Category Archives: food waste

Pandemic Cooking: Lentils, Rice & Onions, Apple Pudding

A website where I’m a member has a thread about meals for $1 a plate. Possible because these folks have gardens, raise meat, etc.

The cheapest dish I’ve made lately was lentils, rice and onions. This one. I liked it but we both considered it boring, despite all the onions. I had everything in the pantry and the onions are starting to sprout, so needed to be used  up ASAP, why I picked this recipe. It’s improved, in our opinion, with garlic salt or sausage (if you have it). It’s perfectly edible as written, but as I said, we wanted it with more intense flavor.

I have no idea how much it cost? The onions are the last of the bulk onions I bought from the farm last fall. The lentils came from a bulk bin buy, somewhere, sometime ago. The rice? I have no idea.

We had it on its own, with sauteed spinach as a side on Monday, and then last night with the last of the already cooked spinach added to it and the end of a package of sausage. We’ll have the end of it for lunch sometime this week.

It struck me that it might be a good start for a veggie burger recipe? I sure don’t expect to be able to get meat anytime soon!

I also made, or tried to make, a Danish bread crumb “pudding” from WWII. I found a link to 10 bread crumb and left over bread recipes, here. But I only had 2 apples and I needed one more to halve the recipe, I got one from a neighbor. I didn’t peel the apples but sliced them very thinly. When they started to get soft, I used a potato masher to push them down to cook more.

I thought that was all the adjustments I needed to make. However, in my last kitchen purge, one of the things I got rid of was the pie pans, so I used a loaf pan, and WAY too many breadcrumbs. Yes, I’ll make this again, when I have more apples, but I’ll use a square baker and make the full recipe, which will no doubt fill the pan with thin layers of apple and crumbs, as intended.

The recipe I made is here.

 

 

Left Overs? What To Do With Them

I almost called this post, “Stealing from our Grandmothers, Again,” but decided that I needed a title which told people more about what I’m doing than that.

I have several old cookbooks and cooking pamphlets. Here’s suggestions from a few for dealing with leftovers. I’ve modified the recipes to be more generic (changed “mutton” to “meat” for example)

Rice & Meat Casserole

Line a casserole with cooked rice. Fill the center with 2C cooked meat, chopped fine, seasoned well with salt, pepper, onion, and lemon juice, mixed with 1/4C cracker or dry bread crumbs, 1 beaten egg and moistened with stock or hot water. Place a second layer of cooked rice over top. Cover, cook in hot oven 45 minutes.

Wilson’s Meat Cookery – Eleanor Lee Wright, p 46, 1921.


Add raw to salad or a salad ring: Asparagus, Beans/String, Carrots,

Add cooked to soup: Asparagus, Beans/Baked, Beans/String, Cabbage, Carrots, Tomatoes/Stewed

Other: Asparagus – deviled egg/asparagus sandwiches, vegetables salad ring, creamed on toast. Beans/Baked – chili, sandwiches. Beans/String – vegetable salad ring, scalloped vegetables. Cabbage – hot slaw, with creamed vegetables. Carrots – meat pie, creamed wth peas. Potatoes/Irish – cottage fried, mashed in or on meat pies, hashed browns, potato balls. Potatoes/Sweet – sweet potato fluff, cottage fried, baked with apples, hash browned with Irish Potatoes, sweet potato balls. Spinach – scalloped vegetables, puree, ham & spinach souffle, nests with creamed mushrooms. Rice – rice & raisin delight, rice & nut pudding, Spanish goulash, rice pudding, rice cakes, meat balls. Tomatoes/Sliced – garnishing meat loaf, meat pie, chili, Spanish goulash, vegetable casserole. Tomatoes/Stewed – rice and tomato soup, with toasted cubes, meat loaf, chili, meat pie.

Wartime Suggestions – Frigidaire Division, General Motors Corp., p 14, 1943.


I can’t find a recipe for rice & raisin delight. There are recipes for rice & nut puddings around though.  There is a Spanish Goulash recipe here.


Fruits: I don’t have a suggestion from a war-time cookbook for this. I’ve been using Joy of Cooking, still my default, look up a recipe cookbook. I made a whole wheat banana bread last week to use up the going to be bad soon bananas. DH is researching blueberry quick bread, as we got blueberries when we went to the market last week and we’ve only used 1 of 3 packages…

I got rid of my muffin tins, I will add it to the “I don’t have list.” Why did I get rid of the muffin tin? Because I don’t keep muffin liners, cupcake papers, etc.

