Category Archives: Using up stuff

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?

The 3 Strategies to Save Money: #3 Doing Without (& the Cheat for Supplies)

Remember my rant about saving money, here? I use my 3 money-saving strategies all the time. The third strategy is: do without.

Except, that there is a cheat for this strategy: you can use less instead. So, reusing coffee grounds fits if you do 1/2 reused and 1/2 new. I use the cheat a lot with many supplies:

  • With creme rinse (used as a detangler) a bottle lasts 2-3 years!
  • With our dinner napkins. We use linen ones I inherited as our everyday. If they aren’t stained, rather than washing them after every  meal, we use them twice and then wash them.
  • We feed our cats dry food during the day and only give them canned food at dinner. With the small cans, I was splitting it between the two cats. Then I started buying bigger cans so each cat gets 1/4 can. I store fewer cans, the cost per meal is less, and we generate less waste — all good!
  • I use my powered toothbrushes longer than the 90 days specified.
  • I drink coffee with about 1/2 a cup of milk. Milk is cheaper than coffee most of the time. I get my 3 cups of “coffee” and actually ingest a lot less caffeine and spend less too!
  • We mix expensive types cat litters with cheap ones.
  • We used to go to the dump 2-3 times a week, now we go only once. We use fewer trash bags, less gas and wear and tear on the car.
  • We figured out how to use the twigs the trees drop as kindling. Cheaper than fatwood or splitting firewood as it’s free.
  • I use the lunch bags and stems from drying herbs as fire starters. I also have used old newspapers and TP or paper towel cores.
  • I open the blinds in our bathroom and living room first thing in the morning instead of turning on lights. The sunlight is bright enough that I can see where I’m going. Want to read or do something needing more light? Turn on a light.
  • I use cold water to soap dishes or my hands while waiting for warm water. Then, rinse with warm or hot water as needed.
  • My window washing spray isn’t in a spray bottle! I use a combination of dish soap, water, and a little ammonia. I use two rags and a lot less cleaner than I was originally taught.
  • I use about 1/4″ toothpaste and a tiny amount of mouthwash. The rest of the time I’m brushing? I use water.
  • I wash my hair once weekly, instead of daily, like I used to. If we still lived in Florida or the desert, as we did, this wouldn’t have changed, probably. YMMV!
  • I use as many solid  or dry soaps, etc. as possible, esp. if I’m going to use them WITH water: shampoo, creme rinse, laundry detergent, etc.
  • I cut bar soap into pieces before I use it and allow it to air dry as long as  possible, so that it’s as dry as it can be.
  • I’ve been known to delaminate 2-ply toilet paper. I discovered long ago that the amount I want I judge by hand. Delaminating it uses less because my hand feels “full” sooner.
  • I’ve used cornmeal for facial scrub (get it damp with water to a paste, spread it over your face. Stand over a large bowl of clean water and rinse. The cornmeal wants to clog up drains, so do it outside or over a bowl.
  • If you don’t mind perfumes (I’m allergic.) or “aromatherapy,” buy shampoo concentrates instead of diluted shampoo and mix your own. The concentrates are available at beauty supply shops, usually in gallon containers.
  • Buy unscented products and share with your partner rather than having products for each of you.
  • Put a square of chamois next to your bathroom sink and shine the chrome as you go. No fancy cleaners needed.

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.

Modified Peach Cobbler Dump Cake

I made a peach cobbler today or  rather a dump cake, modified. I don’t have cake mix in the house, or didn’t, so I had to make one. I used this one, modified, I used 1/2 as much sugar as specified (1C).

I used this recipe for the dump cake/cobbler. But I modified that too. I took about 1/2 the butter and mixed it with 1 teaspoon vanilla paste and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, to compensate for the “missing” sugar in the mix.

I only used 1/2 the cake mix because I had 1 pint of frozen/sugared peaches, not two 15 oz cans called for in the dump cake recipe. It was baked in a square pan, for the same amount of time and temp as in the dump cake recipe. It’s good!

I knew if I told DH the cake mix had 2.5C flour and 2C of sugar he’d ask me why I didn’t use about 1/2 the sugar?

So, here’s my modifications in a list:

Cake Mix Recipe: 1C sugar in cake mix recipe, instead of 2 cups.

Dump Cake/Cobbler Recipe: I also halved the recipe for the dump cake, (used 1/2 the mix I’d made).

I added 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract and the last of my vanilla paste (about 1 teaspoon) with about 3 tablespoons of the butter. I did NOT increase the amount of butter. Soft butter is easier to do this with than when it’s rock hard!

I cooked it in a square pan, not a rectangular one.

Goldilocks Dilemma: Supplies, part 2

Given what I know about supplies, how do I determine how much space is needed?


These factors affect supply storage: use rate, back stock needs, available space.


Once I know the use rate, I can determine reasonable back stock. For example, we use about 3/4 of a roll of paper towels a week, mostly to deal with pan grease. Having a 2 week supply seems reasonable. That means I need a back stock of 1 roll. But my usual source for these sells them in 4 roll (or bigger) packages.  I need to decide if having 3 rolls in storage makes sense? If it does, then the back stock amount/space for 1 roll won’t work, obviously.

It seems I need TWO types of back stock storage: immediate and a supply closet or shelf. Immediate storage near where the product is used, an extra bar of soap under the sink, for example. But if I buy a 6 bar bundle, most of those should go somewhere else, like a supply closet.

I don’t have a supply closet right now… soon! One planned summer improvement is for DH to build a broom closet. When he does, the wardrobe that’s our current broom closet will be empty. 

There’s space available elsewhere, I’ll use that until the wardrobe is empty.

My minimum for the shelf-stable supplies we use the most often? One complete refresh. I have that. It isn’t what I’d like because it isn’t the most frugal option, but given that I have nowhere to store a large back stock? It makes sense.


“When you keep an account of your stores, and the dates when they are bought, you can know exactly how fast they are used…”

Miss Beecher’s Domestic Receipt-Book, 3rd ed.,1856

Just Right? Not Enough? Too Much? a/k/a The Goldilocks Dilemma

If you’ve followed along here for any period of time, you’d notice that I keep trying to find “rules.” That is, I keep trying to find set answers to recurring problems.

  • Can I cook in such a way that the kitchen cleans itself while I’m doing it? (See self-cleaning tab above.)
  • The three ways to save $ is another.

Here’s my latest:

I’m trying to figure out exactly what to keep, toss, or buy, and have been for a long time. I decided to try and “formalize” the decision-making process because I keep revisiting the issue.

I posed the problem in a forum where I participate. The answers I got and my reactions to them got me to create a spreadsheet.

From an hour’s worth of work, I came to these conclusions: storage limits are a major determinate for me — every item I considered it was a potential issue.

  • So, imposing a SPACE BUDGET should always be my first step when considering an item to keep, cull or purchase. The next consideration is whether or not what I’m considering is a durable item or a supply item?

(A SPACE BUDGET is a given amount of space allocated for a certain item.)


I discovered that I need to treat supplies differently than durable goods. Supplies tend to be things that are not used all at once. And they are things which are meant to be consumed entirely. So, for a bag of cat litter, space allocation needs to be big enough to hold the full bag, even when it isn’t.


So, this can be approached in two ways, from either the amount desired or the space needed.

  • How much of a given supply do I want to have on hand at the most? — How much space would it need?
  • Or, How much space do I have to allocate for this supply? — How much of the supply can be stored in the available space?

Some supplies require specialized storage, which of course makes it even more complicated.