the records, the resource officer was outside of the building when the “fireworks” hit, and doesn’t say anything about the reported stairwell incident or another incident on campus, instead says he took up a location on the south east corner of the building. This also conflicts with the sheriff’s claim that the SRO was in the parking lot.

    Not sure who he’s yelling at, if there weren’t any other officers on campus.

    It also references the video– so at least it still exists, and they’re showing it to some reporters. Or maybe they’re taking the Sheriff’s word on it, with a more critical reading.

    I can’t listen to it because of young ears, and I’m not sure if I trust the reporting, but wanted to get the new information out ASAP, in case anybody wasn’t hitting Instapundit while Sarah’s putting info out.

  41. And now for something completely different …

    Hillary Clinton: Team Trump not ‘recognizing the danger’ of North Korea meeting
    Hillary Clinton said President Trump and his administration are not “recognizing the danger” in holding a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un about denuclearization.

    In a report published by Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad on Saturday, the former secretary of state was quoted saying the State Department was being “eroded” and spoke of the importance of having “experienced diplomats” in the room if and when the talks happen, according to Agence France-Presse.

    Clinton’s comments from the interview in Amsterdam that was published in Dutch, come days after South Korea announced and the White House confirmed that Trump accepted Kim’s invite to meet. Trump has defended the move, saying he believes North Korea will “honor” its commitment to not conduct a missile test until the meeting happens.

    The State Department saw a sizable drop in the number of foreign affairs employees in the first two-thirds of 2017 and still has a number of high-level vacancies. Furthermore, there have been reported instances where top diplomatic officials have been left out of important meetings, like last week when White House adviser and Trump’s son-in-law met with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto without the U.S. ambassador to the country.

    Clinton, who led the State Department under former President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2013, said “[y]ou cannot have diplomacy without diplomats.” She added, “the danger is not being recognized by the Trump government.”

    Clinton has repeatedly been critical of Trump since he defeated her in the 2016 presidential election.
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    Yeah, Hillary, we need diplomats to achieve results like your husband’s 1994 “Agreed Framework” with the Norks and like you and Obama employed to negotiate with Iran. You know, diplomats like the guy you had stationed in Benghazi in 2012!

    1. Hillary giving advice on how to conduct foreign policy is like the management of the Cleveland Browns telling the Eagles how to build a winning football team.

  42. My go-to cookbooks for fast, easy and cheap (raised 5 boys and made many a church supper):
    The I Hate to Cook Book by Peg Bracken
    (old-fashioned now, if you can even get one, but hilarious while you’re working)
    Make-a-mix Cookbook by Karine Eliason
    (homemade mixes for preparing meals ahead)
    A Man, a Can, and a Plan by David Joachim
    (gave one to the boys when they left for college)

    (I have a gazillion other books, but these are old stand-bys).
    This site gives an idea of the Mix book, and some other good information as well:

    1. The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook (1980)*
      The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Three Ancient Cuisines (China Greece Rome) (1990)
      The Complete Book Of Pizza (1980)
      Mable Hoffman’s Crockery Cookery (1995)
      Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbok (2000)

      (* I was wrong about the recipe in the front of this one. It’s my mom’s Chicken Cacciatore. See below 🙂 )

  43. I’m surprised no one has mentioned the many uses of the basic White Sauce aka Béchamel. It’s just using a Roux (aka equal parts butter/oil and flour cooked for a couple minutes to get the raw flour taste out) to thicken milk (whisk milk and Roux together while heating until it thickens and gets a bit bubbly )into a creamy sauce that can turn into many things. Works fine in the microwave as well. 2 tablespoon each flour and butter to one cup milk is a decent ratio, adjust ratio for thicker or thinner as you need.

    Melt in cheese and the French call it a Mornay but I call it great over a baked potato or rice or served over cooked pasta for home made Mac Cheese. I can make the cheese sauce in the time it takes the pasta to come to a boil and cook.

    Make using the fat from browning breakfast sausage, black pepper, and maybe some onion and you have sausage gravy to serve over biscuits.

    Add some herbs (thyme, onion, garlic powder are my standards) and cooked chicken (canned works) and you have a creamy sauce that works great over multiple starches though toast is my go-to as a comfort food.

