Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Eating On A Budget in Today's Economy

If you're not making alot of money you may think you can't afford to eat with today's food prices what they are, but with a little ingenuity you can turn ordinary and inexpensive ingredients into a very nice meal!

Have you ever seen those bags of pre-made seasoned croutons at the grocery store that cost around $4.00 for about as much as you'd get in a single serving potato chip bag? You may even have bought them.

Here's how you can create croutons just as high-class and do it on a shoe string. How many of you have pieces of left over stale or soon-to-expire bread lying around your house that you don't think you can do anything with but throw away?

I get these nice ready-to-bake french breads from Kroger that cost about $1.99 and I often end up with remnants that start to expire before I can eat the whole loaf. I do one of two things with them; either cut them in slices and let them dry out (to prevent mold) and then use them later as toast with cheese or butter by browning them in a toaster oven, or I make my fancy but easy crouton recipe with them.

You can make these with ordinary spices you have around your house, and if you have a Farmer's Market in your city you can get these spices even more inexpensively than you can at any commercial market. Powdered Rosemary is great because you can have the flavor and all the health benefits without constantly having to pick out all those stiff little leaves. Not all commercial grocery stores carry it but if you have a Farmer's Market or an organic food store they will most likely carry it.

If you also have butter or olive oil (or even margerine) then you have the ingredients for a batch of delicious croutons you can use in any salad, soup, or even as a snack.

These are the ingredients:

* Bread cut into cubes (as much or as little as you have)
* Garlic Salt (to taste)
* Old Bay Seasoning (to taste)
* Pepper (to taste)
* Powdered Rosemary (just a light dusting)
* Oregano or Italian Seasoning (optional)
* Butter, Olive Oil, or Margerine (a scattering of little pieces or dribbles evenly distributed)
*Toaster oven tray or cookie sheet lined with tin foil

Once you have all the ingredients prepared in your toaster oven tray or cookie sheet, place this in the toaster oven on "dark" or in a 400 degree oven.

Make sure to watch them carefully so that they don't burn, as each oven varies somewhat.

If you find that some areas are crispy and some are still soggy with the butter, scoop the done ones out and place the others in fir a little longer. What you're looking for is that rich golden brown and the croutons should be crispy.

Then remove them from the oven when ready, dump them onto a paper towel to remove excess butter or oil, let cool for about an hour in the open air, and they are ready to use!

Because they are crisp and moisture has been removed they can be kept in an air tight container or plastic bag outside the refrigerator without molding or getting stale for quite awhile. I have had these stay fresh for more than a month!

Campbell's tomato soup goes well with these, and if you get it at the right places you can buy it for around .69 a can.

The entire meal probably costs you $1.50 at the most for a whole can of soup and one serving of croutons! If you add a salad to that then it might cost you $2.50 for the entire meal!

No comments: