Wednesday, December 1, 2010

OBD 30- The Cheating Ends

Well, maybe.

First, you may notice a few changes around here in the next couple weeks (or today). I'm moving some things around, adding some stuff, dropping other stuff, and hopefully getting up an index of recipes (with real, live links, how cool is that, right?). If anything *really* offends you, let me know, and we can talk about it, but I don't think I'm planning anything really offensive, so...

Maybe a donate button, but I still dunno about that...

Ok, back to food.

Yesterday i said something about maybe coming up with a list of things that make super budget adherance easier, or something.

Basically, there's a list of stuff in my head, things that I cook with that provide a pretty good flavor boost for cost, but they all have a rather high buy-in cost. Stuff like wine. A cheap but drinkable bottle is $7, but I can use it for a month or more, and it adds flavor to everything I use it in. It's a list of things to add when there's a bit of money to spare, or maybe just stuff to think about keeping on hand.

Obviously everyone's list will be different. Normal Americans probably all flavor their food with salt, pepper, and catsup. Thanks to my last (much better) RM, I don't really use pepper anymore (allergies), and catsup has limited use in my life. So my list isn't going to have either of those featured. Some things (wine?) may not work for everyone, and I'll try to include a substitute for those items. Mainly, though, this list is pretty inclusive. Some of this stuff has even found it's way into my pantry already.

The Goods: 

  • Wine- I think I've covered this enough. Soups, sauces, I even used it in the veggies I saute'd for pizza yesterday. tee-totalling-types can use flavored vinegars like malt or balsamic, depending on how anti-fermentation they are.
  • Good tea- cheap is ok, but some days just need a really good cup.
  • Ginger- fresh, powdered, pickled, crystallized
  • Kosher Salt-Small price increase, huge flavor increase
  • Spice mixes- taco seasoning, curry powder, cajun seasoning
  • Bulk spices- decent cinnamonchilies, spices to suit different world cuisines
  • Alliums- Garlic, Onions, Shallots. Fresh, dried, powdered. Major flavor for minor cost (usually)
  • Fresh Herbs- grow your own for savings, or check neighborhood yards- rosemary and others are used ornamentally
  • Chocolate
  • Olives- black, green. Kalmata for bonus points. The liquid can be used for seasoning, too.
  • Nuts- Often used in vegan cooking as a sub for dairy, the healthy fats are super missed in my kitchen
  • Lemons and limes- fresh, juice, or that powder stuff.
  • Cilantro
  • Avocados
  • Chipotles in Adobo- just one is enough for *lots* of flavor
I'm sure I'm missing something. Some of these *have* found their way into my kitchen (wine, alliums, salt). Others have wandered in and back out, or only filled part of my dream list (chocolate, spices, avocados). Almost all of them cost a lot more than they maybe should, but add a whole lot of flavor to staples and veggies.

Think of it this way. I have a pound of black beans, a pound of rice, and a pound fresh veggies. With just salt and oil they're pretty dull and after two or three days I'd be done with them. add chili powder, though, and I've got spicy beans. Add onion, garlic, avocado, lime, and maybe some cilantro and I've got either a great salad, or a tasty spread from the beans, either over the rice or on bread. Spices and wine gives me soup. Different spices, olives, nuts turned into "cheese" sauce. Make some fresh pasta and I can have a tex-mex lasagna.

Staples are easy. A pound of rice or flour, 1/4 pound of (dry) beans, a couple teaspoons of oil, salt, sugar, half a cup of oats. Yeah, it'd keep me alive (mostly). But I can't do it forever. Or even, it seems, for a month. I need the variety, the tastes. That list up there covers most of the stuff I dream of. I think the only stuff left off was vegetable in nature, or else maybe cheese or bacon. One I've over-done (and the cravings for it would be lower if I had more nuts, avocados, and olives...) and one I don't plan on ever eating again.

I wonder, did the pioneers and pilgrims grow amazing herb gardens? They lived off what I've got here (ok, plus meat...) and obviously at least *some* of them lived to tell about it. Without any seasonings at all, that had to get pretty dull.

And yes, I've had both traditional English food *and* traditional New England food (same, plus clams and lobster).

Anyway, I'll be trying to work those tasty foods in more over the next couple months. 'Specially the nuts, avocados, and citrus. Depending on how my plans set up for next year, you may get to read about me buying a whole lot of nuts, fruits, breakfast food, and tea. For now, though, I'll just work on nuts, avos, and citrus.

What's on your list of expensive but worth it (flavor-wise) foods? Do you buy them anyway?


  1. Change anything you want. I like what you write, but what about some Bear pics?

  2. Ha! I'm on to you now. You're just here for cute pics of goofy yellow dogs.

    I don't think I'm changing what I write, and I'll try to con some more pics out of mom when (if?) I see her tonight.

  3. I think if you added a donate button - I would donate :)

  4. And that's really cool, it just feels... I don't know, wrong? Not that I hate money or anything, but I don't know if I feel like I'm providing enough value to get anything in exchange, if that makes sense.

    I suspect the 3 years of Sunday school have twisted my little brain in more ways than I thought.

  5. Value is set by the consumer. A donate button is the epitome of that, because the individual gets to decide what, if anything, your blog is worth.

  6. Good point. It doesn't bother me when I see one on other people's sites. For some reason, I'm concerned about my own. I don't have a problem with tip jars or tipping others, either. Drat that guilt.

  7. Most of my stuff is related to spices, but not exclusively. I really like to buy whole vanilla beans (I get them from, where they are both inexpensive and high quality), because from them I can make massive amounts of vanilla extract and vanilla sugar, not to mention using the beans themselves in recipes. Since I get them so cheaply (their saffron, by the way, is also high quality for little money), it ends up being incredibly cost efficient once you've done the start-up cost.

    Also, I like to keep pomegranate molasses in the house ($3/bottle, which lasts a while), harissa, rose and orange blossom waters, tahini (which I know you don't like), capers, olives, assorted pickles, and massive jars of homemade preserved lemons (these are cheap; all you need is a jar, some lemons and some kosher salt). Plus anchovy and tomato pastes. Most of the items are salty and with a higher start-up cost, but they give so much flavour in small quantities that it's always worth it to have them around for me.

  8. oooh, you evil enabler. introducing me to all these yummy e-tailers. From the extra-special cool stuff you keep in your pantry of wonders I'm guessing you must do some of the more interesting Middle-eastern cooking. I always wanted to try some of the deserts and stuff, but, again, buy-in cost is super high. If I get settled, I'll have to start collecting...

    What do you use pomegranate molasses in, anyway?