Reader Suggestions: What to Cook During a Pandemic

Mr. FW’s pandemic sourdough

Cooking at home is not new for the frugal crew, but cooking at home during a pandemic is a slightly different proposal. Many of us aren’t going to the grocery store as often as we did in the Before Times, some ingredients can’t be found on the shelves, and many folks are looking to decrease their grocery expenses as we watch the economy do a weird and unpredictable downward spiral (check out my Uber Frugal Week: How to Manage Your Money in the Time Of Pandemic and Recession for money-focused thoughts).

Furthermore, restaurants have been (or still are) closed and take-out options are limited. If you used to cook at home 7 nights out of 10? You’re now cooking at home 10 nights out of 10. Plus breakfasts, lunches, and snack time, snack time, also snack time, and then there’s snack time. My kids eat all day long, no matter what I feed them. I once gave them each a chicken breast for a snack and they were back 20 minutes later demanding more.

Given all these new variables in the kitchen, I was compelled to seek the advice of my most trusted frugal resource: you people. So today I bring you a Reader Suggestions compilation of recipes, ideas, tips, and hacks for cooking it up through a global pandemic.

Welcome to my monthly Reader Suggestions feature! Every month I post a question to our Frugalwoods Facebook group and share the best responses here. The questions are topics I’ve received multiple queries on and my hope is that by leveraging the braintrust of Frugalwoods nation, you’ll find helpful advice and insight. Join the Frugalwoods Facebook group to participate in next month’s Reader Suggestions.

Pandemic Menu Planning in the Frugalwoods Home

The biggest change for my family was the loss of our once-a-week grocery shop. Now, it’s more like once every two months. This isn’t an issue for shelf-stable stuff (flour, quinoa, dried beans, olive oil, WINE, spices) or for meat and eggs (which we buy from our neighbors and pop the meat into our deep freeze), but it is tough from a fresh produce perspective. Normally, we buy bananas, apples, pears, grapes, cucumbers, salad greens, peppers, avocados, limes/lemons, and more every single week.

My homemade applesauce made with apples from our trees.

Now, we make that stuff last as loooooooong as possible and then turn to frozen fruit and veggies. We’re sort of limping along right now until our garden starts to produce salads for us. That being said, I’ve surprised myself at how creative and resilient our pantry is: when we run out of bananas (which we eat on our oatmeal every morning), I turn to the homemade applesauce I canned last summer.

Applesauce on oatmeal isn’t a traditional pairing, but my kids like it. When we run out of apples, I defrost frozen berries we picked last summer and pop them in the microwave–my kids love, love, love warm berry mush-in-a-bowl. I usually eat a salad with lunch every day and that’s been hard to substitute (which is probably why I just planted 37 rows of arugula and spinach…. ), but I’ve resorted to my classic frozen veggies in quinoa dish.

My family’s focus is on decreasing the chance that we catch the virus or unintentionally infect others. Since we don’t HAVE to go to the grocery store weekly, we don’t. Instead, we stock up every 6 weeks or so and then get creative with our pantry and freezer. This has been a great exercise in eating up our backlog of food (looking at you, chard in the bottom of the deep freeze… ) and a good chance to expose our kids to new and different food combinations. Pandemic cooking might not be your ideal, it might not be your very favorite foods, and you might find yourself putting applesauce on oatmeal, but it can be done.

Mrs. Frugalwoods Cooked A Dinner: End Times are Nigh?

I COOKED THIS

I don’t know where else to admit this: you guys, I cooked dinner for us. Once. I haven’t cooked dinner since before we were married (which, yes, was twelve years ago). I’m a tad concerned about what the pandemic is doing to me–now I cook????!!!!! WHAT?!?

Heretofore, my husband cooked all dinners (and breakfasts) and I assisted with lunches, baked goods, and snacks. Now, I’m a person who made roasted lemon garlic asparagus and salmon from our garden (the asparagus was from the garden, not the salmon) by myself (with the aid of four different recipes) and it was edible.

I don’t know what’s happening to me, but I actually, kind of, uh, enjoyed it? And I find myself looking at the recipes you all suggested today and, umm, reading them… I even might make some of them. I’m not sure how to process this new information, so let’s just get to it and find out:

What Frugalwoods Readers are Cooking During the Pandemic

Bust Out Yo’ Cookbooks (and online recipes)

Cooking with two wild animals

Hope shared, “I love cooking from Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything” cookbook (affiliate link). The recipes are easy, substitutions and variations provided, and use simple, whole food ingredients. My other favorite recipe source is Budget Bytes, most of their recipes are cheap, easy, and turn out great. I do find that I have to double pretty much all her seasonings, but that might just be me! Since the pandemic, we have been focusing on cooking food we really like and look forward to since we aren’t eating out or doing socializing anymore. We already made our own stock and cooked with dried beans, but have done even more scratch cooking lately. Some favorite recipes: Mark Bittman’s No Work Bread, Budget Bytes’ Slow Cooker Vegetarian Lentil Chili, and Budget Bytes’ Slow Cooker Chicken and Dumplings.

Julie said, “One of my go to meals especially in the summer is veggie fritters- different every time and we call them fridge surprise- shred a zucchini (squeeze out the water in a towel), shredded carrots, broccoli, corn, shredded cheese (we use cheddar but whatever you like), whatever else you have/like/leftover/want to sneak in your kids, onion, shallot, garlic, chives, herbs, spices and mix add 1-2 eggs and 1/2 cup flour to bind it together (GF works good). Fry in a bit of olive oil in a pan until brown each side (like a pancake). They reheat easy and freeze well. We like with ranch dressing, salsa or sour cream with sriracha. This is the original recipe we used.

Torrie said, “Thanks to cooking from my pantry and not wanting to turn on my oven (due to the creeping temperatures outside), I have been giving my Instant Pot a LOT of love lately, which is how I came up with this little gem of a recipe that we’ve already made quite a few times: Instant Pot Mexican Ground Beef + Rice Casserole.”

Kate recommends, “Potato and green pea curry. What is nice about this recipe is that any vegetables can be subbed in.”

Sarah loves, “Soup! The New England Soup Factory cook book is wonderful (affiliate link). We haven’t had a bad soup from it and it makes lots for freezing! We will also split a pound of meat between 2 different meals rather than use a single pound in one meal.”

Quinoa Lunch: prepare to be eaten

Kelly said, “The cookbook Cook Once Eat All Week is my go to (affiliate link). I think the design of the book is brilliant for saving money and time preparing food. For each week, it gives three very different recipes that center around the same main ingredients (awesome for bulk shopping), a shopping list, which saves me SO MUCH TIME, and step by step meal prep directions. I usually do an hour or two of prep on Sunday or Monday, and then have three easy dinners that I can get together in just a few minutes all week. The recipes are delicious. I highly recommend this book. My other favorite frugal recipes are soup and grilled cheese, stir fries, quesadillas, burrito bowls, and pasta. I always have the pantry ingredients for these on hand.”

Jennifer wrote, “I have been making potatoes in batches twice a week. Cheap and nutritious and versatile. I have been eating a lot of Ponachos lately with whatever Mexican style toppings I feel like.”

