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eating on the cheap!


binkyboots
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Ok, after reading the shopped thread in the uk forum I became increasingly frustrated by the Lidl bashing going on, my post explains our situation, to swiftly recap though....

We are a large family on a very low budget, we live in Edinburgh which can be awfully expensive for quality ingrediants, especially meat. I cook 90% of meals completely from scratch as I've found buying the ingrediants for something is almost always more satisfying, cheaper and more nourishing than buying a ready made version.

I like to buy organic meat whenever we can afford it, the amount of hormones and antibiotics in supermarket meat is just terrifying, also the flavour is so much better in most cases that a little goes much further, a good organic chicken can be used for soup the next day! more than can be said of most supermarket birds.

Organic fruits and veg are lower on my list of priorities, some things I do get, but only if I can find them at a reasonable price.

If we're feeling more hard up than usual I just try to find the best of the rest, even if this involves trekking round a few places.

Meatwise, I got for the cheapest cuts, things that require long, slow cooking, happily that fits around our life best as well, although I stay at home to take care of my husband I do end up running round all day with precious little time for last minute cooking.

Veg, hmm... I'm pretty sure I have much to learn (roasted cauliflower ala egullet being one of the happiest learning curves I've ever had!) we do end up having the same sort of stuff fairly frequently, carrots, turnips, potato (barely counts as veg, lol) sweetcorn, peas and brocoli. We do eat a good salad most nights to make up for the monotony of our cooked veg.

We all love fruit, be it fresh, tinned or dried.

Bread and baked goods, I bake almost all the bread we eat, and most cakes and cookies too, I guess I bake bread almost everday, it becomes a habit fast and nothing makes cheaper meals taste better than good bread and butter, even just with cheese and a salad, it has a magical way of transforming lesser bits of leftovers into a meal.

Well, that's really it, I thought it might be interesting to document this for a week, as much for myself as anything else. All suggestions are welcome, I'm always looking for something new for the family, I fear the day that they realise that braising is not the only way, lol.

In the fridge we have a bag of spinach, and we have potatoes in the veg rack which I think might be pointing to spinach soup (before they go off and make me feel guilty)

We do have some storecupboard stuff, olive oil (from lidls :raz: ), spices (various stuff including a little saffron), pomegranate molasses (uh, no idea when that was bought!), oatmeal, some bread flours, a tin of duck fat, garlic, veg stock cubes and some tinned tomatoes. I do try and use stuff from the cupboards, not always succesfully, lol.

Today was market day at school, from the very nice organic meat stall I bought a piece of horseshoe brisket, a chicken and a pack of lamb and rosemary sausages, these meats should take us right through the week, I say should, it depends how many of us end up at each meal, my sister and her little girl eat with us some nights and not on others. Anyhow, that all came to £19

The chicken I'll most likely cook on Sunday, I usually just roast it plain, bit of lemon and some thyme. Mum likes bread sauce and we almost always have a nearer to stale loaf somewhere in the house.

The brisket I'm undecided on, I've never cooked brisket before, in fact I rarely cook beef, it's just too expensive usually, but the brisket seemed like a bargain.

Tommorow I'm going to make soup and a nice loaf of bread for lunch, my dad's coming to visit and I think my niece might be here too. As for dinner, I have no ideas yet. I have a bag of cooked, plain white rice though, ugh, yeah, not sure what to do with that.

If I can work out how to post some pics I will!

edited for spelling

Edited by binkyboots (log)

Spam in my pantry at home.

Think of expiration, better read the label now.

Spam breakfast, dinner or lunch.

Think about how it's been pre-cooked, wonder if I'll just eat it cold.

wierd al ~ spam

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This is a wonderful idea for a thread. Thank you.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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I try to cook on a budget as well, as a teacher, I just don't make enough to splurge very often.

I don't buy organic anything unless it is as cheap as the regular variety, I have never noticed a change in taste, but maybe that is just me.

I recommend checking out supermarkets for marked down beef. I love Safeway for one reason: they stick $2 off coupons on lots of meat very often, so I can pick up lots of it and stick it in the freezer without spending a fortune. Marked down meat is nothign to be afraid of, and if I end up getting ultra-sick I figure I can always sue Safeway and get a nice settlement (hey, it is the American way ;) ).

Also, canned veggies are your friend. Lots of vegetables stand up very well to canning, they are cheaper than fresh, and last forever.

He don't mix meat and dairy,

He don't eat humble pie,

So sing a miserere

And hang the bastard high!

