Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Even the Cheapest Foods can be JAZZED Up

 I know there are many people who simply need to live on mini mart foods.  They live in food deserts with no decent grocery facilities.  Most food marts carry cheap items and junk food.  BUT even cheap items can be jazzed up if you have the desire and means to do it.
Any of us can get in a spot where money is tight and options are few.  It is nice to be able to have options to jazz things up (or ideas).

We all know dry beans and rice is a fugal option - but that may get old if you eat it every day.  I could do it, if it meant going hungry otherwise!

I decided to try an experiment.  I do not like frozen pizza - never have.  But I noticed Kroger had these little individual microwave pizza for $1 - so I thought lets see what I can do!!!!
Doesn't even sound appetizing!  The actual pizza was about the size of my hand - tips of fingers to wrist.  The picture on the box looks more appealing than the actual item did!  LOL
Well I decided to do some magic.  I used things I had in frig.  I sliced a few pieces of summer sausage, added black and green olives, cut up a mini pepper, a few spoons of salsa, some seasoning and a little extra cheese.  BOOM - a tasty little pizza.  About the same as 2 pieces.
                               It was actually pretty tasty!  Also had a side salad with it.

You can get those store brand boxes of mac n cheese for much less than a dollar.  Add a can of tuna and maybe some frozen peas or broccoli and you have cheesy tuna mac.  Add a little cooked hamburger or sausage and anything else you have needing to be  used (veggies).  Tasty burger mac.
Cut up a couple hotdogs into mac and you have a tasty treat.  Feeds more than one - maybe add a salad.

Yep, many of us always have some on hand.  I actually like it (I know). 
Make Ramen stew - add any veggies you may have, whatever leftover meat there might be or stir in some gravy or make a gravy (rue) and enjoy.  You don't HAVE to use the seasoning packet if you are staying away from salt.  

Cook the noodles and use as lo-mein.  Use noodles under any type of stir fry using whatever leftovers you have on hand.
I even have a recipe around here for making a cold salad using packages of Ramen with cabbage. 
Someone mentioned the other day about making Ramen and adding a easy over egg on top.  Just no limits.
 Generally a pack sells for pennies - it can be jazzed up and tasty.

Jiffy cornbread mix probably isn't the best cornbread - but it is easy and inexpensive (and really not bad).  You can do a lot of things to jazz it up.  Throw in some chopped jalapenos.  Spicy cornbread.  Throw in some shredded cheese - Mmmmm.  Add a bit of sugar if you like sweet cornbread.  You can add garlic powder, onion, just about anything.
Bake in muffin tins and place a piece of hotdog in the center of each muffin before baking.  Kind of like have a corndog.
Many people add some cream corn and make a corn casserole.  There are many, many options to upcycle a box of Jiffy mix!

I see baking mixes all the time for a dollar or less (if on sale).  They can be turned into other things.  Muffins mixes can become small loaves of sweet breads (throw in whatever extra you may have - chips, nuts, candy).  Make a mini cake.  Make cookies.
A fun up-do is pancakes - easy and tasty and enough to maybe fill a couple of people.  Just add syrup or heated jelly!!!
You can do this with those Jiffy boxes of mixes as well.

So if things get rough, funds get low, and shelves get bare - just remember that you can improve ANY food item.  It doesn't have to cost much.

I know most of us have all kinds of recipes for inexpensive eating or know ways to stretch leftovers and things like rice, pasta, beans and potatoes.  We know how to cook.  Not everyone really does.
Maybe you know someone who needs a little help.  You can pass on these money saving ideas and perhaps help them have a nicer dinner.
I think it would be neat if food pantries - who give many of these items - could also handout  recipe ideas for increasing nutrition and taste.



  1. Excellent ideas about using a mix or the small pizzas and adding some pizzazz to them. We buy plain cheese pizzas, usually Red Baron, and add all sorts of stuff to them. Save the rest for another day or freeze it. I had ramen cole slaw at a church dinner one time. It was really good. Pinterest will have lots of ideas for using ramen noodles. I usually make homemade cornbread but it wouldn't hurt to keep some mixes on hand. Have you used Martha White's mix? Seems like I have used it in the past. Kroger has the buttermilk mix. The miniature corn dogs look yummy.