Jonathan said, “I’ll plug my friend Angelo Todaro for my favorite go to (Oven Roasted Chicken Thighs). .99-1.99/lb for chicken thighs. Add a solid side of vegetables and grains and you’re good to go!”

Littlewoods sizing up our prize pumpkin last fall

Sarah likes, “Turkey (or chicken) Pot Pie using veggie scraps to make the broth.”

Cindy said, “I love so many things on the Budget Bytes website, especially the one pot dishes (less clean up, yay!). She has recipes from around the world, provides cost breakdowns from a standard grocery store, kindly provides a “Jump to Recipe” link on each page for easy access, and sells a variety of meal plans for dirt cheap, if that’s your thing.

Her recipes also use a lot of the same ingredients so you don’t go crazy trying to keep a house stocked with pantry items you’ll only use a handful of times. Love it! Our favorite is the Greek Turkey and Rice skillet. I usually quadruple the recipe using my dutch oven instead of a skillet. We either eat it all week or freeze a bunch for later.”

Emma shared, “I’ve found that rice, bean, and root vegetable combos make a tasty nutritious meal and can last a while if you’re trying to avoid trips to the grocery store. A specific recipe that I make that is really yummy is a Moroccan stew and all the ingredients last for weeks so you can save it for the end of your meal plan before having to venture out to the store again, or it can be made ahead and frozen. It’s frugal if you like to cook and already have most of the spices on hand— if not, you can probably improvise the spices to whatever you have in your cabinet. It also uses a small jar of artichoke hearts, so if you really want to keep the cost down you can eliminate that and add a smidgen more broth to compensate for the missing liquid from the jar.

Moroccan Stew

Ingredients
1 c vegetable broth (or any broth of your choice)
1/3 c olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 sweet potato, diced
29 oz can chickpeas
1 red pepper, chopped
28 oz can diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp ground ginger

Tomato harvest last summer, doubling as a portfolio submission for hand modeling

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon
3 whole cloves
Pinch chili flakes
1/2 cup prunes, pitted and halved
1/3 cup dried apricots, diced
8 oz jar artichoke hearts, reserve juice
1/2 cup black olives, pitted
3 tablespoons brown sugar
Cumin (to taste)
1/2 lemon, juiced (optional)
1 c slivered almonds (optional)

Directions

1. Heat the oil in a large sauce pan and then add the onion and garlic; sauté until softened.
2. Add the sweet potatoes, chickpeas, red peppers, tomatoes, and all of the spices except for the cumin and cook at a medium-high temperature for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
3. Add the stock, prunes, apricots, and liquid from the artichokes.
4. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Reduce heat if coming to a boil.
5. Stir in the artichokes, olives, brown sugar, and cumin. Simmer for another 5-10 minutes.
6. While you are waiting, toast the almonds in a dry frying pan.
7. Stir in the lemon juice if you choose to use it.
8. Serve over rice or couscous.
9. Optional: sprinkle with toasted almonds.
10. Enjoy!”

Ellie enjoys, “Lots of potatoes, onions, carrots…cheaper root vegetables with accents of the more expensive items. This is the best carrot soup I’ve ever had—I made it plain, both with broth and water, and no difference. Super filling and creamy and perfect.”

USE IT UP: The Waste Not, Want Not Mindset

A lone red onion, just trying to make it in the world

Allison shared, “I am less concerned with saving money while shopping or cooking the cheapest things and more concerned with using up everything we buy. I freeze a ton of things, and even things like… If I don’t finish a beer and it goes flat, I freeze the rest. It becomes a delicious addition to a braise or stew. Leftover gravy, tiny bits of sauces, etc – freeze ’em. Your future self will thank you! Here’s one of my favorite quick and easy pantry-staple meals: Tuna pasta with peas. You’ll need pasta, canned tuna, frozen peas, and some kind of acidic brightener – I like lemon here, could also be white wine or even a splash of white or apple cider vinegar if that’s all you have. Salt, fresh ground pepper, a dash of chili pepper flakes, and any fresh herbs you have (especially mint and basil this time of year), or none at all. Freshly grated pecorino or parmesan, if you have it. It’s ok if not. Boil pasta in well salted water. Peas go in for the last few minutes. Drain, but reserve a bit of the water. Add one or two cans of tuna (I like to add in the juices/oil too), plus the pasta water, and the acid element, herbs, salt and pepper and chili flakes to taste, parm. Delish!”

Kim shared, “Jennifer’s Recipe (named after the former coworker who gave me the recipe):

1 can kidney beans
1 can black beans
1 can garbanzo beans
1/2# fresh tomatoes, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small bunch cilantro, chopped
Olive oil and balsamic vinegar (toss to coat)

Drain and rinse beans. Add all ingredients (except tortilla chips) to bowl. Toss to coat with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Enjoy with tortilla chips.”

Jenn wrote, “Since our quarantine started, I try to shop only about every 2-3 weeks at the most. And I’m trying to maintain a zero food waste policy here too (which I should have anyway) – I’ve been using less meats… lots of beans- so exploring various middle eastern recipes a lot- I already like Thai/Asian cooking ideas- soups, etc. Potatoes are a fave in our house- I’m also discovering certain greens that grow in the wild in our neighborhood that are edible and healthy- (do your own research carefully) that lets me go longer before needing to shop again.”

Krista said, “We’ve been making quinoa bowls when our fridge is starting to get bare. We chop up any veggies that are starting to go bad, add in some salad, quinoa, and any meat or beans we have as leftovers. My husband does a great job making yummy vinaigrette dressings that go well with whatever ingredients we used.”

Nicollette shared, “One of my favorite go-to frugal meals involves primarily sweet potatoes, chickpeas, and rice (white or brown). First, I’ll chop up some sweet potatoes into .5-1 inch cubes and add to a baking sheet. I also add a can of rinsed chickpeas to the sheet and season with spices (I change it up but usually do s&p, cumin, smoked paprika/chili powder, and garlic and onion powder. Roast in the oven at 400 degrees for 15 minutes and 350 for 5-10 minutes or until potatoes are roasted on the outside and soft and cooked on the inside, and the chickpeas should be slightly crispy. While those are roasting in the oven, I’m cooking up a pot of brown or white rice. When everything is cooked, I assemble a bowl with rice, add scoops of the seasoned potatoes and chickpeas, then garish with cilantro and slices of avocado, maybe a dollop of sour cream if you like, couple of dabs of hot sauce even. If I’m feeling extra decadent I’ll cook an egg sunny side up to add on top. Yum and nutritious!! And for like a dollar a bowl.”

Spreadsheets to the Rescue!

Tomato sauce we made from our garden last summer

Mandy wrote, “I have an Excel sheet where I enter the kilo/pound price of our favourite and most used grocery store items and where we buy them. They are automatically separated by grocery store (online too) and I have categories for the sale prices on the items that do tend to go on sale so I know what my stock up price is. For our common items I have them memorized, but for items only purchased a few times a year its really handy. It took time to set it up but now I rarely have to change anything and I have access to it on my cell as well. The first year I did this I saved 1,800€ / 2,000$ and we are only two people in my household. We bought the same exact things, we just knew the buy price on most of them. A perfect example is that one local grocery store sells Canadian maple syrup in 3 separate locations in the store (foreign, organic, baking) and all for different prices!”

