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Where do you draw the line?

Life can get very busy, people say the economy is tanking, I'm assuming that other people out there are also looking for ways to eat within budget on days when they are tired and have too much to do. I know some weeks can get pretty challenging for me. But there are some desperate acts I'm not yet ready to commit. Like make instant mashed potatoes instead of ones from scratch. Or eat at McDonald's except for breakfast. When life gets rough or there is too much week left until payday I will nuke up leftover pizza, grill up a cheaper brand of hot dogs on sale, bust open a can of condensed soup, but you will never find chicken nuggets in my freezer. I was just wondering where other chowhounds draw the line as far as saving time or money?

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  1. For me it's farm raised fish like catfish or tilapia. If I can't catch my own speckled trout, redfish, flounder, freshwater catfish, bream, or crappie, I'll loook for the freshest red snapper, flounder, or grouper. I also love oysters and non-farm raised shimp, as I live on the coast and take the good with the bad, such as a category 4 heading in my general direction.

    1. I will not eat at fast food restaurants. Period. Stopped doing that after reading Fast Food Nation. Some are worse then others but the big chains IMHO don't even sell real fe iood it is so modified. Doesn't mean I don't still have an occasional craving for a Quarter Pounder with Cheese and large fry, I just don't give in to it.

      I will not buy the cheap brands or house brands of orange juice. I just don't like it. Always taste nasty to me. If the juice I like is really expensive, I just don't buy juice. I love it when we are in Mexico and I buy mandarina's and make my own juice. It is so sweet and good.

      I am so grateful that I enjoy cooking so don't have to spend a lot of money eating out all the time and I find it a challenge to stretch my food dollars and see what I can come up with for a meal.

      5 Replies
      1. re: jodymaryk

        I'm glad I know how to cook also. You know so much more about what is going into your tummy. Another perk for me is that I tend to be a night owl, so I can whip myself up something tasty when the only places open around me are convenience stores and a couple of not very close 24 hour diners. Dunno if this is a whole new thread jodymaryk but would love to hear of some your triumphs in stretching your food dollars. Winter is coming and I'm in the northeast so with fuel oil costs hitting soon I'm open to new ideas. Just no instant mashed potatoes please! (kidding)

        1. re: givemecarbs

          I 'threaten' with Boston Market, been doing it for 20 years. I've never followed through. I can't bring myself to buy a pre-cooked chicken from a supermarket or a deli, and some actually look good.

          It's kinda basic around here, so not too much in the way of innovative stuff.

          I'm glad I know how to cook, too, although I still don't like it. Now baking, that's a horse of a different color.

          1. re: givemecarbs

            Might be a new thread but let's give it a shot!

            I am a really basic cook. Sometimes when I take food to things, people say, "your such a gourmet" but I really don't think I am. My favorite type of food is "low and slow". Nothing makes me happier (well almost nothing) then having a large pot on the stove simmering away all of Sunday, or in the oven, filling the house with yummy smells while I putter around the house. Soups, stews, chilis, roasts (pulled pork is my latest fav) and anything that I can make a lot of and freeze for later. I love my pantry to be full.

            My biggest bulk-er is beans. Pinto, black, kidney, garbanzos, white, you name it, I love them. Also they are cheap and good for you. Although I keep some canned beans on hand, I usually use dried since they are really cheap. I made chile con carne yesterday with 2 pounds of lean ground meat, pintos and red beans. I was able to freeze two decent batches for later. Cuban black beans, red beans and rice are also great dollar stretchers. If you eat pork, smoked ham hocks or shanks are cheap and go a long way. Navy bean and ham soup with a lot of carrots and celery. I read somewhere that beans and rice together have every amino acid we need. If you think about how many people in this world live on beans and rice, it must have something going for it.

            After beans, I bulk with vegetables. Today I am going to make a casserole with whole wheat pasta, chicken, cauliflower, broccoli, mushrooms and onions then pour a cream soup mix (shudder) that I have doctored up over the top. Bread crumbs on top, into the oven and I have a couple of days worth of lunches and dinners. I should mention, one husband (that can fend for himself if he doesn't want leftovers), no children and a job that keeps me working late a lot of nights so I don't usually cook until the weekend. I LOVE leftovers and microwaves.

            Spaghetti sauce with grated zucchini, carrots, black olives and onions, mushrooms (the zucchini and carrots cooked down and kids won't even notice).

            I love ethnic foods, especially Mexican, Asian and East Indian and many of them use less meat and more vegis and legumes.

