Over at MoneySavingMom.com, Crystal started a blog series about 52 ways to save money this year. I have been brainstorming about how to talk more about eating healthy but frugally on a more regular basis at The Nourishing Gourmet, and I loved her format. So, on Thursdays (to go along with my Pennywise Platter Thursday carnival), I will be presenting a tip on how to save money while eating a whole food, nourishing diet.
I am really excited about it! It will be entitled: 52 ways to save money on a healthy diet. Since this is the second Thursday of the year, I will be giving two tips today. Both of these tips were practices that I developed early on in my home cooking career. They served two purposes. The first was to improve the nutrition of my food, while at the same time cutting out undesirable ingredients. The second helped me save money on our food budget.
Week 1: Make your own salad dressing
If you need motivation in making your own salad dressings, let me give you two motivators. First, read the ingredient label on your salad dressing bottle. Eating an iceburg lettuce salad tossed with genetically modified (and rancid and processed) oils in the form of a salad dressing (not to mention the preservatives, MSG, and refined sugars found in many), and you don’t have the healthiest dish in the world.
And I personally don’t find these salads the best tasting either.
When I first started making salad dressing, I had one basic recipe that I used 90% of the time. It was herby, tangy, and garlicky, and it was good. It also took about 5 minutes to make. Score! This was when I was delving into cooking in high school, later I started experimenting with different vinegars and flavors and proportions. Salad dressings are so FUN! And delicious. The side effect is that I’ve completely lost my taste for most store-bought salad dressings now – except if it’s one of the exceptional real food ingredient versions (that are also quite spendy).
I also noticed that the reviews of my salad book, Fresh: Nourishing Salads for All Seasons, especially note the salad dressing section as a favorite. I think that is because the salad dressing makes the salad.
But to the point, making your own, using a basic, high quality extra virgin olive oil (I will have to do a post about some different olive oil brands that are a true olive oil, but not super expensive), and raw apple cider vinegar or balsamic vinegar is super quick, not expensive, and is truly delicious too. You can download a few of the recipes from my salad cookbook here – it includes a recipe for Leon Salad and Simple Balsamic Vinaigrette, and my Everyday Salad Dressing. and I also shared a favorite recipe for Sweet Onion Poppyseed Dressing here.
Week Two: Make your own stock
Also early on, I started making my own chicken stock. This was not as early as my salad dressing endeavors, but a habit I got into once married. We had a weekly meal of roasted chicken with a green salad (with homemade dressing, of course), and a grated carrot salad, and brown rice (served with butter and gravy). We’d pick the carcass clean, use the leftover chicken in a variety of recipes, and then I’d turn those beautiful bones into beautiful chicken stock.
I was the master at getting the most broth possible about of those bones. I think often my stock would be almost half vegetable stock, half chicken, because I would add in so many vegetables, and then sometimes a raw chicken drumstick or two to beef up the flavor. Then that would be turned into so many meals for us (at this point it was only two of us). Chicken noodle soup was almost on the menu every week, just because we liked it so much. But creamed vegetable soups were on often as well.
I just wrote a cookbook containing over 100 recipes for soups in it (Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Seasons), so you could say that this habit has stayed with me well! But the point is not that you need to buy my book, but rather that you need to make your own broth! Save any bones. Seriously. Don’t throw out those chicken legs bones, or the bones from bone-in breastmeat, or the chicken drumsticks bones. Put them in a baggie in the freezer and when you have a couple of pounds, make it into a nutrient dense stock. I often saved vegetable scraps to use as the vegetable base too! Some big pots of broth were made purely out of the “leftovers” that most people will throw away. Your tummy will thank you, and your budget too.
I was able to keep us in a very tight budget by serving so many soups made with homemade stock (I generally served them with homemade baked goods and butter and a salad). Soups are like the frugal queen of the frugal kitchen. Homemade stock made our meals more nutrient dense and more frugal. What more can you ask for?
Later I learned how incredibly frugal making beef broth is (and it is delicious too), once I found a frugal source for bones. It generally costs me around 5 dollars to make a substantial pot of beef stock. Delicious! It costs even less when I use bones I got almost for free when I buy my beef quarter.
Fish stocks can be almost free, if you can get your fish bones for free. I love to use them in seafood chowders and such. And that’s not even mentioning anchovy stock, which is super frugal as well. (I have those recipes in my book, but I am sure you can find good ones online too).
Start with chicken broth, if you have never made it before, make sure you cook it long, and salt it really well, and enjoy some really delicious soups. Recipes you might find helpful: Chicken Stock, Beef Stock
So those are my two tips. I choose to write about them first, as they are some of the mostly deeply ingrained practices of my kitchen. I can’t wait to share more with you!