    Take a bit of the leftover cheese sauce from the Mac cheese and put it on your grilled ham and cheese sandwich to make it a Croques Monsieurs. Topped with a fried egg and it’s a Croques Madame.

    It’s also the basis for that army staple SOS when dried chipped beef is added 😉

    1. “Make using the fat from browning breakfast sausage, black pepper, and maybe some onion and you have sausage gravy to serve over biscuits.”

      Oh, sawmill gravy! Someone starts talking French about sawmill gravy and we suspect city slickers, or worse, whispers Yankees!

      1. Actual question from husband’s relations: “Can she make a roux?”

        Me: *deer in headlights look until I can look it up*
        “Oh. White sauce. Yes, of course- that’s pretty basic, I don’t usually want to dirty a dish just for sauce, but I can do that. Generally prefer to either stew things in a broth or make the drippings into gravy, though.” (His grandmother from New Orleans found that highly acceptable.)

        One of the things a good teacher did when she hijacked a year of sex ed (she taught both years, so she knew it was the exact same material, down to the videos) and turned it into “life skills,” with stuff like how to do laundry, sew on a button, iron clothing, make a white sauce, balance a checkbook and set a formal dinner table.

        1. “One of the things a good teacher did ”
          If I were Education Czar in America, I would insist on every child taking this class, and extend the curriculum to cover basic electric, plumbing, carpentry, and minor car repairs (can’t do much with the computer parts these days).

      2. Born and raised in the Chicago suburbs so yep on both counts 😉 had to teach myself to cook because my mom and grandma were both lousy cooks and mom at least admits it. I took over full time cooking duties for the family when I was a freshman in highschool. Back then most cooking shows on PBS (this was pre Food Network) had the French terms as a basis for their description of things as did a lot of cook books.

        A few more uses for this basic sauce I thought of later. A white sauce is a traditional layer in a lot of lasagna recipes. The cheese sauce variant served over toast (with or without browning under a broiler) is known as Welsh Rarebit though they often add mustard and worcestershire sauce for some extra kick.

        After writing that post this morning I ended up making the cheese sauce variant and serving over rice for lunch. The extra rice I made will reheat nicely with the leftover chicken parmesan from yesterday.

  44. I gotta say, after skimming through a number of the comments here, I’m rather jealous of the prices. 80 cents for a dozen eggs? Cheapest eggs I’ve found here are just under 7 dollars for 30, at Costco. It makes me want to raise chickens again, but doing that here would mean having to adhere to the rules about proper coops, as opposed to the ‘attach a tether to a chook’s leg, nail the other end to the ground and have two boards nailed together on a tall perch for a shelter within reach’ method I used to do. This worked great for the cockerels, kept them from fighting, so I had ongoing genetic diversity in my flock. The rest of the chickens would sleep in my mango tree.


    1. It is probably a loss leader for Walmart, honestly. I only saw it in the last year or so– right after eggs went WAY up because various states put in “free range” laws, which outlawed the prior coops. (Generally, they’re still in coops that, for humans or even something with the IQ of a cat or dog, would be terrible– chickens are chickens, though. It’s just only the big companies could afford to rebuild the entire system.)

      1. …Well, that raises even more questions about why we had [i]incredibly cheap[/i] eggs around here for months. Like dropping below 60 and occasionally below 50c/dozen. Only in some stores — like, the Aldi’s closest to us and the one closest to my MIL, but not the one the next town over.

        Another case of the big ones driving competitors out of business…? :/

        1. Or they can afford to bring in out-of-state producers, or they flipped the bird (heh) to the bigger producers and underwrote their own, or….

          I know that one of Walmart’s tricks is that they come in and become basically the only buyer for multiple small producers. They don’t get as high a price as they would in pure competition, but they don’t have anything left unsold, either. For small producers, that’s very important.

          1. Hm, good points.

            My MIL mentioned hearing there were massive egg surpluses because of some weird miscalculation last year. I was just baffled by the part where it was the same chain like ten or twenty miles apart in some cases and one of them has eggs at less than half the price.

            I mean, I certainly wasn’t complaining. I really like eggs. My brother looked in our fridge once and said “I see you, like Mom, prefer to be prepared if Gaston tries to stop by for breakfast.” But it was weird.