    It would be a good idea to offer recipe ideas at the food pantries. My son-in-law's mom taught classes on home keeping and cooking to ladies who needed a boost. These were low income, low education families. I am amazed at how many women don't cook and really don't want to cook. The Urban Farmer's first wife didn't cook and if he didn't, no one ate. I'd be ashamed to not take care of my family and my home. There's no reason to be sorry and lazy. A graduating senior should not get her diploma until she can pass a proficiency test on everyday living. Same for the fellas.

    Sermon over! ha! The peas I picked were quite good and we got our first small tomato. For some reason we have potatoes coming up in places we didn't plant them. Did I tell you that the Urban Farmer and I made a strawberry rhubarb pie last week? It was outstanding, should have been with two sticks of butter in the crust. We snarfed it right down!

    More rain but we'll take it...

    1. The ramen coleslaw is very tasty. I have always said if you can read and follow instructions you should be able to cook. Guess that is not so with everyone.
      I had to take home econ. in school. That a shop should be required as well as finance glasses and just basic 'living life' classes. We truly teach so much unnecessary garbage - maybe we need to go back.

      Your pie sounds scrumptious! Stay cool and dry!!!

  2. P.S. I found a recipe for making your own cornbread mix on Pinterest. This is the blog that featured the mix.

    1. I use Martha White white self rising cornmeal to make mine from scratch. It is quite tasty.
      Will check it out - thanks!

    2. Martha White is the best! If I have some needing to be used up sour cream I throw that in.

  3. I don't buy any packages/boxed foods but cooking from scratch is uber cheap and does not have to be time consuming!

    It's great that you bring ideas forward for those who do!

    1. It is very easy to cook from REAL ingredients and from scratch. I think most of us here do for the most part.
      There are so many who have no idea how to cook. Maybe this will help them.

  4. Shortly after my husband passed, I was struggling with cooking, just the effort to make something for dinner. I often went to the refrig and pulled out whatever vegetables I had -- assorted pepper halves and quarters, cherry tomatoes, maybe a zucchini, part of a red or yellow onion ... I'd chop and sautee them all up in a little olive oil, while boiling a pot with pasta in it (usually spaghetti, sometimes bowtie or fettuccini), and serve the sauteed veggies over it with some parmesan cheese. Sometimes I'd add a splash of half-and-half, an egg, and a larger amount of parm to the pasta, before adding the veggies. Not a lot of effort, but at least I was feeding myself something half-way nutritious. To this day, I will sometimes make this as a quick way to use up some already-diced veggies, leftover from tacos.

    1. Smart lady - I still do the very same thing. Cooking for one takes some getting used to. At first I just didn't bother - but then knew I had to to stay healthy.
      Those can be some of the best meals!

  5. I prefer to cook from scratch when it is economically feasible, but it can be more expensive, especially when your shopping options are limited and you need a number of ingredients. Mini-marts have few options, but stores like Dollar General and Family Dollar are common even in so-called food deserts and carry a broader range of food. Many inner-city ethnic stores are also fairly inexpensive and carry more raw ingredients.

    Jack's Pizza, available around here at WalMart for $2.50 is a great frozen cheese pizza. Add some canned mushrooms ($.50 at Aldi), slice some black and green olives (also cheap at Aldi), and we have a very filling pizza for two people for less than $5.

    While I think cooking lessons ought to be mandatory to receive govt food benefits, I agree with Donna, it isn't always ignorance of how to cook, but just plain not wanting to cook. My next door neighbors get carryout or eat out 6 out of 7 nights a week. She can't use her gas range (gas was turned off years ago for non-payment), but does have a microwave and a crock pot. She just doesn't WANT to cook. She gets food pantry boxes and throws away most of the non-snack items. Her 15-yo daughter is overweight and the 13-yo son is morbidly obese. I've tried to help her in the past, but no more. She doesn't want help, she just wants someone to do everything for her and believes she is entitled to it. This is no young person, either. She is 52-yo.

    When my sons were in school (they are 29 & 33), all students had to take a Family & Consumer Science class where they learned basic cooking, sewing, how to do laundry, how to balance a checkbook, how to complete a job application, and other things that many of us take for granted. They also took Shop at some point. When I wanted to take Shop in 1972 (already knew how to cook & sew), the school wouldn't let me because I'm female! If they could only see the things I've built! When my mother went back to work when I was 14-yo, I was in charge of watching my 10-yo sister, cooking dinner, doing laundry, cleaning house, and doing my homework while maintaining an "A" average. (my brother didn't even have to take out the garbage!) I very much resented the workload, but am now glad I learned how to do all of those things. When my father threw me out shortly after my 18th birthday, I was fully able to feed myself and keep house.

