I spend a lot of time and brainpower thinking about food. It generally takes over an hour to plan a menu and a grocery list for the week, and it's not something I can do easily while Clare is awake and clamoring for my attention, so it's an after-bedtime task. It's logistical. It takes sustained concentration. Why? Because we have to eat cheap. But I am also determined that we shall eat well. These two things don't easily go together, the way our culture does food. And so I spend hours putting menus together so that ingredients dovetail and there's no waste. If I buy an out of the ordinary cheese (for budget purposes, read: anything other than cheddar) then I must use ALL of it somehow, which means more than menu item using it. If I buy meat, I stretch it to cover at least two meals, and try my best to use a cheap cut or find something on sale. (But almost never ever ground beef...I mean, there's only so much you can do with it, and I think early in childhood I was chronically overdosed on ground beef casseroles. That's no slur on my mom--it takes a cook of extraordinary dedication and brilliance to make ground beef into something truly edible and nutritious on a weekly basis. Unlike her, I'm just not up to it.) I try very hard to buy produce in season (difficult in the winter, especially when your spouse is not overly fond of winter squashes). And if something goes bad in the fridge, I feel it like some kind of moral failure.
So I love me a good cheap recipe full of inexpensive ingredients that can be transformed into something yummy and good for you. And because I know how hard it is to eat cheap and well, I am going to share a couple from our menu this past week.
Brent's pick: Andouille Red Beans and Rice. This is a super-quick recipe, also a bonus. You can skimp on the sausage, freeze what's leftover and use it for another recipe or for this one when you make it again.
My pick: Lentil Soup with Chard. Lentils are dirt cheap. And this is an amazing soup. Very earthy and flavorful, and the squeeze of lemon at the end really brightens it up. Even if you don't like lentil soups, I would still say give it a try. You might be surprised.
And if you like people who recommend good recipes, go here.