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Healthy Home Cooking for under a dollar a plate

 
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Korean Style Chicken with Radish, and Salad: Chicken breast (free), radishes (free), Mirin (.32), spices (.10), rice (.26), lettuce (free), avocado (.50), oil (.10), vinegar (.10), rosemary (free), garlic (.10) Cost per serving .75.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I realized I've mostly been using the venison in curry, as it is one of my favorite ways of using up old vegetables. But tonight I should have a new cheapo recipe.

 
Tyler Ludens
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Bean and sausage soup with salad and cornbread: Beans (gift), sausage (free), can o' tomatoes (.60), onions (free), chicken stock (free), salad (free), oil (.10), vinegar (.10), rosemary (free), garlic (.10). cornmeal (.16), flour (.10), egg (free), butter (.18)

Cost per serving approx .65.

 
Tyler Ludens
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Falafel with yogurt sauce, and salad: Chickpeas (.50), parsley (free), spices (.25), oil for frying (.25), yogurt (gift), salad (free), olive oil (.10), vinegar (.10), rosemary (free), garlic (.10)

Cost per serving approx .65.

 
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Love it. I'm making a big batch of falafels this morning.

leeks (last of the year from garden), herbs (from garden), spices (about a penny), chickpeas (about 10 cents - but next year from garden), oil for frying (35 cents). alas, no yoghurt in the house, but I'm thinking of making a salad with some miners lettuce and pea tendrils.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Fava beans and pasta with salad: Fava beans (free), olive oil (.10), garlic (.10), linguine (.50), cheese (.60), salad (free), avocado (.50), salad dressings (leftover). Cost per serving .90.
 
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I write all my garden produce at 25c/lb as it cost me water to raise it; we have cheap water rates but still, to get stuff to grow here you need to water it. Sometimes I splurged for expensive seeds of a particular variety of whatever, so I add another 5c to the poundage to write off that specialty that I had to buy super early and start indoors as well.

My biggest friend to keeping food costs down is my freezer. Make the seasonal food into processed for final step (cooking) and freeze. Scrap scrap scrap everything, and soup/broth/stew is your best friend for getting the last bit of your meal to be cheap.

If you can eat them, legumes and eggs are your best protein sources, and if you have your own hens, they eat scraps too as part of their feed, which helps defray their cost. Legumes will help improve your soil.

That said, a lot of recipes I make are things I can't eat so I am not going to put them here (vegan, celiac, no salt) but my spouse can have. I also do make large batches of whatever when cooking then portion and freeze for him to later prepare when he wants to save on the buying wasteful and expensive prepackaged freezer meals in a box, that are full of stuff you shouldn't really eat. So, feeding yourself takes planning and a lot of us are open-mouth-stuff-food-in lazy or programmed by modern food. (my spouse is this way hence I make freezer meals for him). One thing about doing your own portioned foods, is you can choose what you want. He has a choice of main, how many sides, and what dessert, and puts his meal together that way. When greens and such come into season, those become sides and cooking ingredients (we have been having miner's lettuce, lamb's quarters, and dandelions since February, and the lettuce, mesculin, and radishes are now also on the menu, spinach and kale will be very soon).

Making your own cheese and tofu, milks, and butter, if you have the raw ingredients, will make your food much cheaper. Just needs planning. Start your own herb bed, and be ready to take your less hardy inside or keep them indoors on a good windowsill.

Nothing wrong with being selfish over wanting new recipes and ideas. I have just found that forward planning and making the work worth the while (ex, I will process 20# of chicken parts at the same time and cook them, getting scrap soup bits, prepared meat to put into several large batches of different dishes, etc). Ways to stretch your expensive food is to use pasta, legumes, veggies, the latter three all cheaper alternatives to getting the calorie and nutrients you need.

