Kirkkitsch’s Blog

*REAL* Budget Recipes
June 28, 2012, 6:00 am
Filed under: Food

Living on a single income (thank for nuthin’, Chumley!) in this economy is definitely a challenge when it comes to groceries, meals, etc. (among other things!). So, just for the heck of it, I thought I would share some meal ideas that I make on a semi-regular basis that are filling and inexpensive.

• I love cucumbers and have been buying them a lot lately. They are a mere 53¢ where I shop, so I buy as many as I think I’ll consume in a few weeks time and use them in different ways. Normally, I just peel, slice and chill them. I sometimes cut them in half lengthwise and remove the seeds at the core with a spoon; I’ve learned that the seeds are what sometimes make me burp.

In addition, especially since summer is here, I sometimes make cucumber sandwiches. I don’t know about you, but once summer arrives, my appetite is considerably reduced. I generally want something cold and simple: cucumber sandwiches are just what the doctor ordered. P.s. I sometimes sprinkle black sesame seed in with the cream cheese, if I have it. Celery seed and/or poppy seeds are good as well.

And most recently, I discovered cucumber NOODLES! I had no idea! You basically julienne some cucumbers, for the noodles: the recipe calls for SEEDLESS cucumbers, but I just scooped the seeds out of mine and used those. Also, I blanched the cucumber noodles, barely leaving then in the boiling water, because I want some crunch, not sog. For sustenance, I tossed in some marinated shrimp: serve chilled. Delicious! I sometimes buy a bag of frozen cooked/deveined shrimp ($7-10) and they work just fine. You can generally get 4-5 meals out of a 2lb bag! More shrimp recipes to come.

Cucumber Noodles Recipe 1
Cucumber Noodles Recipe 2

• As crazy as it sounds, I JUST NOW learned how to fry an egg. I know, I know, I’m way too old to just be learning this, but it’s true. I loved it when my mom would fry eggs; she used a cast iron skillet and bacon grease when she made them and it just looked complicated to me at the time. Fast forward 3 decades and I’ve never been successful at making them; mine always turned out scrambled or in omelette form. I could never figure it out. Well, now I know: All that time I’d been cracking the eggs into a bowl and whisking them before putting them into the skillet, when I needed to be cracking them directly into the skillet! I had no idea. I also assumed I had to have ‘grease’ on hand, but never realized that ‘grease’ could come in the form of butter or olive oil. DUH!

So, now that I have mastered the fried egg (I prefer ‘over-hard’ to ‘over-easy’), I now enjoy making “Toad In a Hole”. I’ve seen the pictures forever and always thought it looked good; I now know it IS good! Toad In a Hole is really easy to make. You simply take a slice of bread and use a small cookie/biscuit cutter to remove the center from the bread (mine happens to be a vintage one shaped like a Star of David). Place the bread into a preheated skillet (I use butter in the skillet), crack your egg into the center of the bread in the skillet and let it cook to your desired consistency. Simple, delicious and inexpensive: a carton of eggs is a mere 99¢ a dozen (at least where I live) and a loaf of bread is 88¢ (again, where I live).

• Now, back to the shrimp. I prepare shrimp in several different ways. First, the way I use it when I have Pasta Roni (normally 88¢-$1 per box): I normally buy either the Garlic & Olive Oil Vermicelli variety or the Parmesan Cheese variety. There are 10+ varieties that will work perfectly well with shrimp, it’s really up to personal tastes. Anyway, I defrost a small bowlful of frozen shrimp in some water. Once thawed (it only takes a few minutes), I remove the tails from the shrimp, rinse the shrimp off, place them in a Ziploc bag with some crushed roasted garlic (sold in small jars & varieties) a little of the packet mix from the Pasta Roni and some pepper, and let it marinate in the fridge, while I prepare the pasta. Once the pasta is close to being ready, I place the shrimp in a small skillet, with some butter, and cook them a few minutes, until things boil, keeping them moving. I then toss the shrimp into the Pasta Roni and allow to simmer for a few minutes more. I let it sit, so the sauce can thicken, and that’s it! Easy and easily modified to your tastes.

Now the recipe I use when I have hardly any ingredients (read ‘no money’). I buy a package of Skinner’s Egg Noodle Fettuccine (I prefer egg noodles if I can find them, but any pasta is fine, again it’s up to you) ($1) and prepare it to desired consistency (I like my al dente). While the pasta is boiling, again I defrost a small bowlful of frozen shrimp in some water, remove the tails, rinse and cook in a small pan with some garlic, butter, olive oil and cayenne pepper. I toss this in with with cooked pasta and toss until everything is coated.

Some other cheap items I buy are:

– Bananas (98¢ a bunch; generally 6-7 bananas): great by themselves or on a peanut butter sandwich
– Potatoes (5-10lb bag $3-4): great for french fries, mashed potatoes, baked potatoes and/or hashbrowns
– Pork Chops ($5 for 4-6 chops): great cooked in a skillet with some Worcheshire sauce and served with pork stuffing (99¢- store brand; exactly the same as Stove Top only cheaper); served Asa side dish or used to stuff the pork hops with -OR- on a sandwich with some thin, braised apple slices.
– Eggs (99¢) are a great, versatile meal too. I sometimes do an egg salad or deviled eggs with them, in addition to fried rice and/or the egg sandwich.
– Frozen Dumplings/Potstickers- ($5-6 for a 12oz-2lb bag, depending on where you get them) There are all kinds of varieties (vegetable, chicken, pork, shrimp, and any combo thereof) and you can either boil them or fry them in a skillet with a little oil. Great alone or on a bed of white or brown Minute Rice (sorry, but I’ve yet to find a better rice). I prefer tossing my dumplings with a little Maggi Sweet Chili Sauce before putting them atop a bowl of rice. P.F. Chang’s dumplings are good, but I prefer the dumplings I get at the asian super market (plus, you get more for your money).

And FYI, if you’re wondering where I am getting all these groceries from, it’s either Aldi or Elrod’s Cost Plus. Hopefully there are similar stores near you.

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