Thursday, July 21, 2011

Frugal Food - 10 Food Basics Every Kitchen Must Have

Food costs are up - even on the basics we all rely on to prepare good, basic meals for our families. What can we do? Instead of relying on too many processed foods, rely on these good basic meal makers to create delicious and nutritious meals - that won't break the bank.

  1. Rice - in all its forms! Brown rice, white rice, short grain rice. I love the nutritional value of brown rice, even though it does cost more per serving. You can use rice to create countless main dishes, including casseroles, or use plain rice as a base and different sauces - think sweet and sour chicken, or mushroom meatballs - over top. Also, rice is a handy substitute hot cereal, or can be made into deliciously creamy rice pudding.

  2. Beans - beans, beans, a musical fruit...does anyone else remember that silly little bean song? :) Beans may make your belly more 'musical', but they're downright healthy and good for you! Combine rice and beans for an ultra frugal meal, or try using cooked black beans in brownies - no kidding! Search the 'net for black bean brownies recipes -- they're healthier, and they taste amazingly good.

  3. Oats - I love oatmeal for breakfast, and I even whir up some oats in the blender to create oat flour, which has more nutrition than plain white flour. Add oats to ground meats to make them go farther, without alterting the taste, but meanwhile upping the nutritional value and the fiber.

  4. Frozen fruit - Sometimes buying bags of pre-frozen fruit can be expensive, so buy when on sale or freeze your own fruit. Bananas gone bad? Cut into thick chunks and store in a plastic baggie and freeze - it's perfect to go into a smoothie! Or, when berries are on sale, freeze strawberries, blueberries, blackberries or whatever type you found and use in cakes, muffins, pancakes or more smoothies. (Can you TELL that I enjoy a smoothie or two? :) )

  5. Frozen veggies - again, stock up when they're on sale. I love that they won't go bad, unlike the fresh vegetables that will go funny if you don't use them quickly enough. Good in stirfries, or in soups, or on the side of any dinner entree.

  6. Buckwheat flour - I can't eat regular wheat flour, but did you know that buckwheat flour is gluten free? It's delicious, regardless, and if you buy it in a big sack you can get a much better bargain. It is absolutely scrumptious in homemade pancakes, and works well in just about any cake or muffin recipe - there's fiber and protein in it, so it's good for you.

  7. Eggs - oh, how I love a dozen eggs! They're one food, however, that I don't mind paying a little more for to get a nicer quality. For instance - you can get free range or free run eggs, or the type enriched with Omega 3 oils - usually that just means that the chickens were fed flax seeds. Eggs are delicious whipped up into fluffy omelets filled with fresh veggies and cheese, or as a dip for French Toast- a wonderful Sunday morning breakfast.

  8. Ground beef, or veggie 'ground beef' - either way, this is a great way to make your meat (or 'meat' in the case of veggie ground round) stretch further. Terriffic in pasta sauces, casseroles, soups and stews. Again, buy on sale and freeze. Also, obviously wonderful as burgers. Veggie ground round, if you haven't tried it, is surprisingly yummy - oh, and a good substitute for vegetarians in Mexican foods like tacos. I'm craving a good taco.

  9. Chicken - but only if you aren't hooked on skinless, boneless chicken breasts alone! Nothing wrong with stocking up on those when they're on sale and freezing (since they are quick and easy to add to stir fries and other quick meals) general chicken parts with the skin and bone are much cheaper. Chicken legs, for instance, tend to be a very good deal - a chicken leg includes the thigh and drumstick.

  10. Breakfast for Supper - Pancakes, homemade waffles (or frozen), scrambled eggs and toast, bacon and eggs - all of these are not exactly a specific food, but rather a type of food we think of for breakfast. This makes a far cheaper dinner than usual, since the emphasis isn't on meat.

There, with a little creativity you can make your food budget stretch a little further, while eating like (frugalite) kings and queens. Good on you!

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