Pantry Staple Combos

Kel wrote, “A favorite here, that everyone in the family likes including the toddler, is egg lemon soup (avgolemono in Greek).
Recipe, for a batch big enough to serve four adults for dinner and provide leftovers:

  • Sauté an onion, diced small, in olive oil. When it is translucent, add ¾ c of Arborio rice.
  • Add 6-8 cups of chicken broth. Boxed is fine.
  • Cover and simmer for twenty minutes, until the rice is very soft. Taste for salt.
  • Meanwhile: using a stick blender in a large glass measuring cup, blend together the juice of three lemons, and eight eggs.
  • When the rice is very soft, ladle a cup or two of the hot broth into the measuring cup while running the stick blender continually to temper the eggs. (You can also do this with a hand mixer on high, or a whisk.)
  • After the eggs are tempered, pour them into the pot, stirring continually. Heat until you get a couple of bubbles to thicken, and then stir in some fresh or dried parsley for color.”

Me + a baby pool of kale and chard

Jude likes to combine, “Chick pea, spinach, and coconut milk curry. I add any extra frozen veg to this and two tins of tomato’s.
The spicy warmth is from grated ginger, garlic, chillis, a little brown sugar , cumin and garam masala. Finish with fresh coriander and lemon juice. Really quick, cheap and simple and delicious.”

Emily recommends, “Tuna spaghetti: one can tuna drained, one clove garlic, chopped parsley, half cup sun dried tomatoes in oil cut in half inch pieces, a few big handfuls of arugula. Saute all and serve atop pasta.”

Pauline shared, “One of my favorite things is green chile soup with a fried egg on top – this is a great breakfast.

Green Chile Soup

24 oz roasted green chilies, cleaned and chopped
1 chopped onion
2-3 minced garlic cloves
1 T oil
1/2 bunch cilantro chopped
1/2 tsp salt
4-5 C chx broth or water
4-5 C dairy – sour cream, milk, yogurt, etc

Saute onions & garlic, and 1 C liquid and then cook 5 min or so.
Add broth/water and chilies, salt, cilantro. Bring to boil and then simmer couple of hours.
Puree and add dairy.
Serve with limes, radishes, cilantro, red onions, corn tortilla strips.”

Kate said, “This cracker recipe is very flexible, and protein packed. Great for dipping into hummus etc. I am also really enjoying making and eating brownies!”

Mr. FW and Babywoods planting ground cherries

Kellie asked, “Who doesn’t love pizza? And quick, frugal homemade pizza? Start with some self raising flour, a pinch of salt and some dried Italian herbs. All cupboard staples. Sounds like the beginnings of any quick pizza dough, Yes? But then…grab a tin of chopped tomatoes and drain them through a sieve, keeping the liquid. Now use the tomato liquid instead of water to make the dough! The colour and taste is amazing! I kneed then hand stretch the dough, then straight into a fry pan, where the bottom of the pizza starts to bake and crisp up while I add toppings starting with the drained tinned tomatoes (You choose the rest- I go for mushrooms, black olives, pineapple, or whatever I have!). A medium heat is good and work quickly so as not to overcook the underside of the base . Then it’s in the oven to heat and bake the top. This and a salad, under 30 minutes to whip up…and ultra frugal.”

Lindsay said, “We keep a bunch of rice, pasta, tortillas, and beans in stock, as well as canned tomatoes and sauce. We also keep a bunch of frozen peas and corn in the freezer. Between that and our CSA, I am able to make delicious vegetarian meals from Budget Bytes. Sometimes I have to make substitutions, but it always still tastes good! Some favorites from Budget Bytes are the coconut curried lentils, dragon noodles, and spinach chickpea rice pilaf.”

Elsa loves, “Pasta with sauteed red bell peppers, broccoli, roasted chicken, cherry tomatoes and topped with Parmesan cheese. No sauce.”

Marcia was keeping it real when she said, “Pandemic cooking is driving me batty. It’s an awful lot of work to figure out what to cook when you shop every two weeks. This is true even though we get produce delivery. I make a weekly plan based on our produce box and what we have in the pantry. Because we are both working full time at home, our cooking has changed a little. We still don’t have more time (because, kids and distance learning).

Asparagus harvest from our garden!

We make two big meals on the weekend. One is usually bean based, like black bean soup. My favorite is from Budget Bytes. I also like this crockpot sweet potato black bean chili.

We have actually been getting more takeout, at least weekly.

Instant pot: pasta. Either with marinara or Mac and cheese, weekly.

Instant pot: bean soup or vegetable soup.

Thai chicken and vegetable Curry. Red curry paste, a can of chicken breast (you can use fresh, but we always have canned), a can of coconut milk, vegetables.

Indian: red lentil dhal, or chana masala.

Mexican: beans and rice, quesadillas, burritos.

Chinese: stir fry or fried rice

I recently started using the app Paprika to keep track of my favorite recipes. You can also keep your pantry on there. I use it to make menus, and each time I have a good recipe, it gets added. (Bonus points if it uses pantry staples).

We eat a lot of salad and sandwiches for lunch.”

Beans!!! Boatloads of Beans

Laurel wrote, “I was having a hard time finding dry beans but finally found a source online. The catch? I had to buy a ten pound bag. I live in a condo so not a lot of storage. My cheap and really yummy recipe is to cook the beans (after soaking) with an onion, bay leaf and garlic cloves, then add wheat berries, veggies, and a jar of salsa. Presto – big, cheap pot of chili, most of which I freeze.”

Kidwoods in the chard two summers ago

Dawn said, “We have chickens so plenty of eggs. Egg salad is cheap for us. I also make quiche with a homemade crust, eggs, and whatever veggies need to be used up. Bean and rice bowls also with whatever toppings need to be used from the fridge or garden. I live in a rural area, and there is no such thing as a quick trip to town so I stocked up on items even before the pandemic. I will say it has made me more away of using up leftovers and using what I have on hand as we go to the grocery store even less than before.”

Erika shared, “Black Bean-Stuffed Sweet Potatoes is one of our favorite frugal meals. So easy to throw into the crockpot and everything is cheap and shelf-stable, so we love keeping these ingredients on hand for an easy, nutritious, meatless meal when we haven’t been able to go to the grocery store in a while. We cook beans from dry, too, which makes it even more frugal ($.90/lb black beans yields about five cans).”

Natasha wrote, “Lentil soup was a staple in my Mediterranean family when I was growing up, and has continued to be a favorite for my own family. One 16 oz package of lentils, two 28 oz cans of crushed tomatoes. One onion, three carrots, and three celery stalks, a few cloves of chopped or crushed garlic to your taste. Saute the vegetables, add lentils and tomatoes. Fill up the empty cans with water and add to the soup. Add a bay leaf or two, lots of oregano, and adjust salt to taste. Simmer for about an hour until lentils are soft. The total cost is about $4.25, and it gives us 8-9 servings. We like to serve it with fresh home baked bread and a big salad. If you want the true Mediterranean experience, add a splash of red wine vinegar to your bowl.”