    1. WOW is all I can say about the neighbors. Those kids don't have a chance. That is so sad.
      Aldi makes a good fresh pizza you can buy - a pretty good size cheese is like 4.99 and I can so much to it. It will last many meals if needed. I still like my scratch ones - but that is a good sub.

      Girls couldn't take shop when I was in high school, but a couple guys did take home ec. (to meet girls!). Kids need to know all those things before going out into the world. I agree totally.
      I learned to cook watching Mom and then 4-H. Mom went back to work when I was 14 so I made many a dinner - spaghetti was my specialty. I think Daddy got kind of tired of it. We didn't own a slow cooker back then.

      It is good you knew how to take care of yourself - sorry the situation was as it was - but from all things come something good!

  6. Good ideas, for bad food. I too beleive welfare recipients should be given classes in cooking. Commodities are all that should be given. You can eat well on commodities. It is a shame that some places don't even have grocery stores.

    1. I agree. Yep there is bad food and good food. I am glad to have a choice to choose. So many don't. Like Frances said even Dollar Tree and dollar stores are now getting SOME better stuff in.
      Americans are becoming over weight and unhealthy with all the garbage that is bought.

  7. Hi Hippy Chick!.I do wish that the girl and her partner,next door to me,would read your blogs.They just have more babies for more that they can buy more weed.All she is interested in is arguing on facebook with people she dont even know!.They argue at the top of their voices every day...I cant even sit in my garden because it stresses me so much because of the 3 little ones that are in her house.Social services visit them and walk away because they are about 18 years old,no kids,,ticked a few boxes and thats it!And because of Covid,they dont enter the house,to see how those poor babies are living.She is about 24 stone...the kids are very pale n quiet.I am starting to think that we were lucky being brought up the way we were....because in the UK,there are a lot of self entitled people.Best Wishes from Hippy Chick in Leicester UK,xx

    1. There are people like that every where. I do believe they just never had a role model to teach them. It is often times generational - one generation to the next.
      I feel for the children - they haven't got a chance. I have a group living on the other side of the alley this way - I just want to do something for the kids, as no one else is helping. Such a sad situation.
      I am so glad we had good role models growing up.

  8. I love the fact that many Dollar Tree stores have freezer sections now. While many of the items are processed foods, they do have bags of frozen fruit or vegetables. We love the Jenny's garden spring rolls, 10pk for $1.

    1. Nichole - yes, it is nice to see. Like you said, much isn't the best food - but there are some good options. That is sure helpful for those not close to grocery stores.

  9. I doubt a mini mart sells a tiny pizza for a dollar! But, it is a thought.

    I bought a cheap mix for blueberry muffins. We all know those little knots are dried, colored apples. Well, I put a cup of fresh frozen blueberries and put the whole thing in a brownie pan. Easy, cheap, and delicious. The blueberries were given to me by a friend. Otherwise, it would have been expensive.

    I bought a $1 pasta and chicken dinner and went home and added more chicken and broccoli--cheap and delicious. Originally, it was not enough for one person, but after the additions, it was a lot of food.

    1. I could not think of the name, but it was fettucine alfredo with a speck or two of chicken.

    2. There are so many ways to IMPROVE those cheaper options. It just takes a little imagination.
      I ma glad most of us have better options.

  10. I've been making my own homemade pizza and it sure isn't cheap to make. We like meat pizza and by the time I add pepperoni, salami, and bacon to it...well, a frozen pizza is less than 1/2 the cost. But it tastes so good, I'll continue to make it every 3-4 weeks.

    A favorite around here is a hash, made with cubed potatoes, bits and pepper/onion/tomato/garlic and breakfast sausage with a fried egg on top. I can use up the bits and pieces of the veg from the crisper and it only takes a couple of potatoes. Filling and so tasty.

    But I must admit I find cooking now much easier than when I was working. The kids had activities after school and sometimes we were late getting home. Those nights it was whatever was quick and easiest to grab, mostly sandwiches or something I'd made on the weekend that could be heated up quickly.

    1. I just love homemade pizza. It is by far the tastiest.
      The hash sounds yummy.
      I used the crockpot a lot when I worked or hubs would use the pressure cooker. I was afraid of it - but he had it down pat. That always was a great surprise to come home to.

  11. Mmm, hot dog bites in corn bread sound good!

    1. They are real good. Kind of like a corndog. I like them with smoked sausage as well!

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