Saturday, August 12, 2006

Frugal cooking 2

Well, I did manage to get my pantry decluttered and inventoried. I planned to spend about 30 minutes on the job, but ended up spending a couple of hours. I printed out new pantry inventory sheets -- I’d been using the old ones since 2001 and they were getting hard to read. I threw away a LOT of stuff! I also found that there are a lot of staples that I DON’T have on hand, so I made a list as I went along and have already put those items on next week’s shopping list. Remember Mrs. Wilt’s post on the pantry crates? Well, I’ve yet to get crates (and I don’t think they would fit anyway) but I’m going to make some cute labels as she did for the different areas on the shelves where different categories are stored -- fruits, vegetables, baking supplies, pasta & dry beans, soups & canned fish, etc. Hopefully this will make it easier for my hubby when he puts things away.

I’d like to share a few frugal recipe ideas and tips. The first is a nifty substitute for canned cream soup, to use in recipes. The basic recipe comes from MORE WITH LESS COOKBOOK; the cream of shrimp variation is my own invention.

Do you hate buying canned soups for use in recipes? This recipe makes a perfect substitute for 1 can of soup.

3 Tblsp. margarine
3 Tblsp. flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup milk or other liquid (as specified in variations)
Melt the margarine in heavy saucepan; blend in flour and salt and cook until bubbly. Remove from heat and gradually stir or whisk in liquid. Return to heat and cook, stirring, until smooth and thickened.
Cream of chicken: Use 1/2 c. milk and 1/2 c. chicken broth as the liquid. Add 1/4 tsp. poultry seasoning or sage.
Cream of celery: Saute´ 1/2 c. chopped celery and 1 T. finely chopped onion in the margarine before adding flour. Use milk for liquid.
Cream of mushroom: Saute´1/4 c. finely chopped mushrooms and 1 T. finely chopped onion in margarine before adding flour. Use milk for liquid.
Tomato: Use tomato juice as liquid. Add a dash each of garlic salt, onion salt, basil, and oregano.
Cheddar cheese: Use milk for liquid. Stir into the finished sauce 1/2 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese and 1/4 tsp. dry mustard.
Cream of shrimp: Drain the liquid from a small can of tiny shrimp into a measuring cup. Fill cup with milk to measure 1 cup of liquid. Add a dash of pepper, onion salt, curry powder, and paprika to the finished sauce, and stir in the shrimp.

The next recipe is from QUICK COOKING magazine. I have made this many times and always keep a jarful on hand.


3/4 cup dried minced onion
1/3 cup beef bouillon granules
1/4 cup onion powder
1/4 tsp. sugar
1/8 tsp. celery seed, optional

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl; store in an airtight container in a cool dry place for up to 1 year. When a recipe calls for onion soup mix, use 5 Tablespoons mix for each envelope of onion soup called for. So many recipes seem to call for a package of onion soup mix, and this is far more economical.

The next recipe comes from COUNTRY WOMAN magazine. I clipped it out about 10 years ago.


1 29-ounce can tomato sauce
12 ounces tomato paste
1 Tblsp. Italian seasoning
1 Tblsp. dried oregano
1 to 2 tsp. fennel seed, crushed
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. salt

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine tomato sauce and paste. Add remaining ingredients; mix well. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; cool. Pour into freezer containers, leaving 1/2 inch head space. Freeze for up to 1 year. Yield: about 4 cups.

I usually save time (and the purchase of an additional product) by using spaghetti sauce on pizza. But when I have a little more time, I love this easy homemade pizza sauce. I freeze it in the small yogurt containers (6 to 8 oz.) and find that one container holds enough sauce for 1 large round pizza. Thaw it overnight in the refrigerator before using, or if need be it can be thawed (carefully) in the microwave.

