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Recession Cuisine

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Food prices - and everything else prices - are up and income is the same but surely feels like less.... What's a chowhound to do? I know what high end items to cut (bye bye pomegranate juice) but what low end things do I add? What low cost delights are out there? I want to know about the delicious make do recipes that got our grandparents through the depression. Anybody have suggestions for good cheap eats?

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  1. If in NYC there's always the recession special at Gray's
    Otherwise check out from the library the jacques pepin book "cusine economique" for good yet thrifty menus

    1. Hibiscus Flower are very rich in more or less the same polyphenols as Pomegranate Juice... you can make very inexpensive Agua de Jamaica as a replacement for Pom.

      12 Replies
      1. re: Eat_Nopal

        Interesting. If global warming keeps up I expect hibiscus will grow here but until then I'll have to be polyphenol deprived!

        1. re: lupaglupa

          I buy the concentrate.

          1. re: lupaglupa

            you can buy the leaves at any Mexican market, or you can buy the concentrate.

            1. re: Analisas mom

              And the leaves are very inexpensive.... $5 worth will make 10+ gallons!

              1. re: Eat_Nopal

                made from leaves or petals?

                1. re: toodie jane

                  The whole flower actually.. I wasn't exact in my first comment.

                  1. re: Eat_Nopal

                    yeah, it's the whole flower...well, not the leaves. You can get a pretty good-size cellophane bag here in Oakland for cheap. Also makes killer popsicles (sp)

              2. re: Analisas mom

                believe it or not there are some parts of the country that don't have Mexican markets.

                1. re: KaimukiMan

                  Impossible! Actually... are there any on Oahu? I know of one in Maui.

                  1. re: Eat_Nopal

                    Mercado de la Raza, 1315 S Beretania is the only one I am aware of. I haven't checked to see if they have any hibiscus products. It is a pretty small place, don't expect too much variety, mostly packaged products, but very nice, helpful people working there.

              3. re: lupaglupa

                You can also get Hibiscus tea. It has been around quite a while and is delicious.

              4. re: Eat_Nopal

                I make a Hibiscus Sun Tea..it's delicous and good for you too!
                Red Zinger is another option.

              5. Cabbage! It's one of my favorite vegetables, and really underutilized in the states. I eat it a couple times a week; sometimes in stir fries, sometimes in soups, sometimes raw.

                Legumes are usually cheap, especially when you buy them dried. I eat a lot of lentils, since they cook very quickly.

                If you feel adventurous, explore wild foods in your area. Where I live, I can get nopalitos, mulberries, sea asparagus, purslane and a huge variety of greens throughout the year.

                You can also save a lot by focusing on stocking up on items when they are on sale, then, cooking from your pantry. By devising dishes based on what you have instead of buying items for specific recipes, you can keep your overall food costs down.

                4 Replies
                1. re: MsRetro

                  Excactly.... other under utiilized foods:

                  > Onions
                  > Eggs
                  > Carrots
                  > Dandelion Greens

                  1. re: MsRetro

                    I love cabbage so much I will boil up in the same pot as some rice till fluffy, add an egg, a pat of butter, s&p and maybe some garlic powder and eat out of the pan. I LOVE cabbage so much, its ridiculous. I think it grew out of necessity from a college student's budget and its one (healthy) habit that has stuck. I'm not a fan of it raw, but i really like it boiled. Theres a little too much fiber though to eat too much...:)

                    1. re: MsRetro

                      Could you possibly share one of your cabbage soup recipes (preferably not involving kielbasa or sausage? other meats okay). I've been looking for a soup to make with my stock and a cabbage head via another thread.

                      1. re: BerkshireTsarina

                        I generally cook by feel, so, recipes are a bit difficult...

                        The soup I make most often starts with a base of canned diced tomatoes in their juice, some sautéed garlic and onions, and fistfuls of whatever vegetables I have on-hand. Green cabbage is always part of that mix, chopped, and added to the soup about 15 - 20 minutes before serving.

                        Cabbage is also great in lentil soup. Again, just add a few good fistfuls about 20 minutes before the lentils are finished cooking.

                    2. My grandmother would make and eat this food of the depression:
                      -onion sandwiches (broiled onion slice on bread, sometimes with peanut butter - wtf?)
                      -cracker "soup" - saltines in a bowl with milk and a bit of sugar
                      -boiled dinner - potato, carrot and cabbage, with a little bit of meat boiled in a stewpot
                      -scrambled eggs with little cubes of potato and bread mixed in

                      personally, i'm going to encourage everyone I know who has the means to plant a garden, at least that will save some costs of buying vegetables this summer

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: charlesbois

                        I'd have to be really really poor before I'd try onions and peanut butter!

                        1. re: lupaglupa

                          Or cracker soup for that matter. Although I have really fond memories of graham crackers in a bowl with warm milk and cinnamon. A comfort food Mom made for us when we were sick.

                          1. re: karykat

                            I still eat graham crackers and cold milk. I prefer it to most overly-sugary (for me) breakfast cereals. But, it only works with the name brand graham crackers for me, the store brand ones are not as crisp initially and that makes a difference!

                            I buy my grahams in bulk at Costco, they stay good since they're sealed in normal sized packages - so I guess that's a cost saver?

                        2. re: charlesbois

                          i love these time-travel recipes from days of yore! :) i understand the tradition of putting crackers/bread crumbs in meat loaf is an economy as well - "filler" for those who couldn't afford to do 'all meat'.

                          Learn to cook with tofu! Meat is expensive. As is alcohol. Time to go dry? ;P

                          1. re: lafoodie7

                            Dry might be a bit much to ask! But I do think we will drink what we already own and not buy new bottles for a while.

                        3. I second cabbage and encourage people to have fun. Potato - becomes gnochi or peirogi- or ...I think the answer is in more cooking and buying of whole foods. Less pre-made foods
                          Beans - doesn't get much less expensive or good for you than beans. A pot of scratch beans and fresh tortillas cost pennies( ok nickles) and when made from scratch - oh so good. In times of my own personal recession I have looked to the great peasant cuisines of the world and had fun with them - later I was able to apply those tastes and techniques to other ingredients

                          1. make your own bread and pasta...you'd be amazed how much you can get out of a bag of flour, a jar of yeast and a couple dozen eggs...

                            15 Replies
                            1. re: soypower

                              The artisan bread in 5 minutes a day book has helped me with this. You make the bread dough and refrigerate it. Ingredients are ridiculously cheap. Then you make a little bit of bread for dinner every night. No waste and it doesn't take much time either.

                              1. re: karykat

                                My only drawback with making a small loaf a day is the energy cost. I currently bake once a week - three loaves of bread, muffins and sometimes cookies. This week I'm going to try crackers!

                                1. re: lupaglupa

                                  Very good point. Can do some baking if you are using the oven for other things. But the 5-minute bread cooks at a high temp.

                                  1. re: karykat

                                    Yeah, it really doesn't combine well with other things - even when I am roasting vegetables at the same temp I think the moist environment of the bread would not work as well for either vegetables or bread. I've though of baking several of the no knead breads at once but they don't keep as well as regular braed and some of the charm is lost as well.

                              2. re: soypower

                                I love this idea. We've made our own focaccia and our own spatzle this week and it has me giddy. Free food!! Well, almost...

                                1. re: rabaja

                                  Did you make the focaccia from the 5-minute book, perchance? I did have some trouble with that one recipe. My dough was kind of gloppy and got into the pan in a messy way and then cooked inconsistently because of that. But I know there is a trick or two that will fix that. If you know what it is, do tell. (Tasted great.) And this bread baking a bit at a time is definitely economic!

                                  1. re: karykat

                                    I used an old recipe I had in my files, not sure where it is originally from unfortunately.
                                    It is a pretty soft, gloppy dough, in the past I've made teeny rolls to go on the side of things, but this time we shaped them as rolls for hamburgers, with lots of chopped rosemary. They were delicious, tender and light, crossing my fingers must have worked this time.
                                    I was temted to put them in a pan and cut square rolls for the buns, but I was out-voted, so I gently formed them into individual buns with a little flour on the counter after the first proof.
                                    I'd be happy to post the recipe if you'd like.
                                    It was so fun to make something from nothing, we even scored some free rosemary to add in, a neighboring bush obliged nicely.

                                    1. re: rabaja

                                      I think my problem stemmed from my dough being one of the supermoist ones, which made it hard to transfer to the skillet without it getting all twisty and gloppy.

                                      Wonderful feeling, I agree, especially with the free rosemary.

                                      1. re: rabaja

                                        Please, please post! Those buns sound absolutely fantastic!

                                        1. re: gourmanda

                                          Okay, I finally dug it out of my pile, sorry it took me a little while...
                                          FOCACCIA
                                          6 Tb water, approx body-temp, 98F
                                          1 1/2 t sugar
                                          1 1/4 t yeast
                                          >whisk together and proof briefly, while assembling the remaining ingredients.

                                          1 3/4c plus 2 Tb ap flour
                                          1/2 t salt
                                          1 Tb plus 1 t dried milk
                                          2 Tb olive oil

                                          1/2 c water
                                          fresh rosemary, finely chopped

                                          >Sift dry ingredients together, place in bowl, add water, rosemary and proofed yeast mixture. Knead with dough hook approx. 8 minutes. Transfer to oiled bowl, turn to coat, cover and allow to rise 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

                                          Portion dough according to what you are making, i.e., hamburger buns, mini-rolls, etc. If you are making a foccacia slab, transfer dough to an oiled pan and pull gently to fit pan.

                                          I made four hamburger buns for this size batch, which were your typical bun size. I formed them on a lightly flour dusted counter, as I felt the dough was too soft as is.
                                          In the past I've formed them on an oiled counter, without the need for more flour, with good results. Bread doughs are often schizo though, so go by your instincts.

                                          Brush your dough with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. I used fleur de sel, but maldon would be good too.
                                          I didn't really let them proof long before baking them in a 350-375 oven until golden. Still figuring out my oven, but these browned nicely, without getting too brown on the bottom.
                                          I think I started at 375, then went down to 350 after 5 min or so.
                                          Also, I used a kitchen aide mixer, and halved the original recipe. You could easily double or triple this recipe with good results.
                                          Next time I might try bread dough, just to see how that'd be different, or the focaccia flour from Anson Mills if I ever get my act together enough to order some.

                                          1. re: rabaja

                                            This sounds really nice, can't wait. I'm starting to bake my own breads as well... $4 for bread is pretty crazy.

                                            1. re: rabaja

                                              I finally got around to making this dough for hamburger buns. It was delicious! I think I will start making it regularly for sandwiches and things with varying herbs, though the rosemary was great and went well w/ sun dried tomato turkey burgers. I put the dough in a super well oiled bowl--such that it actually sat in a bit of oil. But it turned out it was very easy to pull the dough into quarters and shape into disks for the buns. I don't have a mixer so I kneaded by hand for a couple of minutes, until smooth and elastic. It was very easy to work with. Thanks for posting!

                                          2. re: rabaja

                                            I would also love the recipe!!

                                          3. re: karykat

                                            I made foccaccia twice this week from the peasant bread recipe. I just stretched it out on a cookie sheet, brushed with olive oil and topped with herbs and roasted red peppers. sprinkle with s&p and bake for 15 minutes at 500. it's great.

                                          4. re: rabaja

                                            i just made a big batch of homemade bagels and with some cheeses and jalapenos that i wouldn't have used up otherwise...

                                            and to think of how much a dozen specialty bagels would have cost me at the bagel shop. :o)

                                        2. Ha! Recipes that got our grandparents through the depression. In my case it was parents!

                                          Little bit of meat, gravy and noodles was a staple. Round steaks smothered on top of noodles is one off the top of my head. And we had lots of chicken livers, and they are pretty darn cheap. And potatoes, if you get a bunch, are very versatile and not very expensive. I have a friend that refers to all of the above as "depression food."

                                          And clip your coupons! You'd be amazed at how much money I save using them. The real trick is to use them when something is on sale. Then you can get your "treats" once in awhile.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: danhole

                                            Here is a link to some Depression era recipes:

                                            http://www.geocities.com/NapaValley/1...

                                            I remember the porcupine balls, and some of the other stuff as well. My mom made this Depression Ham Salad, that was basically a ham salad made with ground bologna. Took me years to figure out why my real ham salad didn't taste like hers! I tried it once with the bologna, but it wasn't the same. I think hers was from the deli, or something like that. Don't care for bologna anyway. We used to eat it as a breakfast food. Burned out on it way back!

