The frugal cook needs to be able to do this: either adapt recipes or make meals up to suit what you have. If you don’t have an expensive ingredient like sundried tomatoes try fresh or tinned with some tomato purée. No shallots? Use ordinary onions. If you don’t have dried porcini mushrooms, the usual fresh sort will work ok.
To be a frugal cook, make sure you have plenty of store cupboard staples. Flour and baking powder, tinned tomatoes, tomato purée, tinned or dried pulses, pasta, rice and noodles spring to mind.
Bargain buys for the frugal cook
Casserole sauces bought cheaply from places like Approved Food and Home Bargains are good for days when you can’t be bothered or don’t have time to cook from scratch. Tinned veg is handy to have. Canned tuna or sardines can make a good quick meal.
I also like to keep a stash of frozen vegetables. There is no waste with frozen and you can used just as much as you require. Eggs and cheese are good to have in the fridge, and a pack of bacon can add flavour and interest to all manner of dinners.
No food in the house?
What to do if you think there is no food in the house? I know there are some folk in dire straits who genuinely have very little. However for most of us, this just isn’t true.
Have a good look in the store cupboards. I bet there is a ton of food in there. You may not be able to make a meat and two veg type of meal, but how about a lentil shepherds pie or veggie curry for a change? If you can make a tomato sauce from onions and tomatoes, you can build it into a veggie casserole with courgettes , carrots, lentils, etc. and make some dumplings to go with it. Or use it to make a pasta sauce with garlic and peppers, or a bolognese with some mince meat. Add and taste as you go along.
Mess about with curry powder, cumin and chilli to add a bit of spice to what you have. Eggs can make an omelette, a quiche, or you can crack them over your tomato and pepper sauce and bake them the oven. How about curried eggs? If you have flour you can make pastry. What do you have that will go in a pie?
A veggie classic
If you have cheese, onions and potatoes you have a veggie classic: cheese and potato pie with no pastry needed. Mash the spuds and mix in sautéed onions , plenty of cheese and some seasoning. Yummy with baked beans !
Use up all the bits of veg in a stir fry with noodles or rice. Make all kinds of fillings for a jacket potato with whatever you can find. And if you really can’t be bothered to cook, there is nothing wrong with the odd ‘something on toast’.
Use recipes as inspiration and as a guide for quantities rather than feeling you need to slavishly follow them. Don’t be afraid to make something up. You might find you are a very creative frugal cook, able to summon up a great meal from an apparently empty larder.
Remember also to use up your leftovers! Food waste is a serious issue and is like tipping your money in the bin.
Are you a frugal cook? What are your top tips to make something from store cupboard staples?
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