Saturday, July 28, 2012

Saturday Pantry Suggestions

I've had so many e-mails about how to cook cheap and healthy.  So today I'll give a quick response and promise more later.

I must admit this is another spur of the moment post.  Life became much busier than anticipated the last couple of days.

So... pour a cup of morning coffee and think of me as being across the breakfast table this morning.  I'm pondering how one develops a very frugal way of stocking up and how to describe it to others.

I think the easiest way to describe the progression from expensive to frugal is how one can purchase oats...

Cheerios full price
Cheerios on sale
Store brand little round oat cereal
Quaker Oats Old Fashioned oatmeal
Ditto on sale
Old Fashioned style oatmeal in bulk

The first cereal on the list is the most expensive per serving while oatmeal purchased in bulk is the cheapest and easiest to store in the pantry.

Now, there is nothing wrong at all about purchasing Cheerios.  When I do purchase a box of cereal, that is what I buy (but only on sale).

However, oats are a staple in my pantry because they are still inexpensive and they are extremely healthy.  In the cold weather months, I usually make cooked oatmeal almost every morning.

With the extreme heat of this summer, I have been making baked oatmeal once a week, cutting it into squares, wrapping each square in Saran Wrap, and then I store them in a large ZipLock style bag in the freezer.  That original recipe is... here.  I triple the amount of cinnamon and usually make it with dried cranberries instead of apples.

(I do have a couple boxes of steel cut Irish oats, too.)

Let's do something similar with with fruit and veggies, consider the price between...

Strawberries purchased in December vs oranges purchased in December.

Asparagus purchased in April vs. Asparagus purchased in January.

Lettuce purchased in a bag with salad dressing and dried fruit in little packages within vs. a head of lettuce purchased whole with homemade dressing sprinkled with a few dried cranberries purchased on sale.

Apples dipped in caramel and chocolate costing $8.00 each in the store vs. apples bought at the Farmer's Market in October dipped in homemade caramel and dipping chocolate.

Eighteen premade deviled egg halves for $18.00 or nine eggs boiled at home and combined with a little mayo and mustard and a splash of vinegar and pinch of celery salt.

Homemade lemon chicken orzo soup made from a whole chicken on sale vs. one bowl of soup at Panera (however delicious). Recipe... here.

An ooey gooey butter cake made by moi' this past week with a cake mix on sale, butter on sale and cream cheese on sale vs $29.00 on QVC.  Think I'm kidding?  I used the recipe from a Paula Deen cookbook but you can find it and the QVC price... here.

A cup of coffee made at home vs. a pumpkin spice latte at Starbucks... oh wait... I'm not going down that road.  ;)

What other foods are the basis of my frugal pantry?

Well, years ago when I had great insurance, I was seeing an endocrinologist and I asked her what were the best foods for a diabetic who had to eat CHEAP.  Her answer floored me, I never expected it!  Ready?  Her first choice was...


I always thought diabetics were to stay away from rice.  Not so... it turns out brown rice has so much fiber it is actually good for diabetics (not to mention the general population).

I use both regular brown rice and Uncle Ben's converted brown rice.

Did she recommend any other inexpensive foods?

Yes... but they were items I expected like all kinds of dried beans, lentils, and oatmeal.   If I remember correctly, she was also the one who gave me the idea of buying frozen veggies on sale.

Also, onions and garlic are incredibly healthy and not expensive.  My "go to" side dish that the guys always love is what I learned from my mother.  I boil potatoes in the skin until they are almost soft, then dry them and slice them, and saute' with an entire sliced onion until crispy. 

Mom didn't leave the skin on her potatoes like I do and she didn't boil her potatoes first but I find by doing so it takes less oil.  Oh, speaking of oil... when I fry bacon, I always save the bacon grease.  It is perfect for frying potatoes and onions.  I use olive oil most of the time so bacon grease here and there won't hurt!


A lot of healthy foods are very inexpensive!  You can eat healthy on a small income.

The hardest part is changing old cooking patterns.  When I was first married, every homemaker I knew based her dinner menu around meat.  Veggies were rarely given much thought and salad was almost always iceberg lettuce with bottled dressing (although I still love iceberg lettuce, I mix it with other leafy greens when the budget allows).

I will write more next week... God willing and the creek don't rise (this summer we don't have to worry about THAT!).


suzanne said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Vee said...

Good tips. I have always tossed the bacon grease, but you're right, of course. It would add a lot of flavor for very little. Hmmm...I may be rethinking a few things here.

TeresaAngelina said...

