Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Pantry Stocking for Frugal Living, Part Five

Here's the fifth letter:

Are you tired yet? I am. We're almost done, though.

So, here's the deal w/ produce. If it's really cheap, per pound, it's in season. If it's really expensive, it's not in season. You want to eat seasonally whenever possible. Mainly for two reasons.

1. It's a lot less expensive.
2. Your food will be fresher.

In ethnic stores, you can also get dried fruits really cheaply, and they are great for snacks and also to add to foods you're cooking.

Frozen vegetables:

Corn
Green beans
Spinach
Onion (optional)

Frozen fruit:

Pick out 2-5 kinds of fruits and berries you like, and keep a bag of them in the freezer. You can use them for pie, for ice cream toppings, for smoothies, all sorts of things. Also cobbler, clafoutis, etc. Frozen fruits are like the miracle product, because you can fruits that aren't in season super cheaply. Sometimes even fruits that ARE in season can be gotten cheaply this way, as well as exotic fruits you might not've been able to afford otherwise.

This is basically where we finally arrive at the "nine dollars per week" thing. And also why I needed to start you on staples. I have all the staples I listed in the other emails, plus a ton more. I eat a lot of Middle Eastern food, so I have a lot of things that're prevalent in their cooking that aren't in American cooking. You'll want to personalise your staples as well. I keep a list of what staples are getting low on the fridge, and when I go to the store, if I see one of those things on the list on sale, I buy it then. That way I never run out.

Buying seasonal produce, you can have a nice assortments of fruits and vegetables (and usually one staple per week replaced), and still spend only 9/week.

In a typical 9 dollar week I will buy:

1-2 potatoes (not pounds; just 1-2 individuals. A potato goes a long way)
1 onion, or 3 tiny onions
2-5 fruits of my choice. I take these and cut them up to make a fruit salad which I eat throughout the week. I will usually get a pear or two, an orange or sweet grapefruit or two, maybe an apple, an eighth of a watermelon (many stores will sell part of a watermelon for a dollar. when they do, I'll buy it), some other melon and/or berries.
Celery, if I'm out (celery will usually last me 2-3 weeks, depending on what I'm making; wrap it in foil to make it last longer)
1-2 cucumbers
whatever other veggies are cheap and look good (eggplant is a favourite)

Like I said, I make 1 large bowl of fruit salad per week and I eat a bowl of it for breakfast almost every day. It's also a nice snack. Sometimes I splurge and get a cheap bag of chips or some other junk food. If you're really committed to sticking to the 9/week thing, don't do that. I just find it simpler, for when I don't want to make my own treats. You might need to leave out a little fruit or something if you run out of flour, but in general, you can keep it really cheap.

One thing you can do is get a mason jar or two, and a bunch of lemons, to make Moroccan preserved lemons (they're a wonderful flavouring to foods that require very little work to make). Wash your mason jar and dry it. Scrub the skins of your lemons to remove the wax coating. Cut the tips of the lemons off, only to show the pith - not all the way to the pulp. Stand them up on one end, and cut them 3/4 of the way through, then make a perpendicular cut 3/4 of the way through also. Pack the cuts with kosher salt. Put a teaspoon or so of kosher salt into the bottom the jar, then smoosh as many lemons as you can in there. The juice should come out of the lemons and cover them completely, but if not, add in some more lemon juice from the bottle (many people say only to use fresh, but I've never noticed a difference). Put the lid on tightly. A few times a day, shake the jar for 2 weeks. After two weeks, you can use the lemons. You can reuse the juice/salt mixture in the jar to preserve more lemons. These will last about a year.

xoxo,

-a

2 comments:

  1. I loved the tip for preserving lemon.

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  2. You would be appalled if you saw how many jars of preserved lemons are stashed all over the kitchen. Anywhere I can hide 'em, I do!

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