            1. Since the four year old can manage to eat three fried eggs for breakfast, if he decides he’s in the mood to actually eat, I cannot see how having a five dozen pack in the fridge is bad. 🙂

  45. Cheap cornbread meal(s)


    1 package of Jiffy mix @ 2/$1.00 at Dollar General – $0.50
    1 egg @ $1.65/doz. (latest cost) – $0.15
    1/3 cup milk @ $1.00/qt. at Dollar Tree – $0.10

    If you like (I do), add some (just a little dab’ll do ya) finely chopped onion, and/or bell pepper left over from topping below. bake in cake pan to package directions. If you like it a bit sweeter, drizzle with a little honey after baking.


    1 can of cream-style sweetcorn – $0.80 at Dollar Tree
    1/4 lb of bacon @ $2.00/lb. from LDFS* – $0.50
    1/2 medium onion @ $0.80/lb. from LDFS – $0.50
    ½ red bell pepper @ 3/$2.00 from LDFS – $0.35

    Cook bacon ’til it is browned but not crispy. While bacon is frying, chop onion and pepper. Remove bacon and most of bacon grease. Add onion and cook ’til softened, add pepper and cook ’til onion is ‘clear’. While onion is cooking, cut bacon into small pieces. When onion is clear, return bacon to pan and add cream-style corn.. Heat ’til mixture is warm. Season to taste.

    Cut cornbread into four sections and smother with topping. Four portions of tasty treat for @ $0.75 per serving.

    NOTE: Costs are rounded to the nearest nickel for convenience purposes & a little ‘fudge factor’.

    *LDFS is a local discount food store that sells soon-to-be or just past ‘best by’ date items and not-top-pick produce. You can usually find really good deals on food items if you’re not too picky or if you’re going to process the produce right away, but you gotta watch ’em. Forex, the same 24-oz. box of Columbia-brand pasta that Dollar Tree (1-1/2 blocks away) sells for, well, $1.00, LDFS sells for $1.99. Plus, selection varies greatly depending on what’s available.


    BTW – ditto on the non-EV olive oil. Unless I’m dipping bread bits or rolling my own salad dressings (which I don’t), I see no point. Pure O.O. is plenty good for cooking *in* stuff.

  46. Eighty CENTS for a dozen eggs? Dang… even at Grocery Outlet, you’re not going to get a dozen Medium eggs (let alone large) for less than $1.20. Milk is $2.49/gallon for house brands and above $4/gallon for named brand—non-organic. For bread I’m generally getting the long loaves of San Luis Sourdough (few ingredients and really tasty; Trader Joes’ house sourdough is this rebranded.) $4 per long loaf, 2 lbs.

    However, the farmers’ markets around here are often cheaper for produce AND higher quality than the supermarket.

    1. Technically, .79c, HUGE sign right next to the store-brand milk for $2.50; looking online, they’re either listed as “sold only in stores,” or have much higher prices. (Maybe related to…I think it was SNelson who pointed it out…that their delivery grocery doesn’t cover everything they have.) Which would point to them being a loss leader to get folks into the stores.

    2. *smacks self in head*

      It probably helps that poking around can find gas for under $2, rather than California’s “cheapest prices in the state are over $2.80” thing, huh?

      1. Yep. California has a certain blind spot as to secondary effects on things. (And a definite blind spot that the reason people were objecting to the latest gas tax “for the roads” is that previous taxes for road repair have been provably diverted, and even if people don’t know the word “fungible” in regards to the budget, they understand what it means on a practical basis.)

  47. OK, here’s a couple that I like, and shouldn’t be that expensive:

    Pork and red cabbage
    – 1½ kg/3lb 5oz pork shoulder (or a pork loin)
    – 1 rounded tsp black peppercorns
    – 1 tbsp thyme leaves
    – 3 tbsp olive oil
    – 2 onions, chopped
    – 1½ kg red cabbage, finely shredded (about one head works)
    – 2 apples, peeled, cored and cut into eighths
    – 425ml red wine (meh, go with 2 cups – more wine is usually good)
    – 200g pack vacuum-packed chestnuts (I would have to order these from Amazon or something)
    – 2 tbsp cranberry or redcurrant jelly (I was going to use that cranberry stuff in a can, but I found some decent jelly in a jar)

