I was looking for a basic list of cheap "staples" for a whole foods kind of diet that I could build on, and found this site. I was wondering if the majority of this list seems sufficient to those of you who have been eating like this on a budget. :)
I realize this is a Raw food diet article, but I would slightly change some of the items around to fit my preferences. Some of the stuff like molasses and seeds I probably wouldn't get, because I wouldn't know what to do with them.
I've mentioned this before, but my pantry stays stocked with canned tomatoes/tomato sauces, canned pumpkin, dried beans/lentils/split peas, quinoa/brown rice, and my freezer stays stocked with different kinds of frozen bagged veggies/fruit. I get the cheapest of all of these, though. So nothing is usually organic.
Also, instead of cottage cheese I would buy Fage Greek yogurt. My husband can scarf an entire container of cottage cheese in a few servings, and I'm not that fond of it to begin with. I also use Greek yogurt all the time, and 2-3 containers lasts us most of the month.
Instead of the fruit juices I would just buy Bolthouse Farms Green juice (I have coupons, and kroger has it in a 6-serving jug and it lasts us a while).
BTW, what all could I do with JUST wheat flour and yeast? I'm kind of new to cooking from "scratch".
What other things would you include? Sorry for repeating myself. I fell off the diet "wagon", and am trying to get back on it.
01-01-2012, 06:28 PM
Are you a vegetarian? If not you might think about some canned meats like fish or chicken. My pantry basically looks like that above, but I also keep canned fish -- tuna, salmon, sardines -- for quick protein. Also oats of different kinds (whole, steel cut and rolled) for cereal and baking. I always have fresh carrots, onions, apples and sweet potatoes. Also dried powdered milk because I hate running out of milk for coffee. I don't do juice any more except for special occasions because of the calories (used to be a major OJ drinker). And soup/broth cubes of various types, and lots of spices; most used in my kitchen are salt, pepper, oregano, cinnamon, garlic powder, lemon pepper, chipotle pepper, curry powder. I skip the Kraft cheeses and splurge on pricier but strong flavored cheeses like goat or feta cheese or Parmesan cheese, which I treat as condiments. (Romano is very similar to Parmesan, and somewhat cheaper.) I think the actual block of cheese, that you have to grate yourself, tastes much better than the pre-powdered or pre-grated stuff; you can use less and it stays good for a long time.
Dry white beans as well as black beans, kidney beans etc in my beans list. I eat white beans practically every week in a tomato-bean-sausage casserole, or cooked and pureed as a pita filling or dip, as well as the other beans in salads or chili, and chickpeas pureed as dip or in oven-baked falafels. Pea soup mostly when it is cold, which it is not here most of time. I don't get lentils. So I don't do them except occasionally in soup. (There is post to this effect in the What Vegetables do you Still Hate thread. :))
Sprouted seeds can be very tasty, but I don't do sprouting any more because I am concerned about salmonella, which can survive on dry seeds also, not just the pre-sprouted stuff, and I don't know the source of my seeds.
I mostly just use sugar when I need added sweetener, because it's the cheapest. Molasses I use for baking. I'm going to start being very careful about where I buy honey and what type, because apparently lots of honey in the supermarkets is not actually honey (http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2011/11/tests-show-most-store-honey-isnt-honey/).
If you have not been cooking much before, what sorts of basic pots and pans do you have? Do you know how to store vegetables and fruits so they keep well?
All you need for traditional bread are: flour, water, yeast and salt. The general ratio for basic bread is 1 cup flour:1/2 teaspoon dry yeast: 1/2 to 1 teaspoon standard table salt. The main variation is in the amount of water, and the addition of things like oil or milk, which produces different consistencies of bread. "Long-rise" breads like no-knead bread are very popular now, where you use less yeast than the standard formula, but allow the bread to rise for a longer time at a cool temperature like in the fridge. Basically you do all the prep of the bread the day before, and take the dough out out and stick it in the oven about an hour before you want to eat it. For the beginner it might be easier to start with a 75% white flour/25% whole wheat combo, since home-made 100% whole wheat breads can be kind of dense unless you have some practice. The main trick in bread is the rising process, so flatbreads are great for beginners. (Oh, and if you have never done it before: Recipes often say use "warm" water, but the water should be no more than luke-warm NOT at all hot; the yeastie beasties are living critters, and you just want to wake them up, not cook them before they do their rising thing.)
