Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Don't Break the Bank - Eating Well

 I know I have posted a lot lately about food.  I hope this doesn't turn you away.  I just hear so much about how people are struggling.  Prices up and supplies short.  
A lot of people don't want to have to shop multiple stores.  Coupons are not a big option anymore.  Folks don't all like using pre-packaged food.
So cooking from our pantries with simple and honest ingredients is now what many want to do.

Just more ideas today for a lot of SIMPLE pantry meals.  **PLEASE remember, if you are struggling now, that a full belly is what matters.  Not fancy meals, different courses, fancy ingredients - just good old fashioned basic cooking.  It is good, it is simpler, and it is cheaper.
Here we go!!!!

  • Roast veggies - root veggies are easy to do and actually you can use any veg.  Roasting gives another layer of flavor.  Use whatever vegs you have  ** Try roasting asparagus, brussel sprouts or green beans - Mmmmmm
  • Beans and rice - I know people say UGH.  There are dozens of kinds of beans and dozens of kinds of rice.  Use combos of what you have.  Jazz it up with salsa, scraps of meat, relishes, etc.
  • Sloopy Joe casserole - great way to stretch meat.  Make up your favorite sloppy joe recipe, add pasta, corn, green beans, whatever you want.  Top with corn bread and bake or top with fried onions, or biscuits.  You can add cheese if you have it.  This is a great meal stretcher.  You all know I am NOT a follow the recipe kind of person!  So I experiment and mix things together - most times it is just plain yummy. 
  • Fried rice - add any leftovers you have to rice - meat or veggies.  Throw in a scrambled egg.  Season.  Makes a meal on it's own
  • Tuna casserole - tuna, pasta, creamy soup, also think of adding cheese or any leftover veggie you have
  • Creamy mac and veggies.  Pasta of any type (or rice) - add creamy soup of any sort, throw in veggies.  If you have any type of leftover meat - add.  Use what you have.
  • Gravy (any type) over toast or biscuits/scones
  • Spaghetti and sauce  or baked spaghetti.  Mix together pasta and sauce, maybe some cheese, add an egg or two as binder - bake until set in a moderate oven.  This is a favorite of mine.
  • Poached eggs on toast.  This is not one I could do - I don't do runny eggs!!!!  BUT, I can do scrambled, fried or hard boiled - and it would be filling
  • Chili made with LENTILS instead of meat.  Lentils take the place of the meat.  Make lentil tacos or burgers (see bean burgers below).
  • Pinto beans with salsa over rice - any kind of beans
  • SOUPS - any kinds of soups.  You can totally throw any type of veggie and/or meat together with tomatoes, broth, gravy, etc. and have soup.  Season and you have a hearty meal.  Serve soup with bread or crackers.  Soup is one of the easiest and best ways to stretch the food dollar and the pantry
  • Hash - chop veggies and leftover meat - and 'fry' it up.  I love hamburger hash - potatoes, carrots, onions and hamburger - corned beef hash is great (same way).   Sweet potatoes, potatoes, carrots, turnips, onion, pepper - whatever you want to add
  • Black bean or lentil burgers!  I am not a fan of the "new" veggie "meat" being sold - plus it is expensive (& too many additives).  Make your own and you know exactly what simple ingredients are in it.  Beans (drained - I also smash a little), breadcrumbs or oats, egg for binder and seasonings.  Form patties and fry like a burger.  Protein and a great sub for expensive meat.  Actually, you can use any kind of bean you have or want - it doesn't have to be black beans.
  • PBJ sandwiches.  For a spin on that - add banana or thinly sliced apples and grill like a grilled cheese - oh YUM!
  • Baked oatmeal.  I am not an oatmeal (in a bowl) eater.  Love baked oatmeal.  I make up a batch of oatmeal, add nuts, seeds, dried fruit, peanut butter, applesauce - whatever you have - place in a moderate oven and bake until top is crusty.  Cut and serve with a drizzle of syrup or honey, or a dab of jelly.
  • Baked potatoes - topped with anything.
  • Tuna salad - served in a sandwich or open face on bread, or with crackers, or in a lettuce wrap.
  • Salads are always good, especially in summer with fresh veggies.  Pasta salad, potato salad, meat or egg salads - serve with crusty bread or crackers
Just a few ideas.  There are hundreds of ways to stretch your food and your dollars.  There are so many ways to make soup or a casserole - there is no limit to your imagination.  Top casseroles with mashed potatoes, cornbread, biscuits, pie crust, crunchy onions, cheese, crumbs from chips or breadcrumbs, etc.
Keep that 'soup' starter container in the freezer - throw all leftover bits in it - when full, make soup.

