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bare bones pantry meals

Years ago...when we first got married..dh and I hit a rough patch of very little money for food.it wasnt pleasant but we got through it.I know many people had kess so i felt luck yo even have what we did.
Any stories to share of meals made with what was there..due to money woes..b ineing snowed in..etc

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  1. I have tried to collect poverty meal recipes over the years. Here are some. I’m lazy so rather than post the recipe, I just posted a link to a recipe. In addition to these, please remember that you can pour almost any sauce over a baked potato or cooked rice and a can of concentrated soup is a sauce, also.

    One of the cheapest and easiest meals out there is Roasted leg quarters, baked potatoes and a salad. I had it last night, in fact for $1.50 per serving.

    Colcannon http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ty...

    Depression Casserole http://www.cooks.com/rec/view/0,198,1...

    Poverty Meal http://www.food.com/recipe/poverty-me...
    Hamburger gravy over mashed potatoes http://www.cooks.com/rec/view/0,1738,...

    Easy Stroganoff http://allrecipes.com/recipe/easy-str...

    Mujadara http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/aa...

    Basmati Rice and Lentils http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/cr...

    Braised cabbage with onion http://www.culinate.com/recipes/colle...

    Chicken and rice casserole http://simplyrecipes.com/recipes/chic...

    Baked Penne Casserole http://www.food.com/recipe/baked-penn...

    Potatoes and smoked sausage http://www.cooks.com/rec/view/0,188,1...

    Red Beans and Rice http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/em...

    Shepherd’s pie http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ra...

    Tator Tot Casserole http://www.cooks.com/rec/view/0,2226,...

    1. We've been there and thanks to two kids in college feel like we're there again. ;)

      I keep lentils on hand for two reason, cheap & fast. My favorite recipe using them is lentil tacos on frybread - it's dirt cheap and so good. Basically, my recipe starts here: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/tasty-le... & here: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/fry-brea... I'm Texan, so I spice the lentils heavily to taste with jalapenos (pickled/jarred and/or fresh) and more chili powder, plus a bit of cayenne to taste. It's like .40 cents a serving w/out cheese or sour cream & tomatoes on top, and so good. Just adjust seasonings to taste.

      One of our dirt-poor meals was pasta (any will do) with garlic sauteed in butter and olive oil, plus parmesan cheese. I still like that occasionally, just with better parm these days.

      And I swear I've raised my three kids on some variation of chicken leg quarters cut into legs & thighs. Stewed and used for broth/soup/shredded chicken/chicken salad/etc, or baked (lemon pepper, olive oil and cheap parm is still one of my favorites) or fried. They're still like .59 per lb in a huge cello-pack of 10lbs where we live and I just don't care for white meat that much, so they're my go-to.

      One bizarre thing we used to eat was a sort of... hell if I know what to call it. It was canned pintos, kidney beans, Ro-Tel tomatoes, corn and tuna served over rice with shredded cheese on top. So crazy, but so good.

      When we were really stretching our dollars I'd make bread, a lot, and also some sort of simple dessert like brownies or "Depression Cake" (aka Wacky cake) to help stretch the proteins and fresh veggies.

      2 Replies
      1. re: shanagain

        "One of our dirt-poor meals was pasta (any will do) with garlic sauteed in butter and olive oil, plus parmesan cheese. I still like that occasionally, just with better parm these days."

        Similar story for me, too! Buttered noodles was a go to meal for me in college. Now, I eat pasta with browned butter, pine nuts, parm and parsley.

        1. re: NanH

          Whenever I feel sick (like flu, or bad cold, or just "blah") I still reach for store brand extra-wide egg noodles tossed with butter and a dash of seasoned salt. It was one of my mom's go-to sides when we were little kids (with two adults and 3 kids on one entry-level salary.) For whatever reason it still feels like home to me, even though she hasn't served it in probably 25 years.