    Heat oven to 350F. Cut the pork into thick slices, about 1″ thick. Coarsely crush the peppercorns and sprinkle over the pork along with the thyme and some salt.
    Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large casserole (stove and rangetop safe, at least 4½ quart), then add the onions and fry until lightly browned. Add the cabbage and stir well, then add the apples and wine and cook until the cabbage starts to soften. Finally, add the chestnuts, 1 tbsp of the jelly, salt and pepper, and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for 5+ mins.
    Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a frying pan, add the pork and fry on both sides until browned, then stir in the remaining tbsp+ of the jelly. Cook for a few mins until the pork is deeply browned and glistening. Arrange the pork over the cabbage. Pour a little boiling water into the frying pan, stir well to lift up all the pan juices, then pour over the pork.
    Cover the pan tightly, then cook in the oven for 1¼-1½ hrs until the pork is very tender.
    (Note: very good without the chestnuts, I have to find the dadgummed chestnuts to see the difference.)

    I love this ham & potato soup recipe. I do it after most holidays where we cook a ham (that would be all of them except Easter).
    Ham bone potato soup

    1 ham bone (for full ham, double the recipe)
    4 cups water
    2 ¼ cup diced potatoes
    2 medium potatoes, halved
    2 ¼ cups ham diced
    1 medium onion, diced
    1+ stalk celery, chopped
    3 cloves garlic, minced
    5 Tbs butter
    5 Tbs flour
    2 cups milk or cream
    ½ tsp mixed or white ground pepper
    ½ tsp black ground pepper

    Boil bone in 4 cups water for 1 hour in a *really* big pot. Remove bone and let cool slightly, scraping meat from bone. Give bone to dog. Dice meat and add to already diced ham.
    Boil halved potatoes until mashable. Remove and mash.
    Put diced potatoes, celery, ham, pepper in pot, bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer.
    While soup is simmering, sauté onion and garlic in ½ butter until soft. Add remaining butter. When butter is melted, add flour and milk to make roux.
    Slowly add mashed potatoes to soup. Add roux to soup. Simmer until thickened.
    Add salt and pepper to taste (other herb as well).

    And my “Chili for 20”. I did this recipe for a church youth band practice (8 kids, handful of adults) and I didn’t have a lot to take home. *waves hand dismissively at chili purists*

    4lb ground beef (or cubed beef)
    3 onions, finely chopped
    2 green peppers, finely chopped
    1 anaheim pepper, finely chopped
    1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
    4 cloves garlic, minced
    2 cans(28oz) tomatoes, Italian style, chopped
    2 cans kidney beans, drained
    2 cans black beans, drained
    3 cans(6oz) tomato paste
    1 cup water
    1 Tbsp salt
    1 Tbsp black pepper
    2-3 bay leaves
    1 tsp cumin
    ½ tsp cinnamon
    3 Tbsp chili powder
    1 tsp cayenne powder
    1 tsp red pepper flakes

    1 jar jalapenos, sliced
    1 jar red pepper flakes
    1 bottle Texas Pete (or whatever you like)
    2 lb “Mexican” cheese, shredded

    Brown beef with onions and peppers. Drain.
    Combine in large bowl. Distribute over as many crockpots as necessary. (Takes 2 minimum.)
    Cover, cook on low for 7 hours.

    The soup and chili freeze well. The pork and cabbage (and my son doesn’t like cabbage, really) didn’t last to be frozen. 🙂

    1. Egad, how could I have forgotten my mom’s Chicken Cacciatore recipe?!?

      2 lbs chicken parts
      2 Tbsp shortening
      1 can Campbell’s tomato soup
      ¼ cup water
      ¼ cup dry red wine or 1 Tbsp vinegar (I *always* use wine)
      2 large cloves of garlic, minced (this translates to 3-4 cloves when I cook)
      1 tsp crushed oregano
      ¼ tsp salt
      ½ cup chopped onion
      In skillet, brown chicken in shortening.
      Pour off fat. Add rest of the ingredients, stirring to mix gently. I usually remove the chicken, put all the other ingredients in the skillet, stir & then out the chicken back in.
      Cover, cook over low heat 45 minutes, stirring now and then. Uncover & cook until sauce thickens.

      That’s exactly as my mother wrote it in the front of the first cookbook she bought me. 🙂

      I actually upped this recipe (a 8lb bag of chicken from WalMart, iirc, was the starting point) and made it for a whole camp of hungry Boy Scouts one afternoon. They were away at an event, so I ran to the store, bought ingredients, came back and lashed a tripod over the fire for a big pot, and set to prepping. When they returned, I had a HUGE pot of chicken cacciatore for them. They loved it – and ate it ALL up.
      And, to go with Foxfier’s theme, it was pretty dang cheap.

