Thursday, January 20, 2011

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.

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