Friday, July 15, 2011

Stretching Food Dollars

We have a family of four in our home and one of the ways that I "earn" money for our household is by doing the labor that ready-made foods offer to do for me.  And the savings of making several foods myself can really add up.  Stretching food dollars is nothing new; my grandmother was doing it in the depression era and beyond and it's one of the only monthly expenses we have any control over.  The key is to stretch wisely because we can't afford to sacrifice good nutrition for ourselves or our growing children.  Teenage boys especially need higher amounts of nutrients during their teens than at any other stage in their life. (More on this tomorrow.)


We've all noticed how manufacturers are coming out with more and more convenience foods than ever before.  These are actually very hepful for those who have physical limitations and can't do much cooking as well as for traveling. We had to rely on some convenience foods from the grocery store when we first moved here and were staying in a hotel for several weeks while house hunting.  But those who have a kitchen and are able to make many of these foods from scratch they're best avoided.  Besides, homemade foods are better and cheaper.  A few of the foods that I no longer buy ready-made are:


Pizza sauce
Pizza crust
Spaghetti sauce
Salad Dressing
Tartar sauce
Taco sauce
Enchilada sauce
Jam
Gravy
Pie crust
Pudding
Whipped cream
Hot Chocolate
Garlic Bread Spread
Chocolate syrup
Yogurt drinks
Smoothies
Waffles
Bread
Macaroni and cheese


I like knowing I am helping my husband's hard earned dollars stretch that much further. The rewards pay off as more money in the bank and healthier foods for my family. No transfats, food dyes, high fructose corn syrups, and all the junky fillers I see on the labels. But almost always it's cheaper.  So that is one way a keeper at home can help "earn" some money - by spending less of it and doing the work herself.


So, early this morning I made a strawberry-rhubarb pie. (Baking early in the morning in the summer keeps the house cooler.)  I've never had this kind of pie before so I'm anxious to try it.  I'll be serving this tonight after dinner.  It oozed out on one side, but other than that, I think it turned out pretty. If the recipe is any good, I'll share that, too sometime.




Later for lunch I made burritos with rice, beef, refried beans, shredded cheddar, and sour cream.  It made 10 burritos.  Here's an extra one all wrapped up for the freezer.






Satisfying Burrito Recipe
2 cups cooked rice
1 package of 10 tortillas
1 can refried beans
1 lb ground beef
1.5 cups shredded cheddar cheese
sour cream


1. In a medium saucepan, pour a little oil, 1 cup dry white rice, 2 cups water and a few sprinkles of cumin, chile powder, celtic sea salt in a medium pot and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes, depending on your altitude.
2. Brown ground beef seasoned with montreal steak seasoning and a few splashes of worchestershire sauce. 
3. Spread each tortilla with about 2 tablespoons refried beans right from the can and sprinkle with cheese.
4. Dot with sour cream and add about 2 tablespoons rice and 1 tablespoon meat.
5. Roll up burrito style.


Makes 10 burritos


After I served my sons and I, there were seven leftover for the freezer.  These will make nice additions to my husband's lunch box next week.



 I wrapped the extra burritos individually in plastic wrap and then put them into a gallon size freezer bag and for the freezer.
I was careful to leave enough leftover ground beef for making a "cheeseburger" pizza tonight (one of my family's favorites).




This is the homemade ranch dressing I made that I use as the "sauce" for the cheeseburger pizza. It's a snap to whip together and the flavors blend well.  It's a family favorite.
Here is the poolish that I made early this morning for the pizzas tonight. Poolish is similar to sour dough starter and it's the first stage for making "brick oven pizza" at home. Smells good and doesn't even compare to store bought pizza crust.




Here's the leftover chicken schnitzel from last nights dinner.  I'll probably freeze one cutlet and dice up the other to top our second pizza with. 




Our refrigerator in this rental house is very small and it's a challenge to work with.  I went from having a huge brand new fridge (that we had to leave with the house back east - too big to move) plus two deep freezers that I would fill up,  to having the smallest fridge I think we have ever had. 
I think it is 20 cubic feet or close to it. Very small. Round storage containers have "wasted" space so to make it neater and increase space, I now use square storage containers.  They fit and stack so nicely and make the space inside go farther.


I've noticed they keep the food fresher, too, which is a nice bonus.  And I like how they make the fridge tidy looking.

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