- Richard Wilbur and John LaTouche from Candide

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I backed you up on the Lidl issue!

Spinach and potatoes screams aloo sag to me - but then again I try to spice EVERYTHING up!

I've never cooked brisket either - As I tend to cook just for myself, and occasionally one other it isn't really the sort of thing I do. I think I have a couple of tempting sounding Simon Hopkinson recipes knocking around somewhere though....

I love animals.

They are delicious.

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great thread binkyboots, I look forward to reading it.

Allthough I am not on a very tight budget foodwise, I do try to shop cheap. I firmly believe that you can eat very well without spending a fortune. In my case, this comes down to eating less meat - so that when I do buy meat, I can buy organic (meat tastes better to me when I know the animal has had a good life).

One thing that is very helpful for cooking on a budget, is time. Time to go around to many different shops to buy things that are good but cheap. Time to take advantage of those vegetables that are on sale, by spending the afternoon preparing them for the freezer.

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I've never cooked brisket either - As I tend  to cook just for myself, and occasionally one other it isn't really the sort of thing I do.

Braised brisket freezes very well. So, even if you are just cooking for 1 or 2 it is worth doing. After cooking refridgerate the whole thing overnight. The next day, remove the layer of fat on top, slice and freeze in packages of 1 or 2 servings (with the gravy) and defrost by throwing a package into the fridge the night or morning before you want to eat it. Slowly reheat in a pan with the lid on.

Even when she is making brisket for a crowd, like for a holiday, my mom tends to cook it ahead and freeze the whole thing. Makes for a less stressed holiday when one of the main dishes is cooked weeks ahead of time.

Now, a non-recipe for beef brisket: In a big pot, add a little oil and brown the brisket on both sides, remove. Add sliced onion, lots of chopped garlic, chunks of carrot, cook for 10 minutes. Add some liquid (beer, reconstituted onions soup mix, canned tomato/tomato sauce/tomato puree/tomato paste and water/ketchup and water -- ginger ale soda with a good squeeze of ketchup or blob of tomato paste with a packet of onion soup mix is a frequent combination used in our family). Put brisket back in. The liquid should come at least halfway up the brisket, but it doesn't need to be covered. Lid on and braise on top of the stove or in the oven on low heat for around 3 hours.

Of course, all of this is very flexible, and you know how to braise things, so that's why I wasn't overly detailed.

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The two food environments i'm familiar with:

US and India: beans and soy chunks are much cheaper

than meat and stretch much further:

e.g. cans of beans such as kidney beans

or red beans or black eyed peas in the US often

run 2 for 1$; and when cooked up, feed my family of 4

for about 2-3 meals. Can't beat that with a stick,

even when you factor in the onions, tomatoes, spices

etc that the recipes call for.

Luckily I know how to cook these very tastily and my

family loves them so I don't have any negative

attitude to deal with :)

But in the UK are beans etc as cheap / cheaper than meat?

If yes, how about using them to substitute / supplement

more expensive meals?

Milagai

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You probably already know about these sites. However I have an elderly friend, now living in Manchester,(lived near me in So.Calif. for many years) on a very limited budget and she has mentioned these sites as being very helpful to her - she and a neighbor in the same situation combine their resources and take turns cooking. She says these have been a great help.

Frugal recipes/uk.

She has said that she particularly enjoyed a couple of the wartime recipes as it reminded her of her childhood and all the "tricks" her mum used to make sure that their family was well fed. She says that the woman could do more with a cheese rind than many cooks could do with a joint.

You are wise to buy whole chickens as after they are roasted and the meat removed, the carcass can go into a pot with the vegetable trimmings, tops, stems, onion roots and skins, to make a stock which can be the base of another meal.

You mention white rice, cooked in stock, then with beans added, you have a good substitute for meat protein as rice and beans are a complete amino acid when combined. You can serve it as a soup or add other vegetables, reduce and thicken the liquid and you have a hearty stew.

My daughter and her family were in Inverness for six months last year and she was surprised at the cost of meat, and often not of great quality or not well trimmed, with a lot of fat and gristle which is really waste.

I think it is wonderfuly that you bake your own bread. I love baking and find it is very satisfying, especially at this time of the year.

By the way, we have had quite a discussion regarding cassoulet on another thread but they involve more expensive ingredients.

This one by Delia is one I have made. I have the cookbook, "Frugal Food" and it included a good many recipes that are filling, nutritious and very, very good.

Edited by andiesenji (log)

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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Thank you for the replys folks (I have recurring internet nightmares where everybody ignores me, eh, too much time online I think)

I do use marked down meats when I can get them, I figure if it smells good it's most likely ok to use.

