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good food in a bad economy
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I have a tip I thought I would share that helps stretch ground beef. I buy my beef in bulk, usually when it is at a super cheap price. But, even then, cooking with meat is EXPENSIVE. So, here is what I do to stretch a buck.

When I get home, I immediately cook my ground beef in batches, about two or three pounds at a time. I usually buy it 10 or 20 pounds at a time, so processing all of that meat is time consuming, but worth it in terms of saving money AND time. I usually make hamburger patties and a couple meatloaves out of the bulk meat that I buy. The rest I make into pre-cooked packages for putting into tacos, spaghetti, chili, etc.

Here is the trick: Before I cook up the ground beef, I drop a few carrots, onions, and some celery in the food processor. I grate it pretty fine and then add that to the pan as I am cooking the beef. I’ve been able to stretch ten pounds of meat into almost fifteen using this method. There isn’t any noticable taste difference, especially when you use the ground beef in casseroles, etc. The added bonuses are that it saves time and even more money because when you are stressed, having most of the prep work already done for supper helps reduce the temptation to order take-out or swing through the drive-thru. Also, it sneaks in some vegetables, which is handy if your husband is a very meat and potatoes guy like mine!

I’ve been doing this method for months now and it has saved me so much money and time, I just had to pass it on!

ionracas [userpic]

One of the biggest problems at our house for trying to be frugal but eat well is throwing away unused vegetables. No matter how hard we try to eat everything in time, invariably some delicious food gets overlooked and ends up in the compost bin.

However, I have discovered that those green vegetable storage bags, the ones off of the infomercials, really do work! The technology is that somehow they prevent the ethylene gas that rots the vegetables.

I put all my vegetables into them when I'm putting away groceries, take them out of their original packaging. The vegetables can still rot, but they do so very slowly, and not all at once like they can do if left unwrapped. For instance, if I put unwrapped scallions straight into the crisper, they go all flabby overnight. In the green bags, they last weeks and weeks, even if the outer layer dries out, the inner layers keep growing, and all I do is strip off the older layer and they are perfect! Lettuce lasts for ages as well, I am in the habit of keeping lettuce for salads and sandwiches, it's great to have fresh lettuce all the time. You could make up salad and store it in the bags, or even use them to take salads to work for lunch.

You can wash out the bags and reuse them, so even though they are a little expensive at first, you will get a year out of a box, and it will save you hundreds in not throwing stuff away. I wash out my bags and hang them on the clothesline to dry! Somewhere, my recession-veteran grandma is looking down on me hanging out my washed-out bags, and her heart is full of pride:D

I got the bags when I was in the States in Bed, Bath, and Beyond, but I have noticed that the Kleen-eze catalog sells them, too, if you live in the UK/Ireland.

Blogging Sara [userpic]

I got a bread machine from Goodwill a few weeks ago and have been using it to make bread. I love it!

Does anyone have any tips on finding good deals on bread flour and active yeast? Costco only sells bread flour in 25 lbs, which is way too much for my usage and my tiny kitchen. I just purchased a 5 lb bag of bread flour for $4- good deal or not? How long does active yeast stay good? Apparently Costco has 2 lb bags of active yeast- I think I could swing that.



(ahem) Little MST3K reference there.  Anyway, zucchini are cheap this time of year, but I never used to eat any because the texture just grossed me out.  Here's a cheap, fast recipe that makes a nice light lunch and doesn't feature that mushy, limp zucchini texture.

1. Put a pot of rice on to cook.  Start preparing the zucchini just after you put the rice into the boiling water and cover the pan.

2. For 4 people, take 1 1/2 pounds zucchini.  Rinse, trim off the stems unless they are very tender, and dice the zucchini.  Try to include some skin with each piece.  Zucchini cubes with skin have a better texture than slices IMO.  Also chop the leaves from several stems of parsley if you have any and mince 2 large garlic cloves (or measure out a generous 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder).  Have on hand some salt, ground black pepper, and (an optional touch but very nice) some fresh or dried grated lemon zest.

3. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a wok or lightweight skillet on Medium-High.  This is the expensive part, since you really need a nice virgin olive oil for the flavor (and some in the rice would be good too).  If your budget is tight, buy a small bottle and use sparingly.

4. When the oil is shimmering and fragrant, drop a generous handful of diced zucchini into the wok.  When the pieces have colored up a bit, shove them over to one side with a pancake turner or what have you and drop in another handful.  Continue until all of the zucchini pieces are in the pan.  Saute until golden, with some browned spots.

5. Pour the zucchini into a serving bowl and toss with the parsley, garlic or garlic powder, salt, pepper, and lemon zest.  Serve over the rice.  I need some protein with this dish or I just get hungrier after I eat it.  Deviled eggs would make a nice summer addition, or you could slice some mozzarella (if on sale) and tomatoes (also cheap this time of year) and arrange them on a plate.  Or just pour a tall glass of milk.

6. The leftovers (if any) make an interesting fried rice.  Reduce the amount of oil called for in your fried rice recipe because there is already a lot in the food.  My recipe calls for heating some oil in the wok, scrambling some eggs, setting the eggs aside, heating more oil, and reheating the rice and vegetables before stirring in the scrambled eggs.  I leave out the second batch of oil.  Add a little salt if needed.

ionracas [userpic]

Just a couple of things that I have found to be good money-savers lately.

In case you don't know me, I'm an American expat in Europe, and for some reason European cole slaw is a) hugely expensive and b) kind of disgusting. It comes in tiny little plastic tubs and it's really overpriced considering it's cabbage, carrot, and mayonnaise. And that's all it's made of (maybe a little onion sometimes), it doesn't taste like American coleslaw. I love American cole slaw, so I make my own!