We all try to keep the basics in our pantries and freezers.  Beans, rice, pasta, potatoes, canned/frozen veggies, canned meats and frozen meats.  Use a little imagination and you have a culinary world of delight at your finger tips.

No reason to get bored.  No reason to bust the budget with fancy ingredients.  No reason to go hungry. No reason to say 'we have nothing'.  Keep your stock of basics on hand - replace as used. 
Nothing super fancy - but good eating!!!!!
That is all I care about!!!  How about you?


  1. This is the way we like to eat anyway! We do have to watch the carbs there is no choice in the matter. We try to keep them down as much as we can but we love them!

    1. Cean and simple eating is great. Not everyone seems to have figured it out yet!!!!

  2. Whàt a great and extensive list. I plan to copy these down for reference. I am racking my brain trying to think of others.. but you've done such a thorough job already. I do have a couple jars in the freezer for bits and bobs of leftovers. Into one goes veggies..like too little for another meal that we didn't finish. When it's full it may include corn, peas, green beans, cabbage, etc. I then pull it out and have a great start for vegetable soup. I often keep a jar for leftover bits of fruit. When it's full, I thicken it a bit and serve it over plain cake or ice cream. I also have done a jar for bits of compatible pan drippings, gravy or broth. It can be made into broth for soup or liquid for stews. Growing up and even now, I like to fix macaroni and tomatoes. Comfort food! Or even breaded tomatoes. My mom made the best but I try. She often fixed creamed veggies...I forget to do that but it uses up veggies that are kinda pass prime and makes them yummy. My favorites were either peas or onions. I love your posts, Cheryl! I hope you realize what a blessing you are to us all!!

    1. Thanks. Saving fruit is a great idea. I like that. I love tomato and macaroni too. I ate a lot of that when I was single. Still love it. Gosh, we can cream about anything and it is good - tasty over toast too.
      Thank you so much for your kind words!

  3. I have found I can open a google tab and type a few ingredients and recipes always pop up. I have leftover chicken thighs, sauted mushrooms and a few handfuls of fresh spinach. Immediately got a load of recipes for enchiladas with a sour cream cilantro sauce. Well, I do I have sour cream in the fridge and some dried cilantro in the pantry-from last years' garden! Guess what's for dinner?

    In the freezer I have a cup of brown rice and about 1.5c of black beans. Those will be dinner tomorrow night along with some cheese and a container of stewed tomatoes (I chopped and simmered the last 6 softening tomatoes from my March grocery shop).

    Thursday will be a pasta bake. I will pull a slab of garden ratatouille and some frozen Italian meat (I cook up It sausage and ground turkey or beef, drain and freeze flattened out in a 1 gal zip bag so I can break off a chunk as needed).

    I agree. Look around, gather the foods you like and do something with them.

    I haven't been to the grocery store since March 7. I'm thinking I will go Friday. I'm doing well with my once monthly goal! :-)

    1. You go girl - you got it going on. Love all the re-use!!!!
      So much of odds and ends can go together for something else wonderful! Thanks for giving examples.
      Good job on the shopping. I bet you could much longer too!

    2. I could go longer for sure. What I miss however, is fresh fruit!

    3. I understand that - I get cravings sometime!

  4. I consider myself a simple cook. I don't like recipes that take longer to prep than they do to cook. Using leftovers is a challenge sometimes because my son isn't a fan (unless it's mac & cheese), so I have to get creative. Adding pasta to sloppy joes or meat sauce and baking with cheese always goes over well.
    We love roasted veg as well and now that the weather is warmer, the BBQ gets used more often. Last night's dinner was Denver sandwiches to use up some bacon in the meat crisper.
    Using frozen rather than fresh veg and fruit can be a savings too.
    Now I'm hungry! :)

    1. Mac n cheese is always good!!! I agree with him on that.
      Anything with bacon is too!!!!!!!
      Frozen can be had very inexpensively. I love that. If one runs out of freezer space - they are very easy to dehydrate as well.
      I hear you - so many good ideas!

  5. We like tuna noodle casserole made with Campbells Golden Mushroom Soup. I throw in a small can of mushrooms, can of peas, french fried onions, and cheddar cheese. So much better than the traditional recipe!

    I hated oatmeal until I started making it with milk. Now oatmeal w/raisins is my cold weather go-to breakfast. Husband has a fried egg on toast every morning. PB&J and soup are on my lunch menu two days a week. My mother says she craved PB&J sandwiches when she was pregnant with me. Must be why I like them so much!

    That Sloppy Joe casserole sounds good. And I just happen to have a can of Manwich in the pantry. Husband won't eat regular sloppy joes because they're too messy, but I bet he would eat the casserole.