      2. "How to cook a wolf" is a depressionary book published back in 1942. That will not only how to keep the wolf at bay, but what to do when you really hit bottom.

        1. A couple that I know of are:'
          Onion gravy (onions sauteed in bacon fat, made into flour/milk gravy.) Served over biscuits
          Hamburger gravy - see above. This was a payday dish.
          Anything you could trap, hunt or fish, rolled in meal and fried
          beans, cornbread, cooked cabbage w/ fatback, fried potatoes, corn dodgers
          Fried chicken on Sunday....only.

          10 Replies
          1. re: mamachef

            I wonder if people in the suburbs have the time to hunt trap and fish anymore. God knows... there is plenty of small game around.....rabbit, squirrels, coons and possum. Fish are still at the local ponds and lakes and if you have the nerve.. ducks and geese. But even during really bad times, I would think you would be busy either working, looking for work, selling stuff or running some kind of hussle to make money. To legally hunt or fish, it really gets expensive with time, equipment, licenses and such.

            1. re: Hank Hanover

              I was thinking more about depression-era foods in rural areas where things like hunting and fishing licenses weren't quite so highly enforced. But thanks!!

              1. re: mamachef

                I wasn't trying to be combative. I have been thinking a lot about people struggling in this economy and wondering if hunting and fishing were really an option anymore.

                1. re: Hank Hanover

                  I live in CT and fishing and hunting can get very expensive. However, if you hunt DEER and take at least two per season, you're doing well.

                  1. re: Hank Hanover

                    Well, he does have a fishing license, but my nephew regularly stretches his family's food dollar with fresh fish. Granted, he loves the fishing, but it's a very real part of their budget too.

                    1. re: mamachef

                      Where it is legal like in Texas, a trot line thrown out in the evening and checked in the morning can reap a haul of 8 - 12 fish without a lot of time. My grocery store charges $4.69 per pound for catfish.

                2. re: Hank Hanover

                  Hank, here in West Georgia, hunting is practically a religion. There are wild boar, deer and wild turkeys everywhere. It isn't just a sport. It's dinner to a lot of folk, rich or poor. Every town has a place or two that either smokes or processes your game for you.

                  1. re: jmcarthur8

                    We have a lot of game here in central Texas, too. We even have an over abundance of deer and feral hogs. I know a lot of people hunt to help control their food budget. I don't. I don't know how much deer tags cost and how much a decent deer rifle costs. I know a lot of people here pay for hunting leases for permission to hunt on private land. There are a lot of deer stand hunters here where they set up deer feeders to train the deer to be at the right spot at the right time. I don't know how much the deer processor has to be paid. I don't know how much the hunter might have made if he had worked that day rather than go hunting or how much gas he used doing it. However, it sounds like quite an expenditure to harvest what a lot of people would consider to be "so so" meat.

                    JM, I'm not trying to be combative or snide in any way. I just wonder if it is really worth it for a suburbanite. I know country folk are living in or very near the wild and can more cheaply engage in hunting. I know a lot of people do it for sport here and use supplementing their food budget as a partial excuse to hunt. I'm fine by that. I am just trying to financially justify it.

                    1. re: Hank Hanover

                      I don't know how much it costs, either, Hank, but hunting is such a part of the culture here that it would just be considered part of the day to day cost of living. We are far enough away from Atlanta that we wouldn't really be called suburbanites...these are country folk in all these small towns. The hunting tradition goes way deep.
                      When I moved here from the Chicago area 10 years ago, it was surprising to me to see that hunting wasn't a weekend camping trip, but simply a part of life.

                3. re: mamachef

                  Yes....agreed. Salt pork played a big role in my childhood's foods...chowders, with fried potatoes and onions, in baked beans, with dandelion greens, used to accent pasta.

                  A constant note in true bare bones cooking is that meat is the accent to the dish, not a major component.

