Tuesday, October 25, 2016
In the Midst of Plenty
Brace yourself because I am fixing to talk about it again: people going hungry in the midst of plenty. It makes me crazy. I see people in the grocery trying to make their pennies go far when they are buying the Wrong stuff--you know, like people painfully picking up those expensive salad kits and then they are fussing because they are still hungry but have nothing. Instead, they could be buying an assortment of veggies for the same price that would create many more meals. It makes me sad as well as crazy.
I am not a great cook. I am not an expert on saving money. But I surely do know a thing or two about not having enough, and that's something I have had to learn to combat.
This is the sad truth: one of my very worst days on earth was when my pantry was bare and I knew there would be no money for two days; I was alone and there was no help to be had. I was really hungry but the cat was hungry, too, and I stood there in the dollar store crying because I had enough money to either buy ramen for me or kibble for the kitty but not both. I dried my tears and bought the cat food.
That was when I had a "carrot moment"--you know like Scarlett O'Hara aiming a carrot at the sky in Gone With the Wind and saying, "As God is my witness I will never go hungry again!" (Well, I have never liked that movie or that role but I did appreciate that line of dialogue.) That was when I came up with the crazy plan to sell my refrigerator and replace it with a chest freezer and a mini fridge--a decision I have never regretted. (I must have written a zillion posts about this; will leave it to you to ferret them out.) The freezer enables me to keep stuff on hand; the tiny fridge forces me to use things up sensibly. Both remind me that if you haven't got the space to keep something (either enough space, as with the freezer, or too little, as with the fridge) you can't keep it.
Anyway, when I decided to make baked beans, I was more concerned about warming the house than I actually was with what I would have with the beans. Just before it was time for me to go to the Post Office, I had a look in the fridge and the pantry but there were no good go-withs. I wanted coleslaw and cornbread. I knew that I could afford to spend just about $10, though, so I stopped at the grocery and got stuff that was much better than I had planned.
Here's my receipt totaling $11.13:
And here's what I actually bought:
That's two packages of cornbread mix (not fond of processed packets but this stuff is okay in a pinch), a small bag of rice, a nice big cabbage, and 4 packages of clearance sale veggies that includes a pumpkin, an onion, 2 artichokes, a lemon, 9 limes, 2 apples, and 6 yellow squash.
What I see there is the makings of several meals, as well as tea cake and yeast muffins. I will, of course, have to use other items that I have on hand and it will take a little time but the cash savings are great and the peace of mind that comes from having stuff on hand is enormous.
The pumpkin will serve as a meal; there's also enough for pumpkin soup (I will freeze the leftovers until I'm ready to make that) and for my GreatGrandmother Caroline's Squash Biscuits (recipe here).
The yellow squash will become the basis for two meals (squash, onion, rice, and cheese in a casserole--freezes nicely, too) and I will make a simple veggie soup with some of them, too, with along with some of the cabbage.
The cabbage (amazingly the most expensive item I purchased) will also become part of a casserole (I love baked creamed cabbage) as well as becoming coleslaw and probably also some nice plain boiled cabbage (it's a good-sized cabbage so there's plenty there).
The artichokes and the lemon will also make a very nice dish. This is an easy treat: clean the artichokes and boil until tender. Allow to cool enough to handle. Slice longways down the center. Scoop out the choke. Slice a lemon so that it fits neatly into the open space in the artichoke with the cut side of the lemon facing outward. Heat a skillet on medium. Add a little olive oil to the pan and allow to warm. Place the artichoke/lemon cut side down in the pan and heat through. To serve, plate the artichoke cut side up and squeeze the juice from the warmed lemon over it. Heavenly!
And then there are all those limes! I will zest, juice, and freeze most of them for later use as the basis for fruit juice or to use as flavoring; if I had more sugar and some pectin, I could make marmalade. Several will be used to make a lime tea cake. (I'll use my mother's wonderful Lemon Nut Bread recipe but exchange lime for lemon and possibly leave out the nuts, although I do have some nice pecans in the freezer.)
The two apples will either become simple applesauce or perhaps breakfast muffins.
I won't go into how many meals or servings that all is but you get the idea. It's a matter of thinking on your feet and taking advantage of the bounty that sets itself right in front of you. Those four packages of clearance veggies cost $5.46 (not including tax). That is approximately the same price as it costs to buy one of those salad kits that I, once again, saw someone agonizing over at the store.
Cook and be fed!
Life is good.