Tag Archives: frugality

Retirement Planning: Summer Food Processing/Storage

Our favorite corn casserole is this one. I have a note on my copy of the recipe in my house notebook that tells me how many ears of corn to use instead of the canned corn (not the creamed corn).

My favorite corn soup recipe requires fresh, new corn. It’s from one of the 1-2-3 cookbooks. It’s corn, water, butter, salt and pepper.

Yesterday, I processed corn. I got 10 extra ears of corn from the farm the other day. It isn’t today’s corn, so it’s what I call “soup corn”. I will freeze the cut corn (and sometimes a broth made from boiling the corn briefly) and then use the corn in casseroles, soups and stews.:

  • I made creamed corn for the first time in my life. I always thought it was corn with cream added, nope. It’s corn with a knife or something (I used a fork) run over the kernels to make it mushy, then the soft stuff cut off the cobs.
  • I put aside the tips of the corn for soups/stews.
  • I froze most of it.
  • I made corn broth, also in the freezer.
  • We had corn, fresh sliced tomatoes and an omelette for dinner. Definitely SUMMER!

Today I’ve culled more of last year’s food from the freezer. Found one package of stewed tomatoes from last year (it needed a tomato added)  — we’ll have that as a side at dinner with pasta.

I’ve just made  more garlic salt. I use this recipe.

I need to make a batch of salsa verde. I use my own recipe: I chop tomatillos, then add onion, cilantro and hot peppers, to taste. Then I freeze it. Some of it I freeze in cubes, some in blocks. The cubes are used for sauce on tacos, etc. The blocks are used in recipes.

Tonight’s dinner will be: corn fry, spaghetti/tomato sauce, salad. Definitely a summer menu, again.

I don’t know where I got the corn fry recipe. It’s corn, chives, onion, milk and cheese. The corn, milk, onion and chives are cooked on the stove for a few minutes. Then grated cheddar is added and cooked til it melts. Basically seasoned hash browned potatoes, only with corn instead of potatoes.

I decided how to organize the big freezer this year. Last year, I had a shelves of “soup bases” and unfinished casseroles and such. This year I’ll have each shelf different: ingredients, part prefab, instant dinner, other. So the frozen chilis and corn will go on the top shelf, but the salsa verde and stewed tomatoes will go on the 2nd…etc. This will help me track of what I have! I may color code it, but I haven’t decided. I’ll only go to the trouble if I have too much for one shelf and not enough for another… My goal this year is to have the thing empty by Valentine’s Day, at the latest. Last year I put a lot of food away and we didn’t eat it. No matter how careful I am, that’s just food waste, and I hate that!

Which reminds me, the fridge has gotten into terrible disarray. I need to do a major cleanout/purge/reorganization of it too.

FOOD WASTE

Right now, it’s six pint containers of foods from last year. In the past week, I’ve probably pitched about 10 more. Makes me mad! I’m still not done. My idea for last year, about putting food aside as it was in season, then making up casseroles and soups in winter did NOT work! It was a logisitical nightmare. (Do I have the parsnips I need for this dish? Tomatoes? If so, where are they?) As a result, I never touched any of it, and it’s all going into the compost.

Frugality: Why Food? Money-Saving Food Ideas

The three strategies I use to save money are:

  1. Finding a cheaper substitute.
  2. Paying less for the same product.
  3. Doing without.

Any or all of these will save you $. Frequently, when faced with economic stress, people do what I’ve been doing: concentrate on their food expense.

It’s one of the few areas left where the consumer controls everything they spend. You can’t suddenly decide to pay less for your mortgage, you can decide to give the bank less, but the amount you owe hasn’t changed. Also fuel for heat/cooking, insurance and most other regular expenses have costs set by others. But you CAN decide you’ll have mac & cheese for dinner, or soup, instead of going out or eating steak.

The only real problem is that food is 10% of an average American’s paycheck. If you cut it in 1/2, no mean feat, you’re still only saving 5%. The trick is to use that small saving to pay down debt or other set expenses, so the available cash/savings grows. That isn’t easy to do when it feels like you’re saving pennies instead of dollars!

The easiest way to reduce that 10%? Stop wasting food. Americans, on average, waste 40% of their food dollar. If you spend $10 a week and want to spend $5 instead? Stop throwing out food and you’ll save $4!

To this end, for some time, I’ve had a “flow” when I cook. Most of it is dealing with left over food in a way that resembles but is not exactly the same as the original. Also, much of it adds other foods for the second meal.

  • Cut bigger pieces down: cut meat from a cooked roast/bird and use it in another meal. Same with rough cut veggies: carrots, parsnips, onion, celery, etc.
  • Put previously cooked food in a thick sauce. This is what stew is, right? Also anything served with gravy over it. Make this a fairly bland dish. Make crepes and use this as a filling.
  • Dilute a thick sauce/gravy with water or stock — make soup or ? Transform whatever with gravy into something with a thin sauce  or soup. Make this more pungent.
  • The old trick of serving whatever with a starch: potatoes, sweet potatoes, rice, grains or bread. Things with gravy can be served atop a starch or with the starch in them (like stew with potatoes).
  • Use the bits & pieces to make soup or stock: this reduces waste and the cost, while it increases nutritional value.

Using these ideas, I turn 1 lb of chicken thighs into 4 meals. The protein costs $2.49/lb. That’s about .62 per meal! I have a great source for chicken. I buy it in bulk and freeze it in 1 lb containers. Depending on what I’m cooking I may or may not serve 2 thighs as dinner, then salvage the scraps/bones and make stock with the 3rd thigh for the next meal.

The last time I did this, I made oven-roasted chicken: we ate 2 thighs, the next day I made stir fry, heavy on the garlic. One portion is left over, it’s in the freezer; someone will eat it for lunch, or it will get added to soup. That’s 5 meals from $2.49 worth of meat, or .50 each meal for the protein.

If you do the math, the extreme frugality menus I linked to last time are about .25 per meal, protein and all. I thought what I was doing was pretty extreme, obviously, I still need to work on it!

So, how much should you spend? Figure 6% of your take home pay, if you aren’t wasting food or 10% when you do. If you’re spending more than that? You’re probably stuck in a rut of making the same things over and over and at least when I do that, I throw out a lot!

I’ll have to see what I can do to cut my costs!

What comes to mind —

  • Making schmaltz and using it instead of bottled cooking oils, (Using less, #2 above).
  • Making yogurt. (Finding a cheaper substitute, #1 above).
  • Baking bread. (Also #1.) We’d found a cheap, acceptable bread, $2.99 a loaf, so we’ve been buying bread rather than baking. The market has hiked this brand up to $3.99 a loaf again. DH still makes biscuits and pancakes when needed. I make crepes.
  • Stop having dessert. (Doing without, #3.) We will have a piece of fruit or maybe ice cream, but we haven’t had dessert as a planned part of a meal for some time.
  • Get rid of more junk food. We don’t eat these all the time, but yes, we do eat some: crackers and chips mostly. (Do without #3.)
  • Find high-priced items we still use and use any of the three strategies to reduce costs!

The best other discussion I’ve found about how to save money on groceries is this one.