            I try to buy whatever vegetables are in season as they tend to be cheaper. Winter squashes have become another favorite of mine. Roasted butternut or danish squash is soo good and I will even use spaghetti squash under my spaghetti sauce! I am on Weight Watchers so always looking for tasty, healthy and satisfying dishes.

            To be honest, I do sometimes resort the the Costco rotisserie chicken when I am there. For $5 it is a hell of a deal and we get a number of meals out of it, from sandwiches to chicken salad or stir fry. I have a rotisserie on my BBQ and am quite fond of "beer-butt chicken" also.

            I hate to admit there is a box of instant mashed potatoes in my pantry that have been there for a year or more. I think I bought them as a chowder thickener one day.... going to have to toss them.

            Hope some of this helps!

            1. re: jodymaryk

              Some good ideas there, jodymaryk. Same situation here, into weekend cooking and many, many, many leftovers. Bless his heart, he eats 'em all.

              Me, I like ice cream.

              On the 'bulk' cooking -- pressure cooker, crock pot. or other? I never ever bought or was given a crock pot, and wonder if they don't make sense. Are there good ones out there now -- not in almond, green or orange hues?

              1. re: dolores

                I have never used a pressure cooker, but haven't ruled it out someday. I own two crock pots and use them if I am going to be away from home but otherwise, I love my big pots on the stove. I invested last year in a 7 1/2 qt. Le Creuset pot and LOVE it, but they are expensive. I found a 3 1/2 qt one in my local thrift store for $30 that was in good shape and use that for smaller batches. They work great for slow cooking in a low oven (200-250) or so. Check Costco for crockpots. I have seen some nice brushed stainless ones there before. Both of mine are run of the mill, one round (is a deep fryer also), one oval but work fine. Personally, I wouldn't spend a bunch on a crock pot, but that is just me. If you get one, make sure the crock lifts out, makes it much easier for cleaning. Beans, vegis, chicken thighs, pork and cheap cuts of beef all seem to cook well in a crock pot. I don't like chicken breasts in them because they always seem to overcook and become dry regardless of the liquid in it. Remember, DO NOT lift the lid to see how it is doing until near the end because it lets the heat out and take a long time to come back up to temp. Years ago when I first started using a crock pot, I kept checking the food and it never cooked! Duh!!! Once I figured that out, much better.

        2. Because I am now retired, I tend to have a lot more available time for food preparation than I used to. Regardless of my retirement, sometimes I do have to resort to Boston Market or take-out Thai food for dinner, due to having too many tasks to take care of in one day. And, things like frozen salmon burgers can be a very good entree if time is especially tight.

          However, one area in which I will not compromise is with such things as the purchase of pre-cooked items such as hard boiled eggs, jello, or boiled potatoes, or the worst of the worst--instant mashed potatoes. I mean--really--is there anyone who is so pressed for time that he/she can't boil some eggs while doing something else in the A.M.? Is jello that much of a culinary mystery that it is necessary to buy it pre-made?

          When I was working full-time, I did my "bulk cooking" for the week on the weekends. By boiling or baking some potatoes while a tray of chicken breasts were roasting, I had the basic resources for a variety of quick dishes during the week. Even now, I will grill a London Broil on a Sunday and I can then use slivers of cold left-over London Broil on my summer salads for the next several days.

          If someone just uses a bit of common sense and a bit of time management, it should be possible to avoid the pre-cooked foods that are so incredibly expensive and in the process, wind up with tastier food.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Ted in Central NJ

            i've bought the pre-boiled eggs when out for lunch or dinner on the run... i'll grab the salad bar, and if there's no good protein option in there, i'll buy some boiled eggs, peel, de yolk and chop the egg whites into my salad. i wouldn't buy them to bring home and serve, but as an on-the-go protein option, especially when i hadn't planned to be so, they're healthy and convenient.

          2. I usually don't have "prepared" or industrial food at home; but I always have some kind of pasta or rice and enough condiments (do they count as prepared food ??) to make a quick cheap dish.

            If on the road (at work) I try to stay away from burger type fast food and go ethnic.

            I'm lucky enough to live near a lot of stores with real food and places where I can "take-out" non fast-food food; heck, if I'm really in need of chips and stuff like that, there's a bio/organic store just in front of the house that sells great chips (but $$$).

