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Eating on the cheap, part one

December 16, 2011

I like being frugal. I also like reading articles about being frugal. And in my economic state, that’s a really good thing, because when you’re cooking below the poverty line, it’s helpful to see how other people are making it work. What a wonderful, magical world we live in, where we can use the internet to look up other people’s tips for eating on the cheap. However, this magical world is populated with a lot of pieces that make me want to scream*. I want to scream things like:

“HELLO OUT THERE. I DEFINITELY UNDERSTAND THAT HARD CHEESE RINDS CAN USED IN SOUPS.”

“I’M PRETTY CLEAR ON SAVING VEGETABLE SCRAPS AND TURNING THEM INTO STOCK, TOO.”

“I EVEN UNDERSTAND THAT BUYING ITEMS ON SALE WILL HELP ME SAVE MONEY.”

I feel, perhaps, like I am in some sort of food shopping video game. I have beaten the first level, and I am ready for round two. I’d like to keep moving up, so that someday I might even make it to the frugal shopping Turbo Round.

So, here are some tips that have, I’m sure, been shared by some people. But not everywhere. So you might even learn something new.

1. Those hard cheese rinds? Sure, you can put them in soup. Many of them, however, can also be grated and eaten just like the non-rind, saving yourself up to 1/5 of the cheese you purchased. Parmesan works especially well here. (your mileage, of course, may vary. Use your head. Do not grate up wax- or cloth-covered rinds. Taste a rind before doing this. A recent gruyère seemed like a great candidate, but, oh, it was not a tasty treat).

2. That fruit that accidentally sat on your counter too long? Turn it into a quick skillet jam.

3. Similarly, that milk you aren’t going to use up in time? Turn it into cheese. Paneer and ricotta, for example, don’t require anything special beyond lemon juice and they’re delicious. The next time milk is on sale? Buy an extra container, and make a bumper crop of cheese.

4. If you have excess cream (<- doesn’t freeze well), you could even try churning up a mini batch of butter (<- freezes like a dream). (It’s not as intimidating as it sounds, I swear! You can even use a blender!)

5. Don’t throw away the leftover whey from that cheesemaking. Use it in smoothies, breads, homemade mayonnaise, soaked oatmeal, and more.

6. Learn to cook with the odd bits. Under-loved meats are cheaper, and often have nutrition profiles that differ from and complement plain muscle meats (example: liver. Full of vitamins!)

7. You may have noticed that these ideas revolve around recouping food that otherwise would have been lost. Jonathon Bloom, of Wasted Food, suggests that you only buy as much as you need. Shopping on the “European model,” as he phrases it, of daily trips to the store can ensure that food doesn’t get lost at the back of your fridge, and that you don’t overbuy without a purpose.

 

 

* The full truth: back in my college days, I interned for a website and totally wrote those articles. I thought I was being cutting-edge, but hey, when you’re 20, everything is cutting edge.

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