                                          2. 1) I agree.. make your own bread and pasta.... fun, and keeps you busy, so you aren't spending money on driving cars and drinking expensive martinis. If you want to go crazy, try a sourdough starter and/or some Mother of Vinegar and try making stuff at home.

                                            2) Go buy the book "Serious Pig" and read about Maine cooking - go buy a 50-lb bag of 'taters and another of beans.. eat them all the time. Dig a bean hole in back of your house. Find a good place to get salt pork.

                                            3) Learn to braise - allows you to buy cheap cuts of beef and pork..(e.g. shanks, tougher roasts, pork bellies)

                                            4) Do not buy pre-processed foods

                                            5) Save everything - have a lemon? make sure you zest it and use that somehow.. buy celery - make sure the greens get used.

                                            6) If you have any soil nearby, grow your own basic herbs.

                                            7) Forget Beef in Barolo.. revise it to Beef in Charles Shaw Merlot

                                            26 Replies
                                            1. re: grant.cook

                                              Regarding #7, the NYT did a Risotto al Barolo tasting several months ago, and all the tasters thought that the risotto made with 2 Buck Chuck was the winner, hands down. Their conclusion was that all of the subtleties that make an expensive wine worth the price are cooked off when used in cooking, so don't bother. (Though they were careful to clarify: do not cook with something that is undrinkable. Like "cooking" wine.) I have several bottles of 2 B.C. in my kitchen cabinet for just that reason.

                                              Regarding #2, could you define "bean hole" please? I am dying of curiousity!

                                              1. re: Pistou

                                                "(Though they were careful to clarify: do not cook with something that is undrinkable. Like "cooking" wine.)"

                                                You know having witnessed 100s of people, from all walks of life including my Wine Country foody acquaintances, slurp down food prepared with Cooking Wines.... I am not sure how accurate that statement is.

                                                I think we have such a weak cooking culture in the States, that we become easy suckers for throwing money on ingredient quality that is lost in the cooking. I personally know of very highly regarded restaurants that use a lot of pedestrian ingredients... and conversely know so many home cooks that go out of the way to buy very expensive ingredients (penzey's, valhrona etc.,) who put out dishes that aren't particularly compelling.

                                                1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                  My understanding is that the stuff sold as "cooking wine" is wine with added sugar, salt and preservatives. It can't be any cheaper than 2 B.C., and I would prefer to add my own sugar and salt to taste, sans preservatives. I am sure it is possible to make tasty food using cooking wine, but why would you buy it when you could just use real wine and season yourself?

                                                  In fact, the point of my post was that one should not "throw money away on ingredient quality that is lost in the cooking," but should use inexpensive wine instead. I think buying "cooking wine" qualifies as throwing money after a marketing gimmick.

                                                  1. re: Pistou

                                                    Agreed 2BC is cheaper than every cooking wine in the market... although when you just need 1/2 Cup of wine... thou shall need to drink & enjoy the 2BC for it to be cost effective. Of course, sometimes what you really need is Marsala or Vermouth... in which case you have to go with Cooking Wine.

                                                    Mainly, what I was disputing is that food will be appreciably worse if you used a Cooking Wine instead of a Drinkable wine in most recipes (I am sure there are recipes where it does make a difference).... but by the time the alcohol burns off, it tempers the wines rough spots, destroys any nuances etc., back in the days when I was single, working 60 hour weeks and going to school a cooked rarely so I would just stock some Goya or Tres Coronas swill... and you know people still raved about my Veracruzano or French Onion Soup.

                                                    My guess is the most people... even CH would not be able to distinguish the difference... or even worse might prefer the dish prepared with the inferior ingredient.

                                                    1. re: Pistou

                                                      Not being a native Mainer or a lumberjack, I ended up reading about a bean hole in a book by John Thorne - "Serious Pig" - which I do recommend. I had to find his second book, Pot on the Fire secondhand.

                                                      Basically, a camp chef - having to feed a whole mess of hungry lumberjacks, would dig a deep hole, line it with rocks, fill it with hot coals from a fire (I am probably mangling the order here.. maybe the coals go in first), and drop in a huge bean pot full of beans to be baked (beans, molasses, salt pork, etc). They would then cover the top with canvas, throw some more dirt on, and leave the thing to cook for hours.

                                                      1. re: grant.cook

                                                        I thought that I read once that they would do exactly what you said, but then go to work. When they were done working, they would dig it up and eat. Sometimes, the beans would be left to "cook" for well over 24 hours. Damn, I would love to try that some time.

                                                        1. re: DougRisk

                                                          Very cool! I am in the middle of making a plan to landscape our back yard. Note to self: leave a place to dig a bean hole!

                                                          1. re: Pistou

                                                            If I were you, I'd put in a big-a** wood fired oven you could make pizzas in.. and a smoker.. and a huge b-b-q grill.. oh, the possibilities..

                                                            1. re: grant.cook

                                                              Don't I know it! Sadly, there is a budget that might encompass a bean hole, but not a wood fired oven. Someday . . .

                                                              1. re: Pistou

                                                                Build your own! That's my obsession/project of the next few months.

                                                                http://www.fornobravo.com/pompeii_ove... for plans and a robust forum to give you more precise information.

                                                                1. re: modthyrth

                                                                  My uncle built one for my aunt (they live in S. Germany, Baden to be specific). She bakes twelve loaves at a time and the entire neighborhood knows when she's baking. She gives many of the loaves away to friends and neighbors. Sadly, I don't think I'm going to be building one anytime soon!

                                                        2. re: grant.cook

                                                          I think the order is right - imagine trying to line a hole filed with hot coals....

                                                    2. re: Pistou

                                                      "Regarding #2, could you define "bean hole" please? I am dying of curiousity!"

                                                      I was curious about the Bean Hole too so I did a search and found out that it is a method of cooking beans....basically baked beans.
                                                      To quote from Foodreference.com, "For hundreds of years, the Penobscot Indians of Maine cooked their food in a hole in the ground lined with rocks." The recipe for such beans is here:
                                                      http://www.foodreference.com/html/fbe...

                                                    3. re: grant.cook

                                                      I'm trying to convince my boyfriend to dig and construct a bean hole for me. He thinks I'm crazy, though.

                                                      I love celery tops - such fresh flavour! and agree that growing your own herbs is a great way to save money.

                                                      1. re: Gooseberry

                                                        I think you're crazy, too. I mean, why do this unless you are camping? I can't see what it add to the beans except the possibility of adding dirt.

                                                        1. re: Scargod

                                                          Scargod, while I think cooking outdoors adds a pleasure to food which is difficult to quantify, I also like the idea of enacting a historic method of cooking.

                                                          I read about it a week or so ago in Rosalind Creasy's "Cooking from the Garden", which I recommend to all vegetable gardeners (armchair or otherwise) out there. She grows a whole bean garden in order to make baked beans, so if you think I'm crazy...

                                                          1. re: Gooseberry

                                                            I don't think you are crazy to want to do it but I'm not much into re-enactments, unless it's making cornbread or biscuits like my mom did. I used to could make a fire with flint and steel when I was a kid but now I just am happy my fingers can still turn the knobs on the grill!

                                                            BTW, I have a 25 X 50 ft. vegetable garden and an herb garden about half that size. I have 50 feet in green beans, 25 feet in sugar snaps and 25 feet in snow peas. I had to buy a freezer last year.
                                                            I don't think I'm growing the right kind of beans for sticking in a pot in the ground. Call me crazy....

                                                            1. re: Scargod

                                                              No, not really.. baked beans from a Maine perspective usually used Yellow Eye, Jacob's Cattle, or Great Northern.. I think Navy beans work well as well. This might be a dish best suited for a camping weekend, but a "pot in the ground" is a bit of a phobic way of looking at it. The pot part - you can buy bean pots today, but I am sure a dutch over would work fine as well, and the ground part - what's wrong with the concept of a hole in the ground for cooking? Isn't an oven just a big "hole" in your kitchen that you can get hot with gas or electricity? The only difference is how easy it is to open the door.

                                                              1. re: grant.cook

                                                                Please be considerate about digging a dutch oven-sized pit while camping (eg on other peoples' property).

                                                                1. re: xanadude

                                                                  I promise I won't go around booby-trapping national parks or other peoples' property with giant, man-swallowing holes!

                                                                  My parents have a place in the countryside, which would be ideal for hole-digging.

                                                              2. re: Scargod

                                                                Ha! That's why digging a hole in the ground to bake some beans isn't your thing - you've spent too long digging the beans out of the ground in the first place!

                                                                Seriously though, I'm jealous. 25 x 50ft? Gosh, I'd love that. I've just finished a summer with tomatoes in pots (we're renting, and there's no soil, just a bricked courtyard. plenty sun, though), and while I've loved the whole process of caring and watching and picking, it just makes me want to plant MORE things to eat.

                                                                Winter's pretty mild here, so I'm going to replace the tomatoes with sugar snaps, since we love them and even a handful of those is a treat (as opposed to shell beans, which I imagine you need a heck of a lot of to yield one mess 'o beans). But I'm still dreaming of a french potager with potatoes and leeks and all the stuff which calls for digging deep. Enjoy your harvest - I'm with you in spirit.

                                                                1. re: Gooseberry

                                                                  Believe me, I feel your pain. I moved from Texas (imagine wide open spaces) where I had 20' X 30' or larger gardens there, to New Haven, CT, where space is at a premium (that the rocks don't own). There are so many trees (many that are quite old and large) that a lot is shaded. When I started gardening in CT, I did it on a small balcony. Then I did it at my home, where the only decent sunlight was in the driveway. I did container gardening and was always shuffling plants around to maxamize sunlight. Now I have a large garden again in a very decent amount of light and I had to buy a freezer to handle all the food I'm producing!

                                                                2. re: Scargod

                                                                  I sure wish I had the room, well I do, but a useless flower bed is taking the space up and I'm talking like crazy to my husband. Planted tomatoes in pors, and lots of herbs. So far, the seeds I've planted for dill, basil and cantelope are poking through, and the seedlings are doing great. I had string beans along once fence one year, I got a huge harvest from June to September and were they ever good.
                                                                  I have also purchased a dehydrator that as soon as summer fruits come in, I'll be making good use of it. I can jams also!
                                                                  Also I make beans, black beans, navy beans, legumes, lots and lots. Save the pork and ham bones they make great flavorings for these meals.
                                                                  But I'm with all that don't waste, I keep tabs on the things in the fridge. I make chow mein, or fried rice, which we all love, cheap and wonderfully filling not to mention satisying.

                                                                  Tomatoes that are not all used go into soups, salsa. Herbs are great for new chutneys, pesto, smears or in salad dressings and marinades. Bread, if there is any left, is croutons for soup and salads.
                                                                  I used sour milk last week in cornbread last week. Fruit that went a little soft, went into ice cream and smoothies. I almost like the challenge of creating something from nothing. I freeze left overs too.

                                                                  I think the most creative thing I did was make a dressing for a chicken out of hamburger buns, and it actually was delicious.

                                                                  1. re: Scargod

                                                                    try growing Flageolets. You let hem dry on the bush and they are so delicious.

                                                                    1. re: toodie jane

                                                                      Yes, they are delicious, but even more so if you eat them fresh - mature but not dry.

                                                            2. re: grant.cook

                                                              I make my Beef in Barolo with TJ's Nerello de Bastardo - not quite as cheap as Charles Shaw, but still only 6.99!

                                                            3. Ok, some of this is going to sound counter-intuitive and even anti-Chowhound ...

                                                              - big green salads
                                                              - powdered milk
                                                              - Jello
                                                              - spices

                                                              Also ... do what my immigrant Polish grandparents did (besides have their own garden) shop at small ethnic markets ... the faces of those markets may have changed ... they are more Mexican, Indian and Asian ... but the prices are so much better that the supermarkets (uh, Wal-Mart excepted ... desparate times call for desparate measures sometimes).

                                                              Oh yeah ... consider home-canning in-season when prices are inexpensive. From someone who has trouble boiling eggs ... It isn't that hard. There is nothing like pulling out strawberry jam in the dead of January ... reminding you of the warm sunny day they were purchased in the summer ... or that great applesauce from fall. Also, it reduces the carbon foot print and is earth-friendly as you reuse the same jars every year.

                                                              As some of the posts indicate, depression cuisine wasn't that healthy ... potatoes and other starches. So IMO, we need to create updated recession eating.

                                                              Last summer I spent a month 'proving' that not only could one eat on $3 a day ... but one could eat deliciously, gloriously ... but more important ... healthily.

                                                              Conclusion - Eating like a Chowhound on $3 a day
                                                              http://www.chowhound.com/topics/429348

                                                              That link has all the logistic tips like taking advantages of discounts etc ... in addition to recipes, so to speak.

