I promise to never promise that I'll be too busy to post again. Now that I clarified that, here I am posting sooner than I thought I would be!
My goal with this move is to have to pack as few perishables to carry to my new apartment as possible. One way to do this, of course, is to pitch anything with a questionable expiration date or barely recognizable composition. (Threw away two bunches of celery - shameful! Expect a post in the future about 101 uses for celery. LOL)
Another way to keep the move minimal is to cook using only items in my fridge, freezer, and pantry. Granted I've had to supplement with an item from the store here or there, but I consider this type of cooking a personal and pleasurable challenge! There was a time, just after I had my son that I had to make some hard decisions with money - that was my first exposure to pantry cooking. When my ex and I had two incomes, I did like many American families do and just bought things that looked good as I grocery shopped. I wasn't too concerned with budget then. My pantry and freezer were pretty well stocked.. Things only got interesting as my budget shrank to less than a quarter of what I had before and I started to whittle away the standards like spaghetti with jarred sauce and stood looking at dried beans, rice, and dwindling meat supplies. At that time, the experience was not a good one - I could only stow away the panicked feelings by ensuring I always had enough formula, baby food/cereal, and diapers for my little one. Because we were on WIC at the time, I was getting help with milk, cheese, cereal, beans/peas, and a few other goods. I had to learn to create with what I had, plus live on a budget of about $15 a week in groceries. I've since considered creating a cookbook on using state aid items to cook well, but it felt a bit controversial.
I discovered some things about budget cooking. Soups are incredibly budget friendly, as are casseroles. I also learned that flexibility in ingredients is key and that a one-time small investment in a fair amount of spices will save you money over time because you can make satisfying meals with cheaper, raw ingredients as opposed to pre-seasoned convenience items.
*Zip* back to the present! While my family grocery budget is still relatively small, I've become so frugal that I can afford to buy the things we like to eat on a regular basis without having to always dig deep into the pantry to save a few bucks. Last night I came to a crossroads with my goal to not move much food from place to place. The contents of my fridge are looking like something a bachelor would defend and my freezer has no convenience foods left save the obligatory chicken nuggets for my picky-to-the-starving-point three year old. We're down to eggs, bread, minimal meat, frozen veggies, beans, remnants of tortilla shells, american cheese slices (not even any shredded cheddar!), milk, water and a slew of condiments. The canned goods are literally down to one jar of lonely spaghetti sauce (no pasta!), a container of bread crumbs, a few cans of tuna, a can of beef and can of chicken broth, some Ramen, and a can of soup that I don't know why I bought because it looks totally unappetizing to me. Oh hey - I do have like 10 packets of instant mashed potatoes, though, for some reason!
My original meal plan last night was tuna burgers. As you can imagine, this consisted of flaked tuna, bread crumbs, an egg and some dill - pan fried and put on some thin buns we had leftover from burger night. This felt like more work than I wanted to do with no promise of leftovers for lunch, so I went the soup route instead.
One pixie-sized can of condensed cream of potato soup stared at me from the back of the pantry shelf. I pulled it out and rolled it around in my palm for a few minutes trying to think how I could give it a new life when I came up with the recipe below. (Now if I just would've realized that the expiration date for the imitation crab was May 27 and not June 27 I wouldn't have had to throw this delicious dish out after just a few test bites. It was wonderful tasting despite the scary expiration and probably would've been fine, but I wasn't taking chances.)
1/2 lb imitation crab, broken up into bite sized pieces
2 C. milk
1 can condensed cream of potato soup
1 C. chicken stock
1 1/2 C. frozen corn
1/2 lb frozen diced potatoes (hash browns)
Pinch of salt
1/2 tsp of pepper
Combine all ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil, stirring often. Immediately reduce heat and simmer until soup is thick like gravy. Serve with crackers and pickles on the side for a nice contrast in flavor.
I hope you enjoy this quick, easy meal. Tonight we're having breakfast for dinner to use up some refrigerator biscuits and pre-cooked turkey sausages. Paired with an egg and cheese omelet, we're in for another great evening!