My friend C. Jeanne Heida recently wrote an article for Associated Content about “Shopping Your Pantry For Grocery Savings.” That’s excellent advice. Jeanne suggests stocking up on staple items (anything from whole fryer chickens to oatmeal) when they’re on sale, and then storing them for later, freezing as necessary. Then, plan meals around what you’ve got in your pantry.
Well, I’m highly imperfect, so sometimes I do this and sometimes I don’t. It’s more likely that I’ll really turn to the pantry when we’re running out of money, and this is one of those weeks.
I decided to cook up a large bag of pinto beans that has been sitting around for a while. Sometimes I cook from recipes, and sometimes I don’t. Today, I didn’t feel like searching for a recipe and stressing about whether I had the right ingredients, so I decided to just wing it.
I boiled the beans for a few minutes and then let them soak for a couple of hours (no need to soak overnight). Then, I drained off the soaking water and replaced it with broth. I had one carton of beef broth, one carton of vegetable broth, and half a carton of chicken broth. I used them all. I added several spoonfuls of minced garlic from a jar, a couple of chopped onions, some cayenne pepper, and several dashes of hot sauce, and then let the whole thing simmer while I fried up some bacon.
After crumbling in the bacon, I let everything keep simmering while I made some cornbread. Oops! I had two boxes of cornbread mix, but no eggs, which are required ingredients on the box, and I know from experience that omitting the eggs doesn’t give a good result.
I decided to look up a cornbread recipe in my copy of The Little House Cookbook. Ma Ingalls’ cornbread recipes do not include eggs. I then decided to use the Johnny-cake recipe along with my boxed mixes. I used my two boxes of Jiffy corn bread mix in place of the dry ingredients, bacon grease for the fat, molasses sweetening, and regular milk with a tablespoon of vinegar in place of buttermilk. It turned out just fine — in fact, everyone loved it. The molasses was the perfect sweetener.
This was a highly successful shopping trip, and I’ve got plenty of leftovers for the week.