Saving money by cooking creatively and sticking to a really small budget is a talent that every one can learn. The more accurate question is “Do you really want to?”
Unfortunately, these suggestions will not be of help to those whose family members want their meat separated from their veggies. Learning to feed your family on a budget is all about getting the creative juices going in the process. Cooking meals from the pantry really challenges oneself to think outside the box, and experiment with different flavors and presentations (or lack thereof).
While I understand that many of you are “by the book, give me the recipe and I’ll follow it” type of cooks, take baby steps from your comfortable cook book realm and start ad libbing with recipes. It’s a must if you really want to cut those grocery costs and eat from your pantry/freezer on a regular basis.
Let’s start with this dinner, and see how some creative cooking can occur. Now remember, this isn’t a tutorial on gourmet meals, it’s about eating well on a budget, using what you have on hand.
Ask your self, “What do I really need to use up?”
I still have a ton of frozen veggies and bags of dried mashed potatoes that I got for free, so I thought…”Shepherd’s Pie. ” It can cover a multitude of over stuffed pantry and freezer sins. (And of course, you may use home made mashed potatoes for sure, but these were surprisingly good in here.)
I cooked up some ground beef, but maybe you already did this during your freezer cooking Day. Then, season it well. (Creative cooking is ALL in the seasoning, people!) You can be creative here. Mix and match your ground meats…what has fallen to the bottom of your freezer? Ground pork, chuck, turkey…it’s all good.
Then I layered frozen shoe peg corn and a bag of shredded zucchini that I hadn’t used from this “Do the Next Thing” day. If I had some lentils or barley cooked up, I would have added some of that as well. I perused the dairy portion of the fridge…hmm…way too much cottage cheese is left. So, yes, I layered some cottage cheese, but if I had a ton of cream cheese, I would have added a mixture of the two. I know, what you’re thinking, but the cottage cheese was REALLY good.
At this point in the recipe making, my daughter declared, “That is so gross looking.”
“Why yes, honey, it is, but wait until you try it….you’re going to love it.”
I used my Ore-Ida “mashed potatoes,” added two cups of sour cream just to assure that home made taste, sprinkled a little cheese, and VOILA…creative cooking on a budget.
This is not going to win any type of food presentation award, but I can’t even begin to tell you how delicious it was. We polished off an entire heaping 9×13 pan with all of the boys wanting more. If you have picky eaters, this is a recipe that you should make when they are not around. It’s a great way to hide veggies and miscellaneous food products hiding in your fridge/pantry.
When it’s time to eat, just light those candles and enjoy the amazing ambiance and satisfaction of creative cooking…using only what you had on hand. It’s a good thing!