Frugal Food Fridays, Recipes

Frugal Food Friday: How to Cook More Meals From Scratch

It’s been cold ‘round here.

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Monday was -5°F, to be exact.

And while it has warmed up considerably over the course of the week, and most of last weekend’s snow and ice has melted away, the clouds and rain that have followed have not done much to lift that perpetual chill. (As I write this, I am wearing a winter hat, a scarf, flannel pajamas, and a full length bathrobe – keepin’ it sexy, y’all.) All I have wanted to do lately is clutch a cup of something hot in my hands and hibernate until spring.

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When it gets as cold as it did on Monday, I truly do not mind standing over a hot stove. On the contrary, I found any excuse I could to just keep cooking, in an attempt to maintain a lively core temperature.

So today, I’ve decided to share a few of the yummy from-scratch recipes that resulted from my weekend in the kitchen.

Cooking from scratch is the gold standard in my kitchen because:

  1. It saves money.
  2. It’s wayyyy healthier (less sodium, fewer preservatives, etc.).
  3. It tastes better in most cases. [shamelessly toots own horn]

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Do I cook all of my meals from scratch? Heck to the no. My freezer is currently overflowing with every variety of frozen veggie burger known to man. But I do try to limit the amount of prepared, processed meals that we eat.

If you’ve been following my FFF posts, it should come as no surprise to you that my biggest motivator for cooking from scratch is that it saves MUH-NAY. And when I save money on groceries, I can use that cash elsewhere.

The reason it saves so much money in the long run, is because you’re not paying for the convenience of prepared (think frozen pizza) or even semi-prepared (think pre-seasoned, pre-cut, pre-washed) foods.

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Ain’t got time to soak your own beans or make your own bread? Don’t worry, you don’t have to cook ENTIRELY from scratch to save money!

One strategy I’ve found useful as I’ve slowly increased the food I make from scratch is to pick a favorite meal and take it back one step in the process.

Example: Say I serve frozen pizza one night a week. Instead of going cold turkey on the convenience of buying a totally pre-made pizza, I’d simply take one small step backwards in the process and just do that last part myself.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

For instance, I might assemble my own pizza rather than buying it already assembled and frozen. I might buy a pre-made crust or two, a jar of tomato sauce, and a bag of shredded cheese. Entirely from scratch? No, but an improvement. Chances are good that the cost will be comparable, but the volume of food you end up with will be greater with the make-your-own version. A little extra work on your part, a lot more bang for your buck.

Now let’s take another step back. If you’re already assembling your own [literal or figurative] pizza, think about making your own sauce and freezing it in recipe-sized batches. Canned tomato products are wicked cheap, and sauces freeze incredibly well. If you’re a pizza or pasta fanatic, then over time, this step could save you oodles of money.

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One more step back? Pick up the pre-made dough in the refrigerated section and cook it yourself. Or make your own crust from scratch (I’ve never gotten this far, but it sounds nice). Most of the ingredients (flour, salt, water) are cheap and can already be found in your kitchen. Plus, those ingredients will last through several pizza nights for roughly the same amount you’d spend on a single pre-made crust.

But I get it. The whole point of buying pre-made is to save time and energy. If your goal is to have dinner on the table quickly, then you’re not going to be making your own dough and sauce from scratch. But, if your goal is to save a little bit of money, you may consider taking that family favorite back one step in the process.

My favorite from-scratch recipe this week was the carrot tahini soup I recently shared on social media.

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Creamy (but dairy free!), smooth, and flavorful. This soup showed up multiple times in my meal rotation, thanks to the double batch I cooked up on Monday. The base was a homemade vegetable broth that I made from saving and freezing vegetable scraps.

Before you roll your eyes and think, “This girl is delusional if she thinks I’m cooking my own broth,” trust me when I say it is way easier and less time consuming than it sounds.

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If you’re looking to shake up your own menu, I’d highly recommend this soup. With or without the tahini “sauce” and chopped pistachios. I followed this recipe pretty closely and the result was deliciousness in every bite.

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Another surprisingly delicious (and cheap) meal was straight up rice and beans. Budget staples, people! This recipe caught my attention for two reasons. One, it looked super easy. Two, it was titled “Dave Ramsey’s Slow Cooker Beans and Rice”! How could I possibly go wrong?? And, yes, I tweaked completely changed the recipe, as I so often do.

After soaking in warm water (not me, the beans), I cooked the pintos in some of that homemade veggie broth. Then, instead of draining off all of the excess liquid as the recipe suggests, I left about 1 cup of the broth and added a single can of tomato sauce along with the spices. The resulting consistency was somewhere between refried beans and baked beans. And it was perfect. Amazingly, this one big batch cost less than $1 to make.

$1!

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I’ve never cooked beans from scratch before (I took one step back from canned beans), but I could have carved myself out a little nest, pulled up a pinto pillow and snuggled in for the night. They were just what I was craving after traipsing around outside in the icy cold (and by “traipsing” I mean walking between my car and a well-heated building several times throughout the day).

I put them over plain brown rice and topped them with diced avocado, salsa, fresh cilantro, and Cholula hot sauce. I would have taken a picture but I didn’t have self control enough to put my fork down.

Instead, here’s a picture of my cute kid.

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So there you have it.

These from-scratch recipes are:

  1. Cheap
  2. Healthy
  3. Easy
  4. Delicious
  5. The perfect cure for that winter chill.

What are your go-to time/money/energy saving tips for weeknight meals? Do you have certain meals that you always cook from scratch?

 

3 thoughts on “Frugal Food Friday: How to Cook More Meals From Scratch”

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