For years I’ve been searching out money-, energy- and time-saving recipes and menus.
What kind of cook books do you have? Look for? Where do you find your most frugal recipes? Online is wonderful, but there are 1,000s of online groups, blogs, and websites focused on frugality in some form, so I don’t talk about online sources below. Many of the types of books I talk about are probably available in an electronic format, but I like just old fashioned books. (I was a book dealer for over 20 years, what did you expect?)
One type of book I looked for has menus and recipes where foods are cooked at the same temp. and more or less the same amount of time.
One pot meals qualify, and one pot recipes are the easiest to find. Almost every major cook book has some one pot meals in it.
Being me, of course that wasn’t good enough. I had to find more, more books, with more recipes!
I found quantities of these menus and recipes in two places: money/energy saving cook books from electric utilities and cook books from electric appliance manufacturers.
Both of my books from the utilities are from around the 1980s energy crisis. Most of the others with one temperature menus/recipes are from appliance manufacturers and published from the 1950s- early 1970s.
Menus in these books are divided by cooking method: stove-top, broiler, or oven meals. The appliance manufacturer’s menus are more extensive than those from the utilities.
Here’s an oven menu: Orange Ham Slice, Scalloped Potatoes, Steamed Carrots, Apple-Cheese Pie
Cook at 350, for 1 and ½ hours, or less.
First of all, I’d likely include a green salad, or something else, and would probably not serve potatoes and pie at the same meal.
Secondly, the menu is for 6 people, much too large for us. It would be easy to make the ham slice into a smaller meal, as the specified piece of ham is 1 1/2-2” thick, about 2 lbs. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a 2 lb slice of ham, and I’d certainly hesitate before buying one! I’m assuming a 1 lb ham slice would work.
I have the same issue with the scalloped potatoes. The recipe specifies 1 quart of peeled, thinly-sliced potatoes and although I could make that many and freeze the extra, I’d probably halve this recipe too. The carrot and pie recipes don’t specify so much food that I’d hesitate to make them as written.
Thirdly, I hardly ever cook a meal with this many ingredients. The ham recipe uses 7 ingredients (there’s an orange glaze), the potatoes 7. The carrots use 2. And the pie uses 6. That’s 22 ingredients total.
What I’d probably do is mix up the ham glaze ahead of time (6 ingredients) as well as the sugar-cinnamon/butter and the pie crust (4 ingredients). I’d still have to cook four things using 12 ingredients, but that’s within my comfort zone!
One big problem that I have with many of the older recipes is that they cook vegetables to mush. The carrot recipe above has you steaming the carrots for the entire hour and a half they specify for the ham. I’d probably only put the carrots in for the last twenty minutes or so.
When I researched money-saving cooking, I also decided to also look for recipes created when times were really tough or food was rationed.
People lived with rationing and had to come up with creative ways to cook & eat palatable food with what they could get. I have one cook book from WWI and two from WWII. I find them fascinating reading.
The book from WWI contains recipes which directly address the shortages: wheat-less bread, sugarless desserts, meatless soups, etc. One of the WWII books has the best, easy vegetable soup recipe selection I’ve found: lettuce soup, onion soup, corn soup, etc. The recipes aren’t fancy, but simple and the soups lend themselves nicely to additions or modifications, depending on what’s available.
Another category of money-saving recipes can be found in the “put it together now, cook it later books.” I have two of these with recipes from Bed & Breakfast inns. The recipes aren’t necessarily extremely frugal, although some are, but they are designed to serve a crowd and be easily put together the night before. Usually the food is refrigerated overnight, then cooked and served the next morning.
You can also find recipes of the prepare it now/cook it later type in “easy hostessing” books (easy party hosting, stress-free entertaining, etc). Almost always the recipes are the same as those for the B & B’s: mix, freeze or refrigerate, then cook or heat just before serving. I have more of the make now/serve it later books than I care to think about. These are easy to find! Also in this category are the Once a Month or Mega Cooking books.