    1. Your tuna noodle casserole sounds mighty tasty to me. I always add extra things too.
      I was made to eat oatmeal as a kiddo and just can't do it today. IF I were hungry enough - sure - but so fat I don't need to! LOL
      I bet you hubs would love the casserole. It is quite tasty. Add whatever you like to it. He is tight sloppy joe sandwiches are messy - I always eat mine open face with a fork!

  6. That is exactly how we roll here at our house! All comfort food! And friends and family love to eat here. If things look a little short I have always added a basket of homemade biscuits for a meal stretcher.

    Yesterday we purchased a 12 pound whole sirloin tip for an unbelievable 1.99 a pound and had it ground. I have always frozen our ground meat in 8 ounce packages but have decided that 6 ounces is plenty. I portioned out 29 meals from that $24 dollar purchase! That made me very happy. Lots of simple meals coming right up!

    I have become a champion freezer packer! Hubby said no way that meat would fit but I took a big Cheerios box and cut through the middle and neatly slid those packs of meat into the boxes and they went right into the freezer because they were all neatly contained into a small space. Where there is a will there is a way!

    1. What a deal and a great idea! Deal of the month!!!!!
      Bread has always been a great stretcher of a meal. Mom always made biscuits or cornbread!
      29 meals for 2 people for less than a $1!!!!!! WOW. That is just crazy good.
      Indeed - if there is a will there is a way!

  7. I am so grateful that I am a scratch cook. I don't even go down the frozen food aisle. There is nothing there I would buy except icecream.
    I always say make soup and add a biscut or a bread of some kind, then a simple dessert, people will love it.

    1. Good for you. I do like some frozen veggies - as I don't seem to find good ones fresh always. I really like frozen peas - not canned.
      Yes indeed. nothing better than a bowl of homemade soup and bread!

  8. Debby in Kansas USAApril 5, 2022 at 2:38 PM

    I considered it a great compliment when my MIL said she liked coming to visit because we ate normal food!! She told me that a few of her daughters liked trying fancy new recipes and "will spend a fortune on ingredients they'll only use once!". Definitely not so around here!! I guess one of my other SILs was another favorite for the same reason. My MIL also loved salmon and tilapia and that SIL served them once a week. I don't care for seafood. Freshwater trout was all I'd eat as a kid, but it had to be campside and fresh from the lake!

    Pasta and bready items are really the best way to fill empty tummies. I think that's why casseroles gained so much popularity. Small bits of veggies and meat could be be stretched to extremes with noodles and white sauce. Or rice. Many of my friends would buy cases of Kraft Mac and cheese when they had teenagers. They'd say that the kids would get their nourishment in meals, that the Mac and cheese was just to fill the hollows until then!
    I think that's why it's heavily requested at the food pantry, along with Top Ramen. One mom said her teen son ate 3-4 ramen after school every day. And then a full dinner.

    Hot cereal was served every day in my house. I still eat oatmeal daily! I have it with walnuts and raisins. I also buy Cream of Wheat. Love that, too. So does my brother. Healthy and filling.

    Great ideas here! My mom's go to meals when the cupboards were bare were pinto beans with salt pork and the other was creamed tuna over drop biscuits. She could sneak freezer burnt mixed veggies in the sauce without anyone complaining lol!!

    1. How nice that your MIL appreciates you and your ways. Simple cooking is for sure the best in my opinion. I remember years ago we went to a super fancy restaurant with my work partners and we stopped at McD's on the way home!!! It was all pretty - but it sure didn't fill the bellies!! LOL

      Mac n cheese is a staple for teens and kids I think. They love that stuff. Used to be so sticking cheap too. I still like a Ramen now and then!!

      Hey, you fed your family the best you could - and hopefully they didn't go hungry. People need to learn that again.

  9. All those are great ideas! The only thing I would add is to experiment with herbs and seasonings. They can bring so much flavor to many things. Just read recipes and information on the internet as to what works well on different meats and vegetables. Start with just a small amount to see what appeals to your taste. Remember that dried herbs are more powerful in taste than fresh and adjust for that in a recipe.

    1. I use a lot of spices and some hers. I have my favorites. I love Rosemary and basil and thyme. I grow as many as I can, and dry them.
      They are easy to grow and that saves money.
      Yes, we all need to play with our (despite what Mom said!!) and learn what we like the best.

  10. So, I just finished dinner. These are tasty folks! A must try.


    I had 2 chicken thighs aging in the fridge. I chopped those up and threw them in as well.