Do you meal plan? Seems such a simple step but I almost always manage to neglect it. I live alone. And my biggest issue (after getting the pantry built but thank you, I am getting some great coaching here!) has been stuff that is in the fridge that eventually goes bad 'cause I was not paying attention to it. You'd think doing this a few times would cause me to get a clue...but... Any suggestions?

Cay Gibson said...

I love your pantry posts. Thanks so much for all the sharings.

Sherry said...

Happy Birthday, Brenda!

Rhonda said...

Hi Brenda
yes groceries are high and will just keep rising in price but the basic foods that are good for us are still the cheapest per serving.

I liked your post yesterday about Moss Rose too. Mine are doing just fine in this Oklahoma heat but I am having to stay on my toes to keep the rose bushes and rose of sharon from dying. I've given up on the hydrangeas though.

thank you for your sweet writings everyday.

Anonymous said...


Love these pantry posts! They get my creative juices flowing! :)

My husband has always liked brown rice but I was a bit iffy. Since I have learned a way of making it in the oven I am converted.

Thanks for sharing your knowledge and experience.


Anonymous said...

Our Ralf's, which is Kroger has frozen vegetables 10 for $10 this week [course the usual 16 oz packs are now 12 oz. :( ] Also they have the good Barilla wheat pastas for 88c each. Is the sale going on in your area this weeks too? I want to ask you Brenda how you get the wheat pastas cooked. I have not tried the Barilla yet but all the other wheat ones I cannot get to cook. I use their cooking instructions. When I cook them there is no way the spaghetti will wind around a fork. They stay stiff. I tried putting a tiny bit of olive oil in with the boiling water but that did not help either. How long do you cook the Barilla or other good pastas and are their any hints you can give us? Help!! Sarah

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the suggestions And the recipes, too! These will all come in handy with food prices on the rise. Praying for rain for you in the mid-west!
Laura C.

Brenda@CoffeeTeaBooks said...

The first comment was accidentally deleted!

Deanna Rabe - Creekside Cottage Blog said...


I cook from scratch and have stopped buying box cereal altogether.

We do oatmeal, baked oatmeal, toast, eggs. Easy and simple. Healthy and delicious!


Anonymous said...

Lovely ideas, Brenda...thanks for sharing. We have a mix that is our local "better" grocery store's brand (Harris Teeter, but not sure they go very far north of here) is a mix of brown rice that has been somewhat puffed somehow, mixed with wild rice and usually basmati rice. We eat it a time or 2 a month. It cooks in 20 minutes and I then let it sit for 10 more without opening the lid and that makes it perfect for us. I am glad to read what you were told by the doc as to cheap stuff diabetics should eat.
Elizabeth in NC

Thickethouse.wordpress said...

I'm remembering how when I was a girl scout leader my co-leader always wanted to spend $40.00 of troop money for a sheet cake from the bakery for special occasions and I would bake one (which was just the same) from a cake mix and a can of icing for $3.00. She thought I was silly to go to that very little effort. And I'm sure you can guess what I thought.

I could have made a better cake from scratch, but was being a little lazy! I don't think it made much difference to the girls.

Anonymous said...

I just finished Tamar Adler's "How to Cook with Grace & Economy" - and made my first batch of soup with leftover Chinese Chicken Salad, homemade chicken stock, and then leftover rice. Fantastic! She doesn't even toss onion tops when slicing onions, but saves them to toss in a pot with anything else. Fantastic & beautifully expressed food philosophy!

Thought of you this weekend, when my hubby hung up an old shelf from our old pantry, in the garage. It made a ton of room for canned goods.

I buy box cereal, but only if it's on sale, and usually only if I have a coupon also. I need to work on oatmeal again though!

Thanks for your posts. Always so helpful!
Blessings, Connie in San Diego

Sunshine said...

I haven't heard the phrase "God willing and the creek don't rise" in years :) I love that phrase :). Great suggestions, I cannot wait to try the recipe for baked oatmeal. My children love the granola recipe from hillbilly housewife - so I bet this will be a big hit for them too. Cannot wait for fall to be able to do some baking without worrying about giving everyone in the house a heat stroke! Sunshine

Front Porch Grace said...

Great post. Great chuckle at your detour from the Starbuck's road!

Eating in season is so good for you.

Also, do you ever sprout your wheat or oats? I am learning about that. It multiplies the nutritional value to do so.

The preparation needed to prepare and freeze items is so worth the time and effort. There's nothing like waking up in the morning, hubby wishing me a great day and taking off to work, and realizing that I forgot to pack his lunch the night before, only to remember that I froze extra chicken, bean and brown rice burritos from our Mexican night, and therefore lunch was taken care of. Phew. =o)