Friday, June 19, 2009

Frugal Cooking and the Fighting Foreclosure Kitchen

I got a couple of comments on my last post about grocery shopping with the envelope system that inspired me to write a little bit more about how I shop and what I eat.

From Miss M of M is For Money:

Wow, we spend way more on groceries. LA is just so expensive, it's nearly impossible to escape for less than $100. Of course Mr M is pretty well fed ;)
From Kristy of Master Your Card:
...I'd like to know what you got for $40, though! LOL....
Ladies, this post is for you!

To give you some examples, I am going to write about just a couple of meals that I've made while up at my cabin recently and how I did my grocery shopping for them. The first dish I made was this Black Beans and Rice Recipe. I didn't see any recipes in my cookbooks that particularly caught my eye and I wanted to use up some items from the cupboards, so I went searching on the net for something that would work. This one from Recipezaar sounded tasty and had good ratings. ( I was quite happy with the results too!)

Black Beans and Rice Ingredients:

Olive Oil - I save on olive oil by buying it from a local Middle Eastern store. The quality is fantastic (it really tastes of olives, which I love) and the prices are much better than in my local megamart.

Onion - I had onions in the pantry already... actually, I should say I had them in the basement. I buy bagged onions to keep costs low and keep them in a large foil lined cardboard tray, (with plenty of air circulation between them,) on a shelf in the basement. Light and heat is what makes onions sprout and go bad. I have found that since I started storing them down in basement, I have very little spoilage.

Garlic - I had a bulb already, however, soon I will be having LOTS of garlic. I planted a ton of it last October. I can't wait!

Brown Rice - This was another pantry item. I had a half a bag, which was more than enough for this recipe.

Chicken broth - I make my own! This costs absolutely nothing to make. I make it in big batches and then freeze it for when I need it.

Tomatoes - This was part of my farmer's market trip. I found a vendor who had baskets of "seconds" for sale for $1.00. I purchased a small basket of Roma tomatoes and one of green peppers. All had small puncture spots where they were going soft, but I knew I was going to use them right away and could cut out the good sections. In fact, I had plenty left so that I could use them for many more meals. (More on that later.)

Black Beans - While I do occasionally buy black beans in cans, I much prefer to cook my own from scratch. This was the whole reason I was looking for a black beans and rice recipe - because I knew I had a opened bag of bulk black beans in the pantry that I wanted to use up.

Red Pepper - Instead of using a red bell pepper, I used one of the green peppers from above with some cayenne pepper.

Cumin - I buy all my spices in bulk, mostly from Penzy's. You can save a lot of money that way. I just reuse the glass jars or occasionally re-purpose another jar and make my own spice jar. I find that ounce per ounce Penzy's routinely beats my grocery store in price, and the quality is far superior.

Curry powder - Again, I make my own. There are lots of recipes out there to make it. I use one from Mark Bittman's cookbook. I do this more because it is fun than for the economical aspect.

Cilantro - I am growing cilantro in my garden right now, but it was not quite big enough to give me enough for this recipe. Instead, I bought a flat leaf parsley plant for $2.00 at the farmer's market. I needed the parsley for another recipe anyway, and by buying a plant I can use it all summer long - rather than a buying a cut bunch at the store for $1.99. The taste was different than cilantro, of course, but still really good.

But don't go thinking it is all beans and rice over here at Fighting Foreclosure, let me give you another example...

I also made marinated Middle Eastern shish kabobs with rice pilaf, hummus and a yogurt mint sauce. Let's take a look at that, shall we? I don't have a link to the recipe, but again, all these came from Mark Bittman's The Best Recipes of the World cookbook.

Kabob Ingredients:

Lamb - I enjoy lamb, but it can get really expensive. Instead I substituted some beef I had purchased on sale a week or two ago and had frozen. Wanting to use up this meat was the basis of selecting these recipes. I also liked that they shared many ingredients with the black bean and rice recipe.

Plain yogurt - This is one of the grocery items. I was fortunate that I had a coupon for it that I found off the Money Saving Mom blog.

Lemon - I only use real lemons, never those bottled lemon juices. They just don't taste the same. Again, I buy these in bags. I use them enough that they rarely go bad, and it is much cheaper to buy them in bags than individual lemons. This is another grocery store purchase, as they don't grow in my part of the country.

