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Recession Cuisine

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

            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: 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)

              1. 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.

              2. re: lupaglupa

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

              3. re: Eat_Nopal

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

              4. 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