I’ve forgotten where I found the following recipe, but it is a good, easy pancake syrup. Here in New England, we produce real maple syrup and most of us prefer it to the fake stuff. But when frugality is the rule of the day, and we’re out of the real thing, I actually prefer this to the supermarket pancake syrup.


2 c. packed light brown sugar
1 c. water

Bring sugar and water to boil in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring once or twice. Boil 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Serve warm. Store leftover syrup in refrigerator. Makes about 2 cups.

This easy homemade syrup is good on pancakes or waffles. It is much tastier than the artificially-flavored syrup, and of course much less expensive than real maple syrup. It makes a great substitute.

And now for a few helpful hints. Some of these are frugal; others just make life easier for the cook.


* Scissors work great for so many uses in the kitchen. I don’t necessarily mean kitchen shears, but just a regular pair of good scissors. I use them for chopping green onions, for cutting up marshmallows, for cutting up boneless chicken, and many other uses. Of course, always clean and disinfect them thoroughly afterward.

* An egg slicer works well for chopping eggs that will go into potato salad, etc. Slice the egg one way, then turn it around and slice again. It isn’t chopped fine enough for an egg salad sandwich, but it works great for salads and other recipes.

* A chopstick is a valuable tool in my kitchen. It works well for cleaning crumbs, etc. out of a blender. I also use it to stir melting chocolate in the microwave because you can leave it right in the bowl. Just make sure it’s a chopstick without metallic lettering.

* If you are making a recipe that says to refrigerate for an hour or two and you don’t have an hour or two, remember this easy formula: 15 minutes in the freezer equals 1 hour in the refrigerator. (But don’t try this with recipes that say “refrigerate overnight”.)

* If you are baking a casserole and it just won’t get done and you want to eat, remember this easy formula: 15 minutes in the microwave equals 1 hour in the oven.

* Lining pans with foil can save you a lot of cleanup. I do this when baking fish, roasting vegetables -- anytime there’s the potential for a messy pan. It really helps.


A tip about spices: Don’t buy them in the grocery store, where they are way too expensive. Most dollar stores have spices, and Walmart has some bargain brands too. These work just as well as the grocery-store ones. Or, you can buy spices at the natural foods store, where they are very fresh and you can buy only the amount you want.

Always store shredded cheeses in the freezer. I keep shredded cheddar and mozzarella on hand all the time. They go bad too quickly in the fridge. Having them in the freezer is convenient and saves money.

When baking, it’s really helpful to break eggs in a custard cup one at a time and add them to your recipe one at a time. That way, if some eggshell gets into your egg, or if an egg is bad, you can deal with the problem before it messes up your whole recipe.

Some pie or cheesecake recipes will call for a chocolate crumb crust to be made with Oreos® or with chocolate wafer crumbs. The following recipe is easy and far less expensive: Combine 1 c. graham cracker crumbs, 1/4 c. unsweetened baking cocoa, 1/4 c. confectioners sugar, and 1/4 c. melted butter or margarine. Press into pie plate or bottom of springform pan. Bake at 350ยบ for 8 minutes. Cool before proceeding with recipe.

When peeling fruits and vegetables, always do so on a paper towel (or even a piece of newspaper if you’re really frugal). You can just wrap up all the mess and throw it away afterward.

Keep a container like an empty tin can or cottage cheese tub in your freezer. When you have meat or chicken scraps or drippings to dispose of, just put them in this container and keep them frozen until the next trash day. Keeps them from smelling up your trash can!

Next time, I’ll share more recipes and some highlights of the MORE WITH LESS COOKBOOK. I had thought that this cookbook is out of print, but it may not be. I was able to locate a copy on ThriftBooks quite easily when I wanted to purchase one for a friend, so do check there and/or on Amazon if you are interested.


  1. Thank you so much, Mrs. T! This has been so helpful.

  2. Thanks for your kind comment, Samantha! I appreciate your stopping by my kitchen table... please come again! I am planning to do a "frugal cooking" post on meatless meals soon.

    God bless,


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