                                                              They say if you do something for a month it becomes a habit ... and that month sort of stuck with me.

                                                              The big surprise was a big green salad. It is not as expensive as some think especially if you don't buy bagged salad mixes. Also, bagged salads, even organic, are washed in clorine. I wash up a couple of heads of lettuce on the weekend and bag them myselves for use all week. My lettuce budget runs about $3 per week for HUGE salads every.

                                                              Salads provide bulk, so the main course of meat doesn't need to be so big. Go with what is seasonal and cheap as the topping. Make your own dressing. Put it in spray bottles.

                                                              NOT your grandparents jello. I make it out of bottled 100 percent fruit juice and add seasonal fruit. This started with a fabulous blackberry merlot gelatin. This week I used two boxes of Juicy Juice tangerine orange juice (which is very good) and added orange segments. It was juicy, mouth-watering wonderfulness. It stretched two cups of juice and one orange into five delicious desserts ... and it cuts the calories too.

                                                              I got into powdered milk because I'm always forgetting to buy fresh at the store. So it was a backup ... however in cooking, you really can't tell the difference. I can make what I need for whatever I'm making and not have milk spoiling in the fridge. It is ... ok ... in coffee ... like I said ... I forget to buy fresh occasionally. I wouldn't recommended powdered milk straight ... but you can make a good hot chocolate.

                                                              Spices are very important. They give variety to even the most bland. I found this great mix of ginger and cinnamon that I put in oatmeal ... with fresh banana ... breakfast-licious..

                                                              You also can add interest to all sorts of dishes. I make beans and put chipotle and about seven other spices in there. Beans are terrific topped with expensive smoked sea salt.

                                                              That's the thing ... buy top quality ... delicious top quality ... but use it sparingly.

                                                              And look into beans and dried legumes. I like Afgan wots a lot. It takes no effort and it is warm deliciousness ... low in calories to boot ... I don't like injera, so I don't use that.

                                                              I guess that is the key ... do what they did during the depression ... eat like an immigrant ... it can add spice to your life.

                                                              Some of my previous 'jello' inspirations ... easier to make than the packaged stuff.

                                                              Bellini “Jello” & Peach Pie “Jello”
                                                              http://www.chowhound.com/topics/316416
                                                              Strawberry white merlot 'Jell-o' ... I outdid Martha Stewart
                                                              http://www.chowhound.com/topics/315519
                                                              I made “JELLO” !!! ... So easy, so AMAZING (blackberry /red wine & NO sweetener of ANY kind orange/purple basil)
                                                              http://www.chowhound.com/topics/314942

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: rworange

                                                                Great advice.... I would also remind people that our economy is primarily driven by Service jobs... if we all dramatically cut down on our food & dining expenditures its just going to put more people out of jobs... it will trickle down and affect the rest of us in some way or another.

                                                                By no means am I trying to persuade spend big and end up going homeless or something drastic... everybody has to act according to their own budgets... but I think the responsible thing to do as residents of this country (and globe if you consider how many other countries are highly dependent on U.S. economic growth)... is to intelligently spend it back to good times.... skip the imported French wines & cheeses, European travel vacations, Italian clothing etc., instead of dramatically cutting back on spending just temporarily reallocate your disposable funds to domestic spending.

                                                              2. Love the cabbage! Make cabbage rolls (ground beef and pork, and rice), and freeze in individual portions. And, as well as the legume suggestions (all delicious, versatile, and unjustifiably ignored), cauliflower, which is much more versatile than usually thought.

                                                                Cheap cuts of meat like short ribs for braising; pork hock (fresh or smoked) for soups, stews, pot au feu sort of things; chicken leg (thigh attached) is more flavourful than breast, and is lovely braised (dinner last night was legs braised with grapes, a bit of wine, and fresh tarragon - 4 servings for under $10). Roast is thought of being a bit luxurious, but something like a prime rib, or a ham, when you take into consideration leftovers (reheated or cold for dinner, sandwiches for the lunches, bones for soup), works out to be not bad when you cost it out per serving. Pot roasts are also a good idea, and properly done can be tasty and tender; and have a virtually endless range of variation depending on the aromatics you use.

                                                                Using grains helps out here, as well. I still pine for my mother's beef barley soup, and roast beef sandwiches, for dinner. Sunday night, we'd have roast beef, but by 9pm the beef barley soup was simmering away for the following night's dinner. And apple crumble for dessert... oats, brown sugar and apple, essentially.

                                                                Dried fruits like apricot, raisin, and prune can look expensive, but not much goes a long way to making stews a bit different, and rich. There's an Ashkenazi chicken stew with raisins (sort of a sweet and sour stew) that I love. Lamb tagine (I can get 1kg of stewing lamb for $11, which is 6-8 servings, ca $1.80/serving) with apricots is easy, affordable, and impressive.

                                                                As said above, growing your own produce helps. So does making your own bread, buns, pastries, pasta, dumplings, and granola. Flour, eggs, milk, yeast are still pretty inexpensive.

                                                                Stocking up when specials are on. My pantry is packed with good olive oil that I found half-price. Look for meat specials, and freeze in usable portions.

                                                                Since you refer to the Depression, I'll suggest mojakka (pronounce moi'-ak-ka, falling stress), a Finnish soup my father makes (he came to Canada around 1932). It's made with either fish or meat (he uses pork ribs), and is quite tasty. Here are a couple of helpful links
                                                                http://www.cybershingle.com/recipes/p...
                                                                http://mojakka.com/mojakka_bisa.htm
                                                                It's quite satisfying and dirt cheap, and he serves it with either dark rye bread or (very unFinnish of him) garlic bread, and occasionally a bit of pickled herring on the side.

                                                                In a similar vein, borshcht. I just use beef bones, no meat in mine. It's thick enough before pureeing, for the wooden sppon to stand up for a few seconds. Note1: buy teh whole beet plant, with the greens. The greens are delicous sauteed with a bit of salt pepper and garlic. Note 2: roast your beets before adding to the soup, as the roast will concentrate the flavour and help to 'set' the colour. Serve with garlic buns.
                                                                Here's a thread:
                                                                http://www.chowhound.com/topics/486420

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: hungry_pangolin

                                                                  Your mention of beet greens reminds me that almost any greens can be used. I make a nice sautee of radish greens with onions, garlic and bacon.

                                                                  Love oatmeal which as you mentioned makes a nice crumble ... and are good for you.

                                                                  Also agree about dried fruit ... and nuts ... which can be added to your morning oatmeal with various spices for interest.

                                                                2. Thanks for the great ideas! I already bake my own bread - making my own pasta is a good thing to add to my list of home skills. I do make my own vinegar but it's never very good. We have a garden (just planted peas this morning) and a subscription to a local CSA. I guess we do okay at keeping costs down but still food is so expensive! I especially appreciate the soup and casserole ideas - small amounts of meat with lots of vegetables and grain is where I think we are heading.....

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: lupaglupa

                                                                    I'm with you Lupa -- much less concentration on meat; add grains, legumes and vegetables in season locally grown to your plate. It's so much healthier too.

                                                                    Before mass feedlot production of meat (animals) meat *was* expensive and like many cuisines from poorer countries, just a bit is added for flavor. I eat that way now, paying a fair price for high quality humanely raised meat but eat much less meat than most it seems.

                                                                  2. Oh, and another thing or two..... Cheese (here, at least) is quite expensive. However, nothing goes to waste in my kitchen. A couple of weeks ago I was making onion soup with a beef broth (weather here was crap), and threw in the leftover rind from some gorgonzola I had finished a few days before, and had held on to in anticipation of the soup. I think that I picked up that trick from the Two Fat Ladies. Anyway, it was delicious, adding just enough tang and richness to the soup to make it different, without it becoming onion *and gorgonzola* soup. You could also use the rind from Stilton, Bleu d'Auvergne, or any similar blue cheese.

                                                                    I love smoked mackerel, and it's pretty inexpensive, flavourful, good source of animal protein, and versatile. I usually eat it with a green salad, or in a green salad, or warmed (like kipper) with my eggs in the morning. More expensive, but smoked halibut can be stretched into a full meal easily if you make kedgeree (various spellings).

                                                                    1. All excellent ideas.

                                                                      I think the biggest thing missing though is a diversity of vegetables. I agree with rworange that we need an "updated recession" cuisine that takes health more into account.

                                                                      I like rworange's idea of going to ethnic markets for vegetables. We've been to some asian markets here and found some vegetables looking good and cheaper.

                                                                      And of course, having a garden and going to the farmers market in the summer.

                                                                      But what about some other ideas for vegies?

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: karykat

                                                                        I grew up on beans and rice, all kinds. I still love and crave good beans. They are emminently adjustable and with the varieties available, one need never get bored. I cook 'Cuban" black beans; pinto beans with greens and cornbread; cannelini for salad with tuna, tomato, cucumber, scallions; garbanzo for hummus, navy in soup, split peas, lentils, pink or chili for chili....they are a staple. Growng up in my family's personal "great depression" we are all extremely healthy due in part to the "variety in-processed foods out" mentality we had.

                                                                      2. One of the best strategies to eat cheaply is to plan for leftovers. You really can't beat a chicken for a good meal in this category. Meal one -- make roast chicken with vegetables in season and some rice or potatoes. Meal two -- make chicken salad or a chicken casserole with the leftover chicken. Meal three -- make chicken soup with the carcass.

                                                                        I just read an article yesterday which talked about the return of the humble potato as a food that is easy and more economical to grow than wheat or corn, and thus many governments are looking into devoting resources to growing potatoes as a way to address the rising cost of food. Here's a link to the article:

                                                                        http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20080415/l...

                                                                        A good read on food shortages is M.F.K. Fisher's "How to Cook a Wolf," which in the introduction states "was first published in 1942, when wartime shortages were at their worst."

                                                                        5 Replies
                                                                        1. re: DanaB

                                                                          DanaB, good citation on "How to Cook a Wolf!" Great read if one is feeling spotty n cash, and also a great humbling read if one if flush. I think many of us feel in the former category.

                                                                          Cay

                                                                          1. re: DanaB

                                                                            And it's the "Year Of The Potato" so deemed by the U.N.

                                                                            Plant some Garbage Can Potatoes today and see (in a couple months) what REAL potatoes taste like.

                                                                            Use a 35 gal trash can with holes punched in the bottom. Fill 1/2 way with homemade compost or packaged soil. Place 1/2 dozen small spuds on soil. Fill can to top with 15" loose oat straw. Water twice a week. When sprouts bloom and die back, harvest potatoes. (keep straw topped up--it will compact).

                                                                            Scrub and dice potatoes, fill a pot with water or broth you made by boiling meat bones left from weekly meals. Add chopped onion/garlic, veg trimmings you've collected in a bag in the fridge, some thyme and s&p.
                                                                            Dinner!

                                                                            1. re: DanaB

                                                                              Rats, you beat me to it. I was just about to post about M.F.K. Fisher's great book for hard times.

                                                                              1. re: oakjoan

                                                                                me too! currently reading it and really enjoying it.

                                                                                1. re: Gooseberry

                                                                                  Yes - that's a great book.

                                                                            2. There are many excellent suggestions here. I was forced to learn how to cook as a starving student to save money and once I figured out the basics, was able to prepare quite a feast for very little money (and started a life long passion for cooking). Eating more beans and less meat for protein, buying vegetables in season, baking from scratch, stocks from scratch, bulk purchases of rice and grains and keeping a well stocked pantry of basics such as vinegars and spices on hand will enable you to make great meals for very little money.

                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                              1. re: ms. clicquot

                                                                                Yes! When you're flush, buy all the spices and condiments you can. When I was a broke student, that was the first thing I did at the start of the semester when the student loan checks came in. Anything can taste like food if you season it properly.

                                                                                1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                                                                  Now that you can buy them in the bulk section, they're so cheap ...

                                                                                  I am all about using few but high quality ingredients. I find that what drives the cost of a meal up is using a million ingredients--and it takes a lot longer too. Also portion control helps both the waistline and the budget.

                                                                                  For example ... 2 oz de Cecco + 5 stalks steamed asparagus + 1 oz good grated Parmesan + 1 pat organic butter + 2 oz Chardonnay (in a glass!) = great weeknight dinner.

