I have a confession: I eat trash. Food that many people throw away are some of my family’s favorite dishes. But it’s not what you think. I intercept the item before the trash can enters the viewfinder.
Home cooking is something that most frugal families are doing, but are you taking it to the next level? Occasionally just one more step can be taken toward frugality, usually in the ingredient list. Eating is something everybody practices eating every single day, and the savings in the following food areas can add up. I’ll include a few non-trashy ideas, too.
1. Applesauce. The flavor of a pie without the labor. Leftover apples that are too dry or bruised needn’t go into the trash can! Mix the apples in one batch and simmer (as slices, or mashed into a sauce) then serve as a side dish or dessert with dinner. Cut out the bruises, peel away the skin, and pare into chunks or slices with small amount of water, sugar (you control the amount), and cinnamon and fruit that was headed for the trash becomes an appealing and wholesome side dish.
2. Beans. Sure, canned beans are inexpensive. But for texture, prepared dry beans, peas, and lentils are the way to go. Beans for cold salads, casseroles, and soups don’t require much labor, and can be frozen for later use (just as convenient as the canned beans but for a fraction of the price). Presoaking in a bowl overnight and simmering in a pan the next day means very little to wash up.
3. Popcorn. Freshly popped corn is superior to store bought bags from the snack aisle of the grocery store and costs a fraction of the price. One popper or pan to wash afterward is a small inconvenience to pay for whole grain goodness.
4. Coffee. When prepared at home with a few fixings, this drink costs pennies compared to a store. Recipes abound online for pumpkin spice lattes, chocolate mint, etc. I examined coffee brewing methods and summed it all up here.
5. Tea/chai. Loose or in bags, tea is extremely economical when made at home. Batches can also be brewed cheaply enough that the budget will allow the entire family to have a specialty drink. Two recipes in particular that I like are at Premeditated Leftovers and Iowa mom Danelle at My Total Perspective Vortex.
6. Salad dressing. Save that jelly jar or other glass bottle from the trash and use it for salad dressing. Oil plus an acid such as lemon juice or vinegar, a little seasoning and voila! How easy is that? You can tailor the flavor to your family’s taste in seconds at home rather than in minutes driving to the store and searching the grocer’s shelves. Simply Food, Nothing Extra, written by Iowans, has many recipes for dressings.
7. Bread crumbs. Throw out the heel? No way! Only one hot dog bun left in the bag? What? I regularly spin heels through the food processor and dry them and store in an airtight container, or immediately place in a freezer bag for soft bread crumbs. Bread crumbs are wonderful for breading chicken, adding texture to meatballs, and when toasted, sprinkling on top of creamy soups.
8. Cream of anything soup. This recipe has saved me many late afternoon trips to the grocery store. It has also saved me many dollars. It’s just a thick roux made of pantry staples – flour, butter, and broth.
9. Pudding. Make a batch to divide into individual serving sizes, store in the refrigerator for the kids. Wholesome ingredients go into my cornstarch pudding. I’ll share the recipe later this week.
10. Yogurt. Making yogurt at home can be a stretch for some families, and may require some trial and error, but I know families who are disciplined enough to do this every week. It is a money saver, and know your ingredients can mean peace of mind. I’ve done it off and on with success in my crockpot.
Bonus idea. I can’t keep this handy ingredient out of the list just because there are ten items before it. Chicken and beef broth are salty messes. If you can spare space in a freezer or refrigerator shelf, or have the means for canning, one of the cheapest things you can make with “trash food” is
11. Chicken stock. Or beef stock. If you use Iowa dad Trent’s freezer storage idea for vegetable scraps, you’ll get great flavor that was saved from the trash can. Brush up by reading this article.