Let’s not mess around. Let’s get down to making austerity healthful, and what the heck I suppose yummy too, just for the kids.
(Mika’s hat shown above was made from two of our old sweaters. Her vintage dress was on a free rack at our local thrift store. Total cost for cuteness: $0)
Frugal Tip 1. Rerun Coffee. (Skip to Tip 2 if you don’t understand coffee people.)
We love coffee. We only love good coffee. We love dark organic freshly-brewed coffee. We love coffee. I love coffee. He loves coffee. Good coffee is expensive. We are not rich. We still want good coffee. Coffee matters more than any other food item.
Rerunning coffee works really well in a french press, but also can work in a coffee machine. Sure the best coffee is in the first run of it, but your second run is still pretty awesome. This can be acceptable for a second cup after you are already in a state of awesomeness from the first cup. To ensure the rerun is decent enough for true coffee-lover consumption, add a scoop or two of fresh grounds and make sure your water is very hot with the next press.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re going for a third run. Slow down, Bessy. Third run is just brown water and if you are at the point of foraging for your food and trapping squirrels this will work. But don’t think for a second this is considered acceptable for a civilized woman with a more delicate need in establishing a perfect coffeed state.
Frugal Tip 2. Eggs Erroneous
This name does make them seem disgusting and downright wrong, and I won’t deny it, sometimes eggs are that. But lots of times, and for the purpose of this post-they are not always erroneous. Don’t worry if you don’t have that fancy contraption from Ernest Goes to Camp that makes Eggs Erroneous seem so glorious. All you need to do is get crackin’. Hardy, har, har.
I probably don’t need to preach it, but eggs are nutrient dense goodness, yada, yada, with antioxidants and vitamins, and perhaps more than any other food, including Omega 3 fatty acids.
If you’re a homey like me, you could free range some hen ladies to lower your cost for a healthful egg. Feed is still purty pricey but they will require no gas to pick them up, just a child on a chore list.
These things are so versatile. Their texture can change so much between fried to baked, omelet to scrambled, boiled to custard. So you can change it up every day and it doesn’t feel like the same old breakfast and your family will not hate you.
You just need a good fat, say olive oil or butter, some salt-n-pepper, and your family’s tummies are good to go. You could add any vegetable in the fridge that needs to be eaten soon and any sort of cheese will pair very nicely. My favorite egg additions are from the garden. Fresh basil, zucchini, peppers, chives, and cherry tomatoes are my favorite. At times I combine all these garden vegetables with eggs and cheese into a baked buttered casserole for dinner meals, too.
Another option to incorporate more eggsaliciousness into your life is to add more than a recipe requires. (Yeah, break rules; that helps a ton for cheap eating.) Adding more eggs will make for a more hearty, and yes, eggy, pancake, waffle, or baked good. I learned this trick after making egg-rich Dutch pancakes.
Boil some eggs for a great lunch start for salads, deviled eggs, or sandwiches. Pack some for a road trip for cheap fast food. You don’t think you’d want to eat them when you leave the house, but down the road guess who wants an egg? You’re going to see them packaged up all smart at KWIK Trip and be like, “Dang dude, I could have saved me a whole buck or two.” And don’t be an amatuer and forget the salt for the top. And you’re going to want to pack some for everyone or they will blame you for stinking up the car.
Frugal Tip 3. Oatmeal.
Or better yet porridge. That’s more fun. Don’t call it gruel unless you are having your enemies over for breakfast, or your kids are acting like goblins and are your enemies.
These little gems contain complex carbohydrates and encourage slow digestion, so they will not spike your glucose levels and will help you to not get fat. Oatmeal is nutrient dense and contains B vitamins.
Plus, you will feel so historical eating these tasty morsels all snuggled beside a hearth with little spicy swirly-curls lifting into the cold autumn air with your awesome coffee cradled in your hands. Because don’t forget the coffee just because we are on the third point. Historical, because peeps have been eating these tasty oats for a long time. Probably because they were poor just like you.
They are also very versatile. You can simply cook them on the stove with boring old water or any sort of milk: cow, goat, almond, human. I am kidding about that last one, but it would be a good idea for the nursing babe, and for those enemies to whom you are feeding gruel. Add some fruits, nuts, seeds, and spices. Top it off with butter, cream, or yogurt, and you are on your way to yummy town!