                                                                              2. This has been on my mind for several months now as prices started going up in Japan 5 months ago (a bit earlier than the big pinch in the U.S.). Now, we also have a severe butter shortage (no butter on the shelves at all at any price). I started taking a tip I read about ages ago but never implemented and started cooking meat in saved bacon fat that I pour into a jar and keep in the refrigerator (something my mother and grandmother used to do). You can also use it for vegetables as flavoring rather than using butter or margarine. I've also heard it suggested that it can be spread on toast though I'm not ready to go quite that far. It's getting more for your money from something most people toss out.

                                                                                I also think people should try to reduce their meat portions. Personally 2 oz. of meat will do for me. I've found that you can add stock to enhance the meaty flavor of a dish rather than add in as much real meat. Also, sometimes going vegetarian helps cut costs. I make roasted (or toasted or fried) eggplant sandwiches. Peanut butter is also a good friend for reducing costs.

                                                                                I don't know how many of the "make do" recipes used during the depression are actually "delicious" though. For most people, the best way to cut costs is going to forgo pre-prepared food and eating out. I don't think we're looking at depression level economics but rather some unpleasant belt tightening.

                                                                                Personally, I'd suggest buying whatever whole foods are cheap in your area and searching the internet for interesting recipes to use them. "Tastespotting" is a good place to do such searches.

                                                                                4 Replies
                                                                                1. re: Orchid64

                                                                                  I wouldn't use bacon fat. It isn't like it used to be years ago - there are way more additives now and sulphites. I would definitely use pork fat rendered from a pork butt though.

                                                                                  1. re: sarah galvin

                                                                                    Or you can buy your bacon from a trusted local source (Blood Farm in Groton MA in our case) that doesn't muck about with the chemicals, and use the fat then.

                                                                                    1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                                                                                      I love their bacon.. I suspect, being that they are butchering away out back as you walk in, you could get a whole mess o' pork fat if you asked for it..

                                                                                    2. re: sarah galvin

                                                                                      You can usually buy pork fat dirt cheap at places, and then render it down..

                                                                                  2. This thread has been on my mind all day. I have a few more sugestions.

                                                                                    I have friends who came here for Portugal, and grew up in relative poverty. A couple of suggestions from recipes that they've passed on to me.

                                                                                    Not a meal in itself, but very flavourful and hearty... garlic and bread soup. Use two- or three-day old good quality bread, garlic (tons, whole), and water or chicken stock. Some chopped fresh coriander, parsley, sage, or rosemary for garnish and flavour, and you have an inexpensive soup course.

                                                                                    Cod casserole. In a deep Corningware or similar dish, place alternating layers of sliced potato, onion, sliced green pepper, and cod, repeating until you have filled the casserole, with salt, pepper, maybe some dried sage, and some Portuguese paprika or smoke paprika, throughout. Make sure that your last layer is onion. Pour in 1/2 cup olive oil, 2/3 cup white wine. Bake, covered, at about 425-450F for an hour, remove cover and bake for a further 10-15 minutes. Serve. NOTE: cod stocks are in decline, so I would recommend seeking out a similarly solid white-fleshed fish. Nothing is the perfect replacement, but black cod/sablefish/butterfish would do the trick. (Black cod is not cod; it's from the Pacific, and not endangered.)

                                                                                    Kale and potato soup. Unbelievably hearty and strongly flavoured. With some warmed or toasted Portuguese cornbread (*nothing* like American) it is a lovely meal.

                                                                                    Not Portuguese... chicken livers! Either a Hungarian style stew (onions, garlic, green peppers, salt, pepper, paprika, splash of red wine), served with dumplings and salad, or a recipe from Piedmonte, as a pasta sauce... quarter the livers, sautee with onion and garic, salt, pepper, and rosemary, and, of course, red wine. Serve over egg noodles or taglatelli.

                                                                                    As a note on cooking with wine... there are decent wines from central and southern Italy that go for $8CDN, made from sangiovese and so on, that are perfectly acceptable for cooking. Recork it well, keep it in the fridge, and for cooking purposes, it's good for a week.

                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: hungry_pangolin

                                                                                      hungry pangolin, kale and potatoe soup (from the Portuguese) is one of my all time favorite dishes (along with kalamojakka, referencing your earlier post). The nutritive quality of the rich soup is wonderful, the family feels well-fed, and the budget is not broken...although even kale is getting to be a spendier item in my neck of the woods, at least in my estimation. We stretch the potatoe kale soup with a bit of chorizo or like sausage - makes it even richer, and satisfies the diners on relatively "less." I haven't tried Portuguese corn bread, however; can you share a recipe?

                                                                                      Cay

                                                                                      1. re: cayjohan

                                                                                        Sorry, I don't have a recipe for Portuguese cornbread. Here in Toronto, there is no shortage of places to buy it, and while I suggested baking one's own bread, I don't, because I simply don't eat very much bread. Believe it or not, I had the Portuguese style before I had the American style, and when I had the American, I was very disappointed. The Portuguese style is a round, 'dome' loaf, with a crusty exterior, and an extremely dense, very moist, slightly crumbly interior, and no where nearly as sweet as the American style. It's both delicious and filling.

                                                                                        I've had the kale soup both with and without chorico... both lovely. I have cheated in various recipes, when I haven't had chorico, and used csabai (a similar Hungarian sausage), to good effect.

                                                                                        Soups from the Portuguese... a culinary Elizabeth Barrett Browning?

                                                                                        1. re: cayjohan

                                                                                          There are a lot of Portuguese corn bread and broa recipes on the net, especially at www.Recipezaar.

                                                                                      2. I am suprised that hardly anyone mentioned Organ Meats other than the two references to Chicken Livers.

                                                                                        A short list:
                                                                                        - Liver
                                                                                        - Heart
                                                                                        - Gizzards
                                                                                        - Kidney
                                                                                        - Spleen (Milza, delicious)
                                                                                        - Chitluns, Chitterlings (Andouilette)
                                                                                        - Brains, YES, Brains. Either fried crisp or incorporated into scrambled eggs
                                                                                        - Sweetbreads
                                                                                        - Tongue (technically, not an organ meat, but delicious and economical)
                                                                                        - Cheeks (ditto)
                                                                                        - Oxtail or any other tail (again, ditto)
                                                                                        - Feet (again, ditto)

                                                                                        And let me be one more person to recommend everything from teh Cabbage family:
                                                                                        - Cabbage
                                                                                        - Brussels Sprouts
                                                                                        - Broccoli
                                                                                        - Kale
                                                                                        - Collards
                                                                                        - Mustard Greens, Turnip Greens, Dandelion Greens
                                                                                        - Bok Choy
                                                                                        - etc, etc

                                                                                        Beets, with the greens. Use that whole thing. When using Fennel, the stalks are great as an aromatic for stocks and use the fronds as an herb or garnish.

                                                                                        Eggs. Always great.

                                                                                        Pork Belly.

                                                                                        Also, it is a real shame that much fruit is not sold at a discount. Many stores throw out there "spoils" instead of selling them at a discount. This is not there fault, there is almost no demand for such a thing. But, the spoils are usually damn near perfect for eating that day. I am talking about Apples with a little brown, Watermelon that has gotten a little mealy, slightly dry citrus. Things like that.

                                                                                        At a discount, they have so many uses.

                                                                                        16 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: DougRisk

                                                                                          Quite right. Heart (technically not organ meat, since it is a muscle) is very good, sort of like fibrous steak when sliced, cleaned, marinated, and grilled. Braised oxtail is delicious, but oxtail isn't supercheap, in my experience; I think because it's starting to become more fashionable. I love kidney, veal, lamb, beef, in a madeira sauce, or deviled, or steak and kidney pie. Sweet breads aren't expensive, and are delicious, but they do require planning and labour.

                                                                                          1. re: hungry_pangolin

                                                                                            "Braised oxtail is delicious, but oxtail isn't supercheap, in my experience;"

                                                                                            Really? That is interesting. Well, at least here in the Philly area, Oxtail is relatively inexpensive.

                                                                                            Deviled Kidneys - Could you tell me exactly how you do that? Also, i am never confident in my "fat-trimming" abilities when removing the fat from the kidneys. I try to find videos of that process online, but I can not find any. I always feel like I am losing too much meat when I trim them.

                                                                                            1. re: DougRisk

                                                                                              Oxtail is pretty expensive in NYC.

                                                                                              1. re: MMRuth

                                                                                                Yes! All of these traditionally cheap cuts of meat like oxtails and pork belly are expensive here.

                                                                                                I'm always torn between my cheapskate and food snob tendencies. With meat especially, I try to buy humanely raised, grass-fed etc. And that can be very expensive. But I eat very little meat. Eggs are my favorite cheap protein source.

                                                                                              2. re: DougRisk

                                                                                                A lot of trendy cuts have gone up in price, but are still low - oxtail is still cheap, shanks for osso buco, definitely not cheap, short ribs, kind of cheap..

                                                                                                1. re: DougRisk

                                                                                                  That Italian Market area is also a pretty great, relatively cheap place to buy food..

                                                                                                  1. re: grant.cook

                                                                                                    You know, I never go to the Italian market. 1.) I always find that area to be kind of dirty. But, more importantly, 2.) I only buy Grass-Fed, Grass-Finished Meats for health reasons, and that is still kind of hard to find at the Italian Market.

                                                                                                    My favorite place is Hendricks in Telford. Greatest farm in the world.

                                                                                                    1. re: DougRisk

                                                                                                      Had a friend that used to live in Wilmington - said Rumbleway farms was good. Italian Market has a couple of really good cheese/charcuterie stores with items hard to find elsewhere. And Fantes is fun to wander in..

                                                                                                      1. re: grant.cook

                                                                                                        Fantes is great. They will actually stear you away from some of their expensive items if they think you could do better. I saw some messermeister pliers their for taking out pin-bones and they just told me to go to the hardware store.

                                                                                                  2. re: DougRisk

                                                                                                    It might have to do with where I shop, but I think that oxtail was $5/lb when last I bought some. When you consider that a good deal of that is bone, it's not supercheap.

                                                                                                    Deviled lamb's kidneys... many variations, but this is the basic method.
                                                                                                    1) To clean the kidneys, remove the fat, membrane. Cut length wise. Cut out the canals and gristle. Put in a bowl of acidulated water.
                                                                                                    2) Mix together flour, cayenne, salt, pepper, dry English mustard.
                                                                                                    3) Heat butter in a sautee pan. Dry off kidneys, dredge in seasoned flour, shake off excess, and sautee, about 2 minutes per side. Add a few drops of Worcester sauce, a bit of chicken stock, perhaps a splash of red wine.
                                                                                                    4) Remove kidneys, reduce sauce, and pour over top.
                                                                                                    Great for breakfast or dinner. This used to be part of our Christmas breakfast. Allow three (or four, for dinner) kidneys per person.

                                                                                                    If you're afraid of losing too much meat in the trimming, you might be more comfortable using kitchen shears rather than a trimming knife. Just a thought. Or did you mean calf's kidney?

                                                                                                    1. re: hungry_pangolin

                                                                                                      I never realized that is what was meant when someone referred to a meat being "deviled". Thanks.

                                                                                                2. re: DougRisk

                                                                                                  I think its just that culturally in the U.S., as a generalization, we are bit freaked out by organ meats.. and the whole Mad Cow thing didn't help that. Even though those same organ meats probably end up in the hot dogs and other processed mystery meats we eat..

                                                                                                  1. re: grant.cook

                                                                                                    You know, it is interesting how these things change. I love to read old cookbooks (esp. from the 19th century) and if you only read them you would think that we ONLY at organ meants and variety cuts.

                                                                                                    Now, just the opposite. However, with the popularity of people like Mario Batali, Anthony Bourdain and people looking for "authentic" this and that, I think that we are finally starting to see a change for the better.

                                                                                                    Also, all of that anti-cholesterol garbage during the 70's, 80's and 90's did not help matters.

                                                                                                  2. re: DougRisk

                                                                                                    I 100% agree about "spoil" fruit. I can usually gets bags of it, cheap, at the vegetable stands in my area. Pears on their way out are delicious, meltingly soft and sweet. I've also gotten some great pineapples for $1 a piece.

                                                                                                    Unfortunately, I've had the same experience that others have cited with expensive organ meats. A few years back, a friend made a great stroganoff using beef hearts that she bought for 99 cents a pound. I looked at the store the other day to see if I could replicate the recipe, but they wanted over $3 per pound for beef hearts!

                                                                                                    1. re: MsRetro

                                                                                                      I believe that places with larger immigrant populations have seen higher prices in "variety cuts".

                                                                                                      On spoiled fruits. I used to work at a Big Box Wholesaler and it was my job to document and throw out all of the spoils. What a freakin' waste. The real shame is that even if we could not find many consumers who wanted it, this "spoiled" food was absolutely perfect for pigs.

