Thursday, January 20, 2011

Frugal Cooking Tips: Buy in Bulk or On Sale

There are many ways to cut down on the cost of cooking. Over the course of these next posts I'll try to highlight some of the frugal cooking techniques that I used.

You might find by following a few of these your costs will go down AND the quality of your meals will go up.

BUY IN BULK and WHEN ON SALE: Whenever possible, buy in larger quantities. Of course you have to be able to store the extras. It does you no good to buy mass quantities that then go stale, spoil or have to be thrown out.

My husband is always reminding me that the freezer or the pantry isn't a savings account!!

Our local market had these beef chuck roasts on sale. Buy one get one free!! How can I resist? . I purchased two 3 pound roasts. So...... priced at 5.19 a pound my actual cost per pound is 2.59 per pound. Now THAT'S more like it. Freezing one today and cooking the other as an oven pot roast with separately roasted, carrots, potatoes, onions and home made rolls.

This is an easy peasy recipe and when you are done there will be ample left over meat for another meal, like a beef enchilada casserole, minestrone soup or pot roast sandwiches.

(I need to note here that I am cooking for two adults. If you have more in your family, then you should adjust accordingly. We two adults will be able to get 2 to 3 meals from this recipe.)


  • 3 lb beef chuck roast
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 4 tbsp or so of oil
  • one small onion chopped
  • 2 bay leaves (if you have some big deal)
  • 4 to 5 cloves garlic coarsely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery chopped in 2 inch pieces leaves included

Pre Heat the oven to 325.

Salt and pepper the roast on all sides. Roll the roast in the flour In a dutch oven heat some of the oil and sear the roast on all sides, about 3 minutes to a side. Remove the roast and make a bed of the onion, celery and bay leaf. Put the roast back onto the pan, cover and roast for about 30 minutes. Turn the heat down to 300 and roast for another hour or hour and half.


  • 5 or 6 medium sized red potatoes cut into eights
  • 3 large carrots peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 red onion peeled and cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks
  • any other root type vegetable or winter squash that you may have hand cut into similar size pieces
  • garlic salt
  • cracked pepper
  • spices that you may have like parsley, basil, tarragon..whatever
  • olive oil, about 1/4 cup or less

During the last half hour, on a separate sheet pan or shallow roasting pan, drizzle the vegetables with the olive oil and toss well to coat. Sprinkle with garlic salt, pepper and the spices that you desire. Roast along side the pot roast, stirring the vegetables a couple of times with a spatula.

Remove the pot roast and let set for 10 to 15 minutes. In the meantime if the vegetables are not done or you would like them a bit crisper, crank up the heat and stir them again to ensure even cooking.

If you would like, make some gravy with the drippings in the pot roast pan.

Pot roast can be as simple as you want it to be, like this recipe, or you can jazz it up. The trick is long slow cooking of an inexpensive cut of meat to create a tender and juicy roast.

Hard Times and Cheap Eats: Red Beans and Rice

Times are hard and get ready may just get worse.

Food prices are climbing. Our government is encouraging the use of food (corn) as fuel for vehicles. We are burning up our food instead of using it to feed ourselves and the livestock that provides us with meat, eggs, cheese, butter. Everything is going to cost more and more. If the cost isn't going up, the size of the package is getting smaller. We are paying more and getting less.

Energy is getting more expensive due to regulations that make it harder to produce oil and gas. Regulations that put burdens on our ability to use even renewable sources of energy such as hydro, wind or solar. We are being taxed to the nth degree all along the chain for energy.

More people are now unemployed than were out of work during the Great Depression. You know the BIG ONE that your Grandparents or even your Parents may have experienced or remember.

We haven't had real hard times in our fortunate and blessed country since World War II. Sure, we had somewhat of a major self inflicted recession during the Carter years, but all in all, we have been living in a land of plenty. Actually, we STILL are living in a land of plenty, when even our poorest can sport cell phones, flat screen televisions, computers at home and have ample access to food through charity and government food stamp programs.

So while we are going to be experiencing hard times, it is nothing in comparison to the experiences of our ancestors. Our problem now, is that we have forgotten how to cope, how to save, how to make do and we need to relearn all the lessons that our parents taught us or that we just refused to learn.

I'm not going to enumerate the ways that people suffered or the ways that they coped here on this blog. There are many blogs out there that give tips and examples. This blog is about cooking and household tips, so this is what I will focus on when I write about Frugal Food or Cheap Eats.

Many young people have never learned to cook or to master even the most basic of household economics. Why should they, they think, when you can just buy a pre packaged frozen dinner, order a pizza, run to McDonald's. Who needs to learn to cook? Well... guess what. YOU DO!

It is just too much bother to cook and even if you do, leftovers are not left...over.... but often just thrown away. You probably just rolled your eyes at the "There are children starving in India" lecture we all received when we didn't want to eat the spinach or Brussels sprouts. However, everyday throughout this country, we are wasting food. Waste of food that people in other countries would be grateful for, food that might mean the difference between life and death.