Charley said, “Peach and chickpea curry is the tastiest comfort food I know…. I switch the tinned peaches for tinned or frozen mango or clementines or whatever is there.”

Summary:

  1. Get creative: use the ingredients you have and don’t be afraid to substitute it up.
  2. Kidwoods munching cucumbers in our garden last summer

    Beans, root vegetables, quinoa, and rice remain the pre-eminent ingredients when you’re going for frugal, healthy, and quick (my three favorite things. Other than my kids–obviously they are more favorite).

  3. Everyone loves them some Budget Bytes. Now that I’ve cooked ONE meal, I intend to peruse her site and perhaps, maybe prepare another meal (no promises).
  4. A stocked pantry is a happy pantry; but, don’t lose sight of the frugal ethos of eating through your backlog of food:
    • Don’t be keeping flour in there for two years.
    • Don’t be buying another bag of rice when you already have two.
    • Set your pantry up for success: shelve like with like and ROTATE to ensure you’re not harboring money-hogs or wasted food. Put the oldest items at the front and shelve their newer twins behind them. Use your ingredients in order of purchase date so that stuff doesn’t go bad before you can use it.
    • Same goes for your fridge. If needed, take everything out, then put it back in again (this is what I usually do since it gives me a chance to wipe down the shelves and my kids find this uber entertaining).
    • Same goes for your freezer. Do periodic inventory sweeps to see what’s lingering behind the frozen veggies (in my case it was that salmon!!!! GAH!).
  5. Lower your standards (I think I say this in every single post… ). Fresh fruit and veggies might not be available (or you might run out before your next grocery delivery/run). The ideal cut of meat you dreamt of might not be possible to procure. Go with what’s available and be flexible.
  6. The cook once and freeze method remains tried, true, and efficient. Here’s how we do it: The Dirty Secret Behind How We Cook At Home.

What are you cooking these strange days?

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75 Responses

  1. Ginger Merrill says:

    I love your blog. But May I ask if you would consider using inclusive language & not refer to your followers as “you guys”. Many of us are working women who have struggled in the workforce to not be called “men”. It’s a little thing – but language MATTERS! Know your audience – you don’t have to be cool like all the other media influencers by referring to your majority of readers as guys.

    • Caroline Bowman says:

      Language policing gets a hard no from this particular jackboot-wearing feminist. If something is egregious and offensive, perjorative or similar, fair enough, but ”you guys” is just colliquial speech.

      Each to their own but this fits into ”nope. Not going to entertain”, partly because for the reasons given above and partly because the lecture about language mattering to *a person who writes and is paid for doing so* is unwarranted.

      • Ellen says:

        totally agree!

      • Marilyn says:

        Yay for the sane commenters. PC-speak will be the death of our culture.

      • Alex Foret says:

        Caroline:

        It’s worth noting that the implications and impacts of gendered language vary across regions, both international and in the US. You mention that you live in Cape Town and – at least from talking to my South African friends – I have gotten the impression that “you guys” is seen as having a less intensely gendered application there than in some regions of the US.

        Here in the US, it seems to be more of a concern with the LGBTQ+ community, but obviously that isn’t an exclusive statement. Personally, I use “y’all,” which has grown in popularity among the populations who aim to lessen the use of “you guys.” It’s inclusive, easy, and efficient since it’s only one word. But there definitely is a distinct regional implication with it. I didn’t start using it until I moved to Louisiana and now that I live in Minnesota, I definitely get looks for it.

        Also, regarding you saying the comment is unwarranted? I would definitely disagree. There are a wide variety of backgrounds and points of view and Ginger’s is definitely valid and worth hearing. That’s like saying that talking to a politician about politics is unnecessary. With subjective matters like this, just because it isn’t your career doesn’t make your input invalid.

        Ginger: I definitely hear you on this. I think that this is an issue of regional linguistic variation more than anything else though. I was a case study a few months ago and I am nonbinary trans (I use they/them pronouns) and Mrs. Frugalwoods did a fantastic job of being inclusive by using both my and my partners’ correct pronouns throughout my case study. So I think it’s regional variation. Not saying that an alteration in language wouldn’t be worth considering, but just that the language may be inclusive in her dialect.

      • amy scott says:

        I agree, too! I want to mention that “you guys” is the “y’all” that we use in the south. It has absolutely no reference to gender. We also say “Guys” to address a group or to get a groups attention.
        Elizabeth does such a thorough job with her posts and is such a talented writer. She is also always so inclusive. This is really nit picky!
        Just want to make sure the other side is heard.
        Stay healthy y’all!

      • pauline says:

        I agree – “guys” includes everybody

      • Jenn says:

        Agreed.

      • KP says:

        I’m originally from the Chicago area and “you guys” is used to refer to everyone, it’s not a gender thing. I’m a woman and it would never occur to me to be offended by someone saying “you guys” in reference to a group of which I’m a part, even if the group was all female. I lived in Texas for a while and never got used to “y’all” and even worse “all y’all”. 😀 “You guys” continues to be my catch-all.

        • Cindy Brick says:

          We did a world cruise this winter on CMV. (It ended up cancelling in mid-March in Indonesia, but that’s another story.) This is a British-run ship, the majority of passengers Brits, with a healthy sprinkling of Dutch and other Europeans. Only about 100 Americans, by contrast, were on the ship, out of 900 or so total.
          According to our UK friends, the term “you guys” was distinctly American, and used consistently to refer to a group, whether it was all men, all women — or a mix. They found it very amusing. (Shoot, I’m trying to remember what they used, instead, and am blanking.) I am originally from Michigan, but we’ve lived in Colorado since 1984 — and hear this term consistently here in the Centennial State.
          The crew did have a frustrating way of marking off people on a list — they called it “ticking off.” And every time I heard that, my first thought was “What did we do to make them angry?”

          • Joanne says:

            I’m from the UK. We tend to use the term ‘right folks’ when addressing a group of people . Was this the expression you heard? That said, ‘you guys’ is very commonly used in the UK amongst younger people.

      • Linda in MA says:

        I am in a direct sales business where the men get all bent out of shape when someone refers to a hostess. They say that it does not include men. I think women are so used to being included in terms that are “male” that we just don’t bat and eye at it (chairman of the board, all men are created equal…) . I actually get offended when the men in the business get all bent out of shape when referred to as hostesses. I just want to say, “Man up and deal with it like women have for millenia!”

    • Lynn Smith says:

      You guys is the Northern version of y’all. Not offensive.

    • Jean says:

      No, no, no. Love this blog. Do not change a thing about it, please. You do not offend 99.9999% of readers. I am a woman too and am not offended in the least. Many waiters refer to their customers as “you guys”. Nothing wrong with this. Policing of words is getting so out of hand and just ridiculous.