  11. So many good ideas! A person should not be bored or hungry with the variety of foods available. The Urban Farmer made a dandy potato soup and we'll eat the rest of it tomorrow. When stumped for something to cook, make soup or a stir fry. Both are incredibly easy. The older I get, the less I am prone to make elaborate dishes that require lots of not-in-the-pantry ingredients and dragging out lots of pots and pans.

    1. Mmmm potato soup. So good.
      So right - we can out so many things together in a new way and have a scrumptious dinner.
      I love simple cooking.

  12. I love beans and rice--blackeyed peas and brown rice with NO salt or other seasonings. It tastes delicious despite how bland it sounds. I will not put rice in other beans, though.

    1. I like rice with all kinds of beans - it all tastes good to me. I don't fix black eyed peas nearly enough - they are good.

  13. I love roasted brussels sprouts and we always have baked spaghetti after a meal of spaghetti and sauce. I purposely make extra just for this purpose.

    God bless.

    1. LOL - I have done the same! Glen used to loved it baked - so we would have it both ways.
      I like brussel's fixed any way you want!!!!

  14. We married young while my husband was in college - learned early how to eat cheaply. Anything over toast seems 'fancy' like canned tuna, few green peas, and 1/2 can cream of mushroom soup--heat through. Also- a package of chipped dried beef added to a homemade white sauce made with real butter & milk & lots of black pepper - serve hot over toast. Dried lima beans and blackeyed peas are delicious over rice with pickled onion on top. Yum.

    1. So many learned how to cook in the lean years!!!! I still love chipped beef and gravy over toast.
      I fix lima beans every now and them - I really like them. I wouldn't touch them as a kid. Funny how some of our taste changes.

  15. You say you don't like runny eggs...do you mean the whites or the yolks? Poached eggs on toast are one of my main comfort foods. Assuming you meant that you don't like runny whites (who does? LOL) I am going to teach you how to make poached eggs.

    Bring water to a boil in a frying pan big enough to poach the number of eggs you want to cook. Now, here is the secret: Add a "blub" of vinegar (about 2-3 teaspoons) to the water. Carefully crack the eggs into the water. You will immediately notice that the whites don't spread all over the pan. This is the result of the vinegar, which does not affect the taste of the eggs.

    Now set the timer for 3 minutes--same as a soft-boiled egg. Turn the heat down to a low boil. Make sure the water covers the yolk--if it doesn't, gently spoon the boiling water over the exposed part of the eggs. When the timer goes off, turn off the heat and remove the eggs from the water with a slotted spoon or turner. Place the eggs on a plate, then pour any collected water off the plate before serving over toast (if you put them directly on the toast, you get wet toast).

    Note that the actual cooking time is about 3 minutes, 15 seconds. This works perfectly if you set the timer for 3 min. after the eggs are in the water and turn off the timer before you remove the eggs. If the white doesn't seem quite firm enough, just leave the eggs in the water a tiny bit longer and spoon the hot water over the top.

    This sounds fiddly, but once you've done it, it becomes automatic. Poached eggs are sooooooo good, but only if the whites are firm!

    1. Thank you - I am sure that will help many.

      I don't like runny YELLOW! ICK. (or whites). My eggs need to be cooked through and through.
      I used to make poached for Glen - he loved them. I had a hard time watching him eat them. Just something I can not eat.

    2. mikemax, Thanks for the instructions on how to make poached eggs. My favorite!

  16. Roasted brussels sprouts are the BEST! I learned a couple of tricks from a good friend at a BBQ. Toss your cleaned brussels sprouts in a mix of olive oil and melted butter before roasting. The butter helps them caramelize better than just the oil alone. Sprinkle with a little black pepper and smoked paprika. Either oven-roast or cook on the stovetop in a cast iron pan, turning them every so often to have even browning. When cooked, drizzle with a little balsamic vinegar (the thicker the better) before serving. YUM! Now I know what I'm adding to my dinner menu. No special ingredients, just adding some flare using pantry items.

    1. ADDED NOTE: My friend does these all the time in a cast iron pan on the grill. Outdoor cooking approved.

  17. Some things I do to keep costs down--

    I buy spices in bulk and have a good variety. This way I can make whatever cuisine sounds good.

    I manage my leftovers! I use them. But the key is to be cooking foods I like so I want to use them! lol.

    I clean out the fridge once a week. I cook/prep/ freeze/dehydrate what has been in there for a week and will probably go bad soon.

    I try to buy produce at 99 cents or less. And I keep my eyes out for discounted produce.

    I love to use cooked dry beans! I put them in salads, pasta, soup. I make falafel and veggie burgers. I make hummus. I love freshly cooked beans plain or over rice! lol.