Like many people, I have spent some time being unemployed in the last few years. That means you have to cut back every where you can and both literally and figuratively “tighten your belt”.
Frugality has been a necessity. My wife and I have shared some laughs over this. We’ll see recipes by “foodies” and talk about how it wasn’t really something that someone on a limited budget could or would do. My own cooking was changed to reflect our more modest lifestyle. And as it has changed, “Mrs. CB” has teased me for being such a “Cheap Bastid”—of course oftentimes the teasing comes while eating something delicious, but inexpensive.
My first “inspiration” was from “Sam the Cooking Guy”, Sam Zien here in San Diego. He would take limited ordinary ingredients and make quick and tasty dishes. But I had 2 differences with Sam—one, he would use too many “convenience” ingredients such as pre-cooked bacon that raised the cost of the meal and two, he became all about his “quirky” personality and less about the food.
So with “Mrs. CB’s” encouragement, I started to think and write as the “Cheap Bastid”. And I discovered that it’s fun to adapt dishes for absolute frugality. It’s fun to resurrect some of the meals from my childhood and from when I was cooking for my kids every evening and show how they could be used to stretch a dollar into gossamer threads of taffy.
Here are a few rules or “philosophical” tidbits that I follow as the “Cheap Bastid”:
• It’s a lot cheaper to cook and eat at home than to go out, drive thru or get carry-out.
• It’s a lot healthier to cook and eat at home than to go out, drive thru or get carry-out.
• Eating at home is all about the food AND all about family
• 15 minutes of planning before shopping will save you a lot of money. Make a list. Stick to it.
• Buy fresh produce and use it!
• When stuff is on sale—stock up!
• Buy your meat in quantity and then “break it down” into smaller packages for the freezer.
• Use your slow cooker and your grill. Make a big enough roast for a couple of different meals—not just reheated dried-out left-overs.
• Have a pantry well stocked with “staples” and a spice cupboard well stocked with spices.
• Don’t buy pre-mixed spice blends. They’re too pricey and have way too much salt.
• Get creative. Research various recipes and come up with your own versions.
• Teach yourself to do some baking. Cake mixes are cheap but pre-made pie crust and filling is expensive. Homemade biscuits are cheap and good.
• Prep first, then cook. Always! That’s what Tom Colicchio calls “mise en place”.
• A corollary to prep first, then cook is—clean as you go! Don’t turn the kitchen into a disaster area.
• Food is for eating not for looking at so you don’t have to make it “foo-foo” pretty. “Foo-foo” foodie food isn’t supposed to go up onto the side of the plate. Cheap Bastid food does.
• Be like “Gunny Highway”—Improvise, Adapt, Overcome
• Being frugal—a Cheap Bastid—becomes addictive and fun! Or is that obsessive? I’m not sure.
That’s it. This can help you save money and enjoy cooking as much as you enjoy eating. Now, some of you will be able to be like “the Neeley’s” on FoodTV and make cooking together a seductive, sensuous adventure. Carolyn and I have a hard time sharing the kitchen together—we’re both too territorial. We’ll pitch-in if the other needs an extra hand for something but then we kind of back out and cede the territory back to the one in the kitchen. It keeps the peace.
And of course there’s one last thing to say:
That’s the Cheap Bastid Way: Eat Good. Eat Cheap. Be Grateful.