Category Archives: workarounds

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?

Finding the Cheat

See the previous post if you’re not sure what I’m talking about!

Here’s how I found all those “cheats” to use fewer supplies, whether they be lightbulbs, potting soil, toothpaste or frozen food.

What do you do automatically? If you become more aware of those choices, then you can try and change them. My frugal strategies apply:

  • Find a cheaper substitute.
  • Spend less for the same product.
  • Do without.

Figure out what you do automatically: How much oil or fat do you put in a pan — can you use less? Can you use a cheaper oil and have it work as well? Substituting margarine for butter in baked goods doesn’t work in my opinion. For me, it seems to be how much the fat determines the taste of the dish. YMMV!  How do you decide how much TP to use at once? Try delaminating 2-ply and see if it won’t cause you to use less? Worked for me! Pizza toppings: If you love a certain frozen pizza, but hate one topping (or your kid does) and automatically toss it? Can you find a way to use the tossed food? I’m not talking about allergies, of course you shouldn’t keep foods you or yours are allergic to, but preferences. You could use frozen bits of onion or peppers in soups or meatloaf, for example. Sausage pieces could be used in scrambled eggs.

Pay attention to your automatic behavior and the waste it causes. Then try to use what you’ve wasted before.

Use the internet or other resources to help: Try different routes on googlemaps is there a shorter route? Use gasbuddy to find the cheapest gas locally. Find new ways to use up leftovers. Try to make your own foods: bake bread, grow herbs, make gravy.

“If I was broke, what would I do differently?” Many times this shows me what I’m wasting or suggests ideas. I made sauted greens last night for dinner. I took the stems off because DH hates “stringy” greens. Instead of tossing them, I put them in the freezer for smoothies or to be added to soup.

Ask a pro! People who do things for work quickly find the easiest and fastest way to do things. They frequently know the cheapest way too. I found out about the shampoo concentrates at beauty supply shops by asking a hair stylist where the salon bought their shampoo? Another example: my dad, when looking for a new home refrigerator went to the biology department at the college where he worked and asked which refrigerator they’d recommend?

If this works with one thing in 5, it still counts! The idea that it has to save dollars right away or it doesn’t count is EXPENSIVE!

Every little cost-savings idea you use counts.

Each dollar is

100 pennies after all!

 

 

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.

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.

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.