Something we heart is homemade granola. I always felt like I needed so many ingredients on hand to make granola, but necessity is the mother of invention. Also, I can’t believe at one time I was so commercialized that I thought I had to buy granola! All you really need is to bake rolled oats on a sheet so they are toasted. I usually split it up after baking and make half of it sweetened and the other half unsweetened. Our kids like it sweetened with honey and brown sugar and a bit of cinnamon. You can doll it up with dried coconut, toasted nuts, dried fruits. Oh man, I am hungry. That’s why I keep on elaborating.
You could bake them into a fruit crisp or throw them into your favorite muffin or bread recipes. If you are running short on flour, substitute a cup or two with these trusty oats. They will make any recipe more substantial and help keep your bellies full longer. My daughter, Mary, likes to whip up oatmeal cookies some afternoons for a sweet fix that could also be called healthy.
Bonus Tip: Remember to save some oats to grind into colloidal oats for soap making and oatmeal baths. Just use that coffee grinder to mill. And if the chickens or cows run out of feed, just share the oat love.
4. Stone Soup
I love soup. It is so forgiving a thing. Once you get the hang of a few different soups just improvise. I tend to head down a few different roads with soup. There’s the chicken stock route, the creamy route, the tomato route, the beef stew route and the bean route.
It can be thick or thin, low fat or good fat. You need more? Add a liquid: stock, milk, cream or just water. You need more? Add a grain: wild rice, brown rice, quinoa, barley, farro, or bulgur. You need more? Add some more cozy carbohydrates: think pasta or dumplings. You need more? Thicken it. This can be as simple as a roux made of water and flour or make it rich with heavy cream, butter, cream cheese, or any cheese.
There’s just no right or wrong here if you didn’t notice. But I like these frugal vegetable staples for plenty of options: onions, garlic, celery, peppers, carrots and canned tomatoes.
Super Duper Frugal Tip: Make your soup on a woodstove in a dutch oven. Soups turn out perfect and cook much faster and do not seem to burn. Plus you don’t run any electricity. Creamy Salmon Wild Rice and Cheesy Broccoli Potato are two of my favorite winter soups. Make stocks this way too while your heating your home.
5. Bag O’ Beans
You knew they were coming and I saved one of the best for last. It kind of reminds me of another bean I know that topped this chart. Though coffee really isn’t really a bean, I just checked.
I constantly marvel over these bean things. They are so cheap, healthy, and tasty. And yes, so tooty. But it’s worth it. I guess soaking them overnight in water and discarding (the water that is) helps with the tooting business.
You can throw these magic beans into a crock pot with water in the morning and eat the beans. All day. All night. They just never stop. Sometimes, I start them in the morning, say a blend of black beans and pinto beans. We will eat them with some seasonings on top, maybe some cheese or sour cream. Then I keep the remaining beans in and add some vegetables and meat for a chili at dinner. Voila! Two for one deal. And there might be some for tomorrow because some kid won’t eat them. Don’t worry about him. Give him some bread and cheese.
The options are endless but here are my favorites: black beans, pinto beans, great northern beans, small red beans, white beans, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, red lentils, brown lentils, and split peas. You can also blend these into a refried bean dish or make a hummus.
Bonus Tip: You folks deserve a treat. Popcorn. This stuff is so cheap and great. Pop it up. Salt and pepper it up. You don’t have butter you say? That’s okay, try coconut oil or olive oil. You don’t have any fat around? That’s okay. Now it’s that expensive low-fat store brand. Sprinkle it with parmesan, seasoning salt, just whatever you like. Want it sweet? Do you got brown sugar and butter? Make a toffee. More sweet? Got chocolate, melt it. Pop this stuff up and put it in a paper bag for a handy snack on the road with those darn eggs. Every time I get our popcorn popper popping, it’s like a party around here. Popcorn confetti shooting left and right.
Now that we have tightened our belts a bit and our pockets are full, maybe momma can buy some shiny, new boots? What do you say, baby?
p.s. New soap curing. It smells so delicious! Sweet Cardamom Kiss, listed on etsy but will not ship until early November until fully cured.
Enjoy your weekend!