A friend is into fancy laying hens, she gets things like 'easter egg' hens, and I just put in with her to help her buy another dozen of the Araucanas, and she said she will share four old hens with me that are about to be retired (she's keeping and I get her flax, oyster shell grit and other things in return for eggs.... Those old hens will definitely be organic and free range, just tough. Pressure cooker will make them prime soup fodder. That is another way to get your costs down, to team up with someone to get the food you want. They already contracted to buy a steer this fall and I volunteered to help them butcher for some 'trimmings' (aka fat for lard rendering, large bones, etc) that I will be able to make soup and broth from. Will be a long day but worth it by laboring for 'free' food.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Deb Rebel wrote:
If you can eat them, legumes and eggs are your best protein sources, and if you have your own hens, they eat scraps too as part of their feed, which helps defray their cost.



I'm trying to raise them on 100% scraps: https://permies.com/t/55362/chickens/critters/Chickens-compost
 
Tyler Ludens
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One of our most frugal meals yet:

Roast roots with a side of greens. Potatoes and carrots (free), olive oil (.10), chard (free). Cost per serving .05.

 
Deb Rebel
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Tyler Ludens wrote:One of our most frugal meals yet:

Roast roots with a side of greens. Potatoes and carrots (free), olive oil (.10), chard (free). Cost per serving .05.



I see that and raise you, Tyler.

This afternoon and evening some yard warrior maneuvers. Picked a bunch of green things and munched as I went, followed it up by a weed through the strawberries and ate all the ripe ones for dessert. Drink from the hose. Cost was maybe 0.1 cent as I let the rest of the water water the rhubarb crowns. ONLY way to "Eat Out"
 
Tyler Ludens
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My husband might object if I told him he has to forage for his dinner!
 
Deb Rebel
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Tyler Ludens wrote:My husband might object if I told him he has to forage for his dinner!



Mine usually has to forage through fridge, freezer, and pantry if I'm busy, so. I just took out the intermediary step for my supper tonight and ate mine as I worked. Like I said, the ONLY way to 'eat out'. Only thing he's miffed about was I got all the strawberries....heh.
 
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My current favorite is a vegetarian curry over rice.  

My recipe is:

Ingredients:
1 can of coconut milk (about $2)
one good sized onion
about 4 good sized cloves of garlic
about 4 cubes of cheap chicken bullion (the cheap stuff doesn't have any meat in it)
one or two potatoes
a tablespoon (roughly) of curry powder
a drizzle of oil.

Directions:

cut up and saute the onion and garlic
add everything else (cut up the potato in fine strips)
simmer until the potatoes are cooked (about 10-15 minutes).
ladle over steamed rice.

This will feed about 6 - 8 people and is a family favorite.  Probably costs about $3.
Meat (chicken, turkey, fish, red meat) can be added (sauteed with the onions), as well as finely cut carrots and ginger.  All of these improve the flavor in my opinion,but aren't required.
 
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One big factor missing from this discussion is calories.  A "plate" of food for under a dollar is pretty easy, if you reduce calories to a low enough value.  Suggest some attempt at calculating calories along with recipes.  Ideally a split of protein, fat, and carbs too!  I assume a plate is a meal, so something that is roughly 1/3 of 1,500-2,500 calories would be nice.

A couple years ago a bunch of celebrities including Ben Affleck entered a $1.50/day challenge for a week to highlight the plight of hungry people around the world.  They whined quite a bit, mostly I think to feign compassion for those less fortunate.  However, I can testify that it can be done with a reasonably healthy 1,800 cal diet.  I did it for a month and have incorporated a lot of what I learned into my daily diet from then on.  I'm pretty frugal...

Buying bulk is important of course.  Sorry Mr. Affleck, not from health food stores, but feed stores (ya think they buy food from health food stores in the 3rd world?).  Also, growing some vegetables (allowed in the challenge) to supplement purchased foods, and forraging.  Seasonally I gather acorns, chestnuts, and various berries.  I also gather all parts of dandelions nearly year round.  What a treasure trove of nutrition and most people try to kill the stuff!
 
