Friday, September 12, 2008

Frugal Ingredient - Oatmeal for Anytime!

Yesterday I talked about buying a large container of oatmeal to save money on breakfast. What to do with that big container, though, if you are tired of a bowl oatmeal after a few weeks?

Oatmeal can be a main ingredient in Muffins, Granola, Pancakes, and much more! But enough about breakfast foods...

Oatmeal can be incorporated into more than just breakfast! A well-known favorite is oatmeal cookies. Quaker Oat's Famous Oatmeal Cookie Recipe is the best one out there, in my opinion. There is a plethora of variations on this cookie as well. Baking your own cookies at home is always a frugal choice over buying packaged cookies. There are plenty of variations on this recipe as well. Adding any flavor of baking chips (chocolate, butterscotch, white chocolate, etc) will definitely give this recipe new life.

In addition to use in sweet foods, oatmeal can also be used in Meatloaf, Meatballs, and more meatballs!

By the time you've tried all these different ways to incorporate oatmeal into your everyday eating, you'll have to go out and buy some more!

What are some of your favorite recipes involving oatmeal?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Frugal Ingredient - Oatmeal for breakfast

Oatmeal might not seem like a frugal food when you look at the instant packets in the cereal aisle of the store. They can run up to $3 a box (or more!) for just 6-8 servings. Not my idea of an inexpensive breakfast.

But on the bottom shelf below all those "convenience" oatmeals, you can find oatmeal that comes in a large container for a considerable amount less per serving. Whether you get Quick Oats or Old Fashion, the process for making a bowl of oatmeal is the same. If you are unsure about the measurements, they are usually right on the side of the container.

Not a fan of "plain" oatmeal? Add fresh fruit, honey, brown sugar, cinnamon, maple syrup or anything else you can come up with! Buying dehydrated fruit pieces from the bulk section of your grocery store can add a bit of fun to this normally boring breakfast, too. The sky's the limit with this one, so have fun and enjoy!

Trent over at The Simple Dollar makes his own oatmeal packets. Check out the post for a cost analysis and some ideas about flavoring!

What do you like to have in your oatmeal? Please share your concoctions in the comments! My personal favorite is a little bit of cinnamon and brown sugar and a handful of raisins.

Tune in Friday for more things you can do with that large container of oatmeal!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Making a Meal Last - Macaroni and Cheese

Whether your family prefers Kraft Mac and Cheese with the powdery cheese sauce mix, or the slightly classier velveeta-style, I wouldn't be surprised to find out if the last serving is scraped out of the pan and every noodle is gobbled up. The best way to stretch a box of macaroni and cheese is to add 1 cup of macroni noodles from the pasta aisle. These are bigger and will possibly have a different cooking time. Here's how I do it:

Mac-and-Cheese noodles cooking time - 8-10 minutes
Macaroni cooking time - 6-8 minutes.

After the water has come to a boil, add in the mac-and-cheese noodles and set a time for 2 minutes. When the timer goes off, add 1 cup of macaroni and re-set the timer for 6 minutes. Test for done-ness when the timer goes off the second time. And don't forget to stir!
Prepare the sauce in the normal manner - it will still cover all of the noodles and you'll have 1-2 more servings! Whether you are feeding more mouths at once or you end up with leftovers, extra food for a low cost is never a bad thing!

This can be done with whatever type of noodles are your family's favorite - I just find that macaroni tends to go on sale more frequently.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Making a Meal Last - Tacos

Tacos are a quick and easy meal to put together - mostly because once you are at the table, some assembly is required! And that is what makes it a fun meal. For me, a meal of tacos involves the following:
  • Tacos Shells or tortillas (about $1-$2 for 10 servings)
  • Grated Cheddar Cheese (grate your own and you are most definitely saving money)
  • Shredded Lettuce (use what's on sale - iceburg or romaine both are equally yummy)
  • Salsa (I am particular about my salsa, but you can usually find a store brand for $1-$2 a jar)
  • Sour Cream (about $2 for a medium size container)
  • Diced Tomatoes (if it's in season, I buy fresh, otherwise just drain a can!)
  • The all-important ground beef filling (enhanced with a $0.50 package of taco seasoning)
The last time I made tacos, I had 1 pound of meat and a very hungry boyfriend. I knew I wanted to make sure that there were leftovers so I could make my famous taco salad the next day for lunch. How could I make 1 pound of ground beef outlast my boyfriend's appetite? The answer: A can of pinto beans. I rinsed and drained a can of pinto beans and browned them right along with the meat and followed the directions on the package of seasoning. It was flavorful, added extra healthy protein to the meal, and I successfully had leftovers for the rest of the week. I plan on trying this with black beans next time.