                  I can vouch that in NE, fishing has skyrocketed in popularity in this economy, both salt and fresh water. Some folks have licenses and others take their chances. I remember my dad used to catch tons of mackerel when I was growing up, and I came to love it. I remember once that a neighbor harvested a bunch of snails and mussels over the July 4 holiday...those were served with lots of bread and olive oil. Nowadays, my nieces and nephews won't touch fish unless it's a fish stick and that breaks my heart.

                4. I think a backyard garden including a greenhouse in the winter would be critical if you have a backyard or access to a garden plot. I am even thinking about one and I hate gardening and I'm not all that thrilled with vegetables.

                  1. Nothing too creative but I recently had a brief period where I needed to eat from the pantry for a few days. I rediscovered how very delicious tuna salad on saltines can be!

                    1. One I've mentioned somewhere is my sweet mother-in-love's Hot Dog Stew. Canned tomatoes, large chopped onions and green peppers and a pkg of hot dogs sliced into pennies. Just cook it all together and serve over mashed potatoes. It is so flavorful I add no spices except pepper. It is cheap and fast, cook only long enough to soften the onions and peppers a little. Still is a meal we have occasionally.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Nanzi

                        That reminds me of another one... hot dog fried rice. Actually, just about anything fried rice can be made pretty tasty!

                      2. I learned to do this from another family. Make pancakes. Add some protein and a piece of fruit if possible.

                        I forgot this also. If stumped for a meal, you can always start with biscuits. Cream something and ladle fresh split biscuits.

                        1. Instant ramen with a fried egg.

                          1. The OP's question reminded me of a fellow my ex used to work with. We had a huge blizzard one winter up in NW Indiana, several feet of snow built up. The co-worker never ate at home, so all he had in his fridge was ketchup and magazines (he had read that the fridge runs more efficiently when it's full, hence the magazines). He had a box of saltines in the cabinet. That's it. The poor guy sat alone, snowed in for three days, eating ketchup on saltines. He was too embarrassed to dig a trench over to the neighbor's to ask for food.

                            1. Going back to the sixties when everyone had a frugal recipe these are some:

                              pizza dough - period- I knew a starving artist who lived on the stuff
                              egg noodles topped with a few spoonfulls of cottage cheese
                              shredded carrots and potatoes sauted in margarine (margarine was the cheap fat)
                              chopped onion, can of chickpeas sauted in margarine and simmered in tomato sauce served on white rice with american cheese melted on top if you were lucky enough to have any
                              tuna casserole made with Kraft Mac and Cheese - Friday night special
                              canned potatoes, canned green beans baked with italian sausage
                              the canned potato, can of tomato soup and cut up hot dog recipe
                              Back in the Food Coop days we would save small amounts of the week's veggies and make a curry sauce with cream of mushroom soup and have vegetable curry on Friday over brown rice with a dollop of sour cream on top

                              21st century favorite is tortelini from the refrigerator section of the grocery store cooked and drained over a bag of baby spinach and topped with a Trader Joe's red sauce.

                              1. My go-to "I didn't plan, don't want to go to the store, and don't have leftovers" meal is black beans and rice. We always have tons of cans of black beans (or other beans) in the pantry, along with plenty of rice. I heat up a few cubes of my green stuff (see below) in a saute pan, add 2-3 cans of drained/rinsed black beans, and serve it over rice. If I have any leftover meat of any sort I'll throw it in.

                                Every week or so I blend up the "green stuff" inspired by my Puerto Rican sister-in-law:
                                - one whole onion, peeled and chunked (no need to chop, but just kind of cut into large pieces)
                                - one bunch of cilantro
                                - 5-6 cloves of garlic
                                - juice of one lime
                                - oilve oil (no set amounts - I just add it until it looks "right")
                                Blend up until it resembles pesto.
                                Add to ice cube tray, freeze, throw in freezer bag.

                                Even the green stuff is dirt cheap, and having it ready-to-go makes pantry meals SO simple!