We have been here before. Ask your grandparents, ask your own parents. Many of us feel helpless and at a loss as to what else we can do to make our paychecks stretch even further.
The expression "waste not, want not" is never more appropriate than in times like this. What is waste? Is it throwing things away without thinking? Is it not seeing the value in what is right in front of you? Yep, all that.
The truth is all great cuisines came out of times like this. Yes all of it. Italian, French, Chinese, Mexican. All came out of necessity in times of privation. We used to know this. Some still do.
Waste nothing, real food is scarce. Prove this to yourself by really looking what is in stores these days. Real food items are on the perimeter, everything else has almost no good food value.
Even the baking aisle is being taken over by pre-packaged items. Where is the flour and sugar these days? It's toward the end of the aisle, on the bottom shelf. We have become far too relaxed on what we think "FOOD" is.
We cannot afford to live like that anymore. Compare the price on a bag of cookies versus baking your own. Not just cents but almost triple the cost. The added value of cooking dinner from a well stocked kitchen versus fast food is staggering, not to mention the loss of nutritional value. Cook dinner for your family, My Mom did and that was back during the last economic crisis.
OK enough of the soapbox. Here's some practical ideas on reducing waste and what I do in my own house.
Before you throw anything out, think of three things you can do with it. Here's some examples.
Sour milk: can be used as a substitute for buttermilk. Biscuits, Irish soda bread and pancakes.
Stale bread:Make bread pudding or dry out and make bread crumbs. Cube and toss with oil and seasonings, lightly toast to make croutons.
Left-over corn chips: Pulverize and use as a breading on chicken or fish.
Wash and re-use plastic bags.
Don't throw away vegetable scraps, make stock. You can use left over chicken bones, beef bones, get as much value from your purchase as possible. Stock freezes.
Apple peels boiled with equal parts sugar and water makes apple simple syrup
Learn to harvest your neighborhood, citrus is ubiquitous in Phoenix. Lemon peels and orange peels freeze well if you pare carefully, avoiding the white part and squeeze juice over them.
One of the best things you can do is plant your own vegetable garden. I see community gardens springing up everywhere from apartment complexes to retirement homes. Trade seeds and produce with your neighbors. COMPOST !!
SAVE THE BACON FAT...My personal favorite. Bacon fat used to be the most popular cooking fat, ok I know there is concern about being heart healthy but I use it as a flavoring in so many things, I can't live without it.
One of my passions are collecting "antique" recipes. I go to used bookstores and look for cookbooks from the 1930's and 40's. People then knew how to live well in bad times.
Lastly, here is a list of things that I keep in my kitchen at all times.
I grow my own herbs. It really pisses me off that stores charge $5.00 for less than a handful of Basil when you can buy 2 living sets from any nursery and grow 20 times as much.
Flour, sugar, baking soda and powder.
Dried pasta, one small and one ribbon.
Stock, I make my own from onion peels, celery and carrot trimmings. Reuse left over chicken bones. Buy whole birds and learn to divide, freeze bones.
Olive oil, it's a necessary expense
Dried legumes of all kinds. I grow most of my own, I don't know any bean that cannot grow in Phoenix. making soup? Add a handful of lentils to increase protein and fiber. Find a recipe for Pasta Fagioli.
Onions, celery and carrot. It's the base of just about everything from stock, sauces and soups.
In addition and in closing. Yes I realize that this means you will have to spend more time in the kitchen. Guess what, your kitchen is in your home. I don't see a down-side. Your families live there too.
Now go get your grub on. Ciao !