At the most, I made muffins 2x a year. Fruit breads work better for us. They freeze easier than muffins; we don’t eat them as fast as cookies, and it’s a good use for the end of whatever fruit! We probably have too many loaf pans. We bake our own bread except in summer and I make meatloaf fairly regularly. So we use loaf pans all the time. I have 6? in the baking cabinet. I probably should cull the collection down, but . . . We have 3 steel, 2 ceramic, and 2 Pyrex?

One Pound of Chicken Thighs…

I usually buy organic chicken thighs, bulk pack, in 5 lb packages. I split this into packages of 3 each, about 1 lb.

I just used the last 1 lb package. I thought I’d use this to figure out how well I did with  the meat cost per meal. I did pretty well, but not what I need to!

Day 1: Lemon chicken 3 thighs, all cooked (part of the oven meal). We ate 2. I put aside the drippings and 3rd thigh.

Day 2: I made a burrito bowl (this one). Except I never use instant rice, I just cook rice separately. I also can’t eat roma tomatoes, so I pay for heirloom non-red tomatoes and use about 1/2-1 tomato’s worth. Yes, it’s expensive, but it’s better than having an upset stomach for hours!

Day 3: Picked the meat off the last thigh. Made gravy from the drippings. We had left over rice (the burrito bowl)  with a little of the chicken/gravy on it and sauteed greens on the side.

Day 4: Chicken and rice soup. Took the remaining gravy with chicken, added water, the last of the tomato, and chicken bullion to taste. Added the remaining rice. Made up a condiment plate with cooked greens and minced jalapeno.

Into the freezer: 1 serving of the soup. I added the last 2-3 tablespoons of cooked greens and the minced jalapeno.

The chicken costs $2.49/lb. How much did I spend per meal for the meat?*

I put it in 6 meals. If we eat the last serving in the freezer? The price is .36/meal.  If we don’t eat it, but toss it? The price per meal goes up to about .42!

How could I have done better? I could have saved the bones, skins and scraps to add flavor to another soup or stew or just make broth. If you add just one more meal that way, the cost per meal for the meat goes down to .31!

As a list:

  • 3 meals if we’d eaten all of it as one-piece of meat per serving: .83/meal. (We didn’t do this.)
  • 6 meals, cost per meal =.42, (We’ve did this.)
  • If we eat the last meal in the freezer, the cost per meal is reduced to .36 (We’ve done this.)
  • If we eat the freezer meal and I’d used the scraps? price per meal = .31

Obviously, I need to start a container for soup scraps! Otherwise, I’m never going to get even close to my desired .25 cost/meat per meal.


*These numbers are rounded. $2.49 just doesn’t divide evenly!


To get to my target price, I’d have to make approx. 11 portions from my 1 lb of meat. I don’t think that’s very likely, do you? And, since I know the $2.49/lb price is a real bargain, I think this means I need a reality check! As it is, we ate, on average about 2.29 oz of meat in each of the 7 meals.

So, unless we start raising our own chickens or something similar, I think that the best I can realistically expect is the price for the 6 meals above, or .42 per portion.

My idea was that the meat would probably be the single most expensive piece of a meal, budget that hard and the rest of it’s not so bad.


Eggs are one of the cheapest sources of protein around. If we eat them, we sometimes have 3 or sometimes 4 omlette, for a single meal, which feeds both of us. I buy eggs from a neighbor for $3/dozen these days. A four-egg omlette costs .50/person. A three-egg omlette .38/person.


Organic ground beef from the local market costs $8.99/lb. I’d have to make > 20 meals to get that down to .40 or less per person. Again, not realistic. Even if I allow myself $1/lb, it’s 9 meals from a single pound of ground beef — really? One meatball, right?


My menu plan only has meat in it two days a week. The plan is:

      • Monday Double Veg meal
      • Tuesday Leftovers
      • Wednesday Double Veg meal
      • Thursday Eggs
      • Friday Double Meat meal
      • Saturday Sandwiches
      • Sunday Double Meat meal

When I came up with this, I was trying for a few things: less meat, less cost, less cholesterol, more veggies, less work on the days I’m really busy (Weds, Sat, Sun).

My week hasn’t followed the pattern this week because we were eating the 2nd meat/leftovers, until Tuesday. Ate veggies Weds. and will tonight, Thursday, too.

The double veggies I made are some of the end of last year’s farm crops (root veggies), some I bought at the market when we ran out (cilantro, potatoes & parsnips), and rice (when I made the burrito bowl last week, I made a double batch of plain rice and froze the extra).

I have no idea how to figure, with any kind of accuracy, the six month’s worth of veggies we got from the farm and how many meals it went into! Some of it is in 1/2 made dishes in the freezer, some of it is in the pantry, but most of it was eaten fresh.

 

 

Oven Meals — 400 Degree then 350 Degree — Menu Plan (and reality)

Not sure why I’d do this? See here for an explanation.