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My dinner was for free! A few days ago I passed along a stand with 2 very large zuchinis and some ugly cucumbers and a note on it: 'FREE, take it'. So I took one of those zuchinis.
I have a job as 'cleaning lady', and one family I work for has an organic garden (alotment); they gave me some potatoes and string beans and sweet corn.
Today I decided to combine some of those gifts in one meal. I cooked a few potatoes and beans (cut in small slices), with a little salt. I cut slices of the zuchini, put them on the oven plate, sprinkled with olive oil, herbs from my garden and organic veg. soup powder, and baked until a little brown at the edges.
All of this together tasted very well!

B.t.w. I took out the seeds of the zuchini and hope some of them are ripe enough to grow new zuchinis for me next year.
 
Inge Leonora-den Ouden
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jack vegas wrote:One big factor missing from this discussion is calories.  A "plate" of food for under a dollar is pretty easy, if you reduce calories to a low enough value.  ....


Jack, if my 'plate' is low in calories, I end with a dessert with more calories in it When that is a cup of herbal tea (herbs from my garden) with a slice of home baked pie, I still do not go over the 1 $ limit!
 
r ranson
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jack vegas wrote:One big factor missing from this discussion is calories.  A "plate" of food for under a dollar is pretty easy, if you reduce calories to a low enough value.  Suggest some attempt at calculating calories along with recipes.  Ideally a split of protein, fat, and carbs too!  I assume a plate is a meal, so something that is roughly 1/3 of 1,500-2,500 calories would be nice.





That's an interesting way of looking at things.  

Calorie counting makes a good tool for getting away from the industrial diet towards a healthy one.  However, for me, counting calories takes time and effort away from making delicious, healthy food.  I find it a huge bother and only indulge in it on occasion (usually when I'm trying to make a point).  It wouldn't be so much bother if I ate from a box as industrial foods are kindly labeled with approximate nutritional value and caloric counts.  It wouldn't be a bother if I started with very simple ingredients and made one kind of meal at a time.  There are some amazing calculators out there.  However, healthy, home cooking for under a dollar a plate isn't always a good match for calorie counting.

For example samosas.  I make these out of leftover curry and bread dough and some other stuff.
The other day, I made Baked Samosas with a filling of leftovers - there is apparently no commercial equivalent on CalorieKing (one calorie counting site) of a 'samosa filled with leftovers from my fridge'.  So, how do I guess what the calorie count is for this meal?  I had to find one like Calorie Count which let me input the recipe.

The Samosa dough which makes 8 samosas (or servings), the filling on the other hand... far more challenging to calculate.  I had forgotten I was counting calories when I made the samosas, otherwise, I might have measured better.  As it is, the recipe went something like this: All the leftover rice, all the leftover spicy lentil mush, a handful of raisins and a pinch of salt.  Unfortunately, the calorie counting tool doesn't understand these measurements, so I had to make a guess.  Another drawback was I made enough filling for 10 samosas, not eight like I had dough for.  This was easily fixed by altering the number of servings and calculating the filling and dough separately, then adding them back together.  But now I have two servings of samasoa filling to go in the base of tomorrow's tagine, or perhaps get blended and used as a sauce, or perhaps become refried beans for toast....

This all comes in at about 40 to 60 cents for eight samosas at 200 calories each (that's 5 to 10 cents per 200 calories).  Which makes it about one dollar for two thousand calories - or a daily allowance.  I'm using organic, locally grown pulses as my main base for this samasoa, and locally grown, organic wheat for the flour.  I'm confident I could get the price down considerably if I bought cheap, box grocery, food, but I don't feel that is very healthy.  I prefer a balance between good quality ingredients and knowing how to get the most out of them.

Now that's one heck of a lot of bother just to count the calories when I already know the food is filling, gives me ample energy to get on with my day, and is healthy.