      • Mama B says:

        I totally agree 100% with everything you said. Please don’t change anything because I love the choice of words you use, Mrs. Frugalwoods. It cracks me up when I need that time to smile and laugh, especially now. So please don’t change anything! If you’re offended by her “you guys”, then carry on. No need to spoil it for everyone else.

    • kbsg says:

      This blog uses colliquial speech. The author lived in Massachusetts and now in Vermont. Those areas use “you guys” to address everybody. What do you suggest? “Y’all” is far too Southern, “you people” is used negatively, “ladies” is just silly because it restricts the readers even more and is not the authors’ authentic voice, etc.

    • Cyndi says:

      I agree that we can all improve on those colloquial phrases and found this great article listing many better alternatives to “you guys”: http://www.chicagonow.com/listing-beyond-forty/2017/05/40-gender-neutral-alternatives-to-saying-you-guys/

    • Paul says:

      Do I dare comment. As a guy who loves this community and Liz’s writing; and as a long time coach of women’s soccer(football) here in the states, I have used guys for my women’s team for over a decade and it has seemed to work for the women and for their significant others. I will now shrink away and hope to find a way to cook that awesome salmon and asparagus dish or that heroic whole wheat boulle!

    • Carolyn says:

      The correct is “youse guys” as a generic, no gender specific term for a group as I learned it growing up in downstate NY. I have heard “y’all” for you all, and knew a “yall” was a small jolly boat or a dingy. Now we wouldn’t want to call a group of people, dingy now would we. And we certainly cannot use “you people” as some have heard political actors use it as a derogatory term. So it seems people who have nothing to do will find offense under every rock and behind every tree.

    • Holly says:

      Interesting. I’ve noticed the frequent use of the word “circa” instead of “about” and was much more annoyed by it than “you guys” even though I would suspect most readers (as certainly most commenters) are women. I guess different people find different things annoying – isn’t it nice we can all find value in Frugalwoods?

    • Jenny says:

      I’m fine with “you guys”, “y’all”, whatever! Love the way you write, Liz! No need to change!

  2. Beth Brittain Carter says:

    Dear Frugal Friends,
    Since I originally come from Manchester By The Sea (New England at it’s most quaint!) my Frugal-ness is somewhat in born. When I married, I was given a copy of the Fanny Farmer Boston Cooking School cookbook, and it is still my go to when faced with something I have never cooked before. That said, I have to confess that when theShutdown began, I made a fast trip to the Trader Joe’s freezer, and bought a freezer full of their prepared meals. They have been a lifesaver, as one can add all manner of extra fresh stuff when available, or dump over rice or noodles when one has nothing else. Probably a lot more sodium that is good, but since I tend to add as much green stuff as possible, perhaps not too bad. For the most part, I cook fresh, but it’s good to know those meals are there if the situation in NC gets any worse! Good health to you all!

  3. Caroline Bowman says:

    Where I am, in Cape Town, we have been under severe, punitive (entirely nuts) lock down since 26th March. Things eased *very slightly* in May when we were allowed to exercise between 6-9am. No alcohol, no cigarettes to be sold, very little online shopping other than strictly groceries. Lots of aisles in supermarkets simply sealed off if not deemed ”essential.

    Anyway. Because we are a poor country with high unemployment an a completely useless, criminally corrupt government with no more ability to organise any kind of welfare than fly to the moon, starvation-level hunger is emerging fast. This has led to the various NGO’s and charities (when not being terrorised by government) to come up with cheap, effective ways to help people get food who might often have very, very limited cooking facilities. Some have none at all, but many have a single plate stove, a pot and a spoon and maybe a few utensils, some refrigeration and access to clean water if they are fortunate.

    So the recipe is an ingenious one that can be bulk bought and then divvied up into packs / jars and handed out and only require water and a pot to make.

    1 cup mixed split pea / lentil ”soup” mix (these usually contain red lentils, split peas, barley)
    1 cup brown or black lentils
    1 packet dry soup powder (the type that you cook on the stove, brown or white onion is nice).
    1 cup uncooked rice
    1 stock cube – any variety
    Add 3-5 l of water, bring up to the boil, then reduce to a simmer till tender, approximately 30 mins. Feeds 6-8 people, source of protein, carbohydrate, fibre, tastes really nice.
    – If you have any veg such as onion, potato, sweet potato or carrot (or any root veg really), chop these into chunks and add at the beginning. Anything like marrow or green beans can be chopped and added about half-way through cooking. Winter greens / spinach /chard can be added about 10-15 minutes before the end of cooking.
    – If you have a can of tomato or tomato onion mix, use to replace some of the water.
    – Any herbs such as parsley or garlic or rosemary can be chopped and added at the beginning.

    This is a basis for a bare-bones nutritious meal that will feed several people properly and not taste bad at all, and there are lots of things that can be added very easily.

    • Shannon says:

      Trevor Noah’s book was really eye opening for me about life in South Africa. I’m sorry things are so hard right now.

  4. We are definitely cooking more from scratch these days (and eating allll the homegrown asparagus and spring garlic), we’ve actually about doubled our take out budget (and more than doubled the tips to go with it). We are in a financially good place, so I feel drawn to giving back to our local community – and in hopes of keeping our favorite restaurants around for when we can actually eat at them again.

  5. What am I cooking? A better question is what am I not cooking. With a 17 year old son I am cooking All The Time. I did resort to stocking up on some frozen foods for my work deadline days.
    I am also using a lot more dish soap these days because we are eating 95 percent of our meals at home. We are getting takeout dinner at least once a week to support our local restaurants in the midst of the pandemic.
    Also, I am making endless pans of Rice Krispie treats. That seems to be a major comfort food for all of us. I’ve gotten really fast at it. I can probably have a pan done in less than 3 minutes.

  6. We’ve cooked every meal since this happened. We had one hilarious attempt of ordering take out, but every place was out of tofu.
    I’ve also been experimenting with baking, especially yeast free bread. I finally managed to buy some yeast though, so now there’s no limits to my bread.

  7. Genevieve says:

    We love the Budget Bytes fajitas recipe. So easy and yummy! https://www.budgetbytes.com/oven-fajitas/

  8. Marilyn says:

    Jamie Oliver’s “Five Ingredients books”, both Veg and Meat, are hands down easy, delicious, and uber creative. Healthy as well.

    • Brenda Bess says:

      Agreed, Jamie’s Food Revolution is great too. For quick and easy but beautiful vegetarian recipes, check Erin Gleeson’s Forest Feast cookbooks. Her cookbooks are a work of art.

  9. Welp, looks like I’m going to be checking out Budget Bytes for the rest of the morning! ha ha I’m also a HUGE HUGE fan of Mel’s Kitchen Cafe, and she has a ton of stuff on her site that involves pantry ingredients, and she recently did an awesome food storage post recently that’s super relevant for now, too.

