Cooking on a Budget
Budget. My least favorite word of all time. And here I am on a budget. With a husband who will keep me on the budget. This should be good news, but I’m like my mother in this respect. I like to spend freely. When I was little, she used to send me out to her trunk to collect all of her purchases after my father had fallen asleep. I grew up thinking this type of spending/hoarding behavior was normal.
We all need to cut costs from time to time and the food budget is a good place to start. Our pantry is packed with enough food to last us for months, yet we are always buying more and more. While we don’t go out to dinner often, we enjoy our overpriced coffees, take-out lunches and weekend brunches. So my goal is to cook my way through our pantry and only buy what is absolutely necessary like fresh fruits and vegetables. Turns out I have a robust supply of dried beans, dried soups, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, quinoa, peanut butter, jam, seitan, fish, vegan sausages, tempeh, spices, oils, and oatmeal so it is time to put them to good use.
I found a great website called Frugal Living Now (www.frugal-living-now.com) that helps you live better on less. I’m bypassing the email subscription requirement for the information and providing you with direct links to:
As it turns out, some of my favorite foods actually cost less than $1 per serving: rice, oatmeal, potatoes, eggs, popcorn, apples, watermelon, garbanzo beans, pinto beans, bananas, carrots, lentils, nuts, kiwi, cantaloupe, grapefruit and WATER!
As I start to my budget cuisine adventure, I made brown rice, red beans and vegan sausage this weekend and it turned out quite well. The meal lasted three days and cost less than $10. I bought the rice and beans in bulk at Whole Foods, which is a great way to cut grocery costs.
Red Beans & Rice
- 1 1/2 cups dried small red or kidney beans, picked over and rinsed, soaked overnight, and drained
- 6 1/2 cups water
- 3 bay leaves
- 2-3 links Field Roast Mexican Chipolte sausage
- 1 1/4 cups brown rice, rinsed and drained
- 3 tablespoons olive oil or canola oil
- 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon allspice
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup vegetable stock or broth
- 1 tomato, cored and diced
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
- 1 teaspoon hot-pepper sauce
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
In a large saucepan over high heat, combine the beans, 4 cups of the water and the bay leaves. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover partially and simmer until the beans are tender, 60 to 70 minutes. Drain and discard the bay leaves.
While the beans are cooking, combine the rice, 1 tablespoon of the oil, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and the remaining 2 1/2 cups water in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the water is absorbed and the rice is tender, about 45 minutes. Set aside and keep warm.
In a large saucepan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Saute the sausage and onions until softened, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until softened, about 1 minute. Add the allspice, cayenne, the remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt and the black pepper. Cook for 1 minute. Stir in the cooked beans, the vegetable stock, tomato, thyme and hot-pepper sauce. Cook until the vegetable mixture is heated through, 6 to 8 minutes. Divide the rice among warmed individual bowls. Top each serving with beans and sprinkle with the cilantro.