Last week was busy as I started back up at school, so I wasn’t able to get to the grocery store before Saturday afternoon. On the weekends, the husband and I have a fixed menu for brunch: grilled turkey and swiss sandwiches, apple slices, and mochas. The sandwiches (the husband’s specialty) are amazing! He chops up the meat along with some spices and fries it in a bit of olive oil, then adds more spices to the butter on the bread, and grills them to perfection. His sandwiches are definitely the highlight of my weekend.
However, this menu also requires a specific list of items from the store: turkey, swiss, Pepperidge Farm Light Whole Wheat bread, apples, hot coccoa mix, coffee, and Cool Whip. This week, from the list, I had precisely three slices of turkey, two pieces of bread plus the heels, and the fixings for coffee. We were both tired, so it was just the kind of moment where I’m tempted to throw up my hands and say, “Let’s go out!” Of course, brunch would easily be twenty or thirty dollars, plus the drive and the wait.
Time to get creative. In the kitchen, I did scrounge up some leftover pepperoni, a few bell peppers, and early apples that weren’t crisp enough to eat but would be good in a pie. We made do with the heels of bread, added the pepperoni to the meat, and sliced up the bell peppers. I also seasoned up some sour cream for a vegetable dip. Finally, I pulled down the trusty How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman and found a sweet little recipe for sauteed apples. I added a bit of ice cream to those and couldn’t believe my eyes when we sat down.
Somehow, we’d turned three little slices of turkey into a feast! This meal was a product of my new approach in the kitchen. I’m trying to keep staples on hand as much as possible and then work from what I have rather than always running to the store for recipe ingredients. It really helps to have a good cookbook to turn to. With Bittman, I can find some recipe in the section to go with what I have, maybe with just a subsitution or two. We’re doing a much better job staying on track with our $400 a month grocery budget, even with the rising cost of food. I’m probably spending half of what I did when I was meal-planning with Gourmet magazine in hand, and the results are just as delicious.
Over the next few weeks, I hope to offer more tips and advice on cooking from a frugal pantry rather than an expensive list. Please share your ideas too! I know that these days we need all the help we can get to keep food costs down.