400:

  • Jacketed potatoes, for up to 2 hours.
  • Oven fried chicken, 400 for up to 1 hour.
  • Mexican Green peppers, 400 for 45 minutes.

350 for 30 minutes:

  • Ham slice, 25 minutes
  • Candied sweet potatoes, 30 minutes
  • spinach tart or tomato flan, 30 minutes

The 400 meal: The chicken usually works for 2 meals. The pepper recipe is for 5 peppers, although you could no doubt do 2 or 4 or 6 for that matter….

The 350 meal: The spinach tart uses a pie shell, the tomato flan does not. Also, spinach is available (here) first thing in the spring and in fall, the tomatoes are only available in summer, so that could easily affect why I’d choose one or the other.

Note:

I’d love to try doing this as an experiment!

However, I do NOT have the peppers, corn to stuff them with, the ham, cottage cheese (for the spinach tart), spinach or tomatoes. Given the current state of things, due to Corona, I have no idea when I will be able to just buy those again! When I can? I’ll be happy to do this as an experiment. If I do?

I’ll post a link to the write up here.


I’m going to do the 400 degree meal tonight. However, I didn’t find a ham slice yesterday at the market. The only sliced ham was sliced for sandwiches, not something I’d want to put in a 350 oven for 30 minutes!

I’ll have to modify the recipes to suit what I have, but I think I can manage! This is Friday, so my meal is supposed to be a double meat dish, that feeds us tonight and Sunday night too. I have 3 thighs in a freezer container, thawing. We’ll eat 2 tonight.

We’ll have dirty rice for lunch, it’s left over from earlier this week.

And I might make a burrito bowl from the last thigh on Sunday.


I tried this! I wrote about what worked and didn’t here.

Stuck at Home? Ideas to Pass the Time and Baking Ingredient/Substitutions List

I live with an anxiety disorder, PTSD. One thing I’ve learned in dealing with anxiety my entire life (well, since I was 3) is that the easiest way to cope is to keep busy! So, here’s a few ideas to help you.

  1.  Read! I’m a book person, right? I want to get at least one book off my “to be read” pile. Even if you only have 5 minutes here or there because you’re not commuting to work, it’s “found” time!
  2. Cook (to reduce waste)! I have the end of a package of mushrooms which will become slime soon and onions which have started to sprout… And butter, yes, I have some butter, it’s in the freezer. (Hopefully, I can buy more.) Make something basic that can be used in future meals and also reduces your food waste: sauteed onions and duxelles are in my plans today, for just that very reason.
  3. Improve! Work on a home-improvement project if you have all the pieces, or have the pieces to start. We planned, after DH broke his leg, to be really conservative this year on home projects. Possible retirement was also a factor. So, we decided that we’d make use of the supplies and materials on hand rather than starting any new projects. One of those projects is painting the living room’s baseboards. I started that yesterday!
  4. Inventory! Do an inventory. Do you have 19 cans of chili and 2 of fruit cocktail? When availability/resources are limited, knowing exactly what you have (and don’t) enables you to shop for and store only the necessary, keeps down expenditures, and keeps products you could have overbought available for others.
  5. Cook (basics)! Don’t cook from scratch? Try. Fry an egg, make toast. The next time, add some sauteed onion or mushrooms, bell peppers, or what have you? Or, try boiling an egg instead. Or make biscuits from a can or . . . push your cooking towards the next level.
  6. Explore alternatives! Find and use alternatives if you can. Especially with baking there seem to be a lot:
    • Baking powder can be made up from cream of tartar and baking soda, here.
    • Brown sugar can be made up as needed from white sugar and molasses, here.
    • Applesauce can be used to substitute for fats in baking, here.
    • Soy flour can be substituted for eggs, here.

Retirement Planning: Frugality/Oven Meals

Potatoes have the highest “satiety” value of any veggie. That is, they make you feel full and satisfied faster than other veggies — they’re cheap! More, I can grow them here with a little work.

So, potatoes are part of the retirement food plan. Researching new ways to cook them yielded a recipe for British “jacketed” potatoes. We both liked them a lot!  I used this recipe.

What I didn’t like? Baking in a 400 degree oven for up to 2 hours??? Okay. If I’m going to do that, then I need to find other recipes which cook at 400 to go with the potatoes.

I went through 2 of my all purpose cookbooks. Today I went through and marked the oven meals in cooking pamphlets.

The oven-fried chicken I make (with lemon or plain) cooks at 400, which will no doubt become one of our “set” meals. But there are also these other things I may add:

Mexican stuffed green peppers (peppers stuffed with other veggies).

fruit cobblers, etc.

