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kutsu

2009: Eating Really Really Cheap

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Evening all

A growing trend (considering the economy) in the UK is to start looking towards cheaper meals, making the most of the foods available in season, and to bulk cook.

I'm making a special effort to make meat a once or twice a week type of treat, because good meat is expensive and it makes it seem even more special. But i'm struggling for ideas for everyday type food, and could do with a few ideas!

So far, I've enjoyed the obligatory soups (a curried lentil soup especially hit the spot and is made for pennies), as well as a butter bean & chorizo stew, delicious and frugal because of the meat being used a seasoning rather than for protein.

Anyone have suggestions to add for cheap food for hard times?

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Evening all

A growing trend (considering the economy) in the UK is to start looking towards cheaper meals, making the most of the foods available in season, and to bulk cook.

I'm making a special effort to make meat a once or twice a week type of treat, because good meat is expensive and it makes it seem even more special. But I'm struggling for ideas for everyday type food, and could do with a few ideas!

So far, I've enjoyed the obligatory soups (a curried lentil soup especially hit the spot and is made for pennies), as well as a butter bean & chorizo stew, delicious and frugal because of the meat being used a seasoning rather than for protein.

Anyone have suggestions to add for cheap food for hard times?

Pan roasted Pork chops with apple sauce...

Pork is always cheap.. i go to a local butcher as opposed to a supermarket, its usually better quality, cut right from the sub primal, and just better... (SUPPORT LOCAL SMALL MARKETS)

so salt pepper pork chop, sear on stove finish in oven.

Applesauce:

buronoise an apple, 1 for each pork chop.

quarter cup of white wine for each apple.

Honey a table spoon

Maple Syrup a tablespoon

cinnamon a touch

nutmeg a dash

a nub of butter

Sugar and salt to taste.

Apple cider vinegar (optional)

Butter goes in pot, cut apples into butter, brown slightly, add wine, honey maple. Cook it down, stir occasionally but not to much, you want to keep the apples nice little squares. Let the liquid reduce and absorb into the apples, until the liquid in the sauce coats the back of a spoon. Add spices, and sugar and salt and vinegar at the end.

The seasonings are to be tweaked to your tastes, be careful and precise to balance the dish, vinegar to balance the sweetness, cinnamon is bitter so it balances the sweetness as well...

if your lazy serve with rice... if your not find some other form of starch... maybe spetzle...

for spetzle

After you boil the pasta, get a non stick pan, cut dried apricots into burnoise, and get golden raisins,

Butter goes in non stick pan, brown the spetzle, when slightly browned and somewhat crunchy, add apricots and raisins. pull off when the dish is heated.

Plate up should be like.

Spetzle in the middle top right... so middle of the plate but go top left a bit. Pork chop in middle bone facing 10 o clock on top of spetzle but with most of the spetzle coming out from under the pork on the left, apple sauce cascading down the chop at approx 5 o clock.

2 sprigs of chives crossed over the apple facing bone.

or perhaps celery leaves a about 5pc sprinkled around the plate... or just good ole fashioned sliced chives.


**********************************************

I may be in the gutter, but I am still staring at the stars.

**********************************************

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I've gotten even more creative with my slow cooker than I already was before. I scour the meat departments of my local supermarkets, as well as local ethnic grocers, for inexpensive cuts of meat that profit by slow cooking, and then match those with a larger volume of beans and/or vegetables, sometimes sorta-following a recipe, sometimes nearly completely on whim and the contents of the vegetable bin and pantry. Some combos turn out more successful than others, but that's just part of what makes it interesting. :-) So no specific recommendations here, more like a strategy and invitation to experiment.

