I don’t know if this is a thing I continue, but particularly since most of you are hyper-competent people. But it occurred to me I had ONE expertise that is not common.
As I’ve told here several times, due to several things, one of them being that because I was one of the few who made it into university (there was no private at the time, and the places were few, the grades very high to get in) it wasn’t expected that I (as mom would put it) “would ever have my hands in dishsoap”, I was never taught even the rudiments of cooking.
I’d picked up some by virtue of taking extra classes and doing tutoring, which meant that I often came home way after the family had eaten. I was competent to take a seasoned, prepared chicken leg and fry it, for instance. I could make popcorn. I knew how to make tea and coffee. Oh, and I knew how to bake, but Portuguese views of cakes are completely different from the US (they PREFER them dry.)
So on my first day as a married woman, after my husband went to work, I set about looking for stuff to cook, and I literally read the instructions on the back of a pasta package to figure out how to make it soft.
Sure, in the US the joke is that college students survive on ramen noodles. We were living like college students for the first three years of our married life, but here’s the thing: I didn’t even know ramen noodles existed. Also I’d been raised in a tradition that made meals at least two courses and occasional desert necessary. (Which yeah has a ton to do with our weight issues. Never mind.)
Fortunately my SIL in Portugal had anticipated my problems, and got me a very basic cookbook for newlyweds, with pictures. It is now in pieces, which makes finding things very difficult (same as my joy of cooking) but the principles I learned in those first ten years of cooking with as little expense as possible tasty enough meals to keep us out of restaurants most weekends is now in my head.
I can’t use most of it now, because Dan is diabetic and — thanks to many many prednisone courses — I hover on the verge of it. At any rate, carbs and stress are the triggers for my auto-immune attacks and I’ve managed to stay off the pred for a year now and would like to keep it that way.
But there are tricks and work arounds, which I’ll also be glad to share. If you guys are interested, I’ll start doing this on Saturdays and include low-carb work around for recipes.
This is also germane to us right now, because I’m switching from cooking for a family (with two boys/later young men) to cooking for just two late middle aged people, who don’t actually eat as much as they used to. I find in terms of not wasting food (look, the way I was brought up, if you dropped your bread you were supposed to pick it up and kiss it to apologize) and not eating the same thing every day (you know, if I make a roast it lasts forever. Unless we invite the boys and DIL for dinner.)
So I’m also learning tricks and work arounds and ways to do things.
Anyway, if you guys are interested I’ll do this as a feature on Saturdays, and make note of your own contributions in comments.
So, to begin with, some cheap staples:
Eggs- look for them on sale. Seriously. Sometimes they’re 99c a dozen. Sometimes, in my area, they’re less. Yes, you can freeze them, though as whole eggs it tends to burst them. Back in the days of feeding what felt like a horde of males, I’ve been known to put cheap ziplocs (though the cheap twist close bags would work too) into muffin cups, break an egg into them, freeze, seal, and then put a dozen or so in a freezer bag.
Eggs are wonderful stuff, because if you’re otherwise out of most food, you can use very little of other stuff to make a tasty meal from eggs. Omelets souffles and quiches are all cheap –if you get your eggs on sale.
Parmesan in the shakeable packages – It’s not extremely perishable, it’s a good flavoring and it’s additional protein and fat.
Rice – if you can eat carbs, find one of the bulk places or the Asian grocery stores. Get a fifty pound bag of rice. It’s usually fairly cheap. It can be turned into all sorts of things from soups to deserts. And it’s just good filler.
Frozen vegetables – but Sarah, they’re more expensive than fresh. Yeah, they are, but they don’t go bad as quickly. Again, the thing is to watch for sales and large packages. (Again, it is a good idea to freeze them in smaller portions.) We usually have cauli flower and broccoli, green beans, and some kind of mix in the freezer. In our case now it’s mostly because we forgot to buy vegetables, or have been too busy to go to the store. BUT when we were very broke, we used to buy the big cheap bags at Sam’s (we got membership through Dan’s work) and live on it and rice with a little bit of meat…
A little bit of of meat: chicken. No, seriously, chicken. Unfortunately I hate chicken, so I’ve found a million and one ways of disguising it.
The cheapest chicken I’ve found is at Walmart (in our area) and comes in10 lb bags. It’s also all legs and thighs, which means first I need to debone and refreeze most of it (though we also eat legs and thighs, obviously.
The cheapest POULTRY we’ve found is the day after Thanksgiving hitting the local grocery store and buying a couple of the largest turkeys. Then de-bone and slice into various things. Turkey breast fillets make a good substitution for veal fillets, btw, in most dishes. You can also make hamburger, mini roasts, etc out of one turkey. With both kids eating with us, I could get a large turkey to last us 2 or three weeks, depending on what we were eating.
If you’re going to engage in this sort of thing, it might be worth it to buy one of the food sealers where it sucks the air out and seals the food. I was told here years ago that if you use those instead of freezer bags, not only is it cheaper, but you don’t get freezer burned meat. I’ve found it to be right.
Now, how do you do all of this labor intensive stuff if you both work? When we had the boys, I used to cook on Saturday while I was cleaning. Saturday morning was for all the prep, and then I let things marinade/baste/cook while I cleaned. Then let everything cook and freeze a meal for work day. This is harder with only two people/low carb, and I haven’t found my rhythm yet.
Anyway, is this something you guys would be interested in? Both the “We only have x in the pantry, what do we do now?” and “How to prep/cook ahead?” and “How to make this low carb?”
Are you interested? It can become a Saturday feature.
And now I go clean and stuff…. (I still have to enter all the changes into Deep Pink to send to betas.)