      Good thing I just had dinner.

      1. That’s exactly as my mother wrote it in the front of the first cookbook she bought me.
        Well, except for the parentheses about always using wine and more garlic.

        And it’s “put the chicken back in”. Sheesh.

  48. Here’s a fairly easy one and always a hit.
    Unauthentic Carbonara

    6-8 slices of bacon, cooked and cut into bite size pieces (almost free because we raise pigs, about $2.00 in store))
    I pack of long pasta (anything from linguini to angel hair) – maybe $2
    1 egg (also free because we raise chickens, maybe $.10 in a store)
    Parmesan cheese about 1/2-3/4 cup (depends on whether you use pre-grated Parmesan, maybe $2.00 or the gourmet stuff you grate yourself, about $4.00)
    Crean or milk (what? maybe $.50 at most)
    Salt and pepper

    Cook the bacon and reserve.
    Scramble the egg at the bottom of a large bowl.
    Cook the pasta. Drain (reserving some of the water if you want to get fancy) and put the still hot and cooked pasta in the large bowl with the egg; stir it around so that the egg cooks because of the hot pasta. Add a little (1 tbsp) of the cooking water, add a couple of tablespoons of cream or eggs, stir in the bacon and Parmesan, add salt and pepper to taste.

    You can use either Parmesan in a shaker container or, if you’re feeling gourmet, buy hard Parmegiano and grate it (hard work but worth it for the taste).

    Because its mostly pasta its pretty cheap, because of the bacon and cheese it tastes great. And its fast and easy. Never any left-overs. Serves about 6.

  49. Quote: “The quality you can get from a goodwill is acceptable, although you might prefer the slightly higher cost of Walmart just to be sure it will last.”

    Thrift stores often price all pots and pans the same, so if you know what quality looks like and the top brands, you can get items costing $40 and up for just a few dollars and they will last virtually forever.

    One smart move for thrift shopping is to use your smartphone to check out what the item or something comparable is selling for on Amazon. Check out the rating too. Some items in up in thrift stores because they are junk.

    1. Yes – I scored a Chantal pasta pot with insert and lid at a local thrift store – nearly new or near to unused – for fifteen dollars last year. I think when new, the item was priced at well over $100. Yes, I bought into Chantal for my battery of every-day cooking pots and pans some years ago, so I knew what they sold for — and recognized the shape of the lid and enamel finish the instant I laid eyes on them.

      1. We had a lot of rusty cast iron. Number 4 Son set up a hydrolitic bath (I think that’s the right word) using rebar and a big plastic storage tub; positive charge on one bar, negative on the other.
        Sucked that rust right off of them.
        Then he reseasoned everything and had perfect pots.

  50. Just a unique sauce here that got passed to me, great for meatballs over rice and such. The generic version is equal parts grape jelly and ketchup, blended together and used to cook the meatballs in a crockpot or similar; the “name brand” version I was told uses Welch’s grape jelly and Hunt’s ketchup – I used the generic ones and they worked fine. It sound weird but tastes good.

  51. I would say stay away from long grain rice. It really isn’t that good. People buy it because they think that it’s fancy but it really isn’t that good.

  52. I got hungry and went away for awhile.
    This is an unusual cornbread recipe, from the Matador, Texas, Order of the Eastern Star, back in the sixties, in one of those “vanity press” cookbooks that most community and church women’s groups do at least once in their lifetimes.

    1 pkg yeast
    1/4 c lukewarm water
    (soften the yeast in the water)
    scald 1 cup milk and stir in:
    1/3 c shortening
    1/4 c sugar
    1 & 1/2 tsp salt
    1 c cornmeal
    Let cool to lukewarm, add 1 beaten egg,
    then mix in the yeast and 2 c sifted flour (white to start; you can experiment with whole wheat to taste)
    Fill greased muffin tins half full, let rise in warm place around 45 minutes (YMMV).
    Bake at 350 degrees about 20 minutes, until lightly browned.

    And then go to the interwebz and look up the recipe for Angel Biscuits, which were the Big Thing when we took up housekeeping.

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