You might start out with something like these pitas which are nearly foolproof: Easy pita bread (http://www.thekitchn.com/thekitchn/middle-eastern/recipe-easy-homemade-pita-bread-090844)
Pizza dough is also easy; this is the recipe I use from Alton Brown: Alton Brown's pizza dough (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/pizza-pizzas-recipe/index.html). He rises it in the fridge overnight but you can skip that and rise it for an hour or so if you double the yeast (or use a whole one of those paper packets). Note also that he uses large-grained kosher salt so if you use the standard cheapo table salt, reduce it by half. [ETA: he talks about a bread machine but you do without and just follow the same process as the pitas above].
Here is a recipe and notes for no-knead bread. The standard way of doing it requires an oven-safe covered deep pot, because the dough is very soft and spreads a bit if it is not supported while baking: no-knead bread (http://www.thekitchn.com/thekitchn/news/bittmans-noknead-bread-phenomenon-014744). In a pinch you could do it using a pie pan or casserole dish. I have only tried it a couple of times because I don't mind kneading, which makes a softer, fluffier bread.
If you find you are baking a lot of bread (a loaf a week), buying a jar of yeast is cheaper than the packets. Keeping yeast in the fridge helps it stay viable longer.
Handy web sites for simple healthy cooking: I don't have any connection to the The Kitchn web site above, I just really like it. They have lots of creative but practical cooking from scratch ideas, especially for veggies and soups which are especially handy for the thrifty cook. (Unfortunately for me they also feature a lot of yummy-looking pictures of desserts.) Alton Brown is also really great for the beginner cook, and has the advantage of being funny. He is now very health-conscious too, and is good at explaining basic concepts (like the flour-salt-yeast formula) so that you can start to go beyond following recipes step by step and create your own dishes. All his recipes from the show are on the Food Network website, lots of his actual shows on YouTube, and a lot of libraries carry his books.
Martha Stewart Food magazine is great too, and not at all fussy like the "Martha" reputation. It also has a focus on simple, healthy food on a budget using whole ingredients.
I have also found some great thrifty cooking sites and tips on kaplods' posts in this forum (Food) so you could try doing a special search.
01-02-2012, 12:10 AM
bronzeager gave you awesome advice.
My pantry is very similar: lots of lentils/beans, vegetable stock cubes, sweet potatoes, lots of onion (which provides seasoning minus the calories), spices, peanut butter, olive oil and canola oil, whole-wheat flour, buckhweat, oatmeal, honey, soy sauce, fish sauce, etc.
Honestly though I only go grocery shopping 1-2x a month. I go get fresh fruits/veggies 2-3x a week. The majority of our food is made from that: eggplant marinara with homemade tomato sauce, pinto bean burritos, chickpea burgers, vegetable lasagna, lentil chili soup, Thai vegetable stir fry. Veggies, tofu and lentils are the center of meals, with occasional fish. The other stuff are supplemental.
I also keep homemade apple sauce and roasted pureed pumpkin (not canned, roasted at home) around all the time. You can stock it in your freezer. They are great substitutes for oil in bread recipes, or in desserts, or by themselves. They're just good ingredients to have around and making both is very easy.
bronzeager gave you great ideas for breads. I'll add tortillas and quickbreads to the list. I've already told you how to make tortillas in previous posts, so I'll skip that. Quickbreads are denser breads without the yeast: banana, bread, pumpkin bread, etc. They are easier and quicker to make than regular bread. I don't tend to do well on a lot of bread but my fiance loves having whole wheat pumpkin or zucchini bread around for breakfast sometimes.
It sounds like you need a good, basic cookbook. Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything is terrific. It is expensive, but it could be the only cookbook you need. It provides illustrations of how to prepare vegetables, fish, roll pie crush and bread dough. It has charts of different vegetables and oils and spices and what they are used for. It gives an explanation of how to prepare basic version of virtually every food out there. It's great for beginners and a good reference for experienced cooks.