I think it takes a lot of practice to get to this point where one can eat healthy, affordable, food every day.  It takes even more practice to do it with good quality ingredients.  It seems like everything the media and school taught me about diet is designed to get me away from home cooking quality foods.  
 
Deb Rebel
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I count calories only because I'm on a carb and calorie restricted diet to keep my weight down as part of my health. It is easier to count carbs and that tends to restrict the calories....

But getting enough calories (energy) from your food is important, especially in colder climates. The nutritional part is the most important part.

It's just nice that we also can work on making it an inexpensive meal....
 
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I'll bow out of the conversation since it appears to be a lot more about tasty recipes than the meal costing less than a dollar.  I will repeat however that without a qualifier, under a dollar has little meaning.  Its a lot like saying, "I can drive all day on less than a gallon of gas".  Without knowing how far one has driven, its hard to judge the value of having done it using one gallon of gas.  How many calories is in the under a dollar meal?  If the nutritional value is too low, then under a dollar is not really that inexpensive.

I don't count calories often either.  I simply eat till I'm full.  I've found that to be an adequate personal yardstick if I'm eating healthy food.  However, If I say I can make a cake for under a dollar, the size of the cake is relevant.  Baking a 3-layer frosted cake with coconut icing would be difficult to do for under a dollar, but baking a single cupcake for the same amount would be pretty easy, though probably not as satisfying!
 
Tyler Ludens
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jack vegas wrote:I I will repeat however that without a qualifier, under a dollar has little meaning.



To me the qualifier is "healthy."  I'm not personally that worried about calories because I seem to be getting enough of them.  I'm more concerned with something being satisfying to eat, and containing vegetables which I believe are healthy.

 
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jack vegas wrote:I'll bow out of the conversation since it appears to be a lot more about tasty recipes than the meal costing less than a dollar.



Um, yes.  It's about tasty recipes that cost less than a dollar a plate.  It's a great big thread of inspiration.  Prices vary from place to place, so we use the subjective measure of what it costs the poster, not what it would cost others to make it.

jack vegas wrote:I will repeat however that without a qualifier, under a dollar has little meaning.  ...  How many calories is in the under a dollar meal?  If the nutritional value is too low, then under a dollar is not really that inexpensive.



You may have missed the bit in the opening post of this thread that describes a plate as "one healthy hungry person serving".  It's a delibertly subjective criteria as individuals are different and this thread wasn't created as the be all and end all of affordable, healthy cooking.  It's simply sharing what the people here cook for themselves and readers can use it for inspiration.  


If you want to examine calorie counting, healthy diet, and affordability, please start a thread about that.  It's a topic very close to my heart and wallet and would love to chew the fat about it with you.  
This thread is, as you say, about yummy recipes that the individuals here have cooked for themselves for under a dollar a plate.  And boy oh boy, are some of those recipes delicious.  I know I've been inspired by their creativity.  
 
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I got mail there was a new post here, but it seem to have been deleted ... Then I'll write a new post myself
Today I made 'borsch' (or however to write it), I mean 'Russian red beet soup', a vegetarian version of it. Recipe:
1 big onion, 2 red beets, 3 carrots, celery, garlic, hot pepper and salt to taste, butter and olive oil, water.
Peel the onion and garlic. Cut all vegetables in small pieces. Melt butter in a soup pot, add a little olive oil and the cut onion. Heat over large fire and stir until onion starts to get brownish. Add all other vegetables and salt. Stir fry some more. Add water (about 1 liter). Lower the fire and let it simmer until it's a nice soup. Serve with a teaspoon of sour cream (or creamy yoghurt).
 
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I get the vegetables thing. I like veggies, I garden and can and I freeze kale and spinach to throw into soups etc. later. But don't any of you people eat bread? Cake? Chocolate covered cherries? I congratulate those who indulge in the occasional muffin or shortbread cookie but everybody else here must as skinny as strong beans.
 