                                                                                                    2. re: DougRisk

                                                                                                      Unfortunately, at least in the SF area, a lot of the organ meats aren't cheap. For example, I can buy whole chickens cheaper than chicken livers, and cheaper cuts of boneless beef than oxtails or tongue. Them's the breaks.

                                                                                                    3. As far as produce goes, eat what's in season and what grows in your area- it's a very good way to save money, since you're not paying for the overhead costs of carefully handled, refrigerated, long-distance shipping.

                                                                                                      We did something a few years ago that has reduced our food costs tremendously. We joined a CSA, and for 7-8 months out of the year (June-December) we get enough fresh-picked, organic, local fruit and vegetables (with heirloom varieties galore) for a family of four vegetarians for around $25/week. In Boston, this is like getting farmer's market produce for a fraction of the price. We later joined a meat CSA, too- clearly we're sold on CSAs!

                                                                                                      Bonus: dogs and kids love visiting the farm each week, we get to spend time outside at the farm because a portion of the share is pick-your-own, and everyone learns about what goes into growing and harvesting food. Not a bad way to spend a few hours a week.

                                                                                                      If there is one in your area, I highly recommend looking into it.

                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                      1. re: sfumato

                                                                                                        Suggestion to help find local producers: check your state's Department of Agriculture ( example: http://www.mda.state.mn.us/food/minne... )
                                                                                                        States Ag departments are trying to help producers and consumers connect. The Minnesota Grown document identifies produce/meat and identifies by region.

                                                                                                      2. Learn to love soup and stew! My grandfather ate soup twice a day for his whole life. And most of them were meatless or made with a small amount of salt pork or beef or chicken bones. I still make his white bean soup at least once a week. My relatives in the Czech Republic who lived in severe deprivation after the war, also make a yeast soup with fresh vegetables that costs pennies and is stupendous. It's make with grated up carrots, root celery and root parsley, lots of garlic - to which is added yeast that you've allowed to grow for a little while, and then finally a beaten up egg. Add a piece of rye bread and you're good to go and it tastes amazing!

                                                                                                        1. I love to eat and up until very recently had a very tight budget. I still don't spend lots of money on food now that my financial situation has improved because I don't really see the need to. Here are the main things I do to keep my food costs down and still enjoy what I'm eating.
                                                                                                          1. Buy raw ingredients as opposed to prepared or processed food. For instance, a dozen homemade blueberry muffins costs about the same as a few from a nice bakery.
                                                                                                          2. Bring your lunch and snacks to work instead of buying them. You save lots of money and it's a lot better for you.
                                                                                                          3. Buy in bulk when possible (ie Costco, etc).
                                                                                                          4. Ethnic markets are much cheaper than your local grocery/health food store for certain items.
                                                                                                          5. Plan your meals around what's on sale at the grocery store if possible.
                                                                                                          6. Go to the store with a list. It helps you get out of there faster and not spend as much $.
                                                                                                          7. Eat dinner out or buy something expensive like some nice cheese once a week. It helps you not feel like you're pinching pennies all the time.

                                                                                                          7 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: kalidaemon

                                                                                                            You wrote ...

                                                                                                            "Eat dinner out or buy something expensive like some nice cheese once a week. It helps you not feel like you're pinching pennies all the time"

                                                                                                            Amen.

                                                                                                            Few of us are so rich we don't need to consider price. I'd rather spend the money I save on nice food or trips than mediocre over-priced stuff.

                                                                                                            1. re: kalidaemon

                                                                                                              I'm so with you both, kalidaemon and rworange. I shop primarily at Trader Joe's (staples), the greenmarket (vegetables), ethnic/health-food markets (snacks like dried fruit, chickpeas, & nuts), and rarely rarely at my local grocery store. it makes me happy to save money, shop locally/ethically (um, when possible), and I'm convinced I'm healthier. all the money I save goes to really good stuff, like free-range local beef or local artisan cheese.

                                                                                                              1. re: kalidaemon

                                                                                                                I'd like to add, buy fruits and vegetables in season. If it is imported it is expensive.

                                                                                                                1. re: prettyedy

                                                                                                                  Agreed. Plus, buying fruits and veggies in season supports local farmers and more sustainable agriculture systems/practices.

                                                                                                                  1. re: kalidaemon

                                                                                                                    So what would you advise when imported is cheaper than local, and has less pesticidies?

                                                                                                                    1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                                                                      I would buy local when it's cheaper (ie summer and fall) and imported when it's not. Supporting good agriculture practices is something I'd like to do more of, but don't have the means to right now. The pesticides issue is complicated. Some imported produce uses pesticides banned in the US and some US growers use pesticides that are banned abroad.

                                                                                                                      1. re: kalidaemon

                                                                                                                        The thing is that certain produce native to Mexico is always going to be cheaper than my local California stuff. The other complication is that most stuff grown in Mexico has less pesticides than Conventional Californian... some of it is so much cheaper, with a fairly benign level of pesticides than the Organic local equivalent.

                                                                                                                        I know that this "problem" is probably more endemic to those of use that live in California... but what then?

                                                                                                              2. There are a lot of good tips on this thread--beans and other legumes, less popular cuts of meat, less meat, local in season produce, and so on. But I'd like to ask if posters really need to economize on groceries. To economize, have you already: a) gotten rid of credit card debt, b) decreased eating fast and processed foods, c) figured out how to drive less, and d) cut down on high end dinners out? My own grocery bill is modest but is always made higher because I entertain. Although I've served great beans or soups for lunches, I don't want to cut back on good and fun ingredients for dinners with guests. I'd rather cut down in other areas.

                                                                                                                12 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                  Sam,

                                                                                                                  In the post just before yours and elsewhere I commented that, in essence, quality trumps quantity ... or convience. That latter is the beast. It is mindless to go into the local megamarket at the end of a long-hard workweek ... for some people kids yowling and begging for stuff.

                                                                                                                  No one says ... at least I certainly don't .. to cut back on the quality stuff ... just pay attention to what is really quality.

                                                                                                                  Also, I deal with enough people where they HAVE to shop at Wal-Mart. There are people I know who don't have enough bucks to eat at fast food joints ... who have $5, if lucky, at the end of the month.

                                                                                                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                    Okay, I'll answer. Yes. I do need to economize on groceries. To answer the questions: a) we have only one credit card, the balance s under $1600.00 US, and all of it is work related reimbursable; b) despite my seasonal yen for a McDonald's FoF, and an occasional Subway sandwich, we don't patronize fast food joints any longer; c) our car sits idle four days out of seven - Hub rides the bus to work and I walk to the co-op and on other food errands; all our running around is consolidated, except for the nastiiness of high school sports schedules; d) high end dinners out? We just don't. We prefer to cook in. (I use "we" with a wink ;-) )

                                                                                                                    You make good points, Sam, and I know plenty of people who could quit complaining about grocery bills if they would just stop renting 6 movies from Blockbuster every weekend. It is about priorities. Some of us have been living this way for years by choice. Now, suddenly, it's not a choice. And for some, as you know, it's rock v. hard place time.

                                                                                                                    Cay

                                                                                                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                      Well, let's see, I haven't owned a car in years, I eat out a few times a year and I've never had credit card debt. I rarely eat processed foods but I do buy them for my daughter. I birng my lunch to work every day. My grocery bill is high for two people because I buy humanely reared meat and I splurge on things like good cheese and olive oil. I need to spend a little less. More beans, I guess. Fortunately, I like beans. Cabbage too.

                                                                                                                      1. re: NYCkaren

                                                                                                                        Yes, this IS a great thread!!!! Thanks to everyone who has answered...rworange, I've been reading your posts on eating healthy with a small amount of $$ over the past months--wonderful! I, too, just love the cabbage, raw or braised...and potatoes are really the only starch that I truly crave from time to time (I guess 'that's me Irish' as they would say, my Irish roots on mother's side coming through)...I recently noticed a young co-worker in the kitchen eating nothing but pb & jelly sandwiches...he said "it's cheap and the healthy" ... I said "true, but please consider the lovely lentil...packed with protein and dirt-cheap." Then a different co-worker brought in a lentil curry and offered it out to everyone...the young co-worker was "hooked."

                                                                                                                        1. re: NYCkaren

                                                                                                                          I know there are a lot of Trader Joe's bashers out in the East Coast... I have never been to a TJ there so maybe its justified... but when you want to prioritize.... TJ's Sicilian Olive Oil is a bargain at $6 per 24oz, the Spanish cheeses are all a good deal at $4 per average wedge etc., TJ's may not carry the best artisinal products... but they carry stuff that is much better than the Mass Produced junk at the large Super Market Chains... and on average the higher quality TJ products are actually cheaper than their "equivalents" at those shops.

                                                                                                                          1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                                                                            I am not one of the Trader Joe's bashers! I love Trader Joe's. But since I don't have a car, I'm limited to what I can carry on the bus and subway. The wine and olive oil does tend to weigh me down. Cheese, nuts, dried fruit and bars of chocolate are easier to carry.

                                                                                                                            1. re: NYCkaren

                                                                                                                              I'm a Trader Joe's lover, I assure you, EN!! There are no less than FIVE TJs within a 20 mile radius of where I live...north of Boston. And, soon there'll be a new one about a 5 minute drive from me. Cannotwait....Their pastas, vinegars, jams...the EVOO.... frozen shrimp are far superior than megamarket stuff, with much lower prices too.

                                                                                                                              1. re: NYCkaren

                                                                                                                                Hey NYCkaren, I picked up this box like thing that is a hard plastic on wheels (it folds up when not in use) got it at staples. It is perfect for me to use to trek around the Farmer's Market. I just pull it like luggage behind me. I think at the most it was $20. You could then get a few more items rather waste money on another subway ticket, not to mention it's a whole lot easier on the arms and hands.

                                                                                                                          2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                            I'm not sure what your "a" and "c" have to do with food price reduction. I have never had any credit card debt and I don't have a car ( travel by bicycle). I never eat out anymore and rarely eat fast food. I don't really "need" to economize on groceries, but I do believe it's prudent to do so. It's part of simplifying life and saving money, whether there is a recession on or not.

                                                                                                                            I don't think people are asking to economize when it comes to guests but to reduce their overall monthly food budget.

                                                                                                                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                                              I lived without a car for over a decade - now I have an 8-yr-old car I drive once a week or so (I use it for the occasional road trip, for get groceries, and to visit my parents). A "high-end" dinner out for me is a place with a $15 entree. I do that every couple months. I pretty much never eat fast food. I rarely eat processed food. I bring my lunch to work about 4 days out of 5. And I haven't had credit card debt in years. In fact, I just paid off the last of my student loans. Since I can't afford a house, I don't have a mortgage. I am 100% debt-free. And I even have a savings account.

                                                                                                                              Now, I don't scrimp on certain things. I buy grassfed organic meat direct from the farmer in bulk, and the price is reasonable, but more than buying the cheapest grocery store cuts all the time. I try to get the organic chicken from the store as much as I can (if I'm lucky enough to hit the store on the day before the poultry expires, when the prices get cut, I stock up my freezer). But groceries are getting really expensive. One might say that they're getting more reasonably expensive - that is, that most of the world spends more of their income on food than Americans do, and much of the food we buy is get artificially cheap by government subsidies to the corn growers and so on. But I live in one of the most expensive housing markets in the country. And I'm not about to move - my friends and here, my family is here, my career is here. But I can't afford to spend a lot more on groceries than I already do. I'm having a hard time justifying to my boyfriend (who is interested in learning more about food, but has generally eaten pretty mainstream American bachelor food to this point in his life) the expense of organic produce or eggs twice the price of the non-organic stuff, or higher end olive oil, or dried mushrooms, or other foodie faves. Unfortunately, he has Crohn's disease, which means many of the basic cheap options (cabbage and cabbage-family vegetables, beans), are not an option. So I'm doing what I can to economize. I'm giving a little on some of the organic stuff. I'm spending even more time cooking. Tonight, I'm going to make a big batch of BBQ sauce, because I don't want to spend the money on the high-end commercial versions, and I don't want to use the corn-syrup-filled cheap versions. I'm planning to go into the Boston Haymarket this weekend and spend the afternoon cooking with the cheap vegetables I can find there - more freezer meals. I'm cooking a lot more potatoes and eggs.

                                                                                                                              I used to say you can't get out of a grocery store for under 15 dollars. Even if you just went in because you needed some garlic and a bottle of milk, you would end up with few extras, and you would spend $15. Then it became $20. Now, I notice I rarely spend less than $30. It's a problem.