            1. I can't believe that ANY prepared food costs less than making something from scratch. And I can't believe most people really understand what hardship is.
              At my poorest I grew bean sprouts because I couldn't afford fresh vegetables. I made 'bread' using flour, water and white vegetable fat - this could be used to make flatbreads and pastry to wrap round leftovers to make 'empanadas'. I hung out round the greengrocer daring myself to take the thrown-away cabbage and cauliflower leaves (I never dared do this).
              I remember finding a coin (50p - about a dollar) on the street and spending hours deciding what to treat myself with it (I think I got some fruit).
              So - where do I draw the line? I draw the line at vitamin deficiency.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Peg

                i like your answer, peg.

                at my poorest (living on the tinest organizer's salary you can imagine), the only expensive thing i could not give up on was coffee. a true sign of addiction.

              2. I don't understand where any level of take-out or pre-made could be considered economical. I used to buy rotisserie chicken at Costco at around $6.00, because I could make multiple meals out of the shredded chicken. But then I realized that even a decent hormone free bird still costs only half that -about $3.00. And roasting it in the oven or on the weber is a no brainer. What was I spending that other $3.00 for? So now, I'll cook 2-3 birds at once, have one for dinner, and cut up and freeze the rest.

                Starches are cheap eats - grits (a little cheese and a couple of shrimp go a long way). Pasta with a can of whole tomatoes (chopped up), basil, and some of that chicken or an Italian sausage - maybe a couple of shrimp. This shrimp may sound expensive, but the 21-30 shrimp in a 2 lb bag at the local Vietnamese store is $9.00. 2-3 shrimp per person per meal, and it's a treat that goes a long way. It's certainly not the most eco-friendly shrimp there is, but that's one of the first things that goes out the window when you're broker than broke - you don't really give a hoot about the future of the world when your world is shutting down on you. Insulin at Walmart is 1/3 the price of everywhere else - so now Walmart is my friend, where I used to refuse to shop there out of "moral outrage". The question becomes why can't CVS or Walgreens get the drug companies to sell them their drugs for less, the way Walmart can?

                Other cheap eats at the se asian stores include chicken feet (great for soups), chicken gizzards, and special meats like beef shanks at half the price of supermarkets.

                Take out pizza? Buy the shells (boboli) or the dough and make it yourself. Your imagination is the only limit.

                Instant potatoes are not cheaper than real ones - just faster and less tasty.

                There's no doubt that doing things for yourself is cheaper but takes up more of your time. Making your own stock and soup is cheaper than condensed, and also much, much better, but it takes some time. If you don't have the time, you have to do what you have to do. Make lots and freeze for later. Soups freeze and store well in freezer bags.

                Of course, once they let you go, you have lots of time.

                1. What line, exactly, are you drawing?

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: ccbweb

                    What line people won't cross to save time or money on meals, either out or at home. Looks like the line is generally drawn at fast food, rotisserie chicken, and instant mashed potatoes for chowhounds. I also asked for some ideas to make sure I never get so starved for time or money that I have to cross my personal line. Breakfast for dinner has saved me many times. I always have eggs and bread on hand. In my local area people do the frozen pizza thing a lot! I do have a box of frozen pizza in my freezer right now but it is my break glass in case of emergency stash, and I try to at least add fresh mushrooms and usually leftover sausage to enhance it when I finally bake it up.

                    1. re: givemecarbs

                      Honestly, I'm not criticizing, but I don't see a line; only preferences. You will eat frozen pizza, hot dogs, condensed soup but won't eat chicken nuggets (even though there are chicken nuggets to be had in the grocery store that arguably aren't any worse for you than the things you do eat). McDonald's is OK sometimes, but not others (ie, you don't have a problem with fast food, you just don't like McDonald's offerings apart from breakfast). The part that confused me was that I don't see a line.

                      To be clear, I like hot dogs (we eat turkey dogs here because my wife can't eat pork or beef), I am a fan of some condensed soups (Campbell's tomato, chicken noodle and cream of mushroom being the main ones) and I also like some frozen pizza (I watch for sales on California Pizza Kitchen and Wolfgang Puck's frozen pizzas). I agree with you on the instant mashed potatoes (but in part only because making them from scratch is so blasted easy and it can be done in one fairly small pot).

                      My time savers are things like using a rice cooker and making a large batch then eating the leftovers for several days (bonus, I can share with my dog for a treat). There's also the "pick vegetable, pick protein, pick pasta shape" option at our house. Basically, you choose whatever vegetable you like (tonight it was spinach), protein (tonight, leftover cooked chicken breasts but it could be salmon or shrimp or turkey sausage) and pasta: cook the pasta, saute the protein, add the vegetable, splash of vermouth (it keeps longer than white wine once opened), squeeze of lemon, salt and pepper then toss in the cooked pasta, stir and eat. That's a regular time saving feature around here. We also love spaghetti and meatballs. Yes, we use jarred tomato sauce but you could easily use a can of tomatoes and add seasonings to keep it even cheaper. I make turkey meatballs in large quantities and freeze them cooked. Toss frozen meatballs into the sauce, turn on the heat and by the time the pasta is cooked and drained, you're ready to go.