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Thomas Partridge wrote:Polenta has become the new staple breakfast during the week in our family. My wife boils a cup of cornmeal (or corn we have ground for the purpose) and adds to it either a handful of frozen fruit or if I am feeling like I want something a little heartier she will put cheese and/or meat in it. It is like oatmeal except you can add veggies, meat, and or cheese to it instead of just fruit.

For lunch we have been sticking with soups (which of course are already under a dollar a plate) and for dinner we generally have a big dose of protein in the form of a chicken leg quarter or a slice of pork loin (both under a dollar if you wait until they are on sale) and a side of some extra veggies if we need more (we generally don't).



I dislike cornmeal, but I have a 'recipe' using gram flour that produces a kind of polenta!  It's very tasty.  It's cooked, cooled then fried in strips.

Also I make a quick, cheap and tasty 'meal' from a sage pesto.  The pesto is just sage, pinenuts, garlic and oil.  I mix it into cooked pasta and top with finely grated organic parmesan.
 
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roberta mccanse wrote:I get the vegetables thing. I like veggies, I garden and can and I freeze kale and spinach to throw into soups etc. later. But don't any of you people eat bread? Cake? Chocolate covered cherries?.


Roberta, I think we'd all appreciate inexpensive recipes for these treats. Please add some!
 
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roberta mccanse wrote:I get the vegetables thing. I like veggies, I garden and can and I freeze kale and spinach to throw into soups etc. later. But don't any of you people eat bread?


Funny you should say that. I am a big baker and often the carb in our dinner is a steamed bread or roll, northern Chinese style. Today there will be a stew made out of garden beans and potatoes, with yeast rolls steaming on top of them. We are having trouble getting cooking gas (because people made a run on them a few weeks ago in panic buying mode and the supply chain is still having trouble keeping up) so I am trying to be as parsimonious as possible with the stove and oven.
I will see if I can document, later. Qualifying it in terms of a dollar is hard, as our currency has gone to hell in the last month or so (one USD is 5.50 for us), but if it's in my kitchen you can be sure that whatever we are eating is as cheap as possible.
 
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OK, I'll add my staple go-to cheap meals....

Basic chili: 1 large onion and 1 pound ground chuck sauteed together; add chopped garlic and salt (or garlic salt) and spices to taste; add 1 quart canned chopped tomatoes (or equivalent fresh), 1 pint canned beans (I'm partial to black beans) or equivalent cooked dried beans, and 1-2 cups water. Simmer to heat thoroughly. This basic recipe runs $4-6 in cost, depending on purchased items, generally makes 8 large servings easily here, and is great with a slice of crusty homemade bread. For variations, add additional veggies (carrots, peas, green beans, etc), a couple of handfuls of dry rice (increase the water and simmer time), or pearl barley (again increase the water and simmer time). So around a dollar-ish a plate....

Chicken stir fry: 2 boneless skinless chicken thighs, 1 large onion, 2 cloves garlic, half a dozen mushrooms (I'm partial to cremini/brown button), veggies, soy sauce. Veggies last night were a commercial frozen stir fry mix (carrots, red pepper, snap peas, baby corn) since I'm out of home grown at the moment. Total cost was about $8 for the stir fry and the rice to have with it, and easily made 8 servings (plenty of leftovers). Costs will be lower as I have fresh goodies coming in from the garden and invite that problem bantam rooster for dinner....

Bread is pretty easy and cheap to make. Mine is generally 1/4 cup butter, dash salt, 1/2 cup wheat germ, 2 cups boiling water, stir until the butter melts and the mix cools to body temp before adding yeast and enough flour (generally unbleached all-purpose here) to make a batter. Let rise until bubbly, then stir down and add additional flour to make the dough. Allow to rise again, divide into loaf portions, and add any extras like dried fruit or nuts during kneading and shaping. Allow to rise one final time, then bake and enjoy. In the summer fresh bread and a crunchy salad from the garden with perhaps a small omelet makes a satisfying meal....