Coupons I use, but only if they are really things we'll eat, I learned that one after getting married, bought four tins of, chickpeas I think, they lingered in the back of the cupboard for over a year before turning into a chickpea stew/soup that nobody except mum would eat :hmmm:

Carlovski, hoorah! another lidl fan, the other advantage to shopping there is chexking out the occasionaly bizzare special items they're selling, last week we had chainsaws :blink:

The aloo sag sounds interesting, I must google a recipe, we had the spinach as soup today but I still have a half pack.

Chufi, that's exactly our meat theory, for ages we had chicken, three nights, maybe even four a week in a variety of guises, usually thighs or drumsticks (chicken breast being overpriced polystyrene :hmmm: ) we tried an organic chicken, mostly just to see what, if anything, we were missing, it was a revelation, although the chicken wasn't huge it made three meals plus extra stock, the flavour was a million miles from our regular chicken too.

Our other main motivation for trying to stick to organics is my niece, as a family all the women suffer from a hormonal disorder called pcos, it's just an attempt to steer clear of foods that have been pumped full of hormones before it gets to her. A small (and perhaps pointless) effort to protect her from the condition.

Animal welfare is another issue also, we're far happier knowing we aren't (at least whenever we can manage it) perpetuating the awfull conditions that factory farmed animals exist in.

Rachel, thank you, I've been looking at our brisket today wondering what to try, I think I might go with the gingery, tomato theme, sounds very good indeed!

Milagai, in the uk beans are definately cheaper than meat, we do eat a vegetarian meal, twice a week, sometimes more, it's hard to convince my husband that a meal can be eaten that has no meat in it, but he's coming round! also when I cook something like lamb shanks or a beef braise I always throw in a tin of beans just to stretch the meat a little further.

Wow! the delia cassoulet looks fab, I have everything for that except the pancetti, but I think I might be able to spring for a little :smile:

do you think it would matter if I soaked the beans overnight?

And thank you for the links, you've just provided me with a very useful night's reading!

Ok, today did not go at all as planned.

Did make the soup, dad didn't want to eat it though, sheesh, he's pickier than my niece! anyhow, all the more spinachy goodness for the rest of us :raz:

Mike (my husband) isn't eating tonight, he just came home from the hospital yesterday and isn't feeling up to it.

I'm having a cup of miso soup, mum is having the last of the stewed lamb shanks I made on Friday, with the leftover rice from last night.

I've got dough for a batch of flatbreads on rising just now, I'll pop it out in our shed for a cool overnight rise then bake them tommorow. Hmmm, thinking about it, they'd be good with that cassoulet!

I went to real foods today for our monthly dried fruit, grains, nuts, flour and seed shop. Also bought a bottle of juice for Natasha, the lot came to £20, urgh, that best be it for this week. Well, it is, nearly, I need some onions, rice paper, pancetti (or bacon, see what I can scrounge up) and a few tinned things from lidls, tomatoes mainly, the amount of tomatoes we use in a week is hilarious. I love them though.

I make "throw it all in" soup.

two tins of tomatoes

two onions

two cloves of garlic

bay leaf

pinch of sugar or squirt of ketchup

then whatever else you have!

leftover cooked rice

pasta

beans (or all of the above if it's cold out!)

carrot chunks

turnip

shredded cabbage or brussel sprouts

fry the onions till softish, throw in the rest! add water if it needs it. If you use the cabbage dont chuck it at the start or it smells like hospital food.

Spam in my pantry at home.

Think of expiration, better read the label now.

Spam breakfast, dinner or lunch.

Think about how it's been pre-cooked, wonder if I'll just eat it cold.

wierd al ~ spam

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do you think it would matter if I soaked the beans overnight?

You need to review the dried beans thread. But to summarize the most important part: Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil in a heavy pot with a lid (I use a 5 qt Le Creuset). Add 1 tsp salt and 1 lb of beans (checked for rocks & such, NOT SOAKED), return to boil. Put on lid and place in a 250 F oven. If you are going to be further cooking the beans, in a soup or stew, you can take them out after 1 hour, if you want them soft, they'll need at least 1.5 hours.

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ahha!

Thank you, looks like cassoulet tommorow then :wub:

I have tried using dried beans before, but got disheartened when they failed to soften, I think my main mistake were that I used very dried up beans, may have been past their prime, also that I salted them at the start of their cooking time. Time I think to rid myself of my bean cooking demons!

Spam in my pantry at home.

