Frugal Food for Thought

OK, so it took moving overseas for me to figure it out... but it's really not that difficult to make basic things from scratch. Basic things don't require obscure ingredients (if I can find them in the middlanowhere in Central Asia, then you can find them at your handy-dandy Albertson's, WalMart, or whatever) and it really doesn't take that much more time than the from-the-box way. But it sure does taste better! Well, almost all the time. My tortillas today came out about average. But average is good for the first time! Recently, I've made cornbread from scratch quite a lot, and it's delicious! We eat ours with milk, straight out of the oven. Sound gross to you? Never tried it? Well, get thee to an oven, bake some up, and try a bowl with milk (almost cover the cornbread in milk). You'll be amazed!

Since we've been here in China, I've made pancakes and syrup from scratch, and the pancakes (following the Better Homes & Gardens recipe) taste as good or better than Aunt Jemima's boxed mix. The syrup is tasty too! Pasta sauces aren't tough at all... I've been astounded by how easy it is to cook from scratch! And it's SO much less expensive than packaged food.

A couple of days ago, I made cheesecake from scratch. Wow. Since we can't buy graham crackers here, I had to substitute Oreos for the crust, which really was no sacrifice
at all! :) It was delicious, and can only get better from here since this was my first crack at it! So, if you're looking to save a bit of dough, you can make a bit of dough and make your own tortillas, cornbread, cakes, sauces, WHATEVER. Let my trials and errors and successes be an inspiration to you. It's a great way to be frugal, learn some skills of old, and gain some self-confidence in the process. Plus you get a tasty treat as a reward for your efforts! Enjoy!


the blackwells said...

So I have made a few more things from scratch than I did back in the States -- I did chocolate chip cookies rather than the break apart Pillsbury ones :) a week or so ago.

Cornbread and milk is great -- especially with honey drizzled over it. Yum! That is a great memory from my childhood. Unfortunately they don't sell cornmeal here in England (well, I haven't found it yet with diligent searching).

Can you send me your tortilla recipe?

Jess said...

Hey Heather- I looked for your e-mail and couldn't find anything but Ben's old work e-mail. So hopefully you'll re-read these comments and see these recipes.

(I like this one because you don't have to take time to let them rise or anything like that.) I got this off of the internet.

4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
2 tsp. salt
4 tsp. baking powder
2 Tbsp. vegetable shortening
1&1/2 cups warm water (or more if needed)

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, salt and baking powder. With a pastry blender, a fork, or your hands, gradually work in the shortening until it is all incorporated. Add enough warm water to make a soft but not sticky dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead for 5 mins. (I did this in the bowl.) Pull off golf-ball or smaller sized portions and roll into balls. Roll each ball into a flat round shape about 6 inches in diameter (some of mine came out shaped like Texas or Alaska, but that's OK). Heat a large heavy skillet over medium high heat. Place the tortillas one at a time into the dry hot skillet, cook until lightly browned on one side, then turn and cook on the other side. Remove from the skillet and keep warm in a cloth towel.

***I had enough left over to make an additional meal for our family with tortillas. I just plastic-wrapped the extras before I cooked them and then cooked them on the spot when I needed them. Next time I make this, I'm going to make 3x or 4x the recipe and keep the additional amount in the fridge in plastic wrap so I can just have the convenience of pulling them out of the fridge and having freshly baked tortillas.***

TulipGirl said...

I found when we were in Ukraine (big city, not rural) it was interesting juggling the trade-offs of "from scratch" and "convenience," when there were very few convenience foods.

I made tortillas a few times, but usually bought Armenian Lavash (when we could find it) for our Ukr-Mex Fusion recipes. Especially since I'd cook for a crowd on a regular basis.

The first year we could barely find any frozen veggies, and those we found were $5/bag for a bag my family would wipe out in one meal. So we only ate seasonal fresh veggies. Ie, cabbage and potatoes in the winter. *L* By the last year we were there, frozen veggies were only about $1-2/bag and sooooo worth it to me to get green leafies in the middle of winter.

Anyway, you probably have a whole host of different food items easily available where you are than where we were, but these are some of the recipes and adaptations that I found helpful when I had very few convenience foods:

Anonymous said...

My hubby and I love to eat soft tacos on rush nights becasue they are simple, yummy and fairly healthy....even more so if you are making the tortillas from scratch without preservatives. I never would have thought to make my own. Thanks for the recipe!
I stumbled across your blog today for the first time and have been enjoying exploring it!


Anonymous said...

That cheesecake looks seeeeeriously niiiiiice!!