I do other exercises in stretching a little animal protein with a lot of carbs as well. I have, for instance, worked out a flexible chicken/rice casserole that is adored by the elderly gentleman I take care of, and is so dirt simple I hesitate to call it a recipe--in an deepish ovenproof baking dish, place about a cup of raw rice; then add enough flavorful liquid to just cook the rice if you were doing it by itself in a separate pot; then place pieces of chicken on top (I like bone-in skin-on thighs the best for this); add other seasonings to taste; lid securely and bake in a medium oven until the rice has absorbed all liquid and started to get GBD around the edges (around an hour or so). Optionally take the lid off for the last 15 minutes to let the chicken get GBD too. The rice will be very soft, sort of heading towards risotto land, and the whole thing is total comfort food.

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Anyone have suggestions to add for cheap food for hard times?

Buy whole chickens, freeze parts, make stock.

Buy leeks and arborio rice.

Use stock for leek risotto.

We grow our own leeks, so this is especially cheap for us, and it's quite filling too.

I'm pretty lax about making stock ... throw the carcass in the slow cooker all day, not the best possible stock, but very easy.

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Buy large bone in shoulder and blade roasts in pork and beef. They are cheaper by far than the individual cuts or roasts from the loins and legs. Within those roasts are prime grilling muscle groups, braising muscle groups and trim that is great for soups. For instance with a large blade roast you get the muscles on the inside of the blade which are great grilling steaks and the tougher muscles on the outside for braising, pot roasts etc. The bones can then be used for stocks and soups.

Blade and shoulder cuts are normally half the price of prime cuts even though a blade cut still contains some of the muscle groups that command the premium prices.

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Pork (and ham) hocks.

Delicious long slow braises.

Ideal with beans

Pork belly ditto

The pressure cooker is your friend.

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We’re broke. I’m unemployed. We’ve never eaten high off the wild boar, gone to restaurants except through the kindness of friends, family and the occasional foray to an Italian Beef joint. (We’ve since learned to make our own Italian Beef.) We make our pizza, bread, yogurt, pulled pork. Our beef purchases amounts to ground and chuck-eye steaks.

We’re living in an economy almost as bad as my great-grandmother’s in the 30’s, or in current privileged Western poverty. I’m doing some thinking about getting more color, taste and flavor into our 2009 meals at a yet cheaper price point.

I can’t give up wine.

Anyone here in the same situation? Any ideas about making fresh food for bad times, with variety?

I'd love your ideas, and I know you have many.

In the end it may be all about soup.


Edited by maggiethecat (log)

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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If need be, I think I could survive very well on rice, beans, Tabasco sauce and jug wine.


-- Jeff

"I don't care to belong to a club that accepts people like me as members." -- Groucho Marx

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If need be, I think I could survive very well on rice, beans, Tabasco sauce and jug wine.

Me too. Some pseudo "Mexicali Rice" with beans, tomatoes, frozen corn, peppers cheese and a six pack of PBR. A buck 25 for 2.

Keep em' coming.


Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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Yes, soups and stews. For some variety, I make a large quantity of a base soup or stew to which can be added different starches -- pasta, potato, rice. Freeze packets of the base, thaw and add the starch of the day. Three different bases (chicken, beef and pork -- each with a different combination of ingredients) provide nine varieties.

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Not liking starchy legume and grain type meals nor peanut butter, I'd have to go with eggs as my choice of protein. You could do eggs 365 ways, I'm sure.

Eggs are also good for extending meat and other salads. One of my favorites--an exception to my non-starchy rule--is rinsed and drained canned kidney beans combined with hard cooked chopped eggs, a bit of celery, onion, and pickle relish. I like a bit of mayo as a dressing, but V & O is good also. Use lots of egg in your fried rice, and I think bacon is a great seasoning. Spanish Rice and Jambalaya are also hearty rice dishes with not too much meat required.

Cabbage is good and cheap, as a vegetable, casserole, soup or cole slaw. I often have a vegetable casserole as a main dish: white sauce (or cheese or cream or supreme) with a cooked vegetable, topped with buttered crumbs or cheese. Asparagus and green beans are my favorites, broccoli and cauliflower good, also canned tomatoes with brown sugar and croutons. Again, add eggs for protein, to all but the tomatoes.