  10. Danielle says:

    With a 14 month old at home, it’s nonstop cooking for us – 3 meals a day, and SO MANY snacks. We’re making our fresh produce last as long as possible, and going to local farms when we can. I am also planning to start using applesauce in our morning oatmeal, so seeing that you are planning the same made me very happy! I’m also thinking of looking for whatever canned fruit/jams/jellies I can find on my next trip to the grocery store to have some additional stuff to try with our oatmeal, and maybe make oatmeal bars for snacks. Also, thanks for all of the recipes – we have a huge bag of black beans I am wanting to use up so I will be making quite a few of the recipes shared!

  11. Iris says:

    We’ve been recently amused at several articles listing things people don’t make any more, or comfort foods people don’t make any more. In each case, we make at least half of what they list, and they are always budget-friendly and made with some frequency. Things like rice pudding, tapioca pudding, tuna casserole, franks and beans, chocolate pudding, sloppy joes. There are 3 adults here, we all cook, and we share chores, and we make sure no leftover goes to waste. Also, making sure we use the older of an item, rather than the newer, is very necessary, especially for produce.

    Since we’re minimizing shopping trips as well, some planning is involved, and we’ve found that trying something we haven’t made before is a treat. I’ve always cooked with dried beans, but I made red beans and rice for the first time, and it was a real hit. I will say the recipe called for more sausage than I thought it needed, and if we make it again, I’d use half. Husband might argue.

    Also, prowling the pantry for something that has been languishing is a way to spark a hunt for a recipe you haven’t made in a while, or perhaps ever. As someone who has done book indexing, I’m often appalled at what passes for indexes in cookbooks. If I were doing it, I’d include an entry for any ingredient that was not a condiment or a staple.

    Because of dietary restrictions, where we shop is somewhat limited, but so far, we’re OK, and over this period we’ve changed our shopping philosophy slightly. We were doing one large trip to both Costco and Kroger, but that has become more stressful, so we’ve decided to make them 2 separate trips, and it lets us fill in from one at the other. We’re also doing some marketing for another couple, and check with them before we go. We’re all in what is thought of as the more at-risk demographic.

    • Tracy says:

      I love your comment about book indexing. I too am often frustrated by what is considered a proper index in a cookbook. One of my favorites in terms of recipes…basically just repeats the table of contents as the index. As a librarian this frustrates me to no end! Anyway, I have nothing useful to add. I just wanted to share that I agree with you. 🙂

      • J says:

        Me, too, on the annoying indexes! Taste of Home and related ones do well with this, though it might not be your kind of food. If I have berries, or mushrooms, or any ingredient there’s a listing for all of the recipes that contain them. Or there’s another section for categories “ breads”, “casseroles”. Then there are meal types “breakfasts”, “parties”. And themed meals! I’m an avid cookbook collector and reader, for fun, but I also need to cook stuff, in sometimes a hurry.

  12. pauline says:

    Great ideas from everybody for something new to try eating. Love all the pics of the farm, especially the kiddos doing their thing.

  13. Ingunn says:

    Thanks for all the great recipes! But since when is oatmeal and applesauce NOT a traditional pairing ?? I’ve eaten it all my life😉 (Maybe because I live in Norway, where apples are common and bananas are not – at least in nature…)

    • Dawn Harris says:

      I agree! That comment stopped me, too. I would think most people even in the US would find apples more readily available than bananas. I have eaten applesauce with everything all my life. I can’t think what it does not go with, actually. My mother’s family is Norwegian so maybe that is a factor, too!

    • KNinChicago says:

      I agree, I mean they even sell those pre-mixed oatmeal packets in Apple Cinnamon flavor 🙂

  14. Megan says:

    I have been sticking to weekly grocery shopping for the most part because I have the time to do so and we don’t have a lot of storage space in the pantry or our side-by-side fridge/freezer. I would love to have a chest freezer but our <900 sq. ft. house is on a concrete pad with no basement and the garage is not a great place for them since there's no climate control. I did buy some extra canned goods & freezer goods when the stay at home order started.

    I love Budget Bytes and get most of my recipes there. I am pescatarian (eat fish but no other meat) and my husband mostly eats poultry with very occasional beef/pork and Beth has a wide variety of recipes that suit our needs. I purchased the vegetarian meal plan from her as well, although it's just my husband and I so I cook maybe 2-3 times a week and we rotate through those meals for variety.

    Last night I made the following variation on tuna casserole. We often make it with rice instead of noodles but I had leftover cooked lasagna noodles in the fridge from last time I made lasagna so I cut them into smaller pieces and put those in as well:
    -2-4 cups rice (I did 2 but would have done more if not for the lasagna noodles)
    -2 12 oz cans tuna, drained
    -1-1 1/2 lb. frozen mixed vegetables or several cans of vegetables
    -2 cans cream of mushroom soup
    -2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, split
    – season to taste; I used sage, basil, black pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder

    Cook the rice and mix everything together in a large bowl (leaving some cheese separate for topping the casserole), then press into a 9"x13" casserole dish, sprinkle the cheese on top and bake covered at 375* for 40 minutes. Uncover and bake another 15ish minutes.

  15. Katie Camel says:

    I’m jealous of all that chard! I’ll eat it raw or cooked. Yum!!

    Like others on here, I love Budget Bytes, but I also use olivetomato.com for some Greek recipes and bluezones.com for a variety of primarily plant-based options (you can add meat if you like). The rest of the things I make come from memory or are things I’ve watched family or friends make.

    Glad you enjoyed cooking! It’s not all that bad. 😉

  16. Frugal Portland Gal says:

    I love to buy a ham bone at Honeybaked Ham and make a huge pot of ham and bean soup. These bones come with plenty o’ meat on them. Makes LOTS of delicious soup for freezing. We do a lot of cooking with dried beans, lentils, and split peas. I have never done the math but am convinced that these must be some of the cheapest meals on the planet, and so versatile. As my kids were growing up, I would point out that this huge pot of soup was going to feed our family 6 times, as I ladled the soup into freezable containers. Now they are adults, and they get it—eat delicious, inexpensive, healthy food, and save time by freezing batches for later use. We eat soup almost every day for lunch—I thaw a quart every day or two from our frozen soup collection. When I tell people that we commonly soak beans overnight and make all kinds of meals with the cooked beans, people often act like that is way too much trouble. I don’t get it—it’s so easy!

  17. Megan Doyle says:

    For those who know and love the Four Rules of You Need A Budget, I’ve been using them to think about “budgeting” my groceries.

    1. “Give Every Dollar a Job” becomes “Assign Every Ingredient a Recipe”
    2. “Embrace True Expenses” becomes “Save1/2 lb ground beef here, 1/2 lb mashed potatoes there, and fully fund a Shepherds’ pie this weekend”
    3. “Roll With the Punches” becomes “Swap the side of carrots for a side salad before the spinach wilts…”
    4. “Age Your Money” becomes “Avoid the store as long as your freezer and pantry will allow”

    The key to thinking about “budgeting” my groceries has been to purchase versatile basic ingredients that can be used in a wide variety of ways, the same way a fungible dollar can be budgeted towards any expense. A can of diced tomatoes can be split up and “budgeted” towards pasta sauce, chili, salsa, guacamole, chicken moambe, and/or tikka masala. A Lean Cuisine can only be a Lean Cuisine.