                      Other lines: no green can Parmesan, no eggs that aren't cage free and organic (they're really much better), ditto for the chicken (its more expensive, but its worth it for many reasons), nothing funky in my yogurt (this is way harder than I thought, there is so much crap in yogurt these days).

                      1. re: ccbweb

                        Oh I forgot about the green can Parmesan cheese! I always keep a wedge of parmesan or romano cheese in the fridge. It is part of my emergency late night munchie kit along with dried spaghetti noodles and butter. I'll use the green can if I'm at someone's house for dinner and it is offered but when it comes to passing my own front door, like with the instant mashed potatoes, I turn into Gandalf facing the Balrog and say 'You shall not pass!"

                  2. Meat in a can (except for tuna). I understand many people enjoy Spam, and that's ok. It's just not my taste. Canned vegetables, except for tomaotes are not my thing either. I really don't see how eating fast food 2-3 times a day can save money, because you end up having to buy new clothes. :)

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: beth1

                      In addition to the girth factor, fast food is not cheap. Someone who eats all three meals in a fast food joint is paying far more (in terms of both dollars and health) than someone who prepares similar food items at home. And, when food is prepared at home, the sodium content is always lower and the fat content is usually lower.

                    2. If money is the concern, then I stop dining out. The food I make at home is all pretty cheap: rice, vegetables, eggs, dairy, fruits. It helps that I eat meat in only 2-3 meals per week. So I don't often have to draw any lines to save money.

                      If time is the concern...then I just eat leftovers. I don't have too many issues with time-saving, as I cook large quantities at a time. I set aside a lot of time and effort for cooking, I'd say about 2 hours at a time, 3 times a week. So saving time is never a concern in the moment when I'm hungry. If I haven't got leftovers, then I'll make a sandwich or put an omelet on my rice instead of the usual elaborate curry ensemble. Packaged or fast food doesn't really help there.

                      I do buy certain foods packaged though, because they're not the kind of thing I'm used to eating/cooking. Like pesto: the grocery stores I frequent don't sell regular basil, and I've never bought a hunk of cheese in my life, nor pine nuts...it doesn't make sense for me to buy a whole wedge of Parmesan and a whole bunch of basil I will never touch again just so I can make this from scratch for one pasta meal. And I do buy grocery store rotisserie chicken. I have never bought a whole raw chicken, don't know how to roast meat, and don't own any roasting equipment. Again it's not worth the investment for an occasional indulgence. This is stuff that a good cook can easily make from scratch...but they're special foods for me. I make my curry pastes, breads, yogurt, etc. at home from scratch so I feel like I make up for my lack of expertise in other areas. So I guess I draw the line for packaged foods here... If it's not worth the cost/effort for me to make it from scratch, then I buy packaged.

                      1. I might be the opposite of some people here. I draw the line at spending too much for a similar product I can get cheaper. I am not burdened by organic concerns so I would never pay more for organic products I can get cheaper. I saw 5.99 $ a gallon organic milk. No way. Ditto veggies..eggs and the like. The fact that I am eating..preparing fresh produce for me and my family is what is important. Being on a budget I cannot / do not want to overpay for organics. Like I said..I am not burdened by the politics of it all. I'll leave that for others. I do eat prepared foods if they are a great deal but do not rely on them. I will mix prepared foods with homemade based on schedule and the food available. I will go through a bag of fresh potatoes..but if I see a great deal on instant potatoes ..I will buy them. I am a deal hound..use coupons and web sites to find the best deals..rotate prepared foods with fresh (whole) foods,,and always keep some type of fresh fruit and veggies on hand..just not overpriced organics. One battle at a time. So if I do have a hot dog or frozen pizza or chicken nugget..it will be accomanied by freah fruits or veggies as a balance. And I rarely go out to eat. Always eat the leftover for lunch. I will only overpay on produce at the local farmers market. Just because it is hard to resist..and I get the best deal I can when I am there.

