Oh, it is a scorcher out there. And it's supposed to be worse tomorrow! We had a little rain this morning (which was nice) but it only made it more humid. We are a country who loves its corn. We eat it, we made "gasoline" out of it, we add it to many of our products, and they can talk climate change all they want, but the corn we grow (in place of other grains that we used to grow - wheat for instance) is what adds to the rise in humidity. Corn creates water inside those husks and when the temperatures rise it literally steams the air. I always wonder why, growing up in South Dakota, I hardly remember a steamy day. Hot, yes. Steamy, no. Well, I also remember wheat fields. Lots of wheat fields. And those are being replaced with corn. Makes sense now! : o
Another day spent indoors, so I have been - once again, thinking food. The price of it, the cooking of it, the planning it, etc. If there is one thing I would love to get across to homemakers is the fact that you can be frugal with food and still serve wonderful, tasty meals. Even if we were all millionaires, eating the expensive lobster, prime rib, crab legs, etc. would get old and I think would actually be quite boring. It's when a homemaker takes the time to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary that our meals can be fun and enjoyed.
I've been taking notes from my recipe box and writing down all the things I've learned how to make myself to save on money. Economizing where food is concerned is very important. And what goes into the food we eat is even more important. When I first became a homemaker I literally knew nothing about cooking. I've always been pretty good at baking (but we can't eat cookies and cakes all the time!) so THE goal was to get serious about cooking and believe me, it took a long time. I grew up with a mom who didn't want company in the kitchen so the only place I learned how to cook was in Home Economics in high school (which doesn't say much because I was in high school in the 1970's when they were more bent on teaching the girls feminism than life skills). And then a little in 4-H. Other than that, I was pretty much on my own. And then came the cooking-with-convenience-food. You know, a packet of white sauce (filled with sodium), canned soups, packaged mac & cheese. Wow. I thought I was really cooking (I guess it was better than nothing). But then I started getting into the movement that is going on about becoming more self-sustainable. Learning to do things like our grandmothers or great-grandmothers did them. Using real food in the most affordable ways possible. And I'm loving it. Yes, it does take more time and yes, it does take more thought, but the feeling of pulling a meal together with fresh ingredients far surpasses the energy spent.
I know I've touched on this before, but it's so important to teach our homemakers that making things from scratch saves so much money. You don't have to complain about the high price of things. You don't have to worry about ingredients that aren't healthy. You can take control of all of that in your very own home and kitchen. The list I'm about to write are actually foods that I make instead of buy. They are pretty much ingredients that you would put into a recipe. For example, I can't make macaroni, but I CAN make a cheese sauce from scratch to pour over it. No buying expensive cheese sauces in a jar! No unwanted ingredients. Just cheese, milk, flour, and a little seasoning - there you have it. : )
Here are a few things I make instead of buy:
Salad dressings - I have a couple right now that my family likes and am constantly on the look-out for more.
French fried onions - the kind you top that green bean casserole with - I just slice an onion, flour the rings and fry them for about a minute, salt them (if you want) and YUM!
Whipped cream - PLEASE - nothing in a tub or box - this is way too easy to not do it yourself. Just heavy whipping cream, a little sugar and vanilla. Whip. That's it!
Brown sugar - just add molasses to granulated sugar and combine well.
Buttermilk - this can be expensive - just add a little vinegar or lemon juice to regular milk and let it sit for a while. Ready to use in your baking.
Maple syrup - why buy the expensive stuff that is just flavored corn syrup (which we should limit in our diets) when you can heat brown sugar, water, and vanilla on the stove?
Lemonade - squeeze fresh lemons, add a little sugar and water. Easy peasy.
Gravy mix - which is really just flour and salt and you add to the pan juices. No funny ingredients.
Brownies and cookies - this is a no-brainer. Unless you are short on time, why would you not make your home smell fantastic and bake?
Coffee creamer - I know - I love flavored coffee creamers too, but if you are really serious about saving money at the store, heavy whipping cream and a touch of sugar is VERY satisfying. I can buy a small carton of heavy whipping cream for just a little over a dollar and it lasts for over a week.
Cream-of-soup mixes - I know I gave the recipe for this and I really prefer the flavor over the canned. You can make mushroom, celery, and chicken and use them in all of your recipes with ease.
Ketchup - tomato sauce, sugar, vinegar, cloves - done. : )
Frosting - again, why buy it in the tubs? So easy to do on your own and better for you (if frosting can be good for you - it's a stretch, but it's better than ready-made).
Pizza seasoning mix, dill dip seasoning mix, taco seasoning mix - all of these can be so easily made if you just keep the spices on hand.
Pizza dough - flour, salt, water, yeast, sugar - do it!!
Pizza sauce - tomato sauce and homemade pizza seasoning mix - that's it.
These are a few of what I make. I have yet to make homemade pasta noodles but want to start, I've tried peanut butter but it was too dry so I'll need to try adding a bit of oil to it, and I just found recipes for cream cheese and sour cream so I want to try those as well. The one thing I've tried over and over again is yogurt. There was only one time that I came close to the consistency we like so I gave up on that one. We really enjoy the Greek yogurt from the store with the variety of flavors and healthy ingredients that I think I'll just continue to buy it.
I believe in strengthening the pantry and buying "convenience" foods to put on the shelf for times of giving/sharing or emergencies. I do keep peanut butter on the shelves, along with applesauce, salsa, cream soups, even though I do make these from scratch. I don't touch those pantry items unless I really need to. In order to make the above ingredients I need to also stock the pantry with items that fulfills the make-from-scratch recipes. It's always smart to have the following on your shelves at all times:
Onions and potatoes
Sugar (granulated) to make powdered sugar, just put granulated into food processor and process until powdered! : )
Vanilla and other flavorings (maple for "maple syrup")
Cream of tartar
Lemon juice (bottled and try to have real lemons too)
Milk (dry to reconstitute in recipes)
Sweetened condensed milk (I know you can make your own, I haven't tried it yet)
Various spices (as you cook and bake your favorites, make note of what spices you use the most)
Rice and various pastas
Variety of oils (vegetable, olive, coconut)
Tomato products (sauces, pastes, canned)
With this list, you are well on your way to economical and healthy eating. : )
Last night while making taco meat for our Baked Taco Pizzas, I had a partial red, orange, and a whole yellow bell pepper so I diced them up and sauteed them along with an onion and added it all to the taco meat. Very good and nutritious. When I've had to stretch the taco meat on other occasions, adding cooked rice to it almost doubled it with no loss in flavor. Just little things like that make cooking a little more enjoyable. Using your head and using things up is important. I hope you can give it all a try!
Stay cool if you're in the heat and thanks you for stopping by. : )