  18. Stephanie says:

    Pasta salad was a big hit here the other night. Noodles, cherry tomatoes (which needed to be used up anyway), zucchini, olives, broccoli, tofu, and a recipe of homemade Italian dressing. Quick (other than the chopping), delicious, and refreshing, and you can throw in basically whatever you have that needs to be used up.

    Curry over rice and rice bowls are always good here, as are soup and homemade bread. We’ve done a few crustless quiches (again, good for using up what you need to, or throw some leftovers in there. I once made a chili-cheese quiche that was amazing!), spaghetti, and every quick Instant Pot meal in my repertoire.

    I’ve also pressed my 17 year old son into service and have used this time to teach him how to cook everything I make. He’s now proficient in the kitchen AND interested in cooking, and it takes some of the pressure off of me. Win win.

  19. Debbie says:

    I’m a big fan of the NYT Cooking app (and it has nothing to do with the fact that I was part of the feature “The American Thanksgiving” in November 2016 😉). I have enjoyed cooking my entire life and now that it is just the two of us, I still cook a lot and “repurpose” or freeze the leftovers. My husband is our bread baker and griller/smoker and we like to smoke a bone-in pork butt (you can also use the oven) —Delicious and leftovers be be used in tacos, fried rice, etc. I also freeze all vegetable scraps and chicken bones (backs, etc.) to make a wonderful stock which I freeze in quart containers. I also love to garden and make sauces, soups and much more from my tomatoes for the freezer. Stay well everyone!

  20. Allison in Ky. says:

    My husband has been making homemade crackers (we’ve dubbed them Covid Crackers).

    1 cup AP flour
    1 tsp. Garlic salt
    1/4 tsp oregano
    2 TBSP butter
    2/3 cup water

    Use food processor to mix all ingredients as follows:
    Mix flour, garlic salt and oregano with 2-3 pulses. Then, keeping butter very cold, cube the butter into numerous pieces; while it’s still cold drop it throughout the flour, pulse 2-3 times. Add water. Mix until a course dough develops…you may need to add more water, but dough should be very rough. Pull dough out of processor with floured hands and knead briefly into a ball. Cover and let dough ball rest 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Roll dough out as thinly as possible on parchment paper and cut using pizza cutter. Poke with fork if you want your crackers to have holes. Put parchment paper on aluminum foil or cookie sheets and bake 16-18 minutes until edges start to brown.

  21. Jennifer says:

    Like many others I recommend the Budget Bytes website. Good recipes that won’t break the bank. And I love Mark Bittman’s “How To Cook” series of books. His variations on recipes will help you keep from getting bored eating the same ingredients over and over. I am focusing on avoiding food waste but otherwise, my pandemic cooking is very similar to my regular cooking. I often cook enough at dinner for lunch for the next couple of days and I like to batch cook on Sundays. I have also been making batches of pancakes, muffins, and quick breads for breakfasts and snacks. I like to make them with less sugar and almond flour or gluten free flour so they’re healthier than the stuff in grocery stores and restaurants.

  22. Kate says:

    This was tasty and easy and things we had in the pantry, we threw some frozen spinach in with the chicken meat in the enchilada.

    https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/228367/super-easy-slow-cooker-chicken-enchilada-meat/

    We also discovered a local produce delivery service so have been glad to be able to support local farms while we eat healthy.

  23. Natasha says:

    Hey, my 3 and 5 year old love applesauce with their oatmeal! They’ve been eating it that way for years, ever since they started eating solid food.

    • Allison in Ky. says:

      I’m 41 and I eat applesauce in my oatmeal! Along with butter and brown sugar. With toast on the side. And a cup of coffee. Yum!!!!

  24. Emily says:

    Thanks for the inspiration! 😊 I need to get better with the meal planning and this has some great tips and recipes.

  25. Have to share here my absolute favorite taco! On top of any tortilla slather some cream chez, then roasted sweet potatoes & top with couple leaves of fresh sage. Left over sweet potato fries work very well.
    One entertaining thing I’ve done with sheltering in place is to do all things coconut. Drilled holes & drained the water out & used to make coconut rice also topped this rice with toasted, shaved coconut. After draining it was sawed in half & I will make little bowls out of the shell halves. So I scraped all the coconut meat out & sliced it up to make coconut chips in the dehydrator. 1st soaked in espresso powder, maple syrup & a lil vanilla. Used up every bit!
    Also did oranges…. made juice & then awesome energy bars from the pulp, just added dried figs, lots of seeds ( hemp, chia, etc) cocoa chips, chopped nuts. Baked some & then dehydrated. I shaved up a bunch of zest to dehydrate and lastly made candied orange peel for snacking & garnish for beverages. Even found recipes for more savory candied orange peel with coriander & cumin! Always loved playing with my food….

  26. MaryP says:

    I love Budget Bytes! Try to connect with local farmers or even neighbors that might have extras when searching for meat, eggs and fresh veggies. Consider joining a CSA. There is no meat shortage, just a shortage of processors. Over the past years, many small abattoirs have been forced out of business and now just a few big corporations control the market. If you can buy directly from the farmer, it helps them and you get even better meat and fresher veggies. Our local grocery stores are low on meat selections and some are limiting how much each customer can buy. I am fortunate in that my son has a small farm near me, and I am buying pork, beef and eggs from him.

  27. Sara Lynch says:

    Hello!
    I think that Elizabeth is a phenomenal word smith! The fact that she can include words such as ‘heretofore ‘ and ‘nigh’ into normal conversation is just a beautiful thing to behold! Her writing pleases me to no end! In regard to personal pronouns, it seems as if very little offends me personally so I was a tad shocked to read that some folks (is this acceptable?) were offended. Nonetheless, I would be saddened to see her change up her writing style so as not to offend the masses. I don’t believe that offense was intentional or exclusive in its expression. Her humor and intelligence shine brightly thruout her posts. I say keep on keepin’ on! To take her writing as a personal affront isn’t necessary.

  28. JD says:

    I’m a southerner. Y’all is singular, usually, All ya’ll is plural, always. Okay, we got that part out of the way:

    I have always used leftovers for lunches and such, but I am really a leftover queen these days. Half a pound of ground pork, a half cup of frozen peas, an egg yolk, a quarter cup of cooked beans — I am going to find some way to use those, although probably not all together. I make “junk soup”, which is homemade bone broth (which I freeze in 2 cup portions) combined with any number of leftover bits and pieces that won’t clash with each other. I make a pot pie, or an unusual casserole, or we eat a lunch of ends of this and that, but I am NOT throwing food out. Our meals have been somewhat eclectic, but we are not wasting anything. If there is enough left, I might freeze leftover food, but usually, I just use it again one way or another.

    A tip: when making bone broth at home, for the large majority of things you will use it in, it won’t matter what the meat bones were that went into it. I fill a bag with chicken, pork and beef bones and cook them covered in water with some seasoning for 24 hours in a crock pot when the bag is full. Strain and freeze. It hasn’t affected the taste of a recipe yet.