                                                                                                                              1. re: curiousbaker

                                                                                                                                do you freeze or bottle your BBQ sauce? I've been contemplating making my own, both due to cost and so I can know what exactly goes into the stuff I'm eating. Haven't worked out the best way to store big batches of it, though. Or how long it is good for!

                                                                                                                                1. re: Gooseberry

                                                                                                                                  I made three pint containers and froze two. Given the high acid and sugar level, I'm guessing this will last a long time just refrigerated. I wrote about my bbq sauce experiment here: http://www.seasonalcook.blogspot.com, in case you're interested.

                                                                                                                            2. Classic Italian dishes such as pasta e fagioli (which can be dressed up a bit with fresh herbs and pancetta), polenta, lentil stew and vegetarian lasagne were borne of need. Generations of working class Italians were raised on these dishes, and they require little more than a few basic, inexpensive items and some creativity.
                                                                                                                              Melanzane alla Parmigiana is another great dish that is nutritious, delicious and satisfying. You don't even need eggs and flour, as some believe. If you are interested to know how I make something, I'd be happy to add the recipe.

                                                                                                                              In general, I have discovered that just changing the way I prepare something makes it taste completely different and I am less apt to tire of it. For example, I cannot remember the last time I steamed a vegetable. Obviously, you cannot find a more affordable way to prepare vegetables than to steam them. But to what end? You will have to add either meat or fish or chicken, and this will get costly and/or boring pretty quickly.
                                                                                                                              I roast them, instead. Eggplant, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, broccoflower, yellow squash, you name it. They all get the same treatment: tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper and whole garlic cloves, and piled into the roasting pan. Sometimes I add dried peperoncini. It gets drizzled with with olive oil, and roasted (turned occasionally) until partly browned and crisped on the edges. Now all I need to add is pasta. I eat some version of this once a week, and it has nothing to do with finances. Certain vegetables really lend themselves to particular spices/flavorings. Eggplant goes nicely with some pine nuts and raisins. Cauliflower goes well with saffron and a splash of white wine. I know a million ways to change up this basic method and I always enjoy it, regardless of what I can afford.
                                                                                                                              Good luck :)

                                                                                                                              4 Replies
                                                                                                                              1. re: vvvindaloo

                                                                                                                                I could have written your post word for word, Vindaloo! Italian food was exactly what I was thinking when I opened this thread. We have 4 meatless meals each week. In fact last night it was roasted broccoli and grape tomatoes with onions & garlic along with a veggie Lo Mein. Nutritious, tasty and quite filling.

                                                                                                                                Now that the growing season is almost upon us here in the Northeast, I look forward to home grown vegetables. My former perennial garden has been transformed into an herb garden. What a pleasure it is to be able to use fresh from the soil ingredients!

                                                                                                                                1. re: vvvindaloo

                                                                                                                                  I'm not sure I understand why you say one must add meat, fish or chicken to steamed vegetables to make them a meal, while roasted vegetables are good enough to go with pasta on their own. Sure, steamed vegetables aren't as tasty as roasted or sauteed (and it's not my cooking method of choice), but they can be tarted up with seasonings and good oil, etc. and made into a satisfying meatless meal. I agree with with your vegetable cooking principles, but find the argument a bit specious.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                                                                                    theoretically, a 'meal' can be whatever you make it.
                                                                                                                                    however, the point i was making was that vegetables roasted with olive oil are inherently more flavorful and therefore lend themselves to the simplest of meat-free accompaniments, such as plain pasta, without lacking anything. IMO, steamed vegetables would not be nearly as satisfying in such a low-cost (as requested by the OP) preparation, because the cooking method does not bring out the same depth of flavor (natural sugars, in particular). i, personally, would not prepare steamed vegetables if i did not intend for them to take a backseat to fish or chicken or red meat of some sort.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: vvvindaloo

                                                                                                                                      Thanks for explaining your post.

                                                                                                                                2. Interesting thread. A slight aside, but there was an item on BBC Radio this morning where they were discussing the fact that even restaurants are using cheaper cuts of meat these day so that they can keep their prices from rising too much. One of the guests, a notable food critic here, said that one restaurant was now charging £50 for a dish which a few months ago cost £35 (to serve three people - UK prices aren't that bad yet!).

                                                                                                                                  5 Replies
                                                                                                                                  1. re: greedygirl

                                                                                                                                    Yikes. £50 = $100!

                                                                                                                                    "UK prices aren't that bad yet!"

                                                                                                                                    Yes they are! ;)

                                                                                                                                    1. re: Jen76

                                                                                                                                      $100 for three people isn't that bad!

                                                                                                                                      1. re: Jen76

                                                                                                                                        you cannot compare a dollar to a pound. That is the currency in the UK, and the dollar exchange rate is bad. If you earn 30,000 pounds or 30,000 dollars your cost of living is the same in both countries. You might just as well say how cheap it is to eat out in India.

                                                                                                                                        If a Starbucks coffee is $3.20 in America it is 3.20 pounds in England. That is not $6.40, unless you are there on vacation.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: smartie

                                                                                                                                          I was kidding.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: smartie

                                                                                                                                            you CAN compare what you get for a dollar vs what you get for a pound, and in that reasoning UK prices are pretty bad. Having just moved from London to NJ, I am still having reverse sticker shock at how reasonable everything is in the US.... and we were/ are paid in local currency both places.

                                                                                                                                      2. Collard greens/mustard greens
                                                                                                                                        stewed potatoes
                                                                                                                                        rice
                                                                                                                                        pinto beans/navy beans from dried beans (most any bean)
                                                                                                                                        meatloaf
                                                                                                                                        biscuits, cornbread and pancakes
                                                                                                                                        whole chickens fried or stewed, i.e., chicken and dumplings
                                                                                                                                        peanut butter
                                                                                                                                        sandwiches made from meatloaf and cheap sliced meats
                                                                                                                                        Whatever is on sale or deeply discounted
                                                                                                                                        Grow whatever you can. We had a small garden.

                                                                                                                                        These were the staples that got us by when my Mom raised five of us, without much assistance, in the late fifties through the early seventies. NO McDonalds, no candy bars, no snacking or junk food. We were a little skinny, but we were healthy

                                                                                                                                        1. Thanks again for so many great ideas - in response to Sam - we are debt free (well almost - after years of prepaying we have 10 months left on our mortgage), eat our own food, much from our own garden, my husband commutes by bus and we haven't eaten at a high-end restaurant since I can't remember when!

                                                                                                                                          My goal with this thread wasn't how cheap can we go but how can we keep eating well for less. Some of the suggestions about ethnic cuisines which are less dependant on meat are just what I'm thinking of. Also the creative ideas about how we can replace pre-made products with homemade ones.

                                                                                                                                          We will continue to eat organic - even though that drives our bills up considerably - because we want the reduction in pesticides. We'll continue to buy at local farm markets and subscribe to our CSA - even though the trucked in produce is often cheaper - because we want the better taste and to support local farmers. And we'll keep splurging (though less often) on good cheese and chocolate beacuse you can't give everything up and be happy (as kalidaemon pointed out).

                                                                                                                                          So - keep the great posts coming!

                                                                                                                                          1. There are some great comments here, especially:

                                                                                                                                            - grow your own food/herbs (which it sounds like you are already doing if you have your own garden - good for you!).

                                                                                                                                            - cut down on the meat. I think middle class culture too often assumes that a meal is only a meal if there's a big piece of meat on the plate. Since meat is pretty expensive and usually places quite a strain on the environment (compared to veg), you can save money and do the environmentally sustainable thing if you eat vegetarian a couple nights a week, or use meat more as an ingredient than the star of the meal (shredded chicken in soup, pancetta in pasta, sliced sausage in a stew).

                                                                                                                                            - Buy unprocessed as much as possible; potatoes, grains, rice, etc. Cheaper AND healthier!

                                                                                                                                            - Eat seasonal. It's cheaper, healthier, and better for your carbon footprint

                                                                                                                                            I'd also like to add: use your microwave more. I think we sometimes all forget that electricity costs a lot too; where I can use a microwave instead of an oven or stovetop (thinking of steaming vegetables, baking potatoes, heating leftovers) I do.

                                                                                                                                            My spouse and I are both currently changing jobs, and living off savings in the interim. We've really had to watch our money, but by following the suggestions above, we're still eating really well.

                                                                                                                                            From the number of comments on this board, I think I need to start eating more cabbage!

                                                                                                                                            6 Replies
                                                                                                                                            1. re: Gooseberry

                                                                                                                                              Hiya, Gooseberry! Given that you're in Kaapstad, I would have thought that chakalaka would have been a suggestion from you (and a delicious cabbage suggestion, at that).

                                                                                                                                              1. re: hungry_pangolin

                                                                                                                                                Hi, Pangolin. While I'm not any kind of chakalaka expert, I think of chakalaka as more of a Zulu thing - found more in Jo'burg than Cape Town. Although perhaps I'm not moving in the right circles! And as boyf says, "Who makes it? It comes in a tin!". Although I'm sure his mother has a recipe or two. Why don't you share a recipe, if you have a favourite one?

                                                                                                                                                1. re: Gooseberry

                                                                                                                                                  True enough about the location. I was introduced to chakalaka when I was travelling through Mpumalanga. Your bf's comment gave me a laugh. I have a couple of tins of All-Gold "mild & spicy" (wtf?!?) in my pantry.

                                                                                                                                                  My recipe is pretty basic. In a large pot, begin sauteeing onion in oil. Once translucent, add garlic and carrot (diced or in batons). After a minute or two, add curry powder, grated ginger root, salt, stir and cook for a few minutes. Add roughly diced cabbage, a couple of roughly chopped tomatoes (both necessary) and green(bell) pepper (optional, but I like it). Cook until the cabbage has reached desired tenderness, about 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. No two recipes are the same. Many recipes call for beans or one variety or another, but I exclude them.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: hungry_pangolin

                                                                                                                                                    I have a couple of baby savoy cabbages (or as we call them here, 'cebbeges') in the fridge. One's destined for stir-fry, but maybe the other will have a chakalaka destiny. Thanks for the recipe.

                                                                                                                                                    Be careful who you tell about your All-Gold stash - I think politics plays an apathetic second to the battle of the All-Gold supporters and the Koo supporters. Boyfriend thankfully won't kick me out of our house if I bring the wrong brand home from the supermarket (apparently I've been out of the country too long, and forget which brand we're allied to!), although I once absent-mindedly brought Heinz baked beans home. I'm still living THAT humiliation down...

                                                                                                                                                    Another good use for tinned products - boontjieslaai!

                                                                                                                                                    1 tin baked beans
                                                                                                                                                    1 tin green beans, rinsed and drained
                                                                                                                                                    1 tin butter beans, rinsed and drained
                                                                                                                                                    1 chopped onion
                                                                                                                                                    1 chopped green pepper
                                                                                                                                                    1/2C vinegar & 1/2C light brown sugar & 1/2C neutral oil, brought to the boil to combine
                                                                                                                                                    2 tsp dried basil or marjoram

                                                                                                                                                    Combine everything, leave to stand AT LEAST two hours before eating, preferably at a braai (barbeque).

                                                                                                                                                    Although I must admit, I couldn't bring myself to buy tinned green beans, and steamed my own at home. Don't tell - I'll be labelled an unpatriotic food snob!

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: hungry_pangolin

                                                                                                                                                      I made your Chakalaka last night HP. It was absolutely delicious!! We loved it and intend to keep it in our meal rotation. Many thanks for posting it. It went beautifully with a poached cod I made for COTM.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Gio

                                                                                                                                                        Very gratifying to hear that - thanks so much. As I said, no two recipes are alike, so feel free to experiment with any vegetation you like. If you come up with an innovation that you like, please post, as it might be something that hasn't occurred to me.

                                                                                                                                              2. 1) Find out which day your local paper has supermarket chains' weekly ads so you can take advantage of sale items and loss leaders. For example, where I live top grade beef round steak is $1.49 lb this week and Perdue roasting chickens 69 cents lb---far below the usual prices. 2) Plan meals around what's on sale or what you have on hand, rather than shop for special ingredients. 3) Cook what makes a lot and uses a little of (expensive) meat and a lot of (cheap) carbohydrate---casserole of pasta with bits of meat; chili con carne; hearty beef-vegetable soups; creamed tuna and noodle casserole---either eat it all week or freeze some for future reference.

                                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                1. re: Querencia

                                                                                                                                                  Just a thought that you don't need the newspaper anymore for ads.

                                                                                                                                                  Most major markets have their ads on their websites and often on-line coupons.