I think the key to a lot of "meals on the cheap" cooking is making something that a) you like to eat (otherwise it will sit and just end up going to the chickens or pigs), b) is nutrient dense (so cooking from scratch with lean meats, veggies, and complex carbs if you can), c) makes selective use of fats and sugars, and d) makes use of items either generally available together in season or items that can be stored and used any time.
 
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Great thread, I love good cooking and I love healthy, inexpensive eating!

Some of my favourites have already been mentioned: Stir fries, chilis, Polenta (last night, normally with tomato or meat sauce, this time just butter and cheese), Pasta with pesto (the day before - I pureed lots of Basil with olive oil last year and froze it. Now I can use it as pesto base).

I will add my standard cheap breakfast: "Instant" porridge
Under a dollar, I would guess. Half a cup of cut oats, some linseeds and mixed shredded nuts (the walnuts and part of the hazelnuts collected by myself), poured over with boiling water porridge-style, then add some frozen bilberries (a treat), some frozen raspberries (from a big bag that I filled from the garden). Sweetened with homemade preserve (spicy plum – I am using up all my jams/preserves from the basement)

Today’s lunch:
Risotto with fennel. I don’t buy special risotto rice but one with rounded kernels that is meant to be cooked as a sweet dish (much cheaper). One small onion (some cents only), one fennel (which I got from my neighbour, he bought a whole crate at discount price), broth cube, splash of white wine and lemon juice, butter and grated parmesan. I would say roughly a dollar per person.

More favourite cheap meals:
Kumpir - a Turkish dish, a huge baked potato filled with beans, cheese, onions and whatever you like (https://www.ecosia.org/images?q=kumpir#id=91B5A88F3A6417168658C2E921E4C50CB61A66F7)

Loaded Hummus
- if you soak and cook the chickpeas yourself, this is very cheap. Add homemade pita bread and all the stuff you like, veggies, olives, feta cheese (yeah, a bit of a trendy dish)

Two more with longer preparation time:
Potato-chard (or spinach) pie: Easy pie-crust, filled with potatoes and spinach or chard (sauteed in a pan) that is mixed with crushed garlic, cream, eggs, cheese etc. Baked in the oven for 30 minutes or so.

Empanada gallega - a very versatile pie made of bread dough and with a hearty filling that can stretch a little bit of chicken, fish or mussels with fried onions, peppers, tomatoes and olive oil. If you like you can add cooked sliced eggs. I like it even better the next day (cold, makes a great lunchbox ingredient).
For the empanada in the picture I added just one can of sardines to lots of veggies.

(This thread made me hungry, I will start preparing dinner soon!)

empanada_sardinas_klein.jpg
[Thumbnail for empanada_sardinas_klein.jpg]
 
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One of the best ways to make meals cheaply is to preserve food for later when it is in season. A chest freezer can help, as can drying, and canning. I packed away food from a local farm that they couldn't sell because it looked ugly which mostly was free last summer, also froze wild mushrooms, fruit wild and from a friend's patch she couldn't keep up with, also noticed if I bought milk and made yogurt it was cheaper. Need to figure the prices on some of these.
 
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Breakfast for me is usually a smoothie made from homemade yogurt, a handful of dried cranberries or my own berries in season, and a couple bags of green tea.
Homemade refried beans with corn tortillas are a cheap go-to meal for me.
Another favorite is mackerel chowder: Cubed potatoes, onions and garlic, a can of mackerel, celery, grated carrots, evaporated milk and creamed corn.
These days in isolation I'm eating a lot of dry beans or pasta with chopped garden greens stirred in.
 
Anita Martin
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Candace Williams wrote:One of the best ways to make meals cheaply is to preserve food for later when it is in season.



Very good point. If you don't look at the seasonality of veggies (and probably other groceries) you can only save so much.
Stock up when things are at a good price or when you have a good crop.

I almost got tired of processing all those green beans last summer, and today I am happy I still have some bags in the freezer (a game changer for me, before I only had 3 drawers under my fridge)
 
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