  29. Helen says:

    If you live in the right part of California and have the right utility provider they will shut off your power to reduce the danger of their lines causing a fire. We are in a pandemic and asked to limit our grocery excursions so that could imply stocking up on frozen or refrigerated goods only to lose them when the power is out for a week at a time (for example, in the month of October our power was out 17 days). The utility is already letting us know the power outages will continue basically forever, prepare accordingly. So, buy a noisy, expensive generator? Don’t buy frozen or refrigerated goods (this is part of my solution)? Throw up your hands in disgust at the new level of stress the pandemic adds on top of knowing you could lose all your perishable food on any day? We are considering a propane fridge and freezer, just to beat the utility at their game. We will eat out of the garden and out of cans and hope for the best.

  30. Dawn Harris says:

    I am from the South and it wold never occur to me to say “you guys.” I only hear that on television shows. But, I don’t think it’s offensive – it’s just regional. I think it is fine to be inclusive but we shouldn’t be in such a hurry to erase regional and cultural influences. That is what makes life interesting. The intent of the writer/speaker must always be considered and there is no way anyone could consider the writer of this blog to be offensive.
    As far as food goes, we have been blessed and happy to participate in the free school meals in our county. This has been a novel and unusual thing for my children (who have been home educated all their lives) and we are glad we are preventing waste of the food that is not claimed. It has been fun to experiment with ingredients we don’t usually purchase (like chocolate milk or orange juice) and it has made a real difference in our food budget especially for fruits and vegetables. I have been impressed with the quality of the meals – each lunch contains at least 2 vegetables and each breakfast 2 fruits and all the baked good and grains are whole grains. Much different than I assumed school food would be. Our county received funding to keep the meals going through the middle of July so this is even more of a blessing for so many.

    • Dawn Harris says:

      Oh, and to make the regional language topic even more interesting – I live in the Appalachian Mountains and even more often than “ya’ll” is the term “you’uns.” I have yet to see a blog post with that address, however! 🙂

      • Linda says:

        Yes!! I am a fairly recent transplant from the Midwest (“you guys”) to western North Carolina. This is the land of “y’all”. Although there are a few people around here who you say “you-uns“.

  31. Elizabeth says:

    I grew up with parents from Wisconsin and Iowa small farm families who lived through the Depression and WWII. Both started having me join them in meal making when I was just old enough to stand and I’m grateful for all they taught me. One of my junior high friends used to love staying over for dinner with us when it was a “clean out the refrigerator” night. Never knew what wonders would be created with various leftovers but always tasty!

    I’m curious if the good FW family and those who frequent this site have something that we’re seeing pop up all over our county (about 35 miles south of Seattle). There is a Food is Free movement taking place that has not only helped those who are food insecure but also brought people together and increased small yard and balcony gardening. Folks set up tables or pallets in from of their homes and pile them with free food (fresh veggies, canned and dried goods, bread, milks in coolers, etc.). Everyone is welcome to “take what you need and give what you can.” While there are some monied people in the county, the area where I live is predominantly low income. A wealthier Seattle neighborhood didn’t want anything like this in their area convinced individuals would take everything and an “unwelcome” element would descend upon their neighborhood. It’s been just the opposite here. Nobody has abused the system and it has grown to include more tables all over the place and plant starts are also being shared. Recently farmers on the eastern side of our state donated literally tons of potatoes and onions and volunteers transported them, bagged them, and distributed them to neighborhoods often by way of the Food is Free tables. People are connecting online over this and I’m watching new connections and friendships forming. With everything going on in the world, this has been an incredibly positive thing to be a part of!

    • Mary Pendley says:

      I live in Charleston, SC and here we have “Blessing Boxes” that are set up in various locations. They contain nonperishable food that is free for the taking, and many people take it on themselves to keep adding more items on a regular basis. Our Bible study group supports one of them. Very informal, nobody in particular organizing. Another popular thing here is little free libraries, often sponsored by local businesses outside their office location. Nobody seems to abuse either of them.

    • Tracy says:

      We call that having “CORN” for dinner…Clean Out Refrigerator Night…and it is always a popular one at our house as well. 😉

  32. Denise says:

    Could the spreadsheet queen Mandy share her spradsheet? I’m in Excel all day, and have spreadsheets for my Amazon items, but not regular grocery items. I know mine would be different, but sometimes just having a spreadsheet already set up and ready to alter to fit my needs is easier!

    Thank you!

    • KNatGU says:

      Ditto, I would just even like to see it. Her savings are impressive. I have to agree, I haven’t really clue about what a good deal for a bottle of salad dressing might be. I also heard way way way back on an awesome mom podcast that is now defunct, that groceries sales are seasonal. So you should buy a year’s worth of chocolate chips in November.

  33. Katja says:

    If you have any space of green you may have many more edible weeds than you think! Use them, I know my grandma did, and it is so much easier than starting to grow something right now, while you may have all the greens you want in your garden. Some may also qualify as superfoods: Nettle seeds: full of protein and super tasty. (sprinkle on everything) The nettles themselves: full of minerals and vitamins. Goutweed: great, not bitter and filling.
    So yes, I do have a garden, but I do not kill every other weed- not just because I am lazy, but because most of them are edible and no maintainance.
    Don`t kill them, eat them up;-)
    Make soups, filling, pesto, herbed bread + with it.

  34. Sharon Rowe says:

    My husband gave me a copy of “How to Cook Everything” many years ago. It is one of my go-to cookbooks. While we are talking about frugality, I also find the Mennonite “More-with-Less Cookbook” very inspiring. My husband gave me a used copy of that one. Think I might keep him.

  35. Rose says:

    I love YouTube for cooking and finding new recipes/cuisines. I am vegtarianish and lean towards Mediterranean/ME/central asian cooking. Below are my go to’s:
    YouTube- turkishfoodrecipes, Ashpazkhane Mazar (Afghan), frugalfitmom, Dimitra’s dishes (Greek).

    Websites: persianmama.com, budgetbytes 🙂 , Ozlemsturkistable, olivetomato, mylittleexpatkitchen, tasteofBeirut, olgasflavorfactory.

    I really love blogs run by women who have grown up cooking their cultures cuisine and who I find are much more practical in their recipes and substitution options.

  36. Amber says:

    Love this post! I know you have a couple posts on breadmaking……..I’ve looked and can’t find your most recent ones on the bread machine you use and how it works with the King Arthur recipe you use. Also, how do you store your bread? Does this recipe freeze well?

    • Mrs. Frugalwoods says:

      I have a Zojirushi bread machine that I got at a yard sale for $5! Previously, I had a really old hand-me-down bread machine and it worked fine too. The key, I’ve found, is tweaking a recipe until it does well in your machine. I loosely use this King Arthur recipe, but I’ve edited it for each different bread machine I’ve used. But I like the ingredients in it and find it to work well. I cut the loaves in half and put each half in a gallon-sized ziplock bag: one goes into the freezer and the other into the pantry. It freezes great and the ziplock is the best way to store it (I just wash and re-use the bags). Happy baking :)!

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