                                                                                                                                                2. Depression Food at my Grandma's house: Big pot of navy beans, sometimes cooked with flavoring of bacon or salt pork, whole potatoes added to pot toward the end. Potatoes to be smashed up on one's plate and topped with bean "gravy", beans to the side, and chopped raw onion for relish. (To this day I'd rather eat that than dine at the Tour d"Argent.) Poverty Food from student days: hearty soups, pasta-based casseroles. If you have only one egg, stretch it by making French toast. One or two eggs= crepes (roll some leftovers up in them). Three eggs: you can make a souffle of anything. Three eggs and a cup of sugar = several dozen meringues.

                                                                                                                                                  1. As a student, I've found it helpful to learn about peasant foods from different cultures. A lot of them are not only cheap and filling, but nutritionally dense, too. I end up eating a lot of soup, but it's tasty. I especially like borscht- it looks fancy, but it's cheap and filling.

                                                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                    1. re: collieb

                                                                                                                                                      Peasant food rules.

                                                                                                                                                      http://www.chow.com/search?search%5Bq...

                                                                                                                                                    2. This is a fascinating thread, and I wonder at the range of foods that people think of as recession cuisine. I'd personally leave out anything processed very much (beyond the basic stuff like the making of natural cheeses with no perservatives or churning butter). When I was in college, a change of plans left me stranded in my college town during the summer as economic conditions were so bad in the town where my family lived. I earned far more working part time in San francisco than at home. But I had college fees to pay up front. So for two months of the summer I lived on 25 cents a day. And yes, I did use nonfat dry milk, lots of beans, onions, cheap in-season oranges and tomatoes, and lots of cabbage. And I was glad to get them. But I don't think people should consider that a model diet. Really, we need a cook book for the folks who can't afford to eat very high on the hog. One of the sad things today is the cuts that kept our family going right after World War II (as far back as I can remember) are mostly not available. We had more lamb patties than I care to remember. And in our neighborhood, the selection of "cheap" cuts of beef is often non existent. As for stringy old hens or roosters (for a coq au vin) forget it. I can't find beef shins, for example, without going to an upscale market. So maybe it is time to buy locally, if you are someplace where farmers have managed to survive.
                                                                                                                                                      But consider this, most of the great cooking of the world is based on peasant fare. Some gets very expensive if you don't have access to a farm yard--try making an "authentic" cassoulet, for example. But just grab any book on European farm house cooking and you will soon find yourself extrapolating all kinds of ideas that will be darn good with whatever is available close to home. It means thinking in terms of "la cucina povera" as Mario Batali and so many others say. Or for a great education, try finding the out of print book Honey from a Weed by Patience Gray. And then go to the rice and beans and corn and squashes and the like. And, for heaven's sake, buy them in quantity. In this country, the cooking of African Americans has a lot to teach us. To my mind, Hoppin John is as about a good dish as one could ask for. And, of course, your corn cakes and puddings and breads get even better if you mill the corn yourself. So if you are not near a grist mill, think of investing in a home mill--or share it with neighbors. As for the tough cuts of meat, learn to braise. Two other overlooked areas are the foods of people where raising food is tough: the Andes and the highlands of central Asia. And for the Asian stuff, take a look at Alford and Duguid's many books, most especially "Beyond the Great Wall." Then use some imagination. Mmm. A cheap cut of meat, sliced thin and used more as a condiment than a main ingredient. Onions. Squash. Ginger. A few root vegetables. I feel something shaping up. And serve it with rice or spuds or quinoa. Cheap eats and good.

                                                                                                                                                      24 Replies
                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Father Kitchen

                                                                                                                                                        Fr. Kitchen I'm so glad you weighed in. I'll add Honey From a Weed to my booklist (after How To Eat A Wolf). My family are from the South so I appreciate your bringing up Soul Food as good cheap eats - a big pot of collards with cornbread makes a great meal.

                                                                                                                                                        One drawback to the modern food business is that the "cheap" cuts of meat are considered waste and are never sent to stores. If you want them you have to seek out a speciality butcher. So things that people 100 years ago ate to save money are now more expensive than cuts that were pricey years ago! The adoption of these dishes as chic by top chefs has driven prices up too.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: lupaglupa

                                                                                                                                                          I'm not sure what you consider a speciality market. I'm surrounded by small Latino, Asian and African American markets. The 'cheap' cuts are there ... all the cuts are. One market buys whole pigs, has the butcher come in and every part is sold.

                                                                                                                                                          A lot of people fear these markets. I've heard some unflattering things said about them. However, they remind me of the small meat markets when I was growing up where you have a relationship with the butcher. It isn't fancy upscale meat, but it is honest and better than the sanitized-looking stuff in the supermarkets that is slapped on styrofoam and encased in plastic.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: rworange

                                                                                                                                                            We have small Latin and Asian markets but none sell their own meat that I have seen - just frozen pre-packaged meats. There are butchers here that cut their own meat, but not many. Certainly you never see anything but the standard wrapped in plastic meat at the local supermarkets - whaich have no real butchers and get everything sent to them pre-cut from centralized meat cutting facilities.

                                                                                                                                                          2. re: lupaglupa

                                                                                                                                                            I don't often get to do the food purchasing for my community, as I only get into the kitchen on a seven week rotation, except for my bread. But in Milwaukee and in the DC Metro area, there are now many Latino markets with good butcher counters. It was where I first saw heads of pigs and a lot of other (for me) unusual cuts for sale. However, even on that front things are changing. A while back, I went into a Del Rey market in Milwaukee and found a huge part of the superb produce section had been squeezed out by bottled soft drinks and snack foods. Still, Latino markets are a good place to start for the tougher cuts of meat. And if you are in Amish territory, you can often find Amish butchers with wonderful selections at reasonable prices.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Father Kitchen

                                                                                                                                                              Over dinner tonight I asked about other food options. The African in our community often goes to an Halal market when he and his friends want to cook something for a special occasion. He isn't Muslim, of course, but he says the taste of the meats are more like what he knew in western Kenya, and the prices are quite good. And you can get Amish-raised goat there.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Father Kitchen

                                                                                                                                                                Recently we got a halal market - I wil have to check it out.

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: lupaglupa

                                                                                                                                                                  I've been following this discussion with interest. I've luckily got a neighbourhood butcher where I am, who gets in whole carcases, cuts them up himself and so I have access to all and any parts of the animals. But even my butcher shakes his head sadly and confirms that butchery skills are dying out as more and more supermarkets get stuff direct from meat plants.

                                                                                                                                                                  Perhaps another solution would be a meat CSA? There are some great articles on chow from Meat Week, about different options. That way you could specify to whichever butcher you use what cuts you want, and also be assured of better quality animals.

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Gooseberry

                                                                                                                                                                    Our vegetable CSA tried to do meat but there was not enough interest and the refridgeration issues made it difficult to continue for a small number of people. I can get local organic at Farm Markets but the cost is high (even for the 'cheap' cuts). My husband and I have talked about trying to find a local farmer who will sell us a half a cow, butchered, which a friend has done. It was more expensive than grocery but she got quality grass fed local meat. We would have to buy a freezer which would eliminate some of the savings. <sigh> It's hard to know what choice to make and where to spend and where to save.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: lupaglupa

                                                                                                                                                                      I recently got a chest freezer for a business I run from home. I must say, we're quite careful with our electricity, and it certainly added to our costs (although it was a necessity for my business). Since business is seasonal, I turn it off during the winter, rather than use it purely as a second freezer, because of the cost.

                                                                                                                                                                      I've been thinking about buying a whole animal, too, but I'm also concerned with storing it and eating it (we're a two person household!). I don't know where you live and what sort of livestock is available (and what you like to eat!), but I'm considering trying something smaller than a steer for the first time. I was thinking of a lamb or calf, which are much smaller, and i'm pretty sure I could find a friend or two who'd share it with me. And my storage needs would be less - one leg of lamb,a couple packs of lamb mince, some lamb stew meat, lamb chops, lamb shanks, etc.

                                                                                                                                                                      Has anyone done CSA or meat share lamb? Thoughts?

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Gooseberry

                                                                                                                                                                        Well before it was fashionable (I'm referring to the 1970s here) my mother and the local shop manager would split a lamb every year. We weren't wealthy, we were doing well, but my mother is so frugal that it had to have been a good deal, otherwise she wouldn't have been the least tempted. I do know that there was no lamb raised commercially locally, but that it was Ontario lamb.

                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: Gooseberry

                                                                                                                                                                      i've been dying to know and can't figure out what CSA stands for...please advise.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: soypower

                                                                                                                                                                        Community Sustained Agriculture, I believe.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Chile Pepper

                                                                                                                                                                          thank you! :o)

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: soypower

                                                                                                                                                                            Not to nitpick, but the "S" is often expressed as "Supported", because the individuals in the community support the farmer economically, via contracted shares. Thus, the farmers know they will be paid for their investment. Both words work... the nuance is barely different, but the big thing is that the bills get paid.

                                                                                                                                                                            There's a great overview at localharvest:

                                                                                                                                                                            http://www.localharvest.org/csa/

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: FoodFuser

                                                                                                                                                                              thanks so much for the link! i may just have to buy a share..:o)

                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: Gooseberry

                                                                                                                                                                        Does anyone know an online resource to help find a meat CSA?

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: yamalam

                                                                                                                                                                          Try www.eatwild.com On the left side is a link to "Find local grassfed..." Click there to pull up a country map, click your state and information will be provided on local farms, grass-fed farms, dairies, etc.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: gourmanda

                                                                                                                                                                            Yes, gourmanda. And many of those places operate on the "buy half a pig, up front and we will raise it for you and have it butchered to your specs". Same concept as csa veggies.

                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: yamalam

                                                                                                                                                                            Also, the Robin Van En Center for Community Supported Agriculture has resources:
                                                                                                                                                                            http://www.wilson.edu/wilson/asp/cont....

                                                                                                                                                                2. re: Father Kitchen

                                                                                                                                                                  Father Kitchen:

                                                                                                                                                                  Try finding neighborhood ethnic markets. Those cheaper cuts of meat are still around. Beef shins, chicken feet, hog's feet and heads, etc. Most for under $3/#. I'll echo rworange's comments below that some people are put off by the smell of these small gorcery store butcher counters, but that smell is MEAT outside of plastic wrap and styrofoam. Yes, that's what a real butcher shop smells like! I remember them from the 50's before plastic-encased meats appeared.

                                                                                                                                                                  I've been going to the farmer's market for unsprayed produce to supplement my veg garden tubs and to the local Hispanic markets for meats and bulk cheeses(though those, too, are edging up).

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: toodie jane

                                                                                                                                                                    I have seen these chicken feet of which you speak at my local Hispanic market ... what are they for?? The only thing I could think of was stock ...

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: foiegras

                                                                                                                                                                      One of the most mermorable dining experinces of my life was sitting at a communal table in NYC's Chinatown with two ladies and watching them eat chicken feet. With consummate grace they took their chopsticks and removed the little knuckle bones from their mouths, one by one.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: lupaglupa

                                                                                                                                                                        In San Francisco I watched a Chinese lady eat fish with chopsticks, removing the bones with them. Never used her fingers. So adept, so polite. I would have had to use my fingers, I'm sure.

                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: foiegras

                                                                                                                                                                        Chicken feet ("Adidas") are BBQed (after boiling) in the Philippines--great with the first beers of the evening. They are a central part of some soups in Bolivia.

                                                                                                                                                                  2. Not sure if this is cooking for recesson, but this is the way I always cook now. Never (and I mean never) buy pre-packaged food if I can make my own. I make our bread once a week (have yet to make pasta, but I can usually pick that upreal cheap on sale). When I make focaccia, what doesn't get eaten in a few days goes into the grinder for breadcrumbs. I make all my own stock from whenever we have chicken or turkey (just save the bones), use cheese rinds to add extra flavor to soup. If milk goes sour, I use it in recipes that call for buttemilk, I purchase all my staples at our local food coop (much cheaper and supports a good cause). That's just off the top of my head, but I always try to think of additional uses for anything before I toss it. There really are many, many ways to save money on food if you're willing to forgo the premade stuff and put a little time into preparation.

