The last few weeks I have been a little silent on the blogging. This is embarrassingly because I have had a few financial occurrences that meant I haven’t really been cooking anything I thought was blog worthy. Lots of mince, sausages, canned tuna.. I was waiting until I had something ‘better’..
But, then it dawned on me… this food I am cooking is still yum! Just because it’s super cheap to make and has minimal ingredients doesn’t make it wrong! In fact, that is the kind of food I look for when I search blogs for recipes. No one can entertain every night; we all need weeknight dinners that aren’t fussy and complicated. So, I am now confident in my budgeting meals, and ready to blow your budgeting mind.
AND at this time of year, coming out of a haze of spending money and eating immense amounts, this is timely and good for us.
I have a few recipes up my sleeve that I rotate, and a few that I have posted on this blog before. But let’s start at the beggining:
The key for me is when you have those weeks where you have a tiny bit of extra money, stock up on pantry staples. Then those weeks where you are more ‘lean’ (and I mean $20 for your food budget lean) you have the things you need to take a chicken breast or mince or a sausage into something that isn’t just a chicken breast, mince or a sausage. I have a list of a few things that I keep in my cupboard and fridge at all times for just these occasions.
Most of these keep for months, literally. Spices can be sometimes years if looked after properly. And when you think about it, spices, such as paprika and sumac are flavour assassins. They also cost about $3 from the supermarket. Yes, I know you can buy gorgeous imported Spanish paprika, and expensive sumac that is carried over here on maiden’s backs from Arabia or some such nonsense. But this is not budgeting. You don’t need to be cheap and nasty, just thrifty and smart. I tend to spend more money on things that you use more often and can taste the difference, such as olive oil or parmesan cheese.
Here are a few things I keep in my cupboard to help with adding flavour and excitement to simple things. And a few links to my recipes that use them!
Jen’s Cupboard Essentials
Have you ever had the conversation where you try to decide to what your favourite spice is? It’s hard. This is mine. It can be sprinkled on or in most things for a warm intense flavour boost. Over chicken breast as below with the sumac, over roast vegies, over eggs.. I mean it. It’s great. And I have a sneaky salmon recipe to post on here that uses it coming up soon.
Sumac is a lemony Middle Eastern spice that I have mentioned on here before that I LOVE. Its lovely rubbed on meats with a little oil as in my Sumac Roasted Chicken
- Chilli flakes
When you can’t get fresh, chilli flakes are a quick and easy substitute and can add a different flavour to fresh. They can be sprinkled over meats, or to spice up a dinner omelette if the occasion calls for it!
- Salt and Pepper
Sounds like I am patronising? I’m serious. If all you have is a breast of chicken or some vegies, even the sprinkling of S and P will invigorate your tastebuds.
- Canned chick peas/white beans/lentils
These can be the protein you need at the opening of a can! Make my Lentil Patties, or fry lentils or chickpeas in a pan with onion and garlic for a side to meats. You can flavour the lentils by adding any spices or vinegars you like! I have used chilli, or red wine vinager. Or use the beans to make my Mexicano Beans.
- Jarred Capsicums
Cheap, and great to add to pasta, the lentils above or I have pureed jarred capsicum with white beans, garlic and a little oil for a ‘sauce’ for chicken
- Dried Thyme and other Spices
I love thyme, but I guess what I mean here is a selection of your favourite dried herbs. These can be added to a tomato sauce, sprinkled over My roast Vegies, or added to eggs for an Italian style frittata. Just decide the ones you want and they will last for ages.
- Soy Sauce
Asian Salmon or the Grilled Wasabi Salmon and Udon is a standby in my house, but sometimes I have it with grilled chicken or even just the soup with vegies. It’s such a flavourful soup that it doesn’t feel budget! Soy is great for marinating meat, or adding to a quick “Fried Rice” of left over vegies and rice.
I think once I forgot to buy garlic and became quite upset about it… It was a sign to me my life was going downhill.. I always feel the world is right with garlic, eggs, oil and onions in the house. You can make the sneakily cheap but offensively tasty Chilli and Garlic pasta, or add it to ANYTHING to up the flavour. Sautéed garlic added to anything is an instant flavour lifter. And roasting whole cloves with your vegies in the oven creates the sweet smushy roasted garlic that is beautiful with anything.
Onions add flavour where you may imagine there is none. Brown onions are amazing to sweat and add to lentils, or make my Brown Onion Tart : just leave out the olives or goats cheese- it’s still amazing without the fancy ingredients.
Red onion is beautiful baked with vegies and garlic and some balsamic vinegar. Yum.
- Balsamic or Red Wine Vinegar
This is great for slopping over roasted vegies as above, or even to put over chicken breast before roasting. Red Wine is great is dressings, or in the pan with the lentils as metioned above!
- Canned Tomatoes
These things are always in my cupboard. Mix with some jarred capsicum and garlic or broken down sausages etc etc for pasta sauce. For my super thrifty Tomato and Chorizo Soup, you can make the chorizo optional.
Any kind, any price, mixed with (almost) anything. As mentioned above, all I need is oil, garlic, onions and pasta and I am happy. But also mixed with frozen peas, canned tomatoes, butter.. Pasta is a gourmet’s way of livin it thrifty.
A few of these and you have innumerable recipes, and a cupboard arsinal of taste! And, hang on while I compile my Fridge and Freezer Compendium to go with this Cupboard list!
I did have a lovely Christmas and New Years where I made some delicious food, so hold tight!