I hope you got one of those cheap turkeys over the holidays. I've been known to get around 40 servings from a 20 pound bird via re-heated leftovers, cold sandwiches, soup and a couple of casseroles of turkey tetrazzini. Occasionally, there's turkey in BBQ sauce or Hot Browns. Chicken thighs are a great buy.

Fruits and vegetables are always a budget buster. Bags of oranges are good this time of year, and I think winter squashes are pretty cheap.

French Onion soup and homemade bread come to mind. Baked potatoes with sauteed vegetables mixed in. Scalloped potatoes with bits of ham and cheese. Mac and cheese. Tuna. Not really creative stuff, but I'm thinking survival here.

It's well past my bedtime, but I've made myself hungry. Will think more on this later.

Regards and good luck.


Ruth Dondanville aka "ruthcooks"

“Are you making a statement, or are you making dinner?” Mario Batali

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Dearest Maggie:

Sorry to hear of your unemployment. In this economy, there but for the Grace of God, go I...

Rest assured that there are fine box wines to be had. The occasional foray into "off-label" spirits will be rewarded by feelings of calm and warmth. As one who has often had to deal with making do, I've learned that it isn't the quality of hooch in your cup, but the quality of the folks that you're clinking those cups with that matters most. :smile:

Stick with ethnic foods and ethnic markets to nourish your belly and soul. You should be able to do so frugally and well.

Best wishes for a happy and prosperous 2009. For you and the rest of us as well.


Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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Maggie, I am so sorry to hear that. I was made redundant the week before Christmas, so I do understand (to an extent) how you feel.

The good news is you can eat pretty well with minimum expense if you try, especially if you know how to cook (which you do). It sounds like you are doing so much already.

Be flexible, creative cooking leads to much less waste.

Bulk out meat with legumes. I have added lentils to Japanese curry with minced beef and it is surprisingly good.

Chicken on the bone is usually cheaper and tastes a lot better.

Buy within your seasons. A tomato in the middle of winter is unlikely to yield a good result or be the most cost effective item available.

Grow some herbs and/or lettuce (assuming you can with your climate)

Soups/stews really are going to work well for you, especially while it's cold.

Freeze your bread to make croutons or breadcrumbs.

Use your veggie scraps to make veggie stock. It is really nice to use in soups but also risottos.

Shop around. In Australia, there is a huge price differential between suburbs and sometimes is worth the petrol to go further afield. Not sure if the same thing applies to you though.

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I´ve said this on other threads, but to me this is still the best tip for economizing: shop in your own pantry/fridge/freezer. It´s amazing how many meals you can make from what you already have. Don´t go to the store, not even for 1 item. I find that if I go to the store for ´just a pack of butter and a pound of beef´ I´ll end up will all sorts of other things in my cart, and I end up spending way more than I wanted to.

When I go shopping for the weekend, I only plan Saturday´s dinner. I know that without buying anything in particular for Sunday, I´ll be able to make a great dinner that day from what I still have (and most of the time, on Monday too!)


Edited by Chufi (log)

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The Eating on the Cheap topic is a good 'un.

In Japan, dollar shops sell small, often pre-cut packs of vegetables, and these are really a better buy than whole vegetables for one or two people...but not for a bigger family.

On the other hand, with a family of 4 or sometimes 5, including 2 teenage boys, I'm finding that options such as re-using vegetable scraps or peels work much better than they used to - I accumulate scraps fast enough to use them while they are still fresh and tasty. Otherwise, I think they'd have to go in the freezer to accumulate.

Sweet potato peels: sweet potatoes cook best when peeled thickly anyway. If you scrub them well, the julienned peels can be deep-fried and served salted or herbed like french fries; or even fried, drained, and then quickly caramelized Chinese style.

