The Food Frugalista Basics

There is more than enough to go around, and taste good. Any other doctrine is nonsense. I eat well, and for no more than $.70 per meal. I don’t know if I’ve ever been healthier in my adult life.

Recently, a change of heart challenged me to eat well for health and for my wallet. I grew up in this kind of household, but vowed that when I got out on my own, I’d eat as much fast food, sweets, and chain restaurant meals as my heart desired. I soon discovered that cooking at home and eating healthier can actually be cheaper and just all around more satisfying. Because of my budget, I began to cut out various items from my diet, including meat. As a result, so many–if not all–of the dishes on this blog will be vegetarian! When you challenge yourself to eat both healthy and frugally, you’ll begin to develop some very useful skills that will benefit you down the road. This blog is designed to help you develop a regimen that will cost you between $.65 and $1.50 per meal. I invite you to join me in this journey 🙂

A Food Frugalist(a) depends on a number of basic ingredients that they will always have inside of their pantry and refrigerator. Most of these flavorings and foods are very inexpensive themselves, often adding an almost negligible expense to your dishes. They tend to last for months at a time, if you are cooking everyday for one person.

Food Frugalista’s Indispensable 10

1. Garlic Cloves–It is not recommended that you store garlic in your refrigerator, so a dry spot on your counter top on hanging from a wire basket will do. Learn more here. I typically use garlic cloves during a slow cook, usually in beans, because the cooking process allows for the garlic pieces to open up and slowly contribute to the over all flavor. One box of two will last for about 2-3 weeks.

2. Minced garlic–For those days when you do not feel like chopping garlic or you are incorporating garlic in a mixture, minced garlic is very easy to use because the flavor has already been released. I use this for sauteed or steamed vegetables. One 8 oz container should last for at least 2 weeks.

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3. Salt. I have been using the same container of Morton’s salt for almost two and a half years now. While I haven’t used it nor cooked for myself every single day, 2 years to have any condiment is still a very long time! I prefer regular salt over seasoning salt because I find myself using seasoning salt at a much higher rate and consequently spending more money in the long run. Use regular salt.

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4. Spices. Pepper is a great spice to liven up a dish, be it tofu or eggs. The black stuff in the tin tends to last a while. I also use dry and crushed chipotle peppers, adding them to pretty much any and every dish! Though spicier than pepper, they will not make your tongue feel like its burning (or maybe I’ve just gotten used to them!). I also use thyme for a celery flavor and curry (ground turmeric powder) regularly.

5. Olive oil. If you are like me, you have become an olive oil connoisseur. The flavor is so robust, earthy, and the benefits are plenty. I do not fry with olive oil (though I rarely fry at all).  I go for the more expensive, extra-virgin oils because the flavors and scent have so much more of a punch. I use olive oil in soups, beans, tofu, vegetables. The salt and oil combination create my personal substitute for butter.

6. Apple Cider (or white) Vinegar. Though primarily used in my kitchen for soups (think cabbage), apple cider vinegar can be used to flavor just about anything, and can be used as a substitute for cooking wine.

7. Baking soda. This household must have is ridiculously useful for cooking and cleaning. I use it to remove the “gas” out of beans during soaking (or during the actual cooking if I forget to add beforehand). Because the Food Frugalista diet consists of so many beans, you’re gonna need this one.

8. Dry Beans. Dry beans are an indispensable part of the “eating healthy on a budget” program. They are cheap and full of protein, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients like fiber, which help you digest food.Dry beans can be the basis of soups, burgers, or even desserts. The possibilities are endless with the dry bean. For reasons of convenience and feasibility, I prefer the lentil, which cooks in under 20 minutes.

10. Honey. There are so many health benefits of honey. Check them out here. Though my honey habit it expensive compared to sugar, honey is, in my opinion, the best natural sweetener around.

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