I like the shredded kind, and it's faster. I grate white cabbage and carrot with a regular cheese grater. I add mayonnaise, and then add sugar, vinegar, and celery seed to taste, and toss well. It tastes like the real thing! And it's dirt cheap to make, I even use store brand mayo instead of Hellman's for this, you don't notice. It's great to bring for lunches at work, and you can put it on sandwiches or burgers or whatever.

The other thing I've been making is croutons. I make them with white bread, but you can use any old bread, even buns or whatever's going stale. Cut the bread into cubes, toss in olive oil and salt-free seasoning or whatever kind of spices you like, and toast in the oven, turning once, until golden brown. I make a big batch when I make them, and then they are ready for salads, or for dressing up a tin of soup.

So that's what's cheap at our house lately:)

wynnen [userpic]

I dislike pop, and especially sports drinks, but when I go out hiking in the mountains I like to be cautious and ensure I'm replacing the electrolytes I'm sweating out.

So this is my homemade substitute:

Brew your favourite tea.

Per 1 litre (4 cups) of tea add:
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar (I use honey)
1 tsp lemon juice for flavour (optional)

Mix well & voila! (I like to pop it into a 1-2 litre water bottle and shake it to make sure it's well mixed. And I also like to freeze it in the bottle so I can hike with a cool refreshing drink, will thaw faster than any frozen bottles of water you take due to the salt.)

A few notes:
1) I take usually an equal amount of this and plain water when I'm hiking. If this mixture tastes 'good' to me then I need the electrolytes. When it tastes like nasty, salty tea, it's time to switch back to plain water.

2) I prefer this with an herbal mint tea as I react oddly to caffeine, but it has been fine with green tea, etc. Using a non-decaf green or black tea will add caffeine to it which has the potential to increase your heart rate, so if you are using this while exercising, which already increases your heart rate, you may be better off to stick with non-caffeinated teas.

3) This is a very good drink to give someone who has been vomiting a lot to ensure they are getting some fluids/electrolytes/energy(sugars) even if they aren't keeping down food. It should be alternated with straight water since they may not notice the point where it hits 'yuck'.

4) It's a (tastier) variation on a basic oral rehydration solution recipe that was presented when we were discussing v. cholerae (the bacteria that causes cholera) in class as a treatment in limited conditions that helps.

5) If someone is on a sodium reduced diet, they should check with a doctor (obivously) before drinking significant quatities of this (and Gatorade really).

6) Don't use artificial sugars, and don't significantly increase the amount of sugar. The sugar isn't in there to make it tastier, it's in there to provide the body a small amount of useable energy. The sugar can be left out if it is an issue (i.e. diabetic) for a sports drink, but if used for rehydrating someone who is ill and not eating, it is probably a good thing to still include.

Enjoy, the times I've tried this out on others it has been well received.

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Footnotegirl [userpic]

For when you don't want to make a lot, nor buy something full of things you can't pronounce, now completely made from scratch and yet entirely trashy at the exact same time.

Microwave Brownie in a Mug.Collapse )

catblade [userpic]

A friend of mine made this this last weekend and it is delicious! It also fed 10 and had about 1/2 left, so should have enough for 2-3 people for a week!

Breakfast casserole ingredients:
Eggs (12-16) ($2.00)
Potatoes (5-8?) ($2.50)
Cottage cheese (1 small tub or half a big tub) ($2.50)
cheddar cheese (as much as you want) ($2.00)
Sausage or bacon, cooked (about 1 lb) (optional)
Onions, garlic, pepper or any other spices to taste ($.05-I just add garlic)

Mix it all up! Bake at 350-400 degrees for...(not sure how long) till no longer runny in the middle (stick it with a knife)


Total cost for a week of delicious and tasty breakfasts for 2 people who eat a moderate amount if you don't add meat:

missus moonlight [userpic]

I haven't tried this, but I found the recipe online and it looks great so I thought I'd share. According to the person who posted it, it feeds 4 people for $3.13. Looks like she got some good bargains!

Crockpot Breakfast
16 oz bag of frozen hashbrowns .50 (I found a 32 oz bag for $1)
½ lb. cooked bacon or ham (diced)1.25 (I buy the ham at 2.49/lb)
½ onion .20
½ green pepper .45
¾ c. shredded cheese .38 (I bought a 2 cup bag for $1)
6 eggs .29 (I bought 72 for $3.48)
1/2 c. milk .06
Salt & pepper to taste

Layer frozen hashbrowns on the bottom of crockpot, then bacon (or ham), then onion, green pepper & cheese. Beat eggs, milk salt and pepper. Pour over the crockpot mixture, cover and turn on low. Cook for 10-12 hours.

However, I usually place this as directed above in a casserole dish sprayed with non-stick cooking spray and bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes, until the top is nicely browned and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. (You may need to add a little bit more milk to cover the casserole before it goes in the oven--no more than 1/4 cup.)

This will feed 4 to 6 people. Serve with fruit on the side.

ionracas [userpic]


We weren't always poor. Up until the recession, we used to have *disposable income*. Remember that?

Back in the disposable income days, we used to get whims and buy things. One time we decided it would be great to have an ice cream machine...we made ice cream like four times and it was forgotten. It was only recently that it came back to me that omg we have an ice cream machine!.

We have been eating some pretty craptastic vanilla ice cream from Lidl, it wasn't until we tasted our homemade ice cream that we realised that the Lidl one tasted kind of...savoury. Weird and salty and...meaty. Cheap ice cream is pretty gross. Our ice cream is quick and cheap and easy, but it tastes fresh and natural, a million miles away from the guar gum kind.

omg let's make some ice cream!Collapse )

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