Make home cooking easier

3 Basic Recipes Means Savings

by Jean Knight Pace

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We all know that home cooking is the cheapest way to go. However, one thing I'm learning as my family of six tries to eat on $6/day is that with a few recipes for basic things like sauces and mixes, it can be even cheaper. (And better tasting, too.)

Below you'll find three recipes to cheapen your home cooking even more. They each take less than five minutes to make and are tastier than their store-bought counterparts. Additionally, they contain only simple, whole ingredients with no preservatives, additives, artificial flavors, dyes, or obscene amounts of sodium. Just cheap goodness through and through.

1. White Sauce

Many casseroles, soups, and other savory, creamy creations call for cream of something soup. Instead make a white sauce and use it.

2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. flour
1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper or more to taste
1 cup milk

Melt butter in a saucepan. Whisk in flour, salt, and pepper until smooth (a flat whisk works best, though any will do). Add milk and whisk. Cook two to three minutes more, stirring constantly, until thickened.

If you add one to two cups of cheese to this, you've got a cheese sauce to pour over veggies. My mom used to do this for broccoli and it was the only way I'd eat it.

2. Salad Dressing

I never knew how easy and pure this could be until last summer when I figured that if I was going to work so hard in my garden, I ought to pour something whole and homemade over it all. The sodium levels (normally a bit of a problem in salad dressings) in this are completely under your control and the flavors can be adapted with any seasonings you like or have on hand.

1/2 cup canola or olive oil
1/2 cup lemon juice (vinegars will work too)
salt and pepper to taste
1/2-1 tsp. dried (or 1 Tbsp. fresh if you'll be using quickly) onion, garlic, shallots, herbs or spices (optional)

Put all ingredients in a tight-lidded container and shake well. Let it sit for a day if you've added seasonings and you'd like the flavors to meld more. Note: You'll need to shake it each time you use it as the oil and lemon juice will separate.

3. Homemade Baking Mix

Bisquick® can be handy, but it's more expensive and preservative-laden than its homemade counterpart.

9 cups flour
1/2 cup baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups shortening or butter (butter is more flavorful, but its shelf-life is shorter and it is more expensive than shortening-though even baking mix made with butter is cheaper than store-bought Bisquick®)
1 Tbsp. salt

Mix together using a pastry cutter, a blender, or a food processor (you want the shortening to be in the tiny little bits). Use in pancakes, shortbreads, or biscuits.

So get out your whisk, take five minutes, and save yourself some money by enjoying foods of superior nutrition, taste, and quality. Now, that's a deal.

updated April, 2014

Jean Knight Pace blogs about food that is cheap, but delicious at Come on over, get some great recipes, and watch as she and her family of 6 try to live on $6/day for the coming year.

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