So when the crunch comes and we need to stretch our resources even further, what do we do?
When planning meals, try choose those that only use ONE protein. Protein is usually the most expensive ingredient in our meals. Either use cheese, meat, eggs, nuts or legumes - not combinations thereof. So rather than a ham and cheese sandwich, make a toasted cheese, or a ham and mustard one. Make a pasta dish with a cheese sauce or a meat sauce, not both. Give quiches a break as they use eggs and cheese, or if you just have to have quiche, make it a vegetarian one. Try to get used to meals without cheese sprinkled over them. Be inventive with herbs and spices for extra flavour.
Meat can be stretched a long way if you are creative. Most people eat far more meat than their body needs. We only need a matchbox sized portion of meat in a meal - roughly 100g per person. Use your meat in vegetable rich stews, casseroles, soups and pasta dishes. This week I took one piece of smoked pork neck that my husband had intended to serve in fat slices for one meal and I used it to make eight meals - Boston baked beans, pea and ham soup (four meals worth), broccoli and ham quiche, ham and spinach lasagna, millet broccoli and ham salad with my own sundried tomatoes. I know that I broke my own rule of not combining proteins, but I was scoring so much in using one cut of meat in so many ways that it was worth it. Best of all, each of those meals were absolutely delicious and, rather than feeling deprived, my family really enjoyed them.
Bulk out minced beef with lentils, soya, beans, diced vegetables or combinations thereof. I have a basic mince dish that I cook up with all the lovely yummy additions and then freeze in meal sized portions. Later I use those basic mince portions to make many different meals.
Most people know about rubber chicken: One chicken feeds my family of four for three meals. The first meal is a roast chicken meal where we each have a portion of chicken alongside rice / potatoes and lots of vegetables. The second meal is where I take all the leftover chicken off the bones and use it in a pasta dish, salad, pie or something delicious. The third meal is a hearty chicken soup made from the bones.
Better than boxed breakfast cereals is a steamy hot bowl of oats, or fluffy pancakes, or even eggs on toast. Boiled, poached and fried eggs are a better breakfast choice than scrambled eggs and omelettes because each portion only uses one egg. Served with plenty of toast, homemade jam and a cup of tea, who would even notice that Elastic Mom is at it again. In our case, the eggs are organic, farm fresh from the chickens behind our cottage.
Eating out is definitely out when the piggy bank is looking skinny, and away go take-aways, including chips, chocolates and cooldrinks from the local corner shop. Instead we treat ourselves with homemade baked goods using ingredients that we have in the house. Adding candlelight to an ordinary meal can make it special, so can sending the children to a friend for the night. Sundowners needn't be complicated. This week we have replaced our usual monthly date night restaurant outing with a sunset glass of wine (from our stash) and a packet of chips. So date night now cost us 4% of what we usually pay.
And when push comes to shove, water tastes just fine when you are thirsty.
I could go on, but I think I have made my point.....
Soft apples that are unpleasant to eat fresh, taste great baked into muffins.
... see what I mean....
Try to use what you have in your pantry before you shop for food.
... I really must stop....
Popcorn is a great between meal snack. I don't mean the microwave kind. Old fashioned popcorn that pops in the pot is fun to make and tastes great.
... It's your attitude that counts in the end.