                        1. I don't think in terms of "lines". I eat the best I can given time (which includes convenience) and family preferences. I used to be a chef, so you'd think I could whip up something quickly, but I am neither the master of the refrgerator (anyone seen the creme fraiche? It's in a pink container...), nor the pantry (where are the red lentils? Aaarrgghh!). I will cook large amounts and freeze meal size portions. I have some killer [if I do say so myself] frozen clam chowder -- if I could only find it in the freezer!)

                          Two other factors: I work late three days a week, getting home at 7:30 - 8. So I'll eat what my wife cooks and occasionally grab some fast food (gasp!). And I have a proggresive neurological condition which slows down my food preparation, so a cheese sandwich often works well. Fortunately I usually have some good cheese - if my daughter hasn't already eaten it...

                          When it comes to much of life - but especially food - I am easy to please but difficult to impress.

                          1. Like some of the other posters here, I don't quite understand how it's cheaper to eat processed ready-made foods. It's always cheaper to make your own foods from scratch.

                            Coming from a family where my mom worked about 80 hours a week and still managed to cook foods from scratch, I really don't believe in resorting to instant mashed potatoes or chicken nuggets. And if I choose to open a can of condensed soup (which I haven't in a while but will have soon due to the canned item thread on this board), it will be because I want it and not because I don't have the time to make soup from scratch.

                            1. where I draw the line

                              - no Mcdonald's, even if I was starving, same goes for Chipotle, Subway, Quizno's, BK, Wendy's,
                              - never instant mashed potatoes, ever
                              - never frozen chicken nuggets
                              - never imitation crab
                              - no prepared foods from a grocery store(rotisserey chicken,ribs, veggies, salads, etc)
                              - no diet, or lite items, even if they were giving them away
                              - no cheap hotdogs, only kosher hotdogs allowed
                              - no cheap tequila
                              - only reggiano parmesan
                              - no meat from a supermarket, only from the local butcher
                              - no boxed mac-n-cheese
                              - no turkey bacon
                              -

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: swsidejim

                                Swsidejim, i would tend to agree with some of your list, but I am still a sucker for a good rotisserie chicken (we have a place here that makes great portuguese rotisserie chicken, it is really delicious). I rarely drink pop, but I really like Diet Coke for some reason. And for some reason, I like imitation crab. Not as a crab substitute, but as a fish cake, which is essentially what it is. It is tasty in certain recipes. But I agree I would never use it as a crab substitute.

                                1. re: swsidejim

                                  Hah! I agree, jim, on the instant mashed potatoes and 'lite' blech stuff, but am loosy goosy on the other stuff. No green can cheese, either, although I cheat and don't grate my own.

                                  But I so agree on the cheap tequila, even in a margarita. Hey, we only go around once.

                                  1. re: dolores

                                    I dont cut corners on the tequila, but I have to confess, I am just a good ol' boy when it comes to beer. I drink Miller High Life from the can @ my house, and if I am at one of my neighbors Busch or whtever they are offering from the can. After a few glasses of tequila, and 4 or 5 cans of beer whatever I'm drinking tastes fine.

                                    1. re: swsidejim

                                      nooooooooo... tell me it isn't so...

                                      American Standard Lager in a CH home? At least, please, tell me that you forbid Lite and it's counterparts, and especially that you immediately turn any bottle of Corona Lite upside down when offered to you (it may do some good to fertilize the lawn... I don't think that it's intended for human consumption). ;-)

                                      1. re: applehome

                                        yeah, sorry to dissapoint. old habits die hard. :-)

                                        I like those 30 packs of Miller High Life so much I almost have saved enough points to get my Miller delivery driver shirt(its been a good summer) ;-)

                                2. I don't get how hot dogs but not chicken nuggets is exactly drawing a line . . .

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Rick

                                    I never said my personal line was straight. It's very zig zaggy! People are full of contradictions. At least I am. Food for me is a very emotional topic where logic need not apply. Can't remember who said there is no arguing with taste. Personally I don't eat chicken nuggets because fried chicken is on of my absolute favorite foods. LIke when Mom used to offer to cook whatever I wanted for my birthday kind of favorite. Ok I'll say it To me, chicken nuggets are a cruel mockery of what I love most to eat.

                                  2. cut out juices, sodas, Sbux and drink coffee at home or take it in the car on the way to work, and drink tap water.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: smartie

                                      Here are some things I started doing of late, not because of the economy necessarily, but just because I thought it was time (coincidentally I end up saving some money):

                                      - stopped drinking soda/pop. Never liked the taste of diet soda, and realized I just didn't need the colored, sweetened, caffeinated water. I drink water now when thirsty - carry a water bottle and fill it up whenever I pass a water fountain. Savings= $1.25/day

                                      -stopped eating pizza at work (free at a weekly meeting), and stopped buying overpriced food at the cafeteria. Take leftovers for lunch instead. Much tastier and much more variety.

