Monday, March 09, 2009

Frugal Cooking

The economy is in the crapper and grocery prices have become completely insane. I want to share some of the tips that work for us. I also would LOVE to hear the tips that work for everybody else.

I have cut my grocery bill a lot by using these ideas but I still need help. So I strongly encourage any and all of your ideas.

A tip from Liz ( I wanted to share was to cook from scratch as much as possible and make a double or triple batch for freezing. Having a frozen dinner on hand that you only have to thaw and heat helps eliminate the temptation to grab take out on a busy night.

The author of The Tightwad Gazette recommends freezing your dinners immediately after everyone has eaten and then having leftover night once a week. She also freezes all her vegetables in one container for "stew night."

Check the weekly grocery store sale ads and plan your meals around them. I recently started doing this and it saves me quite a bit of money. It should have occurred to me sooner but I am a bit slow on the uptake at times.

Another thing that has been saving me money is my meat grinder I received for my birthday. I can save two dollars a pound or more by grinding my own beef, pork or chicken. It tastes better too.

My meat grinder hooks up to my kitchen aid but vintage meat grinders abound on eBay. They may not be as fancy but they get the job done.

Saving money on vegetables has been more of a challenge for us since they have gone up so dramatically. Carrots are a staple in our house since they seem to be the last vegetable bargain. As far as other vegetables go, I try to buy what is on sale.

I went to an Asian Market this weekend and was pleasantly surprised at their produce prices. Swiss chard was on sale for thirty cents a pound. Cilantro was thirty cents a bunch. Cabbage was fifty cents a pound. So, if you have an ethnic market, check it out.

Some of our pantry staples are dried beans, lentils, split peas, potatoes, onions, garlic and rice. Sometimes I feel like the Bubba Gump of potatoes - potato soup, twice-baked potatoes, fried potatoes, oven baked french fries...

If your store has a coupon for an item that you want, you can use the store coupon and a manufacturer's coupon for extra savings.

My daughter likes to take granola bars to school so I am trying to make them homemade a lot more. They are cheaper and have the added bonus of no corn syrup in them. I was never a corn syrup fan before and now that I have found out it is filled with mercury, it can stay at the store and out of my pantry.

Now for a few recipes. Feel free to share some of yours and I will publish them.

Peanut Butter Granola Bars

2 tablespoons margarine
1/3 cup natural peanut butter or sun butter
1/3 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup raisins (optional)

Begin by melting the margarine and peanut butter together in a 3-quart saucepan. Add the honey, vanilla and salt. Stir the mixture until it is smooth and hot throughout. It doesn’t need to boil. Add the oats. Stir until the oats are completely coated with the sticky gooey peanut butter mixture. It will be chunky. Turn the mixture into an ungreased cookie sheet, or a large 9 by 13-inch pan. Spread the granola out evenly and bake it at 375° for 10 minutes. It will be brown and crispy. Now remove it from the oven and allow it to cool in the pan. Break it up into pieces after it is cooled. Transfer the granola to a clean coffee can or sealed canister. Add the raisins, if you are using them, when the granola is cool.

If you want a chocolate topping, sprinkle chocolate chips on top after removing granola from the oven. After they melt, spread them over the granola.

Homemade Granola (from the Tightwad Gazette)

3/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup honey
5 cups oatmeal
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
1/2 cup dry milk
3/4 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt

Mix brown sugar, oil, and honey in a saucepan. Heat until the sugar is dissolved. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl except for raisins. Toss dry ingredients with the wet ingredients. Place on a greased cookie sheet and bake at 375 for ten minutes. If adding raisins, put them in the granola after removing from oven. Let cool in pan. Store in an airtight container.

Vegan Pea Soup

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 carrot, chopped (I add four)
1 stalk celery, chopped (I leave this out)
1 small onion, chopped
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 cup yellow split peas
4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan. Saute carrot, onion, celery and curry for about 5 minutes. Add the water, peas and salt. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 45 to 50 minutes, or until very tender.

My carnivore husband LOVES the pea soup. There are no complaints about the lack of meat.

I haven't made the next soup in a while but I plan to make it this week using soy milk and cornstarch instead of cow's milk and flour.

Creamy Broccoli Soup

3 cups vegetable broth (or 3 cups water with vegetable bouillon cubes)
2 cups chopped carrots
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 package (10 ounces) frozen, chopped broccoli
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 cups low-fat milk
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups shredded Swiss cheese (optional)

Heat carrots, celery, onions, vegetable broth, broccoli, salt and pepper to boiling in Dutch oven. Reduce heat. Cover and simmer ten minutes. Remove from heat. Shake milk and flour in tightly covered container. Gradually stir into vegetable mixture. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir one minute. Remove from heat. Makes four servings.

I'd like to share more recipes later, mine and yours. Have a great Monday!


Blogger Ms.L said...

I had nooo idea about mercury in corn syrup! What the hell?!
Those are all good tips and I am going to try those granola bars next pay day. Is that the blog you were telling me about??

10:13 AM  
Blogger Caro said...

Ms. L - I will find that blog for you. I think it was called Clarisse's notebook. Thanks for reminding me. I need to have a post about money saving blogs!

10:34 AM  
Blogger Bearette24 said...

i'm going to try that yellow split pea soup...

11:53 AM  
Blogger Caro said...

Bearette - It is so good. is featuring a spicy curried lentil recipe today. I may have to try that too.

12:04 PM  
Blogger craftydabbler said...

I've been working on all of this. too. One thing I haven't been good at is planning ahead and I've saved so much when I do that. I've also found that writing out a menu for the week keeps me on track, so I don't forget what that sweet potato was for etc.

My biggest downfall are pastries, so if I bake and have some sweet snack at home I won't stop to get a sweet snack elsewhere. Also, only going to the grocery store(s) once a week and just making do if you run out. I've had to ask to borrow an egg and an onion from my neighbor, something I realize no one does anymore. (This will also save on gas)

One other thing I've read is that if you see an ad for something that is a good deal and you go to buy it, only buy that thing. You don't need to browse through the store.

I'm always looking for info like this. Thank you for sharing!

1:45 PM  
Blogger Caro said...

Ooh, Craftyd, those are some good tips too!

12:10 PM  
Blogger saundra said...


Tell me more about the link between corn syrup and mercury. I'd love to read what you read -- very startling. Liked the frugal cooking comments. Although I was careful before, my husband was laid off two weeks ago so now I'm meticulous about menu planning around sales, about shopping sales, using double coupons, etc. I only buy meat and cheese on sale, in large quantities, and freeze in dinner size portions. It saves tons. Good tip about the ethnic markets.

2:04 PM  
Blogger Caro said...

Saundra - Here is a link to the Washington Post article.

9:11 AM  
Blogger Liz said...

the other good thing about making a double or triple batch is dirtying the kitchen one time and getting several meals out of it. :)

7:14 AM  
Blogger Gingers Mom said...

Thanks for the recipes. My kids love granola bars so I have to try that one. You are an amazing woman to do all this stuff from scratch with your hands as full as they are. You rock!

5:46 PM  

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