The Cheap Bastid Way

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”.

cheap bastidFrugality 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.

• And, last but not least—don’t forget the most important ingredient of all—a little pinch of love.

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.

About Walter Blevins

My wife started to call me Cheap Bastid a while back because I enjoyed coming up with dinners that cost next to nothing--and making them taste good. Yeah, I love to cook. And I love to cook good food cheap. I'm not a chef and I'm definitely not anything close to a gourmet. I'm just a home cook who grew up in a home where cooking was from scratch and was a little bit Midwest and a little bit country. That's because my Mom was from Michigan and my Dad was from Kentucky. I started sharing recipes when my daughter called me in 2006 and asked for my recipe for Swiss Steak. That year for Christmas I put together a cookbook for my 2 kids called "Dad's Everyday Cookbook and Kitchen Survival Guide". And I heard back that they both use it regularly. It was full of basic recipes that I had cooked for them when they were growing up. I work hard at creating recipes that are original and creative and inexpensive. You won't find a foo-foo foodie approach to my recipes and style. I believe that it's OK for food to go up the side of a plate. Food is for eating--it doesn't have to be pretty. And I write about my cooking and my recipes so that I can share them. I hope you enjoy these posts. Leave me a comment--that you liked something or that you didn't, it doesn't matter. I'd love to hear from you.
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3 Responses to The Cheap Bastid Way

  1. chuck in chicago says:

    Excellent guidelines to cook by! Permit me to add a few of my own:

    * I avoid buying the herbs and spices in the little tins and jars at the supermarket. They’re pricey and they aren’t a very good value. Instead, I check out the generic or “value” brands at stores and get a lot of good variety and value from the Dollar Tree’s spice selection.

    * Some spice mixes–sold in envelopes near the spice rack in the supermarket–can be a good value if you’re careful. I’ve picked up envelopes of a great-tasting taco and chili seasoning mix for three for a dollar.

    * I never used to be a good baker and was actually afraid of baking anything until I tried a store-brand biscuit baking mix (not the nationally-advertised brand, which is hideously overpriced). If you follow the instructions on the box on how to make biscuits, for example, you won’t go wrong. Once I gained enough confidence using that product, I went on to make my own biscuits from scratch.

    * I keep a dishpan of hot, soapy water in the sink whenever I cook. Anything I dirty I drop into the dishpan right away, and when I have a free moment, I wash it, rinse it, and put it into the dish drainer to dry. This really saves time after the meal, since I have a LOT less to clean up. I often joke that I do have an automatic dishwasher, and his name is Chuck.

    * Finally, whenever I read a recipe or see one prepared on television which places an inordinate amount of time and effort on “plating,” I make a mental note to ignore that recipe. There’s little point in preparing a simple, wholesome meal if I have to take fifteen minutes in piling the food in the middle of a plate and decorating the empty part with squiggles of sauce and sprinkles of herbs. Food presentation should be simple and straightforward, and definitely not fussy.

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  3. Adela Wagner says:

    Hello Mr. CB:
    Just had to say I found you on pinterest , the picture of the Swai fish was posted on there and the link back to you. I enjoyed your post on Swai as I have also recently found this fish. I am a transplant in Ohio, from the Norfolk-Va. Beach area and have missed seafood dearly. While prices have gone up, seafood prices here have always been much higher than on the coast so I rarely get to eat it. I am also right there with you on cooking on the cheap, but not sacrificing flavor. I cut my Swai into nice 4-5″ pieces, dredge in seasoned flour, then into beaten egg, then rolled in Panko breadcrumbs. I let it rest for a couple of minutes so the Panko will stay good and adhered, then dropped into hot oil in my old wok. A few minutes on each side, and drained. it is the lightest crispiest fried fish ever. I also do like the old southern way of flour and cornmeal you do. I also love regular catfish. When I lived in Norfolk, I worked on a charter boat as a teenager and had a blast. I miss blue crabs dearly. I was so used to catching them myself at almost 0.00 cost just a chicken neck hahaha. Anyway, you remind me of my sweet husband (although he is barely allowed in the kitchen) I do the cooking round here, but he is a good eater. You just happen to look like him. When I told him the name of your blog he laughed and told me that you probably knew what you were talking about. We love being frugal, we built our house ourselves out in the Ohio woods out of a lot of salvaged items from the salvage yard and construction dumpsters. I’ll be trying out your slaw recipe. Now, off to read more of your recipes. Thanks for sharing this stuff.

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