Baked Tomatoes

Cornbread

Baked Pears

At least 2 eggplant dishes

I will find others but this was much harder than I expected!


It also occurred to me that I could cook ahead, a meal that uses 375 for say 30 minutes,  while we’re eating the 400 degree meal and take advantage of my already hot oven.

Oven  meals cooked at 375 or 350 would be a lot easier to put together! Most oven meal recipes I’ve found are cooked at 325, 350, or 375.

I need to find a few bread recipes to go along with this too.


So, no “meal plan” per se, but an oven plan?

Turn oven on to 400. Prep/start potatoes. Prep/cook other items which cook at 400 to eat with the potatoes (the oven fried chicken takes about 45 minutes).  Prep a second meal, which cooks at lower temp for approx. 30 minutes.* Remove 400 degree cooked food when done. Turn down oven.

Wait a few minutes for oven to cool. Plate 400 degree cooked food. When oven is the correct temp, insert new oven meal. Cook the second meal while eating potatoes and other 400 degree food.

*The 30 minutes is arbitrary. It’s about how long it takes us to eat a meal. YMMV!


I don’t know that I’d want to do this in the middle of summer, but otherwise it would be fine!


I  made up a potential menu to try. You can read about that here.

Frugal Eating? Sat. & Sun. 2/29-3/1/20

Saturday we went to the natural food market. I bought a pound of their natural ground beef for $8.99/lb. I used 1/4 lb in a pot of chili, along with part of a pint of dry kidney beans I’d soaked and cooked. Also, 1/2 an onion, a pint container of HM tomato sauce, the last of the bell pepper I’d bought last week, cayenne, cilantro, cumin, broth, and chili powder. We had it with cornbread and cheese.

We’ll have cornbread and chili/cheese omlettes for dinner tonight. That will probably use up the end of the chili, the end of a block of cheddar, and the cornbread — or I hope so! If not, I’ll crumble the cornbread and freeze it to use on some future veggie. The chili if there’s a full serving left, will also get frozen, or I’ll have it for lunch tomorrow.

We have various older odds and ends to deal with too. The biggest is the other beans which need to be cooked (Cooked Sunday night.) and used. If I don’t have a whole serving of chili left? (I do.) I’ll probably buzz it and add it to the cooked beans — and we’ll have that, somehow.

Still to deal with? The rest of the left overs AND the other beans and meat. The beans I have plans for (see above), but the meat I do NOT.

Hmm.

btw, the cost of the meat in the chili is approx. $2.25. So far we’ve had 2 meals with it, or $1.12 each.  If we finish up the prepped chili tonight (We didn’t.) the cost will go down to .56 a meal. I’ll have to come up with 2 more portions if I’m going to get close to the .25 a meal for protein I talked about before! That will be difficult, I think. The only reason I didn’t “notice” how little meat was in the chili was that I used beef demiglace (what I use instead of bullion cubes) to flavor the broth. And, no I have no idea how much the chili I made actually cost!

The beans came from a bulk bin, somewhere. They had their bulk label on the jar, but no date or source or price. The tomato sauce I froze last summer. It had tomatoes, onion and bell pepper in it from the farm. I buy demiglace on sale or with a coupon. I have no idea when I bought the bottle I’m using. The onion came from extras I bought from the farm last fall. I don’t remember the price, I could figure it out, but haven’t. The spices were items I already had: the farm has cilantro and I dry some every year, cumin I bought a large bottle some time ago, exactly when or what I paid I don’t know, the chili powder came from the market, don’t know when/price, the peppers were the last 3 of a bag of mini peppers I bought last week. They were about $4.99 for 9 baby colored bell peppers, expensive but yummy, that makes them .54 each or $1.62 worth in the chili. Each portion already eaten is .81

.81+1.12 = 1.93

peppers + meat

If I assume that there’s at least $1 more worth of food in each meal, that makes it $2.93 each. Not outrageously expensive, but sure not all that cheap!

1.93+1.00= 2.93 each

peppers/meat + everything else (per person)

Well, I said I had a lot of work to do, right? I do! I thought this would be much better than it is, because I used 1/2 the meat I normally would. Obviously, I need to do more.


So, we didn’t use up the chili and there’s 1 portion or more remaining. The beans got cooked but not used otherwise. The obvious thing to do is to combine those two for a new batch of chili and put it in the freezer for future use! (Exactly what I did!)

This will successfully drive the price down to roughly $1.50 a meal per person. (half of the $2.93 above). I would like, as a target, to actually use about  .50 a meal, per person as my long-range goal.

And of course? If the (now frozen) food doesn’t get used, that is it gets wasted? Then the price per meal goes back up to the $2.93 per portion, as above! Wasting food has real costs!