Saturday, March 1, 2008

Stretching food

Most people like routine and schedules, especially when it comes to their food. I for one love trying new and different things, but nine times out of ten I typically gravitate toward the dishes I've grown to love. These include tacos, chicken cheese and broccoli, roast chicken, calzones and chicken stew. So when the going gets tough people tend to start to get nervous, thinking they don't have anything to eat in the whole household.

Say it's the end of the month. You pantry and fridge are pretty barren. There's really nothing you can throw together that'd form something you're used to. A lot of people at this point, if their budget was not set completely in stone, would go out to the corner store and buy a couple of things. Or they'd order take out. Or, heaven forbid, they'd go out to eat. Situations like these seep into budgets and crack them wide open.

When someone cries that they have nothing to eat in their household they're usually far from the truth. Even the most impoverished family is going to have some essentials that can make a surprisingly satisfying meal. Sure. It may be completely true that there isn't a lot of particularly anything, but that can always be remedied by some basics every household is usually going to have.

  • Canned soup
    Need to feed three or more with a single can of soup? Easy. Add 1/3 more water to in your pot than recommended before adding one or more of the following: White rice, noodles, broken spaghetti, beans, lentils, canned veggies (peas, corn, et cetera), diced carrots, diced potatoes or left over meat. Season with a little extra salt, herbs and spices to combat a watered down taste.

  • Chicken
    Have a single frozen drumstick and you're looking to make a dinner for two out of it? No problem. Cut the meat off of the bone and stir fry it with: Canned, frozen or fresh vegetables, canned water chestnuts, canned bean sprouts. Add spices and soy sauce and serve over rice or noodles.

  • Beef
    Have some left over pot roast or a steak you're looking to make a big meal of? Skewer medium sized chunks between large cut vegetables like bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, zucchini and squash. Marinade in an acid liquid (citrus works great) and grill. Serve with a side of rice and beans.

  • Sandwiches
    Have all the ingredients for a nice round of sandwiches, no only two slices of bread? Toast the bread lightly, cut it into cubes and toss it into a bowl with all the ingredients, diced finely. Serve it like a salad.

  • Fruit
    Not enough fruit to make a decent snack? Throw it into the blender any or all of the following: Ice cubes, yogurt (single servings work just fine), ice cream, orange juice, tofu, carrots (you read me right), oatmeal (yes), and milk. If you still don't have enough you can always serve it over ice cream with nuts.

  • Potatoes
    Planning on baked potatoes for dinner, only have one left in the whole house? Dice it and roast it with olive oil and vegetables. Add cheese to make it something special. Parmesan works great.

  • Eggs
    By far the easiest to stretch. Looking to make breakfast for the family, only to find out you have half the eggs you need? Scramble them with half as much milk. Add anything under the sun. Left over chicken, cheese, vegetables, mushrooms, bacon bits, potatoes. You name it, it'll taste awesome inside of an omelet.

  • Tortilla chips
    Mix a small amount of melted cheese, beans and salsa together to form a satisfying queso. Add left over meat. Want more of a dinner out of it? Add shredded lettuce and you'll have a fully balanced meal.
Have your own ways to stretch your food dollar just a little bit in the face of a sudden crisis or guest invasion? Post in the comments and I'll link back to your blog in my next post.



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