SO.....lecture over. Let's move on to how can we eat well, eat cheaply and use recipes that even those who have rudimentary cooking skills can prepare and can be proud to serve.


Red Beans and Rice are a cheap, tasty meal and are a complete protein even without any meat added to the pot.
  • One cup of dried Red Beans or Red Kidney Beans
  • 3 cups of water
  • 1 cup of chopped onion, approximately one small onion
  • 3/4 cup chopped celery, 2 stalks
  • 5 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Optional: 3 sausages
  • Optional: 1/2 tsp liquid smoke

Wash the beans and sort to remove bad ones. Put all of the ingredients except the sausages in a small/medium crockpot and cook on medium for 5 to 6 hours or until the beans are getting tender. Stir occasionally to make sure the beans are getting evenly done.

Slice or cut up the sausages. Stir into the beans and continue to cook for about another half hour or longer.

Serve over white rice.

How easy is this?!?

Note: I used Italian Sausages, because I had them handy. You can use any other kind of sausage like a smoked linguica. You can also use left over pork roast. Anything will do. The recipe also calls for Green Peppers diced and tossed in in the begining. I don't like them and didn't have didn't use it.


Onion at .89 a pound. One onion = .25
Red Beans 1.69 for 2 lb. One cup is 1/4 of the package. = .45
Garlic .50 a head. 5 cloves = .15
Sausage 4.99 lb. 3 sausages = 2.50
Water free! (sort of)
Spices. Hard to say, since I already own them and grow my own Thyme, but let's guess at 1.50.
Rice. 1 1/2 cup of dried long grain rice will yield about 3 cups cooked. = .75

Total Cost approx 6.10. Serves 4. Cost per serving about $1.52

How cheap is that!. Come on now. No excuses. Get cooking.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Caraway Leek Potato Latkes

Leeks and caraway give a really tasty spin to this version of the simple and easy potato latke.

This basic recipe was torn from a Cooking Light magazine and has been stored in a file for several years and resurected when I was looking for something different to accompany some BBQ steaks and use up some ingredients left over from making Potato Leek soup a few days ago.

Naturally, I altered the original recipe to suit what ingredients I have on hand and just because.....that's the way I am.

Had 3 extra large baking potatoes...check
2 leeks.....check
sour cream.....check

OK...let's go.....


  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 4 cups shredded peeled baking potatoes
  • 2 cups chopped leeks
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp coarse ground pepper
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 or two large eggs
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/8 cup chopped fresh parsley

Mix together the sour cream, garlic powder and herbs and let set aside. (When I do this again, I will probably substitute fresh minced garlic for the garlic powder). My sour cream was rather thick so I thinned it with some whipping cream that I had on hand

Grate the potatoes. If you don't have a food processor......get one. It will save you time, protect your knuckles and save your guests from eating parts of your fingers. Toss the potatoes into a medium bowl.

Press some of the potato liquid out of the grated potatoes to keep them from being too wet. I just smoosh the grated potato mass against the side the bowl that I'm using and pour off the liquid. Toss the grated potatoes with the lemon juice. This will keep them from turning orange or rusty brown. Add the chopped tops and all and mix together.

Note: If you have never used leeks before: they are grown in loose sandy soil and will have sand and grit in their layers as they grow. Just a fact of life. Our food is dirty. Be sure to split them in half lengthwise and under running cold water fan out the layers to remove the sandy soil: otherwise you will have grit in your latkes. Cut off the root end. Start slicing thinly crossways from the bottom to the top Coarsly chop. Be sure to use as much of the green tops of the leeks as you can for color and taste. They get tougher at the top end of the leek so I usually discard the top 3 to 5 inches depending on how large the leek is.

Mix in the flour and spices and toss with a fork or fingers. Beat one egg and mix into the potatoes to create a batter. If it seems too dry you can beat the other eggs and add some a little bit at a time. You just want the potatoes to cling together and be bound by the flour but not a wet sloppy mess.

Pre heat oven to 350. Lightly grease or spray with cooking oil a baking sheet and set aside.

Heat up a skillet or griddle with a few tablespoons of oil until it is quite hot. Drop the batter by 1/4 cup amounts or several mounded tablespoons onto the griddle. Level the pancakes/lates out with the back of a spoon if necessary. Cook until golden on one side. Flip and do the same on the other side. Add more oil as necessary.

As the latkes are browned on each side, arrange on the baking sheet.

Bake at 350 for 10 to 15 minutes until crisp and cooked through.

The normal way to cook latkes is to just fry them in oil until done. By using this recipe method, quick browning and baking, you have a lot less grease because the potatoes will absorb the oil like little sponges. Because this is a Cooking Light recipe, they are always trying to cut down on the fat. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't. I actually prefer the latkes done this way.

Serve warm with the sour cream.

Leftover latkes are good sauteed in butter and served as a side for eggs over easy for breakfast.