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                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: SharaMcG

                                                                                                                                                                      I don't think anyone has added this yet, but in terms of making your own food--we always make our own pasta sauce. A couple of vacuum jars from Ikea for $3 a piece, a couple of cans of no-salt added peeled tomoatoes, a can of tomato paste, and whatever spices, garlic, onion, etc. you like. We always throw veggies into our sauce as well--whatever's in season, zucchini, mushrooms, eggplant. Sometimes the sauce is a little sweeter with red onions and squash, sometimes tangy with lots of garlic and a couple of radishes. One jar goes in the fridge and one in the freezer--we use it on pasta (natch), but also as a veggie dinner on top of steamed or sauteed spinach, spaghetti squash, julienned zucchini, baked potatoes. Use it for homemade pizzas, etc.--makes great use of local, fresh veggies, forces us to eat more veggies, and forces us to diversify our veggies and try new things--if it's a little odd, the flavor of the sauce essentially covers it up, and if it's good, we'll try it on its own another time. And start to finish, 2 giant jars of sauce (probably 4 qts worth) costs about $4 and will last months.

                                                                                                                                                                    2. I've been maning to post this... Just a note on pomegranate juice. The juice itself is quite expensive, and if you were purchasing it as a beverage, you're out of luck. If, on the other hand, you were purchasing it as an ingredient for marinades, I'd suggest that you buy pomegranate molasses, and adjust your recipe accordinglyby diluting it with water or wine. I pay about $4 for 500mL, and a little goes a long way. (It's also delicious on vanilla ice cream.)

                                                                                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: hungry_pangolin

                                                                                                                                                                        I was in the Pomegranate biz... and know for certain there isn't much nutritional benefit left in the Molasses (after they have sat on some shelf for 5 years etc.,)

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                                                                                                                                          I don't think that anyone adds anything to a marinade for its nutritional value, but as a flavour component, hence my advice on the substition in marinade, and my averring on the beverage question. I don't recall anyone raising the nutritional dimension.

                                                                                                                                                                      2. Green split pea soup made with a ham hock is a favourite in our house. Simple as anything to make and tastes really good.

                                                                                                                                                                        Ham hocks are inexpensive and very flavourful. You can use a ham bone too if you have one. I do not measure, so this is only a method and list of ingredients. I do not add salt as the ham is salty enough for me.

                                                                                                                                                                        Boil the ham hock/bone, in a big pot of water with some peppercorns, a quartered onion, a couple carrots and some celery. Boil until the meat falls off the bone.

                                                                                                                                                                        In another pot saute some onions, garlic celery etc. Strain the stock on top. You can toss the vegies, but pull the meat off the bone and add it to the pot. Add split green peas, some chopped carrots, a chopped potato and some rice to the pot. You want the liquid to be about 3 inches above the ingredients.

                                                                                                                                                                        Cook over low heat for several hours stirring often, or you can move it to a crock pot and cook it all day.

                                                                                                                                                                        Serve with cheese biscuits.

                                                                                                                                                                        When you put the left overs in the fridge it will thicken up and get very firm, add a bit of water when reheating it. Freezes well too.

                                                                                                                                                                        The ham gives a lot of flavour, you can also use smoked turkey and get a similar result. The rice and peas are another source of protein, so you do not need much meat for a wholesome meal. If you are not a meat eater, I am not sure what you can use for the stock.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. Did you all see today's NY Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/27/bus...

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                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Tehama

                                                                                                                                                                            Very interesting! I think the Chowhound crew are not in the group that will cut spending on food while still spending on video games ;)

                                                                                                                                                                          2. *Sigh* my student days poverty recipes (not for the carb faint-of-heart):

                                                                                                                                                                            (1) red beans and rice. what could be more filling, cheaper, and keep well? both the cooked red bean mixture, and rice, freezes beautifully. Saute chopped garlic and onion in olive oil or butter, add a can or two of kidney beans, and canned tomatoes. Cook a bit, add salt, and myself Tabasco is the king of hot sauces. But you can put in chile flakes or any other kind of "heat" you have. Man, this is a delicious dish! You might need a can of tomato paste to thicken it up. I lived on this for a year in Paris (and miraculously did not gain weight). Great for a crowd cause easy to double/triple....
                                                                                                                                                                            (2) spaghetti with garlic. I think this is a Silver Palate recipe (believe it or not): cook several cloves of garlic in olive oil, then put in some chicken stock, then your cooked pasta. Top with parmesan cheese (optional, getting more costly!), mashed anchovies (not too many), or golden raisins. I know that sounds like punishment but it's actually quite tasty.

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                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: lafoodie7

                                                                                                                                                                              LOL. In the 70's I lived for a long time on brown rice and vegetables....no meat. (Not by choice, I was a VERY poor student!) have to say it is the healthiest I've ever been. Walked a lot (no car) , ate very little (no food), didn't drink at all (too young and no money !). Probably a lesson to be learned there, eh?

                                                                                                                                                                            2. What about a CSA -- where you buy a share in a quasi-local farm and get a bag of produce every week for some number of weeks. Anyone have tips for making it work ... or warnings? I know they are good for local farmers, etc. etc. but are they really a money saver for the individual shareholder/customer?

                                                                                                                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: lbird99

                                                                                                                                                                                I looked into it once, with the wonderful vegetables in mind, not the price, but I think the nearest one for me was still a 90 minute drive each way, once a week.
                                                                                                                                                                                Hardly economical!

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: lbird99

                                                                                                                                                                                  There are plenty of threads about CSAs around here if you do a search. Bottom line: there are good ones and bad ones and they work well for some people (we've been members of ours for coming up on eight years!) and don't work at all for others.

                                                                                                                                                                                  But if there are farmers markets near you, they are almost certainly a good bet, both in terms of quality and price.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: lbird99

                                                                                                                                                                                    My CSA costs $400 for the season - which works out to about $22 dollars a week for a bag bulging with produce. I can't do that well at the farmer's market or the grocery store (but factor in that I have no choice in what I get). I pick it up a short walk from my house so I have little to no fuel cost to get it as I would at a market. We are two adults and a toddler in our house and we have our own garden also so we rarely eat all the produce each week. Whatever is left I process and we eat during the winter - a huge cost savings from shipped in fresh organic produce or frozen organic.

                                                                                                                                                                                  2. Best falafel recipe I know. Tasty, nutritious and dirt cheap.

                                                                                                                                                                                    "500 mL (2 cups) dried chick peas (absolutely not canned)

                                                                                                                                                                                    1 medium onion quartered
                                                                                                                                                                                    2-3 cloves garlic
                                                                                                                                                                                    2-3 slices stale bread
                                                                                                                                                                                    50 mL (1/4 cup) parsley
                                                                                                                                                                                    1/3 head sweet red pepper
                                                                                                                                                                                    10 mL (2 tsp) salt
                                                                                                                                                                                    3 mL (3/4 tsp) black pepper
                                                                                                                                                                                    10 mL (2 tsp) cumin
                                                                                                                                                                                    10 mL (2 tsp) oregano
                                                                                                                                                                                    10 mL (2 tsp) ground coriander
                                                                                                                                                                                    5 mL (1 tsp) red hot pepper flakes
                                                                                                                                                                                    20 mL (4 tsp) flour
                                                                                                                                                                                    10 mL (2 tsp) baking powder
                                                                                                                                                                                    50 mL (1/4 cup) water
                                                                                                                                                                                    5 mL (1 tsp) baking powder
                                                                                                                                                                                    125 mL (1/2 cup) water
                                                                                                                                                                                    vegetable oil for deep frying

                                                                                                                                                                                    Pick out foreign matter from between the peas. Place in a large bowl, cover generously with water and soak overnight Drain peas. Add onion, garlic, bread, parsley, and red sweet pepper. Run through the fine blade of a meat grinder. (You may process in food processor until mealy.) Add spices, flour, 10 mL (2 tsp) baking powder and water. Mix well.

                                                                                                                                                                                    In a small dish mix the remaining baking powder and water. Use it to moisten the palm of your hands and form balls of the chick peas mixture the size of walnuts, then flatten a bit.

                                                                                                                                                                                    Deep fry in oil at medium high heat until golden brown. Serve piping hot."

                                                                                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: mrbozo

                                                                                                                                                                                      I love the initial instruction: "Pick out foreign matter from between the peas..." YES! Love picking out foreign matter! Joking aside, falafels are SUPER filling and cheap cheap cheap. Even if you don't want to pick out foreign matter yourself, and go with a falafel mix. My bf and I ate a lot of falafels in our student days. Somehow we thought tahini on brown rice was delicious too. Who knows how nutrititious that is, though?

                                                                                                                                                                                    2. If you make your own stock, a good butcher will often give you a heap of bones for free. I made several litres of everyday Asian stock the other day with about half a dozen chicken carcasses given to me by my butcher.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. Many good answers here. I grew up in an Italian family and we had plenty of cucina povera - only we didn't have to eat poor (well, not most of the time), We just liked it, knew it was healthy, and, at the time, had to observe meatless Fridays.

                                                                                                                                                                                        How much more inexpensively you can eat depends on what you're already doing now and where you live. I have to laugh when I read that people are stocking up on things like generic or on sale Cocoa Puffs or Wheaties. A box of oatmeal or bag of multi-grain cereal to be cooked would be a lot cheaper, not to mention far more nutritious. First rule is to stop buying as many processed or convenience foods as possible. DH and I are always amazed when we shop at how many prepared foods are out there - and most of them don't taste very good. With a little planning, you don't have to use them and the internet is full of advice and recipes for short cuts to real food. For example, hot cereal can be "cooked" in a thermos overnight or a pot of beans or a whole chicken is done quickly in a pressure cooker. But you have to want to do this...and you have to PLAN.

                                                                                                                                                                                        If you live in an area where there are good farmers' markets, take advantage. If not, shop the sales and forgo the already-prepped fruits and veggies. Yes, stretching your food dollar will require a little more work and effort.

                                                                                                                                                                                        I posted a recipe for my Italian grandma's Pasta e Fagioli in answer to another post. Grandma had eight children, a husband, and a couple of bachelor uncles to feed during lean times. Here's another one of her standbys. Don't sneer at the combo of carbohydrates; it's very tasty, though better suited to cold weather than hot. Even today, it shows up at the 100+ people family reunions. Like most "recipes" of this sort, exact measurements are not possible.

                                                                                                                                                                                        Grandma Patrino's Rice and Potatoes with Sauce

                                                                                                                                                                                        Use a roaster pan or very large baking dish. Grease with olive oil

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. Soak 2 cups long-grain rice in water as you begin to prepare.
                                                                                                                                                                                        2. Peel 4 or 5 large potatoes and slice about 1/2 inch thick.
                                                                                                                                                                                        3. Have at least a quart of marinara or spaghetti sauce available.
                                                                                                                                                                                        4. Peel and slice thinly a very large onion and chop 4 or 5 cloves of garlic.
                                                                                                                                                                                        5. Have grated Parmesan or Pecorino-Romano cheese available.
                                                                                                                                                                                        6. Layer the ingredients in the pan: First, sauce in the pan, then a layer of potatoes, onions, garlic, salt, pepper, some of the soaked rice, cheese, and some water. Repeat the layering process. Pour more sauce on top. Pour more water around the edge of the pan. You'll use at least three cups of water.
                                                                                                                                                                                        7. Cover the pan tightly with foil. Bake at 350 till potatoes are tender and rice is cooked, at least an hour. Check during the baking to see that there is enough water to cook both the potatoes and the rice. I always have to add more hot water and found the dish needed more than an hour cooking.

                                                                                                                                                                                        One of my cousins who watched Grandma do this before she died dictated this to me. I regret it is not more precise. Also, if times were flush, Grandma would layer in a few spareribs with the other ingredients. Lovely flavor and some protein. It is my understanding that the southern Italian region from which Grandma hailed did many dishes of this layering sort, their version of what the French call a "tian".

                                                                                                                                                                                        Ginny

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                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: rexsreine

                                                                                                                                                                                          That sounds delicious, I will have to try it before our cold weather turns to warm. Thank you.

                                                                                                                                                                                        2. Recession food is taking something and turning it into a cake. Take anything, pop it into the food processor, add egg, bread crumb, onions, cheeses or nuts, whatever you have around. Fry it up in the pan! they're so cheap and easy!

                                                                                                                                                                                          beans into bean cakes. Canned salmon into salmon cakes. Black eyed pea cakes. Zuchhini cakes. squash cakes. spinach cakes. escarole cakes. ...

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. Speaking of buying cheap cuts, In my neighborhood there is an touristy upscale mom and pops Italian specialty store that sells imported prosciutto for 21.00/Lb that I used to buy. Recently I discovered the basket of prosciutto 'ends' prewrapped and weighed for $5.99/Lb! Because they have such high volume sales, the prosciutto still had a beautiful fresh color to it. All I had to do was slice it myself. Now I buy the leftover tip end of the ham that is still good, just not visually appealling if someone was paying full price because its the tip end. Now I add this to all of my pasta sauce without ever feeling guilty.