                                      -bought a hog with a friend and had it slaughtered/processed at the local meat locker 15 miles away. Worked out to $2.63/pound. Now have freezer full of chops, hams, ribs, roasts, bacon, ground pork, and fresh sausage links.

                                      -stopped eating breakfast from the gas station. Savings=$4/day. Drink a fruit smoothie and eat a granola bar instead (which also tastes much better besides being cheaper).

                                      -bought a superautomatic espresso machine (about 18 months ago). Coffee drinks are $4 each on average from Starbucks, etc. Machine was about $400 on sale after discounts. Paid for itself in less than 2 months.

                                    2. I draw the line differently than lots of other people here. We eat primarily local and organic which is certainly not the cheapest way to eat. But rather than buy conventional, we:
                                      -eat seasonally
                                      -shop farm stands and markets
                                      -cut back on meat
                                      -got rid of DVR, then cable, then reduced the cell phone plans...
                                      Actually, our life is a little calmer now...more nice country rides and less talking-heads on the TV :)

                                      1. I have been known to keep bags of those mashed-potato pellets in my freezer, so that if the desire hits my mashed spuds are less than five minutes away. I will absolutely not, however, have anything to do with boxed ones, which I find universally horrible.

                                        Some foods are more economical canned. While dried beans are amazingly cheap and canned ones aren't, if I need just a quart of cooked beans for a beans-in-vinaigrette salad I'll open three cans, instead of spending half the day and using a lot of gas and gallons of water. Besides, if I'm opening three cans I can use three different kinds of beans that may not cook well together. I also would rather use canned corn to make succotash, canned salmon to make salmon cakes, canned tomatoes to make pasta sauce.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: Will Owen

                                          We'll go to another board (home cooking) for decent salmon cake recipes using canned salmon. I bought about 15 large tins of red sockeye salmon (some weird size like 416 grams, a bit less than a pound and less than half a kg) of them as a local chain pharmacy "delisted" them and marked them half price. They were about $1.99 (Canadian) for the large tins. Weird economics.

                                          1. re: lagatta

                                            Excellent price - I hope they're the good ones with the crunchy bones and firm meat. I've bought some brands that are just mushy and tasteless.

                                            I grew up with my mom making croquettes, so that's how I do my canned salmon. But my wife grew up with salmon patties made with crushed saltines. Her mom worked - mine never did. No matter how much work I put in boiling and mashing potatoes, mixing them and the salmon with egg, vegetables and forming the oblong balls, then breading with flour, more egg and panko and deep fat frying them, she likes her mashed up saltines and salmon, mixed with a little egg and finely chopped onions, then pan fried in a cast iron pan, better. Even if I make a nice hollandaise for my croquettes.

                                        2. We had a very tight few months this past winter and spring. What I noticed is that I planned meals around using up our extensive pantry staples, rather than approaching the pantry as a fall back strategy. We "ate down" the pantry quite a bit. I can't say we drew a line consciously, but I can say that we tried conventional supermarket perishables like eggs and poultry. We were so disgusted by the lack of quality and the shoddy butchering that I made the decision to pay twice as much for a better bird, three times as much for decent eggs from well kept hens. I guess if I had to, I'd say we draw the line around animal sourced foods, within reason, trying to exclude as much factory farming from our diets as we can afford. (Now, please vegetarians, don't lecture me on the irony of saying this. I get it. Tofu IS cheap, but I'm allergic to it.)

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: amyzan

                                            Awesome posts! I'm getting so many ideas. And one of the things I love about chowhound is that I've never seen anyone lecture anyone else. Maybe I just missed it, but I come from gaming forums and some live journal favorites I read and chowhounders are the best. We know what is really important in life and how to be happy!

                                            1. re: amyzan

                                              two really great points, amyzan. i also like to eat down my pantry on occasion -- sometimes specifically to clean in out, but other times because i don't want to / have time to schlep all the way to the grocery store by subway. i really like the creative exercise. (i had several bags of garbanzo bean flour that i'd purchased in an ill fated attempt at making gluten free bread for a friend, which ended up as farinata and chickpea pancakes. i never would have thought to use it this way.)

                                              when i'm watching my finances, i also eat a whole lot less meat. i eat lots of eggs, sunflower seeds and legumes, and find that i really don't miss the meat much at all.