LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Our grandparents knew how to stretch a meal and a dollar. The tips in this story are hints from my grandmother and my mother as I struggled to Make Ends Meet as I started my household.
They come from a time I affectionately look back on now as the good ol’ days. These are tricks that can help you stretch your budget and the meals you prepare.
When you bring home your groceries make sure you package and store food properly and immediately. Do not wait to do it when you realize maybe you got too much and cannot eat it all because it is going bad. If you do not wrap food properly before freezing it can get freezer burn. Freezer burn is damage that occurs on frozen food due to oxidation and dehydration due to air reaching the food. If your packaging is air-tight it is less likely to happen. Air is perfect for freezer burn so rewrap items tightly in plastic wrap and freezer paper if you have it.
Do not buy cut meats. When you buy meats already cut it will cost you more. Do it yourself and save more money. You can buy a package of chicken wings or chicken breast, but you are paying more because someone else already did the work. If you take that chicken apart yourself, you can save money by buying the whole bird instead picking out your favorite pieces precut. It may take a little trial and error if you do not have someone to show you exactly how to cut the meat correctly, but it is worth the effort and the lesson.
Do not throw out the back and neck bones of your chicken either. Those bones are probably the reason your grandmother’s chicken soup was so tasty. Just about any bone can be simmered to make stock or broth. Stocks simmer for a few hours while broth simmers until the bones become soft and crumble. If you cook until the bones become soft, strain the liquid and discard the bone pieces. You can also boil the chicken giblets to make gravy.
You can also use just about every part of your vegetables in soups and casseroles including the washed stems and the leaves. You can use about every piece of vegetables root to stem. Salads and side dishes like vegetable casseroles are filling and easy to make.
Even stale bread can make a tasty treat for your whole family. Stale bread is perfect for tasty croutons, breadcrumbs, stuffing mix and bread pudding. Even stale doughnuts and cake can be used in a bread pudding if it has not begun to mold.
Try stocking up on whole grains. Buying low cost staples like oats, rice and quinoa can be inexpensive and at bulk the cost can be even lower. You can use different grains in place of rice.
At the end of the week, celebrate the meals you have enjoyed with a leftover night for your family. Set up a buffet of everything left in the fridge. Your family may enjoy a replay of their favorite things served over the week.
If you have wilted veggies in the fridge that just do not look like they would make a good meal think again. Try roasting your veggies until a little crisp and brown. It takes a little, oil, seasoning and time. If you have leafy vegetables that are wilted place them in cold ice water for 15-20 minutes. Then dry the veggies off to make a side dish or salad.
Last, mind your portions. This might be a perfect time not only to stop overspending but to stop overeating as well.
Attached to this story are a few recipes. Remember, I am not a chef, but I love to cook. This could be a perfect time for your family to cook together.
Add giblets to a pan of water until they are just covered over. Season to taste with whatever you like. Once the giblets and water begin to boil reduce heat and let it simmer for another 45 minutes or so. You can also add the neckbone too. After it has boiled for 45 minutes to an hour strain liquid into a bowl. Chop up giblets and pull meat from neckbone. Take some butter and melt in a hot skillet. Add goblets and neck meat. Add onions or anything else you would like to have in your gravy. Cook until onions are translucent, and any other veggies are soft. The next thing you want to do is make a roux. It is not always easy but the more times you do this the easier it will be. Add all-purpose flour one teaspoon at a time until it looks like gravy. Keep stirring constantly to keep it from clumping or burning. It should look like a paste and have a nice smell. Slowly add a small amount of the giblet liquid until you have a thick gravy. Add liquid slowly.
Chicken Gizzards (since you bought the whole bird)
Coat your gizzards with the flour you would use to fry your chicken. Place the flour in a plastic bag and add seasoning to it. This is an easy way to coat your gizzards. Place a few gizzards in the bag with the seasoned flour and shake until well coated. Gently lower about 1/4 of the gizzards per batch into hot oil, and fry until golden brown, about 5 minutes per batch. Drain the gizzards on paper towels and serve hot.
Note: I do this recipe different every time. I use stale doughnuts, cake, bread. Stale bread is good to use because it is more sturdy than fresh bread and will not fall apart when liquid is added. If you want to make bread pudding but you do not have stale bread you can always just put fresh bread in a hot oven for a bit and it will get hard.
- 2 cups of sugar
- 5 large beaten eggs
- 2 cups of milk
- 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
- 3 cups of stale bread (just get bread and let it sit in a bag or bowl overnight)
- ½ cup of packed brown sugar
- ¼ cup of soft butter (1/2 stick)
- 1 cup or more of pecans or whatever nut you love
Make sure you preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Mix your sugar, eggs, and milk in a bowl. Add your vanilla and mix again. Cube your bread. Place in a 13 x 9 x 2 greased pan. Mix that liquid mixture up again and pour over bread. In another dry bowl mix your brown sugar, nuts, and butter. Sprinkle that brown sugar mixture over your wet bread. Place in your heated oven and cook for about 45 minutes or until it is set. That means it does not jiggle anymore.
For your sauce
Mix 1 cup of sugar, 1 stick of butter, 1 beaten egg and 2 teaspoons of vanilla together in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir together until sugar is melted. Then add ¼ cup of brandy. You can be creative if you want and use flavored brandy. I have even used pecan liqueur. When sugar is melted evenly pour over cooked bread pudding. Serve warm or cold. I also get creative with my sauce and use different recipes. You can add raisins too if you want.
Breadcrumbs or Croutons
Cut your stale bread into cubes for croutons or tear into small pieces for breadcrumbs. To make your breadcrumbs pulse the pieces of bread in a food processor. You decide if you want your breadcrumbs course or fine. You can add seasoning or olive oil to them. You add 1 tablespoon of olive oil for every cup of breadcrumbs. Place them on a cookie sheet spread out to bake in an oven heated to 325 degrees. Bake for about 10-12 minutes or until lightly brown. You follow the same procedure for croutons, but your bread is cut in cubes. You can use your breadcrumbs for casseroles or for any other recipe that may call for breadcrumbs. You can use your croutons for a perfect salad. Make sure you wrap them up well or freeze them if you do not plan to use them right away. Thaw before using.
Just about any vegetable can be roasted. Start by cutting your vegetables down into bite-sized pieces. Place those pieces in a bowl and toss with your favorite oil. You can use just about any oil. There is vegetable oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, walnut oil, and many others. You want your vegetables to look slick and glossy, but you do not want a big puddle of oil in your bowl. Just use your hands but make sure they are clean. Add some spice. I call this “kitchen cooking” because there is no recipe you just add what you love.
Spread the vegetables out onto a baking sheet and make sure they are not crowded to close to each other. Also remember that different kinds of vegetables cook at different times. Root vegetables like potatoes and carrots take they longest. Zucchini and squash can cook rather quickly depending on how thick and how large you cut them. If roasting your vegetables is new-to-you start checking your veggies after about 15 minutes and keep roasting until you see charred bits. Keep poking with the fork until tender with roasted edges. You can remove veggies that are ready and let other undone veggies continue to cook or you can place different veggies on different cooking sheets.