Think of expiration, better read the label now.

Spam breakfast, dinner or lunch.

Think about how it's been pre-cooked, wonder if I'll just eat it cold.

wierd al ~ spam

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This is a wonderful idea for a thread. Thank you.

I completely agree!

As I said in another thread, that when the Food Network came out with Rachel Ray's program, $40 a Day, that I thought they would be better served to do one on $40 a week. I even wrote to them suggesting that for many people $40 was a week's worth of groceries.

I see so many conversations/threads here on upper end cooking, but rarely any threads devoted to this.

Sometimes I have to stretch the same amount of money someone else puts into one of those high end meals, to cover a whole week, or more.

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$40 a day would be living it up! :blink:

I guess we spend, uh, around $60-80 a week, sometimes a little more sometimes much less, depends on the bills and the state of my storecupboard.

Spam in my pantry at home.

Think of expiration, better read the label now.

Spam breakfast, dinner or lunch.

Think about how it's been pre-cooked, wonder if I'll just eat it cold.

wierd al ~ spam

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There have been times in my life when things were tough and I had to get by on very little.

I can remember going to the Italian market and buying the broken pasta they scooped out of the bulk bins before putting in the new batches. It was all kinds of pasta mixed together and they sold it for 10 cents a pound and I would buy as much as I could easily carry.

I would go to the markets early in the morning and buy the dented cans from the basket they had parked near one of the checkout stands. If I bought meat at all it was always in the "past the sell-by date" section. The same with cheese.

I also used to go to the old Carnation dairy plant on Van Nuys Blvd., and buy the big plastic bags of "clean-out" cottage cheese which was the stuff between runs of different types so one might get cottage cheese with chives mixed with the pineapple stuff, the regular and large curd. (That was before the days of "low-fat" stuff.

They sold it in 10 pound buckets for $1.50, for "dog food".

Hey, it may have tasted a little odd at times but it was fresher than anything in the markets.

I don't have to scrimp now, but I still could if I needed to.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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Carcasses are a nice cheap source of stock and premium meat. I can get 12 chicken carcasses for $3, made into stock, thats about 5 months worth of stock and about 1kg of perfectly good breast/thigh meat useful for soups and other dishes that call for chopped chicken breast.

Similarly, with beef bones, the trimmings get used in shepards pies, lasagnas, fried rice etc.

PS: I am a guy.

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Hey, another day that wobbled off course! you get that a lot in our house, lol.

So, no cassoulet, I roasted our chicken though, it was delicious. Fairly plain, a lemon, bunch of herbs, rubbed it with some of the duck fat (which I'm now on a mission to use up), salted and peppered, roasted it till, well till it was done.

We had it with potatoes and corn on the cob, the corn was marked down in sainsburys, noticed it when I went in for onions, rice paper and dog food. Sigh, there goes another £10 :shock:

I also made a pot of soup, tomato, rice, beans and leftover sweetcorn, that's for lunch tommorow along with bread and salad.

Later on, when I got tidied up I finally got around to doing some pickled kumquats, the kumquats were reduced heavily and pickled anything is good in my books! they smell fabulous and the vinegary, syrupy pickling liquid was good enough to lick the spoon :wub:

I have the chicken carcass and a few bit and bobs of meat, the meat will perhaps be shredded into the tomato soup, the carcass I'm going to try again to make soup with. I never end up very happy with my chicken soup/stock, always has a very light flavour and greasy texture. I'm going to review the egullet stocks course to see if I can glean any tips.

Spam in my pantry at home.

Think of expiration, better read the label now.

Spam breakfast, dinner or lunch.

Think about how it's been pre-cooked, wonder if I'll just eat it cold.

wierd al ~ spam

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Thanks for this thread. I, too, am on a tight budget and live where groceries are expensive.

I am sure you know all the things that can be done with beans/lentils/pulses. Rice is good but you can mix things up with other grains like bulgur or barley (and they can be cheap if you buy big bags of them).

Bean soups, hummus, brown rice and lentils, braised lentils with carrots...

The difference for me is, living on my own, I pretty much never cook meat for myself (though I totally understand the family that can't have a meal without meat).

Soups are great, I have them most days for lunch, usually a potage or pureed vege soup.

When making stock, make sure to skim, skim, skim. Also, I save everything for stocks (the green parts of leeks, watercress stems, etc) to give them more flavor.

I use mushrooms often because they add a meatiness to dishes (as does eggplant).

I have a friend who does a lot with eggs, quiches etc, and adding a cracked egg over dishes for more body.