Onion, Green Peppers, Garlic, and Cumin - All mentioned above.

Rice Pilaf:

Rice - As I have mentioned before, I have found that rice is less expensive in the ethnic aisle of my local grocery stores than in the rice and bean section. I buy rice in bulk and had some long grain rice in my pantry. However, I just discovered that my Middle Eastern market carries it in big bulk bags. Once I am out again, I will do some price comparisons. I am guessing the market will once again beat grocery store prices.

Chicken stock, onion, tomatoes, lemon juice, parsley and spices - all mentioned above. Again, this was all about using the same ingredients to make very different dishes.

Yogurt Sauce:

Mint - Once again, I bought a mint plant at the farmer's market rather than buying a pre-cut bunch. I used what I needed for the recipe and put the rest in a potted container in my garden. (Mint can take over, so unless you want a lawn of mint, it is best to grow it in a container.)

Garlic, Plain Yogurt, Lemons, and Cumin - all mentioned above.

Hummus: While hummus is great as a dip for veggies, my favorite way to eat it is as a side dish with grilled meat.

Chickpeas - I always have a few cans of chickpeas around - I pick them up when they are on sale. However, like black beans, my favorite way to prepare these is to cook them myself. Again, these are very cheap at the Middle Eastern market, so what I like to do is cook up a whole bag at a time, then freeze them in 1 and 2 cup serving sizes with a bit of their cooking liquid. These make great hummus!

Tahini - The sesame paste that gives that special flavor. You guessed it, I buy it at the Middle Eastern Market. In the refrigerator, this stuff lasts forever, although I usually go through it in a few months. Like natural peanut butter, it will have to be stirred, the oil will seperate.

Lemons, Garlic, Olive Oil and Cumin - all mentioned above.

Bonus Dishes:

Here's a few other things I have done with the ingredients I bought:

The shish kabob recipe wasn't a big one, so I had plenty of the sides left after I had eaten all the grilled meat and peppers. So, I spiced up and grilled some chicken thighs and had those with the remaining yogurt sauce, pilaf and hummus. I also had some hummus with crackers as a snack.

I made a pasta salad using the parsley, tomatoes and green pepper.

Lemon Angel Hair pasta from my 30 Minute Weight Watchers cookbook was made with the garlic and lemons.

I still have a few tomatoes left, so I am considering making Miss M's Roasted Tomato Soup recipe this week!

And hey, if you have any frugal recipes or grocery shopping tips of your own, let me know. I would love to see them!

Photo by: sndrspk


getting stuff done said...

Oh I just so get scuppered by my husband and his fussy eating and ginormous portions that he eats. I LOVE middle eastern food. Its so ymmy. Although here in Brighton we dont have so many ethnic stores, you have to go seek em out. In London all my corner stores were also middle eastern. Huge bunches of fresh 'cilantro' (coriander) for 50p. And merguez sausages, and cheap lamb too, and labneh.... cheap wraps (flat breads).......

Dawn said...

Oh my goodness, Miss Getting Stuff Done - you are making me hungry!! "merguez sausages, and cheap lamb too, and labneh.... cheap wraps" YUM!!

I do think being frugal is harder with two people, unless both are completely on board. As a single gal now I have more free reign on how I choose to shop.

Miss M said...

I admit we buy quite a bit of prepared food, but hey I work 60-80 hours a week. It definitely drives up the cost at the grocery store, but we almost never eat out so the grocery bill is our only food bill. I bet I spend more tomorrow grocery shopping than you do all month! I try to make a big dish on Sunday night that is 2-3 work lunches plus another weeknight dinner. It home pre-prepared food! All the food sounds lovely, I need to find a middle eastern market. I don't think there are any in this immediate area. I know where the indian grocer is and if I need anything asian, well there's a million of those grocers within a few mile radius.

Dawn said...

Miss M - the Indian grocer should have a lot of the same foods as a Middle Eastern, or I guess I should say that my Middle Eastern store carries a lot of foods used in Indian cuisine. But honestly, if you local megamart or wherever you get your regular groceries has an ethnic aisle - it is worth checking out. I have found things a lot cheaper there.