About twice a week the finely chopped vegetable scraps go in with raw brown rice to cook, or with some green onion tops for fried rice, or even cooked into a loaf of bread (especially carrot peels). If they are fried gently first, they go well in dry curries (I get enough finely minced vegetable scraps to double the volume of meat) or soupy dishes - but they can taste earthy and rank in watery dishes without that initial frying.

If you bake your own bread, it is really worth collecting the crumbs! How about herby crumbed cheese on toast for a true double-take discount delight?

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Oh yes, pull out your pressure cooker! It really dents my gas bill, does away with the "I forgot to soak them" excuses with dried beans, and I can't get over how clear the stock is when I make chicken carcass stock in the pressure cooker. Also makes better pulled pork than any other method I know.

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Maggie,

If you have an Asian Supermarket nearby hie thee hither! Take the time to wander through and compare prices with those you pay currently. Often I find their fresh produce is much fresher and much cheaper than in the local supermarkets and their meats are also much lower in price. Unfortunately it's a bit of hike to my nearest Asian store otherwise I'd be doing a lot more of my shopping there.


Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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Lamb stew. It's whatever inexpensive lamb you can find (often I'll find a couple of chops in the reduced bin at the supermarket), a couple of potatoes and onions and a bit of chicken stock. Served with some mint sauce and a nice loaf of homemade bread - doesn't get any better (or cheaper)! This one will give you taste and flavour - colour leaves a bit to be desired!

I also make a cabbage soup that makes a huge batch for just a couple of bucks. It's just a bit of ground beef, some veg and a bunch of shredded cabbage - one of those recipes that so much more than the sum of it's parts.

The Baked Potato soup is tasty and thrifty too. The fried bacon and old cheddar is minimal - not necessary, but still a nice addition.

If any of them strike your fancy - let me know and I'll e-mail the recipes from mastercook.


Edited by Kerry Beal (log)

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Fejoida, pork and bean stew, from Brasil is a superb way to make a tasty meal from beans, cheap pork cuts, rice and kale. I am sure there is a thread on egullet about making it and you can make a lot of the stew at a time and freeze it in portions. This can be served with fresh orange salad and chilli that adds a lot of colour to the fairly brown stew. It uses lots of cheap cuts of pork, including trotters and ears if you want!

I would make my own fresh egg pasta as this can be quite expensive to buy compared to straight dried pasta, and it can make a good meal with a simple vegetable sauce. You can make those different flavours like spinach and know they have good stuff in them. Home made ravioli can also be fun if you dont mind fiddly tasks.

Vegetable tagines (lots of root vegetables) with cous cous is good in winter as the warm spices really change dull vegetables into something else and this can look pretty colourful too.

Those are my favourite ways to eat carefully, hope some of them appeal.

All the best Maggie

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Hocks and trotters are cheap and sometimes free and are good eating..

Using a haybox (or an insulated picnic box) cuts down the fuel costs

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Hocks and trotters are cheap and sometimes free and are good eating..

Using a haybox (or an insulated picnic box) cuts down the fuel costs

Yep. I used pulled pork hocks for an app for a high-end dinner I catered and they loved it. Thought they were eating "high on the hog" when, in truth, they were almost as low on the hog as you can get. :biggrin: Lot's o' flavor in those cheap bits.


It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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When buying meat, think about low and slow cooking. Chuck roasts and pork shoulders are cheap around here, and you can shred the meat and use it in a billion other dishes - stretching it with eggs, potatoes, grains, beans, pasta, etc. Also, stock up on the turkeys and bone-in hams while they are on sale for the same purpose, and use the bones (and veggie scraps) to make stocks.

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There's not much I can tell you about cooking, I think. I just wanted to send good energy your way.

And like I said, you already know this, but I think "poor people" cooking can be much, much healthier. Maybe if you can look at it as the year of choosing simplicity instead of the year you're FORCED to cut back might make it more palatable. (Please don't think I'm lecturing, I'm not, I'm suggesting to you and reinforcing for myself!)


“Don't kid yourself, Jimmy. If a cow ever got the chance, he'd eat you and everyone you care about!”

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