Jan 23, 2011

Cooking on a Budget --or "making something out of nothing"

I have really enjoyed cooking (and eating) last night and today. While I'm not a great cook, I think I do pretty good.  And I do enjoy cooking and baking. Pies are my favorite thing to bake (and eat). Probably my forte in the kitchen though is putting together a tasty, somewhat balanced meal with what's on hand and doing it quickly.  I was doing 30 minute meals way before Rachael Ray was popular. Albeit, probably not as fancy as hers. Truthfully, I usually have a lot on hand that I've bought when it was "on sale".  We study the grocery store ads each week and often go to 3 different stores to stock up on the "sale items" that we use regularly.  Throw in a few coupons for further savings and we are able to eat well on a limited budget. I seldom buy items that are not on sale, unless it is staples we have run out of or something I need to make a particular dish.
I sometimes make planned-overs, also.  That is left-overs or extra food that is deliberately planned to make a different second meal.
Sometimes I tell hubby that a meal is "made from nothing".  His response is " I'm glad we had 'nothing' to make it out of."
Today I made Chicken Soup. This is one of my "something from nothing meals".  Truthfully,  I didn't intend to make Chicken Soup this week, but the Chicken Breast I got out of the freezer yesterday turned out to be the bones and skins that I had saved for soup stock. You see, when Chicken breasts are on sale for $1 per lb. I buy several packages.  I then cut the skin and bones off, leaving boneless skinless chicken breast which I put in appropriate sized packages  to freeze for use in various dishes calling for boneless skinless chicken breast.   I put the bones and skins in another package to use for soup stock. Or sometimes I cook it right then and make soup or put the stock in the freezer.

Anyway, I put the chicken on to boil after supper last night.  I put in sea salt, black  pepper, savory, some chopped bay leaf, a couple of stalks of celery, about 3/4 of an onion I had already peeled in the fridge, a small carrot chopped in large pieces and covered it all with water.  I brought it to a boil and simmered it covered for several hours. I was gone for short time and when I came back in, the house smelled so good.  Told Hubby we should start a cafe.  The smells would be so attractive.  The food might not be the best, but the aroma, ummmm!
This morning early, I removed all the bones and skin.  There was 3 to 4 cups of meat and veggies to put back in the stock.  Later, I added a can of mixed vegetables, a can of diced tomatoes, and a couple of packages of Ramen Noodles with the seasoning pack and voila! Chicken soup.  We like to crush the noodles into tiny pieces in the package before adding them to the boiling broth.  Sometimes I have fresh frozen tomatoes from a local garden, but since those are all gone, we had to revert to canned ones. Also sometimes I use frozen mixed veggies.  It just depends on what I have on hand.  In any case, the canned or frozen foods have been bought on sale and ramen noodles are cheap, cheap, so the whole big pot of soup costs very little.  This chicken soup turned out so, so yummy. I will definitely stick with the sea salt and the particular herbs I used. We ate some for lunch with whole wheat crackers and I took some to Mimi.  Then late afternoon Paul and  each had a second bowlful. UMMM Good. There is still enough for another meal.  I may freeze it to use sometime when I don't have time to cook or we may eat it tomorrow.

For supper, I pulled 2 Tombstone pizzas out of the freezer and into the oven. Added a green salad and we had a real treat for a Friday night meal and avoided the expense of going out.  I got the pizza recently on a special of 4 for $10.  We will have left over pizza for breakfast too.

We had ham for Christmas dinner.  Last week, I took the ham bone which still had a lot of ham on it and made 15 bean soup.  I buy the package of 15 bean soup mix for that. It includes a seasoning packet and has the instructions on the package.  We really enjoyed that also. I know it sounds like we do a lot of soup, but say hey, it is winter and a good bowl of hot soup is real comfort food. Of course, you could stretch the dollars a bit more by buying pinto beans or navy beans or whatever you like and seasoning them up yourself, but no more often than we have ham with the bone I sort of splurge and get the 15 bean soup package.
Happy Cooking Everyone---

This was actually written a week or so ago. I just now got the pictures put together, but hey that's okay.
Meantime I have enjoyed shopping,cooking and we have enjoyed eating a lot more good food.

1 comment:

  1. Thank u Ms. Hazel, I truely enjoyed this!! Especially in these days and times, any shortcuts, hints, or suggestions for good, cheap meals are extremely appreciated, and they all sound so yummy! I love the way you write, and I love reading ALL of your blogs, so keep 'em coming my friend, you are a blessing. Love u much!! :)