Here's something I just made:

Spinach-Chickpea Curry

onion, sliced

garlic, mined

curry powder, cumin, coriander

chickpeas (canned or cooked from dry)

chopped tomatoes

spinach

Heat some oil in a pan. Saute the onions and garlic until softened, stir in the spices. Add the chickpeas, stirring to combine. Add the chopped tomatoes and any juices. Stir in the spinach, adding more as it wilts. Simmer for ~15 minutes until thickened.

Serve over rice.

You can also add potatoes to this.

Edited by M. Lucia (log)
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MFK Fisher's How To Cook A Wolf is a great read along this theme, published during WWII I think: part practical survival manual, part tempting anecdotes about the meals of easier times.

--Jon

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Another meal I love, fairly economical, is made with bratwurst but any fresh sausage will do.

Figuring one sausage per person as a general rule.

I slice the sausage into rounds or diagonals about 1/4 inch thick, then cook them in a skilled until lightly browned, I then add two or three cups of chopped apples, a little water or apple juice or even cider, cover and allow to cook for about 8-10 minutes until the apples have cooked down a bit.

I then add cooked rice, figuring about 1/2 cup per person - you can also use steamed couscous.

Serve with chutney or relish.

It makes a few sausages go a long way and apples and sausage have a great affinity for each other - the rice fills up the far corners -

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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Along the cassoulet theme: I just remembered a fabulous dish of meat & beans.

Every year for my husbands birthday, I cook a 4 course dinner for about 15 people and try to do it as cheap yet as glamorous as possible. One year I made this stew and everybody raved about it. It is very simple but delicious. I think it is the allspice that gives it an unusual depth of flavour. The recipe is adapted from Jane Grigsons wonderful book Good Things (these quantities are for 6):

200 gr. haricot or other white beans

450 gr. cheap stewing meat, (lamb or beef), cubed

1 large onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

50 gr. butter

1 large tomato, skinned and chopped

2 tablespoons tomatopuree

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice (or more to taste)

salt & pepper

Boil the beans for 30 minutes (don't soak).

Drain.

Preheat the oven to 160 C

Now take a large pot that can go in the oven later.

Fry the onion and garlic gently in the butter for about 10 minutes, turn up the heat and add the meat and brown it. Add tomato, tomatopuree and beans, and enough water to cover. When it is bubbling add salt, pepper and allspice. Cover and cook in the oven until meat and beans are cooked (probably 1 1/2 hours)

Add more seasoning of salt, pepper and allspice if necessary.

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Woah, those all sound great, I may extend this into next week and cook from the recipes suggested here!

Tonight we had the sausages and some mashed potatoes. To go with that I made baked onions with a little cream and cheese, they are to die for, seriously, I think me and those onions could become very good friends.... next time some garlic in there too maybe, but very good just as is, definately didn't taste as cheap as they were (what, $1.50 for enough for four?)

Along with that we had a big bowl of salad, an attempy to soothe my worries over the lack of cooked veggies.

Tommorow is Burns night, normally a very good excuse for haggis, but we're having visitors all day then I babysit at night on Tuesdays so we shall be celebrating on Wednesday instead, or possibly Thursday, just depends when I can get most of my family in the same place, lol.

I think I'll make pizza tommorow, yes, pizza and salad, unless I come up with something better overnight. I'd have to buy some mozzarella, I have some nice ham (from lidls! :raz: ) and all the supplies for making the base and sauce already, so a reasonably cheap dinner.

Spam in my pantry at home.

Think of expiration, better read the label now.

Spam breakfast, dinner or lunch.

Think about how it's been pre-cooked, wonder if I'll just eat it cold.

wierd al ~ spam

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Woah, those all sound great, I may extend this into next week and cook from the recipes suggested here!

I am thinking that this might be one of those threads that would work nicely as an extended thread. I know I get a lot of good ideas here, as well as the dinner thread.

And for me at least, the need to eat well on a strict budget is not likely to go away for the foreseeable future. There must be a lot of eGulleteers that fall into this category as well.

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Woah, those all sound great, I may extend this into next week and cook from the recipes suggested here!

I am thinking that this might be one of those threads that would work nicely as an extended thread. I know I get a lot of good ideas here, as well as the dinner thread.

I agree!

Binkyboots, can you share your recipe for the baked onions?

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A nice ham bone which can usually be had really cheap makes bean, split pea, or lentil soup into something special. Very tasty, filling, and cheap if you use the dried beans.

"Half of cooking is thinking about cooking." ---Michael Roberts

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